He had been working on the car for the last few days, ever since they came back from the last hunt. It had left her worse for wear. He had used the driver’s side door to decapitate a monster. He had dubbed it a werepire but Castiel wasn’t too keen on the nickname, not that it mattered. The pack leader was dead, and the others reverted. If they ever encountered something like that again, he wouldn’t hesitate, and he wouldn’t make the same mistake.
Live and learn.
Another sunset, another day behind them.
That very monster had shattered the driver’s side window. The window was a pain in the ass to replace, so he opted to do that first, but then reconsidered. He had to get his priorities in order. She hadn’t wanted to start, so he decided to pop the hood, and check her out. Even if the engine needed replacing, he had done it a hundred times before. Wasn’t anything he couldn’t do with his eyes closed.
Just another reflex, like keeping a .45 under his pillow and reaching for it when someone woke him up.
The list of things he did on impulse kept growing.
Maybe Castiel was right, maybe the Mark had changed him. He would never be who he had been before its influence took hold. Those days were behind him, sure, but the thoughts still haunted him. They joined his other, recurring nightmares. It was getting harder to tell them apart. The decades he spent in hell, the decade he spent tormenting souls. He had warned Castiel that torturing Alastair would unleash something in him, something that would be harder to contain.
Didn’t matter how many years had passed, he would always think back on that day. The silence that stretched between them. Who was he to challenge destiny? He had wondered what it would take to become that version of himself he met in the future, but now he had a better idea.
All the Mark did was free that beast. Free the evil. Why else would Cain have passed on the Mark? He already knew what lay dormant. He had been trained to kill. A Marine had taught him to shoot and he was a sharpshooter. Bobby had said he was a better man than John had ever been, and Dean didn’t know if he believed it, but he knew how to shoot better than his old man.
The line between hunter and hunted blurred. He had Crowley’s number on speed dial, and he had killed that kid in cold blood. Now, he had a connection to the Darkness, and there was seemingly nothing he could do about it. And when he closed his eyes, he saw it all. All the blood. God, there was always so much blood.
The people in that hospital. Charlie’s blood on his knuckles. He had hurt her. He was supposed to protect her from the monsters, not be the monster. It had felt good to kill her killers, but it didn’t bring her back, and it never would. He hoped she was at peace. He hoped she was reunited with her parents. He hoped she could heal. It would be nice if one of them could. She was always the best of them, and she was gone far too soon.
He wiped the tears but kept his eyes closed. He couldn’t stop seeing Charlie’s blood on his hands, the very hands that went on to build her funeral pyre. She was better off without them. Knowing them had only brought about her demise.
Once upon a time, he had said he didn’t deserve to go to hell. Well, that wasn’t true anymore. There was nothing noble about killing, not monsters, not humans. It was just a lie he told himself and Sammy. It was just a lie to keep on moving.
He never left the house without his gun and a few knives. He tucked them into his boots, in his jacket, and in his jeans. Was it the paranoia if there was precedent?
The car creaked in all the places he felt cricks. Add to that the blood in the backseat and on the passenger’s side window and the state of their clothes. They went through more bleach than salt these days. Having the King of Hell on speed dial meant he wasn’t exorcising demons as much anymore. He almost missed it. There was a comfort in routine, in simplicity. Demons were bad, angels didn’t exist. God is a deadbeat dad, the angels are vindictive, and the demons? They’re bureaucrats. It shouldn’t make sense, and yet it did.
As if answering his call, Castiel appeared.
“Hello, Dean,” he said.
Dean quickly schooled his expression. He didn’t want to get into it tonight. He didn’t want to explain why he had been crying while leaning against the driver’s side door. He hadn’t finishing putting Baby back together and he couldn’t leave her like this. He needed her to be ready to rumble.
He didn’t want to explain the exhaustion that washed over him. He didn’t want to explain the state in which he’d been since they had returned from their hunt. He didn’t want to see Castiel eye him quizzically. He wasn’t even sure why he had called.
He just didn’t want to be alone.
Castiel sat next to him. Having been human had made things easier between them. What had once been difficult or impossible to explain had come to make more sense to the angel. He understood the wave of emotions that could wash over you. He understood carnal desires. He understood the simplicity of a good nap. He understood more about Dean than he cared to uncover now.
“Cas, I — I didn’t mean to call,” he said.
He turned to face him.
“I know.” He paused. “I thought it best to check on you.”
Dean nodded. There was more he could say, more he should say, but he didn’t want to open that can of worms. Castiel didn’t get the memo and put a hand on his thigh. Dean threw back his head. Angels, his mother always said. The angels were looking out for him, but he knew better than that. He knew it was just the one. Just the one angel with his hand on his thigh, rubbing small circles around his knee. Just the one angel that always managed to leave him open, exposed.
Dean put his hand on top of Castiel’s until he stilled, and let it rest there. He couldn’t say when this simple comfort had started to become commonplace between them, but it had. They sat in companionable silence for some time. Castiel stood up and gave Dean a hand.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better,” he said.
“I’m glad to hear.”
They walked out of the garage together and made their way to the library. Dean wanted to ask him to come back to his room, but he couldn’t find the words. If Castiel could hear his prayer, he wasn’t answering. They had made it to the library when Castiel stopped a few inches from the table. He looked down at the ground before turning back to face him.
“I can hear you,” he said.
Dean stood still. He knew this, had known for a long time, but he couldn’t let the unspoken go unspoken anymore. Maybe he would never have the life he thought he would have, but he could have a life.
“That’s the point. And I think I’ve made my intentions clear.”
“You have,” said Castiel.
Dean closed the space between them. He cupped his jaw and caressed his cheek.
“Why? Why now?”
“Because I’m too young to be this old,” said Dean.
“I’m much older than you,” said Castiel. There was a hint of a smile.
Dean laughed, “Yeah, angel. I know.”
He kissed him.