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Blown Out (in your Sky Eyes)

Chapter Text

Dean has been procrastinating on his suicide for a long time.

It's been years now, he thinks. Like yet another apocalypse that's been happening silently in the background of all the others the Winchester brothers keep surviving. But this one, this special apocalypse is his own, personal, intimate one.

He's the only one aware of it, of its inevitability, and he's smart enough to know that everything he went through and everything he conquered, to this day, was accomplished as a team, no matter how hard he tried to do it all alone.

Sam, Cas, Mary, Bobby, all the others that came and went at one point or another. Without them and Dean Winchester, he knows the world would have poofed out ten times just in the last decade. This one apocalypse, though. This one, no one but him saw it coming. This one, no one will even know it's been creeping closer for years until it'll be too late.

So Dean keeps the Colt under his pillow, and he procrastinates. He has been for long enough so that not even Sam notices anything. Hunts are getting rarer and rarer, and most of those who come up, Sam relays them to other hunters across the country.

“We're tired,” Sam says.

“We're getting old,” Sam says.

And Dean is too much of all of that to object and get angry. Hell, he doesn't even get that angry anymore, and the Sasquatch is too busy becoming the new Bobby Singer, with his twelve phones and his constant roaming through the library for other hunters in need of lore and information. Sam doesn't notice much anymore.

So the bunker gets quieter and quieter, the Winchesters' sleep deeper and deeper, their time together rarer and rarer, and Dean's days locked up in his room, longer. Longer. Longer.

He stares at his pillow like it's a chained up demon waiting for him to plunge a blade through their chest, and he knows it's a matter of days before he flips his shit and his fluffy beddings and just end it all right there, on his bed, in the bunker, between a week old greasy pizza box and a skin mag.

In all his glory.

Brains and bullet.

Poof.

Tonight, Dean stares at his pillow like he knows Cas stares at him when he thinks he's not looking. The angel's been getting better at it, though. The Staring™. Fucker's still doing it, of course, but at least he has the dignity to look away when he's caught.

Tonight, Dean is alone in the bunker. Sam is off to visit some hunter he befriended the year before, when Dean was wherever Michael took his personal meat suit for a drive. Now that he thinks of it, the whole archangel possession may have been the last strike to his shattered identity. Anyway, Sam is not here, Cas has gone AWOL for a few weeks now, like he's been doing since Mary died, and Mom's living her best after-life in Heaven, so Dean's alone in the too big, too silent, too cold Bunker.

Tonight's the night. Tonight, Dean finally stops procrastinating. Tonight, he kills what's been dead for centuries.

Himself.

So he gets up from the chair in his room, sweeps everything off his grimy sheets with his hands, sits down with his legs crossed on the bed, pulls the Colt out of the pillow behind his back and opens the cold chamber. One bullet. One special bullet. As if the Colt wasn't enough of a deadly weapon even for the most dangerous creatures – expect archangels, of course, because that would be too easy, wouldn't it –, that one bullet can kill every monster that doesn't need a nice and good decapitation to fuck off. Witch, demon, angel, werewolf, you name it. Dean's pretty sure that with all the carving and special ingredients he customizes that bullet with, it would at least tickle Chuck himself, if he shot it at his head.

Sure, to anyone else, that much dedication to one single bullet would seem a bit over the top. Dean may have been postponing the whole suicide operation, but that doesn't mean he wants a cheap, easy out that could backfire and leave him alive, potentially disfigured, and very disappointed. He came back from the dead enough times to know that if he really wants to never, ever come back, he has to be extra zealous. Some god of another dimension might realize they need him for whatever those holy assholes need humans for and bring him back just for kicks. So Dean figures that if he's too damaged to be salvaged, then it's worth the effort. It's all rather poetic, really.

Dean Winchester is just another monster who won't survive the pull of his own trigger.

He doesn't care whether he goes to Heaven or Hell – even though he has a pretty good idea of which one he's more likely to end up in. With a little luck, that masterpiece of a bullet, if he does say so himself, will be deadly enough to shoot his after-life in the head while it splatters his brain all over the place.

On his dirty bed, the Colt heavy in his hands, the TV on mute and his cold, bare feet twitching with anticipation, Dean imagines black. Just pure, deep, black, a flash of infinite void before he forgets he ever existed and stops thinking.

He can't fucking wait.

Sam's away, Cas is doing whatever angels do, Mary's dead, no apocalypse is going on - right now and that he's aware of, at least -, and Dean will be damned if he's gonna wait for another to start, because he knows he couldn't resist trying and stop it. It's hardwired in his brain, now, so he has no other choice but to bypass the system by… getting on with it.

Dean closes the chamber of the Colt, now warm in his hand, cocks it, rests his finger comfortably on the trigger, raises the gun so the muzzle digs into the soft part under his chin, corrects the angle, exhales a short breath that ranks of his best whiskey, shrugs, and pulls.

Dean sees the door to his room open a millisecond before the blast, but it's too late.

Chapter Text

The sound is deafening.

Dean's heard more gunshots, even up close, than he heard John call him by his name, but that doesn't make this one less special.

It feels like half of his head has been blown away, which is a normal sensation for someone to experience when shooting a bullet directly through one's own mouth. What is not normal, though, is for the pain to keep going.

Something is vibrating in Dean's whole body, and he realizes it's his screaming that he can't hear. The pain is excruciating and cold, at first, but it's quickly become unbearable and extremely hot.

What, so I'm back to Hell? he thinks. He can't open his eyes, he can't really do much except scream his lungs out and wither in pain on his bed.

What?

What is he still doing on his bed?

Dean stops screaming, he thinks, because he feels his chest rise and fall far too fast and the vibrating stops.

Did I fail?

Now he wants to throw up. He would if he had anything but whiskey and pain in his system.

Dear God, he can't even kill himself properly. He had a gun to his fucking head, and his missed. How could he miss? The door opening surprised him, he missed, and now he's deaf and blind. He couldn't be more of a failure if he tried. He fucking missed. Sam is going to come home to a disfigured and disabled brother, incapable of hunting or even use the damn bathroom on his own. He fucked up. He fucked up so bad. He hasn't fucked up this bad in forever.

Dean jumps when something touches his shoulder. Frightened, he screams in pain and fear, and the touch disappears a second, as if hesitating, before settling on the left side of his face, which hurts slightly less than the other. Long and shaking fingers, cold as ice in comparison to the heat flowing through Dean's entire body, thread in his hair, while a hand closes incredibly tightly around his wrist. He hadn't noticed he'd been scratching at the injured part of his head like an animal trying to free himself by tearing off the trapped limb.

Except he can't tear his head off with his bare hands. He had a gun for that, and a special bullet, and he failed.

The bed dips, a body is close to him, Dean can feel it, but he can't make out who it is, it could be Madonna and he'd be none the wiser, he can't think straight, he feels likes he's going mad.

Unlike the pain, still very much like some of his worst Hell flashbacks, the ringing in his ears is slowly receding until, with his right one, he can finally hear not a voice, not yet, but a humming he struggles to understand.

“–hyperventilating, Dean, slow down–” is all he gets, but at least now he knows who it is, and he knows he's not back down there.

“Cas ?” he mumbles, drool and blood pouring out of his numb mouth.

“It's me, Dean, I'm here, can you please–”

Dean grimaces, sending new flashes of even sharper pain through his whole head, because he'd really like to do what Cas asked him to, but he didn't catch it. Shock is slowly taking hold of his body. He feels dizzy, nauseous and clammy, his pulse like a rabbit's against Cas's trembling fingers.

Something scratchy meets the side of his face. He groans and tries to swat it away, but the hand is too strong on his wrist.

“Wha're ya doin' he'e, Cas…” Dean sighs, suddenly very tired and very done with this whole situation.

“Dean, you have to regulate your breathing,” Cas says sternly.

“…'m tryin'… 'm cold…”

A blanket magically appears on top of the hunter's body and a hand tucks it snuggly around him.

“… 'can't see 'nythin'…”

“ Dean, I-I'm trying to stop the blood, but you have to stop moving.”

Cas' voice is shaking, so Dean tries to stay as still as he can. He frowns. Something's starting to burn in his blind eyes. He hasn't cried since Mary's death, so it's been a while and he's not familiar with the sensation anymore.

“I failed.” he almost pouts.

“Dean–”

“… failed,” he repeats.

Cas doesn't seem to know what to say to that, so for a moment he soaks up the blood of Dean's injury with what must be a towel in silence.

“Yeah, you failed.” he murmurs finally, a mix of emotions the hunter can't all recognize in his voice.

There's anger, that's for sure. Feathery asshole wasn't exactly expecting on preventing a suicide today, Dean bets. There's sadness, too. And relief. The angel's been away for such long periods of time that Dean almost forgot they used to consider each other best friends.

But Dean doesn't want to think about all that, everything that changed, everything that didn't. Reminds him of how little he could care, right now, if he hadn't so miserably failed to kill himself. So when he shivers once more, he decides that he's tired.

“I'mma go 'ake a 'ap, 'ow”, he says, sleep already slurring his broken speech.

“No no no, now's not the time for a nap, you have to stay awake, you have to–”

But Dean doesn't want to stay awake.

Dean wants to be dead.

And he failed.

Chapter Text

Dean wakes up. Once more.

Yay.

Everything's loud, bright, harsh, violent to his senses. He immediately wants to go back to sleep, but of course, he recognizes the engine's sound immediately.

“'aby ?” he croaks.

He tries to cough, he's parched, everything is too much, everything hurts.

“Dean, you're awake !” he hears.

He groans. His ears are ringing again. Awesome. When he tries to open his eyes, he can only open the left one and the light of day is so bright it feels like it's burning his retina, but he forces it to adjust faster so he can assess the situation.

He's in his car, Cas is driving, the road looks like an endless asphalt ribbon wrapped around the Earth, they're heading god knows where, and his head hurts like a bitch, but first, he wants to know one thing :

“Why you dri'ing 'aby?” Dean mutters.

He can barely see Cas look at him, his silhouette beige and brown in this blurry mess of a world.

“What ?” he says.

“Why, a', you, dri'ing, 'y, 'aby!” the hunter shouts, angry and frustrated.

He immediately regrets it. Pain pulses in his brain and little spots of color dance in his eye.

“I'm driving your Baby because we're going away for a while !” Cas answers just as loudly and angrily as Dean, which doesn't help with the headache, but he kind of deserved it.

Dean covers his face with both of his hands, sliding down the passenger seat in hope he could escape everything.

“Whe'e?” he mumbles against his palms.

“I don't know.”

“Why?”

Dean can hear Baby's steering wheel squeal in Cas' hands the-Lord-is-tempting-me style. The angel hesitates long enough for Dean to think he's daydreaming like he still does sometimes, or worse, ignoring him.

“Because you need to get away for a while,” he finally says.

The hunter huffs a painful laugh.

“'ats what I wa' goin' for, ya know,” he jokes. “'ig, 'ice, long ho'idays.”

“Big, nice, long holidays?!” Cas repeats - shrieks is more like it - in disbelief.

Dean recoils in his seat.

“O'ay, 'ot fu'y…” he admits.

“No, it's not funny, Dean! What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

Dean frowns and pouts. A bump in the road shoots a wave of pain in his face.

Karma's a bitch.

“Wha're you cussin' at me for…”

“Fuck you! You know what? Fuck you!”

Baby's going faster with each angry word, so Dean decides he should shut up and take it if he doesn't want the Cas to crash them. While the angel shouts at him, he touches his face to see just how badly he fucked up.

The entire right side and underside of his head are covered in a thick and fresh bandage. The skin around the gauze is itchy and swollen, and it would all hurt a lot more if a plastic bag full of IV fluids wasn't hanging from the rear-view mirror. He's wrapped in a big woolen blanket, a horrible thing that looks like all of Sam's flannel shirts merged together and crawled out from his dresser to keep him warm. His neck, right shoulder, jaw, and even his tongue hurt when he moves and talk.

It's all bothering to say the least, but for someone who tried to kill himself, he could feel worse.

“'vision is fucked up,” Dean says when Cas stops repeating “Fuck you” in as many languages as he knows (which is a lot and could have gone on a lot longer if he hadn't got tired with it).

“No kidding!” the angel spits out.

Dean turns to see if, by focusing, his vision gets better. It does. He meets Cas' eyes by accident and just can't help it :

“Wow. So blue,” he says.

What the fuck is wrong with me.

Cas squints at him but says nothing, and Dean gladly changes the subject.

“Wha' you give me? Can' feel much.”

“To be honest, I'm surprised you're even awake, right now.”

“Where we goin'?”

The angel sighs.

“What's the closest state park?”

Dean thinks for an entirely too long time – for once, he really can blame it on the headache.

“Uuuuh where're we righ' now?” he slurs.

“We're closing in on Hutchinson.”

“'amn, you been drivin' for two hours alrea'y?”

“Still waiting.”

“Closes' state park, righ', righ', uh, that'd beee uh…” He groans in pain.

“Dean, it's okay, I'll find something on the road–” Cas starts to say, finally showing mercy on the man, when it finally dawns on him.

“Cheney State Park!” Dean shouts, instantly wincing and blinking his only open eye to try and disperse the blurry spots in his vision.

“Cheney State Park it is, then,” Cas smiles after a moment.

“Well, 'ats nice an' all, bu' why are we…”

“Shut up and sleep.”

“Okay, okay…”

Only what must be a few hours ago, Dean shot himself in the head. He's not even sure how he survived it, but now he's on a trip with Cas, who he hasn't seen in weeks, to spend some time away in a state park. Why does he even still bother wondering what the fuck is wrong with his life? Everything is.

“If you scratch 'aby, I'll kill you,” Dean tells Cas, already buried to his nose in his ugly and raspy blanket.

“I know, Dean.”

Cheney State Park it is.

Chapter Text

When Dean wakes up from his nap, the car is parked in front of a cabin, a cute little block of orange wood with a front porch barely big enough to hold two chairs, tucked between tall pine trees. Outside, it's a little cold for the season, but the clouds are still sparse and the birds are singing.

Dean turns, and there it is, Cheney Reservoir. There's a gravel road and an old dock between the car and the greenish water, and the next building is far in the distance. Good, they won't have to explain what a half-dead man hanging by an IV bag with no shoes on and a weird trench-coat-wearing accountant are doing here.

What are they doing here, anyway ?

A blonde elder woman gets out of the cabin, chatting happily with Cas, who comes out just after her, a polite smile on his strained face. Dean can't help but huff a laugh.

“Still a ladies man, I see.” he teases when the angel opens the driver's door and enters the car, a key with a big wooden number attached to it in his hand.

“Hello, Dean.”

He looks so relieved and his smile when he sees Dean is so genuine, compared to the one he gave the woman, that the hunter can't help but avert his eyes.

He almost never saw that smile again, he realizes. Shouldn't do him anything, he was more that ready to die, so why does it still make something ache in his chest ? Nothing a nice drink won't fix, he decides.

“So, wha' are we doin' here, Cas ?” Dean asks. His speech is improving, but it's still challenging.

“We are getting you better.” Cas tells him. He look anxious for some reason, but the hunter doesn't press on it.

“Yeah, righ'.” he laughs.

“Shut up.”

If telling him to shut up is a new habit Cas is picking up, Dean doesn't like it. The lady is long gone now, leaving them alone and angry in the car.

“'et's get inside, 'm thirsty an' tired.” he says grumpily.

No matter how much he fights and curses, Cas helps him out of the car all the way to the cabin. He almost rips out the needle of the IV bag in his arm, which earns him a dark and dangerous look. When Dean finally sinks in the sheets, he's exhausted, his breath is short, he feels weak and sweaty and he hurts all over again. After the five stair steps, harder to climb than he ever thought they could be, the bottom bed of the bunk feels like heaven.

Behind him, Cas closes the door, dumps the key on the ridiculously tiny kitchen table, opens a few drawers before he finds a glass, fills it with tap water and tries to make him drink by lifting his head, but Dean swats him away, sits down, almost bangs his injuries against the top bunk – Cas sighs – and finally, finally drinks. When he's finished, he sets it down and sloshes some water in his mouth to rinse out the blood. He's rewarded with a whole mouth full of blood suddenly breaking out, and he barely manages to spit it out in the glass. It's as if he simply replaced the full glass of water with blood, like some kind of fucked up, pissed off and suicidal Jesus.

In the cabin, they can't hear a thing except the birds outside. Cas is staring at him from the minuscule kitchen chair, but this time when Dean meets his stare and doesn't look away, trying to push him to leave him the fuck alone, he doesn't falter like he learned he should.

“Shit.” Dean says.

One of Cas' eyebrows raises up. He's got such an exasperated dad look on him the hunter's almost tempted to laugh.

“You're gonna wanna talk about i', aren' ya ?”

Cas tilts his head with a “you betcha” smile.

“Well, good luck with tha', 'cause I'm goin' back 'o sleep.”

Dean tries to, but he forgot the glass. Blood splatters everywhere on the bed, his jeans and his bare feet, and he bumps his head against the top bunk like it was bound to happen. Cas jumps to him, helps him lie down on the bed without passing out from the pain of the impact, and tears down the first layer of – of course – the whitest sheets to ever white from under him.

“Dean, ask me for help, I beg of you–”

“'on't need your help !” Dean objects, by pure reflex, at this point.

“You do !” the angel yells, not caring wether his voice is loud enough to hurt him or not. “You do, and you are going to get it wether you like it or not !”

“'jus' wanna sleep…”

Cas watches him try to worm his way out of his hands like a child escaping his drunk aunt's kisses at a family gathering. When Dean grunts in pain, his bandages pulling on his fresh wound when he turns, he gives up.

The hunter can't see him anymore, with the way he's lying on the bed with his back to him, but he can hear Cas slump down on the green couch. Then, for a few seconds, he can't hear anything, until a wet sound pierces the cabin's silence.

Nope. He can't deal with that. Not now, not ever.

“Cas, stop crying.” he tells him, and he knows it's cruel, but he just can't take it.

The angel wipes his face with his hand and exhales a long, shaky breath. The bloody sheet on the ground rustles – he's kicking it with his foot. They let the birds chirp for a little while, not saying anything.

Great, now I can't sleep, Dean thinks.

“The bullet scraped against your jaw,” Cas informs him, his voice so wrecked the hunter can barely stand it. “It carved the bone a little, your brow too, and the bullet dug into your cheek, but it didn't touch the teeth or the eye, so that's good.”

Dean's tempted to not answer, but he hears Cas sniff again and he just… he can't.

“'gonna have one hell of a scar, though.” he whispers.

He didn't mean to say it like that. That low, it sounds too intimate, but he almost died today, so he's gonna cut himself some slack. Cas sighs.

“Yes.”

“Hell, migh' as well star' naming 'em.” Dean jokes.

The angel snorts, an ugly sound because he's closer to bursting into tears than to laughing.

“You do that.”

Silence. Heavy. Uneasy.

“If it keeps you alive.”

Dean sighs and closes his eye tightly. There they are. Talking about it. Great. He loves it. Couldn't be happier.

“Nothin' keeps me alive.” he says.

“I noticed.”

The hunter fights the need to turn to Cas, partly because he knows it'll hurt like hell, but mostly because the moment he'll be facing him, he won't be able to stay pissed off very long.

“Yeah, no'iced, righ' ?”

Cas shifts on the hideous couch.

“What's that supposed to mean ?”

“Where're you, all year ?”

The angel moves again.

“I visited you and Sam every few weeks. I don't know what you mean.”

He sounds tense, like he chose his words carefully. For fuck's sake, he couldn't lie if his life depended on it, Dean thinks.

“Yeah, 'ight. 'cause I'm stupid like tha'.” he says.

“I thought you weren't very happy with me, after Mary,” he confesses.

Dean laughs weakly.

“Got tha' righ'.”

“Then I don't know what you want me to do.”

Dean doesn't know either. So he doesn't answer.

There you go, Sam, Dean thinks. We talked about our feeling. You happy ?

Chapter Text

Dean slept for the rest of the day.

When he woke up, he found Cas watching him, his eyes still a little red but not shining with tears like earlier, and the angel tended to his wounds, checked the bandages, changed them, and he took out the IV bag's needle out of Dean's arm with such care that the hunter was almost offended.

Where did he get these supplies and knowledge, anyway? He didn't know how to do all that last year.

Now Dean's only open eye, the other hidden under layers and layers of gauze, is boring a hole through the top bunk of the bed. Cas is not in it because even if he lost most of his powers, he still doesn't need to sleep or eat, and Cas is not in it because he's seated at the cabin's table, his chin in his hand, watching the night, listening to the silence, and Dean can't fucking bear it.

He doesn't want to talk about what happened, of course, he doesn't, he's a Winchester, for god's sake, Winchesters don't talk, but he feels like he's drowning in this silence, this too tiny cabin, and he knows Cas won't leave him alone for a second. He could try to kill himself again, you see, and the poor dear would blame himself for his death.

Dean shivers in his bed. He didn't think he still had this much hate and anger in him. Maybe he numbed it out after a while. After caring too long or too much. After Mary.

Cas won't leave him alone for a second, Dean thinks, but what if he leaves Cas?

What if he just, got up, tried not to bang his head on the bed, reached out to the door handle – yes, the cabin is that small – and stepped out? He could take Baby and dump the angel here, like the asshole he is, like the asshole that told Cas to stop crying earlier that day.

Or there's always the reservoir.

Dean doesn't really know what makes him do it. Could be the painkillers, could be he finally lost his marbles, could be that the bullet actually damaged his maggoty brain, could be that everything is just too damn absurd now for him to try and make sense out of it.

Cas is waiting for him to try again.

So why the hell not.

Dean inhales full volume, waits for a second to make sure the angel is too busy looking at the stars to pay attention to him and jumps into action. He stands up, miraculously avoiding the bed frame, almost rips off the fragile door handle, and barrels out of the cabin. Behind him, he can hear Cas trip on every piece of furniture in his way to the porch, but Dean doesn't stop. He's bare feet and he tangles his weak legs together on his way down the five little steps, but Dean doesn't stop. Cas is shouting something he can't make out and his voice sounds desperate, but Dean doesn't stop. 

The dock is close, he can barely see it in the dark, and then he feels its wooden planks, smells the muddy reservoir, and he keeps running until there's nothing to run on anymore.

The water is colder than he expected. His blood-soaked clothes immediately start sinking him. He can't see anything. The night is dark, the water is darker. Dean opens his mouth and finds the taste disgusting.

Whatever.

For a second, there's silence. It's completely different from Cas' silence in the cabin. This one is full of peace, of something Dean relishes.

It feels good.

But then there's a big splash somewhere above him, water moves around his body, a hand closes around his arm. Dean stops sinking and the hand pulls him up.

If Cas lost all his powers, he couldn't have lifted the hunter out of the water this easily. Hell, he basically throws him out the reservoir like a human-size fish – Dean hits his head again on the dock, but he's pretty sure he's not allowed to complain right now.

Cas pushes himself out of the water, still in his trench coat, soaked and angrier than a fucking swan.

“WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” he screams, stumbling until he's standing with his feet on each side of Dean's stomach

The hunter spits brown water and blood, his chest heaving.

“You know what tha' was,” he wheezes, voice destroyed.

“I DON'T! I REALLY DON'T AND I–”

Cas slips on the wet and mossy dock, falling right on top of Dean. For a second, the hunter thinks he knocked himself out, but Cas groans and slides off him with a wet thud.

So that's how they find themselves lying under the stars on a dock. A couple of minutes pass, they both take their time to catch their breath, calm down until Cas decides this charade has been going on for long enough.

“I've been away this year because seeing you unhappy and knowing there was nothing I could do was unbearable,” he whispers as if he wanted no one to hear him.

Dean swallows the bad muddy taste down with a wince. Spread out on the dock like a starfish, he's shivering in his soaked clothes but he can't move, not yet, because Cas isn't finished.

“I know you've been sinking deeper and deeper in… in whatever this is,” the angel continues, gesturing the reservoir with a lazy hand. “But I didn't know what to do. You've always been so secretive with your life, and I already failed you too many times before, I was afraid I would only–”

“You saw me cook,” Dean cuts him. “You saw me 'atch a movie once in a while, you saw me drink too much, but not me too much, and you're 'elling me you said and did no'ing 'cause you were 'fraid of damagin' me more?”

“Don't you say that to me,” Cas growls. “What would you have wanted me to do? You don't talk. You don't share. You isolate yourself in your room, even when I visit. You lose weight even though Sam keeps telling me you're eating. You forget words because you talk less and less. What am I supposed to do to help you when you keep pushing me away? You did it again today! I can't look at you without you fussing about it!”

“Wha', Sam spying on me, now?” Dean laughs. He's too tired to even feel betrayed. He can tell Cas is staring at him, his anger coming from him in waves.

“Answer the fucking question, Dean. What would you have me do to help?”

Dean's not sure where this is all coming from. Maybe the reservoir's water rattled something in his head, but he feels like something just came off in his mind, like a piece of iceberg broke off the icecap, bobbing on an endless ocean, looking for a place to fit. He thinks for a moment, tries to form an intelligible and intelligent answer, but all that comes out is this:

“I need you.”

What the fuck, brain? I know I almost turned you into a smoothie this morning, but really?

Cas stays silent for a moment. He's probably thinking about that damn day in the crypt, years ago, when Dean, his face and heartbroken – no unlike tonight –, told him exactly that.

“I need you, Cas” he repeats before his defense mechanism gets the better of him and he tries to backtrack so everything can stay buried a little longer. “I feel cons'antly alone, 'ven when Sam is here, 'ven when you're here.”

Dean hopes for a moment the angel will say something that might make it easier for him, but no, apparently this is his to do, his bridge to cross. So he crosses it without burning it.

“I need you, 'cause since Mom–” he chokes on a sudden flow – a tsunami – of emotions. “'cause since Mom died, I don't feel like I have a fam'ly 'nymore. And 'at's what keeps me alive, man. I need people aroun' me, people I share blood with.” 

“I don't,” Cas gently reminds him, his voice so, so quiet and soft, compared to his shouts from just moments before. “I don't share blood with you, Dean.”

The hunter scratches his itchy eye with his sleeve, angry with himself, angry for not wanting it all out, angry for wanting it all to be over, angry for hurting so bad.

“But you do,” he says, and he's crying, big tears warming up his bandages, sliding down his temple and meddling with the reservoir's water in his hair, sobs shaking his whole body. “You do, Cas, you're fam'ly, and you're always 'way, and Dad's gone, Mom's gone, Sam and I don't work 'ogether anymore, I can't hunt like I use' to, and it's all like… like all… all my links to this world are dead, man. I can't ask you or Sam to ac' like nothin' changed, I can't ask you that 'cause it wouldn't be fair and everythin' changed, everythin', but I'm linked to nothin', Cas. I have to die. I have to. I can't live alone, I can't. It's too hard.”

Dean covers his face with his hand and tries his best to keep this huge, monstrous, impossibly sad creature in him under control, but then Cas decides that wrapping his arms around him is a good idea, and all his personal hell breaks loose.

He can't refuse himself that anymore. He can't keep others away because he knows he'll always weight them down and keep them from changing and finding a happier life. He can't keep on trying to live his life like he doesn't desperately need people that don't need him. He can't keep on, so he breaks.

Cas hold him so tightly against him that Dean can't help but let himself sob against his shoulder. He hasn't cried like that since he was a kid, maybe even before Mary's “official” death, so that explains why he cries long enough for his body to not be able to make any more tears. Cas never lets go the entire time. He's so solid and real Dean feels like they could sink right through the dock and the water and he still wouldn't let go.

Soon enough, the pain in the right side of his head and his shattering teeth slowly shake them out of it. The angel, of course, couldn't care less about the cold, but his hands slide up and down Dean's arms to warm him up a little.

“Let's get you inside before you catch something,” he says, making Dean laugh a little incredulous smile. 

“Yeah, that'd be a b-bummer, righ'?” 

Cas smiles, gets up, hold his hand down towards him.

“Yeah.”

He says it with enough fondness in his voice to make Dean forget about the possibility of refusing his help.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Cas?”

“Mmh ?” 

“What if I'm not human 'nymore?”

They went back to the cabin, Cas helped Dean peel off his blood and water soaked clothes, sat him on the toilet seat, wrapped him in the Ugly Blanket he fetched in the car and started preparing new bandages for his head. Dean feels like a child, shivering in a scratchy flannel burrito, only in his underwear, while the angel takes care of him.

Wow. These are words he didn't think about for a long time. Take care of him. Fucking enochian feels more familiar.

“What do you mean?” Cas asks.

He's not making his best imitation of Sam's sad, understanding eyes, which are pretty annoying when you're trying to say something because you feel like a kicked puppy left alone in the rain, and nobody wants to be that. No, Cas looks focused on cleaning the wound, so serious and squinty Dean wants to laugh, but then he'd probably scold him for moving, so he doesn't.

He's blocking Dean's view of his own face in the mirror, maybe unintentionally, because turning slowly is all he can do not to shove his ass in the hunter's face when he needs some of the medical supplies he dumped in the sink. They're not "Sam big", but they're still two big men, and this cabin was clearly meant for hobbits.

Dean licks his lips and closes his eyes when Cas' warm fingers start wrapping gauze around his head.

“I mean, wha' if after all I've 'one, all I've been through, I'm not human 'nymore,” he says – he's really starting to get tired of sounding like a kid with diction problems.

“If you weren't human anymore, you would already have slipped up, killed someone innocent, and we would have a problem,” Cas answers, his voice a little absent and flat from focusing on his task without hurting him.

“Well, we already have a problem, haven' we.”

Cas falls silent for a few seconds. Dean hopes he's not gonna serve him some therapy bullshit, tell him “Congrats, you're still human! Now shut up.” and leave it at that. He gets scared of that suddenly, so he decides to talk again before Cas can get a chance to disappoint him.

“'on't know what I am 'nymore.” he murmurs, eyes closed so he can keep his tears and fears inside. “Beer tastes like no'ing, I only cook when Sam's aroun', don't feel like readin' 'nymore… 'don't like 'nything 'nymore.”

“You are not defined by what you do or what you like doing, Dean,” Cas says quietly.

“By wha', then?” 

Cas seems to think while he pins the fresh bandages down on Dean's head. His big hand is warm against the hunter's left side of his face. Dean keeps his eyes closed.

“You don't know who you are if you're not a hunter,” the angel says after a moment.

It's not a question.

Dean's already been so far today, so close to not wondering anything anymore, that he doesn't care to brush off Cas' observation. He's right. What do you want him to say?

“'basically been in the job since Mom died,” he mumbles. “The first time,” he clarifies.

He feels warm, tingly and even more tired than before, now. Cas' touch disappears from his face for a moment and when it comes back, he barely stops himself from leaning into it. Feels good.

“Sam doesn' need me 'nymore, and every time I try 'o hunt, even jus' to burn some bones, I ache all over fo' a month.”

“It's a miracle you're still alive, Dean. Every hunter's life is a miracle, and I've met thirty years old hunters with fewer scars than you. They go to the doctor weekly, they take bottles and bottles of medication, they go to therapists, some are not even trusted to live on their own. You stopped more apocalypses than they can imagine, and you still have that face?” 

Cas huffs a laugh and drops something in the sink.

“I'm an angel. I know my miracles.”

“Wha' da ya mean, I still have tha' face,” Dean mutters, poking the exposed part of it with his fingers. “Wha's wrong with my face?”

Cas doesn't laugh anymore. Dean's scared for a second that he's been walking around looking like Sloth from the Goonies without realizing, but the angel takes Dean's hand off his cheek.

“Nothing is wrong with your face,” he assures him, and his voice is so warm the hunter wants to wrap himself in it and sleep forever.

“Well, somethin's definitely wrong with it, now.”

Cas drops Dean's hand, which falls heavily on his lap. He didn't even notice he was still holding it.

“That won't change anything,” he says, but apparently it sounded a little too much like an order for him too, so he waters it down with a deadpan: “You're still a ladies man.”

When Dean laughs, it pulls on his face a little, but he feels slightly better. Still, the question he asked himself hasn't been answered.

“So wha' the fuck am I, then?” he asks.

He's been keeping his eyes shut for a while, now. The bathroom's light is too bright, Cas is too close, the dark of his eyelids is too reassuring.

“You are an impatient man,” Cas tells him. “You curse and you drive too fast. You are possessive, obsessive, even, sometimes. You're a walking stomach, or at least you were. Pigs have better table manners than you.”

“Gee, Cas, thanks, 'ell me wha' you really think–”

“You are exploding with love.”

That shuts Dean right up. All he can feel of Cas, now, is his body temperature, his legs he keeps bumping with this knees, and the smell of him, something deep and somehow ancient, covered with the reservoir's opaque water.

“I can't tell you how you feel,” Cas continues, “but from where I'm standing–”

“Which is pre'y close, I gotta say,” Dean teases by reflex.

“Shut up.”

The hunter pouts and buries himself deeper in the Ugly Blanket burrito.

“From where I'm standing, I see a man that needs to love to live. Thank god for your car, because I'm quite certain you would have left me, and Sam, months ago, if you didn't consider Baby as a person.”

Dean hears him shrug his wet trench coat off, fold it neatly and set it down on the side of the sink.

“I think that without a family, without your people to love, you can't bear what your life has become. Sam's too busy, I've let you down for one more year, and who are you going to love, down there, in the bunker. You can't love yourself. You tried, but you can only manage to live with yourself if there are others to give all your love to.”

Hands take hold of the blanket and unfold him from its warm embrace. Hot water starts pouring in the shower, and when Dean opens his uncovered eye, Cas helps him get up, rolls his shirt sleeves back on his arms, and won't look at him when he says :

“Let's get you washed up. You smell like mud.”

“You too,” Dean mutters while struggling to take his briefs off.

“I'll take a shower after you. Will you be okay if I leave you alone?”

The hunter can hear the controlled anxiety in Cas' voice. He shrugs as he enters the shower stall. The water is so hot is prickles his skin. Feels good. 

“Yeah, 'll be 'kay, Cas.”

“Promise?”

“Yeah, yeah, I won't try anything,” Dean sighs.

The angel exhales a little relieved breath, grabs his coat, Dean's clothes and the medical supplies, and exits the tiny bathroom.

“Get water on your bandages and you can dress them yourself,” he says curtly right before closing the door.

Chapter Text

When Dean gets out of the shower, stark naked under the Ugly Blanket and his hair going in every direction like it's trying to escape his head, the cabin's door is open and he can see Cas bring a duffel bag and groceries back from the car. The night is still dark. Must be somewhere around two or three in the morning.

“You didn' get all that while I wa' in the shower, 'id you?” he asks when Cas dumps the bags on the kitchen table and the couch.

“No, no I…” Cas swallows. “I brought food so we could make a sweet potato pie together when I found you, back in the bunker.”

Dean blinks, his hands tightening at the memory of the blast. He can still hear it ringing in his right ear.

“You wan'ed 'o make a sweet 'otato 'ie?”

“Yes. I've never tried it and you like pie, so I figured you'd be up to show me how to make one.”

He opens the duffel bag, takes out a worn-out Kansas Leftoverture t-shirt, black jeans, blue boxers, socks and a pair of sneakers Dean didn't even know he still had.

“Those a'e mine,” he says cleverly.

“Yeah, I packed them for you right before leaving the bunker.”

“'ou packed me clothe'?”

Cas looks at him with such a powerful bitch face that it could rival Sam's.

“You have to rest, Dean. Put something on and go to bed.”

“Or wha'?”

When the angel looks at him, his blues eyes colder that the reservoir's water, he feels a chill down his spine. Bigger than the Chrysler Building. Angel of the Lord. Right. 

So Dean does as he's told. If there's something he can do, it's following orders. He goes back in the bathroom to put his boxers on while Cas stores the food in the little fridge and on the cupboard, when suddenly :

It's Britney, bitch.

Dean hears Cas rummage through his duffel bag and get a smartphone out of it. He almost drops it before he can answer it.

“Sam, hello.”

Sam's ringtone on Cas' phone is Britney Spears' Gimme More? Dean pokes his head out of the bathroom's door to mouth a “Marry me” to Cas, who rolls his eyes, tucks his phone between his ear and his shoulder and continues unloading the groceries.

“Yes, I'm fine. No, the ghoul wasn't a problem, I took care of it. Yes. Yes. I'm getting good at hunting, you know, you don't need to baby me–yeah, I know.”

Dean walks out of the bathroom while putting his shirt on. Cas is watching him, panic in his eyes.

“If I've seen Dean?” he says with the worst innocent tone you could hear. 

Yeah, he still has a lot to learn. Cas is waiting on him to tell him what to do, so he nods, his jaw tight. The angel looks relieved.

“He's with me, Sam,” he says. “Yes, I… I took him out of his man cave so he could breathe some fresh air.” 

“I'm divorcing you,” Dean mouths to him.

“No, I don't know when we'll head back. I'll keep you updated. How are you, Sam?”

Dean feels lighter now that Cas changed the subject. Clever, clever Cas. Plus, they didn't lie, they just… brushed over some parts of the whole story. The angel must have cleaned the blood in his room before leaving, and Dean couldn't be more thankful for that. Sam coming back home and finding nothing but his blood splattered all over the bed? Not a good thing. 

“Okay, that's nice to hear,” Cas smiles. “Tell Henry I said hi. Yes. I will. Mmh. Bye.”

He hangs up, throws the phone back in the duffel bag and turns to Dean, already curled up on his bed, the Ugly Blanket covering everything but the top of his head.

“I'm going to take a shower, now,” the angel tells him, “ask me if you need anything, there's food in the fridge if you're hungry. Don't forget to drink a lot of water to replace all the blood you lost and to get some sleep, okay?”

“Yes, mom.”

Cas sighs, the door squeaks, but doesn't close all the way. He's probably scared he won't hear me if there's a problem or if I try to run away again, Dean thinks. Seconds later, the water's running.

“Hey, Cas?”

Dean opens his mouth, but he doesn't know what to say anymore. What was he going for, again? He's too tired to remember.

“Nice one, with Britney,” he mumbles from under the blanket.

I'm sorry, he meant.

I missed you, his heart whispers.

Cas snorts and clothing drop to the floor, and then Dean falls asleep, for what feels like a second before the loudest sound he ever heard pulls him out of it.

He hiccups, opens his eye and sits down on the bed like a vampire waking up in his coffin. Luckily, a hand was on his head and took most of the shock from the impact when it hit the top bunk. Someone else's breathing sounds like a helicopter taking off.

“Shit, 'at's me,” he realizes out loud.

“Dean? You had a nightmare.” Cas says, and his voice is shaking and badly controlled, and Dean doesn't like it.

“No shit…” he winces.

He flops back down on the bed and rubs the sleep out of his good eye. Cas is crouching beside him, still holding his head with a hand, the other tight on Dean's right forearm. 

“'t was the gunsho'…” the hunter mutters.

“What ?”

“I heard the gunsho' again. So loud… so loud…”

Cas is not letting go. He's not saying anything. Dean turns his head to be able to look at him, and he hates what he's seeing.

Not again.

“Cas, don't cry…” he says, but this time it's more of a plea than an order.

“I'm sorry. I'm sorry.” The angel wipes his face with his wrist and tries to school his face into a less broken one, but tears are welling up in his ocean eyes and he can't meet Dean's.

“Cas, please… don'–”

“I'm sorry, I'll stop, I'll stop, just–just give me a second.”

He takes a deep breath and exhales slowly, he tries his best, really, but he can't help himself.

“You know I need you too, right?” he blurts out, and it all pours out again.

“Yeah, I know…” Dean lies – anything so Cas will stop crying.

“Staying away this year has been one of the most–most difficult things I've ever done,” he sobs anyway. 

“I know, I know, jus'–jus' come here…”

Cas doesn't need to be asked twice. He basically jumps into Dean's arms, kneeling on the ground, but with his arms wrapped too tightly around the hunter that Dean is having trouble breathing.

“I didn't know what to do, I'm so sorry, I thought you need space, time to recover, but if I knew, I would have–” 

“'s okay, Cas, i's–”

“No, it's not! I almost lost you! It's not okay!”

“Please stop yellin'…”

“I'm sorry…”

Everything slowly settles down, their breathing, Cas' tears, Dean's heartbeat. They both won't let go, though. It's too soon for that. Dean doesn't know about Cas, but on his part, he hasn't been touched this long since Mary's funeral, almost a year ago. All the hunters that came, hugged him, told him how sad they were… it's a blur. What's not a blur, though, is how his body responds to Cas' embrace.

And dear God, is his body happy. He feels all warm inside, like he's slowly melting in a puddle on the bed with Cas' weight on top of him. He hasn't felt this good in forever.

It can't be that easy. He can't be that touch-starved.

“Don't leave me,” Cas whispers wetly in his neck, where he nuzzled his face. 

“I won't,” Dean says before he can stop himself.

He doesn't know if he can honor that promise, but he'll be damned if he doesn't say something to make Cas feel better. He's never seen him in this state. He can't just watch and say nothing. He's family, for fuck's sake.

“'ou know, if you 'idn't surprise me by enterin' my room, I wouldn' 've missed,” he murmurs against Cas' cheek.

He presses his hand on the angel's neck, closes his eye, breathes slowly and deeply, and he knows he shouldn't, that he should shove him away, because the voice in his head, a voice that resembles very much John's, tells him that's not how he, as a man, should hug his best friend.

But John is dead.

Mary is dead.

Sam is away, always away even when he's home. 

But Cas is right here, right now.

“You saved me,” Dean says. "Twice."

There's sadness in his smile, a little regret, maybe, but Cas can't see it – it's for the best. The angel lets out a big sigh, relaxing like a deflating balloon on top of Dean.

That's what peace sounds like.

The silence stretches for what feels like forever in the lilliput cabin, but they still don't let go, because they're afraid of what will happen when they do.

Dean let himself be held – what if he brushes off this moment of weakness, goes back to his macho persona and blames it on his head? Cas let himself cry and cry until he couldn't anymore – what if Dean decides he doesn't want to be his personal tissue and rejects him altogether?

Yeah, it all pretty much comes down to “What if Dean goes back to his normal self”, right?

But the hunter can't help feeling like there's no coming back from today. The little iceberg is still floating in his mind, looking for a nice, cold place to settle. Dean is still in his body, looking for a nice, warm place to feel connected enough to this world so he doesn't want to leave it anymore.

And right now, that place is right between Cas' arms. 

“Wha' abou' we make that sweet 'otato pie in the mornin'?” he proposes impulsively.

Cas sniffs and sighs. Dean isn't even sure how he can breathe, all hidden in his neck – oh, right, angels don't need to breathe.

“It's already morning,” Cas says.

The hunter rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, smar'ass, I mean' la'er in the mornin'. When the sun's up.”

“Okay.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Dean chuckles against Cas' cheek.

“You soun' like a kid."

“You sound like you're having a stroke.”

“Fair e'ough.”

And they still don't let go.

Dean can't believe it. He tried to kill himself twice yesterday, and now his new goal in life is to make a sweet potato pie.

Damn.

Pie.

Chapter Text

Cas must have entangled himself from Dean's embrace after he fell asleep because when he wakes up, the sun's been up for a couple of hours and Cas is back to his spot next to the window, watching the birds. He didn't notice Dean woke up yet.

So the hunter stares at him. Let's call it a get back on all the times the angel stared at him. Let's not call it “the sunlight is making him look like a golden statue, his hair is shining like molten steel and the sky is trapped in his eyes.”

Let's just not.

He must be so many women's Prince Charming, Dean thinks, still half-asleep. Why he hasn't settled with one, he can't figure it out. Maybe it's because even though he lost most of his angel powers, he still has that foreign, alien feel to him, in the way he talks and thinks, the way he looks at you in the eyes, or the way he stands with his arms dangling by his sides like a moron when he doesn't have something to hold. But, past all that, how can he not have a woman, a weirdo like him, at his arm? It happened in the past…

Nope, he's not going to think about Meg right now. Not ever would be nice, too.

Dean grimaces and closes his eye to chase the bitch's face out of his mind, and when he opens it again, Cas is looking at him with a small grin on his face.

“Hello, Dean.”

A weird, warm wave splashes inside Dean's chest.

“Hiya, Cas,” he says, slowly stretching on the tiny mattress and bumping his feet on the bed frame.

“Feeling better?”

“A little. The stuff you gave me was good. Still have the headache, but…” Dean paws at his jaw and moves it around a little. “I can finally speak normal, so that's nice.”

“That's too bad. It was funny.”

“Fuck you too.”

Cas is smiling by the window, his chin in his hand. All lit up from the side, he looks like Chuck sent him to Dean just to stare him back to life. Sometimes feels like it, too.

“You still wanna make that pie?” Dean yawns.

Cas' eyes lit up.

God, I missed that.

“Yes,” he says, his voice far too deep and determined for someone about to make a sweet potato pie.

Dean laughs, cautiously gets up without knocking himself down – fucking bunk bed – and slips inside his jeans Cas neatly folded on the back of one of the two chairs. Then he sits down on the horrible couch – the fake green leather squeaks under his weight –, buries his face in his hands and groans.

“Is there coffee, in this shoebox?”

“I can make some.”

Dean gets up and shuffles toward the kitchen.

“'s okay, I'll make it–”

“Dean?”

The hunter leans on the fridge with one hand, yawning his head off. Something in his jaw pops and he closes his mouth immediately, scared he might have undone Cas' nurse work. Luckily, nothing hurts too bad. It's mostly in his cheek and brow, and he might have bitten his tongue when he fired the Colt or when he woke up from his nightmare, because when he runs it across his teeth to make sure they're all there – well, except for the couple ones some monster knocked off a few years back –, he tastes blood.

“Yeah?” Dean says, facing Cas to see that he doesn't look very happy with him, right now.

“Sit down.”

That's ominous. He complies, crosses his arms on his chest, and waits for Cas to talk.

“We're going to proceed differently,” the angel tells him. “I'm not going to stand there and just break the eggs like I do when you cook in the bunker. I'm going to cook. You're going to tell me exactly what to do, and you're going to stay right where you are, have coffee, a few pills for your head, and act like you're happy that I'm in charge. Is that clear?”

Dean frowns.

“What's wrong with me yellin' at you for letting eggshells in the pancake batter?”

“First of all, that's why I don't cook with you anymore, and second of all, we're here because you're not satisfied with your life–”

“That's one way to say it.”

“–so we're going to change what we can of it until you feel like not shooting a bullet in your face or drowning yourself. Got it?”

Silence.

“But I like cooking–”

“Got it?” Cas repeats.

He's speaking like a kindergarten teacher to this one kid he hates, but Dean can't say that giving instruction so that he can eat pie for breakfast without lifting a finger sounds fucking awesome, right now.

“You're gonna burn everything, is what's gonna happen,” Dean mutters anyway, just because he can.

“So be it,” Cas sighs, getting up and immediately starting to make coffee.

For once, the hunter is the one looking at the angel making human things. It's strange, but it's funny. Cas let his trench-coat dry on the porch outside and changed into a Ghost t-shirt and sweatpants Dean has never seen on him. He hasn't shaved today.

It's so weird. He looks so human.

Dean is having a flashback from his trip to the future, where Stoner Cas was barely more relaxed looking than today. But then he shakes himself out of it and decides that it looks good on him. He's not an organ thief anymore, he's more like… a depressed writer. It's still better than organ thief. Plus, Ghost has some pretty banger songs.

If he's honest, Dean would be a little proud, right now, if Cas wasn't moving around in the ridiculously narrow kitchen like a bull in a china shop, bumping against the furniture, dropping things and catching them a second before they hit the ground. But it's fucking entertaining, is what it is.

Soon enough, Cas sets a big mug – “best mom ever” written in big pink letters on it – of fuming coffee in front of Dean, slams three little plastic bottles full of pills on the table, and says with his most commanding voice :

“Take two of each, or you can wave your pie goodbye.”

Dean raises his eyebrows and opens the bottles.

“Geez, Cas, you wanted the damn pie in the first place–”

“You usually take your medication with alcohol. You have no say in this.”

Dean glares at him, opens each bottle without breaking eye contact, stuffs the six pills in his mouth and swallows them dry, trying to save the rest of his ego by not making a too disgusted face.

“Get the potatoes,” he growls like he's planning to murder someone with them.

“How many?” Cas asks, so smug about this whole situation that Dean is suddenly very tempted to run out and jump off the dock again to show him who's the boss.

“How many you got?” Dean asks, wincing when he takes his first swig of scorching hot coffee. It's awful. But it's coffee.

Cas opens the paper bag containing the potatoes.

“Four.”

Dean hums, sets his mug down and tries to get up, but Cas turns to face him, faster than lightning, and threatens him with a kitchen knife until he sits back on the couch.

“How. Many. Sweet. Potatoes.”

“Don't look at me like that. Show me? They're pretty big, so like… three?”

Cas smiles and turns away.

“Thank you, Dean.”

Fucking weirdo.

They spend the next hour giving and following instructions, reprimanding one another for putting too much flour or not drinking enough water, but it's still different than in the bunker, Cas was right.

When Cas visits the Winchester brothers, they talk hunting, monsters, movies, Cas' new music discoveries, Sam's hunter friends, and Dean's… Dean's… Dean doesn't talk much, so he stays busy by cooking or cleaning his weapons he only fires at practice targets now while the other two chat, chiming in from time to time with a bad joke or an appalled “Don't tell me you listen to that, Cas.”

If Sam or Cas try to make him sit with them, to give him a break or a hand in cooking their meal, he either picks on them until they change their mind, or he accepts and regrets ever sitting down, because he can't fucking stay still.

When he tries to stay still and do nothing, everything crashes down on him, and we don't want that, do we? So his leg starts to jump, his fingers itch to play with something, he becomes hyper-aware of every sound, every movement in his field of view. Everything around him is good enough to escape that big, gaping hole inside him. Eventually, he waits for Sam or Cas to make a mistake, like cut the vegetables wrong way or make too much of a mess, to take back control of his kitchen and keep the void away.

Cas finally slides the pie in the baby-sized oven, slumps down on the chair facing Dean, and they wait. In silence, like they didn't spend an hour bickering and shouting at each other. They watch birds float and dive into the reservoir, a family with a dog walk along the dock, throwing rocks in the water. Dean drinks a second cup of coffee, Cas picks the pastry out of under his nails.

“Am I a ghost?”

Dean wouldn't have realized he said it out loud if Cas didn't drop his head in his hand so he could face and listen to him better. He's got flour in his hair, his eyebrows, orange batter on his left cheek. Looks good on him. Everything looks good on him.

Scratch that.

“What do you mean?” Cas asks, boring right into Dean's soul.

No “You're not a ghost, Dean. Take your pills.”, no “Shut up.”, no “What are you talking about, of course, you're not a ghost !”, no “Get it together, son”– well, he wouldn't say that, he's not John, but… but no. Cas just wants to understand. It's so new to Dean that for a moment he doesn't know what to say, his eyes wide like a deer in headlights, trapped in the sky of Cas' eyes.

“Am I… am I a ghost?” he repeats dumbly, trying to gain some time for his brain to come up with something.

Cas reaches out with his flour-covered hand and presses it down on Dean's forearm. He doesn't say anything, but the hunter knows it's his way of saying that if he can touch him, of course he's not a ghost.

“I-I don't mean it like that,” Dean stutters, turning his mug between his fingers nervously, but not shaking Cas' hand away. “I mean… I've been hunting my whole life. I am a hunter. I know I am. But I can't hunt anymore, so that must be wrong, and if I don't hunt anymore, what am I supposed to do with myself?”

Cas looks stunned for a second. Yeah, Dean thinks, you don't hear me say shit like that often, do you? But then the oven dings and Cas's hand slips away from his arm. He takes a rag from behind his chair, opens the oven, takes the dish out, almost drops it, but manages to put it on the cutting board, and soon he slides a slice of sweet potato pie towards Dean and hands him a spoon. The hunter is starving, he hasn't eaten anything solid since at least two days, but he'll have to wait if he doesn't want to burn his tongue.

“You're not just a hunter, Dean,” Cas says, cutting a slice for himself and sitting on his squeaky chair – everything is squeaky, in this cabin.

“Then what am I,” Dean asks again, his voice barely loud enough for the angel to hear.

“You're a brilliant mechanic, for one.”

Dean wrinkles his nose.

“That's what I learned to do, with my old man, with Bobby. That's not what I am.”

“You weren't born a hunter either. You learned everything you know about monsters with time and experience.”

Now Dean is getting frustrated.

“See, it's easy for you, you were made an angel, you know what you are !” he says, too loud, too angry, but Cas' stare doesn't falter.

“I'm not an angel anymore,” he reminds him. “How do you think that makes me feel?”

Shit.

“You still have some of your powers, though,” Dean murmurs.

“But I'm not immortal anymore. I can't fly. I don't have access to Heaven or angel radio. I couldn't even heal you when you shot yourself in the head in front of me. How do you think that made me feel?”

Great. Now Dean feels guilty.

“I'm no more of an angel than you are a hunter, now,” Cas says calmly, cutting the first spoonful of cooled down pie and shoving it in his mouth.

Dean does the same, savors the sweet, spicy taste for a few seconds before saying, his mouth full:

“That's not true. You're still pretty strong.”

“You can still hunt, but it hurts you afterward. It's just the same for me.”

“What, so your knees screamed at your face this morning because you threw me out of the water last night like a freaking frisbee?” Dean snorts.

“No, but a little more of what's left of my Grace, which is not a whole lot, burned away.”

To that, Dean stops chewing. Am I physically incapable of not fucking up? he wonders.

“For real? Shit, I'm sorry, Cas…”

The angel shrugs and shoves another piece of the pie in his mouth, not meeting his eye.

“It's done now. I'm over it.”

“So…” Dean is not sure he should even talk right now, but he does anyway. “So, when you… stopped being a full-on angel, what did you become?”

“I kept on being me. Just…”

“Without the whole smiting thing,” Dean completes.

“Yeah.”

“That doesn't help me at all.”

“It's not supposed to,” Cas says, a little coldly.

When they're both finished with their slice, he turns, serves them a second piece, and keeps on eating. Dean looks at him, eyebrows raised.

“Sooo we're just gonna eat this whole pie for breakfast?”

“Yep.”

“… okay.”

And then they don't talk, at all, just eating, and eating, even though Cas doesn't need to, even though Dean isn't hungry anymore, but the pie is good for a first try, so it's not that much of a bummer.

“You liked it?” Dean asks after there's nothing left of it but crumbs.

Cas grins, gets up, takes both of their plates, dumps them in the sink, takes hold of Dean's arm and urges him to stand up.

“I take it you did?”

“Let's walk,” Cas ignores him.

He drags him out of the cabin, barely leaving him enough time to put his shoes on, and then they turn their back on the reservoir and enter the pine forest.

“I want to show you something,” Cas says, and he's still holding Dean's arm, so the hunter has no choice but to follow him.

Wherever he's going.

Chapter Text

“Cas, fuckin' slow down, I'm dying here!”

“I'm not even walking that fast.”

“Don't give me that sass!”

“We're almost here.”

“For fuck's sake–where?! Canada?!”

Cas stops so abruptly Dean almost crashes into him.

He's wheezing like a fucking eighty years old and he has to bend over and lean on his eighty years old man's knees to catch his eighty years old man's breath. God, he feels old. Maybe if monsters, angels, demons and whatever's been trying to end human race didn't throw him through doors and beat him half do death every time they got the chance for most of his life…

Dean can feel Cas' hand settle between his shoulder blades, supportive, but also twitching with anticipation. He can't wait for him to see what he's been guiding him in those Lord of the Rings woods for half an hour.

Dean coughs his lungs out, and then he looks up. His jaw drops.

“Fuck me!”

Cas sighs, his hand slips from Dean's back and he starts walking down a little path. Douchebag's billions of years old, and he can't even fake being out of breath to spare a man's ego.

“I think what you meant was “Wow, Cas, this place is magnificent!”

“That's exactly what I said.”

“Come on down, it's prettier from up close.”

The view doesn't help Dean's lungs.

It's breathtaking. In the middle of the pine forest, there's a crater in the ground, all lined with mossy rocks, and in the center of the crater is a pool of the clearest water he's ever seen. Dragonflies, butterflies, and bees land and take off on white waterlilies in an eternal ballet. The sun is filtering through the trees, golden blotches of light dance on the rocks and the water's shining as if it was covered with a coat of floating diamonds. It's almost blinding.

“An angel fell here,” Cas says.

He found a neat little seat on a rock. He looks like a kid, with his legs crossed and his arms close to his body. Dean staggers more than walks up to him and sits beside him, sighing with relief when the pain in his legs fades away.

“You think?” he pants.

“Yes.” Cas points to one side of the crater, then the other. “Look at its shape.”

“'s it a triangle?”

“Like a human form with wings,” Cas corrects, and Dean doesn't have the heart – or the energy, for that matter – to protest. “Look at the water. Those flowers are not supposed to bloom here, either.”

And then it dawns on Dean.

“Wait… so you've been here before?”

Cas seems to hesitate for a moment, or maybe the beauty of this place made him lose his train of thought.

“Yes. I hunted down a creature in these woods a few months ago. There was no lore about it. People around the park kept seeing a green, mossy, dog-like creature get out of the forest to swim in the reservoir at night. It just wanted to fish, but when a frightened man tried to shoot it, he tasted human flesh and decided he wanted more. He went on a killing spree, Sam called me because he wasn't in the area, and I took care of it.”

Cas inhales and closes his eyes. Dean can't help staring at him for a minute. Somehow, the angel looks even prettier than this fairytale they're in the middle of.

“It was late, I was getting back to the cabin after burning the creature's body when I missed a step in the dark and fell. I hit my head on a rock and lost consciousness for the rest of the night, and when I woke up, I was here. This little piece of heaven.”

Cas breathes again.

“It even smells like Grace,” he smiles.

Dean wrinkles his nose.

“Graces have a smell?”

“The younger ones, yes. It disappears with time. A young angel fell here. You won't be able to smell it,” he adds a second before Dean can inhale full volume to try and smell the Grace anyway.

So the hunter watches the insects fly around, the water ripple, the sun pours gold in Cas' hair, on his skin, his clothes, his barely-there smile.

It's hard to stay still when a void inside you keeps trying to reach out and swallow you whole. The angel seems to feel Dean's agitation, because his smile widens and he tilts his head on the side, leaving more skin exposed to the sun and Dean's eyes.

“We can come back later for a swim when you're feeling better,” he offers. “Carefully, of course. We don't want to disturb the flowers and the bees, and we certainly don't want to drown.”

Cas' smile turns into a snicker, now, and Dean can barely bring himself to hide his own.

“You and your bees,” he grumbles, faking grumpiness.

He asked him, years ago, “You won't ever get over the bees, right?”, to which Cas answered a curt “No.”, and that had been that. But today, as Dean's eyes caress every flower, every insect, every ripple of water, this wonderful place Cas lead him to, he adores the man with such a force it rattles the iceberg in his head in a direction it didn't except to go.

“You belong in places like this,” he tells him – discovers is more like it.

Cas hums in contentment and agreement.

“You feel like that, you know,” Dean adds because apparently, he can't seem to shut up, since his little dive in the reservoir. “Like this place.”

“Are you subtly calling me a fairy?” Cas teases. “I'm aware it's an insult, you know.”

Dean laughs, a big, loud laugh the rattles the iceberg around a little more in his head. He didn't remember his laugh sounded like that. Fuck, he sounds like a dick.

“Yeah, you're a fairy, Cas,” he says fondly. “A goddamn fairy.”

“Are you a fairy, too?” Cas asks, and there's something behind his word, but Dean can't make out what.

“No, I'm not. You're a fairy, Sam's a Sasquatch, and I'm… I'm…”

His smile fades away. Why does his mind always have to go back there?

“What am I?” he whispers.

“Want to know what I think you are?”

Please.

“Shoot,” Dean says instead, in a too light tone that does nothing for him, because Cas knows him better than that.

“I think you're a daemon.”

The hunter sighs and rolls his eyes.

“That was one time–”

“Not a demon, a daemon. A Eudaemon, to be more precise, is a protective spirit in greek mythology. They were believed to be glorified heroes, half-way between gods and men.”

“Now you're just trying to make me feel better.”

Eudaemons are good. They watch over their proteges. They guide them.”

“I don't guide people–”

But Cas cuts him off:

“You do. You do, even if you don't see it. I would have never found freedom if I hadn't met you.”

“Yeah, and look where that got you.”

Cas raises his open arms to embrace the whole pond.

“I'm not complaining.”

Dean reflects on it for a second, mouthing the word “eudaemon” several times.

“Well, I don't like it,” he decides after a while.

Cas shakes his head, and now his smile is toothy, and he's glowing, eyes still shut, and Dean knows lying is a lost cause.

“Okay, it's pretty cool,” he admits.

“Guess you're pretty cool, then,” Cas says, shrugging with a fake “Oh, bother” look on his face. He made lazy, stupid quotation marks with his fingers around the words “pretty cool”. He's so weird.

Dean falls silent. They can't hear a car, a plane, they can't hear anything manmade, and if they stayed here long enough, they could forget the human race ever happened to Earth.

“Why did you take me here, Cas?” the hunter asks softly.

“Because it's a beautiful place.”

“You were planning on taking me here from the start, weren't you?”

Cas says nothing.

“It's okay if you did.”

The angel's smile falters a little.

“You would have never accepted if I told you I wanted to take you here before leaving the bunker.”

“So what, you waited for me to shoot myself?” Dean teases, a little too sharply for his own taste.

“No. I wanted to make a sweet potato pie with you so you'd be too satisfied to suspect anything, and then I would have suggested you and I go on an easy hunt together, a Salt 'n Burn, like old times, and I would have taken you here. You would have been pissed off at me for a while after realizing there is no ghost, but then you would have been happy for the rest of our stay. You wouldn't have told me that, of course. You would have pestered me as revenge, but I would have known.”

Dean snorts, a little bit offended by the whole thing and more than flustered to discover that he's that predictable.

“Wow. Manipulative, much?”

Cas ignores him.

“I wanted you to find a little happiness, and, quite selfishly, I wanted to see you finding it.”

Dean lets it sink in, and then decides to play the easy card.

“And what exactly are you seeing, right now?” he mutters. “Your eyes aren't even open.”

Cas chuckles.

“I don't need to open them to know how you feel.”

Dean shifts on the uncomfortable rock.

That's not creepy,” he jokes.

“I know you, Dean,” Cas whispers as if raising his voice a second longer would make the waterlilies close up and the bees shy away.

So Dean keeps his voice down too when he asks:

“What do you know about me ?”

At this point, he's basically begging him to tell him what he is and this demanding position doesn't sit well with him, but everything is so quiet, here, and the world is so far, beyond the forest, that no one but Cas could ever hear his desperation.

“I know you're craving for human touch,” the angel murmurs. “You're just too ashamed of this thirst to let yourself quench it.”

“I'm not a sex-addict!” Dean objects, barely keeping his cool.

“I didn't mean that, you idiot” Cas sighs, “I meant human touch in a non-sexual way. Like this.”

His hand slides from the top of his knee to rest on Dean's wrist, soft, warm, heavy. The hunter feels a shiver run through his body from head to toe.

Great, now he's angry.

“I am too, you know,” Cas tells him before he can get too worked up about it, taking his hand back. “It's not exactly an easy thing to talk about, especially between men like you or Sam. If I told you I was starving for this kind of affection, you would have laughed, taken me to a brothel and paid a prostitute to solve the problem. Wouldn't be the first time.”

Dean blushes, hard. Fucker's right. Why is he always right?

“It's okay, Dean. It's beautiful, really.”

“How is being touch-starved beautiful,” he growls.

“It's a need for love. Everything that touches love is beautiful.”

And what can Dean answer to that? That it's some hippie bullshit? That he should get rid of whatever he's been smoking? That's the old Dean, the one that died when his special bullet scraped his jawbone. The new Dean, the true Dean, really, can't deny what Cas' touch has done to him, when he hugged him last night, hell, every time their skin comes into contact. It's so warm, so good.

He can't afford to reject good.

Not anymore.

So Dean stays quiet, maybe for the longest time since Mary's funeral, until Cas unfolds himself and gets up from his rock, extends a hand the hunter doesn't dare take – after everything Cas just told him, it's too much, too soon –, and they head back to the cabin in silence.

All the way, Dean has to make an extra effort to have his body walk in a straight line.

It keeps swaying closer to Cas.

Chapter Text

When they get back to the cabin, Cas immediately starts cooking again, but lunch, this time.

Dean looks at the clock and is surprised to find their walk in the woods lasted almost three hours. It's as if they entered a parallel dimension when they got to the pond, and, like in a fairytale, if they stayed longer, they would have forgotten where they came from and why they would ever want to leave this magical place.

But they did get back, and now Dean is looking at himself in the bathroom mirror, and he suddenly he wants to know exactly what he's done to himself.

Blue and red form an ugly circle around his left eye and the whole right side of his face feels swollen.

“Remember to drink water, Dean!” Cas tells him.

Dean is too busy unwrapping the gauze around his head to pay him and his mom-voice attention. He tries to fold the white ribbon as neatly as the angel would, but it falls on the ground and he's too anxious to look at himself to care. Wet patches full of blood and medicine fall in the sink, and then…

Then Dean feels like he was punched in the gut.

He can't breathe and his mouth opens, but nothing comes out.

The bullet entered the skin on his chin, just under the corner of his mouth. It then went up sideways toward the outside of his welled shut-eye, only saved by an inch, and his brow looks like he tried to put a piercing in it with a drill and it all went – as you would expect – terribly wrong. Cas sutured the wound with at least twenty stitches. Did a pretty good job at it, too. He must have done it while Dean was still unconscious, back in the bunker.

Everything is swollen, red, horrible to look at. Just a mess of flesh, blood and nylon threads. It's worst than when he was beaten within an inch of his life so many times in his life. It's worst than anything anyone and anything's ever done to his face – at least out of Hell.

It's like he made a trip there and came back with a special souvenir.

Dean looks like a monster.

He can't tear his eyes away. At one point he's going to have to breathe in, but right now he can't.

He doesn't hear Cas lean on the bathroom door frame.

“It's going to heal,” the angel says quietly.

“It's not,” Dean says, but no sound comes out of his mouth.

Cas comes closer, makes him slowly turn his face away from the mirror so he can stop looking at himself. His hand is warm on his cheek. Dean can't feel anything.

“It is going to heal.”

“I shouldn't… I shouldn't have missed,” Dean stammers, his eyes wide, so wide, like they know he's going to die and are waiting to see what's going to kill him.

An awful emotion contorts Cas' face, but he fends it off as quickly as it came. He comes closer to Dean, his hand still on his cheek, and the other coming up to squeeze the back of his neck.

“I'm so glad you missed,” he says.

Dean closes his eyes hard and shakes his head.

“People… people are gonna look at me with–with pity and fear in their eyes, and kids are gonna scream when they see me, and women are gonna look away… Shit, even the damn dogs are gonna be afraid of me…”

“It will heal, I promise, it won't look that bad…”

“I can't fucking take it…” Dean gasps, and he can't breathe, he's lightheaded, he has to sit down, so he does, on the tiny toilet seat, and Cas doesn't let go of him, and his hands and voice are far, far away.

“This isn't your first scar, you know it's not going to stay that way–”

“Cas,” Dean blurts out. “Cas, I can't do it. You have to help me. You have to kill me. I can't do it. Please.”

He can feel the angel's fingers tighten around him from a distance. Then he hears him kneel down in front of him, squirm until he's between Dean's legs because there is no fucking place in this goddamn cabin, and now Cas is very, very close.

“Your wound is going to heal, and you will never stop being beautiful,” he says, his voice so deep it's almost chilling.

His arms slowly wrap themselves around Dean's torso, his palms coming up to rest on top of his shoulders until they're flush against each other. A distant part of Dean sighs in contentment. Another one squirms in disgust of himself. He can't hear them.

“It's going to leave a mark, but you will never stop being beautiful.”

Dean lets himself be held like a limp puppet. He's so tired. He wants to disappear, or maybe melt in Cas' embrace like ectoplasm, fall in a puddle on the bathroom's atrocious Lino and die.

But then there's a knock, Cas plants a furtive kiss on Dean's intact cheek, gets up without kneeing him in the nose, pushes the curtains aside with his hand, sighs and opens the door.

“Hello, Mr. Winchester!” a seventy-something years old woman greets him in a singsong voice. “I was just coming by to say hello, and… Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you had company, I can come back la–”

She gasps loudly.

“Sweet, baby Jesus, his face! Is he okay? Is he–”

Dean buries his head between his arms. The woman is annoying. Life is annoying.

“Thank you for checking on us, Margaret,” Cas cuts her coldly. “We're all good here. Have a nice day.”

He slams the door in her face, closes the curtains, and immediately comes back to Dean.

“I'm sorry, Margaret can be a little nosy.”

The hunter doesn't say anything. When Cas is close enough again, he simply bumps his head against the angel's stomach and lets him thread his fingers through his hair.

“She's the one that called Sam for the woodland creature, you know?” Cas tells him. “He helped her take care of a ghost years ago, that's how she knew who to call. When I killed the beast, she told me I would always be welcome in the cabin she lent me, so I come here from time to time, to go to the pond and get away from my hunting life when it gets too much.”

“So what, you faked looking for things in the kitchen as if it was the first time you came here to fool me?” Dean croaks.

“Yes.”

“Mmh. Clever.”

“I know.”

Dean snorts weakly. He's starting to feel his body again. That means he can feel Cas' heat against his forehead, his fingers through his hair, how close the two of them are.

He doesn't panic about it.

He has better things to panic about.

Like the fact that now that his face changed, he's even less of the Dean he knew than before.

That's a pickle.

Cas shifts against Dean, taking hold of his arms and pulling him up.

“Come on, I made you lunch.”

“'m not hungry.”

“Yes you are, come on, Dean, help me out, here…”

He doesn't move. Cas sighs and thinks for a moment.

“There's beer,” he says.

Dean groans something indecipherable and finally gets up.

“That's more like it,” the angel smiles. “Winchesters and their beer…”

Dean falls on the couch like a sack of potatoes. His fingers are itching to touch his face, but he knows Cas wouldn't like that, so he doesn't. He just sits there, eyes vacant, until Cas serves him a plate of…

“Did Sam finally get you to join his cult?” he says, his voice flat and frail.

“You need fiber to heal faster,” the angel informs him, sliding an open beer bottle towards Dean.

The hunter pokes at the salad with his fork. He's even sadder, now.

“I said I wanted you to kill me, but not like this. This is too cruel.”

“Be an adult about it. You need it.”

Cas takes the fork from Dean's hand and digs through the vegetables.

“Lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, onions, garlic, and homemade dressing sauce. You're going to be ten years younger, after eating that.”

He stabs the salad with the fork and takes a big bite for himself.

“If you don't eat it, I will, because this is delicious,” he says around his mouthful.

Dean sighs dramatically, steals the fork back and starts angrily eating.

“I hate you.”

“I know, Dean. Eat your vegetables.”

“Fuck you.”

Cas laughs, loud, and his eyes are shining, but he looks happier than before, so Dean takes a big swig of his beer and keeps eating.

Wait.

Cas kissed him on the cheek.

He didn't dream it, did he?

Chapter Text

“Cas?”

“Mmh?”

“What' you reading?”

Cas turns the book in his hand as if he forgot the title.

“Good Omens. It's a Neil–”

“A Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel, yeah, I know.”

The angel looks up from his book and raises an eyebrow, the corners of his mouth barely suppressing a smirk.

“You've read it?” he asks.

Dean glares at him from his bed.

“Dude. I read.

Cas' smirk turns into an apologetic smile.

“I know you do, Dean. I'm just teasing you.”

“Why does everyone think I don't read…” Dean mutters, wriggling on the bed to find a more comfortable position.

The sun is slowly setting, behind the forest. Cas curled up on the couch hours ago with his novel and hasn't moved since, except to turn the pages.

All Dean has done all afternoon is think and drink water. Fucking water. Cas didn't let him open another beer since he finished his at lunch. He misses his beautiful, luxurious alcohol cabinet. He drank almost all of it before shooting himself so there's not much left of it, but still.

Water.

So Dean's lying there, staring at that damn, murderously too low top bunk, and he's thinking. About… things. Things Cas said, things he did, things Dean said or didn't, did or didn't for decades. He hasn't let himself think about his life and life in general for a long time.

He's not sure what eased him into it, today. Maybe his bullet was even more special than he intended it to be. Maybe it's his midnight swim in the reservoir. Maybe it's the Grace-smelling pond. Maybe it's what Cas told him.

Maybe he's changing.

Maybe it's for the best.

“I should have been a bodyguard,” he blurts out unexpectedly, even for him.

Cas turns a new page with one hand, nibbling on a fingernail. The sun is setting down behind the trees, basking the cabin in soft, orange light.

“You would have been excellent at it,” Cas says.

“Yeah, I don't know,” Dean sighs, stretching on the bed to keep himself from rubbing his face like he's been itching to all day. “Would've fucked up at one point or another.”

“Not necessarily.”

Dean turns on his side and drops his head on his hand, leaning on his elbow to face Cas better even though the angel doesn't pay him that much attention, absorbed as he is by his book.

“Didn't you want to be a firefighter, when you were a child?” Cas asks, just when Dean thought he'd forget about him for the rest of the day.

“Yeah. Because of what happened to Mom, and all that… Plus, a bodyguard's job is too demanding. If I'd been a firefighter, I still would've had time for a family, I think.”

He closes his eyes. He's tired but he likes talking about stuff like that, stuff that doesn't have to mean anything. Simple stuff. Doesn't hurt his brain, keeps the void away. A fragile, but nice, easy equilibrium.

“You would have liked starting a family,” Cas observes, tenderness in his voice.

“Yeah. Lots of people to love. Lots of people to take care of. Always things to do in the house. Would've been simpler in so many ways.”

“No questions, no doubts.”

“Exactly.”

Cas hasn't turned another page in the last couple of minutes. He's listening. So Dean keeps talking.

Guess that's what I do, now.

“Don't know if I would've been a good father, though.”

“Why?”

Dean sucks a deep breath in, through his nose, to push away the pressure that always builds in his chest when he thinks about John. He's been doing this little breathing exercise since he was a teenager without even realizing it.

“I'm too much like my old man,” he exhales. “Everything would've been fine for a while, and then I would've slipped up like I do with everything. Drink too much one night and hit the kid on accident, or some shit like that.”

Cas is quiet for a moment. The moment stretches out, longer and longer until Dean is starting to get a little anxious. Maybe he's gone too far. Maybe he should talk, but not like that, not this much, not about that. But then Cas breaks the silence and his apprehension deflate slowly, lulled away by the angel's deep, calm voice.

“Want to know what I think about that?”

He sounds serious, so much so that Dean's not sure he wants to, but he nods anyway and Cas must still have some of his angel senses because he starts talking without even seeing him agree. Or maybe he just intended to tell him no matter what.

Yeah, that's probably it.

“I think you're nothing like John. John was selfish, revengeful, he lied, he kept things from you, he left you in the dark, he put you in danger. I met demons more trustworthy than him.”

Cas' words rattle an old, defensive part of Dean. He's struggling to keep his cool, but when he opens his eyes and they meet the angel's, it's not so hard anymore. He doesn't want to get angry at Cas. Been there, done that.

“I do that,” Dean whispers, and the pressure in his chest builds up again against his efforts. “All of it. The lying, the hiding. Everything.”

Cas tilts his head, not breaking eye contact. It's almost unbearable.

“Because you think that's what you're supposed to do. That's what John would want you to do. You're not a kid anymore, you're a grown man, a good one, at that, but you'll always be John's kid, and your brain won't let go of that.”

Cas slips a torn up piece of paper, his makeshift bookmark, in his novel and sets it down on the table beside him.

“I think you feel how you've been feeling all your life because you wanted to become John Winchester, and something in you, something so deep it's touching your Soul, this hidden something does not agree with becoming your father.”

He rearranges himself on the couch, the back of his head on the window's glass. His unruly hair is all over the place, lit up from behind. Why does the sun always have to try and give him back his halo?

Cas keeps talking, and Dean keeps staring and trying to breathe.

“That's why you couldn't stop yourself from saving people, hunting things, the whole family business, before your body told you it couldn't go on much longer. The Winchester's family name is not a burden you're carrying, Dean. It's a curse.”

Every word coming out of Cas' mouth is like a punch against Dean's tall, thick, but cracked walls. He's that close from feeling insulted, to accuse him of trying to destroy what's left of his identity and John's memory, but…

But what if he's right?

What if he's really been trying to become John for almost forty years?

What if that's why he doesn't know what and who he is anymore?

What if he wasted his whole life trying to become someone else?

What if…

What if it's too late for him to become himself?

Dean grimaces and rubs his good eye.

“'s the room spinning or am I having a stroke?” he grunts.

“The room isn't spinning. Do you need to eat something?”

Dean sits down on the bed, mindful of the frame, and gets up, blinking hard and shaking his head.

“Nah. I'm just gonna–”

His legs give in under him and he falls on his knees.

Fuck, that hurt.

“–fall on the ground and pass out, apparently,” he groans, suddenly very nauseous and very not okay.

Cas jumps up and guides him back on the bed, a hand on the top of Dean's head so that he doesn't hurt himself more.

“Lie down, you need to rest. What did you want?”

“Jus' something for the pain…”

“I'll get it for you, lie down.”

Dean obeys and blows an annoyed raspberry.

“Why are you so nice and helpful, Cas,” he whines almost like it's a bad thing, even though he knows it's not.

He hears him fill a glass with water and dig in his medical bag.

“I guess I'm trying to make up for all the times I haven't been there for you.”

“You still came by the bunker, sometimes,” Dean says, gulping the glass and the medicine all in one go.

“I don't mean only this year. I haven't completely forgiven myself, to be honest.”

“Why, 'cause you fucked up a couple of times, ate people and tried to be the hot, new God? You know you weren't yourself and you were trying to do good. Doesn't matter anymore.”

But Cas is turning the empty glass in his hands, sat on the floor with one arm on the bed against Dean's knee.

“It does, for me,” he murmurs. “If I knew how to open up and say certain things, back then, maybe things would have been different.”

Dean bumps the angel's elbow with his knee to make him look up. Their eyes lock, so serious, so sad, so sincere it's making Dean's heart flutter in his chest.

“You and me, brother.” He grins, and it's genuine, full of forgiveness, full of so many things he can't name.

Cas tries to smile back, but every time he tries, the corners of his mouth fall back down and more tears well up in his eyes.

“I'm sorry, you know,” he whispers. “For everything. I really am.”

“Me too, Cas. Come here.”

And there they are, back into each other's arms for the third time in what – twenty-four hours? Even when Dean was a kid, he didn't get that much affection in such a short period of time.

He's not turning that away.

Did it enough for one life, and the next.

This is not dangerous, Dean realizes idly, all warmed up against Cas' chest. It's the opposite, even, now that he knows what they're both craving for.

This is feeding.

This is allowing themselves to satisfy their hunger. They've been so hungry for so long.

This is healing.

Chapter Text

“Cas?”

Cas turns to face him, tearing his eyes away from the stars and their trembling reflection on the reservoir's surface.

“Yes, Dean,” he whispers as if they weren't alone. “I thought you were asleep.”

Dean watches at him for a second, from where he's lying on the bed.

Cas traded his Ghost t-shirt for a Star Wars one because he got blood on it when he cleaned up Dean's wound and bandaged it for the night. He's still wearing his sweatpants and he's sitting with his knees against his chest, comfortably nestled against the window, in the corner of the room. His book is sitting unfinished on the table, the bookmark sticking out of it.

Dean can barely see him, but he's still astonished by how beautiful he looks, his skin almost blue in the night, half of his face lost to the darkness, stars shining in his only visible eye. The hunter swallows.

“Don't you get bored, when everyone's asleep?” he asks him, very quietly too, for some reason.

“No. I usually think about all the places I flew to when I still had my wings, but sometimes it makes me feel too lonely, so I get out and take a walk.”

Wow. That's personal. But who is Dean kidding? They've been talking about suicide, touch-starvation and daddy issues for almost two days.

“You can go out if you want to,” Dean tells him, unsure of what else he should say.

“I'm too scared you might try and leave me again.”

“Oh. Well… I won't.”

That sounded like a promise. Was it a promise? Cas seems to be asking himself the same question because he tilts his head like the night owl he is and waits for Dean to explain.

“I mean, I still think about all the people I lost, Hell, Purgatory, the things I went through, the things I made others go through, the monsters and all that shit, but I… what if there's a way for me to be happy that I haven't found yet, because I don't know who I really am?”

Cas observes him, and when he talks, Dean realizes that he was trying to put a muzzle on his emotions.

“Like a treasure map you didn't know you had in your pocket ?” he says, his voice barely audible and a little shaky.

“You're such a nerd,” Dean laughs, “but yeah. Like a treasure map I can't read yet.”

Cas wipes at his face and tries to hide it with a hand, but Dean already saw a star-lit tear roll down his cheek.

“I'm really glad to hear you say that.”

Nope.

Nope, Dean can't take it, he can't acknowledge Cas' broken, happy words and just go back to sleep.

So he doesn't let himself think twice about it.

He gets out of bed and opens his arms, now standing inches away. He's afraid for a second that Cas might look at him funny and not get it, but the man laughs such a relieved laugh, instantly accepting the hug, sliding across the couch to encircle Dean's waist and bury his face against his chest, that the hunter thinks that might have been the best decision he's ever made.

Cas is squeezing the life out of him.

He doesn't give a flying fuck.

Very carefully, Dean puts his hand on top of Cas' head. His fingers dig into the messy, soft hair, and he can feel the angel's sigh warm up his t-shirt. Cas' knees bump against Dean's, so he slips his legs between them. Now they're even closer. Warmer. Better. The hunter is holding Cas' head against his chest, and when he plants a kiss on top of it, he feels a shiver run through both their bodies.

Dean can't get enough of it.

He runs his hands down Cas' neck, and then his fingers slip under his strong, scratchy jaw until he's cradling his face. He swipes his thumbs on his wet cheeks.

“I missed you,” Cas murmurs, as if they've done this before, holding on to each other for dear life like forbidden lovers.

Dean is a wreck.

He knows that this… this is good. Whatever John might have called him if he saw him right now, whatever he's convinced himself he was and wasn't for decades.

He doesn't know who he is, and he's still close enough to the void that jumping in it so he can stop existing feels almost too easy.

What the hell has he got to lose anymore?

Dean caresses the angel's face in the dark, and when his thumb dips between Cas' bottom lip and his chin, he bends his neck, opens his mouth and… stops.

He still has something to lose.

Cas.

And he couldn't survive that. He almost lost everything his and Sam's relationship used to be, he can't go back to him, to the bunker, heartbroken because Cas rejected him.

Oh.

So it really comes down to that.

Dean's scared of heartbreak because if what's left of him starts bleeding again, he won't want to find out what unknown treasure he has the map of, because…

“I love you.”

Cas isn't moving anymore, frozen with his head tilted upward, his hands pulling on Dean's t-shirt so tight it will probably never go back to normal. Dean can feel his heartbeat in his ears – even though he's still half-deaf in his right one.

“What?”

Cas' fists tighten on Dean's t-shirt and his legs press against his calves.

“I love you,” he repeats, his breath hot on Dean's face, his whole body shaking against him.

Dean can barely see Cas' eyes in the dark, wide-open, equally full of fear and trust.

They're not that young anymore. They both aged together, man and angel just the same since Cas lost most of his Grace. Dean has crow's feet when he smiles, Cas has faint, dark circles under his eyes, Dean's body was broken so many times he can't even run for more than fifteen minutes and Cas is almost completely human, but right now, none of it matters, because even devoured by the night, Cas is still the most beautiful man Dean has ever seen.

“I'm so in love with you,” the hunter finally whispers, and Cas barely has the time to sigh in relief before Dean crashes their mouth together, holding Cas' face with both of his hands, whimpering when Cas licks his lips open, and then there's nothing left of the world but them.

Every resistance, every wall Dean comes into contact with while Cas kisses him is futile.

Fuck John and his everyday homophobia.

Dean is not John.

He doesn't know who he is, but he knows one thing for sure: he never, ever wants Cas to let go of him.

Cas' hands slip under Dean's wrinkled t-shirt and the hunter revels in the shudders it sends rippling through his entire body, he revels in the taste of Cas' mouth, he revels in his ancient, unique smell, he revels in every inch of the angel's warm body pressed up against him.

Fuck everyone, fuck the void, fuck the little iceberg still floating in his head with nowhere to go, fuck everything.

This is good.

“I love you so much.”

Old Dean would have never dared say that out loud, let alone say that between two passionate kisses with his male best friend. New Dean does, because that special, special bullet killed what survived John Winchester's death and was living inside him when it pierced through his skin.

Dean threads his fingers through Cas' hair and opens his mouth wider, making him moan, invading his space and showing no mercy.

This is healing.

The void is still there, of course. You can't make it disappear with a simple kiss, no matter how good of a kiss it is. It would be too easy, and Dean's life has never been that.

But now a little red string is tied around his ankle, where all the others used to be.

A link to this world.

It's not that strong of a string, just a little thing you can break between two fingers.

Won't be all that easy to jump into the void now, though, will it?

Chapter Text

When Dean wakes up the next morning, feels a body against his on the tiny bed and realizes it's Cas', he tenses up and everything comes crashing down on him.

He's suddenly terrified, ashamed, angry, mortified. He remembers John mumbling something horrible when they passed a gay couple holding hands in the street, way back when Dean couldn't even drive yet. He remembers every joke he's ever heard – and told himself. He remembers how eagerly he kissed Cas, how he sighed in relief into his mouth, how their legs tangled together when they lied down on the bed, still wearing all their clothes, and how happy he fell asleep in his arms.

Cas' hand settles right above his heart.

“Hello, Dean,” he says. Very softly, very calmly.

Dean's heart only beats faster under his palm. He's having trouble breathing. Everything he sees looks far away and his ears feel stuffed with cotton.

“It's okay,” Cas whispers. “You can relax. Everything is alright. It's just a reflex.”

The tension in Dean's body melts away slowly, laboriously, but eventually, every muscle relaxes until he's limp on the bed and almost tempted to go back to sleep.

“Haven't had one of those in a long time,” he sighs.

Cas doesn't say anything for a moment, his hand still on Dean's chest. They're both trying their hardest not to move, not to breath too loud, not to say anything.

They're scared that if they do, what they became in the night might break.

“Should I get up ?” Cas sounds like it's the last thing on Earth he wants to do.

For a few seconds, the hunter doesn't know what to tell him. His panic attack is over, but he can still feel how hard his heart clenched when he remembered what happened the night before.

So Dean asks himself: what would John do if he woke up in bed with a man?

That's easy. He would launch the intruder out of bed, punch him square in the jaw, grab his keys and drive away like the devil was after him, with the firm intention of forgetting it ever happened.

So Dean wriggles on the small bed until he's facing Cas, he wraps his arms and his legs around him, pushes his face in the angel's neck until he can feel his heartbeat on his lips and groans :

“Get up and I'll jump in the reservoir again.”

Cas laughs and starts scratching Dean's hair, mindful of his bandages.

It's that simple.

Who knew.

“You're just a big cat,” Cas teases him – even though he doesn't sleep, his voice still sounds like he ate gravel for breakfast. “There's your answer: what are you? A big cat.”

“Am not.”

“You are, look at you, all curled up–”

“If I'm a cat then you're an asshole and I'm better than you.”

“That's my big cat.”

“Shut up.”

Dean drifts between sleep and consciousness, soothed by Cas' hand in his hair until the pressure in his chest seems just as far away as another nightmare he can't remember.

“What are we gonna do?” he mumbles, and for a second he's not sure he talked in a dream or in reality.

“What do you mean?” Cas asks.

“What are we gonna tell Sam? And everyone.”

“Do you want to tell them ?”

He sounds surprised. Dean can't blame him. He thinks, really hard, he digs around until he finds his heart where he buried it under John's supervision. It gets easier, he realizes. Every time.

“I want everyone to know,” he says. “I want to be so fucking obvious they won't even know where to look. I want to kiss you square on the mouth in the middle of the biggest, most macho hunter reunion and walk out without anyone saying anything because I'm Dean fucking Winchester and you're an angel of the Lord.”

Cas is shaking against Dean. He frowns.

“Are you… are you laughing?”

The angel almost pulls Dean on top of him.

“Are you going to dress in drag, too?” he giggles. “Because you would be so pretty with red lipstick and a wig–”

“Don't fucking challenge me.”

“Or what?”

“Or I'll get my Princess Leia bikini and you won't see me the same way ever again.”

Cas bursts out laughing. It's the best song Dean's ever heard.

“Okay, big cat. We'll do that. Le crier sur les toits, as the French say.”

“What's it mean ?”

“To shout it from the roof, so everyone can hear.”

“Mmh. I like the French.”

“Me too. They make wonderful animated movies.”

“You softie.”

“You're one to talk…”

Dean kisses the spot his lips have been resting on. Cas shudders and stops talking. Their knees bump together, Dean hits his elbow against the wall and the pain in his face is starting to make itself noticeable, but Cas is dense and pliant in his arms, the birds are waking up and he feels so good he could actually start purring.

The angel might call him out on that, though, so he noses his way up Cas face, and just like that, their lips meet again, in broad daylight, like they're okay with being in love, with being in a gay relationship, with this being their life, now.

When Cas opens his mouth wider, Dean doesn't let him down. When he pulls at his t-shirt and slips one hand under, Dean hopes he doesn't mind that he's practically crawling on top of him.

“Careful… with your… stitches…” Cas barely manages to get out in between kisses.

“Don't care.”

“I do–”

Dean swallows the end of his sentence, and then Cas is spreading his legs, his heels resting on the inside of the hunter's knees, and they fit together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and nobody's panicking, certainly not Dean.

Are you okay ?” Cas asks, the motherfucker, always so gentle.

The hunter hides his face in Cas' neck, forcing himself to breathe in and out slowly. He hates how choked up he sounds when he says :

“Yeah, yeah, it's just… a lot, and I–”

“I know. It's a lot for me too.”

“Can I… just… hold you? And–”

“Nothing would make me happier.”

Dean groans.

“You're being annoyingly sweet, right now,” he complains, his voice far too high for comfort.

“I'm sorry, I'll stop. Now hold me and shut up.”

“Yeah, that'll do.”

Dean feels ridiculous all of a sudden. Not like a child, because a child wouldn't stick his tongue down someone's throat first thing in the morning, but not like an adult either, because this, this is cuddling, and he doesn't do cuddling. He doesn't do men either, to be honest. He usually doesn't profess his love before even kissing the girl–hell, he doesn't profess his love, period.

That's some dangerous shit, he always thinks.

He's a hunter, he kills monsters, sometimes people, and he saw what happened with Lisa, what trying and settle down with someone does. He'd already known that kind of life wasn't for him, back then, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself. The beautiful lady, the kid, the big house, the garden, the picket fence. The blood on his hands he couldn't seem to wash out when he woke up in the middle of the night.

Hunter life started eating him alive since day one. He just got used to it, cause that's what Winchesters do, right? Get used to things and get the job done. Not get all gooey and lovey, because then you slip out of your armor, and nothing good ever came out of that.

But what if this is Dean? What if the real Dean is just that disgustingly cuddly, and demonstrative, and talkative, and into freaking dudes.

He's not going to lie, he's had boy crushes before. Everyone who knows him has had no other choice, at one point or another, but to be perfectly aware of how much Dr. Sexy is… well. Sexy.

Dean didn't phrase it like that, of course. Instead, he just got flustered when talking about that damn TV show, and he'd get that pink tinge to his cheeks, that dumb smile. Sam called him a rabid fanboy, once. Didn't mean anything more by that, but Dean still pushed what rose every time he only talked about Han Solo deeper down where no one could see.

That's how he works. When he says something, usually because Sam annoyed him into spilling the beans, he ends up regretting it not an hour later.

But this morning, Cas is welcoming him in his arms, in his heart, seemingly without any apprehensions or defensiveness about his masculinity.

Maybe it's easier for him because angels don't have genders. Maybe it's easier for him because he's come to terms with the fact that none of that caveman bullshit is worth keeping each other at arm's length.

“Dean?” Cas asks, tearing the hunter away from his thoughts.

“Yeah?”

“You're shaking.”

Dean hides his blush by showing Cas the bandaged side of his face. The angel's hands caress his ribs, making him shiver even more.

“Are you alright?” he whispers.

“Yeah,” Dean says, and for once, it's not just his way of dismissing his own feelings. “Yeah, I'm alright. 's just my body reacting, I guess.”

At that, Cas wraps all his limbs so tight around Dean it squeezes the air out of him.

“I love you.”

Here they are again.

Those big, scary, three words.

They take a different color by the light of day – no, they take the color they lacked last night, when they were so fragile, so unexpected they felt translucent.

Dean sighs deeply, closes his eyes, lets himself be grounded by Cas' grip and says :

“Me too.”

At that, Cas pulls Dean's head out of his neck by gently grabbing his hair, and he kisses him.

It's soft. It's innocent. It's calm. It's nothing more than taking pleasure in knowing the other is that close. Little kids kiss like that when they don't know what it means yet.

It's everything Dean used to mock, and everything he craved for.

But then Cas tugs slightly harder on his hair, and it would feel good if it didn't make the gauze wrapped around his head shift a little. A wave of pain makes him wince and pull back.

“Oh, I'm sorry, I–”

“'s okay Cas,” Dean assures him, slowly – and reluctantly – peeling himself off the angel. “Just tell me where you've been hiding the drugs, I'll take something.”

The angel looks at him funny from the bed when the hunter gets up, swaying on his legs a little.

“I was afraid you'd try and take too much,” he confesses.

Dean can't suppress the tenderness in his tone when he rolls his eyes and says :

“Well I won't, and my face hurts like a bitch, so I'd like to know where the painkillers are.”

Cas stands up. Keeping his loosened sweatpants from falling with one hand, he tears the padding off the couch's structure with the other, revealing a four inches deep, twelve inches long and wide secret cache.

Dean whistles loudly, planting his fists on his hips.

“Does the sweet, sweet Margaret know that you have a gun, a hunting knife, holy water and…”

He takes the only book out, raises his eyebrows and throws his best shit-eating grin at Cas.

“… a copy of Gone With The Wind hidden in her couch?”

Cas glares at him and takes the book out of his hands, putting it back, grabbing the bag of medicine from the cache and rearranging the padding.

It comforts Dean in a weird way. They're still them, all resting bitch face, teasing, and sarcasm. They just kiss and look at each other with lovey-dovey eyes.

Ew.

“Get in the bathroom,” Cas orders him sternly.

“Yes, sir.”

Chapter Text

“Let's see how everything's healing…”

The angel sits Dean on the toilet lid, makes him hold the drugs, and he starts unwrapping his bandages.

“You learned so much, while you were away,” Dean remarks. “You were still a little confused about human injuries, last year.”

“Yes. I worked a lot, with other hunters, sometimes, so I had to learn a few things.”

Cas is blocking Dean's view of his face on the mirror again, but this time he's not sure it's only because the bathroom is barely bigger than a changing room.

“You don't talk that much when you visit. Did you get hurt?” he asks while Cas applies an ointment on his tingling skin.

“It's part of the job,” the angel shrugs.

“Got that right. What's the worst thing you got?”

And that I wasn't there to protect you from, he doesn't add.

Cas thinks for a second, so focused on his task it looks like he's on the verge of smiting him.

“I got bit by a vampire, once,” he says, very manner-of-factly.

What?!” Dean blurts out.

“Luckily, another hunter was there and knew what to do.”

“You got bit by a fucking vamp and you didn't tell me?!”

“Well, there's nothing you could have–”

“When was this?!”

“Stop shouting. It was six months ago. It's over. I'm alright. Now stop moving or you're going to–”

But Dean doesn't care. He's outraged. He can't believe it.

“Why didn't I see anything?!” he yells, boiling on the toilet seat while Cas struggles to keep him still.

“You stayed in your room that day, and when Sam asked me what was wrong, I told him and asked him not to tell you because I knew you would–”

“What's fucking wrong with you!” Dean cuts again, but Cas suddenly grabs his face, making him whine in pain.

“I didn't want to burden you, and I knew you would get angry,” he growls. “So I made a choice, and now you have to shut up or you're going to rip your stitches. Got it?”

Dean nods as much as he can in Cas' grip. Then the angel lets go of him and continues taking care of the wound as if he never lost his cool in his entire life.

They stay silent for a minute, both waiting for Dean to calm down.

“'should have told me,” he eventually mutters with a pout.

“I see that, now,” Cas sighs.

Then he takes the roll of gauze, but Dean grabs his wrist. He licks his lips – and doesn't miss how Cas' eyes follow the movement.

“Wait, I… I need to…”

He can't even finish his sentence.

He doesn't have to.

The angel hesitates, but Dean looks so pleading that he can't deny him that. Silently, he angles himself with his back to the shower stall, and Dean can see himself in the mirror.

The lump in his throat is so big he can't even swallow properly.

“Cas.” He chokes out.

“Yes, Dean.”

“Tell me what I am again.”

Cas leans on Dean, hip to shoulder, one hand in the hunter ruffled hair, and they both look at their reflections.

Next to me, you look like a fucking god, the hunter thinks, but he can't find the strength to tell him.

“I see the most beautiful human being I've ever had the chance to look upon,” Cas says quietly. “Even if I can't see your soul anymore, I remember how vibrant and gorgeous it was.”

Dean would smile if he didn't suddenly forget how to.

Guess I'm fugly, now.

It's not puffy anymore, but the wound is so long, so wide across his face. The stitches make him look like someone tried to make a Frankenstein monster out of him, and died halfway. The white of his right eye is so full of blood he almost wishes his eyelids didn't deflate in the night.

“One inch to the left and you would have lost your eye,” Cas says like he read Dean's mind.

“What, you don't think an eyepatch would look cute on me?” the hunter jokes, but his voice is too weak for it to be funny.

It even moves when I talk.

And then it hits him.

Cas watches the horror spread across Dean's face.

“What's wrong?” he worries.

“What am I gonna tell Sam?” Dean says, livid. “When we go back, what am I gonna tell him?”

“He'll understand, he–”

But the hunter doesn't hear him, already getting up, at loss at what he should do to escape the panic.

“That I'm depressed as fuck? That I was so sure he'd try to get me back that I perfected a special bullet for two months so I could be sure everything anyone could ever try, everything, would fail ?”

Cas follows him outside the bathroom and tries to grip his arm, but Dean's already gone. The door bangs violently against the lilliput cabin's, the glass this close to shattering, but he still can't stop.

His animal instinct is telling him to run away from danger, so he does.

He doesn't even think about where. The world is a blur, the chilly wind a slap on his raw face, the birds a white noise he doesn't even register. His brain tells him one thing: run from it. From Sam, from the moment he'll see him, the moment the blood will leave his face, the moment he'll understand, the moment he'll get angry, then sad, and then break down.

Dean can't watch him go through that process again.

He already hurt him too many times. Hell, he hurt Cas too, and he was the one to find him at the exact moment the bullet entered his skin – and Dean is far from being at peace with that.

So he lets his body release the fear the only way it knows how, by running, and all of a sudden, he's standing at the very end of the dock from which he jumped into the reservoir not two night ago.

He can hear Cas shout his name, almost fall on the slippery wood and then stop, very close.

Neither of them jumps. Dean watches Cheney's Reservoir's edges, the water shine under the sun, the scattered clouds melt across the sky, the ducks… do whatever ducks do.

He watches how fucking indifferent the world is to him.

The world doesn't give a shit about the scar, about the void with the siren voice always trying to get him to surrender and let himself fall in.

Sam will, though.

“Why can't Sam not care?” Dean asks, and he's a hair away from breaking down and start sobbing, but he's tired of crying, of being afraid, he's tired of everything.

How funny is it that a few minutes ago, he felt so happy his feet didn't even touch the ground?

Not very.

“Because he loves you,” Cas says quietly.

Dean shivers when he feels a hand brush on his neck, sliding down, down, until it's resting on the small of his back. A soft approach from a soft man worried he might dive in the reservoir again, and who's only preventive action is to caress him like a frantic animal.

“I wish he didn't,” Dean murmurs, blinking his tears away. “I wish he didn't care about everyone, so I could go home butt-ugly, and he wouldn't even look at me twice.”

Cas' hands snake their way under the hunter's arms, and now they're flush against each-other, Cas' fingers gripping on the collar of Dean's now shapeless t-shirt, chin digging in his neck. He's hugging him just as much as he's making sure he won't jump in the water.

“Want to know what I think will happen?” Cas murmurs in his ear.

Dean lets his head fall on the angel's shoulder. Without realizing it, he starts mimicking Cas' calculated slow breathing.

“First he'll drop everything he's doing to ask you what happened. Secondly, when you've told him, he'll get angry, then sad. He may cry a little.”

Dean swallows difficultly and his hands come up to rest on Cas' of their own accord.

“Not helping,” he mumbles.

“Let me finish. He'll cry a little, and then he'll ask you to explain. Will you?”

The hunter sighs. Just thinking about it makes his stomach turn, but he nods anyway. Cas makes them swing a little, a funny way of saying “I'm proud of you”, but one way of saying it none the less. It'd make Dean smile if he didn't feel like bawling his eyes out, right now.

“You'll explain and he'll need some time to wrap his head around it, but eventually he'll get it.”

“What if he doesn't,” Dean whispers. “After I've explained why I did it, what if he stops at the angry or the hurt stage, and he's pissed at me for trying to leave him alone in the bunker, and he can't even bear to look at me for a second more because I was so selfish, what then? I won't have a brother anymore, and–”

“That won't happen, love.”

The pet name makes something go whoop! in Dean's insides.

It's the cheesiest thing a partner's ever told him, and through the maelstrom of terror making the little iceberg in his mind go round and round, he finds that he loves it.

“If Sam knows how to do one thing, it's understanding people,” Cas assures him. “He did want to become a lawyer. Even if he gets angry at you for a while, you've already walked this road, you know you two can still–”

“What if there's no road anymore,” Dean says, and he knows that question was a long time coming. “What if we've just hurt each other too many times, what if we've been living, hunting, killing together for too long.”

Cas seems to consider it for a few seconds. Dean turns his head lightly and touches the angel's cheek with his nose.

You smell like home.

“Would that be such a bad thing ?” Cas asks finally. “Wouldn't you like having your own space? Your own house, your own rules. To start anew. Sam is still in the hunting game, in a way, with his phones, the bunker's library, his knowledge and his… influence on the other hunters.”

Dean huffs a small laugh.

“Heard Garth call him his “hunter godfather”, the other day.”

“I heard other hunters call him that, too.”

Dean pouts against Cas' cheeks. He loves how his lips touch his unshaven cheek, and how the angel angles his face to feel it better.

“Why am I not a hunter godfather?” he grumps, barely audible against Cas' skin. “I killed Death, for fuck's sake.”

“I don't know,” Cas chuckles.

“I named a whole species of monsters.”

“You did.”

“I mean, Jefferson Starships, man.”

“Dean, what I was trying to say–”

“Bastards didn't even deserve such a cool name.”

Cas turns just enough for Dean to appreciate his death glare.

“What I was trying to say, is that nothing is keeping you from escaping the hunting life anymore.”

“You are,” Dean frowns. “You're a hunter, I can't just let you hunt on your own–”

“But I'm not on my own. I almost never go hunting by myself, now. I've learned my lessons.”

“So nobody needs me, is what you're telling me,” Dean laughs bitterly.

Cas' arms tighten around his ribs.

“Nobody needs you to sacrifice yourself anymore. You're free.”

 

You're free.

 

Dean is so unfamiliar with what those three words mean when they're in the context of his life that he's not even sure he understands them.

“You don't need me?” he asks, his voice so childish all of a sudden, but he's been needed since that forsaken night when he was four, when Mary was burning, when Sam needed him to be able to survive, when John put the weight of his little brother's life on his frail shoulders.

It's such an old part of him that he can't help it.

“I do need you, love. But not to fight. I need you like this.”

There Cas goes with the swaying again. They must look like a straight couple who just found out they were pregnant, but Dean's too worn out by his emotional rollercoaster to care.

“I need my big cat,” Cas adds, with no small amount of smugness in his voice, and that does it, that shakes Dean out of it.

“You fucking… Stop saying that, I'm not a big cat–”

The asshole has the audacity to laugh, too.

“You douche–”

Cas' lips find Dean's, shutting him up – quite effectively.

He almost falls in the reservoir when he turns to feel as much of Cas' heat against his as he can, but he doesn't care.

His wound stings a little when their kiss deepens, but he doesn't care.

Cas' body is much more dense, angular and strong than what he's so used to, but he doesn't care.

He hears two hikers walk by the dock, laughing when they see how lost in each other they are, but he doesn't care.

If John saw him, he would disown him and make sure he knows how disappointed he is, but he doesn't care.

Cas' mouth, always coming back for more, his eyelashes, like feathers on his cheek, his hands oh so carefully framing his face, threading in his hair, and his smile, so genuine on their lips.

About that, he cares.

“Are we going home?” Dean asks after a while, not yet willing to let go of Cas.

“Are you ready to?” he asks right back.

Your eyes are too damn blue, Dean thinks.

I kinda want you all to myself for a few more days, but I guess we can wait a little longer.

“Yeah,” he whispers.

Chapter Text

They don't have that much to pack, really. They went back to the lilliput cabin, changed, Cas bandaged Dean's face so he can make use of his right eye again, Dean ate most of what the angel had bought and they only stayed for two days, so he's waiting behind Baby's wheel sooner than he expected.

His knee's jumping nervously and he's already put his music on to try and relax while Cas says goodbye to Margaret. It's been going on for some time and Dean's determination to face Sam is fading by the minute.

He waves with his fakest smile to the woman when she finally lets Cas go. Margaret watches him walk down the five stairs of the porch, get inside the car, and then she blows them a kiss and goes back inside the cabin.

“Damn, that lady wouldn't shut up,” Dean sighs, barely waiting for Cas to close his door to start backing up.

The angel sighs deeply, exhausted by the whole exchange.

“I thanked her and apologized for the blood on the sheets from when you–”

“Yeah, yeah, I remember,” Dean cuts him nervously.

“–and she wanted to make sure I knew it wasn't a problem. Margaret is a very kind woman, it's just… she's lonely, her husband passed away two years ago and her kids don't call her that much anymore, so she does with what she has. I get that.”

Dean shakes his head with a disgusted face.

It's adorable.

Cas settles more comfortably in the passenger seat, opens the window a little, and watches Dean long enough for him to start twitching – which he was already doing.

“What ?” he grunts.

“I'm not so sure you're fit to drive. You've only been recovering for two days–”

“Both my eyes or open, I took the damn pills you almost fed me through my nose, my vision is clear, the pain is entirely bearable, and I do not want anyone driving my Baby when I can, so here I am, taking the road and loving it!” Dean says, far too casually.

Cas squints at him.

“Why are you talking so loudly?”

“Because I'm absolutely terrified!”

Dean's laugh is hysteric and doesn't do anything for Cas' doubts concerning his driving and his mental state.

“I told you–”

“I know, Cas, I know what's gonna happen, you explained all the stages, but I'm still terrified about the boss fight, how about that, huh?”

The angel judges him silently for cutting him again. Then, he takes Dean's tapes out of the glovebox and starts going through them.

“What would you like to listen to calm your nerves?”

Fucking marry me right now! Dean screams inside his head.

In the real world, he secures his grip on the wheel for the hundredth time and avoids Cas' eyes when he mutters :

“White Snake's Is This Love. The one labeled “80's best”, but I crossed out the “best” and wrote “worst” on top of it.”

“Didn't you tell me it's so cheesy your ears bleed profusely every time you hear it ?” the angel frowns while pulling it out of its case.

“Yeah, well by now you should know I like to suffer, so put it in, shut up and don't tell Sam I kept his shitty mixtape.”

“Okay, okay…”

Dean resists mouthing the lyrics to Sam's godforsaken playlist until, ten minutes in, he notices Cas is staring at him again. He's been staring more and more, since yesterday morning, but Dean would be lying if he said he wasn't staring too.

Being allowed to stare is a weird feeling when you've been refraining from it for years.

Sometimes, Dean feels like his fifteen years old self when John finally allowed him to drink beer.

Excited. Adult. Manly.

He knows they've both been looking at each other intensely since they first met in that old barn, but he always blamed it on their “special bond”, with the “raising from perdition” and whatnot. He blamed Cas, too, because he was – and still is – a weirdo.

Today, having him all sprawled on the Impala's passenger seat, in his favorite ripped jeans and those huge combat boots he won't take off since he found them last winter, on hand sticking out of the half-opened window while he taps his foot on the rhythm of Total Eclipse of the Heart

It all feels like a religious experience.

He's still wearing the trench coat on top of his yellow rumpled t-shirt, he still stares at Dean like he was the rarest bee in the world, with that serious, ancient tone to it. He sits like a whore now, as Dean would say, but he knows he'll always have that strange, probably holy ability to stay very still for a very long time.

Must be useful, for a hunter, he thinks.

And I need you now, tonight, and I need you more than ever…

If Chuck himself told Dean that he would one day relate to a Bonnie Tyler song, he'd have punctured a lung laughing.

Thank god for the straight highway and Baby's impeccable driving, because Dean is not watching at the road, and Cas is not paying attention either.

Green met blue.

They're fucked.

… we'll be holding on forever…

Cas slides across the front seat, presses himself against Dean, briefly making sure they're not driving off the highway, takes the hunter's chin in one hand to force him to look straight ahead, and then he kisses the corner of his mouth.

… forever's gonna start tonight…

Dean grins against Cas' lips, struggling to speak because the angel won't let him get more than a handful of words out between kisses.

“M'okay, you-you did it. I love-I love this song, now.”

“Shame on you,” the angel mock-growls in his ear, and Dean's pretty sure it wasn't meant for that, but it's making him feel tingly all over.

It must show on his face, because Cas laughs at him, the fucker, and he puts his arm around his shoulders, and now he's scratching his hair again, and the sky is clear.

Sam is waiting for them since Cas sent him a text saying they'd get back sometime during the day, but the angel promised Dean this whole story has a happy end, and right now both of them are staring at this happy end dead in the eye.

That's when Dancing Queen comes on the Impala's tape player.

And they both start singing along on the top of their lungs.

Mary would be devastated if she saw what Dean did to himself, to his own face, what he almost accomplished.

John would… be John about it if he knew what kind of electricity goes through his son's system every time Cas' touches him.

Sam's going to flip his shit when his brother's finished updating him. Bigfoot's going to have a big, fat, dusty suitcase full of emotions and confessions to unwrap when Dean dumps it at his feet like a cat bringing a dead mouse as an offering.

Here, I couldn't help but notice you didn't catch any of those, lately, so I went outside, ran after that mouse for a couple of days, and now I'm giving it to you. Hope you'll like it. Sorry it's a little gross.

Dean still doesn't know what to do with himself now that he's too old and broken to hunt, inside and out. He'll probably have nightmares and PTSD and panic attacks for the rest of his life – should he choose to pursue it.

But by all gods, living, dead and in-between creatures walking, crawling, flying on Earth, right now, nothing is going to keep him from feeling happy.

You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen !” Both men shout in the car, like the morons they are.

Dean's head over heels for Cas.

He's got a very powerful cocktail of painkillers and good hormones flowing in his blood, doing magic on his brain.

He can tell that the angel isn't even remotely okay with the fact that both of them are wearing a lot more clothing than he'd like, and it's always nice to feel desired, but nothing he could ever think of can stop him from appreciating how nice this drive back to the bunker is.

Not even the void, which is feeling a little left out, at the moment, but don't worry, Dean tells it, speaking to it for the first time, I'll get back to you later.

We'll see who kicks who's ass.

I may be in the middle of a full-blown existential crisis, but I'm someone's big cat, now.

Fuck you.

The void doesn't say a word, of course. It's as big, deep and silent as the Grand Canyon in Dean's mind, but that doesn't make it less vulnerable to threats.

Light up a few tons of TNT in the Grand Canyon, Winchester style.

See how it goes.

Chapter Text

“Hey Cas. Race you to Sam?”

Dean's almost vibrating on his seat while he parks Baby. He takes the key out and the music cuts, leaving them in the booming silence of the bunker's garage.

Cas throws him a hesitant and alarmed look.

“Are you afraid you're going to back out of it if you don't get it done quickly?” he says hesitantly.

“Uhuh! Spot on! You know me so well!”

“Stop smiling like that.”

“I'm not smiling, this is my neurotic face spasm!”

Cas sighs, unplugs his seatbelt, grabs the door's handle and looks at Dean like a doomed man heading to the end of the world, ready to bolt. The hunter mirrors his position, already heaving.

“If I find Sam first,” Dean challenges him, “you make me another sweet-potato pie.”

“If I find him first, you make love to me tonight.”

Dean's exhausted heart misses a beat.

“Don't say shit like that, Cas, I'm going to have a heart attack–”

“Deal?”

“N–no deal, dude, you have to bet something I'd like to do a little less, or this is not gonna work.”

“Are you subconsciously going to let me win?” Cas snickers, the angelic douchebag.

“Take the “sub” out, and you pretty much got it,” Dean admits.

“I'd love to.”

Dean's eyes go wide, his jaw drops and his knuckles are bone white on the door handle.

Where the fuck is this coming from?! Cas, is that you?

“You can't say this kind of things now, show some mercy, please,” he begs.

“Race you to Sam, and whoever finds him first, tonight, you're mine.”

Just like that, Cas dashes through the garage, Dean on his heels.

They almost fight for who gets to open the main door, and then they all but tumble down the staircase, laughing hysterically and gripping at their clothes to keep one another from gaining ground, when they hear someone loudly clear their throat.

“Hey guys,” Sam greets them.

Dean and Cas immediately regain composure, letting go of each other.

“Hiya, Sammy!” Dean grins, still catching his breath.

Cas waves, standing awkwardly in his trench-coat like when they first met him and he didn't know what to do with his body yet.

Sam's confused face becomes one of suspicion. “Hiya”? “Sammy”? That big goofy smile? Cas' attitude? Their “We crashed the car and it definitely wasn't our fault” look? The big bandage covering the right side of Dean's face? If he got the feeling that something happened or was happening before, now he's sure of it.

Sam gets up from his favorite, comfy, ugly plaid-covered recliner he's been spending most of his days in since he stopped hunting. The man has to stretch his back to stand up straight, bones cracking.

Dean forgot how much grey hair he has, now.

Damn, we're getting old.

“What's going on? What happened?” Sam asks, very serious, very worried, very fast.

Dean winces internally.

It could be so easy, right now, he ponders.

To slip back into his old shoes, lie, tell Sam they ran into a case and that's how he got hurt. Slap him on the shoulder like the dudest bro and act as if the last three days never happened.

Let everything stay buried. Like they've been doing, figuratively and metaphorically, for decades.

But Dean can't do that anymore. He's done it long enough, so long that his life looks more like a graveyard than the garden it should have become.

So Dean walks around the map table, trying his hardest not to throw Cas a lost puppy look, takes a deep breath and gives his brother a huge hug.

For a second, Sam doesn't know what to do with that. It's been so long since their last show of affection, but luckily, it's not something you completely forget how to do.

Dean's can't lie, he's relieved when his brother hugs him back.

“Boy, have I a lot to tell you,” he chuckles nervously against Sam.

“Okay…?”

Behind Dean, Cas starts backing away.

“I'm going to leave you two to it, then,” he says, going up the stairs. “Meet me outside after, Dean?”

The oldest Winchester lets go of Sam and turns to the angel with a grateful smile.

“Yeah, see you in a minute, Cas. Thanks.”

Sam watches the exchange with a raised eyebrow. The bunker's door closes, and now shit's gonna get serious.

“Should I be worried ?” Sam asks promptly.

“Well–”

“What happened to your face? Is it serious?”

Dean sighs, pulls a chair out of under the table and falls on it gracelessly.

“Please sit down.”

Sam obeys. Okay, now he looks properly alarmed.

Shit, this is gonna be hard.

Dean clasps his hands together to stop them from shaking, breathes in and out slowly, tries not to squirm under Sam's insistent stare, but when he gathers up the courage to speak and opens his mouth, his brother beats him to it.

“Have you and Cas hooked up?”

Dean chokes on his own spit, so hard he can't even scream “HOW THE FUCK DID YOU KNOW?!”

“If that's what you're so worried about,” Sam keeps going, “then you have to know that I don't care. At all.”

Dean takes a laborious breath, his eyes watery and lungs on fire.

“That's–that's nice of you to say,” he admits, “but that's not–”

“We've known you're at least bisexual for years, dude.”

“Who's we?!” Dean squeaks out.

Sam crosses his legs on his horrendous incliner, a little too smug about the whole story for Dean's liking.

“Let me think…”

He makes his best Thinker statue pose. With his epic bitch face, it makes a combo so powerful Dean's suddenly considers canceling everything, including himself.

“Everyone?” Sam says, not even concealing his grin. “Come on, you can't possibly imagine no one saw the both of you dance around each other? It's been years and we have eyes, Dean. No matter how much we wish we didn't, sometimes.”

Dean glares at a very satisfied-looking Sam. I don't care, I'll still get laid tonight, he tells himself, but knowing that doesn't help him. No, he has to do this. Plus, he would disappoint Cas by backing out.

“That's not… that's not what I was trying to tell you,” Dean manages.

Sam sighs.

“Am I wrong, though?”

Dean's eye twitch.

Now or never.

No, but–”

“Ha! Called it!” Sam laughs.

“Sam–”

“People owe me so much money!”

“SAM!”

Okay.

Okay, that was shouting.

Sam is not laughing anymore. He's staring at Dean like he's grown a pair of horns, and Dean kind of wish that's what he had to talk to him about, rather than…

“I tried to kill myself.”

Sam is negative-laughing, now, which means he's gone rigid in his chair, his face fell, and he's looking Dean like he's begging him with his eyes to tell him he's lying.

While Dean watches his brother's transformation, the void in him, with its siren voice, tells him it's new favorite mantra since he shot himself :

“Shouldn't have missed. If you hadn't, you wouldn't be there to see your brother get destroyed once more by your half-assed decisions.”

Dean feels like dying, but Sams speaks again, broken voice, broken heart.

“Is that why Cas took you on a road-trip, a couple of days ago?” he asks, barely loud enough for his brother to hear.

Sam's always been clever, and aging's only making him wiser.

“Yeah,” Dean says, eyes on the ground.

God, I need a beer.

“I can't say I didn't see it coming,” Sam whispers, rubbing his nose on his plaid shirt. “I just thought you'd reach out before trying anything. Guess I had too much faith in your survival instinct.”

Dean cannot look up.

If he sees Sam cry one more time in his life, he will not be able to get up ever again.

“Is that why your face…”

Sam can't even finish the sentence.

Of course, it is.

Dean wishes he wasn't here. He wishes Cas was here. He wishes they never left the lilliput cabin. He wishes Cas hadn't been there to scare him out of shooting himself in the face.

He wishes he didn't miss.

He wishes he died.

The void was right.

It's always right.

He's not supposed to be here.

This is worse than Hell.

It's so much worse than Cas told him it was going to be.

Dean takes his head in his hands. He's not sure he's breathing anymore, but he can hear Sam inhale wetly.

“What did you do ?” he asks, his voice so weak Dean would have like it better if he'd gone mute.

The older Winchester makes a gun with his finger, puts it under his chin and mimes firing it, blowing a raspberry as a sound effect.

“You shot yourself? How are you still alive?”

Dean couldn't make himself look smaller than he already is.

“Missed,” he murmurs. “Cas surprised me. Missed.”

Sam laughs, a cynical laugh, an ugly laugh, full of anger.

Can't look at him.

I'll die.

“So you're what, disfigured, now?” Sam laughs, his tone getting harsher with every word. “And how is Cas liking that, huh?”

To that, Dean looks up. His brother's biting his nails, a cruel smile on his lips, burning tears in his eyes, his feet taping on the concrete ground.

“This has nothing to do with Cas–”

“Sure it does,” he cuts him. “Couldn't pop his cherry because you didn't grow a pair, so you tried popping a bullet through your brains? That's what happened, right?”

“Leave him out of it,” Dean growls.

“Or what?”

This is getting dangerous.

For once, Dean's going to have to be the bigger brother about it and calm things down, even if he doesn't know how. He's going to have to try his best.

“Sam, please listen to me.”

“I don't want to.”

Sam jumps up abruptly, wincing when his body reminds him he's not a young man anymore, he can't just stand up like that, now.

“At least let me explain!” Dean says, a little too loud, but come on, Sam is already backing away and shaking his head, what is he supposed to do?

“Why didn't you talk to me?!” Sam yells. “I was always right there, under the same roof! Why didn't you tell me?!”

“Because I was scared of what you'd say!”

“Well, are you happy, now? Is this the kind of answer you wanted from me?”

“NO!”

Dean ruffles his hair angrily, gets up from his chair. He has to stay calm, he has to, Cas told him this was going to happen, even if reality is much worse, but it can all go away if…

“Please, listen–”

“No, you were gonna leave me alone!” Sam shouts, an accusatory finger pointed to Dean, who raises his arms in a surrender motion. “You were gonna bolt and leave me to rot in here to die!”

“I missed you!” Dean blurts out.

Sam stops in his tracks.

“What do you mean, you missed me, you selfish–”

“Don't tell me you didn't see how far apart we've become. You must have noticed. You're too clever not to see it.”

Sam stays silent for a few seconds, looking lost, all of a sudden, so Dean takes the opportunity to talk.

Dean Winchester, trying to talk to his brother about their relationship.

Nothing surprises him anymore.

“We live together like ghosts stuck in the same house,” he says softly. “We get up, we ask each other how we slept, I say “Had a nightmare”, you say “Wanna talk about it?”, I say “No.”. We eat breakfast, you go do your job, answer calls, help hunters from the bunker, and I stay in my room, I read, I watch shitty shows, I sulk. We eat together, we fake normal conversations. We… we've been married for too long, man” he adds in a pale attempt to ease the tension a little bit.

Sam doesn't even register the joke.

“I wasn't trying to leave you alone here to die, Sam. I was trying to free myself, and I hoped it'd free you in the process.”

“Yeah, right, of course, you shot yourself in the head for me,” his brother spits.

“No, no, that's not… Will you sit back down, please? My knees are killing me, right now.”

Dean's knees are just fine, at this hour of the day, but he had to ruse his way into Sam obeying him, and the Sasquatch just can't resist a rescue, can he?

Guess it runs in the family.

Both brothers take their seats back, eyeing each other like cowboys ready to draw their guns.

Then, Dean starts talking again.

“You know, shooting myself was one of the easiest things I ever did. Took some time to get around it, but when I made my decision, it only took a second.”

“Is that supposed to help?” Sam groans, pinching at the bridge of his nose as if suffering from a headache.

“Let me finish, man. We're never gonna get it over with if you don't let me explain.”

Dean waits for a second but Sam says nothing, so he takes a deep breath and keeps going, like the courageous, open hearted man he's slowly trying to become.

“Shooting myself was easy because I felt so alone dying made almost no difference. And that's not me blaming you, here, that's just me trying… to make you understand.”

Dean clasps his hands back together, thinking hard. His face is starting to ache again, but now's not the time to bully Cas into giving him more pills.

“You did nothing wrong,” he says.

“Oh, what a relief!” Sam laughs bitterly.

“Shut up. You did nothing wrong. You couldn't predict what I did. You saw everything I left for you to see, which is absolutely nothing. I didn't want you to see something was wrong because then you'd have wanted to talk it out, and I wouldn't have known what to tell you, so we would've fought and gotten nowhere.”

“Because this is better?”

“It is. Because now, thanks to Cas, I have the words.”

Sam rolls his eyes, but Dean can see he's listening.

“I felt like you and I were slowly becoming strangers. I couldn't live with that. Cas almost never visited, and I couldn't live with that. My body didn't let me do my job anymore and my mind was, and still is, throwing nightmares and memories of dead people at my face non-stop. I couldn't live with that, not anymore.”

“I couldn't live knowing I was becoming less and less of what was left of me. Less of a brother, less of a friend, less of a hunter… less of what I knew of me.”

“Which means?”

Dean laughs, shaking his head.

“I'm depressed, man,” he admits.

Dean's skin is buzzing. Hearing all those fancy words, those complicated thoughts come out of his mouth feels like being possessed and staying conscious through all of it – he would know –, except the spirit saying all this is, in reality, his true self.

Wait, am I actually super smart?!

Questions to himself will have to wait.

“I love you,” Dean tells Sam with a sad but genuine smile. “You're my brother and I couldn't dream of a better person to live most of my life with.”

“But?”

Dean can hear the well-concealed fear in his brother's voice. He still keeps going.

I'm gonna sleep for a week.

“But the night after I tried shooting myself, I jumped in a lake,” he confesses. “And if Cas didn't fish me out, I would've drowned and enjoyed every second of it. That made me realize how wrong I was living my life. He… he helped me a lot, you know.”

“Cas? By what, sexing you out of it?”

“He… guided me to the truth.”

“Which is?”

“I don't know who I am.”

Sam covers his face and sighs deeply, melting a little deeper in his recliner.

“Is this a mid-life crisis?” he whines. “Are you putting me and Cas through this because of a mid-life crisis?”

“I tried to be Dad for all my life, Sam.”

That seems to shake the younger Winchester out of his exasperation.

“While you were trying to be his exact opposite,” Dean continues, “I was trying to become him.”

“Why would you want to be Dad ?” Sam frowns.

“I… I don't know?” he answers honestly. “Maybe because he was my role model, as a kid? This whole thought process is two days old, dude, cut me some slack.”

“Okay, okay, keep going.”

That's… actually encouraging.

“I tried my hardest to become him for forty years, and my… my suicide attempts and Cas' awesome, clever insight shook me out of it.”

“So what, you're gonna start saying when you're not okay, quit guilt-tripping yourself into oblivion and stop pushing everyone away until you're all alone and no one wants anything to do with you. That it?”

Dean shrugs dumbly.

“I guess so.”

Sam starts getting up again.

“Well, congratulations on your epiphany, but I have work to do and it's your turn to cook, so–”

“I'm not staying here, Sam.”

The younger Winchester freezes, half-up. Dean didn't even think about that part, but he's pretty sure Cas would only endorse his decision, and right now it seems like it's something that has to be done.

“I mean, I'm not leaving right now, I don't think” he clarifies, “but I'm gonna try and find my own place.”

Sam's eyes turn distant and angry again.

“So you are leaving me alone, in the end,” he says.

“No. I'm freeing you.”

Dean is starting to feel lighter and lighter.

He's getting through it.

Cas was right.

He can do it.

Hell, he's doing it.

“I'm moving out, so invite whoever you want in here. You can start that hunter hostel you dreamed about, I won't be here to bitch about it and make your guests feel unwelcome. This is no longer my home. It's yours. You don't have to be alone in here anymore. I know it's how you felt, even though I was here.”

Sam sits back on his recliner. He looks like such an old man, right now, that Dean could start crying.

He just might.

Yeah, he's probably going to.

Whatever.

“What… what are you gonna do?” Sam asks, sad and disoriented.

“I don't know, but I can't keep on living like I am right now, man. I won't keep living if I stay this way.”

“Are you gonna live with Cas'?”

Dean blushes and looks down at his hands. He didn't even consider that. He doesn't think they're here yet, but the angel sure wouldn't let him sleep in the Impala if he could help him get back on track.

“I guess he's gonna help me out for a while before I get a job and a place.”

“Any idea as what you're gonna do?”

Dean shrugs.

“Nah. It's too fresh, for now. Can't do anything too physical, 'm not young anymore.”

Sam laughs a little.

“That's an understatement.”

“Fuck you.”

They don't say anything for a couple of minutes, slowly digesting everything.

“Are you gonna be alright?” Sam asks quietly.

Dean looks up, meeting his brother's eyes. He knows them better than his own, and soon, he won't see him that much anymore.

Shit.

“Am I gonna try the wonderful and underrated Toaster Bath?” he jokes.

Sam covers his face with one hand but can't suppress his smile.

“No, I don't think I will,” Dean says. “I still have too much to figure out. Plus, Cas is super helpful.”

“Oh, I bet he is,” Sam teases him.

“Shut up.”

“So… did you… seal the deal, or…”

Dean blushes again, violently, this time.

“What I do with my ass is none of you business,” he mumbles.

“Oh. So you're a bottom?” Sam asks with his most serious, innocent tone.

“I never–”

“I knew it.”

“Shut up, bitch!”

Both Winchester fall silent.

Damn. I'm gonna miss that, they both think.

“Jerk,” Sam whispers, so quietly Dean is starting to feel his determination to keep his shit together crack.

The silence in the bunker is deafening.

“Am I gonna see you again?” Sam asks.

“Of fucking course, you're gonna see me again!” Dean exclaims, almost angry his brother would even suggest this could be a farewell. “I don't come off that easy!”

“Good.”

This moment is known as Brotherly Love Moment.

It usually goes like this :

Step one: one of them, usually Dean, conceals a deep, heartfelt declaration of love in an insult towards his brother.

Step two: they look at each other with shiny eyes, not daring say anything more.

Step three (optional): they hug it out, a short embrace with a manly tap on the shoulder, no longer than a couple of seconds.

Step four: they never talk about it ever again.

But that's not what their relationship is anymore.

That's not who Dean is anymore either.

So the elder Winchester stands up once more, offering his hand, and says, smiling with tears in his voice :

“Give me some love, brother.”

Sam laughs, wipes his nose on his sleeve, earning himself a playful “Gross!” from Dean, accepts his help and gets up, all noisy bones and achy muscles. He wraps his big, old, Chewbacca arms around his brother.

“I love you, Sasquatch,” Dean mumbles in Sam's too long hair.

“Love you, Dean.”

Oh, that's nice, Dean's body tells him, even when hot tears start soaking his bandage and Sam's shirt.

That's definitely very nice, his heart agrees.

“Let Cas get you better, okay?” Sam asks.

“Don't worry. Cas will help, but I'll get better.”

They hold on to each other for a few minutes. This feels like a goodbye, no matter how many times Dean repeats to himself that he'll visit his brother as often as he can.

But this is goodbye, he realizes, because next time Sam will see him, Old Dean won't exist anymore.

John will be completely dead.

He'll be a new man.

A better man.

 

Himself. 

Chapter Text

Dean wasn't expecting to pack his things right after his talk with Sam, but here he is, with two duffel bags and a suitcase that Sam helps him load in the truck of the Impala.

That's all my life in three bags, Dean realizes. That's gonna change.

Life as a hunter was a nomad one. “The smaller the bags, the smaller the problems,” his dad used to say.

I'm gonna become a fucking hoarder, Dean decides.

Cas is standing by the car, unsure of what to do or say, looking lost.

Fuck, the three of them look lost.

Sam slams the car's trunk shut and turns to Dean.

“I'll call every couple of days at first,” he tells him, “just to make sure everything's alright. And if it doesn't work out, or you need more time, or you forgot something–”

“Don't worry, Sammy, I'll call too, I'm not gonna disappear, and if you need anything, you don't hesitate, you give me a call, alright?”

Sam nods, for a few seconds, a little frantic, a little fidgety. Dean's no better, and Cas looks so awkward the whole situation is getting painful to watch.

“Okay, let's go,” Dean says, opening his arms once more so Sam can drown him in his hair.

Damn.

Those are three painful words to get out. He almost thought his jaws wouldn't let him talk.

Sam slams himself against Dean like he's been waiting for a hug for years.

Maybe he's touch-starved, too.

Then they let go of each other, teary eyes and tight smiles, and Sam hugs Cas too, whispering in his ear as if Dean couldn't hear him :

“You're already taking care of him, aren't you?”

Cas smiles and pats the hunter's back.

“I am. Now all you have to do is take care of yourself.”

“And the other hunters,” Sam automatically adds, letting go of the angel.

“And the other hunters. You're their godfather, after all.”

The three of them laugh. It's not a heartfelt laugh, it's full of a lot of unpleasant things, but as Garth likes to say, if the pot is too small, you have to break the pasta.

Dean and Cas get in the Impala, back up, and just before Sam disappears in the rearview mirror, Dean opens his window and shouts :

“I LOVE YOU!”

He can barely hear Sam answer the same, but he does.

And then he's on the road.

Once again.

Once again he doesn't know where he's going, how it's going to turn out, if he's going to survive the day, if he's doing the right thing.

He knows he's crying and he doesn't care to try and stop. Cas' hand rest on his knee. They stay silent.

This may not be a goodbye, but sweet baby Jesus, it sure feels like one.

“Cas, baby, if we're going to your place, you're gonna have to guide me, 'cause I'm not thinking straight, right now,” he says.

He didn't even notice the pet name slipped out of his mouth.

“Turn left,” Cas instructs quietly, his hand not leaving Dean's knee.

They drive for god knows how many hours in dead silence.

Dean feels like every new mile is a limb he's living behind.

Eventually, Cas tells him he can leave Baby in this little suburban parking lot.

Dean obeys.

Cas asks him for help getting all his bags out of the trunk.

Dean obeys.

His arms full, Cas asks him if he can get his keys in his trench coat's chest pocket.

Dean obeys and opens the door in which the keys seem to fit.

Inside, everything looks as if someone liked doll houses so much they made their own. From the wooden furniture to the pink wallpaper, the knitted tablecloths to the carpet, Dean almost expects a creepy doll to greet them in and offer them a cup of tea, but every light is turned off and Cas gently pushes him up the stairs.

“My roommate is away for the week,” he tells him.

Dean can barely find the strength to go up the stairs and cary his bags at the same time.

“You have a roommate?” he's surprised to learn, too tired to sound like anything else but bored to death.

“My landlady, yes. Tina. She's very special, you'll love her.”

“Okay…”

“First door on your left.”

“Okay…”

“Your other left, love.”

“Shit. I'm not… I'm kinda stupid, right now…”

“It's okay. Here you go.”

Cas opens a door and flips a switch on, lighting the whole room in a soft, orange glow.

Dean can tell Cas' room used to be plain and impersonal, and that he's slowly investing his space with what he likes.

Just like him.

Apparently, becoming human means you have to go through your teens, no matter how many billions of years old you really are.

Under his trench coat, Cas likes wearing ripped jeans and colorful t-shirts. He likes Elton John, Ghost and Dave Brubeck. He reads Emile Zola and John Green. In his room, he put posters of bands, people and things he likes on the walls. Dean can count three shots of space taken by Nasa, nebulae, galaxies, stars, and a Martin Luther King picture neatly framed between a Pre-Raphaelite painting and a vintage Wish You Were Here poster.

The bed is a single and clothes are scattered across the floor, but the massive desk is scarily tidy, every book, weapon, and artifact methodically piled up and separated.

Cas has become a weird combination of adult and teenager.

Even through his emotional daze, Dean thinks it's cute as fuck.

Cas takes Dean's bags off his shoulders, then his jacket, and he makes him sit on his unmade bed so he can take his boots too.

Dean lets him. He vaguely remembers someone doing this to him when he was very young, probably his parents, or maybe Bobby, but thinking about his family only makes him picture Sam all alone in the bunker, and before he realizes, he's crying again.

“Fuck, I'm like a little kid…” he groans.

Cas kneels at his feet and wipes his tears with his palms, as careful as can be when touching his injured cheek.

“It's okay, love,” he assures him. “I got you.”

“Don't… please don't say shit like that, it's only making me cry harder…” Dean complains.

“You can cry, there's not one but me, in here. No one will know.”

Dean laughs wetly.

“I kinda wanted to get laid tonight, you know,” he half-jokes. “Crying myself to sleep is not the sexy scenario I had in mind.”

Cas snorts, wiping a tear that rolled down Dean's chin.

“It's not a quarter past eight, the night is still young. We have all the time in the world.”

Dean sighs deeply, eyes closed to appreciate Cas' touch on his face a little better.

“Can I be very honest?” he asks.

“Go ahead.”

“I cannot wait to know what sounds you make when you come, but right now, I'm hungrier than a Leviathan.”

He can hear Cas swallow thickly in the dark room.

“I'm sure Tina left something in the fridge,” he says, his voice a little high-pitched. “Come down with me?”

“Yeah.”

Cas grabs his hand and helps him stand up. Dean's knees make him grimace, but he's hungry enough to not flop back on the bed and follow Cas down the stairs with their fingers intertwined.

The angel switches lights on as he goes, each room more… doll-housy than the previous one, until he sits Dean at a table with a huge bouquet of fake flowers on it, walks to the fridge covered with children drawings and magnets, opens it and starts rummaging through it.

“Let's see… there's cold beef turkey… beer…”

“Oh, I definitely need one,” Dean mutters with his face in his hands.

“Coming right up. What do you want with it, two slices of beef jerky, four chicken wings or half a two-days old burger ?”

“Shit, I don't know.”

Dean gets up from his chair, the first steps having him look a couple of hundred years older than he is, and shuffles until he bumps into Cas' back, resting his chin on his shoulder and wrapping his arms around his stomach.

The fridge's light is too bright for his tired eyes, but he inspects its content anyway.

“That beef jerky looks good,” he decides.

Cas takes the plate out, very careful not to dislodge Dean's head from his shoulder and two beers bottles already in one hand.

“That chocolate cake looks yummy,” Dean comments.

Cas bends a little to look at it closer.

“Oh, you don't want to eat that.”

“Why not? I love chocolate cake.”

“If you eat that, the chances of this day having a good ending will be even slimmer.”

“But why, though?” Dean pouts.

“It's a space cake.”

“Wha'?” Dean says, too tired to even shout his surprise.

“It's Tina's.”

“What the fuck? From the look of this place, I thought she was like, at least sixty.”

“She's sixty-eight.”

Dean's eyebrows shoot up and he turns a little to look Cas in the eye.

“You're fuckin' with me,” he grumbles.

“She's sixty-eight and grandmother of four little girls,” the angel grins, apparently enjoying Dean's tired face and slurred speech very much.

“What kinda roommate is Tina?”

“The fun kind.”

“If you become a drug addict because of her, she'll be the dead kind.”

“Don't worry, I never tried her things and I'm not planning to.”

“Got my eye on you.”

“You sure do.”

“I'll take the beef jerky and the two-days old burger, please.”

“Of course, love. Go sit down.”

Dean kisses Cas on the cheek, untangles himself and drags himself bag to his seat.

He spaces out until a plate slides between his elbow. Cas opens the two beer bottles, sits down next to him, takes the first swig and waits for him to dig in.

“I'm starting to see a pattern, here,” Dean smiles idly, his left cheek all mashed against his palm.

“I like feeding you,” Cas admits unabashedly.

“If I gain weight and start having man boobs, I'll blame you.”

“Deal. Now eat.”

“Fuck yeah.”

The burger is okay, the beef jerky is good, the bread Cas added to the plate is gluten-free and disgusting, but Dean eats and drinks in silence while the angel watches.

Dean is slowly starting to feel better.

Until he remembers that he's not the center of the world.

Luckily, he finished his meal, so when guilt grabs at his throat, he doesn't choke to death.

“Hey Cas,” he starts, suddenly uneasy, “are you… Am I… Aren't I making your life difficult, by coming here, at your place, eating your roommate's food, and all ?”

Cas looks genuinely surprised as if he didn't even consider it could be a problem.

“Of course not !” he tells him. “I'm glad to have you here.”

Dean wipes his mouth on the back of his hand, not looking up.

“Don't you have a hunt or people that need your help in one, or something ?”

“No, I don't have anything, no one contacted me, and even if they did, I wouldn't answer.”

Dean frowns.

“You should answer,” he says, a little more imperiously than he intended to sound. “There are people's lives on the line.”

“I know that, love,” Cas reassures him patiently. “But if someone needed help, I'm not good enough of a hunter yet to be their first choice, and it would be easy for them to call another hunter, should I not be available.”

Dean sighs and scratches his eyebrows.

“I'm sorry. Old reflex. You're right.”

“I know. It's okay. Come on.”

Cas grabs his hand and helps him up again, leaving everything on the table. They go up the stairs, to the bedroom, and before Dean can think, the angel is pushing him down on the tiny bed, lies down next to him, and all of a sudden Dean is wrapped in two blankets, one in scratchy plaid, the other human and warm, so warm on the left side of his body.

“I wanted to see you naked so bad,” Dean pouts in Cas' hair, his hands sliding down the angel's back to rest on his jeans' belt. “But nooo, I moved out, big deaaal, and now it's not even nine p.m. and I'm too damn tired to take my own clothes off. 'm not what I used to be. Fuck, I hate aging.”

Cas is laughing, a lovely, deep sound that makes sweet things happen in Dean's worn out body.

“I have you all for myself, now,” the angel says against his chest, one hand curling around Dean's jaw, the other around his wrist. “Soon, you're going to get tired of me kissing you.”

“Yeah, that's very likely to happen,” Dean huffs, but he's already zoning out.

“Mmh-mmh.”

Sleep creeps closer, and with it, an old enemy Dean is not in the mood – he never is – to deal with at the moment.

“Hey Cas?” he asks, barely a whisper in Cas' hair.

“Yes, Dean.”

“Tell me what I am, again.”

Cas thinks for a moment, before nestling his face a little deeper in Dean's neck, his lips very close to his ear when he says :

“You are my Eudaemon, my guardian angel. The sweetest man I've ever met. If you let me, I will become yours.”

“You are, baby. You've always been.”

The angel's smile tickles his skin.

“Let me become yours, and tomorrow I'll wake you up with all the love I am capable of.”

“Okay…”

The void is very quiet, in Dean's head, quiet enough to let him drift off to sleep in a state of mind that shares a striking resemblance with happiness.

Chapter Text

Dean wakes up first.

He stretches a little, his articulations popping and creaking, and wraps himself back around Cas' limp body, ready to go right back to sleep.

Wait a second.

Dean jumps up in bed like a disturbed cat, blinking hard to chase the sleep out of his eyes. He might need something for the pain in his face, soon, but right now he's too bewildered to do anything except stare at Cas.

The angel is curled up on his side, taking most of the space on the single mattress. His features are relaxed, his hair disheveled, he has a pillow mark on his right cheek and his breathing is deep and even.

“What the…”

Dean doesn't know what to do.

Maybe he's faking it, he thinks, a little stupidly, but the man just woke up and is not a morning person.

Dean shyly touches Cas' shoulder, expecting him to open his eyes and say “Hello, Dean.”, alert as can be.

But Cas doesn't. He doesn't say a word, he doesn't even move.

“Cas?” Dean whispers.

He's getting a little nervous, for some reason.

Cas doesn't sleep, he doesn't need to sleep, he hasn't slept in forever, not since he last became human, and he still got at least a fraction of his Grace back, so that means he shouldn't be sleeping, right now.

What the fuck is going on?

“Cas?” Dean repeats, louder this time.

He sighs when the angel finally stirs awake, resting his forehead on Cas' shoulder in relief.

“You scared me…”

“Whuh… wha' happ'?” Cas garbles.

“You fell asleep.”

If the angel was struggling to wake up, now he's very awake, his eyes wide open and fixed on the ceiling.

“What?” he says.

His morning voice makes Dean's stomach do a flip.

“You fell asleep," he yawns. "I woke you up.”

Cas doesn't say anything.

Shit.

Dean is starting to understand why, and he feels guilty for not getting it quicker.

“Is it… bad news?” he asks quietly.

Cas keeps staring at the ceiling with an indecipherable look on his face, his hands closed in fists on his chest.

“I don't know,” he confesses.

He swallows and meets Dean's eyes.

Blue, blue, endless blue.

Sky blue.

Scared blue.

“I'm not supposed to need sleep,” he whispers, and yeah, now Dean can hear the fear in his voice, now he got it, and he doesn't like it one bit.

“I know,” he says, lying back down next to the angel and sliding one arm across his stomach. “Did you dream?”

“I don't think so.”

“You hungry?”

“No.”

“Maybe it was a one-time thing, then.”

Cas doesn't answer. His fists unclench and he wraps his long fingers around Dean's forearm.

“What if I lost it?”

Dean is not Cas.

He can't just listen to his sad voice and look at his sad face and patiently wait for him to pass through the pain, even though he knows Cas is strong enough. He's not that holy. Dean is a fix-it-quick kind of guy, and until he figures out if that's the real him and not what's left of John, he needs Cas to feel better, pronto.

So Dean acts.

He moves slowly as to not rush Cas, but when he stops and cups the angel's face in his hands, he's straddling him.

They can practically hear their body sing while Dean lowers himself down. There's nothing but clothes between them, now, and Cas' hands come up to rest on his thighs, nails scratching the denim, so he guesses his half-assed distraction is working.

Both men stare at each other for a minute, like they've grown more and more fond of doing, like they're allowed to.

“What if I'm human, now?” Cas murmurs.

Dean wipes the single tear rolling down the corner of the angel's eye before it can disappear in his hair.

“You'll never be human. You'll always be more.”

Cas kisses him, and Dean recognizes what kind of kiss it is.

It's an “I love you but I'd like to get to the serious part, now” kiss.

And who is he to refuse an angel what he desires?

Cas immediately starts tugging on his t-shirt, so Dean does the same, and soon their belts are getting in the way, so they unbuckle them and Dean has to fall off Cas and on his side to take his jeans off, ripping everything with it, underwear and socks in the process, because he's that eager and doesn't give a fuck if his zipper scrapes his leg almost deep enough to draw blood.

Cas drapes himself on top of Dean and kisses him again, so deeply, so passionately Dean makes a sound close enough to a moan to make him blush.

The muscles under Cas' skin are hard, moving lines that roll like hot ropes against him. His grip is strong when he spreads Dean's thighs open and presses them closed around his hips, and yeah, now it's getting serious, because Dean can feel what he had been scared of feeling and panicking about.

Another man's dick against his.

Cas', his best friend, a several billion years old angel who's true form used to be bigger than a nine hundred feet tall building, to be perfectly exact and add a little more apprehension to the whole concept.

It's foreign, almost like a warm object that would've got stuck between their bodies. It's one of the most unfamiliar sensations Dean's ever experienced, so much so that for a second, he's terrified he might not like it.

But then, Cas' body rolls like a lazy wave between his legs, applying pressure and heat and friction in all the right places, and anxiety drips out of him, replaced by something deep in his belly.

A huge, scorching desire to annihilate each and every atom that could ever have had the audacity to stand between them.

Dean's face may hurt like a bitch. They may be, as one fallen angel and one former-macho that got out of the closet a couple of days ago, the most inexperienced men on planet Earth when it comes to sex between two males, but right now, nothing matters more than getting closer, warmer, higher.

Cas' hands in his hair, his open mouth sealed to his, their bodies like vine tangled on itself, when they were so much, almost too much a minute ago, are suddenly so far from what Dean wants to feel it's almost painful.

“Cas–Cas, I want–”

Dean has to tug on the angel's hair a little to free his lips long enough to speak.

Oh, he shouldn't have.

Cas' pupils are blown wide, so wide in the sky of his eyes that they become black holes almost strong enough to suck Dean in and never let him go.

But he's been lost for a long time, hasn't he?

So lost he can't even remember what he wanted to say, but it doesn't matter. Dean turns in Cas' arms and tugs him back down on him, his breath knocked out of him when he feels a hard, hot line press against the small of his back. Cas kisses his shoulders, buries his hands in his hair.

Dean loves feeling his weight on him. He's never been pinned like that before, and to be honest, he's amazed that, instead of making him feel trapped, it makes him feel protected, taken care of, hidden from the rest of the big, bad world.

Like he has nowhere else to go because he doesn't want to be anywhere else.

Cas' hand dips between Dean's hip and the mattress, going down, down until they both shudder and Dean's body presses forward against the bed, irrepressible reflex.

“Now,” Dean blurts out.

The angel stills.

Great, exactly the opposite of what we need to be doing.

“Cas, baby, I need you in me right the fuck now, or so help me, I will launch you out of bed,” Dean growls.

“Are you sure?”

Dean can feel Cas' head tilt to the side to see him better, his heart beating fast against his shoulder blade. He can feel every spot he's kissed him, his hand touch him just there, just so. He can feel Cas' ancient, heady smell fill his lungs, soak in every figment of his being, their sweat blend and fuse them together, and it's still not enough.

It's never enough.

“I am,” Dean exhales. “I am sure. Please. Now.”

“I don't want to hurt you,” Cas hesitates, but Dean can hear in his hoarse voice that his patience and determination to take it slow is running critically low.

“Cas, I've been to Hell, so I think I can take it–”

Cas doesn't let him finish his sentence. He pushes in, his lips opened in an interrupted kiss on the ex-hunter's spine.

Dean gasps. His fists are tight, knuckles white on the sheets, his eyes and mouth wide open until Cas is fully sheathed, stops moving and searches his mouth again. It's hard to kiss with Dean's bandaged face, but if they didn't make it work, they would probably die.

For a moment, everything is quiet and slow.

Like dozing off in a warm bath.

Waking up from a summer nap.

Being back at the Grace pond in Cheney State Park.

Dean is full in a way he's never been before. Possessed, somehow, and for the first time, not being alone in his body doesn't feel like a violation, but a liberation.

Dean is allowed.

He is allowed to want a man, and to make love with one. He is allowed to feel Cas' heartbeat inside of him, to feel the angel trembling against him, overwhelmed by it all, and get absolutely drunk on it.

However says gay sex is sin can go fuck off, try it and apologize.

Cas kisses Dean with so much tenderness, so much care it makes him want to bawl.

“You okay ?” he asks shakily.

Dean grabs the back of Cas' neck and crashes their lips back together.

That's not an “I love you but I'd like to get to the serious part, now” kind of kiss.

It's simpler, in a way.

Just an “I love you” kiss that melts into a wet, languid “I love all of you” when Cas starts moving inside him, each thrust shooting fireworks of pleasure through their bodies, so loud and powerful it might shatter their bones.

It all builds up, up and high, slow and deep, hot and hard until their kiss becomes a less coherent, but no less meaningful one that sings “You are loved.” Dean pushes back, finding a new angle that has them both panting.

They shouldn't move like that, not when they know so little about what they like or how their bodies work together. It shouldn't be this easy for Cas to find that one spot inside of Dean, the sweetest, the one that makes him cry out. They shouldn't move against one another like they were made for it, so well synchronized it's almost scary.

It's as if they knew all along.

Maybe that's why staying away from each other was so hard. Because they knew how good this could be.

Is it a side effect of their “special bond”? Knowing exactly what makes the other tick without even formulating the thought in their mind, let alone out loud?

How long have they been waiting for this, really?

When Dean comes, closely followed by Cas, shallow breath and muffled moans, no longer sure where their skin start and end – hell, not even sure if they're divided anymore –, it seems like they've been waiting for centuries.

They bask in the afterglow for a long time, chests heaving, sweat cooling, Cas only carefully pulling out when he's gone soft. The angel immediately pushes his head against Dean's shoulder until he rolls on his side and he can nestle between his arms.

“And I'm the big cat,” Dean teases him, lips moving lazily across the angel's neck.

“Yes, you are.”

The sheets are a mess, their hair is a mess, they're a mess, the room is a mess, their life is a mess, but who fucking cares.

“You make the sweetest sound,” Cas grins after a few minutes of blissful silence.

Dean doesn't know why he even blushes anymore.

I had the man's dick in my ass not five minutes ago, for god's sake.

“When?” he asks, yawning and grimacing when he remembers how much his right cheek aches.

“When you come,” Cas says like it's nothing, like he's not still a tiny bit an angel of the Lord, and hearing him talk about gay sex sounds so blasphemous it's hilarious.

“I thought you sounded like an elephant,” Dean tells him. “Or a dog's dying breath.”

Cas giggles, biting Dean's chin as a revenge, but he can't win, not when Dean grabs him by the wrists, pins them on top of his head and licks his lips open.

That should shut him up, but no, even with a tongue in his mouth, he's still trying to say something.

“What,” Dean grunts.

“Did I mention that I loved you? I don't remember.”

“At least a dozen times in the last five minutes, yes, but I'm Dean Winchester, so I'm used to it.”

“I did not!”

“You cried, too.”

“That's not true–”

“It is. You cried all over me. It was hell. I'm waiting for you to go take a shower, and then I'm gone.”

Cas' death glare doesn't work when he's smiling, which makes Dean laughs and lose himself in those damn eyes again.

In the early morning light, Cas looks like a Greek sculpture that was so beautiful, so perfect time didn't have the heart to strip off its painted colors. Golden skin, lean muscles, tousled hair, naked and unashamed. A gay man sculpted this one, that's for sure.

Probably Michelangelo.

Dean is almost expecting to go up in flames any second.

That much beauty can only have the same effect as the sun.

How could Dean watch that much calm, love and power from such a short distance and not go blind, if he wasn't made to behold such a sight?

“I never realized how beautiful you are,” he says softly.

But that doesn't seem to please Cas. In fact, it's the exact opposite.

Jimmy's beautiful,” he corrects with a tight smile. “I am not him. This body isn't mine.”

Well, that backfired.

“I don't see Jimmy, when I look at you,” Dean assures him, letting go of Cas' wrists because holding him there while he looks so hurt suddenly feels like trying to choke a flower. “You don't carry yourself the same way, you don't move or talk like him, you don't even smile like him. You think I would have fallen in love with Jimmy?”

“Maybe,” the angel mumbles. “There's a lot I still don't understand about human nature–”

“Don't give me that, baby,” Dean gently scolds him. “You know people, now, and you know me better than anyone else.”

Cas takes the former hunter's hands and hides his face in both of them.

“I didn't even like Jimmy,” Dean says.

“Okay, okay–” Cas chuckles against his palms.

“Looked like an asshole,” Dean adds with his mouth very close to the angel's ear, making him squirm.

“Okay, you want another round, is that it?” Cas jokes, taking Dean's hands off his face, but Dean can tell what he said stroke true because his smirk and his voice are a little wobbly.

“You got me,” he grins anyway. “One roll in the hay and you've got me hooked. Congratulations.”

“Thank you. Don't you want something for the pain? I saw you struggling a little.”

Dean makes a few grimaces to make his muscles move and winces.

“Yeah, that'd be good.”

Cas untangles their bodies and gets up, digging in his tiny wardrobe until he finds boxers and an X-Files t-shirt two sizes too big for him. Dean is too busy yawning to see the angel dig in one of the duffel bags he brought back from the bunker and throw him a change of clothes.

“What's the point in getting dressed if I'm going to get down on you in a few minutes?” he mumbles, not even bothering to get the t-shirt and underwear off his head – probably for the better, because if Cas saw the shit-eating grin that's spreading across his face, he wouldn't like it.

“Because I'm making pancakes and no one cooks naked in Tina's kitchen.”

“Is that a house rule?”

“It is.”

“Is there a funny story I'd like to hear?” Dean smiles wickedly, sitting and putting on the black t-shirt Cas chose for him.

“It's a rule I insisted on, actually,” the angel says while gathering as much of the scattered clothes on the floor as he can. “Tina sleeps in the nude and she likes having a snack in the middle of the night every so often. Seeing as I usually don't sleep…”

“Oh, gross.”

“You get the picture.”

“No, thank you.”

Dean stands up and stretches out. He's aching in a very particular place, but he's not one to complain.

“Let's take care of that pretty face, now, shall we ?” Cas says.

He guides the former hunter through the hallway to the pink-tiled bathroom – which looks enormous, compared to the one in the lilliput cabin. Then, he sits him down on the closed toilet seat, opens a floral cupboard, takes out a first-aid kit and starts taking care of him.

Again.

Once more, Dean is relieved by how normal everything still is. That situation, with Cas slowly taking his bandages off and making sure he's healing correctly while Dean waits and winces once in a while, could have happened in exactly the same way even if they never had sex.

They did, though, and now that every stubborn doubt about his sexuality is out the window, Dean only wants to do three things.

Number one is not very pleasant: he wants to see how damaged his face is again because the sooner he gets accustomed to it, the sooner he'll stop feeling like shit every time he sees his reflection in a mirror or a window.

Number two is better: Cas talked about making pancakes, and that is not something Dean can forget easily.

Finally, number three: go back to bed and do everything again. 

Chapter Text

Dean wished the rollercoasters of his life would stop.

Or maybe just slow down a little, reach a plateau that would let him come back to his senses before dropping again, because falling from the top of his sex-high to the bottom, the horror of how hard he finds it to recognize himself in the mirror, is so much, so fast that he's getting nauseous.

He can't fucking stand how vulnerable the look in his eyes is, either.

He's Dean Winchester. He came back from the dead more times he wants to remember. He has more blood on his hands than blood flowing through his body, though he knows that most of those lives he took needed to end for others to continue.

That he could carry on that long is a miracle, and he's not dumb or modest enough to ignore the fact that he was one of the best hunters to walk the Earth.

Was.

He used to pride himself in how well he survived the hunter life. After all these years, he still turned heads, and that didn't count for nothing. Yeah, okay, he died a lot, but he's also very aware of what kind of face most hunters end up with before kicking the bucket.

The veteran kind.

The kind that makes children ask what happened and their parents shush them and walk faster.

The ripped up, bitten, slashed, burned, broken.

The blown-out kind.

Cas is very quiet beside Dean, on arm on the ex-hunter's shoulder, the other resting across his own stomach as if watching him grasp the extent of what one scar can do to a man first-hand felt like being stabbed in the spleen.

Does he realize I'm not pretty anymore? Dean wonders.

Watching himself getting older, he could deal with. His face get less and less round, his cheeks hollow a little, his hair get silvery on his temples, his eyes wrinkle at the corners… he kind of liked it, in a way. The sad puppy look he's been sporting for a few years, too. Even when he's expressionless, he looks heartbroken, but eventually, he got used to the idea of being a former happy guy trapped in a depressive body. Part of the job, he guesses.

Watching himself turn into those men and women at hunter reunions that no one has the guts to look at for more than a handful of seconds because they're scared they might be staring at their own future? That, he can't fucking deal with.

He'd love not to have to stare at that face, now, but he can't, because he's stuck with it for life, and, oh, who's fault could it possibly be, who could I blame for that ugly, disgusting scar making me look like Freddy Krueger tried his contouring skills on my face and fucking slipped?!

Shit.

Dean's been staring for a while. It's getting weird. He has to say something before he can break down crying and lose what's left of his dignity.

“You fucked that?” Dean jokes cheaply.

“I didn't “fuck that”,” Cas corrects him, making air quotations with his hands still resting on his stomach and Dean's shoulder. “I made love to it and I liked it very much, thank you for asking.”

Dean's fake laugh is unconvincing, at best.

He hates how he has to wipe his nose on the back of his hand – like a barbarian –, he hates how utterly naked he feels next to Cas, he hates how, minutes ago, they were dancing the most intense horizontal tango, and how now, having the angel's body so close to his is like rubbing already sensitive skin with sandpaper.

You can't stand it, the void says.

“You can cry, love,” Cas tells him, so loving, so patient, so tender, so fucking gross it makes you want to throw up.

Dean's ears are buzzing. He closes his eyes tightly until the tears stop burning. He doesn't want to cry, you've cried enough for this lifetime and the next.

“I'm already ugly enough as it is, can't become a fucking cry-baby too, now, can I?” Dean sniffs, knocking Cas' arm off his shoulders and loathing the perfect balance of relief and self-hate he immediately feels rushing like poison through his veins.

Can't look at him.

Don't let him see.

“What the fuck was that?” Cas asks.

He swore and his tone is sharp.

Things are not good, right now.

Dean sways a little on his legs when he backs out of the bathroom, eyes down.

Things were good ten minutes ago.

Dean picks up his pants on the floor with shaky hands and puts them on. It's hard not to fall down when he's feeling so weak, but it's harder to ignore Cas, speechlessly watching him dress up from his bedroom door.

Why are things so bad, all of a sudden?

Because you are, the void whispers softly.

Because you're bad. You're a bad man. You killed people. Innocent ones, sometimes. You are hideous, inside and out.

“Dean?” Cas asks, loud enough for the ex-hunter to understand he's called him several times, already. “Talk to me.”

You are disgusting. You've become someone's bitch and loved every second of it. You're dirty. You're ashamed. You're right to be.

Dean doesn't answer. Instead, he grabs his bags. They're too heavy for him to carry them all on his own, but as he's going down the stairs, he finds that ignoring the pain in his arms and shoulders is easier when he's having a panic attack.

“Dean! Where are you going?!”

The hurt and confusion in Cas' voice almost make Dean miss the last step and fall in a heap on the ground.

Where is he going?

He doesn't know, but staying here seems like such a bad idea that finding a destination feels secondary.

And that damn iceberg in Dean's mind, that lost little fucker is turning round and round, trapped in a whirlpool he's too small to escape.

You're broken.

The void is getting stronger.

How is it getting stronger?

It was so quiet, this morning.

Maybe it didn't like being ignored, and that's its idea of revenge.

You're broken. You've let yourself become exactly what everyone's been afraid you'd one day become. Sam knows that, and John and Mary would be turning in their graves if you didn't burn them like you burned every chance of redeeming yourself when you let a man enter your body.

Dean knocks off a china angel with his bags in the corridor leading to the main entry. He doesn't hear it shatter on the ground, nor does he hear the lock break when he kicks the door open with his boot because he can't reach it while his hands are full.

He feels the pain of the impact, though. A sharp, deep one that ripples through his body to remind him how many times his bones have been crushed.

You shouldn't have missed.

Dean stops abruptly, right before stepping out of the house.

“Who the fuck are you?” the woman facing him asks him.

She's in her mid-sixties, but apparently, she decided that shouldn't stop her from rocking the pinkest hair color and the coolest black leather jacket to ever grace the Earth.

“Shouldn't have missed,” Dean blurts out like an automat.

“What?”

She's holding a big fuchsia bag and house keys are dangling in her manicured hand. She looks behind Dean's shoulder and her eyebrows shoot up in a very sassy way that would put Sam to shame.

“Castiel? What's going on?”

The angel forces Dean to let go of his baggage and steps in between him and the lady.

“Why are you not wearing pants?” she asks him, squinting her brown eyes.

“Tina, hello, I'm sorry for my appearance, but didn't you say you wouldn't be back before–”

“Yeah, my grandkids are sick and you know how gross children already are, so I couldn't possibly stay and let them smear snot all over–why are you crying?”

Cas wipes his face with the collar of his t-shirt, knocking Dean's chest behind him.

The ex-hunter lets out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding.

Shit.

Cas is crying.

Tina, his landlady and roommate, is back early.

The void fed on Dean's sanity and clarity of mind, and now that it's satiated, it's clearing and leaving him standing there like an asshole while Cas is crying in his underwear, Tina staring him down as if he was the snot of her grandkids that would have become sentient and followed her home.

The woman points a finger to Dean's pale and disfigured face.

“Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck are you doing in my fucking house?”

To that, Dean doesn't find anything else to answer but a somehow hesitant :

“Shouldn't have missed?”

And to that, Cas bursts into tears.

Chapter Text

Tina's scarier than an archangel.

That's a fact.

She sticks out like a sore thumb in her own house, with her leather jacket, huge boots and killer eyeliner that shouldn't fit the sixty-years old Asian woman that well.

“Both of you, get in the living room and sit your asses down,” she commands, stomping loudly through the corridor.

Dean and Cas follow her and slump down on the pink couch, too disoriented and intimidated to argue. Tina is standing in front of them with her fists on her hips, fierce and ready to kill. They look like the world's weirdest family fight.

Cas is inches away from Dean on the couch. He stopped crying, but the ex-hunter can feel his pain wash over him in waves, and he can barely stand staying in the same house than a sad angel and a pissed off Tina as it is, so he just acts as if nothing is really happening.

“You another hunter?” the landlady asks him sharply.

Dean runs his fingers through his hair and cringes when his nails catch on the stitches on his brow. Apparently, she knows what kind of job Cas does, so that's one less thing to worry about.

No, I'm not a hunter anymore, he wants to answer, but he knows he shouldn't. That would only complicate things, and to the rest of the world, he's still one.

So he breaths in and straightens up to meet Tina's eyes. He owes her that much, since he ate her food and slept in her house without her permission.

“Yes, ma'am,” he says, tone and face blank. He reaches out to shake her hand, which she takes with a disapproving look. “Dean Winchester, pleasure to meet you.”

“Yeah, sure seems like it, huh?” she snorts, crushing the ex-hunter's hand in hers. “So, Dean Winchester, what are you doing in my house, making my boy cry and breaking doors?”

Dean swallows. He can't say he's depressed, suicidal, at least a little bit gay, and that he had such a powerful panic attack he felt like he would die a slow and painful death if he didn't get out of the house very quickly, can he?

“None of your business,” Dean bites out instead, but he knows it was a mistake from the moment the words fall out of his mouth because Tina squints and her pose gets even sassier when she says :

“Those are wise words in Salt'n'Peppa's mouths, but not in yours, you dick. It is my fucking business, so spill the beans or I will kick you in the nuts and send you back to your mamma crying.”

That went well.

Cas sighs deeply and rubs his cheek. Save for the five o'clock shadow, he looks so much like a kid, right now, eyes still puffy, lost in his too-big t-shirt, just miserable because of him, that Dean wants to let Tina kill him like she seems to dream about.

“Tina, I apologize for everything, I'll replace your lock–” Cas tries, but his landlady interrupts him by raising a finger.

“Shut up, sweetie. Dean is a man, is he not? He can answer for himself, so he's gonna open his ears very wide, and he's gonna answer me these questions three: what the fuck are you doing here, why the fuck did you destroy my door, and what the fuck did you do to make my baby cry?”

Dean doesn't have that kind of patience, not now, not ever. He's not going to stay here and suffer this old bag's bad temperament.

The ex-hunter stands up and stares her down, chin high, patience low, eyes hard.

“I'm here because I had nowhere else to go, and Cas offered me to stay until you got back,” he all but growls in her face. “I destroyed your door because panic attacks are things that happen to hunters who've been in the job as long as I have, and Cas…”

Dean hesitates. Tina's glaring at him as if she wasn't almost half his height. She's not letting his bravado get to her, he's got to give her that.

“Cas is crying because I'm a douchebag,” Dean says.

When the angel gets up behind him, Dean can't help but notice he's very carefully trying not to touch him.

Chuck, if you can hear me, fucking smite me right here.

But God wouldn't be God if he answered the phone once in a while, would he?

Tina's eyes are still boring into the ex-hunter's skull.

“Are you two fucking?”

Cas sighs and Dean kills her in his mind for a solid five seconds.

“This is the most uncomfortable conversation I've ever been a part of.”

Tina seems to take it as a compliment because she grins.

“Did you have a big gay freak out ?” she sneers.

“Tina–” Cas tries to intervene.

“I've punched women for less than that before, you know,” Dean tells her.

“Wow, Castiel, you hit the jackpot, honey! He's half-handsome, half-feminist!”

The angel finally touches Dean, but it doesn't feel as good as it could have since it's only to refrain him from head-butting his roommate in the nose.

When Dean turns to politely ask him to fuck off and let him murder her and bury her in her own backyard, his anger deflates like a balloon. Cas knows him, which means he knows that slipping his hand under his arm like that, and looking at him this way, standing too close like he's done for years before he was allowed to… all what makes him who he is – and what Dean loves – is designed to calm him down.

The ex-hunter opens his mouth like he has something clever to say, an apology, maybe, or the bullshit that jumps to take its place right before he can catch it and stop it from hurting others, but nothing comes out.

Tina giggles happily, opens the luggage she leaned against the coffee table and gets a big magenta tupperware out of it.

“Okay, you two love-birds, who wanna talk to granny and eat some homemade pie my son made?”

Dean wishes he wasn't that easy.

He wishes Cas hid his tiny, hesitant, knowing smile, too.

But Tina's holding half an apple pie, and suddenly, the three of them are sitting at the kitchen table with a plate and a spoon, and Dean is hungry, and sugar always puts him in a better mood, and fuck, he doesn't need excuses, it's pie!

He's very aware of the fact that he's wolfing the pie down with no elegance whatsoever. Doesn't stop him, though. He's still pissed at Tina and her big mouth, the way he treated Cas only minutes ago horrifies him every time he thinks about it and he just broke out of a massive panic attack, so he's allowed to eat like a pig, okay?

Cas and Tina are watching him with a mixed expression of disgust and wonder, both holding their head in their palm.

“What happened to your face?” Tina asks absentmindedly while Dean cuts himself another slice.

The ex-hunter's hand freezes on the knife. His blood starts boiling with anger, shame, and guilt again. He's that close to flipping his shit, but Cas is here, stock still, anxious and hopeful, begging him with his sky eyes not to scoop out one of Tina's eyes with the knife.

So Dean turns to her, braces himself and says:

“I shot myself and missed.”

The landlady pouts and frowns.

“How come?”

“I was tired of being alive, and Cas surprised me just as I was pulling the trigger, so the gun slipped.”

Tina seems to ponder on it for a moment, and then she gets up, opens the fridge, takes a container out of it and sits back down on her chair.

“Almost hanged myself, once,” she says while picking pieces of chocolate cake with her fingers. “With my sex-sling, too. But then I said to myself: girl, if you gotta go, at least tell Katy you love her, and then hang yourself. So I did, I told Katy I loved her, she told me she loved me, we had mind-blowing sex for six months, and then we broke up and I never thought about hanging myself again. Huh.”

Mortified, Dean and Cas watch her eat and reminisce over her tragic lesbian love story.

“Tina?” the angel finally asks, his voice tiny and hesitant.

“Yes, baby?”

“Isn't that… isn't that the space-cake you baked last weekend?”

Tina looks at her chocolate-covered fingers, as if slowly realizing she's eating a space-cake at ten in the morning, but then she shrugs and throws another piece in her mouth.

“I told you that so you wouldn't eat it, darling,” she says without the slightest hint of remorse in her tone.

Dean and Cas sigh in relief. Lady's crazy, but at least she's not gonna hop on a drug trip and end up eating chocolate naked on the kitchen floor, they both seem to think when their eyes meet.

“So, Dean Winchester,” Tina pronounces slowly around a mouth full of not-space-cake. “You been in the job for long?”

This situation is so mundane and strange at the same time.

Early love-making, panic attack, tentative of escape, chat, and breakfast with a bat-crazy woman.

This is a weird Thursday morning.

“Well–” Dean starts, but Tina cuts him immediately.

“I know Castiel is an angel, sweetie, so don't bother tip-toeing around me. I married a demon, once. Didn't work out, had to call one of you's to exorcise the asshole. Obsessed with goats, let me tell you.”

Dean probably resembles a deer in head-lights, right now, but he closes his gaping mouth around a spoonful of pie. Cas throws him a supportive look that says “hold tight because she's an even wilder ride than you could ever imagine”.

“Uuh… I… I've been a hunter for, let's say, thirty years or so. I just… I just retired.”

Dean feels a foot touch his under the table.

That better be Cas.

It is. The angel's listening to his and Tina's conversation with his chin in his hand, the ghost of a tired smile on his lips.

“Just retired, huh?” Tina says with her mouth full. “Me too, last year.”

“You were a hunter?!”

“No, a librarian. But good for you, boy. What did you do?”

Dean cannot imagine this woman working in a library.

“What did I do?”

“I hear you hunters have some very special tales to tell. I've got pretty good ones myself, so I'm basically challenging you. Come on, throw one at me.”

Dean stares at her, her dyed hair, cat eyeliner – impeccable despite her wrinkles –, leather jacket, laid-back attitude. She'd be an anomaly, a rock'n roll glitch in this doll-house if it wasn't for the recurrence of the color pink in her clothing and her interior.

She's weirder than Cas.

Dean gets why he chose to live with her.

Must be nice to be around someone as unusual as you and not feel like an alien.

He loves that about Cas. How he never makes him feel like he's strange, always looks at him as if he was exactly what he was supposed to be, and in that way, perfectly normal.

Fuck, I love you, Dean wants to tell him, but right now is not a good time, and he might have to make up for… for earlier, before he can kiss the hell out of him.

“I killed Hitler,” Dean tells Tina, a little smugly – how could he not be smug about that?

Cas snorts, as he always does when the ex-hunter brings it up, but luckily, the woman whistles loudly.

“Nice. What else?”

Shit. She wants more?

“I… I sold my soul, once.”

Tina's licking her fingers clean, waiting for the rest of the story. Cas is listening, too, even though he knows the story first-hand.

“I sold it so a demon could bring my brother back to life.”

“Tss.”

“I know.”

“Didn't your mamma teach you anything? Don't make deals with demons !”

Dean breathes in and out, in and out. Cas crosses his ankle with the ex-hunter's.

This is fucking meditation.

“She did. But she wasn't there back then, so I saved my brother's life, and the Hell Hounds dragged my soul downstairs.”

“How are you still kicking doors, then?”

“Cas brought me back.”

Tina grins, her teeth covered with chocolate.

“Is that how you two met?”

“It is. He flew to Hell, gripped me tight and raised me from perdition.

Cas mouthed his own words with him, his eyes far, far away, back to that day, that barn, when they knew nothing of what they would accomplish and become together.

Tina gags grossly, totally breaking the moment.

“That's so romantic I wanna vom.”

“Are you sure it's not the three pounds chocolate cake you just ate all by yourself?” Cas mumbles.

“Doubt it, my liver's brand new. How long have you two been fucking?”

“Tina!”

Dean hides his smile behind his hand. Cas just looks so shocked, he can't help it.

“You sissy,” Tina mutters. “I'll rephrase it. How long have you two been together?”

The ex-hunters shifts uncomfortably on his chair.

“Two days?”

“A decade,” Cas answers at the same time.

Dean and Tina look at the angel with the same puzzled look on their faces. Cas rolls his eyes, untangles his legs from Dean's and walks out of the kitchen.

“When I rescued your soul from Hell, I had to touch it,” he explains, already climbing the stairs and raising his voice so they can hear him.

“What does that mean?” Dean and Tina call out with one voice.

Cas stops and sighs at the top of the stairs.

“It means I fell in love quite early. I'm going to take a shower.”

The bathroom door opens, closes, locks. Tina immediately slaps Dean at the back of the head, her relaxed face suddenly one of pure outrage.

“What did you do to my boy?!” she tries to whisper angrily but ends up saying as loud as if she wanted Cas to hear them.

Dean is too stunned to want to take the hand she hit him with and make her eat it like she ate that damn cake.

Ten years.

He's been loved like a king for ten years.

He didn't even ask himself when his feelings for Cas changed.

But Tina's not done with him.

“I leave my house to a sad Castiel, he finds himself a boyfriend, and when I get back he's still sad as fuck?! What's wrong with you?!”

Dean hates feeling like an ungrateful and misbehaving child, brings back too many bad memories. Still, he doesn't know what else to say but a pathetic :

“I don't know what's wrong with me.”

Doesn't satisfy Tina, though.

Is she ever not pissed off?

“Why the fuck did you try to shoot yourself, huh?”

Dean recoils on his chair, eyes set down, hands in tight fists on his lap.

He's shaking.

He's sweating.

He's a kid.

“I felt lonely,” he says.

“From what I hear, you have at least a brother and my baby angel in your life, am I wrong?”

The ex-hunter straightens his back and looks at Tina, weak tentative to bring back his old, manly, I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude, but the woman is giving him the Face.

The Mom Face.

The one that makes you want to crawl and hide in a hole because you know she's right. The one that makes you want to let the cat out of the bag quicker than a truth serum injected in your veins.

Mary gave him this face, every now and then, when he tried to get away with his nonsense.

Dean never knew it would grow on him.

And he's a kid again.

“I was stuck,” he murmurs.

Tina's eyes are so intense on him it feels like they're sucking the words out of his mouth.

“Everything I loved was out of reach because I was trying to keep my world from changing. My life, my brother, my relationship with Cas. I was afraid of what would happen if I changed because I didn't know who I really was in the first place. I was petrified. One way, I would risk losing everything. The other, I'd stay stuck. But then I found a third way, and somehow, it seemed easier and less painful than the rest. So I tried ending it all. Failed. Had Cas save me, twice, 'cause I tried to drown myself hours after shooting my head off.”

Tina gives him a “you dickwad” look, eyebrows arched, lips pursed, the whole set.

Eh. I'll take it.

“I did have a big gay freak out, earlier,” Dean admits with a shy, wavering smile. “Being with Cas is something I've been so afraid of for so long that when I finally gave in, I felt like one of the last pieces of who I used to be blinked out of existence, and that's… that's some scary shit. Watching yourself disappear.”

He chuckles and shakes his head.

“I don't know who I am. Dean Winchester means nothing anymore. You could call me Michelle Obama and I'd probably answer to it.”

“I just might,” Tina huffs, unimpressed.

Dean bursts out laughing. He sounds like a maniac and he does not care.

“You know what I know, though?”

If the landlady arcs her eyebrow any higher, Dean's pretty sure it could fly off his face and into the sunset.

Is he ever going to stop talking? To a woman who's been cursing at him for twenty minutes?

Maybe not.

I talk. I read. I'm smart. I'm touch-starved. I love cheesy eighties songs. I'm bisexual. I'm a bottom.

Whatever.

“I want a house in the country side. A fucking farm, with animals and shit, and I wanna cook, read and draw dicks all damn day, 'cause my old man would rather have me clean a gun than use a pencil and he was a homophobic douchebag! Fuck him! Fuck everyone! Fuck me! Fuck you!”

That was probably unnecessary, but from the look of Tina's sly, satisfied grin, she seems to appreciate the special attention.

Dean is breathing loudly, eyes wide, trembling, clammy where he's standing.

When did he get up?

“Am I the only sane person in this house?” Tina asks him very calmly.

“Probably the less sane one,” Dean says with a breathy laugh.

The woman smiles a toothy, clever, scary smile.

The ex-hunter has a very clear memory of what a god's aura feels like, and right now, he's getting strong holy vibes.

Who is Tina?

Or, more specifically, what is she?

Is she human?

He's starting to doubt it.

Dean is still waiting for what she has to say, and Tina doesn't plan on failing him.

“Then, Michelle Obama, you absolute fucktard, you go upstairs and ravish that beautiful man in the shower, hear me?”

Chapter Text

Dean loudly bangs on the bathroom door until the water stops running and he hears shuffling.

“Cas, baby, please, open the–”

“What do you want, Dean,” Cas mumbles from just behind the door.

“I want you, can't you just–”

The hinges creak and reveal the angel, soaking wet with a towel wrapped around his waist. Cas opens his mouth, but Dean's too afraid he might ask him to leave him alone, so he blurts out:

“I'm sorry! I'm sorry I freaked out, it won't happen again–I think, so please, please let me in. I'm sorry.”

Cas squints at him for a couple of seconds.

“Apologies accepted,” he decides and goes to close the door, but Dean sticks his face in the opening and closes his mouth around the angel's.

Can't close the door, now, can you?

Lips still locked with Cas' so the spell doesn't break, the ex-hunter slips through, hands coming up to frame the angel's face. He pushes the door closed with his boot.

Cas is trapped between his body and the bathroom sink, but Dean can feel his arms tentatively reach for his waist, so he mustn't feel too crowded, right?

“Please touch me,” Dean begs against his mouth, pushes the angel's hands under his shirt, but Cas pulls out and forces him to look him in the eye, dodging his needy mouth.

“I don't know how to act with you anymore,” he confesses. “I thought you were free, and all of a sudden, John came out, and I–”

Dean is shaking his head like he caught some of Tina's crazy.

“Please, I beg of you, don't change anything, let's just–let's act never happened–”

“I can't do that, Dean. You pushed me away. I can't decide to forget about it and be done with it. I'm not you.”

Ow.

Dean takes Cas' hands again, but this time, he slowly brings them up to his own face, on his cheeks and his stitches, to say: You have me, and you have power over me because I'm giving it to you.

Blue, blue eyes, so sad, so pretty, so easily meeting green, green eyes, so desperate, so sorry.

“You're perfect,” he tells him. “Everything you did, from the moment you found me with the Colt in my hand, you did like you knew exactly what I needed, and what was supposed to be done.”

Cas sighs deeply. His fingers spread on Dean's face and disappear slowly into his hair. The ex-hunter shivers.

“Every time we touch, I get this… this feeling, and every time we kiss, I swear, I could fly.”

Cas scrunches up his nose and gives Dean an appalled look.

“Please don't tell me you're quoting that horrible song.”

The ex-hunter cracks up, his whole body shaking against the angel's, and hides his face against his neck.

“Because if you are, I'm leaving you,” Cas says, but they both know how unthreatening that promise is.

“I am, I'm totally quoting Cascada,” Dean cackles.

“For God's sake.”

“Please don't leave me?”

“You quoted Cascada, Dean. What choice does that leave me with?”

“Nooo…”

Dean wrapped himself around Cas' tight enough for his clothes to get so wet they're sticking to his skin. He kisses the angel's jugular, then his jaw, his cheek, his temple, the bridge of his nose, and stops at the corner of his mouth.

“If I made you a sweet-potato pie, would you stay?”

“No.”

Dean pouts.

“Why?”

Cas smiles, wickedly. It does absolutely nothing to Dean's insides.

“I hate it.”

“What?!”

“I hate sweet-potato pie.”

“But you ate almost half the one you made at the cabin!”

“So you would eat too, yes, but I hated it.”

Dean is dumbstruck.

“Oh my god, Cas.” is the only thing he can think of saying.

The angel is beaming, apparently very proud of himself for some reason, and he's gorgeous, with his wet hair going in every direction, his stubble, his damp, tan skin. He's breathtaking.

Dean wants to tell him what he told Tina, about the house, the animals, what he wants to do, where he wants to go next, but Cas has that damn ability to make him forget what he was going to say and confess the rawest things, pour them out of his heart through his mouth.

Dean doesn't want to fight the power Cas has over him anymore.

He's giving it to him.

“You wanna find a home?”

The towel around the angel's waist chooses the perfect moment to fall to the ground.

“Oops,” Cas deadpans.

Dean giggles and takes that golden opportunity to hold him even closer.

“Do you think God is trying to tell us something?” he whispers like a conspiracy.

Cas raises an eyebrow.

“God is not saying anything to anyone.”

The ex-hunter slicks back Cas' dripping hair to see him better.

“We don't need him, anyway,” the angel tells him.

“Yeah? Don't need the big Sky Daddy anymore?” Dean teases.

“Don't call him that.”

“Sky Daddy?”

“Stop.” Cas winces. "It hurts."

Dean grins and entertains the idea of kissing him again when they hear stomping in the staircase.

Sounds like a fucking rhino.

“Did you do the do?” Tina yells from behind the door.

Dean sighs and leans his forehead on Cas'.

“Tell me I'm dreaming,” he mutters.

“Please fuck off, Tina!” the angel shouts kindly.

Silence.

“Is someone having trouble getting it up?” Tina suggests – the worst is that she sounds seriously supportive. “'cause I have something for that in the kitchen if you need a little help.”

“What–why would you put that in the kitchen?!” Dean exclaims.

“Where the fuck else should I put it?”

Yeah, Cas may be laughing, but he's had enough.

“No, thank you, Tina, now please go away.”

“Put your skates on then, 'cause I need to pee!”

Tina, who is apparently incapable of walking like a normal human being, stomps back down the stairs. Cas bursts out laughing and he might have slipped on the tiles if Dean wasn't there to hold him up against the sink.

Fuck, he's beautiful.

“Dude, there's something seriously wrong with your roommate.”

The angel wheezes, batting his eyelids to chase the tears of laughter, and then, he tugs on the ex-hunter's jacket, the color of his irises almost changing to match his mood.

“Want to have your own?”

If Dean saw himself in the mirror, right now, he'd die of a severe case of embarrassment, because he's smiling like a lovestruck teenager – and what's wrong with that?

“My own, personal, weird roommate ?” he asks.

He's trying not to sound like he's absolutely delighted and failing with flying colors.

“Yes,” Cas murmurs.

Unbreakable eye contact.

“I don't know,” Dean teases him. “If he's not older than the Earth, doesn't stare at me like he wants to eat my face and doesn't tell me about random bee facts he just remembered, I don't think it'll work out.”

“Well, I think I know just the man.”

“Oh yeah?”

Cas pushes Dean's jacket off his shoulders.

“I do want to eat your face,” he admits while pulling on his t-shirt, and with that, he kisses the ex-hunter's chin, his mouth open, teeth grazing Dean's scratchy skin as if biting through an ice-cream.

The water is almost too cold when both men get under the shower stream, but does it matter, when their bodies slide against one another, eventually reaching such a temperature that the top of the iceberg in Dean's head melts a little?

Of course not.

Because this is where I'm supposed to be, he understands.

Because everything feels good, right now, even the pain in his face when he kisses Cas so passionately he makes him back up in the shower stall, the water running down his head.

“Carefull–with your… stitches–”

“Shut up.”

Dean is torn between the irrational need to be very small, small enough for the angel to be able to hold him in arms like he weighted nothing, and just enjoying being the “big one”, the one who can invade Cas' space and feel like a giant in his eyes, sweep him off his feet – fuck my knees – and lead their dance.

Not a pussy, dad. Not a fag, not a queer, not “one of those people who should never have been born”.

I'm a big cat.

Cas swallows Dean's moan when the friction of their hips just becomes too much. He holds his head when the ex-hunter starts shaking, presses even closer when the pleasure pools low in both their stomachs, his legs locking so tightly around Dean's waist as he comes that it's probably going to leave bruises, but neither of them cares.

They're building a home.

“Hey, Cas?” Dean pants while letting Cas down.

They're not ready to let go, not yet, not while they're still breathing each other's air, unbearable heat barely starting to leave their bodies.

“How do you feel about beekeeping?”

Dean thought the angel's pupils couldn't dilate more.

He was wrong.

Chapter Text

“Dean?”

“Hey, Sam.”

“Hey! I didn't… I didn't think you'd call so soon.”

“What, I moved out three days ago and you're already not missing me?”

“Shut up.”

“You love me.”

“I do.”

“Aw, Sammy! You're making me blush.”

“Shut up. Why are you calling? Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, everything's good. Cas is still tolerating me–”

“Astounding.”

“I know. I'm staying at his place, right now. His landlady's batshit crazy.”

Dean jumps when the window above where he's sitting on the back porch opens. Tina pops her head out and offers him a blinding smile. With her messy hair and avocado face mask, she looks terrifying.

“Thank you, dear!” she peeps as happily as if he told Sam she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, and then she closes the window like it was all a mirage.

Dean gets up from the porch and starts walking through the freakishly well-kept garden, one hand in his jacket pocket.

“She's fucking creepy,” he whispers to the phone.

At the other end of it, he can hear Sam chortle.

“Made her drink holy water and touch silver, didn't you?”

“No…”

“Wow. You used to lie for a living, and now you can't even convince me anymore. What did Cas do to you, man?”

“You don't want to know.”

“… No, you're right, I really don't. So. What's up?”

Dean absently kicks a weed pocking out of the neat little pebble path he's on.

He's nervous.

He shouldn't be nervous, it's Sam.

“I need you to use your voodoo for me.”

“You mean my friend circle?”

“Yeah, that.”

“You need some of those, Dean.”

“Some of what?”

“Friends.”

“I have friends. They're just–”

He cringes and sits down on a little stone bench placed under a chestnut tree.

“They're just all dead,” he mumbles.

His poor, old, tired heart clenches in his chest.

“Exactly my point. You need new, living friends.”

“Yes, mom. I'll tell Cas to take me to the park and let me play in the sandbox with the other children.”

“You do that.”

“Anyway, I need you to ask around for a farm.”

“A farm?”

“Yeah. Ask the other hunters if they have a farm to rent or sell, or maybe just one they'd like someone to renovate in exchange for a place to sleep.”

Sam falls silent, long enough for Dean to ask :

“You there?”

“Yeah, yeah, I'm still here. It's just… you want to live on a farm?”

The ex-hunter shifts on the bench. He's growing restless, defensive – nothing he likes being.

“Yeah, why not ?” he tries asking lightly.

Sam huffs.

“You never worked on a farm, never talked about it… hell, you didn't even want my dog in your car.”

Dean sighs and forces himself to breathe like Cas told him. Then angel looks so happy every time he gives it a shot that he practically conditioned Dean into doing it, now.

“Baby's different, you know that,” he reminds him when he feels calmer.

“I know Baby's different, you mechanophil, it's just that I never thought you'd want anything to do with animals–”

Sam seems to suddenly remember something, and from the tone of his voice, Dean can already tell he doesn't like it.

Except that one time we tried a spell that backfired, and–”

Dean pinches the bridge of his nose.

That one time.

“I already regret asking you,” he sighs.

“You had a really strong feeling about that poodle, remember?”

“This is torture.”

Sam is cackling loudly in Dean's ear. He can't help but smile.

It's good to hear his brother laugh, even if it's at his own expense.

It's been too long.

“So you'll do that for me? Ask for a farm, or a house in the countryside some hunter could rent or sell us?”

Sam snorts.

“Us? I'm not buying a farm, dude, buy your own farm!”

“No, no, I'm not asking you to, it's for–for me and Cas.”

Sam doesn't say anything.

Yeah, that's what Dean was so nervous about.

“Did you–” The ex-hunter has to clear his throat. “–did you hang up on me?”

“No.”

Sam's sounds surprised. Shocked, even. Dean wants to take it all back, but it's out, now.

“No, I'm still here. It's just… you and Cas are moving in together, already?”

He doesn't sound disapproving, really. Critical, maybe.

“You think it's too soon, don't you?” Dean says.

“I don't think it's too soon, I'm worried it might be too soon. There's a difference.”

“Yeah, if you squint. It's too soon, is what you're thinking.”

“I'm sorry, Dean, I really don't want to burst your bubble, but you've been together for how long? Barely a week?”

“Twelve years,” Dean corrects him.

“What ?”

“We've been dancing around each other for over a decade.”

“I don't–”

“How much time have we spent with the guy, Sam? We've known him for twelve years, he's saved us, we've saved him, he fucked us over, we fucked him over, and in the Winchester book, that means he's family. Am I wrong?”

“No,” his brother has no choice but to admit.

“Well, I'm glad to announce that his family status just changed from 'adopted brother' to 'partner'. Is there a problem with that?”

The stern, sharp big brother tone may be a little over the top, but Dean only needs to have this conversation once, and he won't repeat himself.

“No. No problem.”

Sam sounds a little frosty. Dean can't blame him, he basically gave a lecture to his thirty-seven years old brother like a mom would to her rowdy son before church.

“Cas and I are gonna give it a shot,” he says, a little less intensely. “I'm pretty sure it's gonna work, and my first step towards this whole new life is to find us a farm and try to make a living out of it, while Cas keeps hunting. I want to wake up every morning in a place I've never laid eyes on before, and still think of it as home. I want windows. I want to give Cas beehives. I want to host hunter gatherings. I want you to visit as often as you want to–but hopefully not too often, because I'm not getting tired of that angel anytime soon.”

“Okay, okay, I got it, jeez,” Sam cuts in, but Dean can hear his grin. “I'm still wrapping my head around the two of you as a couple, so please, spare me the imagery.”

“Do you even know what a man's–”

“I don't! I don't know, and I beg, I beg of you not to tell me about your new sexual discoveries.”

“Why? Are you a homophobe, Sam?” Dean teases him.

“You know I'm not. I'd just rather not know anything more about your sex life. I'm already cursed with dreadful knowledge.”

“You're just a jealous prude.”

“If that makes you shut up, then yes, I'm an extremely jealous, extremely prude man.”

“I'll take it.”

“MICHELLE OBAMA!”

Smartphone still on his ear, Dean turns toward the house wishing he never even talked to Tina in the first place.

“I'm hungry!” the landlady yells form the open window.

At least she rinsed out her avocado mask.

What the fuck am I supposed to answer to that?

“Yeah? Well, sucks, I guess?” Dean shouts back, hesitant.

He turns his back to her in the hope she'll get the hint and leave him alone, but who is he kidding, this is Tina, we're talking about.

“Hey, Michelle?” she calls out again.

“What!” Dean barks.

“You wanna sleep in my house for free?”

The ex-hunter frowns.

“Uuuh… kinda been doing that for three days, but yeah?”

“Then make me something to eat, or I'll strangle you in your sleep and feed you to my dogs!”

With that, the landlady closes the window shut, leaving Dean to his phone call.

Her poor, poor neighbors.

“Michelle Obama?” Sam huffs on the phone.

“I think she forgot my real name,” Dean says. “Doesn't have any dogs, too.”

“Guess I'm gonna have to find you that farm before she murders you, then.”

Dean is so suddenly so pumped he has to stand up.

“Really?”

“Don't get too excited,” Sam laughs, “I'm gonna try, but yeah, man, I'll see what I can find.”

“You really are a hunter godfather,” Dean says with a dreamy, typical fangirl tone.

“Yeah, I'm gonna hang up, now.”

“Thanks, Sammy.”

“Don't mention it. Condolences to Cas.”

“Fuck you.”

“You too.”

Sam hangs up, and Dean doesn't know what's gotten into him, but he sprints back to the house – almost breaks the backdoor –, finds Tina, still in her wardrobe at noon with her head in the fridge, pulls her out of it, and hugs the shit out of her.

The woman doesn't miss a beat. She hugs him right back, almost as tightly, too, like a damn machine as ready to hug as she is to kill.

“Won the lottery or something?” she asks, her voice so nonchalant, compared to the warmth of her embrace.

“Nah,” Dean chuckles. “My brother's support.”

“Pity. You gonna cook, or what?”

Dean releases Tina and holds her at arm's length.

“What are you in the mood for ?” he asks her solemnly.

“Honestly? Shawarmas sound downright orgasmic.”

Dean plants a big kiss on her cheek.

“Shawarmas it is!” he declares.

“Fuck yeah!” Tina cheers.

A muffled sound suddenly draws their attention to the stairs, on the bottom of which a very disoriented and disheveled angel is standing, wide eyed, shaving cream still covering a third of his face.

“Why are you shouting?” he asks, half angry, half relieved. “I thought someone was getting murdered.”

“SHAWARMAS!” Tina screams like a banshee.

Cas barely dodges the vase she hurls to his head in shawarma-hysteria and throws his hands in the air in a what-the-fuck gesture.

Dean is bent over with laughter.

It's all going to be okay, a new, unfamiliar, but soft and warm voice in the ex-hunter's head promises him.

The void instantly welcomes it with a Hi. I hate you.

And of course, that makes Dean want to hear what the newbie's got to say.

Chapter Text

Dean's first night alone in Cas' room goes as expected.

He can't fucking sleep.

He's grown used to falling asleep in the angel's arms. For some reason, in the past ten days, since they left the bunker for their cathartic little holidays at Cheney State Park, Dean's nightmares have made themselves very scarce, if not absent. He only woke up sweating and shaking twice, and Cas was always there to soothe him back to sleep.

But Cas left for Missouri yesterday with a couple more hunters to take care of a haunted mansion supposedly housing a dozen ghosts, and Dean can't help being nervous.

It just all feels so new, so unusual. Him, staying at what they call “home” until they find their own, anxiously waiting for Cas' promised daily phone call. He shouldn't act like a worried housewife, the man is an angel, for Chuck's sake, he even became God for a while, and when he called him earlier tonight, everything seemed to go as planned.

What if something goes wrong?

What if it's worse than a ghost-infested mansion?

What if the other hunters are shit at it and get him hurt?

What if he calls me for help and I find him too late?

What am I gonna do, if he doesn't come back?

Yeah, that kind of thoughts sure helps to fall asleep.

Cas' departure was horrible.

It wasn't like when he visited Dean and Sam at the bunker, told them about his latest hunt, and fucked off after a couple of hours. Dean felt a tinge of jealousy, back then, because he couldn't do his job like Cas could, now, but he also resented himself for caring that much about a man that was supposed to be nothing more than his best friend.

So he played it off, told himself he didn't care that much, and that worked just fine for Old Dean.

But New Dean…

Oh, man.

New Dean felt like Cas was leaving with his heart in his duffel bag. Tina got so tired of watching them lick each other's face and exchange promises on her porch she closed the front door, pushed a desk against it so would stay shut – because Dean still hasn't replaced the lock –, and when Cas' partners finally picked him up, the ex-hunter had to climb back into the house through the window.

Dean turns and keeps tangling himself in the sheets. He's just about to switch the lights on and grab a book from Cas' shelf when he hears a very faint sound coming from downstairs.

A metallic, clicking sound.

Dean's instincts kick back into gear faster than lightning. He jumps out of bed, walks quietly to the bedroom door and presses his ear to it.

Cas told him he applied every protection he could think of to the house – salt, devil trap, angelic guarding, you name it – and Dean's life-long paranoia had him lock every window and every door since he decided to stay here, so it's pretty much everything-proof.

Maybe it's Tina's infamous nude late-night munchies?

She walks like a hungry triceratops, though, so if she got up for a midnight snack, she wouldn't be exactly discreet.

For about twenty seconds, Dean doesn't hear anything that could indicate someone got inside the house and starts to think he didn't feel himself fall asleep and dreamed it, but there it is.

Soft, barely audible footsteps.

Dean Winchester may be newly retired, but that doesn't mean he forgot what made him the legend he is today.

Solo. Male. Six feet tall. Two hundred pounds. Trained.

Knows what he's doing, so probably armed.

Quiet as a mouse, Dean tiptoes to his duffel bag he left open next to Cas' desk and pulls a gun out of it. He had to fight him for it when the angel told him he'd give them back to him after his complete remission, and tonight, he's glad he didn't let it go.

Dean's naked feet render him completely silent.

His night-accustomed eyes and stable hands, undeniably deadly.

The ex-hunter is barely breathing while he creeps down the stairs. Peaceful, the first floor seems empty, but now Dean can hear someone walk slowly through the living room.

So he doesn't waste any time.

He crosses the corridor, enters the living room, localizes the man, luckily facing the opposite direction, walks up to him, points his gun to the back of his neck, cocks it and watches the intruder freeze and tense up in the dark.

“Drop it.”

The man hesitates, hand clutched around his weapon.

“My finger's already on the trigger,” Dean tells him coolly. “You didn't hear me coming, so take my advice: don't try your luck if you don't have the talent.”

The man drops his gun on the carpet with a loud thud.

“That's it. Now take a chair in the kitchen, put your hands behind it's back and sit down.”

Damn.

Feels good to be obeyed.

Dean grabs a few of Tina's ugly knitted placemats and ties the intruder's wrists and ankles to the chair with them. He shouldn't be proud of how easy it is for him to it in the dark, but he doesn't have a lot of things to be proud of, so fuck it, he's amazing at it.

Now that the man is strapped up, Dean can switch on the light. Both men blink a few times until their eyes get accustomed to the change.

“Dean fucking Winchester?!” the man exclaims.

If it wasn't for the thick Kentucky accent, he could be related to Arthur Ketch, or as Dean likes to call him, “low-cost Christian Bale”. That Christian Bale, though, looks like he followed a Wendigo down its hole and only got out yesterday. He's grimy, wearing too many torn-up clothes, and who knows what's hiding in that beard of his? Certainly not him.

The intruder is looking up to Dean with wide, bloodshot eyes as if waiting for him to confirm his identity.

“Uh, yeah?”

“Oh FUCK!”

Dean has to get a hold of himself, he can't just stand there and look confused while the man stares at him in disbelief.

“Damn right, 'oh fuck',” Dean scoffs, gun still in hand while he takes a chair and sits on it Cool Teacher style – fuck my knees. “You're a hunter, right? So, what are you doing here, man ?”

“Yeah, I'm a hunter! What are you doing at Castiel's place?!”

“Stop shouting, there's a sleeping lady, upstairs.”

“Sorry.”

“What's your name?” Dean asks him.

“Elijah Callahan.”

“Why are you in another hunter's home with a gun in your hand, Elijah?”

He sounds so much like a school director about to chastise an unruly quarterback, and the intruder looks like so much less of a threat, tied up on his chair and starstruck, it's almost funny.

“Just… as a precaution.”

“Precaution against what?”

Elijah twitches on his seat, uneasy, maybe even in pain, though Dean can't see any obvious injury.

He doesn't look so good.

“What are you here for, Elijah? Just tell me, man, I'm tired, and I don't like tying up my own people.”

The man doesn't answer, doesn't meet his eye, either.

That's one dusty conscience, right here.

Fine.

Dean sighs and rubs his face.

“Front door's barricaded,” he mutters, “so you unlocked a window like a pro and know the ins and outs of the house, which means you've been watching the place for at least a couple of days. You're here for a reason, and I'm pretty sure that's not trying my banger shawarmas.”

“Fucking Winchesters–didn't recognize you, with your–”

Elijah's voice dies out.

Yeah. My face.

It's starting.

“You wanna tell me why you broke in here, or should I start with the fun part?” Dean groans.

Slipping back into the “bad cop” persona is so easy it's sending a chill down his spine.

He's that close to falling back into his old self. He knows how good easy things feel, and his life and his trip to Hell forged him into such a good interrogator that only one step forward would make him relapse.

He has to stay strong by staying soft, and not torture Elijah into explaining why he's in Cas' house with a gun.

It's tough.

He doesn't like anyone with a gun coming near Cas.

“Is Castiel your partner?” Elijah asks suddenly, frowning at the simple idea of it.

The color drain from Dean's face.

This is it.

That man is a hunter. Hunters, nowadays, work in groups, sometimes containing up to ten members. This way, accidents get rarer and rarer, and rivalry between hunters becomes such a danger, if it gets in the middle of a job, that it's very poorly looked upon.

That means that Elijah has worked with and knows a lot of other hunters, which means that this is the moment Dean's new, out personal life enters the hunter world.

“Yeah, Cas is my partner,” he tries to say without sounding too terrified.

Elijah shoots him a puzzled look.

“Haven't seen you hunt in a while, even with your brother. Why take a new partner and not tell anybody?”

Oh.

Oh, he meant a professional partner.

Shit.

Whatever. Dean's coming out anyway, he made a pact with himself, so he might as well have fun with it.

He rolls his eyes and sounds as obnoxious as he can when he says :

Life partner, you moron.”

Elijah doesn't get it for a couple more seconds, until he does.

“Oh, okay.”

And that's it.

That was anti-climatic.

“Did your boyfriend tell you about the time I saved his ass from a vampire, then?” Elijah asks.

“He mentioned that someone saved him from turning into one about six months ago, yeah. Was it you?”

“Yeah, yeah, that was me,” the hunter chuckles, bitterly, though.

Dean frowns but brushes it off. The man clearly isn't at the top of his sanity, right now, he knows how it is.

“Well, thanks, Elijah. It's a tough process, but Cas is still Cas, so good job.”

“Didn't tell you how he got my buddy Francis killed, though, did he?”

Dean didn't like that conversation all that much.

Now, he's really starting to hate it.

It must show on his face because Elijah laughs an ugly, sour laugh and shakes his head.

“Francis and I had been closing in on a moving vampire nest. We knew where they were, how many they were, when we should go in, how much time it would take, and that we would need one more hunter so all the others who told us they would excommunicate us if we kept making decisions on our own would shut their big fucking mouth.”

“Just one more hunter?” Dean says with an arched brow. “Isn't three against a nest a little short?”

Sure isn't the first time he's been told that, because Elijah's shoulders roll, his jaws tighten and he has to look away in anger.

“Hunters, these days,” he mumbles. “Fucking pussies. Together, Francis and I cleared half a dozen of 'em before hitting thirty.”

There was a time when Dean would have agreed with Elijah, but he's not that young anymore – not that proud, either. He's glad that hunters from every state have joined forces and started working together. It all began this year, shortly after Mary's death. Maybe that was the catalyst, Sam being a big influence in that initiative.

A funeral for a birth.

“People lover,” Dean called his brother like it was an insult.

“The correct word is philanthropist, Dean.” Sam sassed him.

A lot of things changed, in one year.

Sam's attitude isn't one of them.

“Hunters are getting smarter,” Dean argues. “A lot of us died because they were outnumbered.”

“That's not the point!” Elijah bites out. “The point is, we asked around for a third hunter because we had to, and Castiel answered the call, and Francis and I thought 'Hey! A fallen angel with a little juice left in him, that's perfect'! So the three of us went in the nest, and nothing was fucking perfect, man, everything went to shit, Castiel was supposed to back us up but he let a vamp' get a hold of Francis and drag him away by the fucking bowels, and he got bit, and I took care of him because I'm not a monster, and that's why I'm here, you asshole, I'm here to ruin that angel's life because he ruined mine! I'm here to hide hex bags in his house so they can drive him madder than me!”

Dean watches Elijah finally stop to catch his breath. He's crying, heaving, sweating, foaming at the mouth. He confessed, but it visibly doesn't make him feel better.

Dean is torn between anger and sympathy.

He doesn't know how badly Cas fucked up, or if he even did, and maybe the angel made a mistake, but every hunter makes one eventually, and trying to tear down a vampire nest with only three people can sometimes be near suicide – Dean should know, he's been part of that kind of hunts before.

Plus, Cas is his man, now.

Even before their relationship evolved in what it is today, he was biased.

So, one hand on his mouth and his chin settled on his forearm, Dean waits for Elijah to calm down, and starts taking measures.

“Where are the hex bags?” he asks quietly.

“In my pockets,” Elijah sniffs.

Dean gets up, pulls four purple bags out of the hunter's jacket, shoves them back in.

“Did you make 'em yourself?”

“N–no, I spared a witch so she would make them for me.”

“You'll have to give me her location and destroy these.”

“Are you gonna kill her?”

“Yeah.”

“O–okay. Are you… are you gonna kill me, too?”

Dean bends over to grab Elijah's gun that he left on the carpet.

“Depends,” he tells him.

The hunter looks terrified.

Good, Dean thinks.

Because if he's afraid of him, it means he still wants to live.

He still has hope.

“Are you still going to seek revenge on Cas?”

Elijah shakes his head frantically.

“Okay, then I'm letting you go.”

Dean kneels behind the hunter's chair, unties him and watches him unfold himself slowly, like a man who can't believe his luck. He extends his hand, which Elijah shakes with a baffled look on his face, gives him a sad smile and says:

“I'm sorry about Francis, I really am. Send the witch's information to Sam, he'll have someone take care of her. Burn the hex bags. I hope that you'll never put yourself in situations like that again. I hope that you'll take better care of yourself, and I hope you'll never try to harm Cas ever again, because if you do, I'll have no other choice but to kill you myself.”

Elijah is younger, bigger, his body less broken, but at this moment, none of those advantages matter.

He knows who Dean is.

What he has done.

What he's capable of, even now.

That's enough for him to take the gun the ex-hunter's handing back to him, nod courtly, and exit the house the same way he broke in, through the window.

A couple of minutes go by before Dean walks to the fridge, opens it, grabs a beer, opens it with his teeth, gulps half of it and finally lets himself breathe.

Finally lets himself shake.

Finally lets a tear full of stress and restrain roll down his injured cheek, where it burns and catches on the stitches.

I have PTSD, Dean realizes abruptly.

He should be used to that fact, by now, but he only really gets it tonight.

Every inch of his body is screaming at him how all the pain, all the fear, all the violence it felt from the moment he heard the window open, is too damn much for him. He couldn't listen to that, not while his life, Elijah's and Cas' depended on how calm he stayed during their little negotiation, but now, now Dean feels, deep in his bones, how done he is with this life.

He wants to forget how easy it is for him to tie someone up, how many ways he can think of, at the top of his head, to extract information from an enemy. He wants to forget the memories that flash before his eyes every time a monster is mentioned, because he fought and killed members of every species.

Dean crashes on the couch, staring at nothing while his half-finished beer cools, leaving a wet spot on his pajamas, and his gun warms up in his hand.

He wants to forget the constant, throbbing ache saving lives and hunting things releases in his body, because the void feeds too well on it.

Why does everything in his life have to be so damn hard?

Dean looks down on his lap, where the gun is resting.

It's not the Colt, and there's no special bullet, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't work.

“Are you having an affair already?!”

Dean jumps on his feet, turns around, knocking his beer over, points his gun to the staircase and blinks.

Tina's there, sat on the first step like a child who's parents' arguing kept awake.

“Fucking… Tina! When did you get here?!”

“Like, ten minutes ago?”

“Why didn't you say anything?!”

“I don't know, you looked busy. I do enjoy a little sexual tension, but the gun's not that necessary, sweetie.”

Dean swears and lowers his weapon.

“How could you… How could you ever think this was me having an affair?!” he yells. “I strapped him to a chair and interrogated him!”

“That's exactly what made me think you were having an affair,” Tina replies, one eyebrow arched so high it has to be painful.

Dean sighs, picks up his now empty bottle and throws it in the trash.

“Why do I even bother… Don't blame me if you rug smells like beer.”

He tries to stride over Tina so he can climb up the stairs, but the landlady catches his hand.

The one still holding the gun.

And no matter how hard Dean fights to take his hand back, the woman's grip doesn't bulge.

“You either give me that or sleep right here with me on the stairs,” she tells him firmly.

There's something dangerous in her brown eyes. Something older than her body, something the ex-hunter doesn't want to wake up.

So he leaves the gun into Tina's custody, goes back to bed, shuts the light off, grabs his phone and presses a number.

“Hello, Dean.”

Stress instantly starts bleeding out of the ex-hunter's tired limbs.

“Hi, Cas. This a bad time to call?”

“No, not at all. Sheila and Josh are digging up a coffin, right now. I'm waiting for them in the car.”

“Good, good.”

The silence stretches out between them, but it's a comfortable one. Dean closes his eyes to enjoy it better and sighs deeply.

“Is everything okay, love?” Cas asks him.

So nice, so patient, so warm.

“I don't want to lie to you,” Dean tells him.

“Then don't.”

Old Dean would keep tonight's incident secret, because Cas doesn't have to know, not right now, not ever, really, since Elijah is not a threat anymore, but New Dean…

New Dean needs to talk.

So he does.

Cas listens to him, without interruption, not even when Dean confesses how ready he was to torture Elijah and how long he stared at his gun when it was over. He waits for him to find nothing else to say, and then he whispers, very closely to the phone like he wasn't alone anymore – maybe he isn't, and that would only make his words more powerful:

“Thank you for telling me. I'm so glad you're okay.”

And Dean breaks down crying.

Chapter Text

Dean starts awake and blindly pats the bed around him until he finds his ringing phone.

“M'hello?” he sputters.

“Hi Dean, it's Sam.”

The ex-hunter curls back under the cover, his phone balanced on his ear and arms folded against his chest like a young bird.

“Hiya, Sammy…” he yawns loudly.

“I didn't wake you, did I?” his brother sneers.

“Mmfh.”

“It's almost noon, dude. Get a hold of yourself.”

“'m tired.”

Sam falls silent for a few seconds until Dean realizes what his late sleeping can pass for. So he sighs and sits down in his bed, almost dropping his phone in the sea of blankets.

“I'm not… I'm sleeping in, but not depressed sleeping in–I mean, I'm okay, it's just that the house was broken into last night, so I had trouble falling asleep, and–”

What?!” Sam shouts in his ear.

Dean winces and rubs his eyes.

“I just woke up, man…”

“What do you mean, 'the house was broken into last night' ?!” Sam keeps yelling.

For fuck's sake.

“A hunter tried hiding hex bags that would drive Cas insane in the house. Cas's not home, right now, he–”

“He's on a hunt, yeah, I heard.”

“Big Brother's real, man. Did you bug Cas' place? Can you see what I'm doing, right now?”

Dean gives him the finger and points it in different directions in the bedroom. Sam sighs deeply.

“Are you flipping me off?” he groans.

Wait.

“I don't need cameras to know that, Dean. I've been putting up with you for my entire life.”

“You freak.”

“Shut up. Who was the hunter?”

Dean slowly gets up and waits for his articulations to pop before tucking the phone between his ear and shoulder so he can dig through his duffel bag, looking for clean clothes.

“Uuh… Elijah… Elijah Gallahan?”

“Wait a sec.”

Sam furiously types on his fucking built-in computer – never lets go of it, since he became a Hunter Godfather.

“Elijah Callahan?”

“Yeah, Callahan. What do you have on him, in your super-spy files?”

“I have… Wow. He's one strike away from excommunication.”

“There are strikes, now?” Dean huffs, holding a worn-out Led Zeppelin t-shirt and dumping it back in his bag.

“Three of his partners died in the last couple of years.”

The ex-hunter puts the phone on speaker and settles for a green t-shirt.

“Wow. That's some shitty luck.”

“It's not. His file says he's been reckless, unstable and known to become violent when other hunters crossed him.”

Dean buckles his belt, sits back down on the bed and takes the phone off speaker mode.

“You could say that about you and I, you know,” he reminds his brother.

He can hear Sam settle in his god-awful recliner and sigh like an old man.

One of these days, he's gonna call me an idjit, and there'll be not turning back.

“Hunting changed, Dean. If we were still in the job, we would've been excommunicated a long time ago. But that's not what matters, right now. The past is the past. The thing is, I have to call this in with the other handling hunters and exclude Callahan. He almost got Cas killed, a few months ago–”

“Yeah, but he also saved him from turning into a vampire,” Dean cuts him, not really sure why he's suddenly rooting for Elijah – maybe because he reminded him of himself, even just a little. “That's gotta count for something.”

“Cas told you, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Were you mad?”

“I was furious and fucking right to be!”

“Figured. Callahan may have saved Cas in the end, but he still led a three-men hunt in a five-men job. Almost didn't get out of it alive, and now no one wants to work with him anymore.”

Dean's hand tenses up on his phone.

“How many vamps were there?” he asks darkly.

“About twenty, I think.”

The ex-hunter gets up in anger and walks out of the bedroom, almost running down the stairs to fix himself something to drink and calm his nerves.

Yeah, he's not feeling like defending Elijah anymore.

“You gonna expel Callahan, Hermione?”

He can practically hear Sam's eyes roll in his head.

“He tried to harm another hunter by making a deal with a witch, of course, I'm gonna expel him. It was only a question of time, really, he was becoming more and more dangerous, especially since his buddy died.”

“Francis, yeah, he told me about him.”

Dean waves at Tina when he passes her to get to the kitchen, but she's so absorbed by her Wii tennis game she doesn't even notice him.

“So, what did you do to him ?” Sam asks. “When you found him and saw he was up to no good.”

“I tied him up and told him that if he tried anything ever again, I'd kill him.”

“That should work.”

“I also told him to give you the location of the witch that made him the hex bags and to burn the garbage.”

“Good. I'll have you know if he calls me.”

“Thanks.”

Dean opens the fridge and cracks a beer open, this time with an opener and not his teeth, like a civilized man, when something dawns on him.

He hasn't had that quality of conversation with Sam since Mary died.

Their mother's death didn't only break their hearts, it also broke a link between them, a link that years of conflicts, tension, and guilt already wore almost all the way through, and finally snapped when the living, flesh and blood proof of their affiliation went up in flames.

Funny, how easily they started joking around after Dean left the bunker.

Funny, how things and people keep miraculously being brought back to life, in the Winchester family.

“Hey, Dean?”

The ex-hunter leans on the kitchen counter and takes a swig of his beer.

“Yeah?”

Sam hesitates, but eventually says:

“How's your drinking?”

Dean can feel himself get fidgety by reflex. If he really was a big cat, the hair on his back would bristle. He starts turning the bottle in his hand and doesn't know what to tell his brother.

There goes their beautiful, brotherly bonding moment.

“How many beers are you on, right now?” Sam asks, kindly, calmly, but it just pisses Dean off.

“I'm doing just fine, thank you for asking,” he rumbles.

“Don't take it like that–”

“I'll take it the way I want to.”

“You can't blame me for worrying! Look what happens when I decide to stop worrying and trust you !”

Dean kicks the cupboard with his heel. It brings Tina's severe attention to him, but luckily, her tennis adversary is kicking her ass, so she doesn't have that much time to stare him down.

“Your liquor cabinet was almost completely empty when I opened it and I–” Sam keeps talking.

“Don't fucking go through my stuff!” Dean whispers angrily into his phone. “And why are you whining about alcohol, you gonna cry about it, you kale juice drinker–”

“Dean–”

“Don't Dean me–”

“Dean.”

This time, it's not Sam, who's calling him.

Dean's eyes shoot up and meet blue.

Eternal sky.

Cas drops his bag on the kitchen table and makes a beeline for him. He slips an arm around his waist, pecks him on the lips, and Dean barely has the time to react before the angel smoothly takes the phone from his hand and holds it to his ear.

“Hi, Sam,” he greets the younger Winchester, not breaking eye contact with Dean.

They're standing close enough for the ex-hunter to be able to hear Sam's answer, his voice drained but pleased:

“Hey, Cas. You already home?”

“Yes, I just got back. Sheila and Josh are always a pleasure to work with, everything went well and we were able to leave early. How are you?”

Everything in Cas' appearance, body language, eyes, and voice are calming Dean down. From his relaxed and tired face to the warm line of his arm around his back, from the way he's holding the phone so Dean doesn't feel left out to how happy he looks to be back to him, everything is perfectly balanced so the ex-hunter can feel his anger deflate, replaced by overwhelming relief.

He's back.

I'm not alone.

“I'm good, man. My people are okay, so am I. How are you handling the kid?”

“He's very good,” Cas says, smiling to Dean, so fucking beautiful the older Winchester can't help but let his head roll on his shoulder, slowly becoming more and more of a noodle in the angel's presence. “I'm happy to be home.”

“Speaking of home, I was actually calling for a reason.”

Cas starts scratching the nape of Dean's neck. Oh fuck, he's gonna melt in a puddle.

“I asked around for a house or a farm, and a hunter got back to me this morning.”

Dean's head shoots up, almost knocking against Cas' jaw.

“That was fast,” they both exclaim.

“So, get this.”

Ex-hunter and angel both roll their eyes.

Is Sam ever going to get tired of saying that?

“Her name is Camille, she's a French-Canadian hunter and she has family all across the US. One of her uncles died last month and left her a little mixed farm, not too far from Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

“That's what, a five-hour drive from Lebanon?” Dean estimates.

“That's about right, yeah.”

“Nothing further from you ?” he teases.

Cas shoots him a scandalized look.

“Unfortunately, no,” Sam fakes sighing.

“Bummer. What's a mixed farm?” Dean asks.

“It's a farm with crops and animals. Camille's a very active hunter and she can't take care of it, but she can't bring herself to sell it or the animals either.”

Dean and Cas a starting to get more and more excited, though they're both trying to keep it down so they won't be too disappointed if something doesn't work out.

In the living room, Tina's golf computer-generated adversary is having the worst day of his life. The landlady is cackling at it like the crazy chicken she is, completely oblivious to what's happening in the kitchen.

“How big is the land?” Dean asks.

“About three hundred acres, but Camille's uncle lived alone and at the end of his life, he sold most of it to another farmer and lived off the products of his garden. He thought giving the farm to his niece would give her a roof when she comes in the US to visit the rest of the family, but he didn't know she was a hunter, so Camille's trying to get rid of it, the sooner the better.”

“What about the animals?” Cas says, a little anxiously, and he's right to be because neither him or Dean know the first thing about animal husbandry. “How many are there?”

“Let me check.”

They hear papers ruffling, something fall, Sam swear.

“Eighteen chickens, two cows, three dogs, and one old horse named Bobby.”

The three men smile.

Dean exhales slowly, like Cas taught him. The angel's hand curls on his hip.

It just seems too perfect.

When did their lives take such a good turn?

“What about the house?” Cas asks Sam, because he knows Dean can't exactly talk and keep his dignity intact, right now.

“It's not very fresh and well kept, but Camille told me it had a large living room and three bedrooms. That way, you could host me when I come and visit.”

“In your dreams,” Dean mutters. They all laugh. The brothers' fight seems so long ago, already.

“How much does Camille want for it?”

“She wants you to renovate the house, take care of the garden and the animals, and have a bed waiting for her when she passes through and needs a rest between hunts. Other than that, she's asking for nothing. She told me that if you decided to take it, you'd be doing her a favor.”

Dean looks at Cas and they smile, joy and fear bubbling in both their hearts, because of course, they're terrified: they're going to live on a farm, together, as a couple, and they have no idea how to take care of the animals they're going to be responsible for, nor do they know how to tend a garden, but they're looking into each other's eyes, and they know, they just know, deep in their bones, that it's exactly what they're going to do.

Live on a farm as a gay couple, take care of eighteen chickens, two cows, three dogs, a horse named Bobby, tend a garden, add a few beehives, a garage for Baby, and do whatever they fucking please.

“Don't tell me you're making out,” Sam whines on the other end of the phone.

Dean and Cas grin, unbothered by Tina yelling atrocities to the invincible Wii boxer.

“Sam, you are amazing,” the angel tells him.

“How do you like my social voodoo, Dean?” Sam laughs.

“I fucking love it, Sammy.”

“Do you want me to tell Camille you're taking her offer?”

Please.” Dean and Cas beg him at the same time.

“I'll give her a call and arrange a meeting and a visit. Deal?”

“Sam?”

“Yeah?”

Dean breathes in, breathes out, and tries to keep his voice from shaking when he says :

“You're giving me a new shot at life, little brother. I love you for that. Thank you.”

A heavy silence settles for a solid ten seconds. Ten necessary seconds for Sam to be able to reply without sounding too choked up.

“I owe it to you, man. I love you too. Bye, you two. Talk to you soon.”

Then he hangs up, and Dean and Cas look at each other.

“I'm so scared we might fuck up,” the ex-hunter confesses, a huge, uncontrollable smile on his face.

“Me too!” the angel chuckles with the same frantic energy.

“Let's fuck up together?”

God, yes.”

What if this is it? Dean thinks in the middle of a bone-crushing, soul-lifting hug with Cas that leaves him breathless and craving for the angel's lips.

“Who's fucking what up?” Tina shouts from the couch where she's resting after her crushing defeat against the boxing man.

Cas licks Dean's mouth open, and everything is warm and sweet.

“I want to fuck up too!” the landlady whines like a six years old throwing a tantrum.

What if this is the day I start being happy?

It is, the new, kind voice inside his head tells him. You're already walking this path.

Everything is going to go to shit, the void says, but Dean imagines an old house with a garden and dogs running around, Cas coming home from a hunt happy to find him there, always there, and the kind voice is right.

He's already walking this path. 

Chapter Text

“Cas?”

“Mmh?”

“I'm freaking out a tiny bit, right now.”

“What else is new.”

“Fuck you. I'm shaking.”

“You're not.”

“I am!”

“I'm literally holding you between my arms and legs.”

“You're comfy.”

“What are you freaking about, love.”

“Everything?”

“Perfect.”

“We're moving in together.”

“Yes.”

“In a farm.”

“Yes.

“Except with Sam, I've never lived with anyone longer than a year.”

“Me neither.”

“I've never renovated a house.”

“Me neither.”

“I'm not even sure my body will let me.”

“If you go see a physician who'll take care of you, I'm sure you will make a beautiful house.”

“Can't you take care of me ?”

“I'm already doing that, love, but without my Grace, I can't heal your knees.”

“You still have you Grace.”

“I'm not so sure about that.”

“It'll always be a part of you. You're still shining with it.”

“You say that because you love me.”

“I don't love you.”

“Sure.”

“I tolerate you.”

“Mmh. Quit touching your face, you're gonna get it inflamed.”

“It feels weird since you took the stitches out.”

“Aren't you used to getting stitches in and out, you big baby?”

“Not that many, and not on the fucking face!”

“Shhh. Tina's sleeping.”

“Tina is not sleeping. I heard her get out of her room ten minutes ago. She's been opening kitchen drawers and I'm dying for a beer, but I'm too scared to go downstairs and get scarred for life.”

“Already are.”

“Dude. Too soon.”

“Sorry.”

“Kiss me, you asshole.”

“Better?”

“It'll do, for now.

“Are you ever going to fall asleep? I've been playing with your hair for an hour and we have to leave early tomorrow.”

“Don't tell me that, I keep thinking about it and imagining it going horribly wrong.”

“What could go wrong?”

“We could get lost on the way. We could miss Camille's very short window of time to meet us. We could get there and Sam could tell us she was killed in her latest hunt. She could be a homophobic douchebag and cut the deal off. Maybe the farm is in ruins. Maybe the house is a lost cause. And what if… Don't laugh at me, but what if the dogs don't like me, Cas? I said don't laugh at me!”

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry… I doubt very much that any of that is going to happen.”

“Why am I anxious for two, then?”

“I am anxious. I'm just so comfortable and warm, right now, that I very well might fall asleep before you.”

“Oh, I'm sorry, is me pouring my heart out boring you?

“Never. It's just post-orgasmic bliss, and it's entirely your fault.”

“I'll take the fall for this one. But, for real, what are you worried about?”

“I'm worried you might change your mind. I'm worried I might not be home often enough for it to work. I'm worried about what might happen when I'm away hunting and you're alone.”

“Haven't tried anything, when you left for the haunted mansion with Sheila and Josh.”

“And I'm so, so proud of you. But you have to know that I made Tina swear to keep an eye on you until I got back. She got a little distracted and started sending me weirdly convincing and official-looking reports–”

“You did not.”

“I love you. I don't want to lose you. I almost did, and I didn't like it very much, so I'm willing to get in Tina's debt to be able to function and think of something else than your wellbeing while I'm hunting.”

“You're making me sound like a burden.”

“A burden I couldn't be happier to carry with me everywhere I go, for the rest of my life.”

“Shut up.”

“I mean it.”

“I know you do, and it scares me.”

“Why?”

“Because I'm not sure I'm… deserving of your patience. Your love. Your time. Your life.”

“The very moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you were.”

“The very moment I laid eyes on you, I stabbed you in the chest.”

“Yeah, I remember that.”

“Why are we laughing about this? It's not funny, it's horrible! What the fuck is wrong with us?”

“Everything is, love. And if everything is wrong, then nothing is.”

“I'm too tired and stressed out to listen to your spiritual bullshit.”

“Since when are you so anxious ?”

“Always been like that. I just… shut up about it for my entire life.”

“Did I open Pandora's box by bullying you into talking to me? If so, I'm dying with regret.”

“Shut up.”

“I love hearing you talk, love. I wish you did more often, with other people, too, so the world could see how clever you are.”

“Sometimes I give myself the mirror pep talk from Taxi Driver in a Russian accent.”

“I'm being serious.”

“Me too. And who do you think would want to listen to me being clever, huh? Everyone I know is either dead or trying to kill me.”

“Only because you want it that way.”

“Oh, I want Charlie, Ben, Kevin, Mom dead, is that it? You're the best therapist ever, Cas.”

“You know what I meant. You're lonely because you want to.”

“Is that so.”

“Would you like to know what I think about that?”

“You're gonna tell me anyway, aren't you.”

“I think you've become so accustomed to seeing loved ones leave or die around you that your brain decided all by itself that it would stop trying to meet new people. Cut the chain, cut the pain.”

“And it even rhymes. Do we have to talk about that? 'cause I'm getting sleepy and tomorrow's gonna be one hell of a day and what you're saying is making me sad.”

“I'm sorry, love.”

“It's okay. You'll make up for it, I'm sure.”

“Gladly.”

“…Cas?”

“Yes, love.”

“How am I able to say shit like that, now?”

“Like what ?”

“Like 'I love you'. Like 'I want you to nail me to this bed tomorrow night'. I was straight not two weeks ago, for god's sake.”

“You really weren't.”

“Guess not. But how can I say such gay things when I've been so afraid of even thinking about it for my whole life?”

“I think humanity is like that. When something new rises up, at first, you're afraid of it, so you try to hide or destroy it. After that, if it persists, to get a grasp on it, just enough power over it to reassure yourselves, you name it, often an ugly name, so you can maybe one day shame it away. When you've accepted the fact that it is there and it's not going away, you get angry, violent, until you decide that you're tired and embrace it. You suddenly go from hate to adoration. You give it new names. You drink it, you bathe in it, you make love in it, you go from one extreme to another, and then, only then can you find balance, and move on. I think that's what you're going through, and I think that's why you're so surprised by it. You're working your way through that process so quickly it's dizzying.”

“So I'm just another regular-ass human, is that it? Isn't it boring, for you, to be with someone so… predictable?”

“You're the most interesting creature I've ever met.”

“Is that you trying to hide that you regret what you said?”

“No. That's me saying that you are the only human capable of surprising me, even though I feel like I know everything about you. I've watched humanity grow from a mere thought to a dominant species, and I still can say that you are extraordinary. You are impossible, and yet, falling asleep in my arms, trusting me with your life and your naked body. Never have I been bestowed a greater honor.”

“Cas?”

“Yes?”

“I wish saying 'I love you' could mean more.”

Chapter Text

Dean starts shaking when he sees the farm's homemade sign along a dirt road, probably the cutest sign ever made by a grown man, a wooden little rectangle with washed off colorful letters you have to squint to read:

'Noah's Orchard, population: 26, Welcome to Heaven on Earth!'. Do you think it's a reference to Noah's ark?” Cas thinks out loud. “That would be funny.”

“Hilarious,” Dean mutters.

The Impala's engine and the noise in his head are loud enough to cover the angel's sigh, but not his jaded remark :

“You look like you're on your way to murder someone.”

“Just might, if you keep talking,” Dean growls.

His hands and jaw are starting to ache. He's been clenching them so tightly from the moment he got behind the wheel that he's surprised he's not experiencing muscular cramps all over his body. Maybe he is, but he's too damn focused on not panicking and turning Baby around to notice much of what's happening under his skin.

Past the sign, the road is so bumpy Dean's wincing in sympathy for his car. He'll have to fix that potholes landmine if they take the farm and if I don't have a heart attack before we get there.

Not even Sam's cheesy eighties' could calm his nerves – nor could Cas' soft words and promises that everything is going to be just fine.

Because yesterday, the angel took the stitches out of Dean's face.

Because today, Sam is going to see the extent of the damage, and Dean's pretty sure he'd rather take on a pack of Hell Hounds without glasses dipped in holy fire than see his brother's face when his eyes fall on his bare wound for the first time.

“He's not going to freak out,” Cas assures him.

Dean drives a little faster.

“Stop reading my mind,” he says darkly.

“I can't do that anymore.”

“With me, you still can, and I don't like it.”

Except when we're in bed, he thinks, but right now he doesn't have the inner space to admit anything that could endanger his already failing emotional balance.

“Please slow down, you're going to damage your car–”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Cas stares at him for a few seconds, before opening his window and closing his eyes. The wind ruffles his hair and refills the oxygen in the Impala's suffocating air. Around them, fields and fields, a burning sun, not a cloud in the blue-grey sky. Noah's Orchard must be minutes away, and with each mile covered, Dean shakes a little more.

Then they see it.

A cluster of trees around a house, a tin-roofed barn, and a surprisingly large chicken coop. A little green island in the middle of a sea of burned-out fields, closed by a white picket fence that would look better around a suburban house but gives the farm a weirdly charming vibe.

So far, so good.

Parked outside of the fence, two cars : a 1965 off-white Camaro Dean has never seen, so it must be Camille's, and Sam's pickup truck he bought last year, an ugly green Chevy Avalanche he says can be useful for hunts and rescue missions, but Dean's pretty sure it's just a half-assed excuse for having horrible taste.

The ex-hunter parks alongside Camille's Camaro, cuts the engine off and listens to Baby's hood tick while it cools off. He just gathered the courage he needs to try and get out of the car when Cas grabs his wrist.

“If you decide to talk to me in that manner again, I will have to think about my own wellbeing and take a distance with you that I don't want to take,” he informs him, unwavering.

Dean is a hair away from breaking down and having a panic attack, but he's also very aware of the situation and the importance of Cas' words. So he sucks it up – that he knows how to do – and doesn't look away from the angel's stare.

They're bluer than the sky, today.

“I will not have any kind of abuse in this relationship,” Cas says solemnly.

“Sorry,” Dean murmurs, so weakly Cas probably had to read his lips to understand him. He clears his throat and rubs his nose before taking the angel's hand and kissing the back of it, eyes transfixed by the house in which Sam and Camille are probably waiting for them. “Won't happen again,” he whispers.

“I hope not.”

Then Cas takes Dean's face in his palm, pecks him on the mouth and opens the ex-hunter's door all in one fluid movement.

“Let's go in, tiger,” he smiles against his lips.

Dean doesn't let himself think about it twice. He steps out of the car, takes a deep breath, and starts walking.

Open the wobbly little gate without breaking it, check.

Resist walking right back to where he came from, check.

Tell himself, over and over again, that it's just one bad but short moment he has to go through to be able to move on and have a chance at a better life, check.

Not panic when a massive, sand-colored dog barges out of the house and runs right for him, barking his lungs out…

Shit.

Dean instinctively grabs Cas' hand, probably crushing it, but the angel intertwines their fingers and holds him just as tight, his shoulder against his keeping Dean upward like an anchor.

Luckily, the dog stops and seems to really entertain the idea of barking at them from ten feet away for the rest of the day.

Dean is so intent on staying calm that he can only blink in awe at the animal for a moment, desperately trying to wrap his mind around the situation so that he doesn't get overwhelmed.

The dog just looks so zealously protective over its farm.

Dean gets it.

He'd bark at anyone threatening his home, too, if he had one.

I'm rooting for a fucking dog, now. What happened to me.

“ANATOLE!” a woman shouts, shaking Dean out of his speechless, somehow groggy state of mind. “Come here, boy!”

And just like that, the dog turns away from the newcomers and sprints back to the front door of the house, in front of which a woman and a man are standing, shielded from the sun by the porch.

Dean is suddenly torn between jumping away from Cas, an old, ugly reflex he's a little disgusted at himself for having, and pressing closer to him, new, more appealing reflex. He doesn't like the idea of giving in to those knee-jerk urges, so instead, he stays rigid halfway to the house, eyes wide, face pale.

But Cas is here. He's always here, now, and the ex-hunter is allowed to need him, to need help, and to be given some.

The angel waves to Sam and Camille, pulling Dean a little until his legs unlock and they can walk the rest of the way to the house.

“Hey, you two!” the woman greets them gleefully, with a slight French accent. “I'm Camille, Noah's niece!”

She holds a hand out to shake Dean's, her brown, clever eyes not even diverting to take a better look at his wound, which is good, but the ex-hunter just can't do it. He can't let go of Cas hand, right now, and if he wasn't already white as a sheet, he would turn red with shame.

He's a kid again.

A kid that cannot for the life of him let go of the hand holding his.

But Cas is here. He's always here, and he shakes Camille's hand, smiles to her twice as warmly to make up for Dean's unresponsiveness, and replies, more casual that he's even been :

“Hi, Camille, I'm Castiel, this is Dean. It's a pleasure to meet you.”

“You too! I've heard so much about you, it's an honor.”

“Hi, Dean,” Sam says quietly.

The ex-hunter inhales through his nose, as if surprised, but he's actually terrified of meeting his brother's eyes.

“Hiya, Sammy,” he answers anyway, like a robot.

“I'mma hug you, okay?”

Dean can't suppress a big sigh.

“Okay,” he says, nothing coming out of his mouth.

Then Cas disappears. Big, long arms and a smell he could recognize from thousands wrap themselves around Dean, and he closes his eyes. Stress slowly bleeds out of him, shooed away by the familiarity of Sam's embrace.

“Hey, man,” the younger Winchester mumbles against him.

“Hey,” Dean finds the strength in him to smile.

Sam pulls out of the hug and holds his brother at arm's length to see him better. That's exactly what Dean was afraid he'd do, yeah, scrunching up his nose like the Sasquatch is currently doing is part of the not-to-do list, too, but Sam is smiling now–no, he's grinning, and, could it be? It's a shit-eating grin, one of his best in the last couple of years, even.

“You look like Darth Vader and Two-Face's love child.”

There's a heavy, awkward silence before Dean bursts out laughing, making everyone jump.

“You motherfucker!” he wheezes and hugs Sam again.

Cas was right.

Little shit is always right.

The Winchester brothers let go of each other for the second time, still chuckling. It's all so normal, so familiar, Dean feels like he just got a breath of fresh, mountain air.

Cas finds his hand again, which makes the situation even better. Camille's eyes follow the movement, but she hasn't made the dogs chase them out of the farm while yelling at them to burn in Hell for their sinful lives, so Dean's pretty sure she counts as an ally.

Camille is a petite, dark skinned and long, black haired twenty-something woman. She's surprisingly muscular, for a person of her height, and she's wearing the most badass Indiana Jones-meets-Ghost Rider outfit. If Dean was younger, single and hadn't got tired of the hole flirt-with-the-pretty-girl trope, he'd have given it a shot.

But Old Dean is a dying man, and Cas' hand in his is too damn strong to ever want to let go of.

“Would you like a tour of the property, my good sirs?” Camille asks with a grin, imitating a fancy British accent.

“We would love one,” Cas smiles.

“Let's go, then. Anatole, Steve, Bowie!”

Three dogs tumble out of the house in a fluffy, colorful and noisy storm. Anatole, the big scary dog that barked at Dean and Cas, seems perfectly okay with them, now, seeing as he slithers between their legs to run in the yard like they've always been a part of Noah's Orchard.

That's just what dogs, do, I guess.

“May I introduce you to Anatole,” Camille says, pointing to the sand-colored dog, very busy nibbling on his friend's ear. “He's the biggest Anatolian Shepherd I've ever seen. Uncle Noah wasn't that creative in naming his animals, so he just… named him Anatole.”

She then points at a tiny white dog, the one that's letting Anatole chew on its ear with such a solemn expression it looks like they have an arrangement about it.

“This is Bowie, she's a four years old Shitzu. She was born the same month David Bowie died. She's useless and ugly and I don't know why he ever took her in, but she's a cute little piece of shit when she wants to, and Anatole loves her and her ears to death, as you can see.”

Cas looks absolutely delighted about everything, which makes Dean smile and appreciate Camille's tour even better. Sam is hovering silently behind them. He probably got a tour of his own before they arrived, but he's grinning, too, so everything is okay.

Everything is okay.

Everything is okay.

Everything is okay.

The third dog has been running in circles around the house since Noah's niece let him out like a pull-back toy race car. He's so fast they only see a black and brown flash before it disappears behind the trees, coming out on the other side of the house seconds later.

“And this is Steve,” Camille sighs with her hands on her hips. “He needs his exercise. Uncle Noah loved Steve Irwin, too, so here you go. He's a seven years old Australian Cattle Dog, and I'm pretty sure he has ADHD. He's the best with the other animals, though, so it's okay. He's got the zoomies, right now, but he'll probably ask you for cuddles when he's worn out.”

Camille leads the three men to the barn, which is almost as big as the house, opens the wooden door and kicks the hay lying around on the floor with her big boots.

“This is Bobby,” she says with a huge grin, walking directly to a large stall. “He's the oldest resident in Noah's Orchard, I rode him when I was a kid.”

Dean's lips form an 'o' shape.

Bobby's beautiful.

A horse, in itself, is a beautiful creature, but Bobby is a tall, chestnut stock horse with a black mane and a white star between his eyes. His lips tremble comically, expecting a treat when Camille holds her hand out to pet him.

Dean smiles. He knows Cas is watching him, but he's used to it and he doesn't mind it anymore.

Fuck, he likes it.

“How old is he?” the ex-hunter asks Camille.

She grimaces and giggles while the horse drools all over her hand, trying to remember correctly.

“Twenty, I think?”

“Oh my god,” Sam whispers.

“What?” Camille frowns.

“He's asking you that to figure out if he can still ride Bobby and finally get to live his cowboy fantasy.”

“I'm not !” Dean immediately defends himself, but he's blushing, Cas is on the verge of bursting out laughing and Sam is pinching the bridge of his nose in immense disarray, because they know.

“Oh, you can still ride him!” Camille smiles. “You have to be careful, he's an old man, now, but if you don't exhaust him too much, he'll love getting a little exercise. Uncle Noah had a bad leg so he couldn't ride him at the end, but he's wonderful to work with, I can tell you that.”

Dean is beaming now. He can't even hide it, nor can he tear his eyes from the animal.

“You can pet him, you know?” Camille tells him. “Here, let me.”

She takes Dean's free hand, raises it to Bobby's wide nostrils, and when he's accustomed to the new smell, his breath hot on the ex-hunter's fingers, she slowly presses Dean's palm on his nose. It's soft, so soft and warm, and he knows it sounds ridiculous, but he thinks that Bobby's eyes look very kind.

“I'm gonna take care of you, you absolute beauty,” Dean whispers to the horse without realizing it.

The three people around him laugh.

It's a breathy, relieved laugh. Like they've been waiting for a sign from him, a sign that it's all going to work out. Cas hopes it will because he wants this life with him, he wants him to be happy, just like Sam wants him to. Camille hopes it'll work out because she wants this place and those animals she seems to love very much to survive and thrive after her uncle's death.

Maybe it's all going to work out, Dean thinks.

It can, the lovely, kind voice in his head murmurs. It will.

“Wanna meet the cows?” Camille says cheerfully.

“Let's meet the cows,” Sam approves.

The back of the barn is opened on a field. As they're walking towards it, Cas says, very close to Dean's ear :

“I'm buying you a cowboy hat.”

The ex-hunter isn't sure what makes him shiver. The promise in itself, or how it was said?

Who fucking cares, he's getting a cowboy hat.

“Here come Geraldine and Oui-oui !” Camille laughs, waving at two silhouettes in the far distance. “Oh, and Steve's escorting them, apparently.”

The Australian Cattle dog is running along with the two cows, barking all the way until they stop at the fence. Steve apparently worn himself down, because he's panting, his tongue is lolling out of his mouth and he sits down heavily, directly onto Sam' foot as if it was the comfiest seat in the world.

“O…kay?” the younger Winchester says, but he doesn't have the heart to disturb the tired dog.

“Steve likes sitting on people's feet,” Camille shrugs.

“Of course. Who doesn't?”

Dean and Cas are smiling uncontrollably at the two black and white cows that trotted their way to them. They're just too cute, with their big floppy ears, wet muzzles, long eyelashes, and curious eyes.

“The bigger one is Geraldine, she's Oui-oui's mom,” Camille introduces them. “When they get to know you, you'll be able to pet them. If you want them to produce milk, you can make them have babies. They love being sung to, they'll come running and listen to you for hours.”

“I'm confused,” Cas says, and he reminds Dean so much his former-self, all of a sudden, squinting at the cows with his head tilted on the side like he's never seen such creature before. “Why call a cow 'Yes-yes' in French ?”

Camille smiles, surprised but please.

“You speak French?”

“I speak every language, dead or living.”

“Oh right… almost forgot about the 'angel thing'. Oui-oui is the french name for the character Noddy, from the children books. I told my daughter she could name the new cattle, and she chose Oui-oui.”

“Don't go and talk badly about us in French, you two, okay?” Sam jokes.

“Don't give us a reason to, then,” Camille winks at him. “Let's go check on the chicken.”

The four of them pass before Bobby again. Sam carries Steve on his foot for a few steps until the dog finds it's not comfy anymore and decides to jog with them and keep them company. They exit the barn and go around the house, behind which is a two hundred feet square garden that they couldn't see from the road.

“Here's the pantry,” Camille says, inspecting the neat little rows to see what's growing. “That's tomatoes… basil… pumpkins… shit, what are courgettes called in English, again, Castiel?”

“Zucchinis,” Cas whispers, amazed eyes so full of luxurious green he almost didn't hear her question. “This garden is beautiful.”

“Yeah, Uncle Noah was green-thumbed,” Camille smiles a little sadly. “You know anything about gardening?”

“Not much, but I can learn.”

“Good, because I can't stay in here longer to water the plants and feed the dogs every day. My daughter and my hunts are waiting for me.”

“How old's your kid?” Dean asks.

He's almost completely relaxed now. Steve kind of helped by slamming his body against his leg and looking at him with expecting, miserable eyes until he started petting him. Dean hasn't let go of Cas' hand, not for a single second since his hug with Sam, and he's not even skittish about it anymore.

Yeah, he's holding a man's hand.

What of it?

“Emma is five,” Camille tells him while rounding the house and walking through the small, man-made forest, the three men and now three dogs in her trail. “She's at a friend's for as long as I have business in Noah's Orchard, but let me tell you, this month felt like a year.”

“Yeah, I get it.”

Cas shoots Dean a half surprised, half sad. With everything that happened in the last decade, they both almost forgot how he became Ben's father for a year, and they never really acknowledged how much he liked and how good he was at it.

Dean still misses Ben, sometimes.

But that part of him died a long time ago.

“How do you do it?” Dean questions Camille.

“Do what?”

“Hunt and raise your daughter at the same time?”

The woman shrugs and bends over to pass under a tree branch.

“I usually take her with me everywhere I go, and since Sam and the other Hunter Godfathers created the new hunter community, I have people all over the country that can keep an eye on her when I have to get away for a few days.”

Sam and Dean fell very quiet and very calm since she started telling them how she's balancing being a mom and a hunter. The younger Winchester didn't even flinch when she called him a Hunter Godfather.

Kids and hunting.

Always a topic of conversation that brings back memories.

“And how is it working for Emma?” Dean asks again, and Cas is looking at him funny because even he, as an angel, knows calling a parent's way of taking care of their kid into question is a Supreme Bad Move.

“It's working,” Camille answers.

Yeah. She's not that bubbly and upbeat anymore.

Sam is very silent, but Dean can almost hear him recommend he drops it, so he does. He's not here to talk about bad parenting, but he just couldn't help it.

How could he, when John's education and madness basically lead him to shoot himself in the face?

“Here's the chicken coop!” Camille says suddenly, a little too lightly.

“Uh… why does it look like a Chinese palace?” Sam asks.

It does. The chicken house is a visibly handmade miniature house painted in red and black with a tiled roof, clearly inspired by traditional architecture.

It's cute as fuck.

“What can I say?” Camille shrugs again. “Uncle Noah loved his chickens.”

“Uncle Noah was crazy.”

Camille turns to Dean with a 'what did you just say?' look on her face.

“It's not a bad thing,” the ex-hunter rectifies quickly. “I like crazy.”

“I sure hope so,” Cas sighs.

The nineteen chickens are running around in their enclosure in a carefree, colorful dance. Black, white, red, orange, yellow, brown, there's a hole rainbow of them.

“What are they named?” Cas wonders.

“I wish you didn't ask that,” Camille winces. “I'm gonna be very honest about it, this is far too many chickens for me to remember their names and Uncle Noah didn't write them down anywhere, so you can choose new ones. Go wild.”

“Don't say that,” Sam warns her, “Dean is the worst at naming things.”

“What, Jefferson Starships and Bobby-John aren't cool enough for you?” his brother jokingly provokes him.

“That's exactly what I'm talking about.”

“Anyway!” Cas intervenes, addressing himself to Camille. “What about the house?”

Noah's niece smiles wickedly.

“You're gonna love the house,” she growls, almost striding toward the house, closely followed by the dogs.

And they do.

Dean and Cas love the house.

So much work needs to be done in it, but they love it.

From the door, they enter in a large, square and cream-tiled living room. Everything is white, inside, as if Uncle Noah tried to make it look like an expensive and modern house, but in a farm with three dogs allowed inside, it was bound to fail – in the cutest way, though. The white couch is covered with paw prints, every piece of furniture has chew marks on it, every door has been scratched in the hope it would open.

But still, the house is beautiful. The living room is well-lit, the kitchen is open and big, the three bedrooms, once emptied from all the mess that has been cumulated over the years, will be perfect, and the bathroom is equipped with a bathtub.

Everything is dirty, Uncle Noah clearly wasn't a cleaning freak.

But the house is beautiful.

There's so much work, Dean and Cas think as their eyes meet.

But the house will be so beautiful.

“So…” Camille says, and she sounds anxious. “What's your verdict?”

“Remember that I can help,” Sam chimes in, a little worried, too. “I can call a few friends, too, if you need a hand in–”

“We're taking it,” Dean cuts him.

Everyone is looking at him. The dogs, too, as if they knew exactly what is going on even though tumbleweed is probably the only thing going through their mind, right now.

“If you don't mind me thrashing the place, I'll be glad to take care of Noah's Orchard,” he tells Camille.

The woman's brown eyes are shining.

“I have a few conditions,” she says.

“Anything,” Cas immediately grants her.

“If you kill any of Uncle Noah's animals, you're out. If you cut any of the trees he's planted himself, you're out. If you treat anyone here badly, you're out. If you let the garden die, you're out. If you don't let me visit from time to time to rest, sometimes even with my daughter, we'll have a problem. I ask for nothing more, nothing less. Deal?”

Dean and Cas look at each other. They can almost hear Sam hold his breath. Anatole starts liking Bowie's ears again. Steve jumps on the disgusting couch and immediately falls asleep. In the distance, Bobby neighs and Geraldine moos back to him.

“Can we install a few beehives?” the angel finally asks.

Chapter Text

By the time the sun starts to set on Noah's Orchard, Sam hugged his brother one last time and drove back to the bunker, Camille has packed her things to go back to her daughter as fast as she can and gave them every instruction she could think of, along with the keys.

Dean and Cas are sitting next to each other on a step of the front porch. The three dogs gathered around them as if to keep them warm, but they're really just cuddling the shit out of them in a big, panting, fluffy pile. Even the big Anatole doesn't scare anyone anymore.

This is surreal.

Dean and Cas are staring at the dirt road since Sam and Camille left. They need time to come down of that weird, newness high.

The birds living in Noah's little forest stop singing one after another, the chickens are all snuggly packed in their luxurious Chinese coop, the highway is so far they can't hear any cars, Anatole is passionately licking Bowie's ears and Steve settled his snoring snout on Dean's lap.

The ex-hunter feels exhausted but calm and… unbothered. Unbothered by the anxiety of not knowing where he's going, unbothered by the slowly disappearing pain in his face, unbothered by the fact that he still doesn't know who and what he is. When Anatole's tongue slips off from Bowie's ear and gives his wrist an accidental lick, he doesn't even flinch.

He feels twice as peaceful as when Cas took him to the Grace Pond, back in Cheney State Park.

You made the right choice, the kind voice says.

You know what? I think we did, Dean thinks.

You're going to fuck up everything good in this place, the void tries to argue, but Cas' shoulder is warm against the ex-hunter's, and the first stars are simmering in the sky, and Noah's Orchard's keys are warm in his hand.

“I don't want to go back to Tina's,” Dean whispers, the first words he spoke in the last half-hour.

Cas sighs beside him, fingers lost in Anatole's fur.

“Me neither,” he smiles.

“We could get our stuff tomorrow. Spend the night here.”

“Yeah.”

“Wanna crash in the first bed we find?”

“Yeah.”

Cas gets up, cautiously untangling himself from the dogs and careful not to step on any paws, and helps Dean up. The ex-hunter's knees make him wince in pain, but now Cas is holding him against the opened door's frame, hands warm on his waist, eyes roaming his face.

Tu es beau comme le jour,” he murmurs without so much as a slight accent.

Dean lets his head fall on his chest.

“I knew you'd speak French eventually,” he chuckles. “What does it mean, showoff?”

Cas threads his fingers through Dean's hair and watches him melt against the door frame.

“'You're beautiful like the day',” he translates.

Now is really not a good time to cry.

Dean's supposed to be happy, to let himself fall into the bliss of finally having a home he chose, not want to bawl because he's not sure he's that beautiful anymore, and he misses that feeble, superficial but reassuring fact about him, and he's tired, and Cas looks so honest when he tells him that, and everything is so quiet around him that the noises in his head sound even louder, and he just wants to feel good a little longer.

“Oh, my love…” Cas whispers when the first tear rolls down Dean's cheek.

Enough of that.

Dean crashes their mouths together and immediately seeks the hot, slick sensation of Cas's tongue against his.

Soon enough, their bodies press closer, attracted to one another like the most powerful magnets in the world. Soon enough, Cas' embrace is strong enough for the door frame to dig into Dean's spine, so the ex-hunter pushes himself off of it and guides the angel backward through the house, hands low, low on his back. He closes the door with a kick, shutting the dogs out, and doesn't stop before they both fall on the sunken white couch.

Dean straddles Cas' hips and thrusts down.

Heaven is in the angel's moan.

They start taking their clothes off. They don't stop when the dogs whine outside the house, they don't stop when Cas gets critically tangled in his own shirt, they laugh when Dean almost falls off while shimmying his pants off, but they don't stop until they form an unravelable knot of limbs.

Heaven is between the angel's arms.

Dean doesn't wait long before lowering himself down onto Cas' lap until he's flush against him, gasping for air, waiting for his body to adjust. Cas kisses his chest, his neck, his hands knead his tense muscles, his nails scratch his back, and he waits, too, he'd wait for a thousand years if he had to, until Dean starts moving.

Heaven is between the angel's legs.

Cas meets every thrust, every kiss, every desire. Dean gathers every shiver, every moan, every cry like a new piece of treasure. Their teeth clash messily. They breathe into each other's mouth and love the taste in the air when their tongues divide before meeting again.

Their bodies believe they're standing in a summer sun, because how else could they burn so hot, pant so hard, melt into one another that easily?

They are standing in the sun, it's the only logical explanation.

Carefully possessed man, slowly devoured angel.

Dean doesn't recall feeling that close to a lover before. Is it because Cas is inside him? Is it because of their “special bond”? Is that the difference it makes?

Fuck no.

The difference lies in how reluctant they are to pull back to crash back against each other because distance feels like falling and contact like touching the ground unharmed.

Heaven is in the angel's blown-out pupils.

And how easy, how natural it is for Dean to lose himself in them. How much trust and adoration he cannot deny finding in the sky of his eyes. How comfortable he is with not being able to hold back his moans. Why would he even try to, when every sweet sound he makes, Cas holds him tighter, pushes deeper, brings the both of them closer to the edge.

Heaven is the angel's calm.

In how slowly they move, how unhurried and close they are to sleep through it all.

Cas' breath stutters in Dean's mouth, his fingers dig into his thighs. The ex-hunter's legs are starting to shake, so he pushes down, down and swallows Cas' shout. Warmth spills inside him, between their stomachs, in their hearts, in their souls.

No more space, please.

No more space between us, we've had enough of it, we don't need it anymore.

Dean gently bites on Cas' kiss bruised bottom lip. With his hands, the angel caresses the clammy curve of his back like a blind man reading a message God would have enshrined in a mortal's spine, only meant for him to follow with the pads of his fingers.

“I love you,” Cas hums against Dean's sternum.

The ex-hunter hesitates, just a fraction of a second. He could hate himself for it, but instead, he recognizes it as what it is: the last desperate attempt to survive of Old Dean Winchester, right before falling into oblivion.

It's cute, New Dean thinks.

He bends over Cas, kisses his damp temple.

“I worship you,” he grins, lips tingling the angel's skin.

Even though they're minutes away from falling asleep, they don't want to untangle themselves, not yet, not ever.

Moving in together was a thought that scared Dean every single time he remembered it was the plan. Now, though, he knows it's not accurate.

They're not going to move in together in Noah's Orchard.

They're going to share each other. Wake up in the same bed, cook, work, laugh, cry, heal and fight together.

Everything is going to be okay.

The fragile red string around Dean's ankle became a rope, because he's not alone anymore. Cas is here, always here, and Sam, too, and Camille is going to be a part of their lives, now, and all the wonderful animals in the farm are only waiting for them to give them the love they deserve.

Everything is going to be okay.

The void is screaming in anger, deep in Dean's head, but he can't make out the words.

His lost little iceberg is floating in the calmest, warmest waters it has seen in a long, long time.

If it stays in those waters, it's going to melt.

Good.

“Heaven is you,” Dean whispers against Cas' lips.

Everything is going to be okay, the kind voice is delighted to repeat, again, again, again.

Dean Winchester is exactly where he's supposed to be: a thousand miles away from who he was two weeks ago.

And nothing has ever tasted better.

Chapter Text

The very first day of Dean's new life in Noah's orchard, his body shut down.

He woke up wrapped in Cas' arms on the couch and everything felt… blank.

The dogs sniffing and whining at the bottom of the door, he couldn't even think about letting them in.

Blank.

Cas' gravelly voice that greeted him in their new home when he noticed Dean was awake, didn't do anything to his insides like it usually does.

Blank.

The careful happiness that bubbled in his veins every time he remembered where he was, the day before, gone.

Blank.

When he tried to get up, because that's what people do, at one point in the morning, he couldn't. His body felt like there was nothing he could do to lift it up.

Blank.

At first, through that thick, alien haze, he thought something went wrong in the night and panicked. Maybe he had a stroke, maybe one of his organs finally failed, maybe that, now that he told himself he could relax, his body, so used to stress he's not sure it can still comprehend the true meaning of the word “relax”, just gave up on him.

Cas got scared too, eventually. After laughing at Dean's immobility, trying to have him get up by pulling on his arm, asking what was wrong and getting a little worked up about it.

Dean could barely talk, his lips so heavy they almost decided to stay shut and silence him when he said :

“Whiplash.”

And that was exactly it.

He would have been impressed at himself for pinpointing exactly why he simply couldn't get up from the couch on his own if he could think clearly enough to even feel proud.

Whiplash.

Two weeks ago, give or take, he shot himself in the head, scarring himself in the process, dived in Cheney Reservoir, realized he tried to become his father for his whole life, kissed Cas for the first time, told Sam about his suicide attempts and moved out of the bunker on the same day, lived in a crazy woman's house for a week, made love with a man, tied a rabid hunter to a chair and decided not to torture him and to let him go despite the fact that he made a deal with a witch and tried to make his angel go mad, he argued and made up with Sam, found a farm, decided to move in with Cas, and now he's in charge of two dozens of animals he knows nothing about except their name – not the chickens', though.

But that's not all.

Now that it's over, everything crashes down on him.

Everything from the very start.

The fire in his house when he was four that turned his life around and put him on the highway to Hell. The traveling all across the country with John and Sam. His father's slowly fading sanity, his fits of violence Dean tried to forget because he loved him because a father should be his children's hero. The starving when John didn't come home soon enough. Raising Sam before raising himself. The lying. Lying, lying, lying, about everything, about Adam. The fear, of everything, everyone, all the time, because don't let your guard down son, that's how you get killed. The women he loved and didn't love, the booze, the gore, the blurry line on the ground he kept crossing and never seemed to realize that it didn't. Fucking. Exist.

The deaths. His own, his family's, his friends', the people he failed to save, the monsters', the angels' and archangels'.

How could so much death fit in insignificant, small, human Dean Winchester, to a point that even Death herself grew tired of it?

How could he survive through it, Dean doesn't know. But he didn't, did he? He died, again and again. Was brought back, again and again.

He went to Hell. Learned to hurt someone so no one hurt him.

Lost himself.

He went to Purgatory. Like just another monster in those cursed lands.

Lost Cas.

Once more.

He lost Cas so many times, and now the angel is crouching beside him on the couch, worried to death as to why Dean can't fucking pick his naked ass up from the couch.

How could this happen?

Everything.

He lost so much.

He lost Mary, too. She was taken from him, given back, taken again.

Lost his identity – never had it in the first place.

Dean has walked this Earth for forty-one years.

Forty-one years is nothing.

Why does he feel so old, then?

He spent four decades in Hell. How many apocalypses has he stopped? How many lives has he saved? How many lives has he taken?

How many lives had he lived, and how did he not crumble in pieces before?

Because he had to stay in the game. He never stopped. He never stopped running, even when he was lying on his bed, eating pizza and watching bad horror movies, even with Lisa and Ben, even after he retired, even at the lilliput cabin, when his brain was so shaken by the Colt's blast it slowly started reconnecting with itself.

He stayed so long on the brink that he didn't even have the time to see his own face change and age.

While he hunted, saved the world and watched Sam become who he is today, he didn't see himself grow from a boy to a man.

He didn't even have time to become himself.

How fucking sad is that?

Now that all of this is behind him and not hanging over his head, Dean is tired. Every cell of him is. He feels like every hour of sleep he didn't take through his whole life is falling back on him all at once. Slept four hours, back then – when nightmares didn't wake him up. Almost felt proud of it, too.

On his first day in Noah's Orchard, Dean couldn't put his clothes back on, couldn't even raise his head from the couch's armrest, so he couldn't possibly start investing the farm, take care of the animals, clean the house, make a home of it all.

All he could do was lie there and blink when Cas opened the door, the dogs ran to him and started licking his hand.

So Cas took care of everything.

Once more, he was stronger.

But he's an angel, isn't he? He's supposed to be stronger, even if he's becoming human more and more every day.

Cas helped Dean settle more comfortably on the couch like a paraplegic man, put some clothes on him, and started working.

He followed every instruction and advice Camille gave him. Fed the dogs, the chickens, the horse, refilled the cow's basin, watered the garden. He kissed Dean's forehead, asked him if he needed anything, didn't get an answer, took the Impala and drove back to his old place.

Came back with their stuff, Tina and Sam.

Dean couldn't even bring himself to feel ashamed, nor could he argue about Cas driving his Baby.

Too damn tired.

Not even the two voices constantly at war in his head could talk. The void? Silent. The kind voice? Silent.

There was only exhaustion.

Sam sat beside him on the couch. He said something, maybe asked him a few questions, but Dean barely had the strength to look at him in the eye, so nothing pierced through the veil of his weariness. The corners of his mouth tried curling up in a reassuring grin, as if to say “Still here”. Sam smiled and pressed his shoulder – couldn't feel it. He looked sad, though he seemed to get it, somehow. Maybe he went through something like that at one point, in the rare times Dean wasn't there.

Then Sam got up and Tina sat in his place. She waved her hand in front of his eyes, called him Michelle Obama, among other less classy things, and even tried sticking a finger in one of his nostrils to make him react before Cas shooed her away.

Then, they went to work around Dean. Started filling trash bags, rearranging furniture, cleaning everything in a weird ballet Dean watched in slow motion.

This was supposed to be his task.

Taking care of this place, of everything. He's not supposed to be a burden anymore, but dear God, his body doesn't agree with him.

Dean starts to be able to move and walk on the second day. Sam and Tina clapped half-genuinely, half-mockingly when he got up from the couch. Dean could have been vexed by that, but they nailed it: they're truly happy he made it, but they made it funny so he wouldn't feel patronized.

They're good friends, he manages to thinks groggily through the pea soup fog in his head.

Cas kissed him on the lips with relief, right in front of Sam. Dean managed to kiss him back and raised a weak, weak middle finger to his brother when he made a gagging sound. They laughed.

Dean used the bathroom. Fell back on the couch. Slept for five hours straight. Woke up to Anatole licking the sole of his foot like the best ice cream he ever had. When the dog saw he was awake, he froze, tongue still on Dean's toes. The ex-hunter fell asleep again. Cas made him drink water and eat something he couldn't identify – no taste. At one point, Tina took a nap on the couch and she drooled over his pajama leg. He didn't – couldn't – move. Went back to sleep.

Dean slipped in and out of consciousness for the rest of the day and the next.

On the fourth day, he wakes up alone in the silent house. The wooden clock above the oven says it's nine in the morning. Dean stretches on the couch, pleased to see his muscles decided to obey him, today. Then, he gets up, sways on his legs, shuffles like a starving zombie to the kitchen, sits on a stool and eats a banana.

Dean Winchester, eating a banana, of his own, free will.

He's still tired and it's the only ripe thing of the bowl full of fruits – fucking Sam – sitting on the table, and as soon as he sat down, he started to doubt he could get up again to open the fridge and pick something better.

A beer would be nice, though.

Hey, he can hear himself think again.

Dean sits there for about half an hour, munching on his banana sloth-speed, and no one is waking up or checking on him, which is weird, because Cas has turned into even more of mother hen, in the last few days, and Sam seems to be trying to make up for all the attention he hasn't given his brother in the past year. Plus, Tina never misses an opportunity to try and harass him, so something is definitely up.

Finishing his banana, throwing the skin away, getting up from his seat, opening the fridge, getting a beer Sam bought, opening it and taking a first gulp takes Dean a total of three minutes, but he did it, and fuck, he forgot how good beer tastes.

Seeing as he doesn't have any other choice or option, he takes his time to walk through the empty house, taking a swig from time to time, and to appreciate the work Cas, Sam and Tina did on the house so far.

Camille left a list of things she wants to keep, but almost everything else ended up in the trash, ten bags of it waiting at the door. Most of the wooden furniture is in the yard to be polished and painted later during the day. They took the depressing, black and white pictures off the walls, put the books none of them would read in cardboard boxes, along with the trinkets Cas estimated Dean wouldn't want to keep.

He decided what should stay and go like the ex-hunter wasn't lying on the couch, unconscious more often than not, while they did everything.

Like he wasn't there.

Because he wasn't.

They emptied the third bedroom that Noah had transformed in the most chaotic study Dean had ever seen. The desk, a little red sofa, and a large, beautifully ornamented bookshelf, when they were barely visible through all the mess, are now the only things left.

In the second, smaller bedroom, which Noah used as a dressing room, the countless clothes lying on the ground, the single bed and every flat surface are now neatly folded and piled up in a dozen of bags labelled “GOODWILL” or “CAMILLE”, for the pieces Cas and Sam thought Noah's niece would like to have.

Now that he thinks about it, Dean doesn't know the cause of Noah's passing.

He didn't even ask.

The third bedroom only has a king-sized bed in the middle of it. Dean doesn't remember what used to be there and got tossed, but he kind of likes it that way : simple, almost scarce, with two big windows, one looking at the dirt road that lead to the house, the other at a piece of the barn and the field in which he can see Geraldine and Oui-oui graze leisurely.

It still smells like an old house and wet dogs, in here, but Dean is starting to see how he could improve Noah's home to make it his and Cas'.

The ex-hunter takes a big swig of his beer and let it sit and sparkle in his mouth while he lets his eyes wander across the living room.

He wants colors.

He wants to be able to feel warm and happy each and every time he walks in. He wants to wave old sunken couch goodbye, now that he's not lying comatose in it. He wants rugs and cushions. He wants curtains and pretty lampshades. He wants to paint the walls himself. He wants green in the kitchen, orange in the living room, yellow in the bedroom. If he can't feel like a rainbow yet, it should be everywhere around him.

Dean wants.

He wants to cook in the kitchen he's going to remodel. He wants the study to become Cas', a place where he can store his weapons, books, and relics, and where he can research cases and prepare for his next hunt. He wants to build him beehives, close to the little forest Noah planted so the bees and the garden can come to an understanding and thrive on each other.

Dean wants so many things.

He wants to ride Bobby, play with the dogs, rename the chickens, and maybe even try and learn to cultivate Noah's dying fields again, if his knees let him.

Dean wants to sleep ten hours a night and wake up every morning with the guarantee that Cas will be there, or that he's going to come back soon from a job that went well.

Dean is tired, and sore, and broken, but he wants all of those things, and they are all achievable.

When was the last time he could say that?

The half-empty bottle still in hand, the ex-hunter walks out of the house, immediately blinded by the burning sun. One, two steps later, the three dogs come running to him, barking – yapping, when it comes to Bowie –, overjoyed he's finally paying them attention. Anatole's got a big voice that still scares a little part of Dean, but he's getting used to it, and the Anatolian Shepherd looks so damn happy to see him, jumping everywhere, almost knocking him to the ground, that he can't refuse him a good stroke on his enormous head. Dean can't pet Steve, the poor dog hasn't stopped running in circles around him yet, but Bowie does enjoy a good scratch under her chin.

I like dogs, Dean half-realizes, half-remembers.

He then walks slowly toward the barn, frail on his bowed legs and closely followed by his hairy parade.

Must look like I'm hungry for brains.

Tina's pink Toyota – appalling –, Sam's pick up truck – horrendous – and the Impala – glorious Baby, reflecting the sun like a diamond – are still parked on the other side of the picket fence, so nobody left the farm. Dean just has to figure out where they went.

The ex-hunter enters the barn. No one. He pets Bobby's soft nose, his arm so weak it starts shaking after a few seconds and he has to let it fall back against his flank, and heads to the garden.

He hasn't eaten anything but a banana since yesterday, so his beer has more effect on him that it should when he drags himself through the trees, the dogs jumping around him like coffee-drinking squirrels. No one at the garden, either.

Weird.

Dean turns to go check out the chicken coop when a bright spot of color catches his eye: pink.

Tina.

He winces and swears every couple of steps, falls on his knees twice on his way to Cas' landlady, on the other side of the little forest, but he eventually breaks through the trees.

Steve runs straight to Sam and catapults himself on his stomach. The younger Winchester curls onto himself where he was lying flat in the grass, all the air punched out of him – doesn't stop Steve from trying to lick every inch of skin available to him, though, smearing dust and drool all over Sam's flannel shirt.

Tina is howling in laughter, her glass of lemonade spilling everywhere onto the striped tablecloth laid out on the ground. With her black sneakers, Iron Maiden t-shirt and huge, glittery sunglasses, she looks like she murdered the princess that came here to relax under her bubblegum pink parasol, hid her body in the woods and took her spot.

Dean wouldn't put it past her.

He's not even surprised when he realizes that Cas, sat not too far from Sam and Tina, really is holding a chicken in his arms. Crossed legs, chin almost touching the black, sleepy chicken's head…

A goddamn saint.

Dean smiles. He's stunned by how perfect everything in front of him is, from Steve's desperate attempts to french kiss Sam to Tina's undignified cackling, her pink hair now sticky with spilled lemonade, from the rustling of the trees behind them and the brightness of the sun to Cas' serenity.

Dean's fingers open and let his beer fall to the ground.

Cas' looks up.

Blue.

Electric.

Sky.

Angel.

Mine.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas grins, and he's glowing, and the world stops existing, even Sam, even Tina, even Steve, who started barking at the younger Winchester, his own way of begging “LET ME LOVE YOU”.

Dean almost falls on his ass when he crouches to sit beside Cas, carefully so the chicken doesn't get scared and jump out of his arms. The sun is warm on his back, the angel's hair soft against his face when he leans to kiss him on the temple.

“I… I think I'm back,” he croaks out.

Cas smiles, bright, blinding, relieved. If it wasn't for the chicken, Dean would kiss the living hell out of him.

“I missed you,” Cas says instead, and yeah, okay, that felt exactly like being hugged. 

“We all did,” Sam adds, Steve now lying limp and happy as clam between his legs, belly up and thoroughly rubbed.

Dean would hug his brother, too, if he could do anything more than try not to sink to the ground, right now. Anatole sits down beside him and turns his head to stare directly into his soul.

“I hate to break it to you, but you smell like poop,” the ex-hunter tells him. It only makes the dog wag his tail and pant harder in his face.

“You know what I'll really miss?”

Tina lets Bowie lap at her lemonade before downing the rest of the drink in one go, apparently unconcerned about what the Shitzu might or might not have licked a minute ago.

“I really loved whispering homophobic slurs into your ear while you slept,” she says melancholically.

“For fuck's sake…” Dean sighs against Cas' cheek.

“I'm pretty sure that if you heard her, she would already be dead,” Sam chuckles.

“What else did you do to me against my will?”

“I tried to pull your pants down, but you were awake for that, weren't you?”

No.

“Too bad.”

“I stopped her,” Sam says proudly like he risked his life by standing between Tina and her victim – maybe he did.

“Love?”

Dean turns to Cas. He adores how fast he came to answer to “love”. How fast he became “love”.

“Yeah?”

“Want to name the first chicken?” the angel asks him, pointing to the sleeping chicken with his chin.

“Cas,” Sam starts, “are you sure–”

“I'm good at this, I don't care what you say!” his brother immediately cuts him.

Dean looks at the chicken and its glistening, inky feathers. When it dawns on him, he feels like a genius.

“What do you think of Hen Solo?”

Cas tries.

He tries his very best to school his face into something not utterly, profoundly, absolutely dejected, but all he ends up saying is a resigned:

“Fuck.”

Chapter Text

When Dean opens the door, Camille basically throws herself in his arms.

“Dean!” she laughs.

The ex-hunter hugs her back, a little stunned.

“Hi, Cami–”

“What have you done with the place?!” she squeals, but she sounds and looks happy, so Dean guesses she's satisfied with Noah's Orchard transformation.

She hasn't seen any of it, since she left them the house two months ago, so the new coat of white paint on the exterior walls of the house, the well taken care of grass in the yard, the little salon on the porch they made from old furniture, the new trees they planted to live up to Noah's dream of making this place an even bigger forest, all that is new to her.

Cas comes up behind Dean, beaming.

Camille! Alors, qu'est-ce que tu en penses?” he asks in a perfect french, accepting a crushing hug from Camille when she finally lets go of Dean.

Ce que j'en pense?! C'est… c'est… je pourrais te rouler une pelle!

Je ne pense pas que ça soit une très bonne idée,” Cas chuckles, “Dean sait encore très bien se servir d'un pistolet.

Tant mieux. Regarde toi, regarde cette maison! Il faut bien que quelqu'un la défende.

Dean is only half listening. One reason is, he doesn't understand a word of french except “baguette”, “oui” et “ménage à trois”. The second reason is that he's currently having a staring contest with the little blue-eyed girl standing on the porch behind Camille.

Something shifts in Dean's head.

Big brother mode activated.

While Cas and Camille chat and laugh in french, the ex-hunter crouches – fuck my knees – to get at eye level with the girl.

Good God, can she glare someone down.

If, in addition to that, she's even remotely like her mother, Dean pities the men who'll enter her life. Wait… no. No, he doesn't.

She'll do just fine.

Dean doesn't break eye contact when he wipes his hands covered with flour on his jeans and extends one towards the child. She shakes it but doesn't smile, so he doesn't. Doesn't talk, so he doesn't, until she decides to.

“I'm a girl,” she suddenly tells him, with a french accent event more discreet than her mother's.

Thin, golden hair down to her shoulders, pretty flowery dress and blue nail polish, he wouldn't have thought otherwise, but Dean, even though babies are not in his line of expertise, has experience with kids.

He raised two.

“Of course you are,” Dean says, just as serious at her. “I'm Dean.”

“My name's Emma. What's that, on your face?”

Straight to the fucking point.

Camille and Cas are still engrossed in each other like two BBFs, and the ex-hunter finds he's actually glad that they are. That way, Emma can ask him rude questions without anyone being awkward about it.

“I took a bullet in the face,” Dean summarizes. “I almost died, but here I am.”

Emma frowns at him. She looks much, much older than the five years old Camille told them she was, but Dean isn't surprised. Hunter kids tend to age fast. For better or for worse.

“Are you the man that lives in Grandpa Noah's house, now?” she then asks, Dean's scar already forgotten.

“I am. With Cas.”

He points at the angel legs behind him with his thumb. His knees are starting to scream at him to get up pronto, but he's not finished with Emma yet. He wants her to feel welcome here, to know that this is still a house she can come to even if Noah died.

“Is Cas your husband?”

Of course, that's when Cas and Camille stop talking to each other and start paying them attention. Great, now three people are waiting for Dean's answer. He blushes a little – can't help it –, and opts for the easy answer:

“You can say that, yes.”

Emma thinks for a second while chewing on a strand of her hair.

“I was a boy, you know,” she says.

Dean's eyebrows shoot up.

“Yeah?”

“I was a boy until I was four, and now I'm five, and I'm a girl.”

The three adults are so quiet on the porch that they can hear the dogs sniff at the bottom of the door, waiting for them to open it and tackle everyone in sight.

“You weren't happy, as a boy?” Dean asks softly.

Emma shakes her head no, not tearing her clear eyes from his, as if defying him to tell her she's wrong, that she's still a boy and that's a good thing to be, and that her mother shouldn't let her dress like that, and she should go see a doctor.

“Are you a happier girl, now?”

Emma nods empathically, now, smiling for the first time since she arrived on the farm.

“Perfect, then,” Dean grins. “Want to see the dogs?”

The girl's eyes widen and her wet strand of hair falls from her mouth.

“Is Bowie here?” she whispers hopefully.

“Of course she is!” The ex-hunter grins. He tries to get up without wincing too much, but he's been cooking all day, so his knees are sore. “Camille, should I let them out? I don't want them to jump on her, Anatole's pretty big, and he still thinks he's a lap dog, so…”

The woman sniffs and wipes the mascara off her cheek. Dean throws a panicked look at Cas. “Did I do something wrong?” he asks with his eyes, but the angel puts an arm around his shoulder and kisses him on the cheek. “No, love.”, it means.

Camille squats down beside her daughter, sits her on one of her knees and kisses her on the top of her head.

“Wanna pet the dogs, Emma ?” she asks – she has to clear her throat twice to get the words out.

The little girl doesn't have to answer: she's bouncing on her mother's knee, staring at the door expectantly. Cas grabs the handle and turns it slowly. The dogs start barking, growing more and more impatient – they must have smelled they had distinguished company.

“One… two…”

“THREE!” Emma screams.

Three balls of fluff bolt out of the house and into her open, chubby arms, almost knocking her out of Camille's knee. She's shrieking in happiness, even when Anatole licks her hair like it's his god-given duty. For a second, Dean doesn't see Emma anymore and gets a little fidgety. Anatole is as big as a pony, after all.

But the three dogs whimper in joy, wagging their tails off their butts, and they stay more gently with her than Dean and Cas have ever seen them.

“They've known her since she was a baby,” Camille says between her teeth so Steve won't lick his way into her mouth – weirdo. “They immediately understood they had to be very gentle. Huh, guys? Aren't you the sweetest?”

Dean doesn't realize he was beaming before Cas whispers into his ear :

“Did you take the samosas out of the oven?”

“SHIT!” he screams.

The ex-hunter runs back into the house, now filled with ribbons of burned fumes. He's grabbing gloves to take the baking tray and almost burns his eyebrows off when he opens the oven. Camille, Emma, and Cas enter the house.

“I'm sorry about Dean saying… a bad word in front of Emma.”

Please, Castiel. I'm a hunter. “Fuck” is my middle name. She's used to it.”

“I saved the samosas!” Dean declares, placing the tray on the countertop. He flips one on the other side and sighs. “I didn't save the samosas.”

Cas rejoins him in the kitchen to check for himself.

“It's okay, Dean, you already made enough for a whole army–”

But the ex-hunter is starting to panic, frantically trying to save the less burnt samosas.

“Have you ever been to a hunter gathering, Cas?”

“I haven't, but don't worry, you–”

“Okay, okay, okay, baby, hear me out,” Dean stops him.

He takes the angel by the shoulders and stares at his beautiful eyes, hands still in his gloves so it looks like he has Mickey Mouse hands but it doesn't matter, because these are grave times. Camille is taking herself and Emma on a tour of the house, since both men are very busy having a cooking crisis, gasping at every improvement, at the forest green kitchen, orange, blue and yellow walls, disparate but classy furniture, oriental carpets, beautiful lights.

“I want you to imagine the house, our house, with about, let's say, twenty Leviathans in it,” Dean says with a tone usually used for telltales, while Cas squints at him like he lost his mind – which he maybe did.

“Okay?”

“Those twenty Leviathans haven't eaten anything or anyone for about two years. What are they, then?”

“Starving?”

“Exactly! Now, imagine having to make as much food as humanly possible so that they don't eat us.”

“Yes.”

“That's exactly what a hunter gathering is. Seventy hunters are coming tonight, and they're hungry, and they're thirsty, and I don't want to die today.”

Dean laughs hysterically, boops Cas on the nose with his big glove and goes back to rescuing as many samosas as he can. The angel stares a little longer.

“Aren't they supposed to bring food, too?” he asks, a little sheepishly, because he knows Dean is that close to exploding, and yeah, he is, he's exploding.

“Of course they're gonna bring food!” he yells, but he's yelling at his anxiety more than he's yelling at Cas, and he knows that. “They're gonna bring beer, and beer, and beer, and chips, and beer, and at one point they're gonna get so hungry they're gonna look at the dogs funny, and don't fucking tell me Steve wouldn't look delicious on a broach!”

It's tough not to laugh when Dean moves around like Charlie Chaplin in a silent black and white movie.

“I highly doubt our friends are going to try to eat the dogs,” Cas assures him. “To be honest, of all the animals on the farm, if they had to choose, it would probably be the cows.”

Dean straightens up and looks at him, eyes suddenly teary.

“Not Geraldine and Oui-oui,” he whispers, very much like a veteran talking about a particularly difficult part of the war.

Cas can't stifle his laugh anymore, but he makes up for it by wrapping his arms around the ex-hunter and holding him flush against his chest. It's always worked wonders on Dean's nerves before, and this time is no exception.

“Do you think we'd notice if one or two chickens went missing?” Dean mutters on his shoulder.

“They won't eat the chickens, love. I won't let them.”

“Even Rex? You don't like Rex.”

“Rex doesn't like me, there's a difference. And I don't hold grudge against chickens, Dean. I'm better than that.”

“If they roast Iggy, I might kill someone.”

“You… Just shut up.”

“Okay.”

“You made enough food. They're going to bring more than beer. Sam promised he'd make–”

“Don't say Sam's made a big salad.”

“He did, though. It's sweet.”

“It's depressing. It means he's one foot in the grave, already.”

“Everything is going to be fine.”

Dean burrows his face a little deeper into Cas' neck, going limp in his arms.

“Can't we call it off?” he whines.

“No. They're going to be here any second, now. Everything is ready.”

Man, need a beer.”

Cas pulls away, just a little, from the hug, to thread his fingers through Dean's hair.

They're longer than he's let them grow in a long time, long enough that Cas can really play with it, now. He's sporting a full beard, too. Hides part of his scar, but it also looks good on him. Like, really good. Good enough for him to not hate his reflection that often anymore.

Dean closes his eyes and lets Cas' magic seep through his muscles, eventually so relaxed he barely has the strength to kiss the angel back.

A car honks, outside the farm's fence. Dean opens his eyes, meet Cas', and can't refuse him a smile.

“You're so pretty.” He murmurs, burnt samosas forgotten.

He's grown fond of saying all the cheesy things that go through his head. Maybe he's going to have to tone it down when the hunters get here. Can't go around saying random stuff like “Fuck, I like your face.” tonight, can he?

Maybe he can.

Just to rub how happy and gay he is in everyone's face.

Because who would dare piss Dean Winchester off, in his own house, by telling to please, stop with the kissing and the PDA?

“Hey, guys!”

Sam opens the door – almost has to lower his head to go through –, grinning, hair probably long enough to make a viking out of him, now, but still in one of his immortal flannel shirts, with a huge bowl of salad in his arms.

Dean's pecks Cas on the lips in a silent thanks for calming him and strides over to his brother to take the damn salad and dump it – set it down on the coffee table so he can hug him properly.

“Hey, man.” he laughs. “Fuck, I missed you.”

“Me too. You look good!”

Dean steps back and shrugs, but he's beaming – he knows how much he changed.

“Put on twenty pounds, work on the farm and ride Bobby every once in a while, and maybe you'll look half as handsome as me, one day,” he jokes.

Sam cringes.

“Please, when you talk about your new cowboy life with your horse, later tonight, I beg of you, clarify that Bobby is a horse, and not our Bobby, the grumpy and smelly old man.”

Dean, Sam, Cas, and Camille, who came back from her little visit to say hello to the younger Winchester, laugh, and Dean knows that Cas, one more time, is right.

It's going to be alright.

Even if he doesn't work with them anymore, he knows his people. He knows how they function. He's made enough food, they're going to bring enough booze, no one is going to roast anyone and no one is going to die.

And that's exactly what happens.

An hour after Sam's arrival, thirty hunters have already gathered into the house and on the porch, that Dean lit up with colorful garlands. By ten, not seventy, but ninety people are eating, drinking, chatting and laughing in Noah's Orchard, Dean has already whispered to Cas how beautiful he looked twice, they've been whistled like performing strippers when they kissed, even though they tried being very discreet about it, Emma said she was a girl about twenty times and the dogs have had their daily cuddle quota tenfold.

Bobby came.

He called Dean an idjit when he cried while they were hugging. He didn't even ask what happened to his face or say anything when Dean blushed a deep shade of red and almost bailed before he could stammer that he's with Cas, now. It's as if he knew, all along. Or maybe he's still a highly emotionally constipated man, almost as much as Dean used to be, but the ex-hunter gets it – how could he not? – and he loves him just the same.

Jody and Donna came. They covered Dean and Cas in kisses and congratulations on “finally putting their shits together and getting the fuck on with it”, as they so delicately said. Claire, Annie, and Patience couldn't come, each for different reasons, but sent their affection through Jody.

Dean has to admit that he was a little bit relieved Claire didn't come. Coming out to the other hunters was already hard enough, and he doesn't know how she would have reacted to seeing his father – or at least his body – live and be in a happy relationship with a man.

Even Tina came. Neither Dean and Cas invited her and how she knew they were hosting a hunter gathering will remain a mystery forever, because she never gave them a clear answer, but there she was, insulting everyone that had functioning ears, drinking shot after shot, climbing tables, calling Dean Michelle Obama, braiding Sam's hair while telling him about the time she stabbed her co-worker because she stole her stapler one too many times. The hunters adored her, of course.

Everything went just fine.

Damn Cas and his wisdom.

Nothing was missing, except Mary.

They had a toast on her. Dean, Sam, Bobby, Jody and Donna, hell, a lot of people shed a tear. Thankfully, they didn't ask the Winchester brothers to do a speech, because Dean would have broken down crying, but it was nice, to see so many people miss his mom like they shared blood.

Now that the void is a little weaker, that the kind voice is winning the war, millimeter by millimeter, that the iceberg in his mind is slowly melting away, Dean can accept the fact that he doesn't have to be a hunter to be a part of the hunter family.

Doesn't have to share blood with anyone to still have links to this world.

I don't need to know who I am, he realizes in the middle of opening the fridge to fetch a couple of cold beers.

He feels kind of stupid, all of a sudden.

He doesn't need to know who he is, of course, he doesn't.

How could he, Dean Winchester, former-macho-master and lady killer, could let that “know who you are and you'll know where you're going” bullshit get to him? Or that “to love others, first you have to love yourself” crap? He hated himself for, what, two thirds of his life? Didn't stop him from loving anyone! Well, except for Cas–but that's not the point.

What if identity is overrated?

What if Dean just needs to…

Love what he loves.

Who fucking cares who he is?

Not Cas, when he comes home after a long hunt, bruised and tired, and falls asleep in his arms like he does more and more often. Cas only cares about whatever he finds lovable about Dean and how good he feels when they're together.

Not Bobby-the-horse, when he takes him for a ride through the fields. Bobby only cares about eating, running, and the carrots Dean feeds him as a treat.

Not Emma, who's fallen asleep on her mother's lap, in the garden, an hour ago. Emma only cares about petting the dogs and letting everyone know she's a girl.

People usually don't care about other people, but that doesn't have to be a depressing thought.

Dean doesn't have to know who he is, put himself in a box so that people can see him better and maybe love him.

It doesn't work like that.

“Are you okay, love?”

Dean tears his eyes away from the content of the fridge. Cas' right hand nestles at the small of his back, the other one takes the beers from him.

“Has someone been rude to you?” the angel worries, already throwing a menacing look around them. “Who is it?”

Dean laughs, rendered a little breathless by it all.

By his epiphany, how handsome the man against him and sharing his life is, how loved he is, how not alone he is.

How happy he is that his special bullet missed.

Don't get him wrong, some days are hell.

Every once in a while, his life crashes back on him and he goes through another episode of weird, partial paralysis.

He still has nightmares, he still has panic attacks, he still breaks, sometimes, when Cas is away and he can't call him, and he's alone in the house, and the dogs are not enough to lull him to sleep, no matter how good cuddlers they are.

There are days where he can't meet his eye in the mirror, he can't eat, can't talk, can't move, can't take care of the animals.

But now, instead of an eternal sea of pain and desperate tentatives of numbing it all, he appreciates things, like he appreciates this hunter gathering and how everyone is so open and respectful of him and Cas, how much love was given and shown to them, how people don't avert their eyes when they look at him, how they don't question him about his scar, but still know.

So instead of brushing it off, Dean takes his beers back from Cas, puts them on the counter, and kisses the living hell out of him.

He can tell the angel is a little surprised by it, but it doesn't last long.
They lose themselves in each other, they find themselves in each other, people laugh and whistle, but fuck 'em–no, they're sweet and Dean loves them, but right now, he owes it all to one person.

Castiel.

“I'm so glad I missed,” Dean sighs in his mouth, and the angel tastes of beer and pie and happiness. “I'm so glad you entered my room at the most inappropriate time.”

Cas' eyes fill up with tears, which was not the effect intended, but then he laughs, his beautiful, heartfelt laugh that rumbles all the way down Dean's soul, and he kisses him again.

In his sky eyes, the ex-hunter can read: Dean Winchester is saved.

Chapter Text

The Colt is warm in his hand.

He's been holding it long enough for it to feel as warm as his own flesh. His room, familiar, comfortable, confining, no windows, no life. Killing him slowly. He bets he can kill himself faster. Cold barrel under his chin. Shrug. Click. Blast. Noise. Pain.

Dean wakes up in a cold sweat. His ears are ringing, his face aching, his body quivering. He sighs.

He's alone in his and Cas' yellow bedroom. Behind the thin, white curtains, the sun hasn't risen yet, only caressing the surface of the Earth with its golden fingers, waiting for it to rotate enough so he can embrace it.

Outside the bedroom window, Dean can see Sam is sitting on a rocking chair, watching the sky turn pink. He likes this spot. The younger Winchester stayed for a few days after the hunter gathering, happy to give Dean a hand and breath in the fresh air of Noah's Orchard before going back to the bunker and burying himself back into his work.

Dean scratches his beard and gets up. He can never go back to sleep after this nightmare, so he puts on pajama pants and wraps his naked torso in Cas' plaid blanket. He's happy he did so because the moment he steps out of the house to join his brother, it's so cold his breath comes out in white puffs.

The dogs are still asleep, at this hour. Must be five or six in the morning. Dean sits on the chair next to his brother's and immediately curls up inside the Ugly Burrito blanket.

Then, they watch the sun kiss the horizon together.

“Bad dream?” Dean asks Sam.

“Insomnia,” his brother says, not tearing his eyes from the view.

Dean nods.

“You seen Cas?” he says into the blanket to keep his face warm.

“I think he's in his hammock, in Mirkwood.”

Dean smiles. That's what they call the little forest Noah planted behind the house, with its little glade in the middle, and the hammock Cas installed between a pine tree and an apple tree. He goes there to read.

It's his little temple. Dean never goes there unless invited. They didn't talk about it, didn't lay rules down or anything. They both just knew that this spot, this hammock, are Cas' special place, so when he goes there, Dean lets him be.

The ex-hunter looks a Sam for a moment. He looks tired, and a little sad.

Maybe he feels alone, too, sometimes.

Did Noah feel alone, on his farm? Surrounded by animals, but only occasionally visited by his niece and her daughter.

“How did Noah died?” Dean suddenly wonders. “I never asked.”

“Heart attack,” Sam answers, voice flat, eyes and mind far, far away.

Dean contemplates it for a second.

“I almost forgot natural deaths happen,” he huffs in his blanket.

Sam doesn't say anything to that. After ten minutes of silence only disturbed by the slow waking of the birds, the ex-hunter starts to wonder if something's wrong.

“You gonna say something as some point? 'cause if you're not, I'm just gonna go back inside and–”

“I have to tell you something,” Sam cuts him, finally meeting his eye.

Yeah.

That's a “shit's going to be said, and you probably won't like it” look.

“Okay?” Dean says, and he focuses very hard on not panicking. He likes that newly found and excessively fragile balance he discovered in Noah's Orchard that much.

“I think you're ready to hear it, now,” Sam whispers. He's watching the sunrise again, so tired, but yet so determined.

“What is it?”

Dean's getting nervous. He can't help it, not when his brother has this look on his face.

“Mom and I had a talk, shortly after Amara brought her back.”

The older Winchester swallows thickly. He's even colder than he was a second ago, now, seized by anxiety and sorrow just at the memory of his mother and Chuck's sister.

“Okay. What did you talk about?” he manages getting out.

Sam sighs, the air coming out of his nose making him look like a locomotive in the early morning air.

“She knew,” he says softly. “About Cas. About you. She knew the moment she saw the two of you hug for the first time in front of her.”

Dean inhales deeply.

“Didn't know we were that obvious,” he mumbles.

“You were, and she was glad.”

The ex-hunter's eyes start prickling.

“She was?”

“Of course she was. What do you think, that she was homophobic and stupid, or something?” Sam teases him.

“Nah,” Dean smiles. “She was smart.”

“She wanted to ask you about it, but I convinced her not to.”

“Why?”

“I don't know. I figured you'd avoid her for a while after she'd have tried talking it out, and I didn't want to see that happen. You weren't ready.”

Dean shivers in his blanket. He knows Cas doesn't get cold easily, but he hopes he at least brought a coat to his hammock.

“Maybe Mom trying to get it out of me would have shaken me up enough to do something about it,” he thinks out loud.

He feels Sam look at him.

“You really think that?” he asks, and he doesn't sound that convinced.

Dean shrugs.

“Never know.”

Sam stretches his long legs on the porch.

“I have a gift for you,” he says.

The ex-hunter arcs an eyebrow.

“I'm pretty sure you're gonna hate it.”

Dean squints at his brother.

“How is it a gift if I'm gonna hate it?”

Sam doesn't have that kind of patience, today, apparently, because he sighs, annoyed, pulls his hand out of his pocket, turns something between his fingers for a second, and puts it carefully on the glass table Dean installed on the porch.

It's small.

Metallic.

Shiny.

It looks like it's made of gold, by the way it's reflecting the sun.

The inscriptions on it are precise, delicate.

Thin enough to make the blood hard to get out of.

Dean stops breathing.

“I searched your room,” Sam starts explaining. “Cas made a pretty impressive job at cleaning it. If you didn't tell me, I would have never guessed, but he didn't find it. Must have been in a hurry to take care of you and get you out of the bunker.”

Dean can't not look at it, as if, from the moment he looked away, it would move and try to go through his skull again.

“It was in the ceiling.”

Dean can hear a slight ringing in his left ear, ghost of the blast.

“It's art,” Sam says. “The deadliest bullet I've ever seen. This is a masterpiece, and the fact that you survived it, a miracle.”

“Cas did the miracle, by coming in as I was pulling the trigger,” Dean murmurs, barely audible, barely there. “Nothing to do with me.”

“It has everything to do with you.”

“That's what angels do, ain't it? Miracles.”

“And you were deserving of one. One more miracle.”

As dawn becomes day, Dean's special bullet glows brighter.

This my gift?” he asks.

“Not really. It's your property. I'm just giving it back to you.”

“And if I don't want it?”

Dean finally remembers he can look at something else than the bullet. Sam's clear, sad, warm eyes meet his, compassion filling them with tears.

“Then I'll keep it,” his brother smiles weakly. “To remember.”

The older Winchester wipes his nose and cheeks with the blanket. He's so used to letting himself cry, now, that he's not even ashamed anymore.

“Remember what?” he says.

“To never let you go. Never lose hope in you ever again.”

A first tear rolls down Sam's face. In the sun, it looks like a drop of Cas' honey. In Dean's chest, it makes his heart bleed out.

“I lost hope in you,” Sam confesses, trying and failing to keep his voice steady. “I tried so many times to save you, from monsters, from people, from yourself. I became weak.”

He laughs. Wetly. Bitterly.

“I didn't really think about it, but I think deep down, as I watched you crumble and fade away, I thought that maybe, just maybe, you could be heading to what's best for you.”

Sam breathes in and out slowly, runs a hand through his hair.

“I didn't want you to go, but at the same time, I started to believe that you'd never be happy again. That you–you'd be better off this fucked up planet. Away from me, away from trauma and grief, away from everything.”

Dean listens to him in silence, shocked, but also overwhelmed by his love for Sam.

How could he have ever dreamed of a better brother? One that would have let him die and carried that guilt with him for the rest of his life if he knew that killing himself would have made him happy.

Dean pulls one bare arm out of his cocoon to squeeze Sam's shoulder. The younger Winchester's lips and chin tremble, more tears run down this cheeks.

“If only I could have made you laugh as much as I made you cry, Sammy,” Dean smiles sadly.

Sam chuckles, sobs, both at the same time.

“You did,” he replies. “You made me laugh. You saved me more times than I can count.”

“I wish I could have done more.”

“Me too. Me too.”

They cry on the porch until the sun envelops them and warms them up, dries their tears, wakes up the world around them. Before long, Anatole, Steve and Bowie pop out of the doggie door Dean installed a month after they moved in, tired of their whining and incessant begging. The dogs rush to the two men, wagging their tails sleepily.

“Are you gonna keep it?” Sam asks eventually, Steve on his lap, Bowie on his feet.

Dean looks down at the bullet. Pushes Anatole a little so he can bend over, extend his arm and grab it.

It sits heavy and cold in his palm.

Blood is still embedded in the inscriptions and writings.

His own.

There's nothing he didn't make, in this bullet. He melted the metal, got and prepared the special ingredients himself, carved it, put it in the Colt's chamber, shot it through his skin, bloodied it.

This bullet is a piece of him.

The piece that almost took everything.

Dean's fingers close around it. He takes a deep breath, raises his head to look at the view again, exhales slowly.

“Yeah. I'll keep it.”

Sam nods beside him. Then, he gets up, cautiously so the dogs have the time to let him pass.

“I'll pack,” he says. “Hunters to call, lore to read.”

“The world's not gonna save itself,” Dean smiles.

Sam presses his brother's forearm, opens the door, closes it behind him, and the ex-hunter is suddenly alone on the porch. The dogs are still here, of course, the three of them fast asleep.

But here he is, alone again with his special, special bullet for the second time.

The sun is up, eye of fire in the sky, and with its emergence, the iceberg in Dean's mind finally melted away.

He doesn't have to look for anything anymore.

It's all here, in Noah's Orchard, his family's acceptance, Sam's eyes, Cas' arms, his own heart.

He's complete.

He's home.

Dean watches the sun claim it's royalty a little more flamboyantly each second. He doesn't hear Sam leave and drive away, doesn't feel time disappear – only his tears roll one after another, our star burn through his cornea and the bullet warm up in his palm.

He survived.

He survived it all.

He survived himself.

He's saved.

He's safe.

A minute, an hour, a decade pass before he feels a hand caress his cheek. A body climbs on the chair with him and curls up on his lap, a heavy, grounding weight that brings Dean back down to Earth slowly, carefully.

Who's the big cat, now?

“Hello, Dean.” Cas whispers.

His breath is hot in the ex-hunter's neck, his fingers light when he turns his head to face him.

Their eyes tender when they meet.

Sky blue.

Angel blue.

Love blue.

Dean opens his hand to let him see it.

Just for a few seconds.

Then, he closes his hand again, wraps his arms around Cas and lets the day go by.