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And Death Shall Have No Dominion

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“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?”

– Edgar Allan Poe


Fear.

That’s the first thing he feels when he awakens. Why is he awake? He shouldn’t be awake. He starts to feel an overwhelming sense of wrongness. He blinks a few times slowly and then realizes that it makes no difference whether his eyes are opened or closed because all there is is darkness, a darkness so complete that he feels anxiety and panic start to claw mercilessly at his chest. He needs to get out.

He tries to sit up, but his head hits something hard, blocking his attempts to move from his current lying position. His hands scrabble along the edges of his confinement, trying to find some way of escape. He pushes and pushes and pushes, and finally, against all odds, the top of his confinement gives way ever so slightly.

He’s filled with the knowledge that the only way out is up. He doesn’t know how he knows this, but he does. It’s instinctual.

He begins pushing, the weight sitting on the top pushing back twice as hard, making the task almost impossible to surmount, but he keeps going. He has to keep going.

As he pushes, his arms shaking with effort, the lid begins to open. Dirt slides through the opening, raining down on him, but still he keeps going until the lid is all the way open. He’s completely buried with dirt now, but it doesn’t matter. He starts to climb and crawl his way out. The dirt blocks his vision, fills his lungs, but he won’t be stopped. Something has started to take over him, more demanding than the fear and the panic, but he cannot put a name to it yet.

After what could be hours, days, weeks, he doesn’t know, he finally surfaces. He coughs, expelling the dirt from his lungs, and groans. He looks around and sees others like him, bodies escaping their underground confines. It’s still dark outside, but he sees lights in the distance. He starts to move, shuffling slowly towards them, along with the others.

The sensation taking him over increases, clawing at his insides desperately, and he lets out a long, guttural groan, seemingly incapable of much else. Just then, he realizes what this insatiable, raw need that demands to be satisfied is. 

Hunger.


Castiel opens his eyes, breathing hard. He sits up in his small white bed, surveying his room, reminding himself that he’s not trapped in a coffin, nor will he ever be again. The room is what you’d expect of a hospital, clean, clinical, and devoid of personality. There’s no various knick-knacks or posters of any kind that would normally identify a boy of eighteen. Its furnishings are sparse, with only a bed, a dresser with an attached mirror, a chair by the window, and a cross on the wall (Castiel almost wants to laugh at the irony of that).

Just then, a nurse comes in.

“Ah, good! You’re already up! So–“, a quick consult of her clipboard, “–Castiel, ready for the big day?” she asks, giving him a bright smile. Castiel tries to return it, but can only manage what probably looks more like a grimace than a smile.

“As I’ll ever be,” he says quietly.

“Good to hear it! Now up and at ‘em, it’s time for your medication!” she replies, before thankfully taking her leave.

During his stay here, Castiel has discovered that there are two types of nurses; the first, ones who are grumpy and cold and who are clearly just in it for a paycheck, and the second, overly chipper and perky busybodies full of false smiles. He hasn’t really decided which is worse, but he’s leaning towards the latter.

Castiel swings his legs over the side of the bed, and stands up, making his way out into the hallway. He walks along slowly and joins the rest of the crowd. He doesn’t like walking in big groups like this. It’s depressing, everyone’s heads looking down, not one person with an ounce of spring in their step. As he walks, he takes deep breaths, trying to prepare himself for today. The big day.

The day he gets to leave the Kansas Treatment Centre for Partially Deceased Syndrome Sufferers.

Even now, he rolls his eyes at the ridiculous name. The centre doesn’t encourage words like “zombie”, or “rotter” as some have taken to calling them. “PDS sufferers” is now the politically correct term. Castiel personally prefers the term “undead”. It lacks some of the negative connotations of the other unsavory options, but it’s not sugar coated either. Although, he supposes he can understand why the government would want to use their term. It sounds manageable.

And manageable is exactly what they need as they rehabilitate the undead back into living society.

Castiel continues to shuffle along, the crowd naturally forming a line as they come to an eventual halt outside one of the many rooms, each waiting for their daily dose of neurotriptyline to be administered. Without it, they would revert back to their original rabidity, or as the doctor’s prefer to call it, their “untreated state”. If they miss even one day of medication… Castiel shudders at the mere thought of it. He never wants to be like that again. All those innocent people… What he did to them...

Castiel cuts off that train of thought immediately.

He continues to wait in the incredibly long line, inching forward every few minutes at each monotone call of “next”, until it’s finally his turn.

The doctor asks him a few routine questions – which Castiel answers with as few words as possible – before picking up what can only be described as a medication gun. The doctor inserts a vial of neurotriptyline into the device and gets behind Castiel. The device is then inserted into a small, grotesque hole located under the back of his neck, right between the first and second vertebrae. He knows the injection is coming, but he still squeezes his eyes shut and hisses as the doctor pulls the trigger. It’s not necessarily with pain – he doesn’t feel pain anymore – but more the brief onslaught of emotions and the sudden jolt of memories he doesn’t want to remember.

And just as quickly as it started, it’s over, and he’s sent on his way.

Next up in the routine is group therapy, which is about as exciting as it sounds, that is to say, not at all. Castiel loathes group therapy. Even before he died, he was a bit of an introvert, never talking much, but now he barely speaks at all if he can help it.

He makes his way to the large hall where the group therapy is held, picking a random empty chair amongst the many groups, about six or seven per. The discussion leader waits a few minutes as more people file in, and then starts up.

“So. How are we all feeling today? Excited? Nervous?” he says, rubbing his hands together, like he’s eager to get started.

A redhead seated beside Castiel timidly raises her hand, introducing herself as Anna, and talks about how she’s looking forward to seeing her parents again while the discussion leader nods sympathetically, like he knows exactly what she’s feeling (though anyone with a beating heart couldn’t possibly have any idea). It continues on like that for a while, everyone taking turns around the circle until the only one who hasn’t yet spoken is Castiel.

“How about you?” the discussion leader asks expectantly and it takes a moment for Castiel to realize it’s him who’s being addressed.

“Oh, um, hello, my name is Castiel and I am a PDS sufferer,” he says, going through the standard introduction, the group intoning the typical “Hi, Castiel” in response.

“And how are you feeling about today, Castiel?” the discussion leader asks. Castiel shrugs, but everyone keeps waiting for him to open up more so he takes a breath and speaks.

“I feel nervous, I suppose. And a bit sad maybe,” he says.

“And why is that?”

“Nervous because the thought of going back into society seems daunting and I’m afraid I’m not going to know how to live ‘a normal life’ anymore.”

“That’s nothing to be ashamed of, Castiel. It will take some getting used to, but just give it time and I’m sure it’ll feel just as it did before.” The discussion leader pauses a moment before continuing, “You also mentioned something about feeling sad…?”

“Sad because… because I have no one to go home to,” Castiel replies slowly, keeping his eyes downcast.

“Oh… I’m sorry to hear that. Well, look on the bright side, maybe you’ll make some new friends.”

Castiel has to fight back the urge to snort in disbelief. He nods instead, pretending to look hopeful so the discussion leader will move on to his next victim (which he thankfully does).

After a while, the group therapy session is over and they depart. Castiel is grateful that at the end of a session they don’t have to say anything like “living our best second life today”, or some other equally stupid phrase.

Normally, this would be the time where Castiel would go back to his room and pass the time by counting ceiling tiles and mentally reciting poems and quotes that he’s memorized until he eventually falls asleep, but today is different. He once more follows the crowd to their new destination.

In another one of the large halls, everyone lines up again. However, this time, it isn’t a doctor who awaits them, but a man at a desk.

“Blue, green, or brown?” the bored sounding man asks Castiel when it’s his turn.

“Sorry?” Castiel asks, confused. The man rolls his eyes.

“Your eyes. What colour were your eyes before you died?” the man replies, seemingly annoyed.

“Oh, blue. They were blue,” Castiel says, before he’s handed two small boxes.

“Contacts and cover-up. Next!

Castiel makes his way back to his room and flops down on his bed, breathing a sigh of relief. He picks up the packages and opens them, tossing the empty boxes aside. He toys with them, glancing at his dresser with its adjoining mirror, before getting up and slowly making his way towards it. He closes his eyes tightly as he turns to face the mirror directly. He tries to avoid the mirror whenever possible, but he can’t put on his cover-up without it. He slowly starts to open his eyes.

And comes face to face with the monster staring back at him.

His skin is a sickly gray, his dark hair in greasy disarray, but it’s his eyes that really make him cringe. His once blue irises are replaced with a milky white colour, making them blend in with the rest of his eye. His pupils are still black, but they’re not round anymore; they have jagged, pointed edges to them so that they look more like some kind of star shape.

Just for the hell of it, Castiel tries out one of the many affirmations the centre had taught them.

“I am a partially deceased syndrome sufferer and anything I did in my untreated state was not my fault,” he says, and immediately feels ridiculous. Saying the words doesn’t make it true, and it certainly doesn’t make the crippling guilt go away.

Not wanting to drag this process out any further, Castiel exhales a shaky breath and begins his transformation.

He puts the contacts in first. They succeed in rounding out his pupils and making his eyes blue, but they’re only a dull imitation of what they once were. He then starts on the cover-up. It doesn’t go on as smoothly as he’d hoped and, being unaccustomed to putting on make-up, it’s chalky and uneven. It gets rid of the gray colour of his skin, replacing it with an orange tint. After a few minutes, his transformation having been complete, he surveys himself. He’s still very unnatural looking, but he supposes it’s certainly some kind of improvement.

Castiel doesn’t look alive, but he looks a little less dead.

He hears the clack of practical heels coming down the hall and the same nurse from this morning walks in, holding a large plastic bag.

“Well, now don’t you look handsome?” she says, giving him a grin. Castiel can’t even bring himself to offer up a pretend smile. Undeterred, the nurse hands him the plastic bag containing all the belongings he was found with when he came to the treatment centre.

“The truck is waiting outside, it’ll be leaving in about five minutes,” the nurse informs him before taking her leave.

Castiel looks inside the bag. There’s nothing in there other than the clothes he was buried in. It looks like they’ve been washed and repaired for the occasion. Trying not to think too hard about all the unspeakable things he did while wearing those same clothes, he shrugs off his white hospital garbs and changes, careful not to look at the deep lacerations adorning his torso (stitched up, but never to heal).

Before he leaves, he takes one last look in the mirror and almost doesn’t recognize the person staring back. He’s wearing black pants and shoes, a white dress shirt that he doesn’t bother to tuck in, a dark blue tie that he hasn’t done up properly, a black suit jacket, and his beloved beige trenchcoat. He touches the lapel of the coat and smiles slightly, fondly remembering how his mother always hated it, saying it was too big and that she had no idea what he was thinking when he bought it. Castiel wore it everywhere, and his mom complained, but he could tell that although she may not have liked the coat, she liked how it made Castiel feel. Bizarrely, it makes him feel safer somehow.

So, he’s happy to have it as he marches toward the army-style truck waiting out front, nervous about entering this brave new world.

He takes a seat in the back of the truck with several other PDS sufferers. A quick roll call is taken, and then they’re on their way.

The ride back to Lawrence is silent and filled with near palpable tension, everyone having severe mixed emotions about going back to their hometown. On the way, they pass buildings with things painted on them like “Beware rotters” and “God bless the HVF”. One of the reasons Castiel is worried about going back is having to face the HVF, the Human Volunteer Force. During the Rising, the government’s resources were spread very thin, leaving some places (including Lawrence, Kansas) to fend for themselves. So, HVF groups were formed. City folk turned militia men, protecting the living from the dead.

Castiel has heard that most HVF groups have disbanded at the government’s behest, but some of the more dedicated groups still operate. However much the treatment centre and the government encourages everyone to go back and live their lives like they used to, Castiel knows that disgust and hostility are most likely what awaits him.

They arrive in the late evening, the sun almost entirely hidden beneath the horizon. He sees some people looking disapprovingly out their window at them, and Castiel is glad that most people are inside at this time of day. They start dropping people off at their houses and then they pull up to a modest looking house seated atop a small hill in one of the more rural parts of Lawrence.

“Castiel Novak?” one of the guards calls out, reading the name off a clipboard. Castiel gets up and makes his way off the truck.

He stands at the end of his driveway, watching the truck pull away. He continues standing there even after the truck has disappeared from view.

Castiel doesn’t want to go inside his house. No comfort awaits him there, only painful memories of what once was. There will be no warm welcome from his family. He won’t hear his mother asking how his day was, or smell whatever delicious concoction she’s making in the kitchen. He won’t hear the soft strains of classical music as his father reads in the study, or smell the leftover scent from his cigars that he’s forced to smoke outside (thanks to Castiel’s mother). He won’t hear his brothers bickering, and he won’t have to stop Gabriel from doing something ridiculous to Samandriel like feeding him a dog biscuit as he did that one time (where Gabriel got the biscuit from Castiel doesn’t know, they don’t even have a dog). All that will greet him when he opens that door is an empty house, dusty with disuse.

He stands on the front step, his hand frozen on the doorknob. He takes a deep breath, bracing himself, and steps inside.

The air smells stale and the rooms look eerie. It’s like someone took a snapshot of their life here and it got frozen in time. Castiel sees one of his mother’s grocery lists on the fridge, some of Samandriel’s toys and Gabriel’s magic set strewn about, one of his father’s large mystery novels open and face down on the coffee table where he’d left off. It’s not long before Castiel marches up the stairs towards his room, keeping his eyes firmly fixed to the floor because seeing any more right now would be unbearable. He’s not ready.

He gets to his bedroom and shuts the door firmly behind him. He leans against the door for a moment with his eyes closed in an attempt to collect himself, before straightening up, shucking off his coat, jacket, and tie, and heading towards his bed. He flops down on it, his eyes taking in the familiar sight of band posters, his rather impressive record collection, and the collage of quotes he’d taped to the wall nearest his bedside. His gaze at last settles upon a framed picture he keeps on his nightstand from the time he and his family vacationed to Maine. Castiel reaches out and traces the edge of the picture with his finger, remembering how much he loved that trip, how free he felt in Maine. The picture was taken when they visited a nearby lighthouse, stationed by the Atlantic Ocean. He stares at his family’s smiling faces, including his own, flushed from the walk there and hair windswept. Happy, healthy, alive.

If Castiel were capable of crying, he would be doing it now. His face contorts slightly and he feels the telltale lump in his throat, but no tears come (his body now unable to produce them).

He keeps his eyes fixed on the picture until he can no longer keep them open, and falls into a deep sleep. 

Chapter Text

“Please, oh god please no!”

The woman’s screams permeate the air as he gets closer and closer, backing her into a corner of the flower shop. She thought it would be a good idea to lock up by herself. At night. Alone.

Perfect.

He tilts his head at her, continuing to walk forward. He sees her eyes dart around, frantically looking for escape.

There is none.

He’s a little over an arm’s length away from her when she suddenly grabs a nearby vase, smashing it and brandishing a shard of glass in his direction, slashing violently at the air. He tilts his head again, very unfazed by this turn of events.

She lunges, slicing the makeshift blade down, but he’s too fast for her. He grabs her arm, biting it and forcing her to drop the glass. She screams again, but he doesn’t care. He feels nothing. He throws her to the ground and kneels next to her, pinning her down. She struggles, but his grip is firm. His gaze zeroes in on her neck and her eyes widen in fear. She knows what’s coming.

Her scream turns to a gurgle as his teeth clamp down on her jugular. Warm blood floods his mouth in thick, hot spurts.

He pulls his mouth away, licking his lips as he watches the woman shake, her hands scrabbling to her throat in a fruitless attempt to stop the bleeding. Blood continues to pool around her, framing her head like some twisted form of a halo, until her gurgles fade away to silence and her body lies limp on the floor.

He’s now free to take what he really wants, what he needs.

He leans over and pulls out chunks of her hair, leaving one part of her scalp bare. He bites into the spot and pulls away strips of flesh with his fingers, popping them into his mouth.

When the skull is revealed, he bashes the woman’s head into the floor several times, causing the skull to crack. He peels it open and finds that delicious gray matter he’s been waiting for.

He starts to pull it out, eating it messily piece-by-piece, reveling in the glorious flavour and the satisfaction it provides his uncontrollable hunger.

However temporary that satisfaction may be.


Castiel startles awake with a cry of despair. Sleep has become torturous for him now that he has to relive his past crimes against humanity almost every night in hideous, vivid clarity.

In a way, he thinks it would be better if they came every night like clockwork. That way, he could prepare himself for the inevitability of them. The uncertainty, the not knowing, makes the flashbacks that much worse.

Castiel buries his face in his hands, letting out a strangled sigh. He can still hear the woman’s screams echo in his ears, can still smell the sickly sweet scent of flowers mixed with the acrid smell of blood, can still taste the metallic and salty flavour of her flesh on his tongue.

While in his untreated state, these feelings never bothered him. Guilt was non-existent. He saw nothing wrong with his actions, he was merely acting as any predator would when faced with his prey. Morality was irrelevant then.

But now, he feels all of it.

It’s like a physical weight he carries around, dragging behind him as a ball to a chain. He can’t lighten the load, nor break free, no matter how much he wants to. All the affirmations in the world won’t make him forget. The best he can do is to try and move past it, to keep walking despite the weight trying to drag him backward.

The thing is, it sounds much easier in theory.

What Castiel knows he should be trying to do, and what he wants to do are two very different things. He knows he should try to move on, to fully embrace his second life, but all he wants to do is nothing. He wants to sleep, to mindlessly watch television, maybe read a book or listen to music. And preferably never have to talk to anyone again.

He lies back in bed and weighs the pros and cons of both options, eyes tracing random shapes using the dots on his stucco ceiling, when the doorbell rings.

Castiel sits up, eyes wide. Who could be at the door? He never really had any close friends who would want to visit and it’s not like he’s made his return here public knowledge. He gets up, walking quietly downstairs and stepping up to the door cautiously. He leans up against the wood and peers through the peephole.

He sees a redheaded girl, maybe a bit older than him, standing there, smiling at nothing in particular. Her green eyes flick towards the peephole and Castiel jumps back, hoping she didn’t see him.

“Castiel Novak?” she says. Castiel doesn’t respond. How does she know his name? What does she want? “Come on, I saw you, I know you’re in there!” the girl continues. Her voice sounds friendly and teasing, not at all the way Castiel assumes someone would speak if they wished him harm.

Against his better judgment, he opens the door a crack and peers through it.

“Yes?” he asks. The girl smiles brighter.

“There you are! Hi, my name’s Charlie and I’ll be your PDS community care officer,” the girl – Charlie – replies.

Castiel tilts his head, not recognizing the term. He opens the door a bit wider, making himself more visible. He had taken his contacts out at some point during the night, and his cover-up had rubbed off due to his tossing and turning. He expects Charlie to be afraid, but she doesn’t even flinch.

“Sorry, my what?” he asks.

“I’ve been assigned to give you your medication and to check up on you, see how you’re doing and all that,” she replies.

“Oh. Right.”

They stand there awkwardly for a moment before Charlie leans to the side, looking pointedly towards the inside of the house and then back to Castiel.

“Um, would you like to come in?” Castiel asks, unsure of himself.

“Why, I’d love to!” Charlie replies, before walking past him into the house. She heads for the living room automatically as she starts to open the small bag she’d brought with her (presumably holding the medication), but Castiel halts her progress almost immediately.

“Not in there!” he says quickly.

He hasn’t spent much time in any room in the house with the exception of his own bedroom. He’s not ready yet, but he also doesn’t relish the thought of anyone else occupying the unused space either, however temporarily. Charlie gives him an odd look, but stops walking. Castiel mentally curses himself, realizing how absurd he must sound.

“Would you mind if we went upstairs to do it? To my room?” he asks, shuffling his feet awkwardly. Charlie looks like she wants to ask questions, but she thankfully doesn’t.

“Well, alright, just don’t go puttin’ the moves on me. I have a Taser and I’m not afraid to use it!” she says, giving Castiel a wink. She may have said it in a joking manner, but Castiel can tell that she’s not lying. He chuckles softly, raising his hands in surrender. Charlie smiles, nodding in approval before leading the way up the stairs.

Castiel guides her to his bedroom and sits on the bed as Charlie gets out the vial of neurotriptyline and the device to administer it. Bizarrely, Castiel feels the need to make conversation.

“So, how does one become a ‘PDS community care officer’?”

“I’m studying to become a nurse and I’m doing some work experience at the hospital here in town. Some government officials came around asking for volunteers and I thought, ‘why not’, right? The whole reason I decided to become a nurse in the first place was so that I could help people in need,” Charlie replies, locking the neurotriptyline in place before approaching Castiel.

Castiel turns his back to her, feeling the tip of the device being inserted into the hole at the back of his neck. Charlie places the hand that’s not holding the device firmly on his shoulder, in case he spasms.

“Alright, and one…two…three.

Castiel fists his hands in the bed sheets and shuts his eyes tight as the neurotriptyline invades his body. He turns back around once the feeling fades to find Charlie wincing in sympathy.

“Sorry. That does not look pleasant,” she says. Castiel just shrugs and changes the subject.

“So, what you were saying before… You really think PDS sufferers qualify as ‘people in need’?”

Charlie looks up from where she’d been putting away the medical supplies, her face serious.

“Of course! I mean, yeah, you guys did some major damage a while back, but you didn’t know what you were doing! It’s like… say an animal gets rabies and bites someone. That animal can’t be blamed, right? It was out of their control. It’s the same thing,” Charlie says sincerely. Castiel smirks slightly.

“People have a tendency to shoot rabid animals.”

“Okay, okay, so I might not be the best at coming up with analogies. Sue me,” Charlie replies, smiling and rolling her eyes good-naturedly. Castiel chuckles.

As Charlie starts to wander the room a little, Castiel ponders his growing fondness for the girl. He finds himself wanting to be friends with her, which is an anomaly in itself. Charlie seems to be perpetually cheerful, but not in the same false way that the nurses at the treatment center displayed. Charlie is more genuine than that, and Castiel finds himself enjoying her company.

Well, he thinks, there goes that “never having to talk to anyone again” idea.

“Oh, no way!” Charlie suddenly exclaims, interrupting Castiel’s musings. She’s hovering around his large bookshelf. “Didn’t peg you as a Harry Potter fan!” she says, pointing out his collection of all seven books. Castiel’s bookshelf reflected his rather eclectic tastes – much like his tastes in music – and held both classics and contemporaries in a broad range of genres. Castiel smiles and nods.

“I spent years reading and re-reading them.”

“Same here! Hermione is honestly my spirit animal.”

“I even dressed up as Harry for Halloween once when I was little,” Castiel says, randomly remembering the childhood memory with fondness.

“Pics or it didn’t happen,” Charlie says with a mischievous smile. Castiel laughs.

“Maybe some other time.”

“I’m holding you to that.” Charlie pauses before continuing, “Hey, you wanna get something to eat? I’m starved.”

“Uh, I don’t eat…?” Castiel replies, feeling rather uncomfortable. That was another thing that took some getting used to, the not being able to eat or drink.

“I know, but I do, and I thought you might like to get out of the house for a bit.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? With my… um… condition?” Castiel says, worried about people’s reaction to him and not wanting Charlie to get caught in the crosshairs.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine! I’ll protect you, don’t worry. Taser, remember?”

Castiel considers it for a moment. He’s not exactly looking forward to interacting with others, but he did fine with Charlie so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

“Alright,” he agrees reluctantly.

“Awesome! I’ll wait in the car while you put your face on or whatever,” Charlie says before taking her leave.

Castiel doesn’t bother changing out of his sleep rumpled clothes and dons his contacts and cover-up before throwing on his trenchcoat. He leaves the house, and gets into the passenger seat of Charlie’s yellow Gremlin idling out front.

They’re only in the car for a few minutes until they pull up to a diner entitled Harvelle’s Roadhouse.

“I don’t remember this place,” Castiel says, getting out of the car.

“Yeah, they built it a couple years ago after the other place got destroyed by– uh, I mean, yeah. They built it a couple years ago.”

They walk inside and take a seat in a booth by the window before a pretty blonde girl walks up to them holding a small notepad, presumably their waitress.

“Hey Charlie!”

“Oh, hi Jo,” Charlie replies, uncharacteristically shy. Castiel tilts his head, puzzled, before Charlie continues, “This is Castiel.”

“Hi Castiel. So, what can I get for you guys?” Jo asks kindly. Either Jo didn’t notice what he is, or she did and she’s ignoring it; whichever option it is, Castiel is grateful.

Charlie places her order while Castiel orders a glass of water that he’s not going to drink. He’s still wondering why Charlie was acting so strange, and it’s not until he notices Charlie unabashedly checking Jo out as she walks away that Castiel gets it. He smirks knowingly as Charlie turns back to look at him.

“Shut up,” she says jokingly.

“I didn’t say anything!” Castiel replies, feigning innocence. Charlie rolls her eyes, smiling.

“Yeah, whatever.”

“So, how do you two know each other?” Castiel finds a strange pleasure in being the one that gets to tease Charlie for a change.

“Her mom owns the place, and I guess you could say I’m something of a regular,” she says, wriggling her eyebrows before letting out a small sigh. “Unfortunately, anyone with eyes could see that she clearly has a thing for Dean Winchester, even though she’ll deny it to the grave.”

“Who’s Dean Winchester?” Castiel asks.

“Just a friend of mine. He’s–“ Charlie pauses as she looks away, and then continues, apparently having noticed something, “He’s right over there, actually. Hey, Dean!”

Castiel follows her gaze and his eyes fall upon a very handsome boy, about his age, sitting by the bar. The boy – Dean – gives Charlie a wave, and starts to walk over to them.

Castiel gives him a once-over. Dean is leanly muscular, although he makes it hard to tell through his loose-fitting military-style attire. He has short sandy blonde hair that sticks up at the front, smatterings of freckles cover his tanned skin, and as he gets closer Castiel sucks in a quick breath at the most stunning green eyes he’s ever seen.

“What’s up?” Dean asks, smiling at Charlie. Charlie is smiling back, but her expression seems… worried?

“Nothin’ much. Just hanging out with my new friend, Castiel.”

“Hey man, how’s it go–“ Dean starts, before he suddenly stops. His eyes narrow and he leans closer to Castiel. Uncomfortable with the sudden scrutiny, Castiel leans back a bit. When Dean stands up straight again, the friendly expression on his face is completely gone, replaced with a look of malice. He ignores Castiel completely and regards Charlie instead.

“What the fuck, Charlie,” he hisses. Castiel is utterly confused until he reads the three letters written on the band proudly displayed on Dean’s arm: H.V.F. His eyes widen in fear.

“Dean, don’t,” Charlie says, her eyes pleading.

“How could you bring it here?” Dean replies, voice filled with contempt.

He is my friend,” Charlie says pointedly, her eyes blazing now.

“Look, I don’t want to cause any trouble–“ Castiel starts to say before Dean interrupts him by grabbing a handful of his shirt and pulling him out of the booth and into a standing position.

“Then you never should have risen from the goddamn grave.”

Castiel is just beginning to wonder in horror if he’s about to be in his first fight, when an older woman rushes out from the back room, apparently having heard the commotion.

“Dean Winchester, you let go of that boy, you hear me?” she demands sternly, hands firmly stationed on her hips.

“But, Ellen, he’s a–“ Dean starts, but Ellen cuts him off.

“He’s a paying customer is what he is. Take your hands off him. Now.

Dean gives Castiel one more cold glare before practically throwing him back in the booth and stalking out the door. Ellen, who Castiel quickly realizes must be the owner, hurries up to them.

“This one’s on me, alright?” she says by means of apology, gesturing at their food.

“Thank you. For what you did,” Castiel says quietly. Ellen smiles kindly at him.

“Everyone is welcome at the Roadhouse, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone,” she says and Castiel’s eyes widen slightly in surprise as he grasps her meaning. She nods at them and takes her leave. Charlie immediately turns to Castiel.

“Shit, I’m so sorry about Dean! I swear he’s not usually such a–“

“Complete and utter asshole?” Castiel finishes for her, trying to make light of the situation. Charlie chuckles and nods.

“His dad is the leader of the town’s HVF, so Dean’s pretty, well, into it, I guess. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine, Charlie. Seriously, don’t worry about it,” Castiel says, waving a hand. Charlie sighs before pushing her plate away.

“You wanna get outta here? I’ve lost my appetite.”

Castiel nods, and they leave the restaurant. Luckily, Dean is nowhere to be seen in the parking lot and Castiel finds himself sincerely hoping that he never has to encounter that jerk again.

Chapter Text

A couple weeks later, Castiel finds himself in his bedroom with Charlie, both of them sitting on his bed in companionable silence as they listen to a few of Castiel’s records.

Castiel had been surprised at how fast he had managed to settle into some sense of a routine in this new life of his. Every day, Charlie would come by, toting her medication bag, to inject him and see how he’s doing. After that first day, she never ventured into the living room, always heading up the stairs to the bedroom as per Castiel’s wishes. Once the injection was done with, Charlie would usually stay for a while, just keeping Castiel company. The sudden friendship was new to Castiel, though bizarrely welcome.

What Castiel appreciates most about Charlie’s visits is that she knows when to keep them short. On the days where Castiel wakes up filled with self-loathing and anger and the agonizing ache of loss, Charlie only stays briefly, just long enough to administer the neurotriptyline, and they exchange little more than hellos and goodbyes. Castiel finds it to be a testament to her nursing skills that she is so perceptive of a patient’s moods. These bouts of unwanted emotion don’t last long, only a day or two, and then Castiel is able to resume his usual easy cameraderie with Charlie.

Charlie never brings up his bad days in conversation, knowing that he just needs his space to deal. So, he’s rather surprised by her sudden curiosity.

“Hey, Castiel?”

“Yeah?” he replies, absentmindedly tapping his hand on his leg to the beat of the record.

“Why do we never spend time in any of the other rooms?” she asks innocently. Castiel can only blink owlishly at her for a few moments before fumbling for an answer.

“Too many memories. Not ready yet,” Castiel murmurs. Charlie nods.

“You know you can confide in me, right? I mean, I don’t hang around here just to shoot you up with chemicals,” she says, smirking. Castiel chuckles.

“I know, I know. It’s just hard to talk about, that’s all. I hope you understand.”

“Don’t worry, I do. More so than you’d think, actually.” Charlie then gets a look on her face, more serious and sad than Castiel has ever seen her look and he immediately regrets whatever he might have done or said to put that expression on her face. She takes a deep breath and continues speaking. “When I was about eight, I went to my first sleepover. I was so excited; I went on and on about it for days before it happened. But, once I got there and it was time to go to bed, I got scared. I’d never really slept away from home before. So, I called my parents to come get me and they agreed. I waited and waited for them to come, but they never did. Instead, the police showed up, saying there’d been a terrible accident.” Charlie pauses for a moment. She looks up at the ceiling and, though clearly trying to hide it, Castiel can see that she’s blinking back unwelcome tears.

“I– I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry, Charlie,” Castiel says sincerely. Charlie waves her hand dismissively.

“You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted you to know that anything you may be feeling, the loneliness, the guilt, you’re not alone. If anyone can understand what you’re going through, it’s me. If you ever need to talk, I’ll be here. Just… don’t feel like you owe me an explanation because I told you my sob story, okay?” Charlie says, smiling weakly. Castiel smiles back and, in lieu of a reply, pulls Charlie in for a brief hug.

He wishes with every fiber of his undead being that he could feel it. He knows her arms are around him, but only by the same sort of detached pressure you’d feel if you poked your leg when it was asleep. After a moment, they pull away, Charlie quickly swiping her sleeve across her eyes.

“Can I give you some advice though?” she asks hesitantly. Castiel nods. “Don’t let the grief take over your life. Or, more specifically in your case, your house.”

“I don’t want it to, but… everywhere I look… all I see are these rooms, these spaces, that are so irrevocably lacking all the life they used to contain,” replies Castiel, trying to pull suitable words from the English language to convey the confusing thoughts swirling around in his grief-addled mind.

“That’s because you’ve left everything as it was, like you’re waiting for them to come back. But… they’re not coming back, Castiel.”

“You don’t think I know that?” Castiel snaps at her.

“Sorry, pointing out the obvious, I know. All I’m saying is that you can’t let your house become some sort of tomb. As hard as it is, you’ve got to let the dead lie,” Charlie says. Castiel gives her a pointed look. “Oh shut up, you know what I mean.”

Castiel nods, heaving a sigh. Charlie places a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“Like I said before, you don’t have to do it alone. I can help you clean the place up a little bit. What do ya say?” she asks. Castiel is hesitant, feeling scared and unsure. Seeing his look of trepidation, Charlie continues, “It doesn’t mean you’re going to forget, Castiel; it just means you’ll be one step closer to moving on. How about we give it a shot tomorrow? So you can sleep on it.”

“Okay,” Castiel murmurs, and Charlie smiles.

“Great!”

The conversation then peters off into trying to find something to do, and Charlie suggests throwing on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Castiel quickly agrees. He grabs his laptop and sets it between them, finding a link to the movie online.

About fifty minutes into the movie is the familiar scene where Harry sits at the window in his dormitory during his first night at Hogwarts, looking sad and a bit despondent. For the very first time, Castiel thinks he might understand Harry. During his reading of the books and viewings of the movies, he – and presumably everyone else who experienced the story – felt bad for Harry at having lost his parents. But it was a more surface sadness, like one might feel when they read a tragic story in the newspaper. It makes you sad, but it has no real impact on you. Now, however, Castiel understands completely. As Harry looks out the window, he gets the smallest smile on his face and Castiel finds himself mirroring the gesture.

If Harry can find some semblance of hope then perhaps Castiel can as well.


Shortly after they finish the movie, Charlie takes her leave. Castiel runs a finger along his bookshelf, scanning the familiar titles, and picks out Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, figuring he would spend some time re-reading it for the umpteenth time.

Not more than a couple pages in, he tosses the book aside, finding himself unable to really concentrate on the words.

So, he decides to take an early evening walk.

It’s not that Castiel is particularly fond of exercise or anything like that, but when the sun starts to go down, he enjoys taking a leisurely stroll through the forest beside his house to a small clearing where he can watch the sky change colours in a breathtaking display of its sunset.

He takes a minute to apply his cover-up and insert his contacts, not wanting to risk venturing out of the house without them, no matter how isolated the area. Another of the many things he appreciates about Charlie’s friendship is that he doesn’t have to hide with her. Since the day they met, he’s never felt the need to put on his artificial living façade. Mask or not, she treats him no differently.

Though he’s fond of Charlie, a small niggling part of his mind almost craves her scorn. That same part speaks to him in its convincing and deceptively logical tones, saying that he doesn’t deserve friendship, only hatred and disgust; that a murderer should know no kindness, for no kindness was shown to the victims of his monstrous crimes.

And a repentant murderer is still a murderer all the same.

Castiel shakes his head slightly, trying to remove those sorts of thoughts from his head, for the time being at least. He grabs his trenchcoat and throws it over his casual outfit comprised of t-shirt and jeans, before leaving the house.

He cuts across his lawn, hastily retreating into the forest. He inhales the pleasant scent of nature through his nose and feels the corners of his mouth quirk upwards in a smile. He’s missed this, he suddenly realizes. Castiel deftly makes his way through the forest, ducking under branches and stepping over obstacles, somehow still remembering where to go. It’s strange how such mundane things come back to him, as if he’d never been away at all.

In less than ten minutes, he’s standing at the edge of where the dense thicket spreads out, leaving empty spaces of field in its place. Castiel walks forward, re-familiarizing himself with the place, before lying down in the long grass. He puts his arms behind his head and lets his gaze settle upon the sky.

The hours pass by quickly as he watches the sky change its colours, offering up a wide range from blue to orange to pink. He notes absent-mindedly that while the setting sun paints its vast array of hues, Castiel’s mind is a blank canvas, blessedly devoid of all thoughts. He ponders the interesting contradiction for a moment before letting the thought slip away from him like all the others.

As the sky creeps its way to the dark blue signaling the beginning of nightfall, Castiel stands up, brushing himself off as he does so, and makes his way back through the forest.

He estimates that he’s about halfway home, when the sounds of an obvious struggle reach his ears.

He has a brief inner debate with himself about whether or not he should just keep going before making the decision to cautiously walk towards the sounds that are getting louder as he nears their source.

As he gets closer, Castiel can see two figures fighting. He hides behind a tree, his head peaking out in order to safely view what’s happening.

Two men roll around on the forest floor, each trying to get the upper hand. Castiel can tell by the primal growls and the tattered, dirty clothing, that one of the men is an untreated PDS sufferer. Castiel tries to see who the rabid is fighting, but all he can glean is flashes of green camouflage, until suddenly the pair rolls again and although he only sees the face for a split second, he recognizes it instantly.

Dean Winchester.

He must be on patrol, Castiel realizes as he watches, his eyes wide with fear, as Dean gets pinned to the ground, the rabid’s jaws snapping dangerously close to Dean’s throat as black drool leaks from its mouth in a gruesome display. Castiel can see Dean trying to reach for his gun, when it’s smacked out of his hand and out of his reach by the rabid.

Then, whatever was keeping Castiel immobilized suddenly snaps and he’s running as fast as his stiff legs can carry him towards the fray. He dashes over to where Dean’s silver pistol lies and picks it up, the unfamiliar object feeling awkward in his hands. He points it experimentally at the pair still tussling on the ground, but quickly realizes he can’t risk hitting Dean in his inexperience. So, not knowing what else to do, he points the gun straight up in the air and fires several times.

The loud noises do as intended as the rabid looks up, momentarily distracted, and a moment is apparently all Dean needs to push off his assailant and scramble backwards.

Not quite knowing what he’s doing, Castiel drops the gun and steps forward in front of Dean, approaching the untreated PDS sufferer hesitantly. He stops walking immediately as the confused looking rabid lets out a particularly vicious growl.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Dean hisses from behind, but Castiel just ignores him and focuses on the rabid.

“It’s okay, no one’s going to hurt you. You and I, we’re the same. See?” Castiel says, his voice shaking slightly with fear and adrenaline as he swipes a hand forcefully across his face, succeeding in rubbing off some of his cover-up. He then quickly takes out one of his contacts as he steps closer to the rabid, who’s no longer growling, but giving Castiel a look of curiosity mingled with suspicion. Castiel signals behind his back for Dean to go around as he keeps talking to the rabid, making sure the focus remains on him and not Dean.

Dean thankfully gets the message and steps off to the side, starting to walk around them, his path hidden by trees. Castiel keeps his placating talk going as Dean sneaks up behind the rabid, brandishing a pair of handcuffs he had procured from somewhere on his person. Then, between one blink and the next, the untreated PDS sufferer has his hands cuffed behind his back, while Dean hastily steps away to join Castiel where he stands.

“It’s alright, don’t worry, you’re safe. You just have to come with us,” Castiel continues as Dean picks up his gun from where Castiel had dropped it.

“Fuck! You used up all my ammo!” Dean says angrily.

“A simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed,” Castiel snaps back.

“I didn’t need your help, I could have handled it!”

“I sincerely doubt that, but perhaps we can argue semantics later?” Castiel replies frostily, gesturing towards the unhappy rabid. Dean grunts and picks up a large stick off the ground, jabbing the rabid with it, making him start to shuffle forward. Castiel looks at the display disapprovingly, but knows that their options are limited. He starts walking with them.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” Dean asks him accusingly.

“What are you going to do if he suddenly tries to attack you again?” Castiel asks in way of reply.

“I’ve got it covered.”

“You’ve got a stick, and a gun with no bullets.”

“Yeah, and who’s fault is that?”

“Once again, your gratitude is overwhelming,” Castiel says sarcastically. Dean just glares at him, but offers no further argument as they continue walking.

Castiel is surprised at himself. He’s usually not so… snarky. But, then again, he’s never had the (dis)pleasure of meeting someone like Dean Winchester.

He treats you how you deserve to be treated, the little voice inside him remarks, and maybe it’s right. How can Castiel direct any negative feelings towards Dean for his censure towards him? After all, saving one life doesn’t change the amount of lives he’s taken away.

They walk for a few more minutes – presumably to the clinic where any untreated PDS sufferers are held until they can be transferred to a treatment facility – in a tension-filled silence, before Castiel decides to speak what he’d been mulling over in his mind.

“Look, about that day in the Roadhouse…” he says, trailing off. Dean interrupts him before he can say anything else.

“If you’re waiting for me to apologize for that, you’re going to be waiting a hell of a long time,” Dean says acerbically.

“No, just the opposite actually. I– I don’t blame you,” Castiel continues timidly. Dean looks a bit surprised at the lack of a snappy comeback, but doesn’t comment on it. “I know what I am and I know what I did. I also know what you are and what you do. I understand now why coming face-to-face with the embodiment of everything you’ve learned to despise in your hometown bar would elicit such a reaction as yours. I’m not looking for forgiveness, nor do I think I deserve it. I just hope you know – and I’m not using this as any kind of excuse for my actions, I swear – that I never asked to be ‘risen from the goddamn grave’ as you so aptly put it,” Castiel finishes, taking a nervous breath as he waits for Dean’s reply. To his surprise, Dean snorts.

“Anyone ever tell you that you talk like you’ve swallowed a fucking dictionary?” he asks arrogantly. Castiel smirks slightly, and then Dean continues in a serious manner, “I don’t care whether you asked for it or not. It happened. And the HVF were the only ones that could help when everything went to shit. There are people like Ellen and Jo and Charlie who just think the past should stay the past and all that kumbayah crap, but they seem to be forgetting just how bad it got. And it’s part of my job to help them remember,” Dean finishes menacingly. Castiel doesn’t quite know what to say to that, so he changes the subject somewhat.

“You can’t have been that old during the Rising… What, 13? 14, maybe?” Castiel says, a hint of pity unintentionally leaking into his voice. It’s his fault that Dean had to start fighting when he was barely more than a boy. Myfaultmyfaultmyfault, the guilty mantra plays on a loop in his head.

“That’s none of your business,” Dean snaps. Castiel continues his questioning, unheeded.

“What about your father? Is he the one that taught you to–“

“Drop it, Cas!” Dean yells. Castiel is silent for a moment.

“Castiel,” he finally mumbles.

“What?” Dean replies, annoyed.

“My name, it’s Castiel, not Cas,” Castiel explains, unsurprised that Dean hadn’t remembered his name. Dean rolls his eyes.

“I know your friggin’ name, not many guys walkin’ around with a weird ass name like ‘Castiel’, are there? It’s a mouthful so I shortened it. Got a problem with that?” Dean demands. Castiel shakes his head.

“No, I, uh, like it.”

“Whatever. We’re here.”

They come to the edge of the forest that leads into the main part of town, the clinic’s lights visible in what has now become nighttime. Castiel pops in his other contact and keeps his head down.

They walk into the clinic and two men immediately greet them by securing the rabid and locking him in a large cage in the corner of the room, where two other untreated PDS sufferers shuffle around the perimeter of their confinement, moaning.

Dean then heads to the front desk, where the receptionist hands him a few bills, which Dean pockets, and then they’re out the door.

Just in time for a Jeep to pull up.

“It’s about time, son! Where’d you get off to?” a man asks Dean gruffly, getting out of his vehicle. If Castiel had the proper blood flow necessary to pale in fear, he’d be doing it now as the infamous John Winchester, leader of the HVF, walks up to them.

“Caught a rotter on patrol. Just dropping it off,” Dean replies, to which John nods approvingly.

Castiel knows running will only make the situation worse, so he stands a little bit behind Dean, keeping his head down and hoping desperately not to be noticed.

So, naturally, he’s noticed.

“Who’s this?” John asks.

“He helped me bring in the rabid. He was just leaving, actually,” Dean says pointedly, glaring at Castiel in what can only be considered warning.

“It was nice to meet you, sir,” Castiel mumbles, starting to walk away.

“Not so fast. Come here, boy,” John says, his tone sounding… off. Castiel swallows and walks back to John, still keeping his head down.

“You know, you should really look at someone when they’re talking to you. It’s only polite,” John continues. It’s then that Castiel knows he’s been found out. With nothing but dread in the pit of his stomach and knowing that he has no other choice, Castiel looks up.

And is immediately pinned against the wall, a large hand clasped tightly around his throat, squeezing. It’s not that it hurts (though it’s not particularly comfortable), and technically Castiel doesn’t have to breathe, but neither of those things makes the situation any less frightening.

“Dean, would you care to explain to me why you let a corpse help you today?” John asks, his voice terrifyingly calm. Dean makes the mistake of not responding quickly enough. “You answer me when I talk to you, son!” John yells.

“I ran out of ammo,” Dean mumbles. Castiel instantly misses all of Dean’s cockiness and bravado; he’d rather deal with that than have to watch this heartbreakingly vulnerable version of him.

“Sorry, what was that? Couldn’t quite hear you,” John says, his voice back to that eerie calm.

“I ran out of ammo,” Dean repeats, louder this time.

“How many goddamn times do I have to tell you to bring more rounds?!”

“I… I must have forgot.”

“You forgot?!

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“’Sorry’ isn’t going to save you from an attack is it?”

“No, sir.”

“Just get in the car, Dean,” John demands. Dean looks like he wants to argue, but John adds a stern “Now” and Dean obeys, glancing briefly at Castiel before getting in the vehicle.

“And as for you. If I ever catch you even looking at my son again, I’ll kill you on sight, do we understand each other?” John asks. Castiel manages as much of a nod as he can in John’s chokehold, before John lets go, climbing into the driver’s side of his Jeep and driving away, leaving Castiel in his dust.

As Cas starts the rather long walk home, he thinks somewhat sarcastically that while this evening really hadn’t been quite as relaxing as he’d originally intended, he’d at least have something interesting to tell Charlie tomorrow.

Chapter Text

“Wait. So you’re telling me that you had a run-in with John Winchester? And lived to tell the tale?!” Charlie exclaims after Cas finishes telling her the whole story of the night before.

“Just barely,” he replies.

“And you saved Dean’s life! That’s amazing, Castiel! Maybe he’ll finally start warming up to you.”

“Somehow I doubt that. Although...” Cas says before trailing off.

“What is it?” Charlie asks impatiently.

“He did give me a nickname.”

“Wow, and it wasn’t an insult?”

“Surprisingly, no. He called me Cas. I just thought he’d forgotten my name.”

“Cas, huh?” Charlie says, seemingly testing the name out on her tongue, “I like it!”

“Me too,” says Cas, chuckling a little.

“So, Cas. Are you ready?” Charlie suddenly asks, using his newfound nickname. Cas looks at her, confused.

“Ready? For what?”

“To give your house the TLC it so desperately needs! No offense,” Charlie replies, quickly adding the “no offense” as an afterthought.

If Cas could blanch, he would have at that moment. With everything that had happened last night, Cas had forgotten all about what he had promised Charlie. Suffice it to say, he was not looking forward to the monumental task that Charlie was laying out before him.

“I don’t know, Charlie... Maybe another time?” Cas tries, knowing that Charlie won’t have any of it. And sure enough, Charlie’s smile fades and she places a hand over Cas’, regarding him with a serious look.

“The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be,” Charlie replies simply.

Cas knows she’s right, but it doesn’t make it any easier. He also knows that if he doesn’t do it today, it’s going to be tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, etc., and he decides that it’s probably for the best to just get it over with before it gets any worse.

“Alright,” Cas says quietly, letting out a small sigh. Charlie smiles and stands up, pulling Cas up with her.

“That’s the spirit!”

Charlie takes the lead, leaving Cas to follow her with nothing but trepidation and dread weighing his heart.

They start with the kitchen, the easiest task to surmount. The room is already relatively clean, and there aren’t any particular items that remind Cas immediately of his family, except for one. His eyes lock on it as soon as he takes his first step into the room. He walks up to the fridge and looks at his mother’s grocery list attached to it with a magnet. He reaches up and traces his mother’s loopy, rushed scrawl with his finger in reverence. Then, in an absurd moment of sentimentality, he takes the list, folds it, and puts it in his pocket. Charlie watches him do it, but doesn’t say anything. She just gives him a small smile and a nod, like she understands (which, with everything she’d told Cas, she probably does).

 It’s only then that Cas fully realizes that Charlie has already gone through this all before. She’s had to live without her family for longer than Cas has, and yet she somehow remains perpetually cheerful. Cas trusts Charlie implicitly to guide him through this so that he too can someday be, if not perpetually cheerful (he highly doubts that’s possible for him), then just okay. When someone asks him how he’s doing he wants to be able to say “fine” and actually mean it.

Their next task that Charlie insists upon is to clean out the fridge and, after discovering the furry, rotten, and expired items that in another life were once edible (however difficult to imagine), Cas whole-heartedly agrees. So, their expressions pinched in distaste at the pungent aroma, they start throwing everything out (it’s not like Cas has much use for food anymore anyway, edible or not). After they give the now empty shelves of the fridge a wipe-down and attempting to clean the few dirty dishes in the sink with a thorough scrubbing, Cas knows that they have to move on to the next challenge.

The living room – the name itself feeling like some sort of cruel joke.

Cas walks in with Charlie standing a few paces behind him. For the first time since he got back from the treatment centre, he takes a good look at the room, the familiar lump already beginning to form in his throat. Just then, he feels the slight pressure of a hand on his shoulder. The touch – though barely felt – braces him somehow. Grounds him.

“It’s okay,” Charlie says quietly from behind him. Cas wants to yell, It’s not okay! None of this is okay! He wants to yell it at Charlie, at anyone who will listen, at the cruel and unforgiving universe for doing this to him.

But, he doesn’t do any of that. Instead, he takes a deep breath and begins picking up Samandriel’s toys and putting Gabriel’s magic set back in its box. He tries to desensitize himself from what he’s doing, attempting to operate on auto-pilot to the best of his ability. He tries to reassure himself that just because he’s packing up some of his family’s things, his memories of them won’t disappear.

He tries to tell himself that this doesn’t mean he’s losing them all over again.

“The door across from mine,” Cas murmurs, handing the toys and magic set to Charlie while indicating where Samandriel and Gabriel’s shared bedroom is. He doesn’t need to tell Charlie that although he’s ready to begin the process of moving on, he’s nowhere near ready to enter any of his family’s bedrooms. He would surely crumble under the weight of the combined grief, guilt, and regret.

Charlie returns in a timely manner and they continue tidying up the living room. Cas is just piling up the out-of-date magazines and Reader’s Digests on the coffee table when his gaze falls squarely upon his father’s mystery novel lying open face down on the same table, effectively marking the page. He continues to stare at it, the lump in his throat coming back with a vengeance. He starts to tremble, his shoulders shaking with every stuttering, laboured breath he takes.

And then he’s crying. He covers his face with his hands, automatically feeling ridiculous. Can you even call it crying when your eyes remain so dry?

It seems strange that such an innocuous thing like a book could make Cas lose it like this, but it all just feels so terribly... unfinished. The mystery novel serves as a tangible reminder of all the things that Cas’ family is unable to do now. Everyone always assumes that they have all the time in the world to accomplish the things that they want to, it’s just how people get through life. However, now Cas knows the truth and he finds it deeply distressing – as anyone surely would when they’re suddenly faced with the crushing realization of their own mortality. The harsh reality of the situation is that in the span of as little as a few seconds – a flash of headlights, a scream, a last look filled with sad resignation – everything you ever held dear can simply cease to exist. Just like that.

Before he retreats too far into the darker recesses of his mind, Cas suddenly finds himself wrapped up in Charlie’s embrace. Although the physical comfort is mostly wasted on him, Cas still greatly appreciates the gesture and hugs her back, burying his neck into her shoulder to try and stifle his hiccupping sobs.

“This is good, Cas. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I swear it’s going to help,” Charlie says, her voice a mix of sympathy and concern. Cas doesn’t reply and just allows himself to be held. A few minutes pass and Cas’ sobs eventually subside into weak, tired breaths. He finally pulls back, grateful for Charlie’s patience with him.

“I’m sorry,” Cas mumbles, unable to look Charlie in the eye after his emotional outburst.

“Hey, I get it. No apologies necessary,” Charlie replies sincerely, “Are you okay to keep going?”

It’s then that Cas finally lifts his head to look at Charlie, giving her one determined nod. He then picks up the book from where it lies atop the coffee table and takes a deep breath before snapping the book closed, a small puff of dust flying out of the abandoned pages. Cas walks over to the small bookshelf in the room and places the book in it. It’s only then that he lets out the breath he’d been holding. He feels an immediate sense of relief, like a tiny portion of the enormous weight he carries has been lifted. And although the pressure of it still sometimes threatens to crush him, he can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s pressing a little less now.

When he risks a glance back at Charlie, she’s beaming at him supportively and Cas can’t help but muster up a small smile in return.

“So, now that the hard stuff is out of the way, what do you say we get down to the nitty-gritty and maybe have a little fun while doing it, huh?” Charlie says, rubbing her hands together in anticipation and grinning in a way that makes Cas rather nervous (in the best way).

“What did you have in mind?” Cas asks.

“You’ll see, but it definitely involves-“ Charlie starts before dashing off to the kitchen mid-sentence. Cas hears the opening and closing of cupboard doors before she returns. “These!” Charlie finishes, throwing a bottle of cleaning supplies in Cas’s direction along with a roll of paper towels. Just as he catches them, Charlie dashes off again, this time up the stairs. She comes back with a portable speaker and her iPod. As she sets it up, she speaks over her shoulder to Cas.

“Just because we’ve put everything away doesn’t mean you’re off the hook yet, Novak. Your dust bunnies have their own pet dust bunnies who have bred to create new dust bunnies and-“

“I get it, it’s a bit dusty,” Cas says, cutting her off with a chuckle.

“Right, and since it is a universal fact that cleaning sucks, I thought we should have a bit of accompaniment to spice things up a little.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth that the speakers come to life, a catchy opening drum beat emanating from them. By the time the guitar and brass kicks in, Cas already catches himself tapping his foot and trying to stifle a smile. Charlie shakes her hips to the beat as she walks over to the large window in the dimly lit living room, and yanks upon the curtains mercilessly. Bright afternoon light fills the room and Cas squints, letting his eyes adjust. Once they have, he smiles. He doesn’t know whether it’s the sunlight, the music, Charlie’s company, or maybe even a mix of all three, but the room now seems... cheerier.

Cas could get used to this.

The chorus of the song comes on and Charlie starts dancing around, belting the lyrics, and somehow still managing to begin dusting the furniture simultaneously.

I’m walkin’ on sunshine, whooooaaaaa, and don’t it feel good, HEY!” Charlie sings and Cas laughs, harder than he has in a while. “All together now!” Charlie yells, pointing at Cas as if giving him some kind of cue. Cas just laughs again and shakes his head, wiping the dust off the coffee table.

By the third replay, Cas starts to murmur the lyrics, moving his shoulders to the beat.

By the fifth replay, he’s singing along and bobbing his head, occasionally spinning around if the mood strikes him.

And by the tenth replay, both he and Charlie are having the time of their lives performing a task that just this morning Cas would have never thought possible for him. They use feather dusters as microphones, Charlie performs some spectacular dance moves with the vacuum as her partner, and the room gets cleaner and cleaner.

Eventually though, their work having been completed, Charlie turns off the music and they both collapse on the couch, breathless from the relentless dancing and laughter. As the excitement dies down and they survey their job well done, Cas looks at Charlie and feels a swell of emotion.

“Thank you,” he says.

“Don’t mention it. What are friends for if not to throw spontaneous emergency dance parties?” Charlie replies.

“No, but really. Thank you. Not just for today, but just... for everything,” Cas says, unable to put into words just how grateful he is.

“You’re welcome,” she says sincerely with a smile, before continuing, “Well, all that dancing has awakened my appetite, so I think I’m gonna head out.”

“We could go to the Roadhouse?” Cas supplies, not really wanting the day to be over just yet. Charlie’s smile fades into a look of worry.

“I don’t know... After with happened with Dean’s dad, shouldn’t you maybe be keeping a low profile?” she asks, and Cas thinks she’s probably right. However, the events of the day have made him feel daring.

“You could check if the coast is clear before I come in. And I’m sure that woman would help us if it came down to it.”

“Oh, you mean Ellen, the owner? Yeah, she’s pretty great, which is a plus considering she will one day be my mother-in-law,” Charlie says dreamily. Cas is momentarily confused until it dawns on him.

“Jo is Ellen’s daughter?” Cas asks for clarification, to which Charlie nods. “Speaking of which... I was wondering, have you ever tried asking her out?”

“Ellen? Nah, bit old for me to be honest. Also, I think she has a bit of a thing for ol’ Dr. Singer, but you didn’t hear that from me,” Charlie jokes. Cas rolls his eyes.

“You know what I mean!” he replies with a chuckle, bumping his shoulder into hers. Charlie laughs before pegging Cas with a skeptical stare.

“Cas, do you know what the dating pool is like in this town for people like me?”

“Let me guess, kiddie pool?”

“I wish it was a kiddie pool! It’s more like a puddle. Of the evaporated variety,” Charlie explains somewhat bitterly. Cas winces in sympathy. “Now, enough chatter, I have a burger that’s calling my name.”


After a wave at the door from Charlie signalling that the coast is clear, Cas makes his way into the diner. He slides into the opposite side of the booth from Charlie, before Jo makes her way over.

Cas has to purse his lips tightly to keep from laughing as he watches Charlie fumble over her conversation with Jo, including accidentally ordering a “beesechurger”. Jo just laughed it off like it was no big deal, saying it was cute. After Jo takes her leave, Charlie lets her head drop to the table.

“I’m going to dig a hole and live in it for the rest of my life, away from anyone I could possibly embarrass myself in front of,” Charlie groans, her voice muffled by the table.

“She did say that she thought it was cute...” Cas says, in an attempt to offer some comfort. Charlie raises her head.

“I don’t want to be ‘cute’, Cas! I want to be... I dunno... sexy! Irresistable! Not cute.

“I was under the impression that they were all positive adjectives...?"

“Ugh, you are such a boy,” Charlie replies in disgust before putting her head back down on the table. Just then, Cas sees a familiar face walk into the diner.

“Shit,” he says, a rare example of his use of profanity.

“I know, I’m hopeless, aren’t I,” Charlie says without looking up.

“No, not that, it’s Dean!” Cas whispers. Charlie’s head snaps up immediately.

“Shit,” she says, repeating Cas’ earlier statement. Cas sinks lower in his seat and Charlie avoids eye contact, but sure enough, Dean sees them and walks over to them, his face an indecipherable stony mask.

“I need to talk to you,” Dean says, surprisingly addressing Cas instead of Charlie. Cas raises his eyebrows.

“Dean, come on, not here, please just-“ Charlie starts to say before Dean cuts her off.

“I’m not gonna do anything, alright? Just give us a minute.”

Charlie looks at Cas, clearly torn. “It’s fine, Charlie,” he says. So, she shoots one distrustful look at Dean before heading to the ladies room.

Dean doesn’t bother to sit down before he starts talking, “Look, let’s just get one thing straight. I don’t like you.”

“Duly noted,” Cas replies, mostly unfazed by Dean’s blunt statement. It’s not like this is exactly news to Cas.

“But... that shit that went down with my dad last night? I didn’t know that was gonna happen. I thought you could just finish sticking your nose in my business-‘

“Saving your life you mean,” Cas interrupts calmly, unable to help himself.

As I was saying, I thought you could just hightail it the hell out of there. And then he showed up and said all that stuff to you and I... just... you...” Dean says, looking like saying what he wanted to say pained him.

“Dean... are you trying to apologize to me?” Cas asked, half shocked and half amused. Dean’s expression darkens.

“Yeah, I guess, whatever. Fuck off about it,” he says before turning and walking away. Just as Cas turns his attention to the water he’s not going to drink, he hears his name.

“And Cas?” Dean says, pausing a couple of strides away, “If anyone’s going to kill you, it’s gonna be me,” he finishes with an actual smirk, before walking to the bar. And Cas really doesn’t know what to do with that. The smirk didn’t exactly look mean, Dean made his last comment seem like some sort of bizarre inside joke that only he and Cas were in on. Cas smiled ever so slightly at the thought.

And dear God when did Cas start finding threats on his life amusing?

“So, what was all that about?” Charlie asks upon her return, sliding back into her seat. Cas pulls his eyebrows together in thought and tilts his head slightly.

“I honestly have no idea.”

Chapter Text

A few days later, Cas finds himself taking another early evening walk, except this time he has a different destination in mind.

Over the course of more than a few restless nights, Cas had made the decision to visit his grave. He doesn’t know why he’s going, and he doesn’t know what he is subconsciously looking to achieve with it, but for some reason unknown to him he feels a certain... pull. Maybe he is looking for some kind of closure, or giving in to a sudden pang of bizarre sentimentality, or perhaps he’s developed a certain morbid fascination for the macabre (considering the way his second life had begun, or that it had begun at all). He sincerely hopes it isn’t the latter, and decides that the only way he can know for sure is to simply go and find out for himself.

The walk to the cemetery is a short one, and Cas takes the time to enjoy it, not feeling any sense of urgency to get there in a timely manner. The autumn air has a slight chill to it, but it doesn’t affect Cas, not anymore. Before leaving the house, he had donned a dark blue hoodie, pulling the hood over his head and keeping his head down because although he had put on his cover-up, the unnatural orange tint and texture of his skin is an obvious giveaway to anyone who looks too closely. He keeps to the backstreets and alleys that eventually give way to dirt paths as he gets closer to the church where he knows he had once been buried.

He finally arrives and goes around to the back of the church where the gravestones reside. He slowly pushes open the small, creaky metal gate and enters the – thankfully empty – graveyard. Cas starts to walk along the many rows of tombstones, scanning the names and inscriptions (some simple and heartfelt, some beautiful and inspiring, and some simply trite and tacky), searching for his own name and, subsequently, his family’s names. Many of the gravestones of the people who were unlucky enough to die in the year 2009 are open, dirt and caution tape surrounding them.

Sometimes all the questions he has keeps Cas awake at night. Why only the people who died in 2009? How did this happen? Is there some bigger purpose that everyone is missing? He’ll toss and turn, trying to puzzle out things that the government’s top scientists and specialists can’t seem to understand. Just as he starts to ponder these questions again for the umpteenth time, he sees them.

The graves.

Even from a distance, it’s obvious which is Cas’, the dirt overturned and ripped caution tape flapping in the breeze. Cas slowly walks up to it and peers into the six-foot deep hole where his coffin lies open. He can see the desperate scratch marks on the lid from when he was trying to get out. His time spent in a rabid state is mostly a foggy haze, but the events of the Rising are the clearest, and the most terrifying. Cas shudders and forces himself to look away, not wanting to relive his escape from the coffin’s small confines.

He regards the four tombstones next to his, plots thankfully left undisturbed. And, although Cas is devastated at the loss of his family, he can at least take comfort in the fact that they’re resting in peace (although he sometimes wishes in his most selfish moments that they could have been here with him, like this). He then directs his attention back to his own grave, oddly transfixed by how overwhelmingly surreal this whole situation is. He reads what’s etched into the simple marble:

 

In memory of Castiel Novak

Beloved brother and son

September 16th, 1990

January 1st, 2009

“To the well-organized mind,

death is but the next great adventure.”

 

Cas can’t help but huff out a small chuckle at the Harry Potter quote on his tombstone. He remembers when he first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – probably about nine years old at the time – and coming across Albus Dumbledore’s wise words. It struck him in a way that it didn’t for most nine-year-olds (but then, Cas was never a very “normal” child). Cas liked the idea that death – this scary and unfathomable thing that grown-ups always talked and worried about – was an adventure. So keen was he on this idea that he immediately went to his parents, explaining to them that that’s what he absolutely wanted on his grave when he died. His parents looked at him a little strangely at the rather morbid request, but then laughed it off, ruffling Cas’ hair and telling him that he needn’t worry about it for a long time. However, after Cas’ insistence, his parents finally decided to sit down and make a note about it in their will, just to set Cas’ odd little mind at ease. It never occurred to Cas that his parents wouldn’t eventually erase the note. So, when it came time for the Novak family to be buried, little nine-year-old Cas got what he wanted (although present day Cas could have never predicted he’d be around to see his own tombstone).

Of all the terms that Cas would use to describe his second life, adventure certainly wouldn’t be his first choice. Waking nightmare perhaps, but not adventure (though he is learning to cope and adjust, with Charlie’s help).

So lost is he in the memory, that he doesn’t hear the sound of someone approaching.

“Bit weird, isn’t it? Seeing your own grave like that,” a male voice says in a British accent. Cas freezes and keeps his head down, refusing to look at the stranger.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cas says, moving to go around the man, but the man blocks his path.

“Oh, come off it, mate. I know your dirty little secret,” he says mischievously. Cas risks a quick glance at the newcomer and is shocked at what he sees.

The man looks to be in his early 20s, of average height and build. He has blonde hair, disheveled in a way that looks like it was done on purpose. He also wears a black t-shirt that’s v-neck is just a little too deep. However, the thing that makes Cas’ eyes widen is the unmistakable gray pallor of his skin and the white eyes with the jagged pupils.

“You- you’re a PDS sufferer?” Cas asks, stating the obvious.

“Indeed. Two peas in a pod, you and me. Brothers in arms and all that.”

“Why are you out in the open? Like that?” Cas asks boldly, genuinely curious how someone could be so careless to risk their own life in such a way.

“And what would you have me do, put that crap on my face and let them win? Sod that. I do it because I can. That’s the beauty of freedom, you see.”

“That’s practically suicide in this town!” Cas replies incredulously.

“Then maybe I just like to live dangerously,” the man replies with a wink, “So, do I have a name to attribute to my new conformist friend?” he continues. Cas bristles. Just because he doesn’t have a death wish, doesn’t make him a conformist.

“Cas. And do I have a name to attribute to my new friend who makes snap judgements about people they’ve just met?” Cas bites out irritably.

“Ooh, tetchy, tetchy. I’m Balthazar, it’s a pleasure,” Balthazar says, sticking out a hand. Cas regards it uneasily for a moment, unsure whether this is someone to be trusted, before taking it and giving it one firm shake.

“So, Cas, how’d you bite the big one then, eh?” Balthazar continues and Cas whips his head around to look at him, unsure if he’s heard correctly.

“What?”

“You know, kick the bucket. Meet your maker. Cash in your chips. Shuffle off your mortal coil, and all that.”

Cas clears his throat - a nervous habit - and looks back down at the ground again, immediately uncomfortable with this abrupt change in conversation.

“That’s a bit personal, wouldn’t you agree? Considering we’ve only known each other for oh, I don’t know, less than five minutes?” Cas retorts a tad testily, the emotional barriers he’s come to know in the past few weeks serving as his shield.

“I see your point. Although, I did think it would be a bit more interesting than ‘lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it?’”

Cas makes a show of looking at the clouds and says, “On the contrary, it’s looking like it might rain.” Balthazar laughs and raises his hands in surrender.

“Alright, alright. Even I can take a hint.”

Cas turns back to his gravestone, giving it one last look before moving closer to those of his family. He kneels in front of them, hit with a sudden wave of sadness, and sighs deeply. He hears Balthazar start to say something, maybe offer some form of comfort, but he is cut off by a sudden yell coming from the edge of the graveyard.

“Hey guys, I got one! Over here!”

His brows pull together in confusion for a moment, before he sees the group of people starting to emerge from the forest. His eyes widen as he takes in the figures of an HVF group on patrol, John Winchester being one of them.

His brain screams at him to run, to hide, to do something before they spot him, but his legs refuse to cooperate.

“Go! Now!” Balthazar hisses, snapping Cas out of his momentary paralysis.

He looks back to the HVF group getting steadily nearer. If he runs for it, there’s a chance he might make it, but then he’ll be seen for sure. He decides that he can’t take that risk. Quickly surveying his surroundings, Cas notices a large tombstone about two graves down. Thinking it’s his best shot, Castiel scurries over to it. He sits behind it with his knees drawn up, trying to make himself as small as possible. He peeks around the edge of the tombstone, hoping that Balthazar managed to get away.

Only to find that Balthazar has no options.

While the reasons could be viewed as admirable, by openly displaying the unmistakable gray, undead pallor of his skin, Balthazar has made himself a target.

Cas sucks in a fearful breath as he watches Balthazar stride confidently forward towards the HVF group, his arms spread wide in a welcoming gesture.

“Gentlemen! To what do I owe this pleasure?”

John Winchester strides to the front of the group and cocks a shotgun, aiming it directly at Balthazar. Balthazar stops in his tracks, about a meter away from the group. His fake smile falters.

“I’ll give you thirty seconds to explain to me why I shouldn’t blow your head off right here and now,” John says, his voice that deadly calm that Cas remembers all too well.

“Well, as you can see, I’ve clearly been treated. I’m not a threat.”

“Treated, you say? That’s funny, you don’t look treated to me. Wouldn’t you agree, boys?” John says, glancing at his fellow soldiers. Cas follows his gaze and he finally notices Dean among the six people gathered, standing towards the back. While the others chuckle cruelly and nod their heads at John’s taunt, Dean just looks straight ahead, stony-faced and silent, jaw clenched. Cas looks back to Balthazar, fearing the worst.

“I may be dead, but I’m still a human being. I have rights and-”

“Time’s up,” John interrupts.

A deafening shot rings out, and Balthazar’s body crumples to the ground.

Cas claps a hand over his mouth to stop himself from crying out. The sight before him is horrifying. The back of Balthazar’s head is a gory mess, the bullet having gone straight through his forehead (a direct shot to the brain being the only way to end their second life). Balthazar’s lifeless eyes remain open in a dead stare, shock frozen on his unflinching face. Cas feels a slight pressure behind his eyes, but no tears come.

“Gordon, Azazel, go bury the body, you know the drill,” John commands two of the other men before addressing his son, “Dean, do a quick perimeter check. Make sure it was alone.”

Cas’ breath catches as he tucks himself even smaller behind the gravestone, looking ahead instead of trying to gauge what’s happening. He has nowhere to go and he feels a rising sense of panic as he hears Dean’s footsteps beginning to approach as he walks down the aisle of graves.

Two more rows and Cas will be in view.

One more row.

Dean looks to the left, Cas is on the right.

Dean turns.

Eye contact.

Dean’s eyes widen imperceptibly, assumedly in surprise. Cas mimics the action, but in fear. He doesn’t take his eyes away from Dean, silently pleading with him. The surprise slides off Dean’s face, replaced once again with that stony mask, only, this time, Cas can see flickers of indecision in his eyes and by the way his mouth twitches.

“What is it, son?” John asks, noticing Dean’s inaction.

This is the deciding moment. Dean could give him up to the HVF, do what he’s trained to do, what he’s undoubtedly been raised to want to do. Or, he wouldn’t, which means that… Well. Cas doesn’t quite know what that would mean, but now is certainly not the time to puzzle it over.

The seconds of tense silence between the question and the answer feels like much longer to Cas. In one last desperate attempt to save himself from a fate similar to Balthazar’s, Cas mouths one word, never taking his eyes off Dean’s.

Please.

“Nothing, it’s… nothing,” Dean finally answers. The intense staring contest is finally broken as Dean moves along the next few rows of graves before announcing that there was no one else. John nods, satisfied, and the group finally leaves, dragging Balthazar’s body behind them.

Once Cas is sure they’re gone, his eyes settle on the black blood staining the grass, Balthazar’s blood, and his death plays back in his mind, before giving way to his parent’s death, to his own death, over and over again, a cruel and unforgiving playback. He finally lets himself break down, his whole body trembling uncontrollably as he cries without tears.

After a few minutes, Cas puts his head between his knees and tries to breathe, wondering why he had just fought so hard for a life he’s not sure he wants.

Chapter Text

Despite his best efforts, Cas still has bad days. It really can’t be helped, considering his situation. Although, as of late, they are few and far between. However, after the gruesome debacle at the cemetery… Well…

Cas is having a bad week.

After that terrifying day, Cas trudged home on shaky, uncertain legs. Once he arrived, he curled up on his bed and there he remained for days, getting up only to change a record or grab a book that he would throw aside in minutes after absentmindedly reading the same page over and over.

Sometimes he cries tearlessly for hours, sometimes he surrenders himself to a consuming numbness where nothing and everything is felt all at once.

He hadn’t even really known Balthazar at all, but his horrific death struck a chord deep inside of Cas, unearthing these punishing tidal waves of emotion that never seem to ebb and fade. It was just so… unfair. Balthazar had done nothing other than simply being himself and he was killed for it. Murdered because he dared to live a life he never asked for. Cas thinks of John Winchester’s flat voice saying, “Time’s up” and shivers. He thinks of the cruel man’s face, cold and unfeeling. For a moment, he ponders how that face was not altogether dissimilar from the expression on Dean’s face at times. But Cas knows that it’s different somehow. Dean paints on that mask, devoid of all emotion. Cas imagines that no matter how much Dean might wish the contrary, it’s an act. A show he’s forced to put on. He’d seen as much at the graveyard. Dean had done his duty and nothing more, he took no twisted joy in it as his cohorts did.

For what seems like the first time in days, Cas’ thoughts finally stray from Balthazar’s blank face to something else. Cas thinks about Dean. He replays that moment in his head, the moment where Dean had the power to decide whether he lived or died and, against all odds, chose the former. Dean had held Cas’ very life in his hands, and he reached out and simply gave it back to him. At the time, Cas was too overwhelmed with everything that had happened to feel any kind of gratitude. If anything, he almost felt a sense of regret that Dean hadn’t just let him die. However, as much as Cas had been listening to “Asleep”by the Smiths these last few days, he just can’t shake that stubborn human instinct to survive. So, now that he thinks back to it, Cas is thankful. Grateful to Dean for what he did.

What Cas thinks next could be derived from exhaustion, or maybe a fixation on any feeling that isn’t overwhelming sadness, or even that he’s gone a bit crazy. Likely a mix of all three. Because what Cas thinks next is that he needs to thank Dean for saving his life.

In person.

With that thought in mind, Cas begins to formulate a plan. He pulls out his phone and composes a new text to Charlie.

 

Delivered 5:32 pm:

Hey, could you come over?

 

Received 5:34 pm:

R u finally ready 2 talk??

 

Charlie had come by every day after the cemetery, as her job and Cas’ health required, but Cas hadn’t spoken a word about what had happened. For the first couple days, Charlie hadn’t mentioned Cas’ severe drop in mood, thinking that it was just another short bad spell that she had to wait out. However, by the third day of Cas’ sombre silence, Charlie began to worry and had started to ask if anything had happened. Cas eventually gave her the impression that something had in fact happened, but that he wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. Charlie reluctantly acquiesced, not questioning Cas again, but clearly remaining worried.

Cas takes a deep breath as his fingers type, already starting to steel himself for having to verbally recount the terrifying events that had taken place.

 

Delivered 5:35pm:

Yes, I think so.

 

His phone buzzes with a reply almost immediately after hitting send.

 

Received 5:35pm:

On my way! :) :)

 

Ten minutes later, Charlie is pulling her Gremlin into the driveway. Cas walks downstairs and meets her at the door, and they head back up to his room.

The air around them feels a bit tense, probably more on Cas’ end than on Charlie’s. Charlie simply looks a mixture of curious and concerned. Cas can’t decide if he’s more nervous about telling Charlie what had happened to Balthazar, or his plan.

Charlie finally breaks the silence, saying, “So, what’s up?” and those three simple words are enough to break down the dam. Cas tells her everything about the cemetery.

After a few minutes, it’s over. Cas stops talking, feeling shaken, and Charlie just sits on his bed, her mouth agape. Stunned into silence. She then gives her head a small shake.

“Cas… I’m so sorry. That’s… God, that’s awful! I don’t even know what to say. Are you okay? No, that’s a stupid question, of course you’re not, but how are you feeling?” Charlie rambles.

“I’m doing alright. A little better, I guess.”

“I know John can be a bastard sometimes, but to sink that low, I can’t even imagine.”

Charlie must sense Cas’ discomfort about the topic of John and quickly changes the subject, “And Dean! I know you two aren’t really the best of friends, but thank God he was there! If it hadn’t been for him… if it had been someone else that had found you…”

Charlie then throws her arms around Cas in a fierce hug, seemingly realizing just how close she had come to losing her newfound friend. Cas returns her hug just as fiercely, before pulling back and addressing her once more.

“About Dean… that’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about… I wanted to thank him. Uh, personally.”

“Well, I guess I can understand that, I could give you his number if you want?”

“Actually, would you happen to have his… address?” Cas replies, bracing himself for Charlie’s inevitable protective reaction.

He’s not disappointed.

What?! Cas, no offense, I know you’ve been through a lot lately and I’m really glad you told me, but are you freaking nuts? You seriously want to just stroll up to John Winchester’s house and, what, just hope he’s in a forgiving mood?!”

“No! Of course not!” Cas says, on the defensive.

“Then what?” Charlie replies, calming down a little bit.

“The HVF patrols rather often, correct? Sometimes for hours at a time? I thought I could go when John was gone.”

“I don’t know, Cas… Even with John gone, it’s still pretty risky. I mean, I know Dean spared you once, but who’s to say he’ll do it again? I grew up with the guy, he’s like a brother to me, but with stuff like this? It’s like he’s a whole different person. Who knows what he’ll do if you just show up on his doorstep!”

“Charlie, I can’t explain it. I just… I feel like I need to do this. I have to,” Cas says, trying to put as much sincerity into his voice as he can. He doesn’t know why he feels so strongly about this, but he once again feels that unnamed pull, just as he did with seeing his own grave.

Yeah, and look how well that turned out, a voice in Cas’ brain mocks. He ignores it.

Charlie heaves a sigh and runs a hand through her hair, seemingly thinking hard, before finally replying.

“7pm. There’s an HVF meeting tonight and then John’s group is going on patrol. They usually hang out at the bar after. He’ll probably be gone until about 10 or 11. I’ll text you the address.”

Cas is just about to start thanking her profusely, but Charlie quickly continues before he has a chance.

“I’m not happy about this, Castiel,” and if Cas didn’t know she was serious before, he certainly knows now after the use of his full name, “and I can’t pretend to understand why you have to do this, but I trust you. Just be careful, okay?”

Cas nods solemnly, feeling – for the umpteenth time – very lucky to have Charlie in his life.

They chat amiably for a little while, but it’s still a bit strained due to the previous subject matter. At around 6pm, Charlie takes her leave.

Just one hour to go until John leaves.

Time always seems to go slower when you’re waiting for something, Cas muses as he paces his bedroom, willing the minutes on the clock to turn faster so that he can just get this over with. He decides to take a shower, not out of hygienic necessity, but just to keep himself preoccupied.

Having finished, he dries off and wraps a towel around his waist and heads to his closet. He opens it and for a brief and ridiculous moment, actually worries about what he should wear. As if that will really make a difference. He shakes off the thought and randomly grabs a long-sleeved black shirt and a pair of jeans.

After donning the hastily picked clothing, Cas heads to the bathroom and applies his now familiar cover-up and contacts. He’s gotten a bit better at evening out the makeup and making it look smoother (with a bit of Charlie’s womanly guidance), but it still looks unnatural.

Once finished, he runs his fingers through his damp hair, trying to style it into some type of order (unsuccessfully of course). Not bothering with drying it properly, he exits the bathroom and goes back to his bedroom. He glances at the clock.

6:30pm.

With a frustrated groan, he flops back onto his bed to wait out the next half hour. He grabs his phone and looks at the text he received from Charlie while he was in the shower.

 

Received 6:18pm:

1152 Stullgrove Road.

 

He composes a reply.

 

Delivered 6:32pm:

Thanks, Charlie. I really do appreciate it.

 

Received 6:35pm:

Ur welcome. What r friends for if not 2 help with sUICIDE MISSIONS!?!! -.-

 

Delivered 6:37pm:

I’ll be fine!

 

Received 6:38pm:

U better be or I s2g! Txt me l8r & pls stay safe <3

 

Castiel can’t help but let out a slight chuckle at Charlie’s texts, but is also flattered and grateful that someone actually cares that much about him. He slips the phone back into his pocket and proceeds to stare a hole into the ceiling for the next twenty minutes. As soon as the clock reads 7pm, he’s already out the door and shrugging on his trenchcoat.

The walk from his house to Dean’s isn’t all that far, only about fifteen minutes away, give or take, and he arrives there in a timely manner, making sure to keep his head down. When he reaches 1152, he pulls out his phone and quickly checks Charlie’s text just to make sure he has the right address. Upon confirmation that he is indeed at the correct house, he walks up to the front door, his feet feeling heavier than usual.

He takes a deep breath and knocks three times.

Cas hears a muffled, but distinctly Dean’s, voice say, “Coming!” and then the door is open and Cas comes face to face with Dean himself.

In any other situation, the amount of expressions that pass across Dean’s face in a matter of moments would be almost comical. His face slides from friendly and open to shocked and surprised, then comes the look of contempt, and then finally seems to settle on worried and frustrated.

Before Cas has the chance to even open his mouth, Dean grabs the front of his shirt and hauls him inside the house, slamming the door behind them.

“What the fuck are you doing here?!” Dean demands, but before Cas can actually offer an answer, Dean is continuing, “Did anyone see you? Christ, do you have a goddamn death wish or something? Showing up here? For fuck’s sake, what if my dad was home?! Are you insane?”

Cas just waits patiently, watching Dean pace a little in front of the closed door and running an anxious hand through his hair. Dean then comes to a halt and looks at him expectantly.

“Are you done?” Cas asks politely.

Yes, I’m done,” Dean huffs sarcastically, waving a hand at Cas as a signal to start talking.

“I came to say thank you.”

“Thank you? For wh-“ Dean begins to reply, but is interrupted by a young boy coming down the stairs, perhaps 14 or 15.

“Dean? Who was at the door?” the boy begins before noticing Cas standing there, “Oh, hello.”

The boy walks over closer and once he does, Cas registers the look of surprise on the boy’s face before it is replaced with what seems to be keen interest.

“Dean… is he a…?” the boy begins to say, trailing off. He addresses Dean, but remains looking at Cas like he is a particularly interesting animal at a zoo. Cas looks down and shuffles his feet, suddenly uncomfortable.

“Yup,” Dean says, sounding weary. For a moment Cas is worried about the boy’s reaction (not that he radiates a particularly threatening presence). Cas quickly realizes he has no reason for concern.

“Wow,” the boy replies before seemingly remembering his manners and sticking out a skinny arm, “Sorry, hi, I’m Sam.”

Cas simply gapes for a moment, surprised and completely caught off guard by this boy’s – Sam’s – response, but quickly recovers and shakes the boy’s hand.

“Castiel,” he replies quietly.

“Cool name.”

“Thank you?”

Sam smiles at him, and Cas offers a small one back. Dean looks between the two of them and face palms, muttering what sounds suspiciously like “fucking ridiculous”.

“Congrats, Cas, you’ve given Sammy a new science project, ain’t that right little brother?” Dean says sarcastically. Sam rolls his eyes in response. Cas is still going over the whole “little brother” thing in his mind. Dean’s a big brother?

“Shut up, and don’t call me Sammy,” Sam immediately replies.

“Whatever you say… Sammy,” retorts Dean with a smirk. Sam makes a groan/sigh that only a fourteen year old is capable of making. Cas looks at the display with a mixture of curiosity and confusion. Sam decides to elaborate.

“I’m going to find a cure some day!” Sam declares proudly. Cas imagines that John either doesn’t know about this, or is, at the least, very unhappy about it.

“Some people actually go out and have fun in their spare time, some people read about the brain in textbooks with titles longer than my arm,” Dean jokes, ruffling Sam’s hair (much to the boy’s chagrin), before seemingly realizing he’s joking with a member of a group he’s supposed to hate and quickly sobers up.

“Sam, go to your room for a little while, okay?”

“But, Dean, I-“

“Just go,” Dean says, a mixture of authoritative and just… tired. With a small wave to Cas, Sam reluctantly acquiesces and trudges up the stairs. Dean turns back to Cas, all hints of joviality gone from his expression.

“You know this is seriously screwed up, right? You just showing up here? You’ve gotta know that.”

Cas doesn’t know what to say to that. In truth, he knew it was screwed up. But he came anyway. He felt like he had to come anyway. Maybe he was wrong. Cas glances towards the door and wonders if he should just leave. Dean suddenly sighs and heads towards the couch.

“Well, you might as well sit down. You can’t leave ‘til it’s dark, in case someone sees you. I don’t wanna risk it.”

Cas wonders briefly if Dean is thinking of Cas’ safety, or of his own. Letting his thoughts wander to what John might do to Dean if he found out that Cas had been here and left unscathed, Cas figures it’s mostly the latter.

On his way to the couch, Cas thinks of his two brief yet horrifying experiences with John Winchester, and how they must pale in comparison to actually living with the man. He shudders.

He takes a tentative seat on the couch, far away from Dean. This is such new, unexplored territory for him – for both of them, probably – and he doesn’t want to push his luck. He is, after all, an intruder on enemy territory.

He takes a minute to absorb his surroundings. The house is neat to the point of military precision. It might be mistaken for a house up for sale, if not for the only personal touches in the room: the framed photos lining the mantle. Cas’ gaze passes over them briefly, looking at young pictures of Dean and Sam. He looks at John’s smiling face and wonders how someone like that could become the man he knows today. He also takes in the sight of a pretty blonde woman, presumably their mother. He wonders where she is, and what she thinks of her husband’s line of work. His thoughts are then interrupted by Dean clearing his throat.

“So, what was so important that you had to come over here? I could have killed you, you know.”

“Then why didn’t you?” Cas replies. The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them. Dean looks fairly surprised at the question. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, seemingly trying to come up with a proper response.

“Just answer the question, man,” Dean finally says.

“At the graveyard… you saved my life. I just wanted to thank you for that. For saving me.”

“Don’t mention it. Really, don’t mention it.”

They sit there in awkward silence for a minute or two. But there’s something that’s bothering Cas, something that he realizes has been bothering him for a while.

“Dean… we’re not friends.”

“You got it.”

“But we’re not quite enemies, are we?”

“Jesus, Cas, I don’t know.”

“If we were enemies you would have killed me by now.”

“Are you giving me a fucking invitation? ‘Cause I’d be happy to oblige.”

“Would you, though?”

Cas and Dean stare at each other for a moment, before Dean gets up off the couch and starts his frustrated pacing again.

I don’t know, okay?! I don’t know! What do you want from me? What do you want me to say? I hate people like you! Alright? I hate them, and I kill them. That’s my goddamn job. And then some nerdy little dude in a trench coat comes along and I don’t hate him. I mean, yeah, I still don’t like him, but I don’t hate him. I just feel so… so fucked in the head about this whole thing, okay? So, do I want to kill you? No, I don’t. I should, but I don’t. Is that what you came here for? Are you happy now?”

“I’m terribly sorry, Dean. I didn’t mean to cause you such pain. I swear to you that all I was looking to achieve with this impromptu visit was to show my sincere gratitude for what you did at the graveyard. I realize it must have been hard for you.”

Dean sighs again, sounding world-weary, “Yeah, whatever you say, C3PO.”

Cas cocks his head to the side, confused. Dean immediately picks up on this.

“You know, C3PO. ‘Star Wars’? Gold guy who talks like a dictionary?”

Cas says nothing.

“Seriously? Not ringing any bells?”

Cas says nothing.

“For the love of Christ, Cas, don’t tell me you’ve never seen Star Wars.”

Once again, Cas says nothing.

Dean looks at him, shocked. He then looks in the direction of the window, where the sun is only just starting to set. It’s getting darker, but it’s still bright enough for someone to spot Cas leaving.

“Alright, while I’m stuck with you, I might as well give you a much-needed education.”

With that, Dean strides with purpose to a shelf beside the television that holds a multitude of DVDs. Picking one out, he places it in the DVD player and settles back on the opposite end of the couch. He fiddles with a few remotes and then the TV is on and words are flying through space.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

And so they sit for approximately two hours. Cas and Dean. Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferer and Human Volunteer Force member. Dead and living.

They spend the time in mostly silence, except for when Cas has the occasional question about what’s happening which Dean answers impatiently before telling him to “Be quiet, there’s a good part coming up”.

When the credits eventually roll, and the sun is far past set, Cas gets off the couch and heads to the door. He opens it and pauses in the threshold.

“Goodbye, Dean,” he says quietly over his shoulder.

“See ya, Cas,” Dean replies gruffly from the couch.

Cas leaves, closing the door behind him, and on his walk home ponders the oddest evening he’s ever experienced with the most confusing human being he’s ever met.

Charlie’s going to have a field day with this one.

Chapter Text

“So, let me get this straight. You went to the house of practically the HVF’s second-in-command and all you did was watch ‘Star Wars’?!” Charlie exclaims after Cas has finished telling her all of what took place the night before.

“You almost sound disappointed,” Cas replies with a grin. Charlie immediately backpedals.

“No, no, I mean, obviously I’m thrilled he didn’t, I dunno, pull a gun or whatever, but wow. That’s gotta mean something, right?”

“Well, he did say we’re not friends.”

“Yeah, but what was with all that ‘I don’t hate you’ stuff?”

“I’m not sure, but he said he still doesn’t like me, remember?”

Charlie pauses then, looking thoughtful, before continuing.

“I don’t buy it.”

“What do you mean?” Cas asks, confused.

“I mean, you don’t just sit down and watch ‘Star Wars’ with people you don’t like. It’s… sacred. You’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.”

Cas really doesn’t, but nods anyway.

“You know what I think?” Charlie continues, on a roll now, “I think he does like you, and just won’t admit it. You actually managed to charm Dean Winchester, of all people, into becoming your friend.”

Cas gives her a sceptical look, “Charlie, I am many things, but I highly doubt that charming is one of them.”

“Sure it is!” Charlie ecstatically declares, “You totally give off this weird ‘we should be friends’ vibe.”

Cas doesn’t mention that if he does by some slim chance have this ability, it had never worked in his first life.

Perhaps an undead superpower then, he thinks to himself sarcastically.

Cas then lets himself ponder what it would mean to be friends with Dean Winchester. What would it be like?

In a word: complicated.

Maybe Cas shouldn’t feel this sense of fondness for an HVF member. After all, in many senses Dean is as much a murderer as Cas is. Is Cas betraying some type of PDS sufferer-specific unspoken code? Should he be swearing revenge on Dean for the sake of his fallen comrades? A sense of duty to this undead brotherhood he’s now a part of?

His thoughts momentarily wander to Balthazar. Didn’t he deserve justice? But, then again, that was John, not Dean. And if Cas has learned anything these past few days/weeks…

It’s that Dean is not John.

“Nope. We’re not doing that,” Charlie suddenly says in a playful yet firm voice, interrupting Cas’ introspection.

“Doing what?” he asks, his head tilted slightly.

“You’ve got your ‘I’m overthinking it’ face on.”

“I wasn’t aware I even had one.”

“Well, you do, and I don’t think you should overthink this one, Cas. You’ll sprain something. Just… see where it goes,” Charlie explains.

“See… where it goes…?” Cas repeats stupidly, in unfamiliar territory. Cas is the type of person who likes to rationalize and analyze and plan accordingly. He’s certainly not one to just “see where it goes”.

“Exactly! Go with the flow and see what happens.”

“But… what if what happens isn’t… well… good?” Cas asks worriedly. Charlie places a comforting hand on his shoulder and smiles warmly.

“Yeah, but what if it is?” she counters, “Life isn’t some chess game you can plan, Cas. You can’t always be thinking a few moves ahead. It’ll drive ya crazy.”

Cas regards her steadily and returns her smile.

Charlie then slips her phone out of her pocket and checks the time.

“Crap, okay, I gotta go if I’m gonna make it on time for my shift at the hospital,” Charlie says, already gathering her things, “Think about what I said.”

“I will. Thanks again, Charlie.”

“Any time, amigo! See ya.”

“Bye.”

And with a small two-finger salute, she’s out the door.

Cas walks across the room and grabs his laptop where it lies charging on his dresser and flops back on the bed. After a few minutes of general internet perusal, he begins to download a movie he’s been wanting to see called “Kill Your Darlings”. He bobs his head to some music as he awaits the download to complete.

When the download is at 93%, the doorbell rings. Cas perks up immediately, his brows furrowed. He pauses his music and glances at the clock on his laptop, confirming that it couldn’t be Charlie because her shift isn’t over. So who could it be?

Cas puts his laptop aside and heads downstairs. He approaches the door cautiously and tentatively cracks it open (he’s not currently wearing his living façade).

To his surprise and relief, there’s no one there. He opens the door a little wider and looks around, but still no one. Shrugging his shoulders, Cas closes the door and turns around.

As soon as he takes his first step, he hears the noise of crumpling paper. He looks down at his feet where the noise had come from, and sees a piece of paper lying there. He removes his foot and bends down to pick it up.

The first thing Cas notices is that the paper is designed to look like a vintage horror movie poster. Upon further investigation, it’s a poster advertising a party tonight, a party for PDS sufferers only. It lists an address not too far from Cas’ house.

Cas wonders who sent this, and how they knew where he lived. Presumably, whoever was hosting this party wasn’t sliding their invitations under everyone’s doors. They must have gotten a hold of a list of all the undead living in Lawrence or something similar.

Cas walks to the living room, still holding the invitation, and plops down on the sofa. He stares at the page and does what Cas does best: thinks.

His gut reaction is to not even entertain the idea of going, his social anxiety gnaws at him at the very thought. However, as of late Cas feels like he’s grown in some way. Stepped a bit out of his comfort zone, done things that he would have never thought possible. Perhaps he should continue on that path…

So he decides to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. Like the nerd he knows he is and is secretly proud to be, he grabs the notebook and pen from the kitchen (previously meant for grocery lists), and actually writes them down.

Pros:

  •       I’ll meet others like me (won’t feel alone, maybe make some new friends).
  •       I might have fun?
  •       New experiences seem to be good for me.
  •       It’s something to make the time go by.
  •       Might help make me more spontaneous (this list notwithstanding, of course).

Cons:

  •       I could get caught.
  •       Possibly killed.

Cas taps the pen against his lips as he thinks of any more pros and/or cons he could add to the list. Not able to think of any, he mentally declares the list complete.

Five to two in favour of going.

He sits back on the couch and looks at the paper again, 8pm the party starts. It’s about 4pm now. Already beginning to steel himself for what he’s decided to do, he goes back upstairs, invitation still in hand.

He goes back to his bed and spends the next two hours watching “Kill Your Darlings”, trying to lose himself in the film rather than worrying about what’s ahead. He’s mostly successful.

When the credits roll, he gets up and goes to take a long shower. When he gets back, he’s once again confronted with his suddenly intimidating closet. Not especially familiar with parties, he wonders what to wear.

He grabs a pair of black dress trousers, a button-down blue shirt, and a black tie. Setting them on his bed, he goes back to the bathroom and combs his wet hair into submission. Heading back into his bedroom, he dons the clothing he picked out and goes to the full-length mirror.

He looks ridiculous.

His hair looks awful, parted and plastered to his head and stubbornly sticking up at the back and sides. His clothes are way too formal and stuffy looking. He looks like a child whose mother dressed him up for his elementary school graduation.

Sighing in frustration, he ditches the trousers and goes instead for a pair of dark jeans. He loses the tie altogether and unbuttons the top button on his shirt and also the cuff buttons. He leaves the shirt un-tucked and, on a whim, rolls up the sleeves to about his elbows. He runs his hands through his hair, shaking it out.

Standing in front of the mirror for the second time, Cas smiles a little and deems himself acceptable.

He picks up his phone off the nightstand and checks the time: 6:48pm. He opens Google Maps and checks the bus schedules, and learns that there’s one leaving at 7:52pm.

With an hour to kill, he peruses his bookshelf and selects “The Picture of Dorian Gray” before grabbing a Chopin record and putting it on a low volume for some pleasant background noise. He then sits on his bed with his back against the headboard and begins to read, periodically checking the time, watching with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation as the minutes slip by.

With five minutes to spare, Cas heads out to ensure he catches the bus on time (making sure to leave time before leaving to apply his cover-up and contacts, of course). He’s left waiting only a few minutes at the stop across the street before a bus is pulling up, true to its schedule.

Cas steps cautiously up the bus steps, keeping his head down. However, as he moves to take his seat, he quickly realizes he has no reason for alarm; people are either buried in the screens of their various devices, or simply don’t care enough to take any notice of him. He takes a seat beside the window in one of the empty rows as the bus begins to move.

Cas diligently keeps track of the stops as he waits for his own. The ride is about twenty minutes, so he should arrive fashionably late. Hopefully, he will just slip in amongst the partygoers without drawing any attention to himself. The thought of remaining unnoticed is a comfort to Cas, who is currently bouncing his leg up and down, unable to keep completely still.

In a timely fashion, the bus rolls to a stop about a block away from Cas’ destination and Cas gets out to walk the remaining five minutes.

As he walks up to the address that the poster had advertised – and of course it’s an abandoned warehouse, of all places – he can already hear the dull thump of the bass from the music inside.

Still continuing to approach the building, Cas almost turns back around to leave the way he came. But, after pausing to take a deep, somewhat steadying breath, he opens the door.

Just in time to be almost blinded by some type of laser light. He closes the door and looks around.

There has to be at least fifty people in the large warehouse. Most of them are dancing to the loud, thumping electronic music, while some stand along the walls, chatting, and a couple others in a few dark corners are… well… preoccupied doing other things. Someone has set up various lighting that moves, shining its lasers around the room in a vast array of patterns, designs, and colours.

Cas just stands there on the fringes of the excitement, mouth slightly agape and very unsure of what to do with himself.

He once again begins an inner debate about simply turning around and leaving, when a girl about his age with mid-length dark hair and a leather jacket, saunters up to him, looking a bit like a delighted cat having found a mouse to play with.

“Hey, there. Welcome to the party,” she says with a grin. Cas can just barely make out her words over the music.

“Uh, thank you for having me,” Cas replies awkwardly, and immediately feels stupid for saying it. The girl laughs.

“Any time! I’m Meg.”

“Castiel.”

“And do you dance, Castiel?”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Well, tonight I say you can’t help it!”

And with that, Cas finds himself being pulled towards the throng of dancers.

Meg begins to shake her hips to the music, her shoulders following in a sultry display. All Cas can manage is to bob his head and shuffle his feet while simultaneously trying not to fall over or bump into anyone.

After about two songs of this, Cas’ discomfort refusing to fade, Meg suddenly rolls her eyes playfully at Cas’ pathetic excuse of a dance.

“You really need to loosen up!” Meg shouts over the music. Cas just shrugs. A mischievous smirk begins to grow on Meg’s face, right before she grabs hold of Cas’ hand, once again dragging him off.

This time, she leads him away from the dancers and over towards the far wall. They approach a table that Cas hadn’t been able to see from his earlier vantage point. On it lies a large platter with some kind of food that Cas can’t quite distinguish. Just as he begins to wonder why there is food at a party full of dead people, they’re at the table and Cas can finally see what’s on the platter.

And it’s not food.

Cas gasps and feels ill as he watches a couple partygoers take from the plate what is, without a shadow of a doubt, brains. Presumably seeing the abject horror dawn across Cas’ features, Meg lays a hand on his arm to get his attention.

Relax, it’s not human. A couple of friends of mine went hunting and brought back some Bambi brains for us.”

“But… why?” Cas asks, feeling slightly better than before, but still a bit shell-shocked. Meg smiles and gestures to the party guests.

“Take a look around, tell me if you notice anything a bit odd,” she says, and Cas is really not in the mood for guessing games right now, but he just sighs and does what he’s told.

At first, he doesn’t really understand what Meg could be referring to, but then he really starts to notice everyone’s mannerisms. Their dancing is a bit too wild, their laughter a bit too loud, their steps too unsteady.

“Are they… drunk?” Cas finally asks.

“Yep.”

“I don’t understand, alcohol doesn’t affect us, does it?”

“No, but this stuff definitely does,” Meg replies, gesturing to the plate, “Do you wanna try some?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Cas says, feeling incredibly uncomfortable.

“Come ooon, Clarence, like I said, you gotta loosen up and this will definitely do the trick. I would say ‘live a little’, but, well,” Meg says, laughing at her own joke.

“My name is actually Castiel,” Cas replies, hoping this will lead to a subject change. Meg just shrugs her shoulders.

“Same thing. So we gonna do this or what?”

“Meg, I really don’t think I-“ Cas tries to say, but Meg is already waving a chunk of the gray matter in his face.

So this is what peer pressure feels like, thinks Cas.

Having a feeling that Meg isn’t going to drop this anytime soon, Cas just lets out a frustrated sigh, takes the substance from Meg’s fingers, and pops it into his mouth.

“Happy?” Cas asks. Meg stands there looking at him with her eyes slightly widened, “What?” Cas continues, wondering why she’s staring at him like that. Meg starts to giggle.

“Guess I should have mentioned to take small bites, huh?”

Cas’ eyes widen in fear. Meg invades Cas’ personal space and lays a hand on his arm again.

“You’re gonna be fine, Clarence. Just means that you’re going to have a damn good night,” Meg says, laughing a little. She then pulls him back onto the dance floor.

At first, all Cas feels is the worry gnawing away at his stomach. But then, after one or two more songs…

He starts to feel good.

Really, really good.

Suddenly the music is no longer too loud and irritating, it’s amazing. Cas feels the heavy bass reverberate throughout his entire body and he starts to move to the rhythm, Meg encouraging him all the while. Cas can’t stop smiling, and he starts to laugh, feeling uncontrollably elated. Meg begins to dance a bit closer to him and Cas matches her because why not?

The edges of Cas’ vision begin to blur ever so slightly, and suddenly the lights are just fascinating. He’s watching a particularly interesting laser beam when Meg suddenly grabs Cas’ arms, placing them on her waist as she snakes her arms around his neck. Cas just laughs again.

They dance like that for a while, until Meg suddenly whispers in Cas’ ear that she’ll be right back. She returns in what could be one minute or thirty, Cas really doesn’t know or care. Her hands are behind her back and she’s grinning. Cas grins back. She then produces from behind her back another large bite of brain. Smile growing wider, Cas goes to take the chunk, but Meg holds it out of reach and tuts him.

“Not so fast, Clarence,” she practically purrs. 

Cas then watches with extreme amusement, because everything is indeed suddenly extremely amusing and amazing, as Meg places the piece of gray matter in between her teeth and steps closer to Cas, a challenging look in her eyes. Cas steps closer as well and smiles mischievously, suddenly feeling daring.

Without any further hesitation, Cas ducks his head down and bites off half of the piece, leaving Meg the rest. His lips just barely brush hers in the process, the touch lighter than a feather, and then he pulls back, grinning from ear to ear. His entire body feels like it’s buzzing. He feels so… so…

Alive.

At the same time that thought crosses his mind, the doors get thrown open and suddenly there’s a lot of yelling.

Alright, everyone clear the hell out! Ten seconds until we start shooting!” a voice says.

Dean’s voice.

An HVF group files into the room, guns held at the ready, just waiting for the order. Everyone is running out the other door, but Cas just stands there. He turns to ask Meg what they should do, but she’s nowhere to be found.

Cas files out with everyone else, still not feeling the panic that he should probably be feeling. His feet carry him outside to the forest, where everyone is running in different directions. He giggles a little bit, everyone looks so funny.

Cas takes refuge behind a large tree and leans against it, waiting for the world to stop spinning and stay still for a moment. He can hear the five or six members of the HVF group entering the forest, fanning out in different directions. Cas’ eyes immediately search out Dean, who happens to be walking towards Cas’ direction.

When Dean gets close enough, Cas’ hand acts before his brain catches up with it and he reaches out and grabs Dean’s arm.

Cas finds himself slammed back against the tree, an arm a solid bar across his throat. It’s a bit difficult to make out Dean’s features in the darkness, but Cas can see them visibly soften a little when Dean realizes who exactly he has pinned.

“Cas? What the fuck are you doing here?” Dean whispers, letting Cas go. He looks around, but there’s no one in the immediate vicinity who can overhear them or see them.

“I was invited to a party, Dean! Can you believe it? Me! At a party! And it was amazing,” Cas whispers excitedly, swaying a little on his feet. Dean raises an eyebrow.

“Wait… Are you actually drunk?” Dean demands. Cas giggles and nods enthusiastically, “How do you even- Actually, no. Fuck it, I don’t wanna know. Just get out of here, okay? Before someone sees you.”

Cas obeys the order and gives Dean a clumsy salute before going to leave. The second step he takes, Dean manages to catch him before he falls flat on his face. Dean huffs a sigh of frustration.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Dean mumbles, before continuing louder, “Okay, the Jeep is back in the front parking lot. The one with the hula girl on the dash. In the backseat is a tarp, hide under that and shut your mouth until I come get you. I drove here alone so it should be fine. Think you can handle that?”

Cas nods, and then stops quickly because it’s making the world spin faster. Dean points him in the direction and Cas starts to walk, more cautiously than before.

The parking lot is thankfully empty when he arrives and he quickly locates the Jeep. He yanks open the back door and gets in, closing the door behind him. Lying down on the seat, he covers himself with a large blue tarp. He starts to laugh again at the sheer absurdity of the situation, but covers his mouth before the sound can escape, remembering what Dean said about being quiet.

A short while later, Dean returns to the vehicle. Cas can hear the gruff goodbyes between the members of the group, and then Dean is in the driver’s seat and is starting up the engine. He pulls out of the lot and begins to drive.

Psst! Dean! Can I come out now?” Cas whispers after a few minutes silence.

“Yeah, you’re good,” Dean replies. Cas throws off the tarp and sits up, leaning forward between the two front seats so he can talk to Dean better.

Dean.

His friend Dean.

A quick laugh escapes Cas at the thought. Dean turns to look at him.

“Are you kidding me, dude? What the hell is so funny?”

“I think you like me.”

“What?”

“I think you liiike me. Because I’m charming. I have a vibe. Charlie said so.”

“I have no idea what the fuck you’re going on about, but I still don’t like you.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You dooo.”

“I fucking don’t!”

“Whatever you say… pal. Buddy. Friend. Amigo-“

I get it. Just, shut up, Cas. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Cas knows that he’s struck a nerve by the way Dean’s voice goes from stern and gruff to just tired. Cas doesn’t like that voice. It’s a sad voice. So, Cas keeps quiet.

The silence is only broken when Dean asks Cas for his address, which Cas gives him.

Dean pulls into an empty lot a few houses down from Cas’. Cas opens the door and stumbles out of the car. He expects Dean to drive away, but to his surprise Dean’s getting out of the car too.

“Hurry up, man,” Dean murmurs and the two begin to walk together towards Cas’ house. Also in silence.

They step up to the front door, Dean once again giving a quick check to make sure they’re not being watched. Cas opens the door and is about to step inside when he turns around.

“You’re always saving me, aren’t you?”

“Not by choice.”

“But it is, though, isn’t it? You choose to help me every time. Dean Winchester: my hero,” Cas says before bursting into a small giggle fit once more. Cas is elated when he sees the teeniest, tiniest of smirks playing on Dean’s lips. But it’s a smile nonetheless. Cas’ body once again does that thing where it acts before his brain can catch up with him.

And his body apparently thinks it’s a good idea to lurch forward and hug Dean.

Dean is completely stiff in his arms and makes no move to return the gesture… but doesn’t pull away.

After a moment, Cas pulls back, his whole body feeling electric, and smiles.

“Thank you, Dean,” he says warmly.

“Right, sure. Get some fucking sleep, huh?” Dean replies, looking mildly uncomfortable. Cas nods and with a final wave, Cas closes the door.

He leans back against it for a moment and just breathes, the smile still refusing to leave his face. He’s now sure more than ever that Dean Winchester is, in fact, his friend. How that fact makes him feel exactly is a question for another – more sober – day.

Cas looks at the living room couch, then at the stairs, and back at the living room couch. Exhaustion suddenly tugging at his bones, Cas just trudges to the sofa.

He’s asleep before his head even hits the pillow.

Chapter Text

Cas is awoken the next morning (or, perhaps more accurately, afternoon) by the doorbell. He lets out a groan and goes to roll over and it’s only when he accidentally falls on the floor that he remembers he never made it to his bed last night. Cas huffs a tired breath and clutches his aching head. He didn’t think he could feel pain anymore, but apparently zombie hangovers are, in fact, a thing.

Universe 1, Castiel 0, Cas thinks to himself bitterly, his face twisting into a grimace when getting up from where he’s currently splayed out on the floor makes his head pound that much harder.

He shuffles to the door and opens it, knowing full well who it’s going to be.

“Hello my favourite patient!” Charlie says in her typical bright and buoyant fashion. Cas just grumbles in response as she walks past him into the house.

“Well, good morning to you too, sunshine,” she continues sarcastically with a chuckle. Cas turns around and Charlie’s smile immediately morphs into a small concerned frown as she takes in his dishevelled appearance.

“Woh. No offense, but you look like shit,” she says.

“Offense taken,” Cas murmurs.

“What happened? Did you get hit by a truck or something?” Charlie asks as she heads to the living room and starts unpacking her medication bag. Cas follows her lead and takes a seat on the couch.

“I went to a party last night,” he says. Charlie brightens again.

“Wow, really? That’s great! Whose was it? Do I know them?”

“Um, well it wasn’t really anyone’s? More of a group thing, I guess. It was for PDS sufferers only.”

“Okaaay...” Charlie says, drawing out the vowel, “Whose house was it at?”

“It may have been in a warehouse…?” Cas replies, realizing with every word just how sketchy this party must sound. He doesn’t blame Charlie for the hint of worry that edges its way into her voice.

“So, you partied it up with complete strangers in some warehouse? Doesn’t really sound like you…”

“I was trying to ‘go with the flow’,” Cas says, using air quotes. Charlie face-palms.

“Cas, that’s not what I meant! Maybe I should have said ‘go with the flow unless it sounds kind of dangerous’ but I assumed that last part was implied!” Charlie says, sounding a little exasperated.

“I’m… sorry?” Cas replies hesitantly as he tips his head down so Charlie can insert the medication gun into his neck.

“Ah well, no point in being sorry now. Okay, three, two, one. There we go,” Charlie says as she releases the medication into Cas’ system before continuing, “You’re my friend, I just worry, is all. Did you at least have fun?”

“Sort of?”

“Well, that’s good! Although, none of this explains the whole ‘why you look like road-kill’ thing,” she inquires as she goes around the sofa to join Cas on it.

Cas has a very brief inner debate with himself. Does he tell Charlie the truth? He’s never lied to her before, that’s just not the type of friendship they have with each other. If he does tell her the truth, will she be mad? Then again, plenty of teenagers go to parties and get drunk. Not that Cas would particularly know, never having been a frequent partygoer by any stretch of the imagination. Not to mention that, even in his inexperience, he is quite positive that the average teenager doesn’t require a dead animal to successfully achieve inebriation…

As it turns out, Charlie more or less makes the decision for him.

“I mean, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were hung-over,” she says with a laugh. Cas doesn’t say anything and just looks at her with what he’s sure is a guilty expression.

“No, really?!” Charlie says in disbelief. Cas nods. “But, how can you-“ Charlie begins to continue before halting her train of thought in its tracks. Her previously confused expression smoothens out and darkens ominously.

“Tell me you didn’t,” she says, her voice deadly serious. Cas inadvertently shrinks away from her, just a little.

“Didn’t what?” Cas asks, trying for innocence. He only asks because he wants to know for sure what Charlie is referring to, lest he get himself into even more trouble with his friend than he already seems to be. Charlie huffs out an exasperated sigh and stands from the couch, pacing the living room.

“God, I heard rumours around the hospital, but I just thought it was made up. I didn’t think people would actually- Jesus,” Charlie says, more to herself than anything.

“Charlie, what are you-“ Cas begins to ask, but is cut off by Charlie suddenly snapping.

Brains, Cas! Fucking animal brains!” she exclaims angrily and Cas flinches at the unexpected outburst. Lowering her voice a little, she continues, “Just… tell me you didn’t.”

Cas doesn’t say anything. That’s apparently all the confirmation Charlie needs.

“What were you thinking? It could have been, like, laced or something, I don’t know! Or what if it wasn’t actually animal, Castiel, did you ever even consider that? What then?!”

“I- No. I… didn’t consider that. I’m sorry,” Cas says, getting up off the couch and approaching Charlie. He’s at a complete loss as to what to do or say in order to make any of this better.

“I don’t get you,” Charlie goes on, unheeded by Cas’ feeble attempt at apologizing, “You’ve been given a second chance at life, can’t you see that? And you’re willing to risk losing it, just like that?”

It’s then, for the first time in the course of their friendship, that Cas gets angry at Charlie. He throws out his hands, feeling incredibly frustrated.

“Second chance? You say that like it’s a gift, but it’s not. It’s a curse! And anyone who thinks any different is just… completely ignorant!” Cas yells, his mouth producing words faster than his brain can think them through.

“Oh, so now I’m ignorant? Real nice, Cas,” Charlie replies coldly.

“I pride myself on my honesty,” Cas replies smoothly, his voice equally icy.

A few tense moments of silence tick by as they stare angrily at each other, before Charlie eventually breaks it.

“You know what? This is the situation you’re in. There’s no changing it. You wanna make the worst out of it and stay miserable? Fine. That’s your problem. But I’m done making it my problem too.”

And with a resounding slam of the front door, she’s gone before Cas can say anything else. 


Cas spends the next few hours alternating between napping away his hangover and staring miserably at his bedroom ceiling, with nothing left in his head to think about except for how he might have just lost his only friend and how he just doesn’t really want his particular life.

When his phone beeps beside him where it’s currently charging on his nightstand, Cas almost doesn’t look at it, knowing it would probably be Charlie and he just can’t deal with that right now. However, after a few minutes, curiosity gets the better of him and he looks over at the phone.

He arches an eyebrow in surprise and confusion at the “Unknown Number” displayed on his screen. He picks up the phone and swipes to the right, opening up his text messages.

 

Received 6:45 pm:

cassiiiieeeeee

 

Cas stares at it for a moment before composing a reply.

 

Delivered 6:48 pm:

Who is this?

 

Cas lays back down in his bed and absentmindedly plays a few levels of “Unblock Me” on his phone as he waits for a reply. He’s almost ready to give up on the prospect when his phone beeps again.

 

Received 7:03 pm:

it dean lol

 

Cas nearly drops the phone on his face. Dean Winchester is texting him? How did he even get his number? Cas chalks it up to the fact that the HVF probably has records of every PDS sufferer in town… which isn’t exactly the most comforting of thoughts. But even if Dean could get his hands on Cas’ number, why would he even want to text him in the first place?

And, now that his thoughts have strayed to Dean, the events of last night come back to him in startling clarity and Cas covers his face with his free hand and groans in embarrassment. He’d huggedhim. Actually hugged a boy who was packing firearms meant to kill people like him. Cas has realized that he and Dean seem to have come to some sort of “I won’t murder you” truce, but there is such a thing as pushing your luck.

So caught up in this new train of thought, Cas almost forgets to reply. His thumbs hover over the touch screen and he has absolutely no idea what to say. He ends up settling on…

 

Delivered 7:07 pm:

Hi.

 

He regrets it as soon as he hits send, feeling like an idiot. He braces himself for a reply, but is still completely unprepared for what Dean throws at him next.

 

Received 7:08 pm:

do u wana hangout ?,, ?

 

Delivered 7:09 pm:

Dean, are you sure you’re speaking to the correct person?

 

Received 7:09 pm:

yea com 2 the prk on my streeet

 

Cas looks at all the misspellings and uncharacteristic behaviour and begins to get worried.

 

Delivered 7:10 pm:

Are you okay?

 

By the time a reply comes in, Cas has already picked a bus route and is throwing on his trenchcoat over yesterday’s clothes.

           

Received 7:16 pm:

idk

 

Delivered 7:17 pm:

I’m on my way.  


Cas gets off the bus at Stullgrove Road a little after 7:30. He’s not entirely sure where this park is, but Stullgrove Road isn’t very long so he figures it shouldn’t take too much time. He begins to walk, hands buried in his pockets.

Just as he starts to worry he’s missed it, Cas comes to the end of the road and a small park that has seen better days. The sun is just beginning to set on the play structure and it’s accompanying swings. The park is empty save for one lone figure sitting on a swing, looking down at his feet.

Dean.

As he walks closer, Cas takes a moment to consider the irony of the locale: a place commonly representative of childhood serving as a presumable safe haven for a boy whose childhood had been stripped from him far too early.

It’s not until he’s a few meters away that Cas notices the already half-empty whiskey bottle in Dean’s hand and everything clicks together.

As Dean takes another swig, Cas takes a seat on the swing next to him. Dean looks at him, his eyes glassy and sad.

“You came,” he says, voice sounding a little rough.

“You asked me to,” Cas replies simply. Dean nods and stares ahead again. Cas does the same, swinging back and forth just a little.

Cas lets the silence linger, waiting for Dean to explain, but the minutes tick by and the only times Dean does open his mouth, it’s for whiskey rather than words. Cas wonders if he should just sit here with him, if all Dean needs is the company, but then Cas decides that after all the times Dean has saved his life, he deserves more.

“What happened?” Cas asks hesitantly.

At first, Cas doesn’t think that Dean has even heard him, but after a long pull from the whiskey bottle and a shuddery breath, Dean begins to speak, his words coming out slow and ever so slightly slurred.

“I was on patrol tonight. Just a routine check of the forests, you know? And we found a rabid. At first, we thought it was just the one, this big middle-aged guy. My dad got to him first, and, well. You know. Down he goes. But then, we hear this movement, like rustling, from behind the bushes and this little girl comes out from behind them. She’s gotta be like five, six tops. So I’m about to tell her to stand back, get the hell out of there, right? But then she turns and she’s one of them. She goes over to where the other guy’s laying on the ground and she makes this sound. I can’t even- it was like a fucking howl. Or a screech, man I don’t even fucking know, but I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s right then that I realize ‘oh shit, we’ve killed this kid’s dad’. And then I see my dad pointing a gun right at her. So, I say maybe we should turn this one in for treatment, just this one. Just this once. And he puts his gun down and I think he’s gonna do it, but then he hands the rifle to me. He tells me to shoot her. At first I’m like no way because I’ve killed a lot of rotters, but this is a fuckin’ kid. Then he tells me I should be a man and to just do it and all this shit. And all the other guys are just fucking watching like it’s a goddamn circus act, trying to cheer me on. So, I don’t have a choice. I just don’t. I aim the rifle and bam, right between the eyes. When she dropped, she barely made a sound she was so fucking small. Then we buried the bodies and it was just another day on the job.”

Dean barks out a sharp, mirthless laugh and takes an extra long swig from the bottle. Cas doesn’t move, doesn’t speak. He’s shocked. He’s angry. He’s remorseful. He’s too many things to count.

Cas fumbles for something to say, but what is there? What can he possibly say? Does he tell Dean it’s not his fault, even though it was ultimately he who pulled the trigger? Does he say that what he did was okay, even though he ended a life?

Does he say that everything is going to be alright when, at that moment, it feels like the furthest thing from the truth?

“Dean, I’m so sor-“ Cas begins to say, figuring a measly apology is better than nothing, when Dean interrupts him.

“I used to play here. When I was a kid,” Dean says, his voice pensive as he stares blankly into the distance. He says it like his childhood was a lifetime ago, rather than a few years. Then again, Castiel considers, maybe for Dean the last few years have felt like a lifetime.

“Oh?” is all Cas can think to reply. Dean makes an affirmative “mm” sound.

“My mom would take us here. Me and Sammy. Hell, I taught him how to use the monkey bars. Broke my arm falling from them too, showing off, trying to be the cool big brother, you know. I remember her telling me how brave I was and how everything was going to be fine, that I would be fine. And the crazy thing? I always believed her. Every time. She was just like that.”

Cas immediately takes note of Dean’s use of past tense.

As Dean takes another slug of the whiskey, Cas begins to slot everything together.

“It was during the Rising, wasn’t it. Your mother,” Cas says cautiously, knowing there’s no need to expand on what he means.

“Yeah.”

“And that’s why your fath-“

“Yeah.”

“Oh.”

The pair descends into silence once more. Dean alternates between looking ahead and at his feet, while Cas’ eyes remain solely fixed on Dean. Before his brain can catch up to his limbs, Cas is already reaching out, ready to place a comforting hand on Dean’s shoulder or something of that ilk, anything to possibly ease this incredible burden placed on the other boy, but Dean flinches away from the touch violently.

“Don’t touch me,” he hisses vehemently. Cas is hurt and confused.

“Dean, what-“ Cas starts, once again trying to reach out, but Dean suddenly jumps out of the swing and away from his reach.

I said don’t touch me!” he yells and Cas flinches. Cas regards Dean’s angry expression, his green eyes dulled by the alcohol but blazing with fury now, and suddenly Cas is annoyed. He stands up and faces Dean.

“What is your problem? You texted me, remember? You asked me to come here! And then I try to help and this is how you react? I’ve never done anything to you!”

“Never done anything to me? You’ve fucking done everything to me! Ever since you showed up, my head’s been a goddamn mess! Don’t you get it?!” Dean replies, gesticulating wildly with the whiskey bottle.

“No, Dean, I don’t, because you’ve never taken the time to explain it to me! Just what could I have possibly done to make you hate me so much?”

Nothing. You’ve done nothing. And I wish you had! I wish you were dangerous, or rabid, or at least a dick, so I could just fucking shoot you or something like I’m supposed to! But no, you just had to be you. With your bedhead and your dictionary talk and your fucking trenchcoat.” Dean has dropped the whiskey bottle on the ground, the remainder of its contents staining the sand, and he fists his hands in his hair like he’s going to pull chunks of it out. Cas is shocked to see that Dean’s eyes look a little red-rimmed and his heart aches. He takes a step closer.

“I don’t understand,” Cas says, more in confusion and desperation than in anger. Suddenly Dean grabs at the lapels of his trenchcoat and lurches him forward aggressively, similar to how he did it at the Roadhouse when they first met. They’re eye-to-eye and inches apart, Dean practically snarling at him now.

“PDS sufferers killed my mom. They might as well have killed my dad. It’s my job to make sure they pay for that. For what they did. For what you did. It’s what I do. It’s all I am now. And you wanna know what the most fucked up thing about all of it is?”

Cas says nothing and just looks into Dean’s eyes with a slightly frightened gaze, thinking that Dean might hit him, but nothing could have prepared Cas for what happens next.

Dean kisses him.

It is by no means a romantic kiss. When Dean slams their mouths together, it’s rough and it’s aggressive and Dean’s eyes are squeezed shut. Cas just stands there, too shocked to move a muscle. After a moment, Dean leans back, their mouths disconnecting with a small “pop”. They’re both breathing hard as they look at each other.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks. Just what the hell does that say about me, huh?”

Cas stares at Dean, open-mouthed. The anger is gone from Dean’s expression, replaced with that tired sadness Cas has come to know. Cas’ brain, usually so analytic and sharp, is completely, utterly, blank.

Dean regards him for one more moment, before turning around and walking back down the street without another word or backwards glance, and when Cas finally regains the ability to move, Dean is already out of view.

The walk to the bus stop and the ride home feel very long.


When Cas reaches his house, he trudges up to his room and kicks off his shoes. Throwing his coat on his dresser, he picks a record at random, not really paying attention to what he’s picked. He puts it on and flops onto the bed, desperately needing to get his mind off of Dean and what the hell just happened between them.

Tom Waits’ rough and dulcet voice plays out.

 

Well, I hope that I don’t fall in love with you,

'Cause fallin’ in love just makes me blue.

           

Cas buries his face in his pillow and lets out a loud, frustrated groan at the cruel, cruel irony.

Chapter Text

The next few days for Cas are reminiscent of his initial return to Lawrence in that it feels very, very lonely.

He spends the time listlessly moping around his house. He watches television, catches up on some reading, and checks his phone compulsively for new messages (of which there are none).

No matter how much he attempts to distract himself, Cas’ brain just won’t shut off. It replays his awful fight with Charlie, and he feels a heavy, guilty weight in the pit of his stomach. It replays the conversation – the kiss – with Dean, and he feels almost dizzying confusion. He doesn’t quite know what to feel about the whole thing, and that leads him to wishing he could talk to Charlie about it, which in turn starts the whole vicious cycle over again.

Cas hasn’t seen Charlie since their fight. The day after, the doorbell rang at the typical time Charlie showed to give Cas his medication. He had raced to the door, opening it, ready with an apology on his lips, only for it to be an entirely different person. She had introduced herself as Hannah, explaining that she was covering for Charlie for the next little while, and Cas’ heart sank as he let her in. She was friendly enough, but she wasn’t Charlie.

While it’s true that Cas hasn’t known Charlie very long, he misses her. She has become such an integral part of this new life, and now that she’s gone, Cas feels the absence like a missing limb.

Cas is currently lying on his bed, listening to “The Smiths” (figuring it an appropriate soundtrack for the way he was feeling). His eyes wander the room lazily until his gaze falls on his collection of “Harry Potter” books. At first he feels another pang of guilt, thinking of Charlie, but then he gets an idea.

Sitting up quickly with the renewed energy of someone who’s found a sudden purpose, Cas scrambles off the bed and out into the hallway. He goes to the end of the hall and looks up at the small door in the ceiling with a cord hanging from it. Cas pulls the cord and a set of stairs come down from the ceiling, leading up to the attic. He climbs them carefully, and steps into the dusty attic where he’s surrounded by cardboard boxes with various labels.

He scans the hurriedly scrawled Sharpie labels on the boxes until he finds the one he’s looking for.

Family photos.

He pulls the box towards him and opens it up, a puff of dust flying up into his face. He waves it away impatiently and looks down at the box’s contents. In it lies dozens of envelopes from various photo developers (back when people still got pictures developed). Cas inhales and breathes out a slow, steadying breath before diving in.

Cas expects a feeling akin to a hard punch in the stomach when he looks at the pictures, but is instead surprised to find the feeling more like a sharp poke rather than a full on blow.

Maybe this is what healing feels like.

His heart does ache as he flips through his brothers’ baby pictures, family birthdays and vacations, etc., but the ache is pushed to the side by the pressing feeling of nostalgia and overwhelming affection.

He even lets out a chuckle as he passes one of the photos of his parents’ wedding. His mother and father were standing at the alter, hand-in-hand, his mother caught in mid-laugh and his father giving the audience a death glare.

Cas had heard about the story behind this photo; when the priest got to the section of his rites asking if anyone objected to the union, his father had stared their guests down, as if daring someone to say something. Everyone had laughed, his mother included. A pure, joyous moment frozen in time forever by a photograph. Cas smiles at it wistfully, before placing it back in its envelope, continuing the search for the specific photo he’s looking for.

After about twenty minutes of first-day-of-schools and class picture days and the ever-popular oh-god-these-should-be-burned middle school photos, etc., Cas finally finds what he’s looking for. He pulls it out, laughing a little at the sheer absurdity of what he’s about to do, and puts the box back in its place.

He steps down the rickety attic stairs and restores the ladder to its previous hidden position, before heading downstairs. He goes to the door of his father’s study and hesitates for only a second before opening it – the study always being more of an “adults only” zone that could only be entered with express permission (old habits are hard to break, after all).

Cas takes a seat at the large oak desk and rifles through the drawers for a moment, emerging with paper, a pen, and an envelope. He places the photo inside the envelope before setting it aside and settling his focus on the intimidatingly blank piece of paper. He taps the pen against his lips for a minute, thinking, and then he starts to write.

           

Dear Charlie,

           

I’m sorry. On a page those two little words look so small, so insignificant, but please know that I mean them.

You were right. I was being incomprehensibly stupid by doing what I did at that party… probably by even going to the party at all. I don’t even really know why I did it. I think I just wanted to feel something. Something that wasn’t just me being miserable or overthinking everything.

I never considered that I might hurt the people closest to me, maybe because I’ve never really had people close to me to consider. I had my family, and maybe an acquaintance now and again, but until I met you I’d never had a proper friend. And I’m not telling you this as an excuse for my actions, really I’m not, I just want you to know how much you mean to me.

I know you think I’m miserable, and I am for the most part so I certainly don’t blame you for that, but if I’d never met you I know I’d be even worse (if you can imagine that).

You’ve helped me so much, I can’t even begin to tell you, and I re-paid you by throwing it all back in your face and insulting you on top of it.

I’m trying, Charlie. I know you don’t think I am, but I’m trying. However, our argument has made me realize that maybe I’m not trying hard enough. I won’t waste any more of your time telling you how hard this all is for me, or bore you with more of my self-pity, I’ve already spent too much of our friendship doing all that. I want to try and be better.

And, if you’re willing, maybe you could help me achieve it? I don’t think I can do it without you. I miss you.

 

Sincerely,

Castiel

 

P.S. You are the farthest thing from ignorant imaginable. I hope the enclosed picture will help you forgive me. 

 

Cas reads over the letter, then again, before folding it and putting it in the envelope alongside the picture. He seals it and writes Charlie’s name on the outside.

Heading back out to the living room, he places the envelope on the coffee table and goes back up to his room.

About an hour later – right on schedule – the doorbell rings. Cas goes downstairs and lets Hannah in, participating in the mindless friendly chat. She gives him his daily dose of neurotriptyline and begins to pack up her things.

“Hannah, do you think you could do me a favour?” Cas asks.

“Depends on the favour,” Hannah replies with a smile. Cas picks up the letter from the coffee table and hands it to her.

“Could you give this to Charlie when you see her?”

Hannah takes the letter, but her eyes look unsure.

“Please,” Cas adds on, trying to make sure his contact lens filled eyes reflect his desperation. Hannah’s unsure expression morphs into an acquiescing one.

“Sure, I’ll make sure she gets it.”

“Thank you.”

Cas walks her to the door and closes it behind her, already worrying about what Charlie’s reaction to the letter will be. 


The next morning, Cas is woken up by the persistent and unrelenting ringing of his doorbell. He looks at the time, about 11 a.m., and is surprised to see how long he slept – seeing as how Cas had always been more of a natural early riser, even on weekends.

He hastens down the stairs while simultaneously putting his contacts in, hoping Hannah doesn’t mind his lack of cover-up.

But when he opens the door, a redheaded girl with green eyes and a bright smile is what greets him.

Cas stares open-mouthed at Charlie, not quite believing she’s really standing there in front of him. In her hand, she holds the envelope.

“Cas, I’m so sorry about every- ouff”, Charlie says, her apology effectively cut off by Cas wrapping his arms tightly around her.

“I’m so sorry,” Cas says into her shoulder. Charlie laughs a little.

“You’re kinda stealing my line here,” she replies, hugging Cas back.

After a moment, they let go, smiling as they head into the house. They go up to Cas’ room, Charlie kicking off her shoes and hopping on the bed, getting out her medication kit.

“So, you got my letter?” Cas asks nervously as he sits beside her on his bed.

“Yeah, I did. I’m the one that should be apologizing to you! I’m sorry I went off on you like I did, it was unfair.”

“I deserved it.”

No, Cas, you didn’t. You were just… venting. And I should have been there to help you through it, not make it worse. I’m a nurse, for God’s sake. It wasn’t my place to start lecturing you on how you choose to live your life, and I’m really sorry for that.”

“You were just trying to be a good friend.”

“A good friend wouldn’t have stormed off like that.”

“Well, I said good friend, not perfect friend,” Cas jokes. Charlie laughs and Cas begins to fully realize just how much he loves that sound.

“Shut up,” she replies, elbowing him. Cas thinks that that’s going to be the end of the conversation, but Charlie’s face gets a bit more serious as she continues.

“But… you gotta know… that stuff you said towards the end of your letter? About wasting my time or boring me with your feelings? That’s not true. I know I did kind of a shit job of showing it last time we talked, but you can tell me all of those things! I’m here to help you, as your nurse, sure, but more importantly, as your friend. Don’t censor yourself just because you think it might not be what I want to hear. I want to hear everything that’s going on with you, whatever you’re feeling because that’s what friends are for.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

They smile at each other for a moment before Charlie suddenly has the letter in her hands again.

“You know, by the time I got to the end of your letter I had already forgiven you, but this?” She pulls out the picture enclosed in the envelope and starts laughing, “This definitely clinched it for me.”

Cas dressed like Harry Potter for Halloween

Cas looks at the picture he had told Charlie about on the day they met – of him dressed as Harry Potter for Halloween from when he was about seven years old. He hadn’t read the books until he was a little older, but Harry Potter was everywhere back then, the first book having just been released. He was taken with the idea of the character before he even experienced J.K. Rowling’s magic for himself. Cas laughs at the ridiculous picture; he was an abnormally small boy, making him look even younger than he actually was, made no better by the oversized glasses hanging off his nose.

“I thought you might like that,” he says, still chuckling.

“Like it? I love it! It’s friggin’ priceless.”

Once their laughter dies down a little, Charlie starts to unpack her medication bag and climbs behind Cas, who obediently bows his head down a little, used to the routine of it at this point.

Charlie does her typical countdown and injects him. Cas regards her as she packs the medication gun back in its case.

“Hey, Charlie?”

“Yeah, Cas?”

“Does this mean we’re friends again?” The question slips out unbidden, and Cas immediately feels like he’s been reverted back to a toddler for even asking. But Charlie only smiles.

“You betcha.”

Cas hasn’t felt this elated in weeks. However, now that the conflict with Charlie is resolved, it frees up Cas’ brain for other things. Specifically, one thing. One huge, confusing, possibly amazing, possibly suicidal, thing.

Dean.

“That’s good, because something happened and if I don’t tell someone I fear I may explode.”

“Ooh sounds juicy. Gimme.”

“Well, it’s a bit of a long story…” 


No. Fucking. Way.

“It’s all true.”

“Holy shit.”

“I know.”

“Holy shit.

“I know.

Cas had told Charlie everything: the texts, the park, Dean’s harrowing story, and then finally the kiss. He had watched as her expression flitted from confusion to sadness to absolute disbelief.

“Dean Winchester, ladies man and HVF member Dean Winchester, kissed you?!” Charlie asks, obviously still trying to wrap her head around the whole thing. Cas nods.

“What are you going to do?” she continues.

“I haven’t the slightest clue,” Cas admits honestly, “I was hoping you’d know.”

“I dunno, Cas, this is a little bit above my pay grade… How do you feel about it? Did you like it?”

“I’m not sure… I think so? I mean, it wasn’t exactly the height of romanticism, but… I felt something.”

“Well, that’s good, right?”

“Is it? Are you forgetting who his father is?”

“Yeah, you guys do kind of have that whole ‘Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers’ thing going for you, that’s for sure.”

“And besides that… when he kissed me it was like… Charlie, it was like he hated every second of it. Like it was the last thing he ever wanted to do.”

“Then why did he do it?”

“I don’t know. This whole situation… It’s just – he’s just – so confusing!” Cas says. With a frustrated huff he flops back onto the bed.

And they call it, puppy love,” Charlie starts to sing. Cas glares at her and she raises her hands in surrender before flopping down next to him.

“Have you talked to him about it?” she asks.

“Not a word.”

“Well, you know what they say, communication is key and all that. Worse comes to worse, he tells you he hates you and that he was just drunk off his ass.”

“Thank you for sugar-coating it,” Cas says sarcastically.

“Hey, just trying to prepare you!”

Cas sighs. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I always am,” Charlie jokes with the type of grin that Cas can’t help but return. 


Later that night after Charlie has taken her leave, Cas lies in his bedroom with some of Frank Sinatra’s earlier work playing softly in the background – he finds it soothing – as he stares daggers at his phone.

He must have picked it up a dozen times by now, thumb hovering over the call button displayed on the menu of Dean’s and his text conversation, but he puts it back down every time.

He picks it up for the umpteenth time, when suddenly it starts buzzing repeatedly; a phone call, not a text.

Unknown Number.

Cas almost doesn’t pick it up.

Almost.

“Hello?” he says hesitantly.

“Hey,” a gruff voice replies.

“…Dean?”

“Yeah.”

“Um, hi.”

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“Fine. You?”

“Fine.”

A few uncomfortable moments of silence tick by.

“Look, Cas, about what happened…”

Cas holds his breath, and if his heart could beat it would surely be beating out of his chest right now. He waits for Dean to continue.

“I… was kind of in a bad way that night. But you knew that already, I guess. I don’t really remember anything other than you showing up.”

“You… you don’t remember anything? At all?”

“Nah, not really. Bits and pieces. I know you were there.”

“You texted me.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Oh.”

Cas suddenly feels ill. Dean doesn’t remember the kiss. Cas is concerned that relief isn’t quite all he’s feeling. He mentally shoves the odd pang of what he knows is disappointment to the side.

“I guess I just wanted to say… thanks?” Dean says with an awkwardness that Cas knows only appears when Dean’s trying to be nice to him.

“It was no trouble,” Cas replies politely. He thinks that might be the end of it, but he hears Dean take a breath on the phone, like he’s preparing himself to say something.

“That’s not the only reason I called.”

“Oh?”

“I, uh, wanted to call a truce.”

“Really?”

“No, you dork, I’m just joking. Yes a truce,” Dean impatiently replies, a mixture of sarcasm and exasperation, and Cas smiles a little in spite of himself. This is the Dean he knows and –

This is the Dean he knows.

“Where is this coming from?” Cas asks of this sudden truce, and suddenly wishes he could take it back, not wanting to push his luck.

“I’m just tired of pretending.”

“…Pretending?” Cas repeats, seeking clarification.

“Pretending that I don’t like you. I kind of wish I didn’t, my life would be a hell of a lot easier if I didn’t, but I do.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“So… friends then?”

“Easy there, Cas. One step at a time, huh?”

“Right.”

A few more moments of silence, somehow feeling less uncomfortable than before.

“Okay, well, uh, that’s all I wanted to say. So, bye, I guess.”

“Goodbye, Dean.”

Cas hears a small click and then nothing. He takes the phone away from his ear, staring at it like it had suddenly grown a head.

Then he laughs a little to himself, his whole body feeling lighter than he ever remembers it feeling. Lying back on his bed, still a small smile on his lips, he opens up Charlie’s and his text conversation.

 

Delivered 6:49 pm:

You’ll never guess who just called.

Chapter Text

“And you’re sure this is safe?”

Cas. As a medical professional I am telling you it’s safe!”

“Just checking.”

Today when Charlie had visited, she had brought a new medication gun with her. She had explained that they couldn’t sacrifice the employees at the hospital anymore to attend to the PDS sufferers that lived alone (having no family to inject them). So, to solve the problem of the hospital being understaffed, a new medication gun was manufactured, meaning that Cas could administer the neurotriptyline himself without having to rely on Charlie.

When Cas heard the news, he had mixed feelings about it, for more reasons than one. Charlie, upon seeing Cas’ face, read his mind.

“Hey, come on, I might not be able to come by every day anymore, but I’ll still be around! You can’t get rid of me that easy, Novak,” she’d said, and Cas had felt better, if still a little nervous about being left to his own devices.

Speaking of devices, Cas puts the new medication gun over his wrist, the exposed needle poised over his veins. He winces as he looks at it, more out of habit than anything seeing as how the subsequent prick of pain won’t be felt. He lets out a small, steadying breath and lets the needle descend into his flesh. He pulls the trigger and feels the neurotriptyline enter his system, still giving him a strange jolt that he imagines he’ll never get used to.

“Now was that so bad?” Charlie says, patronizing him just a little. Cas rolls his eyes and smiles in response.

Cas starts putting away the device in its little case as Charlie fills him in on when the replacement vials will be delivered and other various things he should know. As they’re chatting, Cas’ text tone sounds. Charlie and Cas look at each other; Cas’ eyes are a little wide in surprise, whereas Charlie just looks (over)excited.

“Is that him?” Charlie asks as Cas pulls his phone out of his pocket. She goes to grab it, but Cas quickly holds it out of her reach and checks it.

Unknown Number.

Cas looks at the screen for a moment, pondering, before he opens his phone and goes to his contacts. He adds “Dean Winchester” as one of them and then opens the text from the not-so-unknown number.

           

Received 1:47 pm:

hey, my dad’s gone. star wars pt 2?

 

“Oh my god,” Charlie says, reading the text over Cas’ shoulder. Cas smiles a little at his phone, unable to help it.

He’s just about to send, “Sounds excellent”, before Charlie snatches his phone.

“’Sounds excellent’? Jeez spice it up a little! It’s hard to emote over text, you know,” she says and then, to Cas’ horror, starts to type. He grabs the phone back from her, but he’s too late.

 

Delivered 1:49 pm:

Sure! I’ll bring the popcorn :)

 

Cas groans a little, staring at the wholly unnecessary smiley emoticon. Although, admittedly, it isn’t nearly as bad as the multitude of possibilities that had flown through his brain in the five seconds that Charlie had his phone.

He has the insane, irrational urge to throw his phone out the window when it beeps again. He looks at it instead.

           

Received 1:52 pm:

why do u have popcorn when u can’t eat?

 

Cas glares at Charlie, showing her the text.

“I swear, that boy has the subtlety of a ton of bricks,” she says disapprovingly. Cas types a reply.

 

Delivered 1:53 pm:

It may have been a poor attempt at humor.

 

Two texts come in shortly after, one quickly following the other.

 

Received 1:54 pm:

oh

 

Received 1:54 pm:

lol

 

“See? I got you a ‘lol’! You’re welcome,” Charlie says, proud of her so-called achievement. Cas just chuckles a little and shakes his head.

 

Delivered 1:55 pm:

When should I come?

 

Received 1:55 pm:

whenever

 

“Charlie, do you think you’d be able to-“ Cas starts, about to ask her for a ride.

“Way ahead of you, buddy, get your coat,” she replies, reading his mind once again. Cas laughs, happy that he finally has a friend.

Maybe even two, he thinks, but quickly cuts himself off from that train of thought, not wanting to jinx anything.

Cas grabs his trenchcoat off its designated hook, and he and Charlie are out the door (Cas having already put on his makeup that morning, just for something to do). They clamber into Charlie’s yellow Gremlin and she starts the engine.

As they drive along, it occurs to Cas that this will be the first time he and Dean have spent time together since they officially called their truce.

And? Aren’t you forgetting something? mocks a voice in Cas’ head. Cas’ mind immediately flashes back to the thought – the feeling – of Dean’s lips against his. This will also be the first time they’ve spent time together since that night at the park.

The night he can’t remember, and the night I remember too well.

Without realizing it, Cas’ leg starts to bounce up and down. He stares ahead at the road, watching the painted yellow lines zip by, gnawing at his lip as he ponders how today will pan out. Out of his peripheral vision, he sees Charlie glance at him.

“Cas?”

“Mm?” Cas murmurs, distracted.

“Are you actually nervous right now?”

Cas stops chewing at his lip and looks at Charlie, eyebrows raised in surprise.

“What? No, of course not! Why would you think that?” he replies too quickly.

Instead of replying, she just throws a pointed look to his restless leg and then back to the road, smirking knowingly. Cas rests a hand on his knee, stopping the bouncing.

“Well… perhaps a little,” he says quietly, looking sheepish. Charlie snorts a good-natured laugh.

“You’re too cute,” Charlie says like she’s found a particularly amusing puppy in a pet store.           

Cas smiles a little and puts on an over-exaggerated voice, “I don’t want to be cute, Charlie! I want to be sexy! Irresistible!” he says, paraphrasing what Charlie said to him that day at the Roadhouse when they were talking about Jo. Cas laughs a little as Charlie rolls her eyes at him.

“Yeah, yeah, yuck it up, Novak,” she replies sarcastically.

They spend the rest of the short drive in comfortable silence, and soon enough they’re turning onto Stullgrove Road. Cas asks Charlie if she could let him off at the corner, so as not to draw too much attention.

…A notion that goes right out the window when Charlie honks her horn and yells, “Go get ‘im, tiger!” out the window as he starts to walk down the street. Cas facepalms and turns to give her a quick, embarrassed wave before continuing down the road.

He arrives at Dean’s house and raps his knuckles against the door twice in quick succession. He shuffles his feet nervously as he waits to be let in. Sure enough, after a few moments, Cas hears the un-bolting of what must be more than one lock and then the door is opening.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean says, with his usual gruffness, but it feels… kinder somehow. More welcoming. He opens the door wider to let Cas in.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas replies as he steps across the threshold into the Winchester household.

Cas shrugs off his coat absentmindedly before realizing he has no idea what to do with it, so he just drapes it over his arm. Cas notices Dean’s outfit – a red and black flannel shirt paired with gray sweatpants that hang just a little over his socked feet – and it’s the most casual he’s ever seen him. 

The two boys stand awkwardly in the doorway. Cas bites the inside of his lip a little, and Dean runs a hand through his hair while not making eye contact.

“I, uh, I can take that,” Dean finally mumbles.

“Sorry?” Cas asks, confused.

“Your coat. Unless you plan on holding it like that the whole damn time,” Dean says without the malicious edge a comment like that would usually hold.

“Oh, um, right. Thank you?” Cas replies, his discomfort making the gratitude come out as a question rather than a statement. He hands Dean his trenchcoat and Dean puts it in a nearby closet.

Dean suddenly claps his hands together, making Cas jump a little, as he says, “Well. This can’t get any more awkward, so let’s just watch the fuckin’ movie, huh?”

Cas can’t help it, he lets out a sharp laugh, louder than intended. Count on Dean to make him feel at ease in an uncomfortable situation by bluntly pointing out just how uncomfortable it is. Upon hearing this small outburst, Dean looks at him and raises his eyebrows a little in surprise.

“What?” Cas says after a moment, his smile starting to fade at the sudden attention.

Dean shrugs, a hint of a smirk on his lips, “Nothin’. Just never heard you laugh like that, is all.”

Cas flounders for a response as Dean pops in the DVD and sits on the couch.

“Any day now,” Dean says without turning around, gesturing to the empty space on the couch beside him. Cas jumps into action, deciding a reply isn’t necessary, and sits next to Dean.

As the DVD menu shows up, Dean gives Cas a quick run-down of everything that happened in the first movie (Cas gets confused about who’s who and which organizations are the evil ones). Cas nods along, still not entirely understanding the draw some people seem to have to these movies, but says nothing about it.

The familiar credits roll and the two boys settle in to watch their movie.

Although, Cas spends more time watching Dean.

Out of the corner of his eye – and sometimes daring to turn his head if he thinks he can get away with it – he watches all the nuances of Dean’s facial expressions that he’s never really seen before. He gazes, enraptured, as Dean’s eyes crinkle with a chuckle at Han Solo and Chewbacca’s banter, or when his brows draw together a little in an intense focused frown during suspenseful moments, or the smile of triumph whenever a battle is won. There were these and so many other things, leaving Cas bizarrely fascinated. This was Dean, defenses down, and Cas looks back to the screen, smiling, realizing that he rather likes it this way.


“I just don’t get it,” says Cas, not for the first time. It’s quite a while into the movie, which has been paused due to a debate Dean and Cas are currently having.

“What’s not to get?! It’s an awesome line!”

“’Awesome’? How is saying ‘I know’ instead of ‘I love you, too’ awesome?”

Dude, are you kidding?”

“Not in the slightest. That may very well be the last time they ever see each other, and Leia expresses her devotion to him and all he has to leave her – possibly forever – with is ‘I know’?”

“Wait, shut up for a minute,” Dean says.

“I’m sorry, Dean, I just don’t see how-“ Cas begins, thinking Dean is trying to silence his perfectly logical rebuttals.

Cas. I’m fucking serious, shut up for a sec,” Dean interrupts, looking fully alert. The slight panic that Cas detects in Dean’s voice shuts him right up. In the silence, Cas thinks he can finally make out what has Dean so worried.

The sound of a truck pulling into the driveway.

Cas and Dean look at each other, immobile, eyes wide in panic. The slamming of the car door sends them into action. They both jump off the couch and Dean looks around wildly as Cas stands there unsure of what to do.

“Shit, shit, shit!” Dean says, letting out a colourful string of curses before suddenly grabbing Cas by the shirt and dragging him to the nearby closet. He opens the door and unceremoniously tosses Cas inside.

“Not. A. Sound,” Dean whispers, deadly serious, as he closes the closet door, just in time for the front door of the house to open.

Cas sits with his knees curled up to his chest, the only way he can fit in the small space. All he can hear in the dark room is the muffled sounds of voices outside, and his own shallow breathing. He can’t make out the words he hears, but he recognizes the low, gruff timbre of the visitor as John Winchester. Cas tries to take deep, but silent, breaths. He looks around the space he’s in, though it’s of no use as he’s engulfed in complete blackness, save for the one small slit of light beneath the door.

He knows almost right away that something isn’t right.

His breaths come out too quick and shuddery, and though he can’t see them, he knows his hands are shaking. He presses them against the sides of the closet, tangibly trying to remind himself that the walls are not closing in on him, but it doesn’t help.

The longer the time goes on, the harder he finds it to breathe. He trembles and he wants nothing more than to get out of where he is, but knows he can’t; that it’s either this horrendous discomfort, or he’ll be staring down the barrel of John Winchester’s gun.

His skin crawls and feels suddenly too tight, and he imagines that if his heart could beat, it would surely be beating out of his chest right now in fear.

Fear of what? John Winchester? Surely, but it’s not only that. Some instinct inside of Cas wants to scratch his nails on the wooden surface of the door, scrabbling to get out. He needs to get out.

And then suddenly he’s back there. In that long, padded wooden box that haunts his nightmares. He shifts slightly and feels the coats brush against his skin, and they feel like rotted hands trying to drag him back, drag him down, down, down. And the dirt rains again, burying him, blinding him, choking him, but he has to keep going, he has to get out, he has to–

The door opens.

Cas squints at the silhouette of the figure standing in the bright daylight. It feels like it’s been hours. Days.

“Fuck, that was close, huh? Sorry ‘bout that, my dad forgot his- Hey... you okay, man?” Dean says, really noticing how Cas is acting.

Although he’s not engulfed by the overwhelming darkness any longer, the shadows seem to cling to him, refusing to just let go. He shakes and trembles with the weight of them and he finds he’s unable to move. He hasn’t breathed in four minutes.

“Cas? Dude, can you hear me?” Dean asks, his voice becoming more panicked as the moments wear on. Cas just stares at him, eyes wide and pleading. Pleading for what, he doesn’t know.

“You’re scaring me, man, what the hell is wrong with you?” Dean asks, voice raising. He grabs Cas’ arms and pulls him out of the closet. Cas whimpers.

“Can’t go back. Please no, please,” Cas murmurs, staring at Dean. Dean grasps him firmly by the upper arms, holding him upright.

“What are you talking about?!” Dean demands.

“Don’t make me go back there. I can’t go back there. Not again, not ever, please no,” Cas continues, unable to think of anything else but his coffin. He feels dizzy.

“Cas, I don’t-“ Dean starts, sounding helpless, but he’s interrupted by the door opening again. Dean whips his head around, terrified, but it’s only Sam home from school.

“Hi, Dean, I’m– Holy crap, Cas! What did you do to him?” Sam cries once he takes in the scene before him.

“I haven’t done fucking anything to him! I had to put him in the closet because Dad came home and now he won’t stop babbling!”

Sam’s expression fades from shock to focused determination.

“Set him down on the couch,” Sam instructs. Dean does what he’s told and guides Cas to the couch, gently pushing him down onto it. Sam kneels in front of Cas and starts to speak in a relaxed, calm voice.

“Hi, Cas. Can you hear me?”

Cas stares into the soft, caring brown eyes and manages a small nod.

“That’s great. Now, I want you to put your arms above your head.”

Cas does.

“Good job. Put your arms down.”

Cas obeys, focusing on the simple task.

“You’re doing great, Cas. Now, put them up again.”

The routine continues a few more times, and Cas is starting to feel just the slightest bit better.

“What are you doing?” Dean asks quietly, not wanting to do anything to set Cas off again.

“I think he must have had a panic attack. Jess has them sometimes when she gets really stressed, she taught me what to do,” Sam explains, “Dean, you count to ten and coach him through his breathing while I get a blanket or something.”

“What? No, Sam, wait!” Dean starts to object, but Sam is already gone. Dean takes Sam’s place kneeling in front of Cas.

“Alright, you heard him, I guess,” Dean starts a little sternly, but his voice softens as he looks at Cas’ face and the trace of fear that has managed to work itself into the lines of his frown and the furrows of his brow. “Breathe with me alright? Nice and easy. In, one. Out, two. In, three. Out, four. That’s right, you’re doing great. Keep going.”

Cas stares into Dean’s deep forest green eyes as he breathes with him. They continue all the way to ten. By the time they finish, Cas still feels a bit shaken, but otherwise fine.

“Thank you, both of you,” Cas mutters, Sam having come back with a blanket that he drapes loosely over Cas’ shoulders (it, of course, provides no actual warmth for Cas, but the comforting gesture is appreciated nonetheless).

“So… what the hell was that?” Dean asks, not unkindly.

Cas takes a deep breath and hangs his head a little, feeling embarrassed about what had happened. Sam coughs a little and excuses himself from the room.

“I seem to have developed claustrophobia… because of the um… you know,” Cas mumbles, unable to even bring himself to say the word.

“Look, I’m sorry, man, I wasn’t thinking, I should have known-“ Dean starts, actually apologizing to him.

“No, it’s not your fault, you couldn’t have known. I didn’t even know myself. And I’d rather suffer a panic attack than have to face your father again,” Cas replies.

“Yeah, I guess we both know what would happen there.”

“Yes, we do.”

There’s a moment of awkward silence, until Cas – against his better judgment – breaks it.

“Dean… wouldn’t it be easier?”

“Would what be easier?”

“If I wasn’t around. If we weren’t…” Cas says, trailing off, unsure of how to end that sentence.

“Friends?” Dean finishes, and Cas looks at him, shocked that he actually said the word. Dean rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, alright, I said it. Quit the staring, you’re freaking me out.”

Cas smiles a little, but doesn’t stop staring. Dean continues.

“And yeah… I guess it would be easier… but fuck it. Easier doesn’t mean better, and I can never say no to a challenge,” Dean says, smirking rebelliously.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Cas says, smiling a bit wider.

Dean suggests they turn the movie back on and Cas agrees. They settle back into the couch, Cas wrapping the blanket around his shaken frame for comfort.

A few minutes in, his eyes start to droop and his breathing begins to slow, and soon enough he falls asleep.

At some unknown point in time, Cas wakes up just a little, enough to know that he’s gently being moved into a lying position on the couch. His eyes remain closed and he falls asleep again, shortly after feeling the blanket being pulled up to his shoulders. 


“Hey, Cas. Wake up. Come on, Sleeping Beauty, up and at ‘em,” says a joking voice. Cas yawns and rubs his eyes as he sits up. He opens them and is confused for a moment until he remembers where he is.

“My dad’s gonna be back soon, gotta drive you home,” Dean explains. Cas nods, still feeling a bit out of sorts.

When they walk outside, Cas realizes that night has descended and he wonders idly just how long he slept for.

They get into a sleek, black car that Cas hasn’t seen before. The engine roars to life and they back out of the driveway.

The brief car ride is silent, but not awkward.

Surprisingly, Dean drops him off at his house this time instead of a block away. Cas is grateful for this; he feels exhausted. Just as he reaches to open the car door, a hand suddenly clasps his shoulder. He turns to look at Dean.

“I, uh, I’m glad you’re okay,” Dean murmurs, maintaining eye contact.

To an outside observer, this would seem like nothing, but Cas feels that this one moment is important. A turning point. He smiles at the thought.

“Thank you for everything today. I had fun,” Cas says.

Dean snorts, “Oh yeah, almost getting caught by my dad, me accidentally giving you a panic attack, and then you falling asleep during Star Wars? I think you gotta adjust your definition of ‘fun’, dude.”

Cas laughs, “No, but really. I did.”

The corner of Dean’s mouth quirks up in a smile, and he breaks the eye contact, “Yeah, okay. Now get outta here, would ya?”

Cas obeys the dismissal and gets out. Just before he closes the door, he leans down.

“Goodbye, Dean,” he says through the door opening.

“Later, Cas,” Dean replies.

Cas shuts the door and begins to walk up his driveway. He hears the roaring of Dean’s engine fade away behind him. Cas finally gets to the front door and goes inside, collapsing against it. He breathes out a contented, tired sigh. He smiles to himself. Cas didn’t have friends…

And now he has two.

Chapter Text

Cas opens his eyes the next morning and for the first time in a long while, he finds he doesn’t want to get out of bed. It’s not the teenager-typical longing for extra sleep, but more worryingly, a listlessness that Cas can’t seem to shake.

He lies in his bed – awake but not entirely present – and waits. He doesn’t really know what he’s waiting for, but he supposes he’s waiting for a feeling. Some jolt of emotion or energy that will make him want to start his day. Cas turns his head to the side and looks at the wall of quotes that lay beside his bed. Ironically, his gaze lands squarely on one from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

 

“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”

 

Whatever Cas’ existence is currently, it’s certainly not tranquillity, but he feels he understands the quote more than he ever has. His life feels stagnate. While it’s true he’s had the occasional blips of… he hesitates to call it “excitement” when more often than not it’s life-threatening, but it’s the most accurate description his tired brain can muster.

He throws an arm over his eyes as he lays there, trying to get his mind to stop whirring with this type of depressing thought. Unsuccessfully, of course.

Bizarrely, he’s reminded of rigor mortis. The way an animal can spasm after death. They may have the occasional movement, but it doesn’t stop their life from being reduced to a monotonous flat line.

Almost as soon as that thought comes, Cas feels a pang of guilt for thinking it. What does that make Charlie? Dean? They’re more than a cadaveric spasm and he feels ashamed for equating them with anything related to death. That’s part of the reason Cas likes them, their liveliness makes him feel more like a person and less like a thing.

With a sigh, he decides to stop prolonging the inevitable and reluctantly swings his legs over the side of the bed, sitting up. Standing stiffly, he walks over to his record player. He scratches the back of his head absentmindedly before picking a record and putting it on, Billie Holiday’s croon filling the room.

Cas looks out his bedroom window, the bright morning sun casting it’s comforting rays of warmth on the world below. He walks closer to the window and, on a whim, lifts it open and takes a breath. The freshness of the breeze fills his withered lungs and the chirps of various birds fill his ears. Cas glances back to his unmade bed, looking particularly inviting, and then glances out the window again. He smiles a little to himself and makes up his mind that no matter how he’s currently feeling, a day like this was not to be wasted on self-pity and wallowing.

After injecting himself with his new medication gun, he dons a plain blue t-shirt and casts a glance at a pair of jeans before settling on his comfiest pair of sweat pants. He quickly finger-combs his bedhead with little success and applies his cover-up and contacts with practiced ease before retrieving an old backpack from the depths of his closet. He unzips it and stands before his bookshelf, scanning the titles with furrowed brows. He grabs a few of his favourites – The Picture of Dorian Gray, his Edgar Allen Poe anthology, and the first Harry Potter – along with a few newer books he hasn’t had a chance to read, and re-zips the backpack. He slings it over his shoulder and heads downstairs, turning off the record on his way by. He grabs a black hoodie before he leaves the house and pulls the hood up, feeling more safe that way when he ventures outside. Securing his backpack, he walks out the front door and into the forest nearest his house.

Cas knows the way to the clearing – which he privately refers to as his – like the back of his hand, but today he walks slowly, taking his time. His depressive lethargy tugs at the back of his brain, begging to be paid attention to, but Cas steadfastly ignores it and trudges on. He lets himself become distracted by the plethora of sights and sounds and smells in the beautifully sunlit woods.

A short while later, he comes to the clearing and settles down against a fallen oak, the field’s only decoration. He opens his backpack and lets his books spill out of it, surrounding him in a tempting display. He looks to each one and decides on beginning one of his newer books, a Dan Simmons mystery set in the time of Charles Dickens. Cas gets comfortable, breathing a contented sigh, before gladly plummeting into gritty nineteenth century England.   

Cas is on page 137 when he hears a rustling coming from the forested edge of the clearing. The sound is too big for a squirrel or some other woodland creature. Cas slowly puts his book on the ground to his side, his whole body tensing to either fight or run, he doesn’t know. The sound gets louder and Cas can’t tear his eyes away from the shaking bush that it’s coming from. He doesn’t blink, he doesn’t breathe. It suddenly leaps out from it’s hiding place.

Around a foot tall and two in length, a dog bounds into view and Cas lets out a whooshing sigh of relief.

Cas laughs a little to himself as he eyes what looks to be a breed of Terrier. It’s mostly dark brown – almost black – with various areas of a blonde colour around its mouth and eyes (the latter looking, amusingly, like eyebrows). Its fur is scruffy and matted, and the dog appears to be balding a bit in certain spots. Upon a brief inspection, Cas confirms that it’s male. It’s also, Cas notices as it trots closer, decidedly collarless.

Cute as the animal may seem, Cas remains wary as he studies him, trying to gauge whether he’s diseased or rabies-ridden. Cas also remains cautious because he knows that animals tend to shy away from PDS sufferers.

Sure enough, once the dog gets a few meters away from Cas, he stops suddenly. Then, Cas hears a low growl rolling off the animal, the menacing noise seeming unnatural from the small canine. Cas isn’t surprised by the reaction. Animals seem to be able to sense the lack of life force in people like him. And dogs, with their keen sense of smell, can’t place the unsettling aroma coming from the dead. Though he isn’t surprised, Cas can’t help but feel – absurdly – a little hurt.

The dog sniffs the air, distrusting, and Cas smiles at him affectionately, trying to radiate a sense of calmness. The terrier looks at him for a moment before hesitantly coming closer. Cas slowly raises a hand, offering it to the dog. It makes him stop again, letting out another warning growl. Cas stays still as the canine continues its approach.

Cas holds his breath as the dog sniffs his hand for a minute. Then, seemingly having made up his mind, Cas’ hand is licked and the dog lets out a happy yap. Cas laughs and pets the pup, which it thankfully allows wholeheartedly.

“Hey there, do you have a home?” Cas says to the animal, obviously not expecting a reply. Cas looks at the dog’s collarless neck and grubby exterior, and answers his own question. He only mentally debates his next proposal for a brief moment before deciding to voice it.

“Well, you do now. If you want it that is,” Cas says, patting the dog’s head and watching, bemused, at the tail-wagging it causes. “What do you say, boy? Do you want to come home with me?”

As if in its own way of reply, the dog barks merrily and hops onto his lap, laying his paws on Cas’ chest, tail wagging all the while. Cas laughs again and scratches the pup’s ear. Cas looks into the dog’s deep brown eyes and he sees something in them, a twinkle of sorts, and Cas feels the warmth of affection bloom in his chest.

“Now, what are we gonna call you, huh?” Cas muses aloud. He thinks of stereotypical dog names and pitches them to his newfound friend.

“Spot?”

The dog’s tail halts its wagging. Cas takes the hint.

“Rover?”

He lets out a small whimper.

“Toto?” Cas asks, getting desperate.

The pup lowers his head, seeming to shake it in disbelief. Cas sighs. He looks around him, trying to get some kind of inspiration. His gaze falls on the ornate cover of his favourite book. He looks at the canine warily, as he pitches one last idea.

“How about… Dorian?”

The dog raises his head and tilts it to the side, considering, before the tail is back to wagging at full force. He does a happy little hop and licks a wet stripe up Cas’ face. Cas bursts into laughter as he wipes his cheek with his sleeve.

“Dorian it is!”

Cas packs away his books and slings the backpack over his shoulders. He looks back at Dorian and for a brief moment, he worries that the animal won’t follow him without a leash. He takes an experimental few steps forward and beams when Dorian trots along beside him. They make the short walk home and Cas is thankful that he doesn’t live on a very well trafficked street.

Cas opens the door to his house and holds it ajar for Dorian, the dog heading in obediently. Once inside, though, Cas can see Dorian lose some of his pep when faced with the new and unfamiliar surroundings. Cas gets down on his knees and gives his friend a comforting pat.

“It’s alright. You’re safe here,” Cas says soothingly. Dorian looks at Cas for a moment before wagging his tail and turning around, about to go explore the rest of the house, but Cas quickly stops him.

“Not so fast, Dorian. We have to get you cleaned up first.”

With that, he leads his newfound pet upstairs to the bathroom and closes the door. After a moment’s consideration, Cas pulls his phone out of his pocket and sends a group text to Charlie and Dean.

 

Delivered 2:28 pm:

Do you think you could come over? There’s someone I’d like you to meet :)

 

A reply comes in from Charlie a few seconds later.   

 

Received 2:29 pm:

wow an actual emoticon????!! must be smth special! u have peaked my interest, im there!! :D shift ends at 3, see u soon xx

           

Cas smiles as he looks at her text, already looking forward to seeing Charlie’s reaction to Dorian. Still waiting on Dean’s reply, Cas starts to run the water in the tub. He makes sure it’s a good temperature before gently placing Dorian inside it. The dog immediately goes to jump out of the confinement, but Cas blocks the way and tuts him. After two more escape attempts, Dorian finally gets the picture and stays in the bath. Cas grabs the cup off the bathroom counter and pours water over the dog. Then, he gently works the shampoo (unfortunately of the human variety, but Cas hopes that Dorian will be fine if he only uses it once) into his fur, taking great care not to get any in the pup’s eyes. As he lathers, Cas doesn’t like how prominently he can feel Dorian’s ribs poking out of his skin. He frowns a little, mentally vowing to treat his dog will all the love he deserves. He picks up the cup again and starts to rinse out the shampoo. As he’s doing it, his phone chimes. It takes all of Cas’ will power to not rush Dorian’s bath.

Finishing up, he lifts Dorian out of the bath and shields himself as Dorian shakes his tiny body of the moisture it had acquired, the spray flying everywhere. Cas chuckles and wraps a towel around Dorian, rubbing him dry. Dorian keeps trying to squirm out of Cas’ hold, but Cas is firm, not wanting the pup to drip water everywhere. After a few minutes, Cas deems him dry enough and opens the bathroom door to let Dorian out. He unplugs the bath drain and grabs his phone to see the text from Dean.

           

Received 2:38 pm:

doesn’t sound like a good idea

 

Cas looks at the text in confusion before realizing that Dean would naturally assume Cas wanted him to meet a person. And Dean doesn’t want people (for obvious reasons) to know that he and Cas are friends. Or, if Dean thinks that the person is another PDS sufferer… well, much as Cas is loathe to admit it, he knows Dean wouldn’t be especially keen on meeting them either.

 

Delivered 2:40 pm:

Don’t worry, it’s not what you’re thinking.

 

Dean replies a moment later.

           

Received 2:41 pm:

then what is it

 

Cas considers just telling him to alleviate his worries, but a more childish part of Cas wants to keep his newfound friend a secret for now until Dean can see Dorian for himself.

 

Delivered 2:41 pm:

It’s a surprise.

 

Received 2:42 pm:

cas I like surprises as much as I like a hangover…

 

Cas couldn’t help but chuckle as he read that, before thumbing out a quick reply.

           

Delivered 2:42 pm:

Just trust me.

 

Received 2:44 pm:

ur a dick. be there in a bit

 

Shaking his head in fond exasperation, Cas heads downstairs in search of Dorian. What he finds makes his face almost break in two with the intensity of his smile. Dorian lies on the couch, his head on his paws, looking like he hasn’t a care in the world. He’s clean and seemingly happy, if a little worn down and too-thin. Cas looks at his dog and sees the utter contentment written on his face and the relaxed nature of his body, and Cas feels a sense of not only happiness, but pride. He did that. He gave this dog a home, a safe place. Cas wonders about the last time that Dorian had that, if there even was one. Cas goes over and sits by the dog’s side. Dorian rolls over so that his stomach is facing Cas, and Cas is happy to take the hint. He rubs Dorian’s exposed tummy as the dog’s tail wags anew. After a few minutes, the doorbell rings and the tranquillity is shattered as Dorian bolts off the couch, barking at the door.

Cas opens the door and ushers Dean inside quickly so as not to let Dorian out.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas greets happily. Dean looks from Cas to Dorian, smirking a little.

“Hey, yourself. The surprise, I take it?” Dean replies, gesturing to Dorian. Cas beams, nodding.

He watches as Dean squats down and holds out his hand to the pup. Dorian is much quicker to accept Dean for obvious reasons, and soon Dean is petting him like they’re old friends. Cas stands there, quietly committing the picture to memory.

Dean is dressed in a ratty Metallica tee and a pair of jeans that are beginning to tear around the knees, with a pair of black converse adorning his feet. Cas thinks to himself that it’s nice to see the boy out of military green once and a while. Dean has a small smile on his face as he plays with Dorian. Dean looks as happy as Dean seems to get, and Cas can’t stop smiling.

So distracted is he, that it takes him a minute to realize that Dean is asking him a question.

“Hm?” Cas prompts absentmindedly.

“I said, what’s his name?”

Cas braces himself for the inevitable teasing. He realizes that he really hadn’t thought this through at all…

“Erm, Dorian?” Cas confirms, coming out as more of a question. Dean stares blankly at him.

“What.”

“Dorian,” Cas repeats with a bit more confidence. Dean raises his eyebrows incredulously.

“Dorian the dog? Dude, you can’t be serious.”

“Quite serious. He likes it!”

Dean looks at Dorian, clearly questioning the animal’s sanity, before looking back at the owner.

“Where the hell did you even get a name like that?” Dean asks.

“It’s from one of my favourite books,” Cas replies. Dean rolls his eyes, but it’s not mean-spirited.

“Castiel and Dorian. You two were made for each other,” Dean says with an amused smirk, looking at Dorian. The dog tilts his head to the side and Dean suddenly barks out a laugh.

“What?” Cas questions, curious as to the reason for the sudden outburst.

“It’s just… he does that thing you do.”

“What thing?” Cas asks and, without thinking, tilts his head. Dean laughs again and gestures to him.

“That! The head-tilt thing!” Dean says.

“I didn’t even realize I did that,” Cas chuckles, a little embarrassed. Dean smiles at him and Cas’ chest feels suddenly constricted.

“You do it when you’re confused about something, it’s kind of hilarious,” Dean says. Cas smiles a little, and raises his eyebrows a fraction in surprise. Now it’s Dean’s turn to be confused.

“What’s that look for?” Dean grumbles, probably thinking he’s being mocked somehow.

“I just didn’t know you paid that much attention, is all,” Cas says quietly. Dean looks at him for a moment and opens his mouth as if to say something, but is interrupted by the doorbell. Cas opens the door and lets Charlie in and Dorian bounds up to greet her, tongue and tail wagging excitedly.

“Oh my god, you got a dog?!” Charlie squeals, immediately dropping down to play with the pup.

Dean clears his throat pointedly. “What am I, chopped liver?”

Charlie looks up, only just noticing Dean’s presence. “Oh! Hi, Dean! Didn’t realize you’d be here.”

Much to Cas’ horror, Charlie turns around to face Cas and waggles her eyebrows suggestively. Cas gives her a death glare, and she goes back to playing with Dorian, Dean thankfully none the wiser of the brief silent exchange.

“And what’s your name, little guy?” Charlie asks, directing the question more at Cas.

“Dorian,” Cas answers, dutifully ignoring Dean’s snort of derision.

“As in Oscar Wilde Dorian? Nice,” Charlie says approvingly. Dean jaw drops incrementally as he looks from Charlie to Cas, before the shocked expression peters away to an unimpressed frown.

“I need new friends,” Dean mumbles grumpily.


A few hours later, Dean and Charlie take their leave. Cas bids them goodbye and shuts the door, breathing out an exhausted but happy sigh. He looks at Dorian, who seems to be feeling the same way. Cas suddenly feels a pang of guilt when he realizes that he hasn’t given Dorian any food or water.

He grabs a bowl from the cupboard and fills it with water, placing it on the ground. Dorian laps it up with extreme vigour and Cas watches him, thinking about what food he could possibly give him. The fridge is empty and the few foods left in the cupboard would most likely make a dog ill.

Unless… Cas thinks, going to the top cupboard and reaching towards the very back. He feels around for a box and smiles when he finds what he’s looking for. He pulls out an old box of dog biscuits.

They’d never had a dog, but Gabriel – fun-spirited yet devious child that he was – kept dog biscuits on hand in case he could ever manipulate someone into eating one (the burden tending to fall on poor Samandriel).

For once, Cas was glad of his younger brother’s pranks, and for a moment he felt the now familiar pang of remembrance, before dropping three of the biscuits beside Dorian’s water bowl. The dog sniffed the biscuits tentatively before biting into one.

“I know it’s not exactly gourmet, but we’ll get you all set up tomorrow,” Cas explains apologetically. Dorian lets out a content little chuff before going back to his biscuits.

Cas sits next to Dorian on the floor and leans against the bottom cupboards.

“They would have loved you,” Cas says, smiling a little sadly as he thinks – as he so often does – of his family.

It’s at that moment that Cas realizes the lethargy and listlessness of that morning had all but evaporated. He looks at Dorian and a light bulb flickers to life in his head. It all made sense; not only had he gained a friend, Cas had gained a purpose. And he decided that having a purpose, no matter how small, was a good feeling. He smiles and gives Dorian an affectionate pat on the head.

“It’s just you and me, Dorian,” Cas intones softly.

And that, Cas thinks contentedly, really doesn’t sound that bad at all.  


 

Chapter Text

 

“Dorian, do you feel I may have spoiled you a bit?” Cas asks his dog. The animal in question hops around on his newly purchased dog bed, switching from toy to toy, overwhelmingly excited from the selection and unable to choose just one to play with. Cas chuckles warmly, “No, I didn’t think so.”

It had been little over a week since Cas had gained his furry roommate, and he couldn’t be happier. It seemed that the loneliness that so often crept up on Cas and tapped him on the shoulder was chased away by the comfort that unconditional companionship could provide. And, in the event that he took a bad turn, Dorian seemed to be able to sense it, trotting over to Cas’ side and laying his scruffy head in Cas’ lap. While scratching the pup’s ears and petting the scraggly fur didn’t completely erase the occasional sadness, it gave him something else to focus on and made the feelings easier to cope with.

The fading evening sunlight trickles in through the kitchen window as Cas fixes Dorian his supper and freshens his water bowl. Just as he finishes, his phone starts ringing. He pulls it out of his pocket and swipes to the right.

“Hello?”

“Uh, hey, it’s Dean.”

“Hello, Dean,” Cas answers, happily surprised to hear the other boy’s voice.

“So, me and Sammy were thinking of going bowling tonight. You in?”

Cas hesitates for a fraction of a second.

“Bowling? With you?”

“And Sam.”

“…In public?” Cas clarifies.

“Oh, well, not really. A buddy of mine is the manager at the bowling alley, he swiped the keys for me so we can go after closing. Pretty sure the guy thinks I’ve got a hot date or something from the way he acted,” Dean explains with a laugh. Cas thinks he hears a nervous edge to it, but he shrugs it off.

“That would be the easier explanation,” Cas says.

“No kidding. So… what do ya say?”

Cas casts a glance at Dorian, who is happily munching on his kibble. Cas still worries slightly about leaving the dog alone, but so far Dorian had been fine while Cas had gotten pet supplies, so he doesn’t see a problem with going out for an hour or two. “Absolutely, I can’t remember the last time I went bowling.”

A laugh on the other end of the line, this one sounding much more Dean, “Well, prepare to get your ass kicked.”

Cas chuckles and leans against the counter, “We’ll see about that. I may surprise you.”

“Yeah, you always do,” Dean says with a chuckle. Cas raises his eyebrows at the unexpected reply and tries to come up with something to say, but ultimately fails. The line is silent for a moment or two before Dean clears his throat.

“Pick you up ‘round 10, then?”

“That would be great.”

“’Kay, I’ll text you when I’m there.”

Cas smirks, feeling a bit playful, “Dean, I’m fairly certain I could hear the roar of that engine from at least a mile away.”

“Heh, yeah, that’s Baby all right,” and Cas is sure he can hear the smile through the phone.

“You made fun of me for naming my dog ‘Dorian’, but you call your car ‘Baby’?” Cas counters.

“Touché, Novak. See ya soon.”

“Goodbye, Dean.”

“Later, Cas.”


Just as Cas had predicted, he hears the tell-tale roaring of Dean’s sleek black Impala at five after ten. Cas stands up from the couch where he’d been channel-flipping with Dorian and checks his appearance in the hallway mirror before mentally chiding himself for such ridiculous behaviour. He gives Dorian a wave and tries not to feel too guilty when the pup lets out a small yet sorrowful whine.

“I’ll be back soon, little guy,” Cas reassures him.

As Cas walks out the door, he automatically reaches out to where his trenchcoat hangs on the coatrack, but stops short, his hands brushing the beige fabric worn soft through use. He gives it a questioning glance before a car honks and Cas smiles, rolling his eyes at the elder Winchester’s obvious impatience, before deciding to forgo the coat. He walks out the door and slides into the backseat of the car.

“Hello, Dean, Sam. Thank you for inviting me,” Cas says politely.

“No problem,” Dean replies.

Dean’s clipped tone is a complete 180 to the voice he had spoken to on the phone earlier, and for a moment Cas is terrified that he’s done something wrong. He voices his concern. Sam’s small brunette head turns around in his seat to regard Cas seriously.

“It’s nothing you did, Cas, don’t worry about it,” says the boy. Even in the dim light of the street lamps, Cas can see the dark black eye that adorns Sam’s face.

Before he can think better of it, the words are already out of Cas’ mouth, “God, Sam, what happened to you?”

Dean visibly tenses and his grip on the steering wheel tightens. Cas puts two and two together and reasons that the black eye is the cause of the tension that lays thick in the car.

Cas’ anxiety surfaces and he picks at his nails, feeling uncomfortable in such an environment.

Sam sighs, “I had a run-in with some bullies at school today, no big deal…”

“No big deal?” Dean suddenly cries out indignantly, “How can you even say that, Sam?”

Cas feels Dean’s anger towards Sam, and doesn’t particularly understand it. Surely Dean doesn’t actually blame Sam for others’ violent stupidity? He wants to ask, but feels as if he would be intruding on what is clearly a family matter.

“Dean, come on, can we just drop it?” Sam asks, his voice pleading.

“No, I’m not gonna just fucking drop it. You know why? ‘Cause I wanna know why the hell you let those guys beat the shit out of you.”

And that was about all Cas had to hear to break his silence. He bristled at Dean’s words, angry that Dean would berate Sam for “letting” himself get hurt. As a victim of bullying himself in his younger days, Cas knew there was no “letting” about it.

“Dean, I very much doubt that Sam had any choice in the matter,” Cas says icily. Dean actually laughs.

“No choice? He could have fought back!

“They were probably bigger than him!”

“You bet they were.”

“Then why are you saying all this?”

“Because he could have taken them.

Cas pauses in the argument, confusion replacing some of the anger. He’s trying to figure out what to say when Sam, who’d been understandably quiet, speaks up.

“He’s right.”

“What? But… if they were bigger than you…?” Cas asks, trailing off.

“They were bigger, but Dad trained me for that. To use people’s strength against them.”

And then it clicks. Cas had erroneously assumed that Dean, an avid member of the HVF, was the only one to be trained by John Winchester, but of course the man would have trained both his boys. Cas’ stomach sickens at the thought; Sam would have been even younger than Dean if John had started their training at the same time.

“You didn’t fight back,” Cas says, more of a statement than a question. Sam nods. Cas can’t help but continue, “Why?”

“Exactly what I wanna know,” Dean agrees. Sam seems to shrink a little in his seat.

“I just… I don’t want any part of it. That life. And I…”

“What, Sam?” Cas coaxes gently, not exactly about to trust Dean’s sensitivity at that moment.

“I don’t want to be the freak,” Sam admits and Dean’s grip on the steering wheel becomes even tighter.

Cas risks a glance at the rear view mirror and looks at Dean’s face, caught in obvious indecision. The bright green eyes flick from the road to Sam, and his expression seems angry still, but considering. Cas wonders if it was always like this for Dean: caught between his loyalty to his father and to what his life had become, and his fierce protectiveness of his brother. Suddenly Dean’s vice-like grip on the steering wheel slackens, and his body seems to lose some of its tension, and it’s clear to Cas that Dean has made up his mind. Dean is not going to let this come between him and the boy who Cas assumes is one of Dean’s only allies in this dark and broken world.

“I didn’t know you felt that way,” Dean admits, “And I know you got your reasons, even if I sure as shit don’t understand them. Just like I’ve got my reasons for trying to take care of my pain-in-the-ass little brother!” Dean finishes with a laugh, reaching out a hand to tussle Sam’s hair. Sam bats him away with indignation, true to form, but he’s smiling as he does it.

Cas finds himself smiling too, if a little bit sad, remembering what it felt like to have those moments of genuine unabashed affection for a sibling. Gabriel and Samandriel had – as all siblings do – gotten on Cas’ nerves extremely often, but at the end of the day, Cas loved them more than he ever had a chance to express.

Dean pulls the Impala to a stop in an empty parking lot in front of a building with a flashing “Bwlig” sign, the “o” and “n” having evidently burnt out. Dean puts the car in park and turns off the rumbling engine.

“Well,” Dean says, looking at his two passengers, “What do you say we forget about all this and have ourselves a good time, huh?”

Cas and Sam both nod with a smile as Dean fumbles with a set of keys he’d procured from his jacket pocket. Six keys and some light cursing later, the front door is successfully unlocked and the unlikely trio walk inside. Dean flicks on the lights.

Cas has immediate flashbacks of every terrible 80s movie he’s ever seen.

Everything is various shades of gaudy neon, faded with age and use. It’s a rather small place, with only five 10-pin bowling lanes and a small bar in the back that looks like it’s seen better days. Each lane has a table with uncomfortable-looking chairs, the bright veneer well-worn and cracking.

Despite the grim appearance, Cas feels more excited than he has been in months.

Sam goes to take a seat at one of the lane’s tables, beginning to input their names into the ancient computer system that controls the scoreboard. Dean, on the other hand, heads to a booth towards the side of the alley. Both brothers look like they’ve done this a thousand times before.

Dean hops the booth, and emerges with a pair of bowling shoes.

“Hey Sammy, what size shoes you want for those clown feet of yours?” Dean asks with a smirk. Sam rolls his eyes and Cas tries (and fails) to bite back a smile.

“Ugh, gross. Do you know how many germs-“ Sam starts, but Dean interrupts impatiently.

“Do you want ‘em or not?”

“Yeah, I’ll pass.”

“Suit yourself, spoil sport. Cas?”

Dean looks at Cas expectantly, awaiting an answer. Cas is tempted to side with Sam, but one look at Dean’s boyish grin and he knows he’s screwed.

“Size 11, please.”

“You got it.”

Dean emerges a minute later in a pair of lime green shoes with highlighter yellow laces, holding out an electric blue pair to Cas, which he takes.

“Real stylish,” Sam remarks sarcastically.

“You’re just jealous,” Dean replies, clicking his heels together.

And with that they start the game, Dean going first, Sam second, and Cas last. Dean lines up his shot and knocks down all pins but one, a mistake he rectifies on his second shot. He smiles smugly as he swaggers back to his seat. Sam takes his turn and ends up knocking down an admirable eight pins. Then it’s Cas’ turn.

Cas walks up to the lane feeling suddenly – and somewhat ridiculously – nervous. He looks at the balls and realizes that they’re the classic bowling balls, with the three holes to put your fingers in for better grip. He’s never used ones like these before; the last time he went bowling, he was a child at someone’s birthday party and the bowling balls were much smaller, capable of fitting in one hand. He picks up the ball and holds it awkwardly. He attempts to line up his shot and-

Almost immediately into the gutter.

“Do you need us to put some bumpers on the lane for you, dude?” Dean calls out and without even looking at him, Cas knows he’s got a teasing grin on his face. Cas doesn’t turn around, he just holds up his middle finger in form of reply. He can hear Dean and Sam laugh, and he smiles, feeling a wonderful lightness in his stomach.

Cas takes an extra few moments with his second shot, getting used to the feel of the ball and lining up properly. He breathes out slowly and lets the ball loose.

All pins are knocked down in one fell swoop.

Cas turns around with a triumphant smile to see Sam laughing and Dean with his mouth slightly open in a shocked “o”. The latter recovers quickly and leans back in his chair, attempting to look cool and collected.

“Pfft, beginner’s luck,” he says. He then gets up and starts to make his way towards the lane, getting ready to take his turn.

“You wish,” Cas tosses back, going to pass Dean. Dean lightly punches Cas’ arm in the jovial manner so often attributed to friends. It actually makes Cas stop dead in his tracks, but Dean doesn’t notice as his back is towards his surprised friend.

Cas is almost certain that this is the first time Dean has initiated contact with him (while sober at least, but Cas has become accustomed to not thinking about that too much). A moment later when Cas comes to, he risks a glance at Sam who is regarding Cas with what can only be described as extreme amusement. Cas quickly averts his eyes and smiles shyly as he takes his seat.

It’s silent save for the soft mechanical whir of the various lane mechanisms and some mumbled cursing from Dean, who’s current turn is evidently not going as well as his last one. The silence at their table is broken by the creaking of Sam’s chair as he gets out of it, opting to sit in the one right beside Cas instead. Cas can feel that I-need-to-tell-you-something-important energy in the air, and a more immature part of him just wants to keep his eyes forward so as not to have to deal with it. As he watches Sam’s expectant face in his peripherals, however, Cas turns towards him.

“So, I’ve been thinking…” Sam starts, looking like he’s trying to find the right words to say what he wants to. Cas finds this odd, seeing as how Sam Winchester doesn’t strike him as the type of person who gets lost for words. They speak in quiet tones, so as not to be overheard.

“What about?”

“Just that I think you’re… a good thing.”

“Um, thank you?” Cas replies awkwardly, not exactly knowing how to respond to what he assumes is a compliment.

“No, I mean, a good thing for him,” Sam replies, his eyes skidding over to Dean.

“Who, Dean?” Cas clarifies incredulously, biting back a startled laugh, “I’m fairly certain your brother could do just fine without me.”

Sam shakes his head. “I mean it. I think he’s smiled more today alone than I’ve seen him smile in the past month.”

Cas’ eyes widen at the sudden honest confession, but not quite in disbelief; he knows that Dean has a deep sadness he keeps locked tightly in the confines of his heart. Sometimes Cas privately wishes he could reach it, but then again, maybe it’s not his to reach.

“I’m sure that’s nothing to do with me. You’re his brother, after all, he probably just enjoys spending time with you,” Cas reasons, unsure if he’s ready to accept what he thinks Sam may be getting at.

“I know he does, but… it’s not the same. When he smiles at me, it just looks like… some kind of apology? I don’t even really know for what, but it’s hard to look at sometimes. I doubt he even knows he does it. But when he smiles at you, it’s like… he’s just Dean. He’s not John Winchester’s son, he’s not an HVF member, he’s not the brother who feels like he failed, he’s just Dean. And… and I guess I wanted to thank you for that, it’s been too long since I’ve seen him like that, so thank you.”

Cas is stunned into silence. His brain has sent his thoughts careening off their tracks and he doesn’t quite know how to recover them enough to form a coherent response.

Just then, Dean comes back to his seat, looking rather grumpy. “These lanes are off-kilter, man, I’m telling you.”

Cas smiles a little in spite of Sam’s confusing news, and can’t resist replying, “It is a poor carpenter who blames his tools.”

Dean just rolls his eyes, but the side of his mouth twitches as he does so, like he’s trying not to laugh.

Cas looks at this and all he can think is that there’s something he’s just not getting. Sam had said that he – somehow – makes Dean happy, but had it not been Dean himself who said that Cas caused him so much pain? How could both things be happening at the same time? Without thinking, Cas puts his right arm across his chest, and lays his hand on the spot on his upper left arm where Dean had touched him.

In the against-all-odds journey of their burgeoning friendship, Cas had never even considered that he made Dean happy. He had always assumed it was only the other way around. 


The rest of their game passes by quickly. In the end, Sam surprises them all by taking the lead, Cas not too far behind him, and Dean bringing up the rear (which he, predictably, was none too pleased about).

They head towards the Impala after Dean had locked up, laughing and teasing Dean about his loss. Sam surprises Cas by opening the rear door of the vehicle, giving Cas an undecipherable look before he slides in. Cas just shakes his head in a why-would-you-do-this-to-me fashion, before opening the passenger door and getting in.

If Dean is surprised at the new seating arrangement, he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he cranks up some angry-sounding rock music and peels out of the drive.

Cas looks at Dean and realizes that this is Dean in his element: riding in his car, listening to music, and mouthing along while drumming his hands on the steering wheel enthusiastically. Cas smiles as he looks, Dean looks free in a way that Cas had never quite seen before. He decides he’d like to see a lot more of it.


They make short order of the drive home, getting lost in singing along loudly and off-key to the music (or at least, Dean and Sam do, Cas has never heard these songs in his life but he’s more than happy to watch the brothers’ antics). Soon enough, the Impala’s engine is rumbling in Cas’ driveway. He gives the boys another word of thanks, waving as the pair drive away.

He unlocks his front door, and is eagerly greeted by his furry friend. Cas laughs and squats to scratch Dorian’s ears. Dorian licks a wet stripe up Cas’ cheek in response. It mars Cas’ cover-up, but he’s unbothered. This is one person he’d never have to hide from.

“Hey, buddy. Yes, yes, I missed you too!” Cas laughs.


Later that night, Cas falls asleep with Dorian in his bed, memories of Metallica in his ears, and Dean in his thoughts.

Chapter Text

A few days later finds Dean and Cas on Cas’ living room couch, finishing up the last installment of the original Star Wars films (because apparently the others aren’t worth watching, according to Dean).

As Cas’ gaze is fixed to the screen where Luke is burning the body of his newly discovered father, he absentmindedly goes to stroke Dorian, who is currently lying on the couch between the two boys. When he reaches out, however, he makes contact with Dean’s hand, who’d apparently had the same idea. Cas looks over to him, startled, and Dean does the same thing. They both pull their hands back. An awkward moment ticks by.

“Sorry,” Dean mumbles gruffly, looking away. Cas just tries to fight a smile as he looks back to the screen.

When the credits roll, both boys get up and stretch a little. Cas is just about to ask Dean what he wants to do now, when he’s interrupted by scratching on his front door and loud, keening whines. Dorian stands at the door, seemingly restless.

Cas shoots Dean an apologetic look. “Do you mind if I take him for a walk? I forgot I haven’t done it yet today. You can stay here if you want.”

Dean shrugs. “Nah, I don’t mind coming.”

Cas smiles. “Alright then, after you,” he says, holding the door open with a flourish.

“You’re so weird,” Dean replies, but he laughs as he says it. He walks through the door, closely followed by Dorian and Cas.

As they walk down the streets of Cas’ neighbourhood, Cas feels a contentedness that he hasn’t felt in a very long time. There’s something about this situation that feels strangely domestic, a type of simple intimacy that had evaded him until now. He tries not to read into these things too much, things like how Dean’s arm keeps brushing his as they walk.

For the first little while, they walk in silence. Cas kicks a stone idly, wondering if he should say something, but at the same time not really minding the quiet. Dean ends up making the decision for him.

“You know, I always figured you as more of a cat person,” he says.

“Oh? Why’s that?” Cas replies.

Dean suddenly looks a bit embarrassed, one of his hands coming up to rub at the back of his neck. “I dunno… You’re quiet and smart and you seem like you think a lot. And you like to be by yourself.”

“And I can’t be those things and like dogs?” Cas asks, mock annoyed. Dean immediately backpedals.

“No, no, I mean- it’s more like- uh-“

Cas can’t help himself, he starts laughing. Recognizing that he’s being teased, Dean just shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

“Asshole,” he mutters without venom, bumping Cas’ shoulder with his.

“I’ll admit, you weren’t far off with your assessment,” Cas says.

“Fuckin’ knew it.”

“Although… I don’t really like being alone. It’s more situational than preferential. I mean, yes, I do enjoy my own company, but it’s different when you have no choice in the matter. Do you understand what I mean?”

“Yeah, I think I do,” Dean replies with an indecipherable expression. There’s a sad crease in the furrow of Dean’s brows and Cas tries to think of something he could say that would smooth it out.

Before he can, though, the sounds of raucous laughter and a Jeep engine echo down the road. Dean and Cas freeze. There is a cruel edge to the laughter that they recognize and sure enough, as the vehicle crests the top of a hill, a group of HVF members are stationed within it. Dean looks at Cas frantically and then at their surroundings. Cas knows he’s looking for a place to hide, and Cas also knows that there is none – at least, none they could get to in time.

As the Jeep gets ever closer, Dean just casts a pleading glance at Cas and Cas understands immediately what he’s asking for, and that he really has no choice but to agree with the plan he can see forming beneath Dean’s forest green eyes. Cas nods and braces himself.

He watches, quietly horrified, at the transformation of Dean’s expression. What was once open and light-hearted is now closed off, cold, and angry. Cas knows it’s an act, knows it’s necessary for both of their survival, but Dean’s glare pierces him and makes his chest ache.

Dean makes a show of shoving him. It’s not that hard, but it’s hard enough to force Cas to the ground and he falls to the gravel by the side of the road. Dorian yips in concern and trots over to Cas, staring up with confused brown eyes at Dean.

Cas notices the Jeep slowing down at the staged scene.

Dean must notice this too because he cranks it up a notch. He winds up his leg for a kick, and for one wild moment Cas tenses in expectance of a blow he should know won’t be coming. He wonders what that means, but decides now is not the best of times to puzzle it over. Dean’s leg kicks out and although the toe of his boot makes contact with Cas’ stomach, it’s only just. Enough to make it look as though a blow had been landed. Dean looks at Cas with slightly widened eyes and raises his brows expectantly, and it’s only then that Cas realizes he evidently hasn’t been reacting enough. He nods slightly and gestures vaguely for Dean to keep going. The Jeep has fully stopped now.

Dean winds up for another kick and this time when it brushes him, Cas jolts his body and makes wounded noises as if he’s really been struck.

“Don’t let me see your face again, you fucking corpse,” Dean spits angrily and this time Cas’ wounded noises aren’t one hundred percent fabricated. He keeps repeating the mantra in his head, just-an-act-just-an-act-just-an-act, but it hurts.

Cas wonders if maybe it hurts because this is what normal looks like in a town like theirs. Dean and Cas had been living in their own little bubble, and Cas mentally chides himself for being so naïve as to not having been prepared when the bubble inevitably burst. They’d been living in a fantasy, and this was the cold, hard reality. Had they just been kidding themselves? Could they really do this?

Cas is overwhelmed. All he can hear is Dean’s staged string of vitriol, Dorian’s distressed barking, and the HVF members’ encouraging cheers (having apparently recognized Dean).

“Hell yeah! You show ‘im, Dean!” they yell.

“Kick his ass, man!”

“Get him, that dirty fucking rotter!”

Cas squeezes his eyes shut, wanting more than anything for it to be over. He just wants it to be over, to just go home and pretend this never happened (or perhaps come to terms with the reality that it did, in fact, happen).

And then it’s over.

“Hey guys,” Dean says to the men in the Jeep, as if just now noticing their presence. He ignores Cas completely.

“We’re just heading down to the Roadhouse, planning on gettin’ fuckin’ smashed. You in?”

Dean laughs, and it pains Cas to hear the hollowness of it. “You really gotta ask?”

The men whoop their approval and tell Dean to hop in.

“You wanna finish this one off first or?” one of them asks Dean. It’s only then that Dean looks back at Cas.

“Nah, not even fuckin’ worth it.”

Cas doesn’t know why he looks right at Dean as he says it. Dean’s words are harsh, but his expression is the exact opposite. He’s facing away from the HVF members, and this expression, this gaze, is just for Cas. It’s filled with regret and hurt and about a thousand apologies. Cas is unsure whether it helps things, or just makes the pain worse.

With one last look, Dean gets in the car and speeds off, leaving Cas alone on the side of the road.

Cas sits up and brings his knees to his chest, hugging them. Dorian tentatively walks up to his side, nudging Cas’ arm with his nose. Cas pets him absentmindedly, trying to focus on the feel of Dorian’s scraggly fur rather than the tornado of thoughts running rampant in his mind.

The Jeep and its occupants are long gone by the time Cas shakily gets up off the unforgiving ground. He feels too much. The type of feeling too much when the emotions blur together and you just end up with numbness. This numbness is what accompanies him on his short journey home, Dorian not far behind.

When Cas gets through the front door, he suddenly feels so exhausted that he could just collapse against it. Instead, he makes his way to the couch. He pauses at the coat rack. On it is a military style jacket. Dean’s jacket. Cas reaches out and traces his fingers over the large “H.V.F.” patch on the arm. Cas has noticed that, while Dean still wears the jacket, he takes it off whenever he’s around Cas. As soon as Dean gets into Cas’ house, for example, taking off his jacket is the first thing he does. It was something that Cas quietly appreciated, but now? Now it just feels like some sort of useless denial at their situation. Cas sighs and drops his hand from the jacket.

He heads to the living room and flops down on the couch. He flips on the television to a random channel, using it as white noise. He lies there and closes his eyes, and within minutes he’s asleep.


Cas wakes up groggy and disoriented in the way that indicates you’ve slept too long. He checks his phone, wanting to know the time, and realizes he has ten texts. All from Dean at varying times. A part of Cas wants to ignore them, but he finds he can’t. Resigning himself, he picks up the phone and starts reading.

           

Delivered 5:57 pm:

I’m sorry

 

Delivered 6:14 pm:

did I go too far

 

Delivered 6:48 pm:

I had to go w/ them, u get that right? It’s not bc I wanted to

 

The further Cas reads, the drunker the messages seem to get.

 

Delivered 7:30 pm:

Casss pls anser me ok??

           

Delivered 7:46 pm:

wtf where ru

 

Delivered 7:49 pm:

fuck u cas

 

Delivered 8:07 pm:

didnt mean it srry

 

There is a gap in the messages for a while, and these ones seem soberer.

 

Delivered 10:39 pm:

Christ just read those messages back, sorry bout that. Can we pls just talk about this?

 

Delivered 10:52 pm:

Cas come on

 

Delivered 11:03 pm:

Fuck it, I’m on my way.

 

Cas looks at the timestamp of the last text and realizes with a start that it was only sent about ten minutes ago, meaning that Dean could be here any time now.

True to form, it’s then that Cas hears the roar of the Impala’s engine pull into his driveway.

Cas throws open the door. Dean sits in the car and gestures for him to get in. Cas wants to refuse, wants to go back inside, but finds himself getting in the passenger seat anyway after a quick reassurance for a barking Dorian.

Dean peels out of the driveway faster than Cas is strictly comfortable with. For a few minutes they don’t say anything, and Cas is wondering why he even got in the car at all.

Dean looks tired and haggard. His hair is in disarray like he’s yanked his fingers through it too many times. The car smells of old booze.

“Where are we going?” Cas asks, breaking the silence. Dean sighs.

“Anywhere.”

They drive in silence for a few more minutes until Cas has had just about enough.

“Dean… why am I here?”

As is so often Dean’s way, a choice phrase or question opens the floodgates of his tightly repressed emotions.

“I don’t know! I just… You weren’t responding to my texts and I needed to see you. To make sure you were all right. And to say… to tell you that… I’m fucking sorry, okay? I didn’t mean for that to happen. You know I had to do what I did though, right?”

Cas remains silent. After a moment, Dean lets out a hollow laugh, “Isn’t this where you say something smart and give me, I dunno, some kind of advice or some shit?”

Cas snaps, just a little, “What do you want me to say, Dean? I know you did what you had to. I understand, truly I do. But if you’re waiting for me to say it’s okay… I just can’t do that. None of this is okay.”

“What are you saying?” Dean replies, sounding almost angry.

“I’m saying that this isn’t a one-off. This is always going to happen. As long as we’re friends, this will never stop. You won’t stop being Dean Winchester, pride and joy of the HVF, and I won’t stop being dead.”

“Damnit, Cas, you’re the one who wanted to be friends in the first place!” Dean cries. Cas’ throat feels thick with tears he wishes he were able to shed.

“I know. I’m so sorry. I thought I could do this, but… I’m not sure I can.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

Cas racks his brain, trying to figure out a way to explain it.

“Do you kill PDS sufferers?” Cas asks bluntly.

“Well, I mean, I guess I-“

“Yes or no.”

Dean looks from the road to Cas and back again.

“Yes,” he says.

“Right. And am I not a PDS sufferer?”

“Fuck’s sake, Cas, it’s not that simple!”

“Yes it is, Dean! Don’t you understand? It is that simple! What makes me different from any other undead being you deal with?”

Dean is silent for a long moment. His grip alternates on the steering wheel, loosening and tightening in quick succession. He lets out a frustrated breath.

“I don’t know, you just… you just are, okay?”

Cas looks at Dean and he’s sure that his broken heart is easy to read in his dull blue eyes, “I wish that was good enough.”

The quiet words sit heavy in the tension-filled car. Dean’s grip on the wheel is vice-like, his knuckles turning white. It’s only then that Cas fully realizes just how fast they’re going, and they’re only getting faster. Cas watches the speedometer rise well over 60 mp/h and climbing. Cas feels his breaths begin to get too-frequent and shallow. His mind flashes back and forth from the Impala to his parent’s mini-van, from uneasy silence to screams, from a comfortable passenger seat to constricting bent metal.

“Dean, pull over.”

“’I wish that was good enough’? What the fuck does that even mean?”

“Pull the car over.”

“I mean, what do you want me to do? Am I supposed to just-“

Dean Winchester, pull this car over this fucking instant!” Cas all but screams. He doesn’t know if it’s the tone, the use of the full name, or the rare instance of profanity that gets Dean’s attention, but the Impala is suddenly squealing to a stop on the side of the road and Dean is looking at him with concern.

“Shit, Cas, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. Are you okay?”

“Fine, just give me a moment,” Cas manages to say. His eyes are closed and he’s trying desperately to regain his breathing.

After a few minutes, he’s back to some semblance of normal. He looks at Dean and tries not to falter when he looks into those eyes; he knows what he has to do.

“Dean… I think I need some time.”

“Time for what?”

“Time away from you.”

Dean flinches and Cas tries to remain firm as he continues, “When I’m around you… I convince myself that everything is fine. And… it’s not. Nothing about this town, this world, is fine. I can’t go through something like this every time the rug gets pulled out from under us. I don’t think I could handle that. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize it sooner.”

Dean just looks at Cas for a long moment, before saying, “So am I.”

Cas has to look away then, he’s afraid that if he looks into Dean’s eyes for any longer – at the tidal wave of emotion they usually guard so well – he’ll take everything back and he knows that he shouldn’t.

So, he looks purposefully forward as he says quietly, “Take me home, please.”

Dean doesn’t respond, just starts driving. Cas notices that he takes it slow, and he’s quietly grateful for it.

The silence that hangs thick in the car isn’t exactly awkward. It’s more… lacking. Something is missing and it’s evident in the atmosphere, but there’s nothing that Dean or Cas can do to rectify it.

Soon enough, they’re back at Cas’ house. Cas gets out of the car with a barely uttered ‘thank you’, and walks up to his front door. Before he can even turn around to wave, the Impala is gone and out of sight. Cas stares for a moment at the empty space where it was, before sighing and going into the house.

Dorian trots up to him happily, pleased that his owner is home. Cas contemplates how nice it must be to live such a simple existence, how nice it must be to not understand the cruelty and unfairness of the world.

Cas trudges up the stairs to his bedroom and puts on his favourite Ben Howard record. He listens to it as he robotically changes into a plain white tee and some sweatpants. He climbs into bed and just lies there, listening.

The numbness consumes him where he lies. He’s thinking of nothing, feeling nothing, being nothing. He’s not sure how long he continues like that. But then something cracks through the armor and Cas is wholly unprepared.

Bones plays, soft and slow. A line from it slaps Cas in the face, kicks him while he’s down.

 

Oh, you laugh like there’s hope in the story.

 

And that’s enough. Cas breaks, sobbing uncontrollably without tears. Always without tears. Dorian, who up until now had been lying at the foot of Cas’ bed, gets up and lays down beside him. Cas hugs his small friend, clinging to him like it’s his only tether to this harsh reality.

Cas cries himself to sleep that night, the lyrics of Bones echoing in his ears.

 

Oh, you love him like he’ll be there for always,

Always, honey, yeah, always near.

Chapter Text

Cas wakes up the next morning (or should he say afternoon) feeling just as exhausted as the night before. Noticing that he’s awake, Dorian stretches and stands, heading over and licking Cas’ face. Usually Cas would chuckle in delight and spend a few minutes lavishing Dorian with some attention, but today he just sighs and turns over in his bed, facing away from his small friend.

He picks his phone up off the nightstand. Taking a deep breath, he checks his messages (of which there are none). Cas closes his eyes with a despairing sigh, absolutely hating the hypocritical disappointment that rises in him at the lack of notifications. It’s not like he’s particularly surprised; Cas said he wanted space. He needed it. This was a good thing.

Although he can’t help but wonder… if it’s really such a good thing, why does it feel so awful?

When you’ve dealt with depression for as long as Cas has, you develop a certain sense of self-awareness. An uncanny ability to predict your own highs and lows, good days and bad. Sometimes you know right when you open your eyes in the morning.

And Cas knows without a shadow of a doubt that this is one of those days.

Cas spends the next hour or so performing the inevitable tossing and turning of those who are too awake to go back to sleep, but too tired to fully start their day. After emitting a frustrated sigh into his pillow loud enough to visibly startle Dorian, Cas resigns himself to getting up. He injects himself with his daily dose of neurotriptyline, momentarily relishing the short jolt of a feeling akin to pain because at least it was something. He gives his closet a brief thoughtful glance and shrugs, deciding that sweatpants and an ill-fitting t-shirt would suffice for today's plans (read: trying and ultimately failing not to feel too sorry for himself). He scrubs a hand through dirty hair, forgoing a shower, currently deeming it "too much work". He almost forgoes cover-up and his contacts as well, but he decides to put those on just in case.

Cas trudges downstairs, his every movement heavy with depression-induced lethargy. It's been a while since he's felt this way to this extent. By some twist of irony, Cas almost finds it comforting. The routine of the emptiness. This he knows how to deal with; it's the rest of the world that's the problem. 

How does the saying go? Better the devil you know...? 

Robotically, Cas pours Dorian some food – the only item in otherwise bare cupboards – and freshens his water bowl. The small canine munches and slurps happily, seemingly forgetting about his owner's odd behavior this morning. Cas is grateful for this, a prick of guilt stinging him. He had promised himself when he took Dorian in that he would only treat him with love, not flippant dismissals. The small animal is always there for Cas without fail, and Cas needs to be more appreciative of that very important fact.

While Dorian finishes eating, Cas goes into the other room and grabs his favourite toy: a small stuffed pheasant with an annoying squeaker that Dorian loved.

Cas walks back into the room with his hands behind his back, trying to hide the smile that threatens to spread. He tries to act nonchalant, but Dorian has the preternatural ability to detect when a game is about to be initiated. His head snaps up and he hops a little in excitement.

“Where’s your bird?” Cas asks innocently, and those are the magic words. Dorian is yapping happily and running circles around Cas’ feet. Cas keeps up the ruse for another moment or two and produces the toy from behind his back.

“There it is! Go get it, boy!” Cas says, throwing the toy across the room, a delighted Dorian running after it. He chews it mercilessly, squeaks filling the space, before bringing it back to Cas proudly.

The pair keep this routine up for a little while until Dorian seems sufficiently tuckered out. Cas then lets Dorian just lie on his dog bed, nuzzling his bird.

While the playful romp with his friend makes Cas feel marginally better, the blissful feeling of distraction is fast fading with every passing moment. Cas can almost feel his emotions dragging his body downwards, heavy and burdened.

He feels a bit twitchy, which is new to him. It’s not until he catches his fingers twitching towards his phone that he realizes why. He swipes to the right, opening up his messages. His thumb hesitates over Dean’s number, but quickly passes it, navigating to the correct chat.

 

Sent 1:37 pm:

Hi, Charlie. Would you happen to be free today?

 

Delivered 1:43 pm:

srry cas wish i could but im suuuuper swamped at work 2day! kinda an all hands on deck situation we got goin on here :S l8r this week??

 

Sent 1:45 pm:

That would be great. Good luck at work.

 

Delivered 1:48 pm:

thnx! im gonna need it lol :P my break’s ending tho so i g2g, but i’ll ttyl!! xo

 

Cas fights back his disappointment as he places his phone back in his pocket. Charlie has her own life outside Cas’ sphere of problems. Although Charlie is a wonderful help in that area, Cas can’t expect her to be able to drop everything whenever he has the slightest issue – nor would he want her to.

Cas could have almost laughed at the irony; for as long as he can remember he was alone

in matters such as these, always repressing and internalizing his thoughts and feelings. Alone was what he knew best, and yet now that he had it, he finds himself floundering in a way he’d never experienced before.

A sudden sense of restless energy overtakes him, and Cas feels the urge to get out of the house, deciding to go for a walk. He briefly debates taking Dorian with him, but with Cas’ destination growing ever clearer in his mind, Cas decides it’s a journey he’d be best taking alone. Grabbing a hoodie from the coat rack (for coverage rather than warmth), he heads towards the front door.

He’s going to go back to the cemetery.

Standing at the threshold of his house, Cas briefly considers whether he’s insane for doing this, but just as quickly decides that it doesn’t really matter. He feels like this is simply something he has to do. He doesn’t feel the need to visit his own empty resting place again, and he’s unable to put his finger on why exactly he feels so intent on going. He is, however, growing increasingly restless and some fresh air in withered lungs would not go unappreciated at that moment. So, Cas begins the walk.

At first he tries to let the dull, repetitive rhythm of his feet against pavement occupy his thoughts. Unfortunately for him, his mind is not so easily tamed and soon it is clouded by visions of deep green eyes and freckled skin and the brilliancy of a smile too-rarely seen.

Cas squeezes his eyes shut in a desperate attempt to ward off these thoughts, but closing his eyes brings forth memories of the tactile. Of lips on his. Rough, demanding, exhilarating. Cas snaps his eyes open faster than he had closed them.

Why is he still thinking about this? About Dean?

People stop being friends all the time (not that Cas has any prior knowledge in this particular area), but he knows it’s true. He hasn’t even known Dean for that long, and half that time was spent as enemies.

So why does it hurt so much?

In an odd way, Cas feels like he doesn’t deserve to be hurt. It was he who had ended things, he’s the one who said he needed time. Cas could still see Dean’s eyes tainted by the heartbreak displayed in them. He’s reminded of what Dean had said: You’re the one that wanted to be friends in the first place. Cas can’t refute that, and he feels overwhelming guilt that he’s the one who caused all this.

Cas wonders bitterly why it is that when you try to make a mature decision, to do what’s best for you, it always seems to end up hurting someone else.

And God help him, he misses the faux-macho, arrogant, impulsive, infuriating… beautiful boy.

Is that a normal way to think of a friend? Cas doesn’t quite know where “beautiful” had come from. The word had spelled itself out in the forefront of his brain and something deep within Cas seemed to reach out and grab it, holding it close, somehow knowing that it felt right. The word wasn’t about Dean’s outward appearance (or, well, wasn’t just about his outward appearance), but about his thoughts, his feelings, his heart and soul. The things that Cas so often contemplated diving headfirst into, wanting to share it all.

But why?

Cas continues to walk up a small hill, the beginnings of the cemetery’s wrought-iron gate starting to crest more and more the closer he gets to the top. Every step is a rhythmic reminder of his confusing tangle of thoughts and feelings.

Step. Dean.

Step. Dean.

Step. Dean?

An acoustic melody he’d had stuck in his head lately starts up its loop again without warning. Cas scrambles to place it.

 

Well I hope that I don’t fall in love with you,

Cuz fallin’ in love just makes me blue.

 

What Cas had thought were irrevocably disparate pieces, slot together in sudden, near-violent clarity, making Cas actually stop on the sidewalk, his hand on the cemetery gate.

Cas loves Dean.

If the situation were any less seemingly earth-shattering, Cas could almost laugh about how three little words could so easily change a life. Or two.

Everything makes sense. All the niggling persistent questions lingering in the back of Cas’ brain – some deliberately pushed to the back of Cas’ brain – suddenly answered.

Why did Dean making a show for the HVF members hurt so much? Because Cas loves Dean.

Why did ending things nearly destroy him? Because Cas loves Dean.

Why, no matter how hard he tried, couldn’t he stop thinking about that damnable kiss? Because Cas loves Dean.

All these questions and more are now explained so obviously, and Cas doesn’t quite know what to do with this newfound knowledge. Regaining his equilibrium, Cas opens the gate to the graveyard and tentatively walks into it.

Now that the shock of the realization is wearing off, Cas is quickly coming to the crushing conclusion that this ultimately doesn’t change anything. It just makes it even worse.

The fear he’s been feeling finally attaches to its source. He’s never been afraid of Dean, but rather he’s scared of getting hurt by Dean. Of getting his hopes up, only to have it all crash down around his ears. The inevitability of that isn’t going to change just because Cas cares about Dean even more than he thought he did.

Although what does his current strategy solve? Because Cas is afraid of getting hurt, he makes it so that Dean is the one hurting instead? Cas feels vaguely ill at the thought. It’s almost enough to make him want to- but no. He can’t think like that. Dean had barely even wanted to be friends with him, let alone more. The kiss floats across his brain but Cas clears away the wisps of memory before they can fully form.

If Dean has to get incoherently drunk in order to show any kind of romantic intention towards Cas, then Cas doesn’t want it. Not like that. And if Dean is incapable of anything other than that then, well, he doesn’t feel the same as Cas does.  

Cas plunks down on a stone bench perched under the shade of a large elm, his head falling into his hands in frustration. He shouldn’t want it to work out! It can’t work out. He knows that.

His head perks up, suddenly realizing why he needed to come here, to this place. His head swivels, looking for something. Once he sees it, he strides towards it – quickly, so as not to lose his nerve.

Within seconds, he’s there. Cas is in the exact spot where Balthazar had died – had been murdered. Most of the thick, black substance masquerading as blood had evidently been washed away. But when Cas kneels down and really looks, he can still see flecks of it staining a few unlucky blades of grass.

He takes deep breaths, fighting the panic attack he can feel brewing in the hollow of his chest. This is why he and Dean can never be together, in any capacity. They would always be on opposite sides of an ongoing war. Always caught in the middle of two worlds where there only used to be one.

Cas had fooled himself before, when he and Dean had been isolated in a world of their own making. Cas thought they could do it. That if they were caught in the middle, maybe they could build something together, a neutral safe haven. Perhaps it was never meant to last.

But then, Cas’ eye catches the grave he hid behind during the encounter with John. Without really planning on it, he stands up and slowly walks towards it. He brushes it with his hand, and quickly snatches it back when he realizes that he has no right to connect with the resting place of a person he’d never met and never would meet. But he looks at the ground and suddenly he’s right back to where he was that day: scared, barely breathing, all hope leaving him like sands through an hourglass. Dean approaching, ever-closer, dull blues locking with bright greens, pure desperation, uncontrollable relief.

What is it, son?

Nothing, it’s… nothing.

It would have been so easy, Cas muses. So easy to say, “There’s another one over here.” And yet, Dean remained silent, didn’t give him away when Cas assumes that every part of him was screaming to do just that.

Cas hates the inkling of hope for the future that trickles into his being.

Having had just about enough, Cas starts to leave, but stops short at the spot where Balthazar’s second life had been cruelly ripped from him. Cas sets a knee on the ground and touches the grass with an almost reverent caress.

“Thank you,” he whispers, hoping that somewhere, somehow, Balthazar hears him.

Cas wishes that he could properly mourn him, but with a sudden pang of sadness, Cas realizes that Balthazar never had a proper burial, that his body was somewhere in the forest, rotting in a heartless shallow grave.

Cas heaves one last sigh and starts the walk home, somehow feeling both lighter and heavier than before he came.


When Cas reaches his neighborhood, he has a moment of terror when he sees a figure standing at his door. As he approaches closer, though, he recognizes the mop of brunette hair and smiles a little, quickening his pace.

The figure raises his fist to knock again, but Cas interrupts him.

“Hello, Sam.”

Sam turns around in surprise, and smiles when he sees Cas. The smile makes Cas’ heart pang pathetically as he’s reminded of Dean. But, as is so often the way with Dean, Sam’s smile is somehow sad and it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Hi, Cas.”

Cas sidles by him and opens the door, an excited Dorian bounding up to the unexpected visitor. Sam is delighted and stoops down to pet Cas’ tiny roommate.

“Wow, I didn’t know you had a dog!” Sam says.

“I’ve only just recently acquired him,” Cas explains.

Cas tells Sam the dog’s name, and they make small-talk about Dorian, but it’s clear that Sam did not come here for idle chatter.

“Would you like to sit down?” Cas asks.

“Sure. Thanks,” Sam replies.

Sam sits on the couch while Cas opts for the chair adjacent to it, not wanting the nervous boy to feel crowded in any way.

“I’d offer you something, but I’m afraid the kitchen is rather bare,” Cas says politely, smiling at the boy in an attempt to make him feel more comfortable.

“It’s okay,” Sam says, chuckling a little. He picks at his fingernails. Cas wants to wait for Sam to work up the courage to say what he has to, but Cas’ curiosity gets the better of him.

“Why are you here, Sam?” Cas asks, not unkindly.

Sam takes a deep breath and lets out his next words all in one breath. “Something’s-wrong-with-Dean.”

Cas goes from relaxed to completely alert in the span of a blink. His posture is rigid in his chair, as if ready to spring into action at any moment if necessary.

“What’s wrong? What’s happened? Is Dean alright?” Cas demands worriedly.

“I’m not sure. He doesn’t tell me anything, so I’ve gotten pretty good at reading him. He came home yesterday and he was just… off. You know? I don’t think he even got any sleep last night. I heard pacing coming from his room.”

Cas feels ill, knowing exactly whose fault Dean’s pain is. He slumps in his seat, at the very least assured that Dean isn’t in any kind of immediate danger. Sam doesn’t notice the change in Cas’ demeanor and continues on.

“Ever since you guys have been hanging out, he’s gotten better. Smiling a little more, like he means it. Not that fake crap to make my dad happy. It was really great for a while, but now it’s like he’s going back to the way he was. And… I’m scared, Cas. I just want him to be happy.”

Cas feels ashamed. He starts to speak, trying and failing to stop his voice from wavering. “I’m so sorry.”

At first, Sam looks almost amused. “Why are you sorry? It’s not your fault.”

“Yes, it is.”

The confusion on Sam’s face holds hints of betrayal and Cas’ heart sinks. “Yesterday… I told Dean I couldn’t see him anymore.”

“What?! Why? I thought that maybe you- Why?” Sam asks, a desperate edge to his voice. Cas respects that edge, knows it’s out of love for his brother and a part of Cas is happy that if he himself can’t be there to protect Dean, Sam always will.

Cas takes a shaky breath and tells Sam what had transpired the day before. Cas feels comfortable with Sam. Perhaps not on the same level as Charlie, but comfortable all the same. He tells Sam a very edited version of what he realized today, about his fear of getting hurt, disappointed. He sees Sam’s expression soften at that. Sam listens and doesn’t interrupt at any point, for which Cas is grateful.

At fourteen years old, Sam is undoubtedly more mature than most his age, and Cas can’t help but feel a bit of sadness as to how that maturity came about, about how it was thrust upon him at too young an age.

Cas finishes his tale of woe, and Sam sits back in his seat, seemingly just trying to take it all in. Cas watches the minutiae of emotions flicker across Sam’s expression, in a way that is similar to Dean. But Cas notes that where Dean represses and attempts to hide any visible sign, Sam seems to process, moving through them analytically and placing each feeling in a designated box to be examined more at a later time.

“I forgive you,” are the first words out of Sam’s mouth and if Cas weren’t already sitting, he could almost collapse out of relief. It looks like Sam has more to say, though, so Cas stays silent, waiting.

“I… I understand. And I’m sorry you had to go through that, really I am. I know it must have been awful, but are you sure you’re doing the right thing? I think… I think there’s a difference between protecting yourself and sheltering yourself. Isolating yourself. It’s the easiest thing, but is it really going to make you happy? Because no offence, but you’re not exactly the picture of joy right now, man.”

The last sentence is said in a way so reminiscent of Dean that Cas can’t help the small chuckle that bubbles to his lips. “You’re right. But I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know what makes me happy.”

“Yes, you do.”

Cas tilts his head in Sam’s direction, confused. “What do you mean?”

Sam looks to the ceiling for a moment, as if asking for strength from a higher power, before saying, “I’ve seen the way you look at my brother.”

And Cas is floored. He stares at Sam, mouth slightly agape. Has he really been that obvious? A more childish part of Cas wants to refute the accusation, assert that he hasn’t the faintest clue what Sam is talking about, but he knows it’s useless. Sam is a smart kid; he doesn’t deserve Cas attempting to treat him like an idiot.

So, Cas doesn’t say anything at all.

Sam takes this as the confirmation it was meant to be and nods slightly. He takes the proffered hint that although Cas won’t deny it, he’s not ready to talk about it yet. Sam grabs his schoolbag (He must have taken a bus right from school, Cas thinks idly), and grabs his coat. Cas follows him to the door and they exchange slightly awkward, but pleasant goodbyes.

Just as Sam is about to close the door behind him, he pops his head back in.

“Cas?” he asks.

“Yes?”

“I just want you to know that no matter what you’re feeling… there are some things that are worth fighting for.”

Cas doesn’t know what to say to that, so he just nods. Sam smiles, sympathy in his eyes, and leaves. Cas watches him leave from the window and realizes that it has started to rain. Of course it’s raining, Cas thinks a little bitterly, the gloomy weather not exactly helping his mood. Cas goes back to the living room and flops onto the couch, listening to the sound of the heavy rain and thinking about what Sam had said. He continues thinking about it, and what that might mean for himself and Dean, and whatever their future holds.

He’s still thinking about it, in fact, much later that evening when he hears a knock at the front door.

Chapter Text

When Cas hears the knock at the door, he freezes, surprised and uncertain. Cas cautiously walks towards the door and looks through the peephole. The vision is murky due to the rain, but when Cas makes out a male figure with green eyes he jumps back as if he’d been burnt.

He wants to run and hide, and yet he’s curious. But mostly, a large part of Cas is overriding the fear and wants more than anything to open that door.

So he does.

Dean stands there, soaked to the skin and evidently trying not to shiver. For a moment, Cas is worried that Sam had told Dean everything, but he quickly dismisses the notion; he’s sure Sam would never betray him like that. Cas also wonders why he didn’t hear the telltale rumble of Dean’s car engine, before noticing that Dean had parked further down the street. Cas regards Dean again; he looks almost surprised, which is funny considering he’s the one who knocked. There’s a beat of heavy silence that neither of them rush to fill.

“Hi,” Cas says, not trusting himself to say anything further.

“Hey,” Dean replies.

“You’re wet,” and if Cas wanted to run and hide before he definitely wants to now after such a stupid comment, but Dean is unfazed.

“Been standing out here for a while.”

“Why?”

“Working up the nerve.”

Cas feels his skin prickle in anticipation and he’s not entirely sure why. But everything around him suddenly feels more visceral, more vivid, more alive.

“For what?”

The question almost makes Cas’ throat constrict but he manages to get it out. It feels like something is happening here, and the anticipation of it coupled with the exhilarating fact that Cas has no idea what it is is heady and overwhelming in the best of ways.

Energy begins to crackle between them. Dean’s body is rigid, tense like he’s afraid but Cas doesn’t understand what he’s afraid of. There’s a determination in Dean’s eyes and the set of his jaw that makes Cas nervous, but the nervousness you get before going on a roller coaster. Nervous for the thrill.

“I realized why you’re different,” Dean says simply. For a moment Cas is confused, until he remembers their conversation in the car.

What makes me different from any other undead being you deal with?

I don’t know, you just… you just are, okay?

I wish that was good enough.

And, just as it had earlier today, everything suddenly becomes glaringly obvious.

Cas knows what Dean’s going to do before he does it. He sees it in the softness of his eyes as he takes a step forward like he’s checking whether Cas would run away, as if Cas would ever run away from this again. He feels it in the way Dean’s hands slowly raise to caress Cas’ face and to hold it there gently, still giving Cas ample time to leave before they leap off the precipice together, never able to turn back. He feels it in how urgent and desperate Dean’s lips are against his own.

Cas can scarcely breathe. He wants to bury himself, in this feeling, in this elation, in Dean. He’s touching, feeling, tasting, and he never wants it to stop. Everything is fading away and falling out from underneath him, but it’s not scary at all, it’s-it’s- he’s not falling, he’s flying. He’s free and he’s safe, here in this moment forever, and everything is just Dean. Dean. Dean.

Cas presses himself closer, not caring about Dean’s sodden clothes. Dean’s mouth is pliant and gentle, but demanding in a way that makes Cas tingle. Evidently encouraged by Cas’ enthusiasm, Dean moves his hands from Cas’ face, slithering them around Cas’ waist instead. Delighted, Cas loops his arms around Dean’s neck, resting them on his broad shoulders. The two tug each other closer, still trying to fill a space that they’ve long since closed.

Eventually, they part, but not too far. Never far again.

They stand there on Cas’ doorstep, foreheads touching, just breathing each other in and rejoicing in such a simple pleasure. Cas is afraid to be the first to speak, so he just clutches on silently, not wanting this moment to come to its inevitable end.

“I’m sorry,” Dean says quietly.

“No. Please don’t apologize. Not for this,” Cas replies in a near-whisper, clutching a bit harder in case this is the last time he gets to hold Dean like this.

“No, trust me, I’m not sorry about that because… damn,” Dean trails off, breaking into a small breathy laugh. Cas returns it; he understands the sentiment. “I’m sorry because- because that should have been our first kiss.”

Cas leans back a bit to look into Dean’s eyes which almost seem to glow in the dim porch light. Dean looks uncharacteristically shy, and Cas would be lying if he said he didn’t find it endearing.

“I thought you didn’t remember.”

“Yeah… I lied.”

“Why?”

“I wasn’t ready then. I just felt… angry. I felt angry all the time. But then with you, I wasn’t. And I fuckin’ tried, believe me.”

Cas can’t help but laugh at that and Dean smiles.

“But you’re ready now?” Cas asks, a bit nervously.

“You’re damn right I am.”

Cas smiles and goes to kiss him again, but to his surprise, Dean pulls away just slightly.

“Are you?” he asks. Cas can see the tinge of fear in Dean’s eyes, and it’s reminiscent of how he looked in the car last night. Was it only just last night?

“Undoubtedly. I’m sorry about yesterday. I was… scared.”

“Scared of me?” Dean asks, sounding suddenly unsure. He takes a slight step back.

Cas steps right with him, “No. Never of you.” Dean lets out a small relieved breath. Cas continues. “I was scared of getting hurt. To tell you the truth… I still am. But I refuse to run away anymore. I can’t. Especially now.”

“Glad to hear it,” replies Dean quietly. He smiles and immediately captures Cas’ lips in another kiss, a kiss filled with joy and gratitude and I’ll never leave you.

When they part again, Cas can’t help the question that bubbles to his lips. “What brought all this on?” He gestures vaguely in a useless attempt to better convey his meaning.

“I dunno, guess absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that,” Dean replies.

Cas chuckles lightly. “Dean, you saw me yesterday.”

“So sue me,” Dean says with a smirk and Cas has the sudden inclination to kiss it, which he does without a second thought.

Cas freezes for a moment, realizing that this is the first time he’s initiated a kiss, but Dean responds in kind and doesn’t give Cas any time at all to worry.

But, of course, Cas being Cas… He finds a way.

He realizes through his joyous delirium that he’s not exactly sure what to do now. Does he invite Dean in? Would that be too presumptuous? Does Dean want to come in? Is Cas ready for that? What if they go further and Dean doesn’t want him? Realizes he’s made a mistake? Realizes that Cas is disgusting, disappointing, disastrous-

“Hey, anybody home?”

Dean’s voice suddenly cuts off Cas’ mental diatribe. Dean’s brows are slightly furrowed in concern as he looks at Cas, who realizes he’d been completely lost in thought a moment ago.

“Sorry, I was-“

“Thinking, I know,” Dean finishes jokingly, but his eyes convey his empathy, “Let’s just… not, okay? Think, I mean. For now. Later, maybe, but not now. What do ya say?”

Cas takes a moment to consider this. As a textbook over-thinker, Cas finds the prospect of letting his heart and his instincts take over rather daunting, and yet it sounds oddly peaceful. Smiling, Cas looks up at Dean and nods.

“Good,” Dean replies.

A beat of content silence before Dean lets out a small sigh. “I should probably get going.”

Cas can’t help the small pang of disappointment. “Okay.”

“I’ll see you around?”

“Most definitely.”

Dean breathes a laugh. “Dork.”

When Dean steps back to leave, Cas is half expecting the familiar clap on the shoulder. He’s not expecting the gentle brush of his arm accompanied by a soft smile.

Cas wishes then more than ever that he could feel this touch – this minute yet somehow intimate gesture – with a living body’s full capacity. As it is, the touch is only a lingering ghost of sensation. This was the same for their kisses. Cas could feel both, but not enough (though Cas suspects that even if he were alive, the latter would never be enough).

Dean rescinds his arm and turns to leave.

“Wait! Do you need an umbrella?” Cas asks, regarding the rain, but Dean only laughs.

“Bit late for that, don’t you think?” he replies, gesturing to his soaked clothes. Cas smiles and shrugs in a “just thought I’d ask” motion.

Dean ducks back in for one last quick kiss and then runs to his car with a wave goodbye.

Cas watches him go for a moment before turning around and retreating back into his house, closing the door behind him. He leans against it, his usually stiff legs suddenly feeling like gelatin. A little shakily, he raises his fingers to his lips, unable to fully comprehend that Dean’s lips had only just been there. He laughs aloud, to no one except for Dorian, who trots up to his owner with his usual cheeriness. Cas bends down and picks up the small dog, who licks Cas’ face in greeting. Cas just smiles and heads upstairs to bed.

He places Dorian down at the foot of the bed and Cas crawls in, not even bothering to change his clothes, suddenly feeling bone-tired. Usually when Cas feels like this, it’s because his body doesn’t quite know what to do with all the depressive numbness, resulting in its inevitable shut-down; this time, however, he’s exhausted because his body is simply not used to trying to keep hold of this much happiness.

Cas rolls over and looks out his bedroom window at the stars, and it’s like they’re shining for him. Like all of space is showing him what he can be. Showing him that seemingly simple and irrelevant matter, of dust and ice and debris, can form something beautiful.

But mostly reminding him that when two stars come crashing together, they explode into something amazing.


Cas is just shaking off the last vestiges of sleep the next morning when he hears a small beep through the fog of his early-morning brain. He sleepily rolls over to check his phone where it’s charging on the nightstand. He blinks, letting his eyes adjust to the screen, and smiles almost immediately.

 

Received 10:17 am:

i feel like i should send a “good morning beautiful” text but that’d be weird wouldn’t it

 

Cas rolls his eyes fondly at Dean’s text and thumbs a playful reply.

 

Delivered 10:18 am:

Very.

 

Received 10:18 am:

thought so. in that case...

 

Cas imagines Dean actually pausing for dramatic effect and almost laughs at the thought. As expected, another reply chimes in a split second later.

           

Received 10:19 am:

mornin cas

 

Now that’s the Dean I know, thinks Cas happily. His fingers dance over the touch screen.

 

Delivered 10:19 am:

Good morning, Dean :)

 

Received 10:21 am:

woh an emoticon? from you?? cas things are moving too fast i’m not ready for this level of commitment

 

Cas bites his lip thoughtfully for a brief moment, trying to come up with a witty retort. He smirks as he types his next message.

 

Delivered 10:21 am:

:) :) :)

 

Received 10:22 am:

oh har har ur hilarious

 

Delivered 10:23 am:

They say the first step is acceptance.

 

Received 10:23 am:

i hate u

 

Delivered 10:24 am:

:)

 

Cas chuckles a bit as he places his phone back on his nightstand, assuming that that would be the end of the conversation. After rubbing the stubborn sleep from his eye, Cas reaches towards the foot of the bed to pet Dorian’s head, a head whose mouth was currently stretched wide in an impressive canine yawn. Cas yawns himself at the contagious sight, before getting up and heading towards the bathroom.

He gives himself his daily neurotriptyline dose and then showers, humming nothing in particular. He steps out once he’s done and does his hair just for the simple reason that he feels like it. Once finished, he holds his contacts and his makeup in his hands, considering. Cas looks at himself in the mirror, before putting down the items. Today, he feels happy. Today, he wants to try being truly and unapologically himself.

He can’t say that he doesn’t feel some level of disgust when he looks at himself, nor can he say there isn’t a part of him that’s worried Dean will want nothing to do with him if he saw this. However, Cas just shoves that to the back of his brain because right now he’s capable of it.

Back in his room, he puts on a record and gets dressed to the stylings of Peggy Lee, bopping along happily to “It’s A Good Day”. He feels a bit ridiculous, acting this way, but he can’t help it. For God’s sake, he’s behaving like a love-sick teenager.

But then again, he supposes, he is a love-sick teenager, so surely some allowances can be made.

The happiness is, rather contradictorily, scary in itself. It’s a fact of life that when you have something, it is possible that it could be taken away from you. This is the same of happiness, and a part of Cas is scared when he feels it because somehow it makes the inevitable loss of it that much worse. He tries not to let that stop him from feeling this way, tries to just enjoy the rare moment, a sense of lightness he hasn’t felt in the months since his return.

Cas is starting to realize that holding yourself back – in feeling, in life – just because you’re scared of what might be taken away from you or how fleeting something might be, is no way to live.

He refuses to waste his second life like he’s beginning to strongly suspect he wasted his first.

He’s brought out of his reverie by his phone beeping. Striding over to it, wondering if it could be Dean, he picks it up and is no less happy to see Charlie’s number on the screen.

 

Received 11:04 am:

heyoo u wanna hang 2day? got a couple hours b4 next shift :D

 

Delivered 11:05 am:

Absolutely. I have something I want to talk to you about.

 

Cas pauses for only a moment before he sends his text. Is he really ready to talk about what happened between him and Dean? The hesitation, however, is immediately followed by the thought that this is Charlie and of course he’s going to tell her.

 

Received 11:07 am:

see that’s the only problem w/ texting u, u could have won the lottery or been diagnosed w/ cancer and i wouldn’t even know the difference!!!

 

Cas chuckles a little at Charlie’s teasing. He smiles as he types out his next message.

 

Delivered 11:08 am:

Omg Charlie I gotta tell you something!!!!!! :3

 

Received 11:09 am:

ahhhHHhHH NO OMG i take it back lol that was too weird XD i’ll be there soon, see ya then :)

 

Delivered 11:09 am:

I look forward to it!

 

With that, Cas slips his phone into the front pocket of his jeans and walks downstairs, Dorian trotting behind him. Cas feeds Dorian and refreshes his water as per their new routine, before he flicks on the television, waiting for Charlie arrive. He watches nothing in particular and plays a few games on his phone.

Soon enough, the telltale yellow Gremlin is pulling into the driveway and Cas can already hear the car radio from his living room. Smiling, Cas stands to meet his friend at the door.

“Long time, no see!” Charlie exclaims before giving Cas a hug, which Cas returns. As was Charlie’s way, she didn’t so much as flinch at Cas’ true appearance. Dorian then comes bounding into view and Charlie crouches to pet him, “You too, little guy!”

“How are you?” Cas asks, as he and Charlie head up to his room.

“Not too shabby. Hospital has me hopping, but could be worse. What about you? What’s this big news you have? I was dying the whole way over here.”

Charlie sits in the middle of the bed with her legs crossed, looking at Cas expectantly. Cas takes a deep breath and sits next to her.

“Dean and I… are something.”

“Okay,” Charlie says, drawing out the vowel, “We’re not in an Arthur Miller play here, Cas. Spit it out!”

“Dean-kissed-me-last-night,” Cas lets out all in a rush. Charlie’s jaw drops.

“He what?

And so Cas tells her the whole story: the fight in the car, Cas’ realization at the graveyard, and Dean showing up on his doorstep last night. Charlie is an excellent listener, paying attention and reacting in all the right places. When he’s done, Charlie leans back on her hands and lets out a long whistle.

“Wow. Just… wow.

“I know.”

“I mean, obviously I knew it was going to happen, but I thought it would take a lot more broody angsting first!” Charlie says. Cas almost nods before fully realizing what she said.

“Wait, you knew?” Cas cries, flabbergasted. Charlie raises an incredulous eyebrow.

“Duh.”

“But– I’m– and he’s– How?” Cas stutters out. Charlie just laughs.

“At first, I was really nervous for you because I know how Dean can be. But from what you told me and some of what I’ve seen… he’s different with you. And honestly Cas? Didn’t take a genius to figure out you’re head over heels for the guy.”

Cas looks at his lap with a small smile, feeling embarrassed. “Was I really that obvious?”

“Only to the well-trained eye, my friend,” Charlie replies, before sighing happily, “Ugh, I ship it so hard.”

“What does that even mean?” Cas asks. Charlie looks at him and places a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“It means I support you. As long as you’re happy, so am I.”

Cas’ heart swells and he just smiles at the person who is truly his best friend.

Charlie then places her hand to her chin, looking deep in thought about something. “Now we just need to give you a ship name. What about… Castean? That’s pretty.”

Cas recognizes the amalgamation of names and rolls his eyes, which judging by Charlie’s mischievous smile, was exactly the reaction she was aiming to garner. Cas plays along, if only to foil her teasing plans.

“What about something like… Destiel?” Cas asks.

Charlie considers this for a long moment. “Nah. Castean sails!” she cries. Cas and Charlie burst into giggles at their own ridiculousness and Cas decides something then and there.

That however fleeting this joy may be, he wouldn’t change a single thing.

Chapter Text

Cas spends the next week in a pleasant cocoon of textual flirting and teenage daydreams, the likes of which he’d never experienced before. The nice thing about these daydreams, he quickly finds, is that they all seem so possible, so within reach. It’s a dizzying notion and one he catches himself smiling about often.

In a word, Cas feels distracted. The good kind of distracted, the kind that gives you a friendly nudge when you need it, that whispers in your brain ‘maybe life isn’t so bad after all’. It’s a new sensation for Cas, but one he is trying his utmost to embrace. It was terrifying at first; the gentle whispers had felt like sardonic tempters, luring him with false pretenses. Cas would want so badly to reach out and grab the happiness that seemed within his reach, but was afraid that if he dared to try, to touch, to hold, it would be ripped from him mercilessly and he would be left there, feeling more helpless and alone than ever before.

But now he knows better than to submit to that poisonous brand of thought.

Cas mulls this all over in his bed, where he lies on his stomach fiddling with his phone as he waits for Dean to text him back. He rolls over with a contented sigh, trying not to disturb Dorian who lies dozing near his feet. Cas stares at the ceiling for a minute before his gaze directs itself over to his quote wall; it’s ever-expanding, its tendrils snaking out further and further, a veritable spider-web of comfort and inspiration. Cas’ eyes, in light of his current state of mind, wander over to a particular quote from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:

 

“Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,

Now I wash the gum from your eyes,

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.”

 

Cas smiles, re-reading it to himself a few times, before his phone beeps. He counts ten Mississippi, not wanting to look too eager, but only makes it to eight before realizing he doesn’t care. He swipes to the right.

He and Dean have been arguing over the merits of older film decades and which they deem better. Cas enjoys the wholesome movies of the 50s and 60s, while Dean swears by the action movies from the 80s and 90s. It had made for an interesting conversation.

There are two messages, sent back-to-back.

 

Received 4:49 pm:

cas i’m not even gonna try to explain to u how LEGENDARY “i’ll be back” was ok

 

Received 4:50 pm:

speaking of 80s classics (don’t fight me on it), i was thinking of introducing u to Indiana Jones. wanna come over to my place tonite? dear old dad’s gone on business, won’t be back til late. what do ya say?

 

Cas reads them quickly and replies, chuckling mischievously as he types.

 

Delivered 4:50 pm:

I say that would be great! Is that the one where the man’s hat never falls off, despite the fact that it’s defying all laws of science by staying on?

 

Cas finds amusement in playing up his ignorance of certain franchises, loving how it riles Dean up. Sure enough, a reply chimes in a minute later.

 

Received 4:51 pm:

remind me why i like u again??

 

Cas doesn’t miss a beat.

 

Delivered 4:51 pm:

Because I’m hilarious and handsome?

 

He pauses only a moment before hitting send, worrying his lip a little with his teeth. Flirting – while still new – is something Cas especially enjoys over text, appreciating the extra time he gets to think up a witty response and type it out.

His phone beeps again and Cas raises his eyebrows in surprise.

 

Received 4:53 pm:

the first? jury’s still out on that one. the second? …ya got me there

           

If Cas was capable of blushing, his face would surely be an alarming shade of scarlet. He smiles, not expecting the compliment. For lack of anything better to say, he sends a smiley face and laughs when Dean sends back an emoticon that’s rolling its eyes.

They then exchange a few details about tonight, and it’s decided that Cas will go over at 8 pm. Needless to say, he’s looking forward to it: to the movie (though he’d never admit his curiosity to Dean), to seeing Sam again, but mostly to seeing Dean for the first time since their kiss(es) on the rainy doorstep. Cas’ over-active brain leaps into action, and he tries not to let it cross that tenuous line between “wondering” and “worrying”, which he quickly finds out is much easier said than done.

Nevertheless, he manages to pass the next few hours without convincing himself not to go, so he counts that as a win.

7:45 pm finds him at the door, putting his shoes on. Dorian bustles around him, tags jingling, and Cas smiles sympathetically at him.

“Sorry, boy, not this time. I’ll be back in a few hours,” he says. Dorian, evidently understanding the tone of voice, hangs his head a little before recovering and trotting over to his dog bed Cas placed in the living room.

Cas’ eyes pass the coatrack and he pauses at it. He stares at the green jacket with the patch on the arm that’s been there for weeks. Sighing slightly, he takes it and folds it over his arm before leaving.

He knows it’s silly, but a part of him wants to keep it, destroy it, burn it. Anything but give it back to Dean, which he plans on doing. Cas looks at the coat a little sadly; it’s like a tangible representation of everything in this world that is trying so hard to keep them apart. He tucks the arm bearing H.V.F. under the jacket, hiding it from view. He takes a breath and keeps walking, keeps moving forward. He and Dean are… well, they’re something and that’s enough. All the forces in this harsh world couldn’t keep them apart, and Cas knows he will fight tooth and nail to keep what he so desperately doesn’t want to lose.

He walks the short distance to the bus stop and only has to wait a minute or two before a bus arrives, perfectly punctual. A short ride later, and Cas is walking up to the Winchester abode. He knocks on the door and holds his breath.

Moments later, it opens and Cas exhales. Dean stands there, smiling in a way that looks oddly self-conscious. Cas can’t help but smile back.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas.”

Dean stands aside and makes an awkward gesture for Cas to cross the threshold into the home, which he does. They stand at the entrance way, not really making eye contact with each other.

Every single red flag in Cas’ head is raising, every alarm bell going off all at once, but he holds his ground despite his sudden nerves. Dean breaks the silence.

“Is that my jacket?”

Cas looks puzzled for a moment, before remembering what he holds in his arms. “Oh! Yes, it is. You forgot it at my house.”

“Thanks, man, I’ve been looking everywhere for it.”

Cas just nods. The H.V.F. patch glares between them, and Dean hastens to the closet to put away the coat. Cas suddenly wishes he was wearing his own coat, the reliable trench.

But no, Cas self-corrects, it wouldn’t be wearing, it would be hiding; he knows that now. And there was nothing to hide from here. Gathering his courage, Cas claps his hands together, reminiscent of when Dean did it during one of the first times they spent time together like this.

Well. This can’t get any more awkward, so let’s just watch the fuckin’ movie, huh?

“So, Indiana Jones?” Cas prompts. Dean looks relieved that Cas took the first step, and his shoulders seem to lose some of their tension.

“Hell yeah. I think you’re gonna like it: good mix of history shit and action awesome-ness,” Dean says excitedly, making his way into the living room. Cas follows and settles down on the couch while Dean messes about with the DVD.

“Sounds perfect for us,” Cas says softly with a smile. Dean pauses his ministrations and looks back at Cas. He returns the smile and, though the tension in the room is still stiflingly thick, Cas can’t help but be comforted by the small action.  

Once the DVD menu is displayed, Dean turns around and looks as if he doesn’t know where he should sit. Cas suppresses the urge to roll his eyes and tilts his head slightly to the empty space beside him. Dean takes the hint and sits, but the two couldn’t be farther away from each other if Dean sat on the other side of the room. Cas sighs slightly, but says nothing.

Luckily, the familiarity of the movie seems to settle something within Dean and soon the two of them are back to their typical movie-watching banter.

“I have to ask. Why ‘Indiana’? Did his parents hate him?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s rich comin’ from you, Castiel.

They joke and laugh, Dean gushes about fun facts and behind the scenes knowledge, and Cas finds he’s truly enjoying himself. Archeological adventures make more sense to him than space warfare, he quickly discovers. Not only is he enjoying the movie, however, but also the time spent with Dean.

Especially the fact that the space between them on the couch has dwindled significantly.

They’ve settled into a lull of silence as they watch the film, but this time it’s a comfortable silence, both content to be in each other’s company. Their hands rest at their sides and Cas, feeling a little daring, slides his over just a little so that the side of his pinky finger is just brushing Dean’s. He leaves it there, holding his breath, but Dean doesn’t pull away. Emboldened by this, Cas lifts his pinky and slides it over Dean’s, in a sort of loose pinky-swear. He desperately hopes Dean will take the next step, as that simple action alone depleted Cas’ store of courage. Out of Cas’ peripherals, he sees Dean’s eyes glance downward at their hands. Cas hopes against hope that Dean will continue where Cas had left off.

Instead, Cas feels the presence beneath his pinky get snatched away as Dean suddenly volts off the couch, standing up rigidly straight. Cas is too surprised to even get a word out.

“Food!” Dean suddenly cries, looking frazzled, “How ‘bout some snacks, huh? You want any?” Cas just gives him a look. “Fuck, right, of course you don’t. Well, I’m just gonna- Um, food.”

And with that little nonsensical outburst, Dean disappears to the kitchen, leaving Cas stunned. Cas goes through a few emotions in rapid succession, sitting there on the couch. He’s hurt, then he’s angry, and then? He’s just confused. The confusion takes precedent and Cas waits about ten seconds before standing up and going to the kitchen.

Dean stands there, hands braced on either side of the sink, head tilted down. He looks very deep in thought, and doesn’t notice Cas entering the room. Cas walks up to him and lays a cautious hand on his back between his shoulder blades. Dean starts, whirling around.

“Is everything okay?” Cas asks, concerned.

“Huh? Yeah, totally, everything’s peachy. Why do you ask?” Dean counters, clearly trying (and failing) to throw Cas off the scent.

“Dean.”

It’s only one syllable, but Cas laces it with meaning. Simultaneously firm and gentle, the tone asks for the truth. Dean sighs, but doesn’t say anything. After a moment, Cas breaks the silence.

“If you regret anything… If you want to take anything back… Now is the time to tell me,” Cas says, attempting feebly to pour strength into the words. Dean looks completely taken aback.

“What? No, of course I don’t- Aw, hell, Cas, is that what you thought?” Dean asks, looking saddened. He relaxes and steps closer to Cas, “Look, I know I’ve been acting weird, okay? I’m sorry. I really like you, I do. It’s just- I’ve never really done this? Like, been with somebody? Let alone a dude. Especially one who’s… you know.”

The unspoken ‘dead’ hangs in the air between them, but Cas doesn’t take offense to it. Dean continues.

“It’s new to me, is all. I don’t know how to act. Just need to get used to it, I guess.”

Dean looks very embarrassed at the confession, but Cas just finds it endearing. If he’s being honest, he was expecting something far worse. But a little insecurity? That’s something he can deal with. He smiles and takes another step towards Dean. They’re standing close now and Cas has to tilt up his head a little to look at him.

“It’s not just you, Dean. This is all new to me too. I barely even had friends before I came back, let alone something more. But the best thing about ‘something more’ is that you can learn together. You’re not alone in this. Just… please don’t shut me out, okay?”

Dean nods, “Okay.”

Cas can feel the moment that the gravity shifts, when they start being pulled towards each other. And maybe that force has been there since the beginning, maybe it hasn’t, but all Cas is capable of doing right now is thinking how good Dean’s lips feel against his, how even though he can’t feel as much as a living person, Dean almost makes him believe he can.

They break apart for air, and Dean smiles a little guiltily, “I should have done that right when you walked through the door.”

“Yes, you should have,” Cas teases before kissing him again, a kiss Dean is more than happy to return with gusto.

The moment is suddenly shattered by a loud and triumphant cry of “I KNEW IT!”

Dean and Cas break apart and gaze, startled, at the source of the sound. Sam stands in the doorway, and Cas can’t help but laugh at the look on his face. Sam’s mouth is stretched wide in a victorious smile, but the frozen look of surprise remains present on his features. His eyes gleam with a happiness that warms Cas to the core.

Cas attempts to stifle his laughter with his hand at the dark look Dean gives him, but the situation is so ridiculous that it just makes him laugh harder.

“What gives, Sammy? You spyin’ on me now?” Dean asks, sounding angry but both Cas and Sam know him well enough to recognize that it’s not true anger.

Sam snorts derisively, “Don’t flatter yourself, your life isn’t that interesting. I just came down here to grab a soda.”

Dean yanks open the fridge door and tosses Sam a can, “There. Now beat it.”

Sam just smiles smugly, “I totally called this you know.”

Cas can’t help but be amused; Sam has the wisdom of someone twice his age, but Cas likes that he retains the childlike spirit of a fourteen-year-old who really just wants to annoy his older brother. Cas remembers what that was like, when it was Samandriel and Gabriel doing the annoying. His heart gives a small pang, but he holds the dearest memories closest to his heart, and they soften the blow.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re a real genius,” Dean replies sarcastically, “Don’t you have some homework to do or something?”

“Dean, it’s Friday night.”

“Well, get a head start then!”

Sam rolls his eyes and goes to leave. Before exiting entirely, though, he pauses and looks back at Dean and Cas. “I’m happy for you,” he says softly, regarding both of them. Cas smiles and even Dean’s mouth quirks upwards. Sam takes his leave.

“I believe we still have an arc of the covenant to find,” Cas says with a grin. The excitement returns to Dean’s eyes, unhindered by anything else which makes Cas happy. The pair head back to the living room. Dean rewinds what they had missed and they settle in to watch the film.

Any lingering tension between them had all but evaporated. Cas tucks up his knees and sits in a comfortable ball on the couch, his body leaning against Dean’s, whose arm lay draped around Cas’ shoulders. Cas can’t remember a time when he felt this content, this at peace with his lot in life.

A movie that should have taken two hours to complete ended up taking three, due to the many rewinds every time they became… otherwise occupied.

Though the credits were rolling, neither boy made any move to get up. They spent the next hour just talking about nothing in particular, wandering wherever the conversation led them. Now that the two of them were more open with each other, interaction flowed between them like an elegant dance, smooth and seamless.

However, with midnight fast approaching, the knowledge that John will be home fairly soon hangs heavy over their heads. They reluctantly agree that it’s time to go. Dean offers to drive Cas home, which he gratefully accepts – not only for convenience sake, but because he simply doesn’t want this night to come to its inevitable end. Cas calls out his goodbye to Sam before he and Dean take their leave.

Cas hops into the passenger seat of the Impala and Dean gets into the driver’s shortly after. He starts up the engine and the stereo suddenly blares to life. Cas’ eyebrows rise to the ceiling when Air Supply’s All Out Of Love blasts from the speakers. Dean lets out a strangled noise and scrambles to turn off the music. He presses the knob and the stereo goes silent. Dean’s gaze remains fixed to the road, and Cas has to bite his lips together to keep from laughing.

“You didn’t hear anything,” Dean says.

“Not a thing,” Cas replies stoically.

The two side-eye each other and burst out laughing at the same time. Cas manages to coax Dean into turning the music back on, and they belt out the lyrics they deny knowing all the way to Cas’ house.

They pull into Cas’ driveway and Dean turns down the music. “I had an awesome time tonight, Cas. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much.”

Cas beams, “Me neither. I had a great time too, Dean.”

Dean leans over without hesitation and kisses him with confidence. Every touch is its own little thrill, and Cas is sure that he’ll never grow tired of feeling like this. The kiss is slow and unhurried, both evidently trying to drag out the moment of parting.

But eventually, as all good things must, it ends.

Cas gets out of the car and waves goodbye to Dean as he drives away. He walks up to his front door – listening as the roar of the Impala’s engine gives way to silence – and opens it. He says hello to Dorian and goes through his nightly routine in a sort of pleasant daze. His mind is somehow brimming with thought, but feels decidedly clear.

And as Cas drifts off to sleep that night, he thinks about how that seemingly contradictory feeling is something he could certainly get used to.           

Chapter Text

The next few weeks seem to fly by, the falling leaves rapidly turning to falling snow. It’s the late morning, as Cas walks down his road, all bundled up for the weather. He doesn’t need it, of course, but he also doesn’t want to stick out anymore than he already does. Dorian trots along in front of him on his leash, looking excited – if a little wary – at the light dusting of snow that covers the now frosted ground. It didn’t snow very much in Kansas, but they had gotten about an inch last night of rare December snow. Cas had always enjoyed having a white Christmas, so he’s glad the snow arrived just in time for the holidays – Christmas Eve being only two days away.

As he walks, Cas admires the bright white blanket that covers the ground and decorates the branches of trees. He notes that the winter seems to be a lot more enjoyable when you don’t feel the chill of the biting wind, or have a car you dread cleaning off.

His breath puffs in front of him and it reminds him of his brothers – Samandriel running around pretending to be a dragon and Gabriel trying to look cool by pretending to smoke. He huffs a soft laugh at the memory, sending out another cloud of vapor.

Cas directs his gaze back to Dorian and he smiles a little at the sight; the cold ground has evidently become a little much for his paws – with every step he quickly puts his foot up again in an odd sort of trot, and the overall image is incredibly amusing. Taking pity on the animal, Cas decides it’s time for them to turn around and go home.

They hadn’t gotten very far, and it only takes them less than ten minutes to arrive back home again. Cas thinks, a little despondent, how he misses the cozy feeling of coming indoors after being outside in the cold; he truly didn’t know what he had until it was gone, as the saying goes. He quickly shakes it off, though, and hangs up his coat while Dorian shakes off any snow that had stubbornly stuck to his fur.

Cas walks over to the bookshelf and peruses it absentmindedly. After a minute he picks a bland looking mystery novel off the shelf, not having the energy to immerse himself in a story that required a lot of his thought and attention, but wanting something to pass the time nonetheless. He takes it and settles on the couch. Dorian immediately hops up and lays down beside him, his head on Cas’ lap. It smells a little reminiscent of wet dog, but Cas doesn’t mind at all, smiling and petting the small canine.

His eyes wander aimlessly around the room before they settle on his Christmas tree. A few days prior, Dean had helped him to set it up and decorate it. Cas had been eternally grateful for this, as it would have just been too lonely to do by himself (that, and lugging the box up from the basement was not exactly a one-person job). His family had had the same artificial tree for several years, having abandoned real trees a long time ago (after Cas’ mother had gotten fed up with cleaning errant sap and needles from the carpet).

This month has been especially tough for Cas. His moods keep changing, like his heart can’t settle on one of the many emotions waging a war inside him. On the one hand, he’s in the beginning stage of a promising relationship and he’s never been so happy, but on the other hand, it’s his first Christmas without his family and their absence hurts now more than it ever had.

Cas has to continually remind himself, however, that he’s not alone anymore, that he has a support system. Charlie still comes by whenever her busy schedule allows, and the same goes for Dean. It’s still hard for Cas to talk about his family, but he’s been opening up little by little.

For example, he doesn’t know if he could ever have gotten through the tree decorating had it not been for Dean. Their family has an array of all sorts of ornaments: elegant store bought, characters from movies, and dozens of ones that were home-made. The latter proved extremely difficult for Cas, and he almost broke down on more than one occasion. His parents had collected and kept every single ornament they’d ever made in school. Every macaroni adorned, glitter overloaded, popsicle stick monstrosity was kept and cared for. Each had their own little story and, after a little coaxing from Dean, Cas told them one-by-one. At first, he thought that that would make it harder, but in fact, it didn’t. Every silly anecdote chased away a bad thought or feeling, and talking about it made Cas’ shoulders feel a little lighter. Dean never pried too much, just listening and smiling, laughing in all the right places.

Cas looks at his tree, happy that he can now add Dean’s face to his Christmas memories. His gaze drifts downwards and he smiles when he sees the small boxes underneath. There are only two, seeing as how Cas doesn’t have all that many people to buy for. They’re for Dean and Sam; he and Charlie had already exchanged each other’s gifts the day before as Charlie was uncertain what her shifts looked like coming up to the holidays. They’d cracked up with laughter when it was revealed that they had both gifted each other a Harry Potter Pop! Vinyl figure: Hermione for Charlie and Harry for Cas.

Cas was fairly confident Sam would like his gift: a nice set of glass slides and petri dishes for his microscope which Cas purchased after Sam mentioned his frustrations with the cheap plastic ones he had. Dean’s gift, however, was a risk and Cas was extraordinarily nervous about giving it to him on Christmas Eve.

They’d mutually decided on Christmas Eve, Dean shyly admitting that Christmas Day was the only day John acted like a semi-decent father. Cas could feel the confliction in Dean when he admitted it, that as much as he resented his father, he still loved him and there was nothing better than a family Christmas. Cas had understood completely and didn’t begrudge him for it at all.

As nervous as Cas is about the gift, he chuckles a little to himself as he thinks of how he basically had to blockade Dean from his present so he didn’t snoop too closely. Dean had pouted slightly, asserting that it was no fun if he couldn’t at least have a guess, which Cas resolutely refused. He was stubborn, making it clear there would be no touching or shaking or guessing, only opening on Christmas Eve. Dean had surrendered and contented himself with the anticipation.

Cas leans back where he sits on the sofa, letting out a happy sort of sigh. He continues to stroke Dorian with one hand, and reads his book with the other. He finds it hard to concentrate, though, his heart (metaphorically) racing in an odd mix of anticipation and anxiety as the clock ticks closer and closer towards Christmas.


Sooner than Cas is necessarily ready for, Christmas Eve arrives. Cas runs around the house, tweaking this and that, dusting and cleaning everything to within an inch of its life. He’s not sure why he’s so stressed, Dean has seen his house plenty of times now, but today seems different. More important in a way that would have Cas sweating if he was physically able to do so.

He showers – more to keep himself busy than hygienic necessity – and spends far too long picking out an outfit. He’s in the midst of deciding whether to go with more of a sleeker, dressier look, or pulling out a Christmas sweater for festive purposes. He looks himself in the mirror, holding each outfit up to himself in turn. Cas turns around and gestures to where Dorian is lying on his bed.

“What do you think?” Cas asks.

Dorian looks at him for a moment before putting his head down on his paws and looking away, entirely uninterested.

“You’re right. It doesn’t matter what I wear,” Cas continues before abandoning the fancier clothes and opting for the sweater for sheer comfort. He tugs it over his head and shimmies into some dark jeans. He doesn’t even attempt to bring some order to his rebellious head of hair, deciding to just let it do what it wants.

Cas picks up Dorian and heads downstairs. Just as he’s about to take his first breather after being frantic all day, the doorbell rings. Cas, surprised, lets out an embarrassing yelp that he hopes Dean hasn’t heard before opening the door.

“Merry almost-Christmas, Cas,” Dean says, smiling warmly.

And every ounce of nervousness and panic that Cas had been feeling completely melts away. “Merry almost-Christmas, Dean.”

As Dean crosses the threshold, he hands Cas a present wrapped in the comic section of various newspapers.

“From me and Sam,” Dean says. Cas looks at the wrapping paper in amusement, and Dean continues, a little embarrassed, “Yeah, uh, we don’t really have any wrapping paper? It’s like a weird family tradition, I guess.”

“I love it,” replies Cas, “Thank you. Speaking of Sam, where is he? I was hoping to give him my present.”

“Oh, he’s at Jess’ place tonight. Her family has a big fancy party on Christmas Eve, and she invited Sam. That kid is head over heels for her.” Dean starts to laugh as he continues, “You should have seen him, Cas, he had to wear his old suit and I swear to God it was three inches above the ankle!”

Cas laughs at the mental image, and he turns to put the present under the tree.

“Sorry I missed the ugly Christmas sweater memo, all I brought was this,” Dean says.

Cas turns around to see what Dean is referring to and bursts out laughing all over again. Dean stands there, a dopey grin on his face, and on his head is an old ball cap with a sprig of mistletoe hanging off the brim.

Cas is more than happy to oblige, walking right up to Dean and kissing him, soft and languid. Cas leans back and can’t help but laugh once more at the ridiculous head ornament.

“Where did you even get this?” he asks incredulously.

“A buddy gave it to me a couple years ago as a gag gift, never had a chance to use it ‘til now.”

“Well, consider me honoured.”

Dean wriggles his eyebrows a little before ducking back down to capture Cas’ lips again. They break apart after a long moment, leaving Cas feeling oddly dizzy and deliriously happy. Cas then puts on a variety of softly playing Christmas music in the background. The pair settle on the couch in view of Cas’ splendid Christmas tree. They admire it and exchange pleasantries, talking about their day, before they lapse into comfortable silence.

“Hey Cas?” Dean asks quietly after a minute or so.

“Mm?”

“What did you and your family used to do for Christmas?”

The question catches Cas off guard. Dean has never asked about his family before, presumably understanding that it’s an emotional trigger Cas simply isn’t ready to pull. Even when they were decorating the tree and Cas shared some stories from his past, Dean only took what Cas was willing to give without asking for more. Now, Cas feels winded, as if all the oxygen in the room and in his lungs had been suddenly stripped away without warning. Dean, seeing the distress Cas is failing to hide, immediately backtracks.

“Sorry, that was stupid, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“No, it’s okay. I- I want to,” Cas replies, surprising not only Dean, but also himself. Cas takes a moment to collect himself, trying to organize his thoughts amidst the chaos of gone and miss you and alone that tends to shroud his family memories. Dean is patient and doesn’t rush. Cas wonders where to begin, and eventually figures that there’s no perfect place to start, so he just... starts.

“We always had pajamas.”

Cas curses himself inwardly. No perfect beginning, perhaps, but surely a better one. He blunders on in an attempt to elaborate.

“On Christmas Eve, I mean. Every year, we were only allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve before we went to bed. We always knew it would be Christmas-themed pajamas, which we’d wear to bed that night. It was something I always looked forward to.”

Dean lets out a soft chuckle, “Leave it to you to be the only kid in the history of ever to be excited about getting clothes for Christmas.”

Cas smiles and shrugs. He struggles for a moment to continue, until Dean uses the arm that he’d put around Cas to start lightly stroking his shoulder. Dean’s thumb rubs slow and soothing circles, and in that moment Cas wants more than anything to be able to feel it down to its very minutiae, to feel the touch in even its most microscopic points of meeting. He is, however, nonetheless comforted and continues on.

“We had the average Christmas mornings: kids waking up at ridiculously early hours to wake up caffeine-deprived parents. We’d drag them downstairs to the tree and open our stockings. Every item inside would be wrapped, even the smallest things. Then we’d move on to our presents and we’d take turns opening them. Samandriel would always try to open his without ever ripping the paper, always looking for the folded edges he could lift up. Gabriel would be sitting there waiting impatiently for Samandriel to finish before he absolutely ravaged his own gifts. I’ve never seen someone open a present as quickly as Gabriel could, it was truly a sight to behold.”

“They… They sound like really cool kids,” Dean says quietly.

“Yes, they were,” Cas replies. Dean tightens his hold in response and Cas continues, seemingly unable to stem the flow of memories now that the dam has been broken.

“While we were playing with our new toys, my mom would make this amazing breakfast with all the fixings. She was a fantastic cook. But, for some reason, every year she always made one mistake. She always said that breakfast was the hardest meal to cook because you would have so many items going at once, and they were all so time-sensitive. So, one thing would always go wrong, something small. Maybe she hadn’t flipped one of the eggs properly, or a sausage was overcooked, or a piece of toast burnt. My mom would give herself the food that went wrong, but every year, my dad would insist that she give it to him instead. No matter what it was, he would always say that he liked it better that way. He could bite into a piece of toast that was blackened to a crisp, and he’d look at my mom like it was the best thing he’d ever tasted.”

Cas lets himself get lost in the reverie a little. He wonders idly why that detail sticks out to him so strongly, before quickly shaking it off. He then feels slightly embarrassed about how long he’s been talking and hastily tries to wrap things up.

“And that was essentially our Christmas. We didn’t really do anything unique, our traditions were nothing special,” Cas says with a shrug. He’s hoping he looks mostly unaffected, even when every past-tense he’s forced to utter makes him feel vaguely ill.

Dean suddenly looks at him, a little stern, “Yeah, they are, because they’re special to you.”

Cas is too stunned to speak for a moment. Soon, though, his tension melts and he smiles. “Yes, I suppose you’re right.”

Dean gives a very decided nod as if to say “of course I’m right”.

Cas chuckles and pauses for a moment before asking, “And you? What were your traditions?”

Dean suddenly looks uncomfortable, and Cas almost feels bad before remembering that being open and honest in a relationship is a two-way street. So, he waits as patiently as Dean did for him.

“We never really had much growing up. My dad bounced back and forth between a few jobs, going where he was needed, doing what he could for his family. My mom had her hands full with me and Sammy at home, but she still picked up a shift at the diner whenever she could. No matter how bad it got, though, my parents always managed to give me and Sam a present on Christmas. One each, wrapped in comics just because they made us laugh. We were always happy with whatever we got, but I think my parents always felt bad they couldn’t give us more, so they made up for it with way too much Christmas spirit.”

Dean pauses for a moment and chuckles a little, his eyes somehow bright and sad at the same time.

“My mom would try to jam-pack winter into one day. We’d make cookies, do everything it’s possible for a kid to do in the snow, choke back some eggnog and wash it down with hot chocolate, all that sort of stuff. And my dad would always make a big deal about the Christmas tree. He’d take me and Sam to the woods and we’d cut one down. I’m like 99 percent sure that it was illegal, but hey, it was tradition. The tree was never impressive, it was always small enough that my dad could hoist it over his shoulder on the walk back, but to us it was awesome. We’d decorate this thing that not even Charlie Brown could love, then the next morning we’d open our presents underneath it. We never had much, but damn we were happy.”

Cas can see the exact moment that Dean closes himself off before he continues.

“Now, my dad gets us whatever he picked up at the gas station that day, and doesn’t drink a whole liquor store when he comes home,” Dean says, laughing humorlessly, “Better than nothing, I guess.”

Sympathy and guilt swirl in Cas’ stomach as he listens. He hates that Dean’s childhood was cut so short, and that even though Cas knows he isn’t directly to blame, he feels the inescapable weight of responsibility for Dean’s pain.

It could have so easily been me, Cas thinks darkly to himself, wondering if whoever killed Mary in their untreated state knew how much they’d taken away from a boy who had deserved so much more.

He banishes these thoughts with a minute shake of his head; getting lost in self-hatred would do nothing to alleviate Dean’s.

“I’m so sorry,” Cas says quietly.

Dean just shrugs, “It is what it is.”

An awkward few moments of silence ensues, neither boy knowing quite what to say to comfort the other – perhaps knowing too well that no words exist to accomplish the task.  

Soon enough, though, Dean smiles, “Well, what do ya say we unwrap some gifts?”

The smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes and his voice exudes a cheer that feels forced, but Cas can tell he’s trying, so he returns the smile and nods. Nervousness renewed, Cas gets the gifts and they sit facing each other on the couch.

“You first,” Dean says before Cas has a chance to ask.

Cas picks up the rectangular package and makes quick work of the wrapping. A slim copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray looks up at him. Before Cas can even process, Dean is already talking.

“It’s a copy of the original version. Before the editors chopped it up back in the day. Charlie said you didn’t have that one. Sam did some research on it; apparently it’s shorter and… uh… gayer.”

Cas positively beams, and Dean visibly startles when Cas suddenly cries out, “They published that?!”

“You- you didn’t know?”

No! This is amazing! Thank you so much, Dean, and make sure to thank Sam too! I can’t believe this; how did I not know? I knew there was an original copy, they even used it as evidence in Oscar Wilde’s trial, but I had no idea they published it!”

Cas eagerly begins to flip through the pages, already wondering about the differences between the original and the one he owns, “I mean, listen to this changed line: ‘It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman.’”

“Yep, that’s pretty gay.”

“Exactly! It’s practically a confession of love! Which makes sense considering the whole portrait is basically a romantic declaration in itself. It’s a terrible shame that Victorian society was so afraid of such sentimentalities! It’s like Wilde said: ‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.’ Which, of course, was such a bold statement to make at… um… at the…time…” Cas rambles, trailing off when he looks up to see Dean staring wide-eyed at him, “Sorry about that, got a little carried away.”

Dean laughs, but not in a mean way. “Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you like it, I was sweatin’ bullets all the way over here. It’s… nice to see you so worked up about something.”

Cas smiles warmly, surprised at his own geeky outburst. He puts the book on the coffee table and leans forward, capturing Dean’s lips to show his gratitude before he can embarrass himself further.

“Your turn,” Cas says once they part, biting his lip in anxious anticipation as Dean picks up his gift.

What is in reality only a few seconds, feels like hours to Cas as Dean opens the wrapping paper to reveal a small wooden box with ornately carved designs on the lid. Dean lifts the lid, finding a music box mechanism inside. Dean smiles like people do when they don’t know what’s coming, but who are excited to find out. He quickly locates the silver wind-up key on the bottom and cranks it three times.

The tinkling notes of Hey Jude fill the room.

Dean stares at the box, expressionless, and Cas’ heart sinks. He starts to babble.

“I hear you humming that song a lot, um, while you think I’m not listening? And then I found this at that antique store in town and I thought you might like it. But if you hate it, I can bring it back, it’s fine-“

“Cas, I don’t hate it,” Dean says, thick with emotion.

“You don’t?” Cas replies timidly.

Dean looks up then, his eyes a little red, and he’s smiling. “This is the best gift anyone’s ever given me.”

“Then why…?” Cas asks, trailing off as he reaches over and wipes away an errant tear that hadn’t succumbed to Dean’s effort in blinking them back.

Dean pulls away and puts the music box down on the table, before hastily wiping his eyes. He clears his throat, “My mom… She… she used to sing this to me when I was little. It was her favourite.”

Cas is speechless. All this time, he assumed Dean just liked the song, that it was nothing more than an earworm Dean couldn’t seem to shake. When, in fact, it was so much more than that.

Cas looks at Dean, vulnerable and trying so hard not to be, and immediately circles him in his arms. And, as if by Christmas miracle, Dean actually lets himself have this moment of comfort.

“Thank you,” Dean whispers into Cas’ shoulder, barely audible. Cas doesn’t say anything, just holds him tighter.


A little while later finds Dean and Cas recovered from their emotional outpouring and bickering on the couch over what Christmas movie they should watch. Dean is trying to explain the merits of Die Hard, while Cas argues that a movie that takes place during Christmas does not a Christmas movie make. Cas suggests It’s A Wonderful Life, and he wonders whether his neighbours are able to hear Dean’s over-dramatic groan.

In the end, they decide to rock-paper-scissors for it, two out of three. Much to Dean’s displeasure and Cas’ delight, Cas wins and goes to fetch the DVD while Dean sulks comically.

They settle in and watch the movie, though “watch” may be too strong a word. They fill most of the movie with idle banter, kissing, or laughter at Dean’s awful Jimmy Stewart impression. And if he’s being truthful, Cas really doesn’t mind at all.

In the rare moments of silence, however, Cas can’t help but ponder on old Novak and Winchester Christmas traditions. He thinks about how although it’s sad to let them go…

It’d be even sadder if they didn’t make new ones out of moments like these.


Chapter Text

The rest of the holidays go off without a hitch. Cas, Charlie, Dean, and Sam gather at Cas’ house to ring in the New Year. Cas is extraordinarily grateful for their company, as it distracts him from the haunting memories of the previous New Year. He thinks – he hopes – that soon he’ll be ready to tell Dean about what happened, but tonight is not the night for despairing memories, tonight is the night for celebrations of new beginnings. So, in the spirit of that, Sam and Cas watch, highly amused, as Dean and Charlie heroically conquer a bottle of champagne, belting ‘Auld Lang Syne’ off-key enough to peel the wallpaper. And, when midnight finally comes, Dean is just drunk enough to forget any kind of reservations about public displays of affection, and kisses Cas to the whoops and cat-calls of a delighted Sam and Charlie.

Now, a few days later, Cas lies in bed awash in that blissful feeling of awake-but-not-quite, and smiles a little at the fond memory. For the first time in what he thinks is far too long, he feels good. For no other reason than that he simply exists, that he’s happy to just be. In all his second life, he’s never felt that before. Cas gives himself another moment to lazily revel in it before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and getting up.

He feels oddly energized. He finds he doesn’t want to lose this feeling and, after the briefest moment of indecision, decides not to waste it.

Cas walks down the hallway and stands in front of two doors. Two slabs of wood should not be able to intimidate him so much, and today is the day Cas decides not to let them. He grabs the doorknob to the closest room and – before he can talk himself out of it – opens it and steps through.

He lets out the breath he’d inadvertently been holding as he stands inside of Gabriel and Samandriel’s joint bedroom.

It’s dark. That’s the first thing he notices. The curtains are drawn, and Cas can only make out dim outlines through the sliver of light that slips through. A part of Cas wants to run from this room, but a larger part of him is tired of running. So, he strides to the curtains and yanks them open, letting the bright wintry light bathe the room for the first time in months. Cas slowly turns around to survey the only things he has left of his brothers.

When he comes face-to-face with the idea he’s been dreading since he returned, however, he’s surprised to find himself mostly unaffected.

He’s sad, of course; it’s not easy for him to look at the places that Gabriel and Samandriel once filled with such simple liveliness, but he’s struck with the notion that everything surrounding him is nothing more than things. The sloppily made beds, the toys and books scattered across the floor, all inanimate objects that give Cas nothing but the familiar melancholic pang of grief.

He stands there for a moment, immobile in his shock, before shaking it off and getting to work. He picks up all of the items on the floor, handling each with care, and puts them away in the designated spot. He shakes out the bed covers and remakes both beds until they lay nice and neat. He opens the window a little to hopefully refresh the stale air. He cleans until the layers of dust have receded.

Cas stands back and surveys his work, feeling pleased with himself. He had finally rectified in his mind that this didn’t mean he was systemically erasing all he had left of his family. He much preferred to think of it as finally putting them to the rest they so dearly deserved.

He repeats the process in his parents’ bedroom. When he’s done, he snaps a picture of both rooms on his phone and texts them to Charlie, wanting her to know how far she’d helped him come. In both rooms, he leaves the curtains wide open, and purposely refrains from shutting either door.

Cas knows he’ll eventually have to look into donating their things, but for now he’s proud of what he’s accomplished today, and that only adds to his good mood.

As if in response to his good humour, Dorian picks that moment to bound up to him, evidently tired of being alone. Cas indulges his dog without hesitation and plays with him for a while until both of them are sufficiently tuckered out.

Just then, he receives a text notification. Pulling his phone out, a smile appears magnetically on Cas’ face when he sees Charlie’s name.

 

Received 1:34 pm:

OHMYGOD!!! that is amazing!! srsly cas i am so proud of u!! u should celebrate or smth, treat yoself haha :D

 

Cas huffs a soft laugh at Charlie’s sheer exuberance and thumbs a reply.

 

Delivered 1:35 pm:

Thank you! I just might.

 

Cas, never one for frivolity, isn’t exactly used to treating himself. He feels, though, that today he should make an exception and celebrate this new lightness he feels in his stagnant heart. He thinks hard for a moment, wondering what the occasion calls for, before happily deciding that the answer is quite clear.

Nothing says celebration quite like a new book (in Cas’ mind, at least).

So, armed with newfound determination, Cas adorns dark blue jeans and a burgundy sweater before attempting to apply his living façade as evenly as possible, and prepares to set out into the cold. Patience rewarding him, a bus appears not five minutes later. He deposits what he hopes is the right change and takes a seat in his customary position – head down, lax posture, anything to discourage attention.

Cas arrives in town not long after, and exits the bus with a perfunctory thank you to the driver. Not wasting any time, he strolls down the block and approaches the large bookstore chain excitedly.

In the past, Cas has frequently purchased books from a variety of vendors. One, a small used book store whose musty pages filled Cas’ nose with the scent of familiarity and nostalgia. Another, a thrift store where he’d found beautiful – if slightly weathered – editions of books for laughably cheap prices. He tended to prefer those places, finding their books comforting and inviting. Today, however, Cas has decided to stick to the theme of “out with the old, in with the new” and seeks something fresh.

He walks through the sliding doors of the chain store and wipes his boots on the mat before entering. The floor plan is as familiar to him as his own home, and he walks through it confidently, feeling more at ease in a public place than he normally would. He browses shelves aimlessly, looking for nothing in particular, accompanied by the music of cash registers and idle chatter and the clinking of mugs at the connecting coffee shop.

He pauses by the ‘S’ authors, remembering how much he enjoyed the Dan Simmons novel he read not too long ago, and stoops to examine his other titles. He picks up one called “The Fifth Heart”, and reads the back, learning with interest that it’s a historical mystery with Sherlock Holmes and Henry James as main characters. Caught up in the description, Cas fails at first to notice the woman staring at him from across the aisle. Sensing her in his peripherals, he looks up out of instinct.

The woman appears to be in her mid-forties, her wiry hair going grey at the temples. She’s of short stature and average build, her skin a beautifully aged brown with soft bronze undertones. Her eyes have the beginnings of crow’s feet, but the lines are immediately smoothed when she widens them in shock as Cas looks up.

She drops the book she’s holding, the cover making a resounding ‘slap’ against the floor. Her hands fly to her mouth, poorly stifling her sudden scream.

Cas is confused and frightened, completely unsure of what to do and unable to move. The woman’s terrified glare roots him to the spot. Cas watches, foreboding, as her facial expression transitions from shock and fear to complete unadulterated rage.

She begins speaking in rapid-fire Spanish, gesturing wildly and coming closer to Cas. Cas tosses his book back on the shelf and raises his hands in what he hopes is a placating gesture. A crowd has started to form and Cas can feel everyone’s eyes on him and he is still unable to move. A concerned employee finally steps onto the scene, and gets between the two of them.

“May I ask the problem here, ma’am?” he says to the woman. The fury in her eyes is still present, but now there’s also an indescribable sadness. She switches to English in a choked voice.

“He killed her! He killed my daughter! I’d never forget that face. My baby… my only baby,” the woman cries, dissolving into broken sobs.

Cas feels sick. He feels unsteady, like the world is spinning and he can’t catch his balance. He’s disconnected, like he’s watching this all happen outside his body, but at the same time he’s all too present, feeling everything so acutely, each word a hot knife to his heavy and burdensome heart.

The worst part is Cas has no memory of it. He doesn’t recognize this woman; he doesn’t remember her daughter. If he is the cause of this much pain, he deserves to be constantly reminded of what he’s done, every nanosecond of what was no doubt a truly gruesome and abhorrent murder.

The little voice that Cas hasn’t heard in so long suddenly rears large in his mind. How many more? How many more lives have you ruined, Castiel? How many families have you torn apart? HOW MANY?

And then he’s running. Away from the stares and the whispers and the people whose disgusted hatred burns apparent on their faces.

Cas barrels through the doors and keeps going, the bereaved mother’s cries still echoing tortuously in his ears. He doesn’t know Spanish, but he knows enough to guess what monstruo means.

Monster.


Cas runs, barely even paying attention to where he’s going, his mind only supplying the vague instruction of “forward”.

Eventually, after however many blocks, Cas begins to slow and ducks into an alley between two buildings. He stumbles over to the dumpster and sinks to the ground beside it, away from prying eyes. Cas gathers up his knees and hugs them to his chest, shaken and anxious.

He can feel the uncomfortable sensation of a panic attack coming on and tries desperately to control his breathing. He closes his eyes, and just as quickly snaps them back open again when the grieving mother’s face appears behind his lids.

After he’s gained a little more control, he pulls out his phone with trembling fingers. Cas doesn’t even hesitate before dialling the numbers that he’s long since memorized.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean answers merrily.

“Dean.”

Cas tries to say something else, but his throat seems too thick for words. So, he’s incredibly grateful when Dean gleans his unease from the single syllable.

“Are you alright?”

“No,” Cas manages to choke out, holding back a sudden sob.

“Tell me what happened.”

“I can’t- I don’t-“ Cas doesn’t know what to say, where to start, and suddenly all he wants in this harsh world is to seek comfort in green eyes and strong arms. “Can you pick me up?”

“Where are you?”

Cas quickly glances at his phone’s GPS and relays the information to Dean, who announces he’ll be there in ten and promptly hangs up before Cas can say another word.

Sure enough, the roar of the Impala’s engine announces Dean’s arrival. Cas lets out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding as he watches Dean stride towards him. Dean immediately gathers Cas in his arms. Cas crumples in Dean’s embrace, equal parts relief and despair. He sobs quietly into Dean’s shoulder.

“Shh, it’s okay. You’re going to be okay. Let it out, I’ve got you,” Dean whispers, pouring out what should feel like empty platitudes. And from anyone else, they would have been, but tumbling from Dean’s lips, each word acts as a soothing balm to Cas’ splintered soul.

Dean leans back a little and looks Cas deeply in the eyes, bright green locking with dull blue. “Why don’t we go for a drive, huh? Get outta here?” he asks. Cas sniffs, nodding.

They wordlessly walk towards the car, Dean opening the door for Cas and closing it behind him once he’s settled.

Dean puts the car in gear and they drive. Dean takes it slow and steady, which Cas appreciates. Cas looks out the window, the familiar feeling of numbness beginning to kick in. He watches as the buildings and the people fade away into trees and country fields.

They drive in comfortable silence, neither one rushing to fill it quite yet. Cas suddenly feels a nudge against his hand. A little startled, he turns in time to see Dean give him a glance, his eyes flicking downwards. Cas follows them, and sees Dean’s hand held open in clear invitation. The corners of Cas’ mouth lift ever so slightly as he takes the proffered hand in his, entwining their fingers. He stares out the window again, the single point of contact between their palms grounding him.

Cas leans his head on the window, not focusing on anything in particular, content to just observe the passing blurs of his quickly receding surroundings. Lulled into something resembling calm, Cas finally finds the courage to speak.

“Thank you for coming to get me,” he says in a voice that’s almost a whisper.

Cas tries to look at Dean as he says it, but instead finds his gazed locked on the road ahead. Cas can’t bear to look at him right now, at this truly wondrous person he doesn’t deserve.

“Any time,” Dean says. Cas can feel the hesitation in his voice as he continues on, “So… What happened?”

Cas takes a deep, shuddering breath and relays the whole story to Dean, trying in vain to keep his voice from breaking.

“Christ, Cas, that’s awful. I’m so sorry,” Dean says. His brows are furrowed, like he’s trying very hard to say the right thing. “It’s not your fault.”

Cas surprises even himself by letting out a mirthless laugh. “How is it not? It was me, Dean. It was my face that woman remembered. That she’s always going to remember, because it was the face that killed her only daughter! So, tell me, how is it not my fault?!

Cas’ voice grows louder and more frantic with each word. Cas looks at Dean now, suddenly wanting him to see everything, to really see the monster he’d made a mistake in deciding to be with.

Dean flounders at the unexpected outburst, but quickly recovers. “It wasn’t you! That isn’t who you are.”

Cas sighs, all fight leaving him in one fell swoop. “How can you be so sure? I don’t even know who I am anymore,” he confesses softly.

The car then veers, slowly enough that it doesn’t cause Cas to panic, but fast enough to surprise him. Dean turns onto the side of the road and stops the car altogether. They just sit there for a moment in silence, Dean still gripping the steering wheel and staring straight ahead.

“Dean, what are you-“ Cas starts, but Dean cuts him off.

“You wanna know who you are? Because I can tell you for damn sure,” Dean begins, his voice strict and leaving no room for argument or interruption. “You. Are. Incredible. Got it? And I’m not spouting this shit just to be nice, alright? You know me better than that. You’re so… you’re so fucking real. I don’t think you have a phony bone in your entire body. You’re kind and gentle and smart, not to mention surprisingly hilarious. You’d never knowingly hurt anyone. I know that. I know that as sure as I know my own fucking name. So, if you trust me at all, you’ll trust me on this. Because… because I care about you so damn much and I really need you to understand all the reasons why. Okay?”

Cas is dumbstruck. Utterly confounded by the tumult of emotions churning inside him and all the thoughts running rampant in his head. Dean raises his eyebrows expectantly and it’s then that Cas realizes he should probably give a response.

There’s so much he wants to say; paragraphs worth, novels worth. He settles, however, on a single whispered word.

“Okay.”

And by the way Dean’s face lights up in a warm smile, that’s all he needed to hear. Dean lifts his hand and lays it gently on Cas’ face, which Cas can’t help but lean into. Dean quirks a brow, as if asking permission, and Cas gives a small smile in return. Dean then leans forward and kisses Cas, so tenderly that Cas’ throat feels thick with emotions too great to possibly express. They part reluctantly, and Cas tries to pour everything he’s feeling into their shared gaze.

Although Dean has managed to bury it down once more, Cas knows there’s still a part of him that believes he doesn’t deserve anything close to the joy that Dean gives him. A part of him that will always think of itself as a monster. But here, in this moment with Dean, Cas feels relief that he can forget, if only for a short time. He sighs.

“What is it?” Dean asks upon hearing the weary exhale.

“It’s silly.”

“Come on, tell me.”

“Sometimes… I wish we could just… Get away for a while. The two of us,” Cas says, a little embarrassed at the confession.

Dean smiles ruefully, “Me too.”

He then pauses a moment, and Cas can almost physically see whatever idea has suddenly taken up roots in Dean’s brain. He braces himself.

“Why don’t we?” Dean asks, the glint of excitement in his green irises.

“What do you mean?”

“You and me, gettin’ the hell outta dodge for a couple days! Why don’t we?”

Cas splutters, “We can’t!”

“Why not?”

“Because! We- we can’t just leave. Your dad-“

“Yeah… We’re not exactly on the best of terms right now,” Dean interrupts, looking away. Cas raises an eyebrow.

“What happened?”

“S’nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

“Dean,” Cas says, letting a hint of warning creep into his voice.

Dean sighs, sounding defeated. “We had a fight. I… I told him I was done with killing. That I wasn’t gonna do it anymore.”

Cas is shocked. Of all the things he expected to hear, that wasn’t it. “What did he say?”

Dean laughs humorlessly, “Said he didn’t raise me to be soft. That if I cared at all about mom, I’d ‘do what has to be done’.”

And if Cas’ heart aches this badly just from hearing it second hand, he can only imagine what Dean must be going through.

“You know that’s not true, right?” Cas asks quietly.

“Yeah, I know. Didn’t make it hurt less, though.”

Cas doesn’t know what to say to that, if there’s anything he can say. Instead, he takes Dean’s hand, giving it a comforting squeeze before bringing it up to his mouth and pressing a kiss to the knuckles, his eyes never once leaving Dean’s.

Dean smiles in a way that just touches the corners of his eyes. Cas returns the smile and makes a decision then and there.

“Let’s do it.”

“Really?” Dean asks incredulously.

Cas nods vigorously. He understands now that they both need this. Some time to just recharge, clear their heads.

“Where should we go?” Cas asks. Dean thinks for a moment.

“We have a hunting cabin outside of town? Nobody uses it this time of year so we’d have the place to ourselves.”

If he were capable, Cas would blush at all the possible implications of ‘the place to ourselves’, but he refuses to think that far ahead lest he psyche himself out.

“Sounds perfect.”

Dean beams and starts up the car again, beginning the drive back into town. “I’ll talk to Sam about it tonight, make sure he’s okay being on his own for a couple days.”

“When should we leave?”

“How ‘bout tomorrow?”

Cas chuckles at Dean’s eagerness. “Isn’t that a little soon?”

“No time like the present, I always say,” Dean quips. Cas shakes his head in fond disbelief, but ultimately agrees.

They make quick work of the drive home and soon they’re idling outside of Cas’ house. Cas turns in his seat to look at Dean.

“Until tomorrow then?” Cas asks, suddenly a little uncertain.

“You got it,” Dean replies, before ducking in and kissing away all of Cas’ doubts.

They say their goodbyes and Cas heads inside, his mind already conjuring lists of what he should pack.

Chapter Text

For the rest of that night and all the next morning, Cas’ internal settings get stuck on a single mode: frantic. He runs around his room, haphazardly throwing things into an old duffle bag, trying to prepare for anything he might need on this impromptu getaway.

Cas is, and always has been, a planner. He had never liked half-strung together spontaneous events, preferring to organize and account for everything to the letter in order to assuage his inevitable anxiety. It’s one of the reasons he’d struggled making friends growing up, other people tended to find him too uptight.

During their time in the Impala, when Cas made his silly confession, he knew that whatever idea had made Dean’s eyes light up so beautifully was an idea he could never say no to. And in the moment, he hadn’t wanted to say no, not really. The thought of feeling free, unbound by anything, had been intoxicating to say the least. He had let himself get swept up in it, but now he’s starting to have his doubts.

And, as irony would have it, his phone chimes at that exact moment with a text from Dean.

 

Received 10:03 am:

sammy’s cool with it. dad didn’t even ask so i guess we’re good there too. how u feelin? still up for this?

 

Cas’ hesitantly types the word “no” and his thumb hovers over the send button. After a moment, however, he sighs and instead opts for the “backspace” button.

 

Delivered 10:04 am:

Yes, I’m ready.

 

As he sends it, Cas is hit with an initial spike of anxiety before it settles down into something resembling relief. Cas reads the words again, and is determined to mean them. Refusing to go on this adventure with Dean would be what the old Cas would have done, a default reaction that stopped him from having new experiences. But now, Cas has been through so many changes that he figures, why stop now? He’s tired of taking the easy way out, he wants to do this. More importantly, he wants to do this with Dean.

But Cas, as he is wont to do, still worries.

He’d already lain awake most of the night, his brain preoccupied with conjuring all the possible things that could go wrong. And this wasn’t just mundane worries like what to pack – That would be too easy, Cas thinks sardonically – but the realization that he’d be staying in a strange place overnight. With Dean. Alone.

Cas wonders where that might take their relationship, and the spark of excitement is drowned out almost completely by the sense of dizzying dread. He knows Dean would never pressure him into anything he’s not ready for, that’s not what he’s worried about. As happy as Cas is in this budding – albeit unlikely – relationship, there’s still a part of him that’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. He’s in a constant state of wondering what the final straw will be, what will finally make Dean realize the mistake he’s made. Cas tries to keep these unhelpful thoughts at bay most days, but in times of anxious worry, they rear large and desperately important. He’s terrified that if he crosses that line, truly gives everything he has to give, he will be rejected at his most vulnerable.

Cas has fallen in love with the one thing, the one person, that can utterly destroy him.

The thought alone is enough to make him want to turn tail and run in any direction that’s not towards Dean, but then his mind’s eye is filled with green eyes and warm smiles and freckled skin, and he knows there isn’t a place in this world he’d rather be.

He attempts to let those visions wash over him in comforting waves, just as his phone beeps with another text from Dean.

 

Received 10:06 am:

awesome. be there soon :)

 

The rare emoticon is enough to show Cas just how excited Dean is for this, how much he needs to get away – maybe even more than Cas does.

Cas is in the middle of taking inventory of what he’s packed when Dorian bounds into the room, as if sensing that his owner will be leaving soon. Cas stoops down and scratches Dorian behind the ears. He’d already told Charlie about the trip and made arrangements for her to drop in every once and a while to look after his dog – putting Cas at risk of deafness by the amount of excited squealing on the other end of the phone line – but this is the first time Cas has left Dorian’s side for any prolonged period of time and he feels a little guilty.

“I’m sorry, pal, I wish I could take you with me. I won’t be gone long, I promise,” Cas consoles in earnest, as if Dorian can understand him.

Dorian cocks his head to the side in that adorable way of his, immediately bringing a smile to Cas’ face. He grabs one of Dorian’s toys, figuring his friend deserves some quality time before Cas leaves.

Cas must have lost track of the time during their playing, because suddenly he hears a very distinct car honk outside his house. He snaps ramrod straight, his eyes wide. Cas looks at Dorian, panic flaring once more.

“He’s here already?!” Cas cries. He gives Dorian a quick kiss on the nose in goodbye before zipping up his bag and running down the stairs.

He looks at himself in the hallway mirror as he’s about to leave, adjusting his unkempt hair. It predictably pops right back into place again, and Cas just sighs in defeat before practically flying out the front door to greet the driver of the Impala currently idling in his driveway.

Cas opens the passenger door and easily slides into the front, throwing his duffel into the back seat before turning to face Dean.

And, as always seems to be the way when he sees him, Cas smiles.

Dean returns it. “I’m glad you decided to come.”

Edging closer, Cas says, “Me too.” He closes the distance between them and kisses him softly, hoping to show Dean that he’s more than willing to do this despite his nerves.

When he pulls away, Cas is surprised to see a light uncharacteristic blush dusting across Dean’s freckled cheeks. It makes his eyes shine even brighter, and becomes him greatly. Cas has a moment of wishing he was capable of the same, but quickly dismisses the idle thought as useless. Dean beams as he puts the car in gear, ‘Baby’ roaring to life beneath them.

“Let’s hit the road, Jack!” Dean says, reversing out of the drive.

Cas chuckles, “See, now that reference I get.”


“Okay, I spy with my little eye, something that is… green.”

“Um… is it that tree?”

“No.”

“Is it… that tree?”

“No, Dean, it’s not any tree.”

Dean makes a thoughtful humming noise, “Okay, I give up.”

“Already? We just started!” Cas rebuts, letting out a disbelieving chuckle.

“This was a dumb idea,” Dean replies, a little huffy. Cas only smiles, finding the sore loser side of Dean rather endearing.

“As I recall, it was your dumb idea.”

“Yeah, well. You obviously gave me too much credit. What was it, anyway? The green thing.”

“Oh, it was this little army man. He seems to be stuck in the ashtray?”

Dean laughs, genuine in a way that makes Cas’ heart flood with affection. “That one’s on Sammy. When he was just a squirt, he crammed one in there. God knows why.”

“Probably following a strain of logic that made perfect sense to a young child,” Cas supplies, trying to picture it in his mind with a smile.

Dean nods and grins slightly, his expression looking distant and far away, seeing memories long-passed. Cas decides to leave Dean to his happy musings, and is content to look out the window at the passing scenery.

They spend the next while drifting effortlessly between easy conversation and comfortable stretches of silence. A little over an hour into their trip, however, Cas starts to feel odd. His skin itches – not in a way that he needs to scratch, but rather a twitchy sensation that begins to spread throughout his body. He chalks it up to anxiety, and tries to breathe through it. Cas isn’t one to stray too far from home, so he assumes that the distance is making his nerves flare.

When the feeling gets continually worse over the course of the next fifteen minutes, he begins to get restless. His leg starts to bounce up and down restlessly, as he tries unsuccessfully to tamp down his panic.

“Hey, you okay over there?” Dean asks lightheartedly.

“I’m all right, must be a little car sick.”

“Didn’t think that was something you had to, uh, worry about?” Dean asks with the slight awkwardness that tends to arise whenever Cas’ undead nature is brought up.

The thing is, Cas knows Dean is right. The dead don’t get sick. So, what is wrong with him? Cas racks his brain, trying to come up with an answer, bringing forth all the knowledge he’s ever learned about PDS sufferers.

Suddenly, the answer hits him like a bolt of lightning and he actually lets out an audible gasp of horror. He wordlessly turns and reaches into the back seat, bringing his duffel onto his lap. He begins to search through it with thinly veiled desperation.

“Cas, what’s wrong?” Dean asks, more concerned than before.

“It’s my medication. I-I didn’t take it this morning,” Cas answers feebly, his search proving difficult with his hands beginning to shake as badly as they are.

“Your medication? Christ, you don’t mean-“

“Yes, my neurotriptyline. It’s in here somewhere, I know I packed it,” Cas says, the panic well and truly creeping into his voice now. After what seems like ages of digging through his bag, Cas finally sees it.

In his mind’s eye.

Sitting on his nightstand.

Over an hour away.

“Dean, you… you have to pull the car over. Now,” Cas says, his voice trembling on every syllable. A grim resignation washes over him as the itching feeling gets more intense by the minute. His stomach churns and lurches with a hunger he hasn’t felt for a very long time, as if the organ has only just caught up with the fact that it is far too empty. Cas is suddenly acutely aware of how little time he has left.

“Cas, what the hell is going on?” Dean demands, as he thankfully begins to slow the car.

“I don’t have it,” Cas says, his voice shocked, still unable to fully believe it himself.

Dean’s eyes widen in terror, “I’ll turn around, we can go back!”

Cas just shakes his head sadly. “There’s no time,” and Cas is convinced he’s never felt as atrociously awful as when he looks into Dean’s concerned eyes and continues quietly, “I’m going to transition.”

“Fuck!” Dean yells, slamming the wheel with his hands angrily. Cas winces.

Too many of Cas’ emotions collide in a brain that soon won’t be able to feel them. He’s so ashamed, heartbroken at the thought of Dean bearing witness to the monster he’d tried so hard to keep hidden. He had wanted his inescapable burden to be forever ensconced in shadow, strafing along the fringes of their relationship in such a way where they knew it was there, but it never needed to be directly dealt with. And now that creature of shadow was going to be thrown under a spotlight, clear as day, to the last audience Cas ever wanted it shown to.

Dean screeches to a halt on the side of the road and throws the car in park. He turns to look at Cas, whose entire body feels like it’s freezing and burning at the same time, “What do you need me to do?”

“I need you to get out of the car and lock the doors,” Cas says, much calmer than he feels. His terror is slowly being replaced by an instinctive need to protect.

“What? Cas, no, I’m not going to just leave you here!” Dean cries.

“You have to, don’t you understand? This is the only way I can help keep you safe! Do you have any idea what it would do to me if you- if I-” Cas’ thought gets swallowed by a choked dry sob. The thought is simply too harrowing to give voice to. “Please, Dean. Just… please.” Cas’ voice cracks on the last word, the pressure of the begged request mounting.

Dean looks into Cas’ eyes, considering, and Cas gazes back. Cas knows Dean has no options, no other choice, and he sees the exact moment Dean figures that out. “Goddamnit!” Dean expostulates, grabbing the keys as he gets out of the vehicle in one violent motion, kicking the front tire. Somewhere distant in the back of Cas’ mind, he acknowledges how upset Dean must be to disrespect his Baby like that. Dean fiddles with the keys and presses a button. Cas hears the lock mechanisms switch.

He takes a deep breath and tries to let go, attempting to surrender himself to what he knows has to happen, what’s going to happen whether he’s ready for it or not.

And he’s not. He’s unequivocally, incontrovertibly, undeniably not.

The itching feeling grows torturous, and Cas’ entire body is on fire. His breathing comes in laboured shudders, his utter terror making it difficult. He settles back against the seat and just waits for it all to be over. Cas told himself he wouldn’t – that it would be too hard – but he takes one last look out the window at Dean’s worried face anyway. And then-

Nothing.


Dean doesn’t exactly know what he’s expecting, but whatever it might have been can’t hold a candle to the sight before him.

He watches in horror as Cas’ features seem to grow more sunken and angular, his jaw slacked and his gaze vacant. One moment, Cas is sitting still in his seat and the next he’s all over the car, bouncing from place to place and throwing himself up against doors like a caged wild animal.

For a minute that feels like an hour, all Dean can do is watch. He’s unable to slot this creature and Cas – his Cas – together into one cohesive image. He’s seen – and subsequently killed – plenty of rabids before, but this is different. This is horrific in a way Dean has yet to experience in his unfortunate line of work.

Finally snapping out of it, he pulls out his phone with a shaky hand and dials the only number he can think to call.

“Hiya, Dean!” Charlie chirps at the other end of the line.

“Charlie, it’s Cas, something’s wrong,” Dean says quickly, not wanting to waste any time, but his brain is stumbling over the details.

“What’s happened?” Charlie replies, her voice doing a complete one-eighty into full seriousness.

“We were driving and he wasn’t feeling so hot and he forgot his meds and he’s gone, Charlie, Cas is fucking gone, but he’s in the car now and-“ Dean spitfires, running an agitated hand through his hair. Charlie interrupts him.

“Woah, okay, Dean. Breathe. Slower. Cas forgot his neurotriptyline?” she says, slowly and calmly. Dean knows she’s right and tries to be a bit clearer, attempting to breathe through the onslaught of panic and adrenaline pumping through his heart.

“We were on our way to the cabin, and Cas transitioned. I don’t know what to do, Charlie,” Dean admits, his voice strained with emotion.

‘Helpless’ and ‘Dean Winchester’ are not phrases often paired and Dean is truly at a loss. He’s not used to situations being so outside of his control. Usually control is the only way he’s able to deal with the tumult of his life.

“Stay right there, I’m already getting in the car with a new vial. Try to remain calm, I’ll be there as soon as I can. Where are you?”

Dean relays the road and a landmark or two for Charlie to find them. It’s not until Dean hangs up the phone that he realizes things are far too quiet. He looks up in a panic, half expecting to see that Cas has somehow managed to make a break for it while he was distracted, but what he finds is so much more disturbing.

Evidently having given up his useless attempts to knock down the car doors – and not having the working brain power to undo the locks – Cas just sits there, looking right at Dean. The sight makes Dean’s blood run cold. Cas is perched in the driver’s seat on his haunches, facing Dean. He stares unblinkingly at him and though Dean doesn’t want to, he can’t help but stare back. The next thing Cas does breaks Dean’s heart; he tilts his head to the side slightly. What should be an endearing quirk of confusion is now a cold and menacing predatory sign of considering. Cas looks like he’s sizing Dean up, like he’s figuring out what section of him he wants to rip apart first.

Dean can’t help it, he stares right back. It breaks something inside of him, but he doesn’t sever eye contact. He knows it’s a fruitless attempt carved from his own desperation, but he searches the eyes of the creature before him, looking for any sign of Cas. When he doesn’t find any, he’s not surprised, but he’s crushed all the same. Against his better judgment, he steps a little closer, pausing at the warning growl that issues from Cas’ throat. Dean holds his ground and waits.

Dean could not tell how long he waited there if his life had depended on it. Seconds stretched into eternities as Dean refused to leave Cas’ side. Eventually, though, Charlie’s Gremlin pulls up behind the Impala and she gets out of the car in a hurry, vial in one hand and a syringe in the other.

She runs to Dean’s side. “How is he?” she asks.

Dean just points. Charlie follows his gaze and gasps as Cas’ glazed eyes meet hers. Deans knows Charlie has seen her fair share of untreated PDS sufferers as well, but he feels he’s safe in assuming that when it’s your best friend, it’s a whole different ball game.

“Oh God, Cas,” Charlie lets slip quietly, more to herself than anyone else. Then, to Dean’s horror, she starts to stride purposefully towards the car.

Dean’s hand shoots out and grabs her arm. “What are you doing?”

“What do you think? I have to get this to him!” Charlie replies, frustrated and wide-eyed.

“And just how were you planning on doing that?”

“I... I would have figured something out!” she cries, and Dean can tell that her medical impartiality is completely gone.

“Would that have been before or after he killed you?” Dean demands, his helplessness making him irritable.

“Cas would never-“

“That’s not Cas and you know it,” Dean interrupts firmly. Charlie’s eyes well with tears at the fact that she knows, but doesn’t want to believe. Seeing this, Dean softens slightly.

“Hey, it gonna be okay. He’s got us now, both of us. We can do this.”

Charlie sniffs a little and nods, determination replacing the sadness in her eyes. “What’s the plan?”

Five minutes later has Charlie with her hand on the door handle and Dean bracing himself some little ways in front of it.

Charlie looks at him for confirmation, and he takes a deep breath. “All right. On three. One… two… three!

Charlie opens the door and Cas lunges at the first thing he sees, which is Dean by design. Cas’ body collides with full force into Dean’s, knocking the wind out of him. Cas’ jaws are snapping left and right as Dean tries to push him away. They wrestle each other to the ground and all Dean can hear is the blood pumping in his ears and Cas’ animalistic snarling. This is all too much for him, but he attempts to remain focused, shoving every ounce of power and strength into keeping the both of them safe. Surging with newfound energy, Dean manages to roll them over and pins Cas to the ground. Cas struggles, trying to bite and claw and gauge his way out of the hold, but Dean remains steadfast and determined, eventually managing to pin both of Cas’ arms down.

“Now!” Dean yells, and Charlie runs towards the scene, syringe in hand.

She goes to kneel next to Cas’ head, but jumps back in fear as Cas turns towards her with a savage growl, teeth bared. Dean gets her attention, knowing he won’t be able to hold Cas for much longer.

“You can do this, Charlie! Cas needs you,” he says, breathless from all the exertion.

Charlie’s mouth sets into a thin determined line as she crouches and holds Cas’ head to the ground as best she can with one hand, all but stabbing the needle into his neck with the other. She releases the plunger and Dean watches as all the liquid drains from it and into Cas. Charlie quickly gets back, her role now over.

Dean stays exactly where he is, not letting up as he watches Cas’ face expectantly, holding his breath.

“Cas?”


The first thing Cas hears is his name.

This is followed by the feeling of pressure and the rough scrape of pavement against his skin. His vision soon clears and he’s staring up into concerned green eyes.

“Dean?” he asks, sounding about as tired as Dean looks.

Cas can physically see the relief that washes over Dean’s face, and when the pressure is suddenly released, Cas realizes Dean had been holding him down.

Everything from earlier suddenly floods back into Cas’ mind and he feels sick with shame and guilt. He doesn’t know exactly what happened after he transitioned, but it starts to come back to him in hazy flashes – like being given someone else’s memories – and he’s smart enough to fill in the blanks.

Dean pulls him to his feet and before Cas can even think, he’s being engulfed in Dean’s arms and squeezed tight. “Really glad to have you back,” Dean whispers in his ear, his voice thicker with emotion than Cas has ever heard it before. Cas begins to raise his arms to return the affection, but Dean has already stepped back.

Cas tries to catch Dean’s eye, but can’t seem to manage it and he doesn’t even want to consider what that might mean. Instead, his gaze roams over to Charlie who’d been standing at the sidelines of the exchange.

Her worried face brightens as he looks at her and she runs at him, throwing her arms around his middle and hiding her tear-stained face in his shirt. Despite the tumult of negativity churning inside of him, Cas offers a small smile at this and returns the embrace. She suddenly steps back, and for one horrified moment, Cas thinks she’s going to treat him with the same awkwardness that Dean had shown. Instead, she pokes him in the chest, hard and accusatory, her expression suddenly near fuming.

“Don’t you ever do that to me again, Castiel Novak!” she cries.

Cas raises his eyebrows in surprise. “Yes, ma’am,” he can’t help but reply.

Charlie evidently tries to hide the smile that begins to appear on her face, but can’t quite manage it. “I hate you,” she says, hugging him again.

“I love you, too,” Cas replies and he’s never meant it more than he does in that moment.

They soon part and the three of them stand there, none knowing quite what to say. Dean eventually breaks the silence.

“We should… We should probably head home,” he says, his voice uncharacteristically quiet. Cas and Charlie nod solemnly.

“Thank you,” Cas says to Charlie before she gets in her car, knowing two simple words would never be enough to convey his gratitude.

“Any time, Cas, you know that. Good luck,” she replies with an indecipherable glance in Dean’s direction as she gets into her car and drives off.

Cas turns to see Dean leaning on the Impala, hands in his pockets. “You ready to go?” Dean asks when he catches him looking. Cas nods and they climb into the front seat.

They begin the drive in silence, but it’s not comfortable, it’s thick with things unsaid and emotion unexpressed. Cas can feel a cavern of distance growing between them and that terrifies him, but he just doesn’t know how to bridge that gap. Dean’s evidently thinking something similar, because they go to speak at the same time.

“I’m sorry-“

“Listen, I-“

They look at each other, smiling a little, but it reaches neither of their eyes.

“You go ahead,” Cas offers.

“It can wait,” Dean replies quickly, “You go.”

“It’s fine. Never mind.”

Cas sighs, as he knows no number of apologies will be able to repair the rift that has opened up between them. He notices that Dean doesn’t continue with what he was going to say, but refrains from mentioning it, part of him deeply afraid of what it was.

It’s a long and awkward drive back to Cas’ house, made more so when they pull into Cas’ driveway and neither of them knows what to say. After a moment, Cas just undoes his seatbelt and retrieves his bag from the backseat, a tangible reminder of the trip’s dismal failure. A failure that’s all his fault.

Dean gets out of the car and rests his arms on the roof of it, leaning there and watching wordlessly. Cas suddenly feels a desperation that manages to crawl its way out of his throat.

“Would you like to come in? We can make our own getaway right here. If you want to,” Cas asks, hating himself as he says it, but hating the faraway look in Dean’s eyes more.

“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Dean says hesitantly.

Cas heart sinks even further. “Oh?” he manages to choke out.

“Yeah. I think… I just need a bit of time. Just to like process it all, you know?”

“Okay,” Cas replies, not trusting himself to say anything further.

“Hey, come on. Don’t look at me like that. I just need to take a sec to catch my fucking breath here, all right?” Dean says, not unkindly. He has the same tired tone in his voice that he used to have when he was fighting his feelings for Cas, and now Cas wants to break down into tears for messing everything up so, so badly.

Cas nods a little. “Goodbye, Dean.”

Dean sighs. “Bye, Cas.”

The finality of the exchange is torturous, and yet Cas still forces himself to watch as Dean drives away. After a moment, he finally opens his door and walks inside the house that suddenly feels far too empty, even as Dorian bounds up to greet him.

Cas is feeling too much, too fast, and all he really wants to do right now is sleep. He trudges up the stairs to his room, more exhausted that he’s ever been, and climbs on top of the covers still completely dressed.

He squeezes his eyes shut, willing his sleep to be dreamless, drowning in the feeling that he may have just lost out on the love of a lifetime.

Chapter Text

Cas’ cellphone may as well be an extra limb for how often he checks it. It’s been over two weeks since their spontaneous trip went awry, and still no word from Dean. Cas has lost track of how many times he’s hit compose and typed up something feeble, completely unable to encompass everything he wants to say.

Dean, please talk to me.

Backspace.

You said you’d never shut me out again.

Delete.

I’m so sorry, this is all my fault. Please don’t hate me.

Erase. 

Every attempt sounds more and more desperate, and Cas hates himself for it. He’s tired. Tired of feeling vulnerable and sad and hopeless. He wonders if this is how Dean feels, stuck with an affectionless man seemingly broken beyond repair, an ingrained sense of heartless duty that’s slowly killing him, and a younger brother he can’t save from any of it. 

For a moment, just a moment, Cas had thought that maybe they could help save each other, to lift the other up and show that there was something that made it all worth it. That the two of them, together, were worth it. He chides himself for ever being so foolish, so naïve to think that he could have a happy ending. He doesn’t deserve one.

As much as Cas tries to tell himself that maybe this is for the best, that his second life doesn’t need any more complications, he still practically dives for his phone when it beeps.

It’s a text from Charlie and Cas sighs, disappointed, and immediately feels bad about it. He’s been keeping her at arm’s length, and she knows it. She’s been giving him space, but Cas can tell she’s worried.

 

Received 7:48 pm:

haven’t heard from u in a while… everything ok??

 

Cas is about to send a reply in the affirmative, before he changes his mind at the last moment, thinking Charlie deserves better than a boldfaced lie.

 

Delivered 7:49 pm:

Not particularly.

 

Received 7:51 pm:

im here if u wanna talk. i hope u know that.

 

Delivered 7:52 pm:

I do. And we will, I promise. I just need a bit more time. 

 

Received 7:55 pm:

k. just don’t beat urself up 2 much in the meantime alrite? :( 

 

Delivered 7:56 pm:

I’ll try. Thank you.

 

Received 7:56 pm:

any time <3

 

While a part of Cas aches to confide in someone about what he’s feeling, he knows Charlie would say all the right things and try to make him feel better, and for now, Cas just wants to wallow. Maybe stewing in this sinking feeling of pain will help him to move on from memories of something that can never be. It’s not the healthiest thing, but Cas decides to indulge this pull towards masochism, idly thinking that maybe feeling this sorrow is better than feeling nothing at all. 

So caught up is he in his ruminations, that he almost doesn’t hear the telltale rumble of the Impala coming up the street. Cas sits up immediately from where he’d been lying on the couch, moping, and Dorian perks up his ears from his position at Cas’ side. Cas freezes for a moment, before he’s vaulting off the couch and racing to the door despite every logical bone in his body telling him not to.

He throws open the door and stands looking at a surprised Dean, whose hand is raised in a fist ready to knock.

“Uh. Hi,” Dean says. He looks at his hand for a moment, as if just realizing it’s still raised, and awkwardly lowers it.

Cas is filled with about a hundred emotions, all warring for their time in the spotlight. What his brain decides to settle on, however, is anger.

“What are you doing here?” Cas asks coldly. Dean looks taken aback by this and winces, but Cas holds his ground, defensive walls already securely up and brick-solid.

“I… I wanted to talk.”

“It’s a bit late for that, isn’t it?”

A small, desperate part of Cas wants to take the words back, to say that it’s never too late, but he knows he can’t take much more of this. Dean can’t just stroll in and out of his life whenever he feels like it. 

“I’m sorry,” Dean breathes out in a rush, and Cas can clearly see that he means it, but he remains on his guard. “After what happened… I shouldn’t have left like that.”

“Then why did you?” Cas asks, his voice coming out choked with words he can’t bring himself to say, words like I needed you.

“It’s kind of a long story. Could I come in? It’s freezing out here.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

Cas isn’t sure where the flippant comment comes from, if maybe he’s trying to emphasize their difference to make sure Dean isn’t going to turn right around again. Dean doesn’t say anything, just regards Cas, his eyes pleading, clearly asking for the second chance that Cas had already wanted to grant him before he even opened the door. Cas sighs at his own infernal weakness, and steps back, allowing Dean to walk through. He closes the door behind him and Dorian bounds up, tail excitedly wagging at the sight of their guest.

Dean crouches and gives Dorian a fond scratch behind the ears. “Hey, buddy.”

“Dean,” Cas says, his voice serious and tinged with impatience. His arms are firmly crossed, perhaps so that they won’t reach out for someone who may not want to stay.

Dean straightens and evidently sensing the change in atmosphere, Dorian slinks away back to his spot on the couch.

“Right. So.” Dean takes a deep breath. “I needed some time to get my head straight, to sort through the freaking thousand or so things I was thinking and feeling. What happened… it was just a lot, you know?”

“I’m aware, Dean. I was there,” Cas replies, his voice like ice.

“But that’s the thing, you weren’t.”

“What are you talking about?”

“When you turned… You were gone. Checked out. You didn’t see what I saw. It was… Cas, it was horrible.”

Cas can’t help it, the words sting sharply. The hurt only feeds the anger that continues to burn through Cas. His face darkens and he steps forward, getting into Dean’s space. 

“It’s been made perfectly clear to me several times over that I am a monster. Do you really think I need you to remind me? That there isn’t a voice in my head plaguing me with that very same fact every waking moment?”

“That’s not what I mean! The things I felt… I can’t— I don’t know how to—”

Dean cuts himself off, his eyes darting around the room as if the right words are going to be floating there somewhere. His frustrated gaze lands back on Cas, and his expression turns to one of determination as he surges forward and closes the distance between them. 

Dean’s lips collide with his roughly and it’s reminiscent of that first kiss in the park, but it’s not anger and self-loathing fueling the kiss this time, but urgency and desperation and want. Cas can feel all those things in the way Dean’s fingers catch and pull at his hair, at the way his tongue slides against his own insistently, at the way Dean seemingly tries to meld their bodies together with sheer force of will.

Cas closes his eyes on instinct and lets out a whimper as he receives the contact he’s missed so thoroughly. He wants to melt into this embrace, to forget about everything else and just be here in this moment with Dean and let the rest of the world fade away into useless white noise. And he almost does.

But they’ve tried carving out their own little world before, and it didn’t work. It was stupid, dangerous even, to try. Hadn’t they learned that the hard way? 

So, Cas gathers up every ounce of his willpower and pushes Dean away.

They stand close together, Dean’s arms still partially looped around Cas, but Cas’ hands are firmly planted on Dean’s chest. Cas keeps his eyes closed for a moment, catching his breath and attempting to collect his thoughts into something coherent.

Cas fists his hands in the material of Dean’s jacket and finally looks at him. “No. You don’t get to do that. I can’t read your mind, Dean, I need you to talk to me.”

Dean sighs. “I know. It’s just… I’m not so great with words.”

Try,” Cas replies in earnest. 

Dean’s ensuing silence lasts for so long that Cas begins to wonder if he somehow hadn’t heard him, but then Dean finally begins to speak, his words quiet and devastatingly sincere.  

“When you turned… I don’t think I’ve ever felt so fucking terrified.” Seeing Cas’ involuntary flinch at the words, Dean quickly barrels on. “Not of you, Cas. For you. All these years that I’ve worked with my dad, I don’t think I’ve ever once seen a rabid as a person. Not really. They were an obstacle to eliminate, just part of the job,” Dean continues, voice steely with self-hatred. “When I saw what was happening to you, all I could think was that you were in there somewhere, trapped and unable to do shit about what was happening.”

“I don’t want your pity. That’s not— I don’t need that from you,” Cas interrupts without venom, his words shaky. He unconsciously grips Dean a little tighter as a spark of real hope begins to bloom traitorous in his chest.

“It’s not pity, it’s…” Dean loses his words for a moment, trailing off with a frustrated huff. He pauses for a moment, evidently trying to form the right words, before abandoning the notion completely. “Fuck, I just don’t want to lose you, okay?”

“What does that mean?” Cas can’t help but ask, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice and ultimately failing. He needs the meaning behind Dean’s words to be crystal clear, he can’t get his hopes up again. He can’t.

Dean smiles a little at that, his mouth just barely curling upwards in the corners, before he’s impossibly closer, his breath ghosting over Cas’ mouth as he speaks. “It means, I want this. Us. For real this time, no bullshit. I want… I want you. All of you, however it comes. Just you.”

“Dean,” Cas says, his voice choked with a sudden rush of emotion. He finds he’s embarrassingly incapable of more than the single syllable. 

Dean pays this no mind, his smirk growing. “Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I can be pretty goddamn stubborn. I’m not letting you go. Not unless you ask me to.”

Cas relaxes his hands from where they’re still held tense on the fabric of Dean’s jacket, allowing them to slide up to Dean’s shoulders and around his neck. He smiles and starts to lean in, when Dean pulls his face back just a little, maintaining eye contact. 

“Well?” he asks, a teasing lilt to his voice. Cas blinks in confusion.

“Well, what?”

“Are you asking me to?”

Dean says it jokingly, but Cas can hear the hint of a real question behind the words. Cas toys with the hair at the nape of Dean’s neck.

“I believe you already know the answer to that question,” Cas replies, looking up at Dean through his eyelashes. Dean begins to close the distance between them, his lips just barely grazing Cas’.

“Tell me anyway,” he whispers.

“Don’t let go,” Cas murmurs before the dam breaks and he can’t take it any longer. He closes the torturously infinitesimal distance between them and seals their mouths together. 

The kiss starts off slow and almost too gentle, both of them seemingly testing the waters of this newfound dedication to the other. And when Dean’s tongue swipes across Cas’ bottom lip seeking the entrance that Cas grants without a second thought, Cas assumes that Dean’s found whatever he’s looking for.

Cas’ dulled senses only make him hungry for more stimulus, more contact, more Dean. He curses Dean’s preference for layering, suddenly deciding that there are far too many barriers between them. He takes it upon himself to remove one, sliding the jacket from Dean’s shoulders and letting it drop to the floor. There’s barely any space left between them now, but that doesn’t stop Cas from trying to press himself closer anyway. From the way Dean wraps his arms tightly around Cas’ waist, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with this.

Cas can feel something different in this kiss. He can’t put his finger on exactly what it is, but he knows what it’s not; it’s not angry, or rushed, or hesitant. This kiss feels like acceptance and it’s a feeling Cas could quite willingly drown in.

In an attempt to do just that, Cas takes them a few steps until Dean’s back is pressed up against the door. He disconnects their lips just long enough to hear Dean’s breath of surprise before the sound turns into more of a moan as Cas starts to pepper kisses across his jawline and down onto his neck. Dean tilts his head to the side giving Cas more room to work, which he gladly takes advantage of, pressing open-mouthed kisses along every available patch of tender skin along Dean’s throat. Cas takes note of which areas make Dean shudder and gasp, and ensures he pays them the extra attention they deserve by sucking marks into the skin, his mouth quirking into a smug smile at Dean’s audible reactions to his ministrations.

Jesus,” Dean breathes as Cas lavishes the junction between his neck and his shoulder. “Why is it always the quiet ones, huh?”

Cas looks up into Dean’s amused face, regards how his pupils are blown wide. He smiles and shrugs, a little coy. He leans closer and relishes the way Dean’s lustful gaze drops to his lips and back again. “Maybe it’s just you.”

Before Dean can say whatever clever quip is surely on the tip of his tongue, Cas finds far better uses for that mouth by kissing it again. He gives in to his fingers’ exploratory whims and sneaks them under Dean’s shirt, feeling the smooth planes of muscle he finds there. Dean shivers a little under his hands and when they part again reluctantly to take a breath, Dean croaks out, “Bed?”

Cas freezes and withdraws his hands. His typically overactive brain function had until this point been put on hold, replaced instead by pure mindless sensation, but now it all comes rushing back to him. Is he ready? Is Dean ready? Their kiss may have instilled within him a feeling of acceptance, but Cas knows that if something more were to happen between them, that it would have to be acceptance on an entirely different scale.

Evidently sensing the shift, Dean breaks the silence. “Hey… We don’t have to. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—”

“No!” Cas says, perhaps a bit too quickly. He can’t stand the thought of Dean thinking he’s done something wrong when he hasn’t. “It’s not that. I want this, I do. But there’s… things. Parts of me that you haven’t seen, that you may not want to see, and I—I just want you to be prepared for that because I couldn’t take it if you saw and then you— if I saw in your eyes that you—”

Cas cuts off his own rambling, unable to speak past the sudden lump in his throat. Just the mere thought, the possibility, of Dean’s disgust and rejection was too much for him to even contemplate, let alone voice aloud. But as he looks into Dean’s eyes now, all he sees is gentle sympathy and a deeper emotion that neither of them have dared to put a name to. Dean reaches forward and cups Cas’ face in his hands, forcing Cas to hold his gaze, but Cas knows that he wouldn’t have—couldn’t have—looked away even if he’d wanted to. 

“I meant what I said before, that we don’t have to. We’ll go as far as you’re comfortable. But… Cas, if the only thing holding you back is your worry that I’m not going to want you? Then you’re fuckin’ crazy.”

Cas can’t help but laugh, Dean’s bluntly honest comments always giving him the bizarre comfort that he needs. The moment passes, however, and he sobers, still feeling unsure. Dean dips his head forward and kisses Cas lightly, a kiss of reassurance rather than fire.

Against his lips, Dean whispers, “Let me prove it to you?”

Cas can hear the question in it, knows that if he says no that Dean will drop it completely, but Cas finds, with no small amount of alarm, that he doesn’t want to say no. He looks into Dean’s eyes and, not trusting himself to speak quite yet, just smiles and nods his head. Dean grins broadly and Cas is filled with the desire to kiss it, so he does.

And keeps on kissing it as they somehow manage to fumble their way up the stairs, neither of them wanting to be more than an arm’s length from the other.

Cas leads them to his bedroom, trying not to be self-conscious of his space as he realizes Dean has never actually seen it before. Then again, Dean seems a little too distracted to focus on the particulars of Cas’ decor. Dean walks them backwards until the back of Cas’ legs hit his bed, which he lowers himself onto. He expects Dean to follow suit, but is surprised when Dean remains standing. Dean cups the back of his neck, giving him a lingering kiss, before breaking away and looking around the room.

Cas sits there rumpled on the bed, his hair mussed and lips kiss-swollen, and can only stare at Dean for a moment in utter confusion. Is now really the time to investigate Cas’ things? Cas is just about to voice this thought aloud when Dean gets there first.

“This your make-up stuff?”

Cas can only nod dumbly, still confused as to where Dean’s going with this. It becomes shockingly clear to him, however, as Dean grabs one of the cleansing wipes that resides beside his cover-up, and approaches him. Dean raises his arm towards Cas’ face, but Cas grabs his wrist before he can make contact.

“Dean… You don’t have to,” Cas says quietly.

“Yeah, I know,” Dean replies with a comforting smile, his eyes radiating kindness. Cas can feel his throat thicken with emotion; he lets go of Dean’s wrist.

Dean slowly raises his hand to Cas’ cheek and begins to gently wipe the make-up from his face. Dean takes his time, making sure to remove every trace of the substance covering Cas’ natural undead pallor. Cas can only sit there, stock-still in fear as more and more of his true self gets revealed to the boy in front of him. Cas shuts his eyes tightly, unable to bring himself to look at the reaction the sickly grey is illiciting.

Soon enough, Dean removes his hand, but Cas still doesn’t want to open his eyes.

“Hey, look at me,” Dean murmurs.

And just like that, Cas is suddenly powerless to do anything but. He slowly opens his eyes, still half expecting revulsion, but only seeing smiling acceptance. 

“I told you, however it comes,” Dean intones quietly, and Cas is overwhelmed. Dean’s brow soon furrows a little as he looks in Cas’ eyes and Cas is just starting to panic before Dean once again surprises him.

“Wait. Those too.” Dean gesticulates at his own eyes, and Cas realizes with a fresh stab of fear that Dean’s talking about his contacts. He hastily looks away, mind whirring.

Cas’ eyes are now easily the part of himself he hates most. Such an obvious sign of his undead state, he’d always viewed them as something that made him inhuman—a visible reminder of the monster he would always be. Hiding them had not been something he had ever resented; it had made it so that Cas could almost stand the sight of himself in a mirror. And now Dean wants to see the full horror of it—of him—and Cas isn’t sure if he has the courage to let it be seen.

Because if eyes are the window to the soul, then what does that make him?

Dean soon coaxes him out of his dismal thoughts by hooking his finger under Cas’ chin, gently turning it to face him once more. “I’m not going anywhere this time, okay? I promise. Just give me the chance to prove it.”

Cas stares into Dean’s green eyes, looking for any reservations and seeing none. So, gathering up every ounce of bravery he can muster, he stands and walks on unsteady legs to his dresser where his contact case rests. Trying to calm his shaking fingers, Cas reaches up and carefully removes each of his contacts and places them in their container. He takes a deep breath, and turns around.

Dean locks eyes with him and holds the eye contact as he gets up, making his way across the room, expression giving nothing away. He pauses right in front of Cas and places a tender hand on each side of his face before leaning in.

Dean kisses him with surety and absolution.

After a minute, Dean pulls away and regards Cas with serious eyes, but a smile is playing at the corners of his lips. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Cas all but rasps, nodding.

Dean beams before kissing Cas with renewed fervour. Cas sinks into it almost immediately, his body relaxing in a combination of pleasure and sheer relief. The fire between them earlier quickly reignites until Cas is tugging impatiently at the hem of Dean’s shirt.

Catching the not-so-subtle hint and running with it, Dean pulls off his shirt and lets it fall to the ground. Cas only has a moment to appreciate the view before Dean is kissing him again with lustful urgency. Cas’ hands explore the smooth muscle of Dean’s lean torso as Dean’s hands start to raise Cas’ own shirt. Cas begins to help the process along eagerly, before his fingertips brush the ridge of a scar and he remembers himself, tugging the shirt back down in one sharp movement. 

Dean halts immediately. “Everything all right?”

Cas nods. “Yes. It’s only… remember when I said that there were parts of me you haven’t seen?”

Dean smirks playfully, “Yeah, kinda trying to fix that here.”

Cas huffs out a self-conscious laugh in spite of himself. “You might change your mind about that.”

“I doubt it, but I’ll bite. What do you think is gonna make me run for the hills?”

“I just— I should warn you that there’s… some scarring.”

Dean scoffs, not unkindly. “Is that it? I’ve gotten some pretty gnarly ones myself over the years. It’s fine, Cas, really.”

“No, you don’t understand. They’re not— They don’t look the same. They happened when I, well. When I died.”

Dean’s eyes widen a little in understanding. “Oh.”

Cas has kept his eyes mostly trained to the floor for this whole exchange, but his gaze shoots up when Dean continues.

“Show me?”

And it’s now or never, Cas thinks. So he lifts his arms and works his way out of his shirt, letting it fall to the floor beside Dean’s. He tries to stand tall, tries to convince himself that one wrong word from Dean won’t make him crumble.

Adorning Cas’ torso are multiple deep lacerations that his body never had the chance to heal. They’ve been stitched together tidily by a mortician’s deft needle, and Cas has never felt like more of a corpse.

“Jesus,” Dean breathes, and Cas immediately misses the way he had said it earlier, breathless and moaning rather than laden with pity. 

Cas makes a move to pick up his shirt, but Dean reaching a hand out stops him in his tracks. Dean takes a step closer, eyes trained on the scars and hand outstretched. 

He stops just short of making contact and looks in Cas’ eyes. “Can I?”

Cas can’t speak, so he just nods. Dean lightly begins tracing the scars with his fingertips, his expression free of any revulsion. Cas closes his eyes and just lets himself feel this moment as much as he can, every caress feeling like it’s washing something away that he never needed in the first place, like every place Dean touches is now brand new.

Cas’ eyes fly open and he lets out a small involuntary gasp as Dean drops his head and places a soft kiss to a scar right beneath Cas’ collarbone. Dean pulls back a little, before doing the same on the other side. He lingers there a short while longer, before working his way up Cas’ shoulder, to his neck, to his ear, where he whispers, “See? Still here.”

Something inside of Cas snaps, a dam breaking and spilling forth unencumbered joy, and suddenly everything is too soft, too gentle, and he wants in a way he’s never felt before. He considers an attempt at voicing this, but opts to just attack Dean’s lips instead, throwing his arms enthusiastically around Dean’s neck and pulling them flush together, rejoicing in the simple pleasures of skin-on-skin.

Dean laughs a little into the kiss while returning it fervently. Dean hooks his fingers in Cas’ belt loops and starts walking them backwards to the bed without breaking the kiss. They fall back onto it in an awkward tangle of limbs, but neither care. They quickly situate themselves—Cas lying on his back with Dean straddling his thighs. 

Dean strokes his hands tantalizingly down Cas’ torso, a teasing smile playing on his face. “So, any more surprises you got for me?”

Cas beams, still not quite able to believe his luck. “Not that I can think of.”

Dean puts on a look of faux shock. “Cas? Not being able to think? I guess I must really be doing something right.”

Cas rolls his eyes good-naturedly. “Shut up and kiss me.”

“Oh, yeah, definitely on the right track,” Dean replies smugly before bracing his arms on either side of Cas’ head and doing exactly what Cas wants, exactly how he wants it. 

Cas clutches at Dean’s side, grasping at every part of this radiant boy he can reach. Suddenly emboldened and utilizing a strength he didn’t know he possessed, Cas flips their positions so that Dean is gazing up at him with pleased surprise. Cas regards how Dean’s iridescent green irises are nearly swallowed with the black of his dilated pupils, and Cas still can’t believe he’s the reason for such a reaction. 

In an attempt to settle in and get comfortable—Cas wants to be here a while—his hips grind down into Dean’s and both boys let out a shuddering gasp. Wanting to drag all the sinful sounds from Dean’s lips that he can, Cas repeats the motion, slower and more purposeful, elated that he can feel the result of Dean’s body responding to his movements.

“Oh, fuck,” Dean moans, biting his bottom lip wantonly. “Jesus Christ.”

“‘Cas’ will do just fine, but thank you,” Cas replies teasingly, accompanied with another rock of his hips. 

Dean laughs shakily. “You’re such an—ah—asshole.”

Cas smiles and takes revenge for the insult by kissing Dean mercilessly. Evidently not one to be outdone, Dean’s hands move to Cas’ fly, making short work of the zipper and—

“Is everything okay?” Dean asks, breaking the kiss. 

Cas huffs a sigh, fondly frustrated. “Dean, I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine. More than, actually.”

“Really?”

Yes. I’m not sure what else I could be doing to convince you otherwise,” Cas replies jokingly.

Dean laughs a little, but it sounds more awkward. “It’s just that, well. You… You’re not, uh…”

It’s not until Dean looks pointedly at where his hands had just been, that Cas realizes with the utmost mortification what he’s referring to.

“Oh. Oh. 

“Yeah…”

“It’s not you,” Cas says in a rush, and immediately feels even more embarrassed at the understanding look that comes over Dean’s face.

“It’s okay, happens to the best of us. Don’t worry about it.”

Cas wants to crawl under the covers and never resurface. 

“No, no, it’s not that. I should have realized I wouldn’t be able to— That is, I lack the, um. Blood flow.” Cas is grateful that he doesn’t have to explain further as he watches Dean’s eyes widen in understanding. Cas sighs and leans his head on Dean’s shoulder. “I hate this,” he mumbles miserably.

Dean places a comforting hand on the back of Cas’ head. “Hey, it’s all right. We knew we weren’t exactly signing up for ‘easy.’”

Cas tilts his head up to look at Dean, brows furrowed in frustration. “But it should be easy. You… You deserve easy.” He says the last part quietly, almost to himself. 

“Stop that,” Dean says kindly, but firmly, “I’m right where I wanna be. Okay? I’d rather have you, and ‘easy’ can go straight to hell.”

Cas huffs a small laugh and nods, sealing his agreement with a kiss. As they settle into the kiss, Cas shifts his hips and Dean hisses a sharp intake of breath.

Dean chuckles a little self-consciously. “Sorry, you might have to give me a minute to, uh, calm down.”

Cas looks down at Dean—bare-chested and flushed—consideringly, before his face breaks into a teasing grin.

“What if I don’t want you to calm down?”

Dean’s faces scrunches up slightly in confusion. “But... You can’t—”

“Yes, but you can.”

Cas can see the reply trying to form on Dean’s lips, but effectively distracts him by beginning to plant kisses down the length of his chest, trying to wordlessly explain the idea that’s taken mouth-watering shape in Cas’ mind.

It’s not until Cas is almost at his belly-button when Dean is finally able to string his words together, all but rasping, “W-wait, hold on a sec.”

Cas looks up, an eyebrow arched in surprise. “You don’t want me to?”

Dean licks his lips a little before quirking them upwards in a smile, “It’s not that. Definitely not that, trust me. But, Cas… you don’t have to.”

“I know. I want to,” Cas replies with conviction. He lowers his head again, letting his next words ghost over Dean’s skin in a way that makes the other boy shiver. He maintains eye contact, looking up through his lashes in a way he hopes is enticing. “Let me?”

Dean regards him for a moment with a look that’s almost hungry in its intensity before he nods, the movement jerky and seemingly overexcited. Cas smiles and lets his kisses trail ever lower, overwhelmed by how wanted he feels, still in partial disbelief that it’s Dean who wants him. 

Cas wasn’t sure he could ever have this and now that he does, he’s determined to make the most of it.


Afterwards, Cas lies comfortably encircled by Dean’s strong arms, feeling more content than he can ever remember being. And from the happy sigh that passes Dean’s lips, Cas can only assume he feels the same. 

There’s an inherent vulnerability in nakedness—for Dean had quickly divested Cas of the rest of his clothes as well, remarking that it was a two-way street—but it’s comfortable in a way Cas hadn’t previously thought was possible. Between the two of them lies an openness and an honesty that wasn’t there before, and with the largest of the unseen barriers down, the small addition of clothes seemed almost laughably inconsequential in comparison.

But Cas’ insecurities, evidently not to be tamed overnight, spit timid words from his mouth before he can stop them, “Was that… okay?”

Dean’s answer is immediate. “Are you kidding? That was... That was awesome. 

It’s such a mixture of unbridled exhuberance and blissed out satisfaction that Cas can’t help the laughter that bubbles from him, leaning over to steal a kiss from grinning lips. 

They stay like that for a while, their kisses unhurried and languid, before Cas reluctantly pulls away for the air he doesn’t technically need. As he does so, the blanket slips a little, revealing his torso scars. Dean’s eyes follow the line of the falling blanket, and it takes all of Cas’ willpower to not immediately yank the covers up to his chin. 

Dean idly traces the scar nearest him on Cas’ side, focussing on it for a moment before looking at Cas with wary curiosity.

“Cas… Can I ask you something?”

Cas knows exactly what he’s going to ask, and gathers up his courage to let this conversation go where he knows it needs to. He can’t avoid this forever.

“Of course.”

Dean lets it out in a rush, “How did you die?” The moment the words escape, Dean looks like he immediately regrets the line of questioning as he hurriedly continues, “Fuck, sorry, I shouldn’t have—Jesus, talk about a mood killer. You don’t have to tell me.”

Cas takes a deep breath. “No, it’s okay. I don’t want any secrets between us.”

Dean nods and grasps his hand, wordlessly signalling for Cas to continue. Cas grips Dean’s hand, using it as a much-needed anchor as he delves into his painful past.

Cas takes a moment to collect himself and gather his scattered thoughts, and begins to speak.


It’s New Year’s Eve, 2008, and Castiel is already feeling uncomfortable. His parents are taking them to a party at a family friend’s, a yearly tradition that Castiel never looks forward to (though, to be fair, he doesn’t actually look forward to any party). His parents have already been ready for twenty minutes, and are taking on the Herculean job of rounding up Gabriel and Samandriel. Castiel is ready in his best black suit, but after a series of unsuccessful attempts, still cannot seem to get his blue tie right. He continues to fidget with it, trying to let the menial task distract him from his fluttering nerves about tonight. 

Most days, Castiel can handle this fluttering just fine with steady breathing and constant inner monologues of comforting platitudes, but there are some days—like today—that it’s not nearly as simple. 

He has a thin moment of victory as he secures his tie for the umpteenth time, and looks in the mirror, only to discover that somehow the tie is backwards. He sighs in defeat and decides to just leave it.

“Castiel, are you ready to go?” his mother calls from downstairs.

“Yes, coming!” Castiel replies, giving himself one last look in the mirror before trudging down the stairs.

On their way out the door, Castiel grabs his reliable trenchcoat and his mother gives him a fond—if slightly long-suffering—look.

“Sweetheart, do you really have to wear that tonight?” she asks. 

Castiel shuffles his feet a little awkwardly, avoiding eye contact. “It helps.”

His mother sighs, but smiles. “I know it does.” She places a reassuring hand on his arm for a moment, as if in silent apology for her natural dislike of the baggy garment. Castiel smiles back, if a bit timidly, and follows his family to the car.

They make quick work of the drive and before Castiel knows it, he’s in a house surrounded by not-quite strangers having to suffer through the same conversations over and over again.

So, Castiel, what are your plans after high school?

I was hoping you would bring a girl this year, Castiel!

Castiel, what are your New Year’s resolutions?

On and on it goes until Castiel wonders if his face will freeze like this, painted with a false smile. He begins to duck out of conversations early, sticking to the walls and trying to avoid peoples’ eyeline, but to no avail. It’s a relatively small gathering, perhaps thirty people at most, but to Castiel it suddenly feels stifling. He closes his eyes for a moment, trying to breathe through it. 

“Castiel, honey?” comes the concerned sound of his mother’s voice. “Is everything okay?” Castiel tries to offer up his best smile and nods. His mother looks unconvinced. “Why don’t we leave early?”

“Oh, no, it’s fine, I’m fine. Really. Just fine,” Castiel rambles.

His mother cracks a wry smile, “One more time and I’ll believe you.”

Castiel returns the smile as much as he’s able, but doesn’t say anything. 

His mother takes the silence as the confirmation he intended. “I’ll let your father know so we can round up the troops.”

Castiel looks at her then. “Thanks, mom,” he says quietly, giving her a hug. She drops a kiss on his temple and sweeps across the room to where his father is. 

Castiel watches as she leans in to whisper in his ear, a moment of confusion written upon his face before it dissolves into understanding. Castiel can’t help but think how lucky he is to have such supportive parents; he never even has to say when he’s having a bad day, they just seem to know—especially his mother. 

Not only are they supportive, but Castiel quietly observes their cleverness in action as they come up with excuses and manage to artfully maneuver themselves out of a New Year’s Eve party at 11 p.m. 

Gabriel and Samandriel gripe on their way to the car, but when his father promises them that they’ll ring in the New Year at home with ice cream, the younger boys’ complaints come to an immediate halt, both of Castiel’s siblings apparently very content with this compromise. 

As they continue to drive, however, Gabriel and Samandriel’s overtired brains encourage them to snipe at each other, which soon turns into full blown fighting. His parents try to discipline them from the front seat, but it’s a difficult task.

Just as Castiel is about to suggest that perhaps he should sit between them, his mother beats him to it. “All right, that’s enough! I’m coming back there. Castiel, switch with me when we pull over, please.”

Castiel does what he’s told, moving to the passenger seat as his mother reorients the two younger boys so that she’s sat between them, effectively stopping their fighting (if barely). As the vehicle lurches into motion once more, the underlying tension isn’t helping Cas’ already frayed nerves, distracting him to the point that he forgets something that’s been ingrained in him since early childhood: fastening his seat belt.

It all happens very fast.

Time seems to slow down as Castiel watches on helplessly, not even realizing what’s going on until the accident is already well underway. He’s an unwilling observer of cause and effect as the transport truck coming towards them hits a patch of ice, the large trailer fish-tailing into their lane until the front left side of their car collides with it in a direct impact.

What Castiel remembers after that is disjointed, but it’s more than enough. He remembers the sudden rush of cold air as his body flies through the windshield, the pain of glass shards slicing his torso. He remembers his entire body aching as he comes to in a ditch, yet still crawls his way out with the singleminded direction of needing to know his family is safe. 

He remembers seeing the car, the same car that went to libraries and school plays and sports tournaments, now near totalled, wedged under the truck’s trailer. Castiel can just make out the shapes of his family through the shattered windows. Desperation overriding the agony, Castiel slowly makes his way to them, screaming their names through an already ravaged throat and straining his ears for the reply that doesn’t come. 

The last thing he remembers is the sickly sweet smell of gasoline and his mother’s form shifting sluggishly into wakefulness, her eyes opening and her panicked gaze falling on him as her mouth forms his name, before a deafening blast sends everything up in flame.

Castiel can barely hear his own screams through the ringing in his ears and the sirens that now surround him. As his vision goes black, the blinding brightness of the fire still flickers behind his eyelids.

Until his return, he didn’t know exactly what happened. He didn’t know his family had been pronounced dead at the scene at 11:27 p.m. He didn’t know he’d been rushed to the hospital with severe internal hemorrhaging. He didn’t know that he died on the operating table.

He didn’t know until he came back that he died at 12:03 on New Year’s Day.

2009.


“Three minutes. Three minutes and I could have been with them!” Cas sobs, getting more and more inconsolable the more he talked. Dean hasn’t once let go of his hand, even when Cas is sure he’d gripped it to the point of discomfort.

“Cas, I am so, so sorry. I don’t even know what to say,” Dean replies solemnly, pulling Cas in a little closer. 

“But don’t you see? It’s my fault, it’s all my fault!” Cas despairs.

“No, it’s not,” Dean says firmly, “You couldn’t have known that would happen, no one could. It’s no one’s fault. Sometimes the universe is just… crap, you know?”

Cas knows Dean well enough to recognize the other boy’s frustration at not being able to come up with what, to him, are the right words. But Cas thinks that they’re the perfect words, because they’re genuine and Dean, because he tries.

“Thank you,” Cas says quietly, but sincerely. He tries to truly believe Dean’s words, but constantly re-routing your brain into less guilty channels is much easier said than done. He sniffs a little and tries to calm down, before he goes to wipe his eyes out of instinct.

His hands come away wet.

For a moment, Cas can only stare at the tear drops on his hands, the naturally occurring salt water his body shouldn’t be capable of producing anymore, and yet, here it is in front of his eyes. His crying eyes.

“Dean, I’m… I’m crying.”

Dean, evidently mistaking his shock for self-consciousness, replies, “Hey, it’s okay. I got you.”

Cas pulls back and looks at him, eyes wide. “No. Dean. I’m crying.

Dean brows furrow for a moment in confusion, but Cas watches as Dean takes in his tear tracks and watery eyes. His mouth drops open in a small surprised ‘o’. 

“Holy shit.”