There’s a pause. The moment sticks in the air like honey. Dean’s hands tremble where they’re holding Cas up, one palm clasped to his shoulder, the other encircling his wrist like a steel band. Cas’ eyes are wide; relief mixed with disbelief, shaded slightly by uncertainty. Blue pigment on a palette.
Familiar with the burden of a thousand worlds on his shoulders, Dean recognises the weight of a thousand words on his tongue. He’s been chewing on them for weeks now. He wakes to the taste of you changed me too, Cas. He drowns himself in whiskey but it’s the please, don’t leave me that truly burns his insides. All time does is pass, and all Dean does is remember. And now Cas is here, he’s hot and firm and real under Dean’s hands, and all Dean can do is stare. Risen from the dead, one more time, in spite of it all.
The moment lingers, achingly; a fly caught in amber, and for a hot, sickening second Dean thinks: again. He’s paralysed again, a coward, a cop-out, a mute. There’s too much to say, each line of every confession Dean’s spent three years thinking is like treacle between his teeth, words sticking to each other, all of them adhering themselves to the lining of his throat. He’s weak in all the ways that matter and Cas doesn’t deserve this kind of –
A hand covers his, and the moment breaks.
“Hello, Dean.” Cas smiles. It feels like Dean’s taking his first breath in weeks.
He’s disorientated, swaying slightly on his feet. He’s covered in remnants of Empty, black tar-like stuff coating his hair, his clothes, under his fingernails. There’re smatterings of blood dotted here and there along his lapel, and Dean doesn’t know to which of them it belongs. Cas’ eyes shine wet with tears, and it hovers on the precipice of too familiar. Under his shirt, a phantom burn kisses Dean’s shoulder.
“Cas.” Dean’s voice breaks on the word. He doesn’t know if he’s ever said anything with such reverence before.
He’s glad he’s still got a vice grip around Cas’ wrist, because he’s moving now, brow slightly furrowed, stepping backwards to put space between them. “Dean, I –”
But Dean leans in, follows him, moves his hand to rest against Cas’s cheek, the other curving round to cradle the nape of his neck. Cas’ mouth falls open at that, abject shock or love or desire lighting up his face, and Dean knows he’s gonna spend the rest of his life cataloguing the difference. Cas is gazing at him, an expression of unbridled hope shining sharper with every passing second, and Dean thinks hey, when did you become such an open book. It’s like the years are falling away around them – suddenly he’s twenty-nine in Bobby’s kitchen and there’s this angel, this flesh and blood angel, face inches from his own. Angular face half-shadowed in the moonlight, he’s speaking of demons, and God, and broken seals, and all number of things that Dean’s pretty sure dramatically pale in comparison to this moment, right now.
If Dean was cooler, he’d deadpan What took you so long, angel? And maybe three, five, ten years ago, that’s exactly what he would have said. But he’s old now, he’s free, and he’s tired of pretending this isn’t exactly what he wants.
Dean can feel Cas shaking as he leans in. He strokes his thumb across Cas’ cheekbone in a way he hopes is comforting, and softly, finally, presses their lips together. A little noise escapes Cas, and then his hands are reaching out, grabbing fistfuls of the front of Dean’s jacket, then moving to bracket the sides of his face, like he can’t decide where to put them – if he needs to pull Dean closer, or ground himself in the line of his jaw. It’s utterly desperate, the culmination of every time they’d swallowed down a confession, every stolen glance, every sacrifice play. Their noses keep bumping, and Dean vaguely registers that they’re both crying. But Dean supposes, joyously, that they’ve got years and years, and decades and decades to practice.
Dean wonders if Sam’s watching from the car. Dean wishes the whole world were watching them, in this stupid little middle-of-nowhere town, finally sealing the deal to this question that’s been shadowing them for all these years. It tastes like victory, and feels, terrifyingly, like the purest love Dean’s ever experienced.
They break apart. Dean’s breathing hard, smiling harder, and he feels a sense of peace in his chest that he hasn’t felt in years. Cas looks utterly wrecked, in the best possible way, and Dean thinks he could probably live off this high for the rest of his days.
“You’re all covered in… fluids.” Cas brings up an index finger to wipe some Empty from Dean’s flushed cheek.
“…You’re right, Cas. And not even any of the fun ones.”
At that, Cas laughs, head tipping forward in exhilaration, hysteria, disbelief, and Dean meets him halfway, resting their foreheads together in a way that makes his heart thunder against his ribcage. Later, when they’re home, he’ll tell Cas everything he needs to. He’ll cut a little hole in his chest if he has to, so Cas can peer in, see how Dean’s heart beats only to the rhythm of Cas-ti-el. He’ll tell him how, really, it’s been like that for years now.
But for now, he’s more than content to just lean in and capture Cas’ smiling lips once more.