“Are you sure about this?” Castiel asked for what was probably the billionth time that morning.
“Dude, I swear, if you ask me that one more time--”
“I’m just saying that there may yet be options we haven’t considered.” Cas paced the length of Jack’s room, stopping only to speak.
“I know, you mentioned that. I told you, best of both worlds, literally. That's what we’re going for here.” Dean finished writing the letter on his lap and folded up the paper. “Azrael!” he yelled at the sky, cupping a hand over his mouth. Azrael appeared in a thrashing of wings, their signature braids neatly intact.
“Am I to assume that you have your reply ready?” They chirped. Dean licked at his lower lip and grinned at Cas before striding over to the younger angel and handing them his letter.
“Thanks, kid, this should be the last of ‘em.” He nodded, still grinning, sparing a glance at Castiel who continued to pace.
“Now?” Jack asked, sitting up from where he lay horizontally across his bed.
“Not yet.” Castiel and Dean answered at the same time. Cas’s voice, a touch more agitation to it. Jack flopped himself back against the bed in an elongated sigh.
“Cas-- Would you quit pacing for a minute?!” Cas came to an abrupt stop and glared into Dean’s eyes. “Come here”. Dean demanded, causing Cas to roll his eyes and trudge over to where Dean now stood in front of the desk chair. He placed his hands on Cas’s shoulders and maneuvered his head so it aligned with Cas’s line of vision. “Why are you freaking out?” He asked in a voice that was so gentle that it sounded somewhat foreign to his own ears. Cas sighed, closing his eyes and rested his forehead against Deans.
“What if this... changes things between us?” Dean smiled and closed his eyes, replaying those words over and over in his head and into the silence.
“What if it doesn't?” He countered, causing the warmth of Cas’s head against his to retreat. Springing open his eyes, in time to see Castiel shake his head, Dean continued to smile.
“But what if it does!?” Cas asked, gaining a wrinkle above his eyebrow as his eyes started to widen with worry.
“You can’t think like that, man. You know there’s no point in worrying about things that haven't happened yet.” Cas sighed and shook his head again, slowly this time and maintaining eye contact. Dean swallowed at the look of pure fear on his face. “Alright,” He decided to change tactics, nodding to himself, “I promise you here and now”, He sniffed and ran a hand over his mouth before plonking it back on Cas's shoulder, “If you start to worry about my feelings, you let me know and I’ll kiss you so hard--” he laughed, Cas did not. Instead, Cas looked blankly down at the grass at his feet as he took a step backward, causing Dean's hands to fall back by his side. Dean felt lightheaded at the lack of emotion on Cas's face. It made him feel immediately, shockingly, disgustingly empty. He swallowed down the lump in his throat in an attempt at avoiding bursting into tears. “Don’t--” Dean swallowed. “Cas, don’t you dare pull away from me because of this.” His eyes scanned the angel as Cas’s pulled closed tightly. “If anything does change between us, it sure as shit ain’t gonna be because of me.” his voice cracked, causing Cas to slowly glance up at him.
“I love you. That’s impossible to change. I know -- I hate to say it-- but, I fucking know... because I tried, Cas.” He cleared his throat, trying again, in vain, to clear the damn lump. Castiel sighed and turned his head off to the side, unseeing, staring at the surrealist apple tree, his face breaking into distraught. “Cas?”
“I’m sorry.” Cas turned back to Dean, then closed the space between them and pressed his lips upon Deans. His hands buried themselves in Dean’s hair, while Dean's hands grabbed at Cas's waist, pulling him in closer. When they eventually came up for air Dean whispered, his eyes clamped shut.
“I love you,” Dean repeated against Cas’s lips. Cas sighed again and nuzzled his nose against Dean’s before pulling back and planting a quick kiss onto the tip of it.
“I love you, too,” Cas replied, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards solemnly, some of the worries eased from his mind.
“Now?” Jack’s voice rang out, causing the two men’s attention to snap toward the bed where he lay, still watching the clouds.
“Not yet, buddy. Real soon though. Right, Cas?” Dean looked at Cas knowingly.
“Very nearly ready, Jack.” Cas smiled, almost authentically.
Another sound of wings whipped through the air.
“They’re ready when you are,” Azrael announced before immediately disappearing again, leaving only a gust of wind in their place.
Jack sat on the edge of his bed in between Dean and Castiel. They all stared down at his small hands while Cas rubbed circles on the back of the yellow cotton shirt that he now wore.
“Sorry,” Dean began hesitantly, interrupting the thick tension in the air that had been suffocating him, “But, I can't stop thinking about how earlier you said you knew how I felt about you.” He burst out, staring at Cas, “Why the hell didn't you say anything sooner?”
“As I said,” Cas’s eyes remained on Jack as the two squinted down at the toddler's hands, his voice was level, “I also felt the shame you had surrounding those feelings. How self-important would I have to be to force you to acknowledge something you felt negatively about because of the potential positivity that may, or may not have come from it?” He continued to rub circles against Jack's back, “Besides I-- I'm not sure, it confused me. I didn't know how to let you know that I felt love for you, that I wanted you and wanted to be with you. I was content to remain in your life however long and whatever way you would allow me.” Dean was getting impatient. He wouldn’t have admitted it earlier but he was actually kind of nervous about the whole return-of-the-king thing. He buzzed with nervous excitement that seemed to come in waves along with imaginary best-case and worst-case scenarios that played out in his head. The most horrible of all being the potential for him to get to earth just in time to see Sam bite it immediately because they’re fucking with the rules of death, again. He tried to clear that from his mind.
“But we could have had all of this. Sooner."
"Could we?” Cas asked, still intently staring at Jack’s hands. “Even if you had allowed yourself to have that kind of happiness, you said it yourself, the timing was never right.” Dean scoffed. Castiel continued critically, “At what time should I have prioritized my declaration of love? When I was human and you were busy avoiding me for the sake of hiding Gadreel?” His hand remained the same pace, rubbing around, and around, almost hypnotic regardless of the new exacting note to his tone, “When you were plagued by the mark of Cain? Or a demon? Would then have been a good time? Or should I have waited until you were human again, but dealing with an unwanted infatuation with God's sister?” Dean sighed.
"Okay, I get it."
"Perhaps I should have told you immediately after I was freed of Lucifer's possession, nothing inspires romance quite like having your evil sibling being forcibly ejected from your body.”
"I said I got it," Dean repeated, more aggressively this time.
"I know,” Cas, clicked his tongue, his eyes widened with his smile and his voice now absolutely dripping in sarcasm, “I should have told you via text message whilst searching for said brother, 'My dearest Dean, I have been plagued with the memories of your thoughts and emotions for many years--”
“--And it dawned on me some time ago that not only do I now identify as a gay man but I also believe that you may indeed reciprocate my own desire to explore both further emotional and carnal intimacy with one another--”
“--I hate that word... Cas--”
“--I do, however, also still understand that your upbringing may be a hindrance to this plan due to: your negative emotions around said reciprocation, continued assumptions that I am “straight”, your constant performative masculinity, and persistent, albeit somewhat lessened with time, jokes regarding people of the LGBTQIA+ community.” Jack and Cas both straightened as something charged filled the air. “Feel free to work on these things if they're the only insignificant human problems between us and our everlasting happiness and please respond post-haste, glittering love heart emoji.” Castiel grinned as Jack turned and beamed up at him.
“I said. I. Get. It.” Castiel’s hand dropped down from Jack's back and he turned to look Dean in his eyes.
“It only became more impossible as the years went on, and you seemed content to no longer attempt anything other than a… physical... relationship... with anyone else and even that was a rare blow I was able to shoulder.” he shrugged, “If I was to simply be your platonic life partner whom you co-parent a Nephilim with… I would have been…” he shook his head, then placed his hands over Jack's ears as he continued, “I truly considered myself to be lucky. I would have been happy to go without sex. I could have shamefully pleasured myself until the end of my days purely using a combination of memories and imagination.” He dropped his hands and smiled at the toddler below them who looked between them both, clearly confused. A laugh bubbled up out of Cas at the new flush over Dean’s cheeks. He leaned over and ran the back of his index knuckle over Dean’s cheekbone. “I just wanted you. I always will.” Dean sat staring at him for what felt like an eternity, opening and closing his mouth; completely flustered.
“I'll never get used to hearing you say shit like that.”
“Stuff like that, Dean.” Cas amended.
“Sure. Don't swear, kid.” Dean managed to mumble in Jack’s direction.
“Are you ready?” Cas asked, smiling a genuinely fearless grin at him.
“Stuff yeah, I am! Let's do it.” Dean nodded, smirking.
“Jack. If you wouldn’t mind.” Cas gestured his hand toward Dean, and Jack swiveled around climbing up onto his feet before standing, wobbly, on the mattress. He brought his hand up toward Dean.
“Wait. I just wanna say one thing really quickly!” Dean held his palms up, looking between the two questioning faces. He lowered his hands and glanced down at Jack who stood frozen, gaping at his dad. “Please, let this be kickass.” He grinned, then crossed his hand from head to heart, then shoulder to shoulder, clapping his hands together at the end. “Amen.” Castiel rolled his eyes as Jack giggled, continuing forward, and placed his small hand on the opposite shoulder of Castiel’s hand marking, burning its print onto Dean’s arm.