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Happiness is(n't) in the Having

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"Because the one thing I want...it's something I know I can't have."

There's a pound at the door of the dungeon. Death's waiting for them. She's coming for them.

"But I think I know- I think I know now."

And Cas... Cas is talking.

"Happiness...isn't in the having, it's in just being. It's in just saying it."

Dean doesn't understand a word he says.

"What are you talking about, man?"

Cas smiles. He smiles like he knows Dean is lost. He smiles like he's waited for this. (If Dean only knew what this is.)

"I know- I know how you see yourself, Dean", Cas says, and takes a step in his direction, and what is he doing, what is he saying, what does this have to do with anything, what-?
"You see yourself the same way our enemies see you. You're destructive, and you're angry, and you're broken...and you're Daddy's blunt instrument."

And Dean doesn't get the point of this, doesn't need to hear those things, doesn't need to be told, and not now, not-

"And you think that...your hate and anger, that's what drives you, that's who you are. It's not", Cas says and Dean's brain doesn't catch up, and are there tears in Cas' eyes? 
"And everyone who knows you sees it. Everything you have ever done, the good and the bad, you have done for love. You raised your little brother for love, fought for this whole world...for love. That is who you are."

There's a pound again. This is what their nearing end sounds like. He barely hears it.

He hears every word, though, grasps their meaning, and understands none of it. He knows this is Castiel talking, talking to him, but it doesn't feel like it. Because why would Cas say such things to him. Why would anyone say such things to him? But Cas...Cas. Cas just keeps talking, keeps talking as if any of this were true, as if any of this didn't meet unworthy ears.

"You're the most caring man on earth, you are the most selfless, loving human being I will ever know. And ever since we met, ever since I pulled you out of Hell, knowing you has changed me."

He feels like watching the scene play out from afar, listens to the angel's words, recognizes the soft voice as that of his best friend, mesmerized by its tone and the words Cas strings together, far too good and beautiful for this dark cellar surrounding them, far too good and beautiful for the bangs at the door Dean can hear echoing somewhere in the back of his mind, far too good and beautiful to be witnessed by someone like him. He can see the tears streaming down Cas' face, they make the blue of his eyes glisten and it's always been hard not to get lost in those eyes, but now, now, with those words reverberating around him in the air and the smile that reflects in them, it's damn near impossible.

"Because you cared, I cared. I cared about ...you, I cared about Sam, I cared about Jack, but- I cared about the whole world, because of you."

He watches himself staring and is helpless against it. He's powerless against any of this, lifting a finger or uttering a word feels like more of a challenge than fighting Death who's waiting outside the door. There are things happening around him, flowing around him, enveloping him. It feels like the air is whirring with something - emotion, sound, meaning - but at the same time it's calm and empty. His head is numb yet throbbing as he tries and fails to grasp any of it. Everything is weird, everything is wrong. And there's pounding at the door, pounding in his head, pounding of his heart in his ears, and the steady stream of Cas' voice, Cas' gentle voice that cuts through it all and that he's unable to stop. It's all there and none of it feels real.

"You changed me, Dean."

This isn't something that happens. This isn't something that happens to people, not even to good people, not to deserving people, and certainly not to him. This isn't something that happens in real life at all, not in normal lives, and absolutely not in theirs. This is something that happens in movies, perhaps, in sappy romantic dramas that Dean would never admit to watching. But this doesn't the hell happen. And not to him. Not to him. (Not with Cas...) Not-

"Why does this sound like a goodbye?"

He knows. His mind can't grasp it, refuses to grasp it.

I made a deal, Dean hears in a loop repeated in his head. Out of this whole impossible speech, that's what he hears. The price was my life.

Because this is something that happens to them. This is something that has happened to them. This is something he can understand. This is something he can work with, something he can fight, something-

Except that he can't fight it, can he? Not this time, not this. He knows that, too. And so does Cas.

"Because it is."

Cas is smiling. He's smiling and Dean can't stand it. There are words in his throat, words that haven't reached his mind yet, words that never leave his mouth, either.

"I love you."

He thought his world could only be turned upside down once an evening, how presumtuous of him, how gullible, like believing the end of the world could happen just once. 
He can see the tears in Cas' eyes, this thing that looks distinctly like happiness even to him, who wouldn't know, for when had he ever related to that word...but it's there, pouring out from every cell of the angel's being. And for the first time in years, Dean is lost.

There are things he should say, something tells him. He should know what it is, he knows that he should know. But his mind is blank and there's a lump in his throat when he swallows and there are tears in blue eyes that shouldn't be smiling.

"Don't do this, Cas", he hears himself say, of all the things he could have said now. Because that's what he knows how to say.

Because maybe it's not too late yet, maybe they can blow this whole insanity off, wait for the door to open and for Billie to kill them both. Maybe-

He hears it coming, a sound like water, ink-black and hungry. He turns just to see what he already knows will be there, an opening in the wall, clawing forward, eating away at the warding. The moment he turns back is the moment the door finally flies open and he knows they're trapped. They were all along, but the whole hopelessness of their situation hits him now, pressing the air from his lungs, making his already stinging eyes water.

"Cas?" He's not sure what he wants to hear (he's already been given all the words he could wish for, all the words anyone could wish for, hasn't he), not sure what he's searching in those blue eyes that look far too calm and peaceful, with emptiness staring in his face and Death lurking in his back. The angel smiles that smile again, one that Dean can't decide on loving or despising. Then there's a hand on his shoulder, and no, not his at all, it's Cas' shoulder, Cas' shoulder on Dean's body, the one that had marked him as the angel's long before he'd known he was, and even longer before he'd accepted it.

When the Goodbye, Dean reaches his ears, it's already too late. Cas pushes him out of the way and into the wall, onto the floor, not enough to hurt (never), but with a power and determination that distinguish him as the former angel of the Lord he is. Dean sometimes tends to forget it, that Cas is that powerful celestial being and not just the same human mess they all are. He knows to hide it well, beneath beige trenchcoats, soft eyes and gentle smiles. He knows to hide it behind actions, too, the way he talks to them like they were equals, like friends, like family, the way he cares.

Dean can only watch as the Empty lurches forward and engulfs Billie, just how Cas had planned. He knows the angel will be the next to be overtaken by the same fate, just how Cas had planned.

It's not a decision. Not more than the immobility was that had frozen his muscles before and made it impossible to move. It isn't a thought that drives him to throw himself at Cas, between Cas and this supernatural entity he knows he can't defeat. He's done it before he even knows he moved at all, arms wrapped around the angel as tightly as possible. It was more like a reflex, an instinct, maybe. There was nothing else to be done, so why not do something insanely stupid?

He can feel it licking at them. Cold and dark and wanting. There's light, he thinks through closed eyelids. There shouldn't be light, should there, there should be darkness and silence and nothing. Instead, there's light and a high-pitched sound like a scream. Is it there or is he hallucinating? Maybe they're already gone and this is one of the memories he's being forced to relive (he has enough of those, doesn't he). But there's the solid warmth of Cas still in his arms, the fabric of a familiar trenchcoat clutched in his hands, knuckles white if he were to look. But he refuses to open his eyes. He doesn't want to see. He just holds on for dear life, through whatever is happening around them, squeezes his eyes shut against the raging storm. He feels a tear escaping the corner of his eye and lets it.

And then it all goes still.

~oOo~

"Dean?"

When Dean dares to open his eyes, the first thing that greets him is an all-encompassing silence. The first glance tells him that they are indeed still in the dungeon of the bunker. His first instinct is to turn around and see, make sure that the hole in the wall is gone, the powers threatening their lives along with it, but he can't rip his eyes away from the angel's face, the angel that is still there, warm and alive and real under his hands that haven't stopped clutching at the trenchcoat. There are also hands on him, he realises as the mist in his head begins to clear, hands on his back. Cas must have drawn him in when the Empty raged around them and he didn't even notice. Not then. Not with the Empty, the Empty...

He notices them now, and instantly retreats, fingers suddenly loosening their hold on the beige fabric as if it had burned him, taking a step back, away. Is it a conscious movement? He can't say. It's just what he does.

There's a flicker in Cas' eyes as Dean slips out of his reach. Hurt, Dean thinks for a split second, but it's gone so quickly, he can't be sure. He's never been sure about anything concerning Cas and feelings, Cas's feelings, his own. He should be sure now, shouldn't he. He should, with those words still reverberating in the air around them, echoing in his ears. If Dean could only understand them, he wished... But he's picking them apart in his mind, unwrapping each impossible word, tries to arrange them in a way that makes sense to him, fails miserably.

"Dean, what happened?" The deep voice that's already haunting him from inside his head rips Dean from his trance. "Dean, what did you do?" There's confusion in his voice, and a hint of something graver, something...

"What? Nothing!", he says more defensively than he should. "I didn't do anything. You're the angel, I thought-"

He doesn't know what happened. He doesn't know what he intended, he doesn't know if he intended anything at all. He doesn't know what it all means. All he knows is that there was a piece of him that couldn't let go of Cas. (Not like this. Not now. Not ever.) So he didn't.

"No. It wasn't me." Cas shakes his head, wrinkling his brow the way he does when he tries really hard to grasp something that escapes his understanding. "I- I was ready for it to take me", he says, and the truthfulness of it makes his way into Dean's heart like a splinter. "It should've- Why didn't it take me? I don't understand." The angel looks around the room as if he were expecting to find the answer written on the wall next to the many sigils that hadn't protected them, or maybe even expecting to find the Empty still lurking in a corner. But there's nothing. They're alone, alone together, and the silence is pressing but not deafening, not drowning (not how it would be there...)

"Maybe you weren't truly happy after all", it tumbles from Dean's lips. He instantly intends to cast his eyes down because that's what he does when he feels...like this.

Except he can't. Because Castiel's gaze shoots back to him at that, growing impossibly soft in front of Dean's eyes. Cas' eyes are always soft, at least most of the time, have this peaceful quality to them and even more so when he looks at Sam or Jack, someone he (Dean swallows) loves. But not like this. This- this is just for Dean. He feels like an idiot for not seeing it sooner, and he probably is.

"Dean." He has to close his eyes, can't help it, not with all the warmth seeping from that one word, his name in an angel's mouth, this angel's mouth.

"No, Dean." Dean knows there will be a slight smile greeting him when he opens his eyes again, has learned to hear it in the tone of Cas' voice. (There's no need for anyone to know that he's been looking for this particular sound, has made it his personal task to entice it as often as possible.) And yes, there it is, curling the corner of Cas' lips, reaching his eyes that still shine with previous tears and a compassion that borders dangerously on pity. It's the sad, understanding kind of pity, the kind that says 'I'm sorry you still don't know, but it's fine, I get it', and Dean feels like he can't breathe. "I don't know why it didn't take me", Cas says gently, confidently, "But I know that's not why."

He swallows, because what is he gonna say to that? To that smile and those eyes that make him feel like his innards have turned inside-out?

"You intended for it to take us both, didn't you", Cas continues mercilessly, and Dean still doesn't answer, because where's the point in lying? They both know it's true, anyway.

"You didn't leave me a choice." And there's his voice. Awesome. How kind of it to finally make an appearance.

"I did. You could just have let it take me."

"I couldn't."

Cas sighes, tilts his head to the side as he does.

"Dean..."

"I couldn't, Cas. End of discussion."

He waits for the reasonable reply that's undoubtedly about to come, waits as Cas looks at him, just looks at him, examines him, head still tilted that way, eyes squinted, lips slightly parted...and Dean knows he's staring back, doesn't care, it's what they do anyway, it's what they've always done, and Cas' lips- his lips...

And then Dean's phone rings. Sam's always had fucking impeccable timing.

He picks up without breaking the gaze. The voice of his brother is hurried and laced with worry when he says his name, and Dean can't help but miss the way it had sounded from Cas' lips only moments before. But those moments are over, the spell is broken. Sammy is talking and reality rushes in.

He looks away. They don't have time for this. God is waiting.