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Being and Having

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“Hey, Sammy.”

“Dean.”

He hasn’t even been waiting that long — or hell, maybe he has, what does he know about Heaven? It didn’t feel long anyway, but seeing Sam in front of him, seeing that he’s okay with his own two eyes, brings him a sense of peace unlike anything he’s ever known. They’re together again, the way brothers are supposed to be, and for the first time in their entire life, nothing’s lurking in the dark waiting to hurt them.

It’s not super surprising that they only accomplished this in death, but they did get it eventually, so he isn’t going to complain. He doesn’t want those kinds of thoughts to sour the moment he’s been looking forward to, so he pushes them away and looks back over at Sam. He looks good. Just like he remembers him, except a little more well-rested.

“How long’d you get?” Dean asks. He has to know.

“I was 91.”

Dean’s smile grows. “Tell me you went bald in the end, man.”

Sam huffs a laugh. “Sorry to break it to you, but no.”

“Guess even in Heaven you can’t have everything,” Dean says wryly. That thought reminds him he’s about to get pretty damn close though. “C’mon. You’re riding shotgun. I’ll fill you in on the new Heaven.”

Dean tells him exactly what Bobby said when he first showed up. Jack and Cas worked together to tear the walls down, making sure Heaven was a place where people could be together forever.

“I don’t get it. What if in my Heaven, I wanted to drive?” Sam asks once he’s finished. 

Dean looks over questioningly. Since when does Sam harp on wanting to drive? “You wanna drive?”

“No, but what if I did? Theoretically?” Sam wonders. “Would there be two driver’s seats so we both get everything we want?”

Well son of a bitch. Leave it to his genius baby brother to find a flaw in the Matrix the second he shows his ugly mug.

“Sam,” he says fondly. “You’ve been back for five freaking minutes. Maybe try giving it a rest.”

“I was just curious,” Sam answers, his mouth quirking. He does let it go, though. “What have you been doing?”

“This,” Dean answers as he steps on the gas. “Bobby said time moves differently here. I showed up, had a sip of a beer, got behind the wheel, and bam, you were here.”

“Wow. You haven’t seen mom and dad?”

“Nope, but that’s where we’re going next.”

The smile on Sam’s face almost makes dying worth it.

Even while he does it, he knows sitting down with his mom and dad together isn’t something he’s going to get used to. Even if he spends the rest of eternity watching his mom and dad hold hands while they talk about everything and nothing, he knows he’ll never get over the novelty of seeing his parents together and happy. The joy bursting inside of him reminds him a lot of that one day they got their dad back, except this is better because there’s no clock ticking down until they have to say goodbye this time. 

They stay for what feels like a long time, but when they get up to leave, it’s like no time at all has passed. They do a bit of a grand tour after that, stopping by Charlie’s, Ellen and Jo’s, Rufus’s place, and Adam’s, and every visit makes Heaven feel a little bit more like home. 

They make plans with their friends and family to meet up at The Roadhouse later, and Dean’s looking forward to some time alone on a comfortable recliner in front of a big-screen TV before knocking a couple of beers back with everybody. He’s happy, he’s relaxed, and he has everything he ever wanted.

Except that’s not totally true, because he hasn’t seen the one person he expected to see waiting for him.

Nobody else has even really mentioned Cas. He got the feeling his mom was going to a few times, but she never followed through. Charlie started babbling excitedly about finally getting to know Dean’s other bestie before realizing what she said and changing the subject so fast he didn’t get a chance to get a word in. Everybody danced around it, around Cas, around how everybody knows Dean can’t be happy without Cas, and both he and Sam just let it happen.

But he knows his brother, and he knows Sam’s been biding his time. Whether Sam can somehow tell that for the first time, Dean has no fucking clue where he’s currently driving or Sam’s just tired of waiting, Sam finally says his name.

“Dean, where’s Cas?”

Even though he knew it was coming, it still feels like a knife through the chest. Where is Cas? If he was up here helping Jack set up Heaven, why hasn’t his feathered ass plopped into the passenger seat or zapped in behind Dean, so close that he can feel Cas’s breath on his neck? 

“I, uh. I don’t know.”

“You said he helped Jack with everything?” Dean nods. That’s what Bobby told him. “Seems a little strange that he wasn’t waiting for you with Bobby. Who else would he be with?”

Dean’s been trying not to ask himself that same question.

“You know Cas,” Dean says, aiming for a level of flippant he doesn’t quite hit. “Always off doing something.”

“Maybe he’s waiting for you at home,” Sam offers.

Home.

That’s a loaded word all in itself.

“Yeah, where is that by the way?”

Sam makes a quiet sound of disbelief, and because it’s Heaven and he doesn’t need to keep his eyes on the road, he looks to the right to meet his gaze head-on. “We’re in Heaven,” Sam reminds him, sounding amused. “Home’s wherever you want it to be.”

Maybe that’s the problem. The first time he felt like he had a home was when he was four years old and didn’t know how good he had it, but his mom burned alive in that house and he can’t imagine going back there now. Other than that, there’s the bunker. And in a really pathetic kind of way, it was the only other time in his life he’s felt like he had a home outside of his car. But as much as he loved that old, clunky place, he’s pretty damn sure he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his afterlife underground and without sunlight.

“Eileen’s probably waiting for me,” Sam says suddenly. “Drop me off, and we’ll meet you back at The Roadhouse.”

Dean nods, understanding that Sam needs to see his wife, and just like when he was driving to see his parents and Charlie, he points the car in the direction of Sam’s place without even knowing where it is. It doesn’t surprise him in the least when he pulls up to a charming old-fashioned house that reminds him a lot of Bobby’s old place, and even though he never got to see Sam’s house when he was alive, he’s glad he has the chance now. 

“You did good, Sammy,” he says proudly. “Real good.”

Sam smiles wistfully. “She passed away before me. I really missed her.”

Dean knows how that feels all too well. “Go get your girl, then.”

“You go get Cas.”

Dean ducks his head, but finally makes himself voice the question that’s been running in his head. “What if he doesn’t want to see me?”

“When has Cas ever not wanted to see you?” Sam asks. “Besides. It’s Heaven. You make your own happiness here, Dean. You just have to want to.” Sam’s hand claps down on his shoulder and gives it a little squeeze, then Dean watches as Sam gets out of the car and walks down his driveway.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. 

This whole Heaven thing, in a weird way, reminds him a lot of what it felt like when he first realized Chuck had been in control of their whole lives. What’s real and what’s not? If he wanted to be able to tell time here, would a watch suddenly appear? If he wanted a rainy day, would the weather change? If Sam wanted to be the driver, would there be two steering wheels? If he wanted to forget Cas’s big goodbye speech right before he sacrificed himself for Dean, would he?

What feelings are real and what are forced into existence just because he wants them a certain way?

“You’re overthinking it,” Jack says from the back seat.

He jumps a little, startled by his sudden arrival.

“What are you talking about, kid?” Dean asks, voice gruff.

“What feelings are real and what are forced into existence just because you want them a certain way,” Jack answers, repeating his own thought back to him verbatim. “You wouldn’t be able to share a Heavenly space with someone if they didn’t want what was best for you.”

Dean rolls that over in his head for a few minutes, trying to flesh out what that means for him and Cas. “So if I wanted to see somebody but they didn’t want to see me, they wouldn’t be here?”

“Exactly.”

“Why?” Dean asks. “How is it my Heaven if I can’t have what I want? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”

“Why want something you can’t have when you can have everything you want?” Jack counters.

Dean pinches his eyebrows together, trying to follow that thread all the way to the end. Annoyed by the way Jack won’t just say what he means, he asks, “You get the capital G and all of the sudden you start talking in rhymes?”

Jack smiles over at him, all big dick energy cloaked by adolescent innocence. “If you wanted me to tell you the answer you’re looking for, I would have already told you.” As Dean begins to roll his eyes at that, Jack continues, “Take a left.”

Dean does without question, and before he can ask himself (or Jack) why, he pulls up to an old wooden cabin that takes his breath away. It’s nothing special, really. It’s what looks like a single-story cabin, probably not big enough for more than two bedrooms, but still something out of his wildest dreams. Something he’s always secretly wanted but never thought he’d actually get. 

He rolls down the window to get a better look and can immediately tell by the scent in the air that there’s a lake close by. If he's looking at what he thinks he’s looking at, there’s a dock he can fish off of out there with just enough fish to keep it interesting and a cooler full of never-ending high quality beer next to a rickety but comfortable lawn chair. 

He half expects Jack to be gone when he turns to face him, but he’s not. He’s smiling that bright-eyed, all-knowing smile of his. “Remember Dean, it’s not in the having.” 

He knows those words. He’s played those words back to himself obsessively from the moment he first heard them, so of course he finishes the thought out loud. 

“It’s in just being.”

The car disappears and he’s standing on a stone path leading to the front porch. His heart is beating wildly miles away from his chest, and he tries to take a moment to calm down by appreciating the sunflowers in front of a big window in the front of the house. They’re kinda girly, but he likes them for some reason. They’re happy. Simple. Hopeful. His feet carry him forward until his throat runs dry over the porch swing — definitely, purposely big enough for two — and then, as he gets close enough, he stops to examine the windchime. 

It has a honeycomb at the top and a handful of golden bees dangling beneath it on drops of honey.

He is home.

The still-callused tips of fingers just brush the sun-warm metal when he hears, “Hello, Dean.”

It’s not as warm as Cas’s usual greeting is, and when his eyes automatically flick up to find Cas in his usual trench coat and blue tie standing in the open doorway of what has to be Dean’s house, he sees why. Cas looks like he’s so nervous he’s about to shit himself.

“Hey Cas,” he says carefully. Goddamn it’s good to see him. “Jack got you out, huh?”

“In a sense,” Cas replies. At Dean’s confused look, he elaborates, “It was a joint effort. But as we humans so regularly say, it turned out fine in the end.”

Dean steps forward with his ear tilted towards Cas because his brain can’t quite convince him he heard what he thinks he heard. “As we humans say, Cas? We?”

Cas nods sadly. “The Empty can’t hold a human.”

“So Jack offered to remove your grace to get you out,” Dean guesses.

“I don’t regret my choice,” Cas says stubbornly. “Any of my choices.”

And there it is, the subject a part of him still doesn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. Thankfully, Cas’s words remind him of one of the many things he’s pissed off about how he went out.

Fucking rebar.

“You know what’s funny?” Dean asks rhetorically. “All this time I’ve been the one pissed off over the idea of never having free will in my life because of Chuck. I worked my ass off to beat him because of it. I lost you, Charlie, Bobby, and so many other freaking people along the way while we fought tooth and nail to get it, to finally have free will. And in the end, I’m the only one who never had a choice.”

Cas looks at him, tilting his head sadly.

“You chose how you died. Jack chose to be the flowers and the wind or whatever and to leave me and Sam in the rear-view mirror. Sam chose to live — to only hunt when he had to, to find love, to keep it, to die surrounded by all of that. And what did I get?”

“A piece of rebar through some vital organs, from what I was told. It must have been very painful.”

“I actually went numb faster than you’d think,” Dean explains. Not to be deterred, he continues, “But the point is, I didn’t choose to die that day, like that, leaving Sam to deal with it alone.”

Cas nods his head once, like he understands where Dean is coming from now. “Life is rarely fair.”

“I wouldn’t know. I never really got a chance to figure that out on my own.” He barely lived long enough free from control to know how it feels. 

“What would you have chosen, given the chance?” Cas wonders.

“I was gonna get you back myself,” Dean says, looking away from him when he feels his ears turn warm. He thinks back to the endless nights of research when Sam thought he was sleeping, of trying to make sense of the old books that were left open on his desk in his bedroom when he died. “I wasn’t gonna stop until I got you out. Then we were gonna talk to Sammy, and we were all gonna try to live normal lives. Only hunt when we didn’t have a choice.” He was ready to leave it behind, to pass the torch on to somebody else. “I applied for a job, Cas.” It’s the first time he’s said that out loud, and even in Heaven it hurts to know he was finally ready and never got to have a normal life. “I was gonna get Sam back in school, then once he was settled in, I was gonna build a house out by where Bobby’s cabin used to be. And I was going to ask you to come with me.”

Cas’s lips quirk into a sideways smile. It’s what Dean always thought was a genuine smile from Cas, but after seeing Cas with tears streaming down his face and his smile bigger than he ever imagined, he knows now this isn’t even close.

“This is the house I would have built,” Dean says, already knowing the answer but still asking it like it might be a question.

“It existed in your memory when you first got here. Since our fates are so tightly intertwined — our bond so profound, one might say — I knew what would make you happy. So I made it and waited for you to get here.”

Our fates are so tightly entwined.

Is Cas saying what it sounds like he’s saying? For once, could it be that easy? With no bad guys to kill or people to save or convoluted reason to pull them apart, could he actually have what he’s been afraid of wanting for so long?

Why want something you can’t have when you can have anything you want?

“How long?” Dean asks, once again needing to know.

“Was I waiting?” Cas answers. “I’m not sure. Time moves differently —”

“No,” Dean interrupts. “How long have you been in love with me?”

“From the moment I laid a hand on you in Hell,” Castiel says without skipping a beat. “I didn’t understand it until I became human and I ached for you the same way I ached for food and water. More, somedays,” he says quietly. “I never let myself hope you’d feel the same.”

“And yet you knew I wanted you here,” Dean points out. 

“Only once I got to Heaven. On Earth, I wasn’t even sure you liked me some days.”

That hurts enough to make him say, “I liked myself a lot less than you on those days, Cas, believe me.” Then, because it’s Heaven and it’s not as hard as it would be otherwise, he adds, “I’m sorry. For being a dick like that.”

“Which time?” Cas asks, half joking, but Dean can tell he’s half serious, too.

“All of them,” Dean says. Then, quickly reassessing, he says, “Except for whenever you were being a dumbass.”

“So about half the time then?” Cas asks.

Laughing humorlessly, Dean agrees. “Yeah. About half the time.”

He doesn’t know what to say next. He knows what he should say, what Cas deserves to hear him say, but it doesn’t seem like the right time yet. Thankfully, the silence doesn’t seem all that bad. It never did with Cas. He looks around a little, noticing for the first time that the damn dog — that one Chuck used to fuck with him and he ultimately kept — is chasing something in the grass in front of the house.

“Oh yeah,” Dean says to Cas. “We got a dog.”

“I thought you didn’t like dogs,” Cas says, sounding confused.

“Yeah, me too. Guess one wriggled its way in.”

“The dog bed next to ours in the bedroom makes more sense now,” Cas comments.

Dean laughs and is about to say, “Not really,” since Miracle sleeps in bed with him, but he doesn’t want to start their first argument in Heaven less than five minutes after they got to the same place. Spotting Sam’s house next door is a good distraction, though. It’s close enough that he knows him and Cas are going to be sharing a lot of meals with Sam and Eileen, just like they did in the bunker. 

That puts him at ease enough that he walks over to his porch swing and takes a load off, fighting back a smile when Cas joins him without prompting only a few moments later. It’s so easy to be with Cas that he’s having a hard time remembering why they were always at each other’s throats when they were alive. 

“Why did we fight so much again?” Dean wonders.

“Because you’re the most stubborn person I know.”

“Oh, you’re one to talk,” Dean says pointedly.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Cas deadpans. 

Dean chuckles silently, knowing Cas is joking even though he sounded serious. He leans back in the porch swing and gives it a little push with his foot. Cas follows his lead to do the same on his side, and soon, the rickety creaking of back and forth, back and forth, fills the air along with the tinkling music of the wind chime.

“It was brave, you know,” Dean says some time later. “What you did for me. Stupid and self-sacrificing and fucking infuriating, but brave.”

“It was selfish,” Cas counters. “I didn’t want to go on without you.”

Dean spreads his legs a little wider so his knee can bump Cas’s. “I know the feeling,” Dean says quietly.

“Because you love me back.”

Cas says it like it's a fact, but Dean confirms anyway. “Yeah. I do.”

He doesn’t have to look over to see the smile on Cas’s face because he can hear it in Cas’s voice. “For how long?”

Dean tips his head back to rest on the swing, watching the sun cut through the cracks in the wooden roof as they rock back and forth. 

“I started wondering after Purgatory.” Cas makes a quiet sound of surprise next to him. “Knew for sure by the time Sam dragged me out of the other dimension and you stayed behind with Lucifer. I swear a part of me died with you that day.”

“Dean,” Cas says sadly.

Because remembering the crushing sense of loss makes Cas being here beside him even sweeter, Dean scoots over, and Cas wraps his arm around him like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Dean’s head rests in the crook between Cas’s shoulder and his neck, and they rock, back and forth, back and forth as he feels the rhythmic in and out of Cas’s chest rising and falling with his breathing.

“I thought...” He lets that thought trail off and starts over. “When you weren’t there with Bobby when I got here, I thought you might’ve changed your mind.”

“No,” Cas says, tightening his hold on Dean’s shoulder for a moment. “That wasn’t because of me. You weren’t ready yet.”

“I was overthinking it,” Dean says, remembering what Jack said earlier. “I didn’t know if you’d be here just because I wanted you to be here or because you wanted to be here.”

“I told you I loved you,” Cas points out. “If it wasn’t true, it wouldn’t have worked to summon The Empty.”

“Still coulda changed your mind.”

“That would be impossible.” 

Dean’s heart swells. Cas not loving him as an impossibility is definitely the afterlife he wants to live in. “That doesn’t sound all that bad,” Dean says gently.

“Almost like Heaven.”

Dean smiles, closes his eyes, and just drinks it in. Cas’s trench coat is worn and comfortable against his skin. Cas smells like the laundry detergent they used at the bunker, and mixed in with the scent of the nearby lake in the air and Cas’s arm fitting around Dean’s shoulders like it was always meant to be there, everything is perfect.

He’s got Sam and Eileen next door, Miracle gnawing on a massive stick in the front yard, his mom and dad happy and back together, Bobby and Charlie just a short drive away, and everybody else waiting to meet up at The Roadhouse later on whenever he’s ready. 

Sitting here feeling happier than he ever has before, something tells him it might be a while before he makes his way over there. He wants to get used to this — to the being and the having — before he shares it. 

And they’ve got nothing but time.