Dean taps his fingers absently on his beer bottle, skimming the page in front of him and not getting anything from it. The research is spread all over the main library table, that soft golden lamplight bouncing off runes and dust and that one cryptic Enochian scroll he found in the storeroom.
Dean startles, nearly knocking his beer over, snapping the book in front of him closed. “Hey!” he manages, too cheerful. He clears his throat because dammit Sam was supposed to be asleep, and tries to seem as innocent as possible when he finally looks up. But Sam’s already giving him that look – the I’m deciding if I’m going to call you on your bullshit look.
“Alright, man, what the hell is going on?” Sam steps over to the table, grabbing the book and skimming the spine. “You’ve been acting weird for weeks.”
“It’s nothing – it’s-“ Dean starts, trying lamely to grab the book back.
“Speculations on the Supernatural Afterlife,” Sam interrupts, pointedly. He puts the book back down on the table, sweeping his eyes over the rest of the stacks, before looking at Dean again. “So, all this – this is about Cas, isn’t it?”
Dean flexes his fingers, takes a pull from his beer. Tries to sound as casual as he can. “Yeah.”
Sam settles into the chair across from Dean, obviously unsatisfied with that answer, and yep of course he’s going to keep pushing this. “So, what? You want to try to raise him?”
Dean sighs. “Look, I know with Jack taking over as the new God, and having everyone else back, I know I should be grateful. And I am. I can’t believe it turned out this good. Honestly.” He waves a hand at the bunker in general, and leans back in his chair. “But the Cas thing – he deserves to be here. You know? It’s not right.”
“I thought we were moving forward,” Sam says, in that nasally tone he does when he’s quoting Dean, and Dean rolls his eyes. Sam huffs a laugh, leaning his elbows on the table and scanning his brother’s features. “Seriously, man, I thought you wanted to hang it up, at least for a while? It’s pretty quiet out there, and the other hunters-“
“Your little team, you mean?” Dean teases, but there’s no real tooth to it. He’s too busy trying to get his pulse under control.
“Ha. Yeah,” Sam smiles, mostly to himself, before rallying. “But you want to go and pick a fight with another cosmic entity? I mean, I wish Cas was here as much as you do.” Dean purses his lips and looks away. “But that’s life, right? For everyone else, people die. And it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.”
“Cas deserves better.” Dean clenches his jaw.
“Everyone thinks that about their loved ones,” Sam says, gentler now. “There’s no such thing as a ‘good time’ for someone to go, Dean, they just do.”
“No, you’re not getting me.”
“Then explain it to me.”
“I can’t-“ Dean draws a long breath in through his nose, clenching his left hand into a fist on the table. He flicks a glance up at Sam, looks away again. “I can’t leave things…the way we left them.”
Sam pauses, considering. “I thought you guys were good? After Purgatory. Were you fighting?”
“No, we-“ Dean rubs his hand over his eyes, “We were good. It’s just that…before he – before the Empty took him, Cas said some things.” He’s flushing – everything is too goddamn warm.
“Like?” Sam prompts, shrugging one shoulder at him.
Dean looks up at the ceiling, reaches for his beer again. He spins it against his palm, trying to find comfort in the sensation. “About me. And him.” Dean cuts his eyes up at Sam but can’t face it. He looks back down at the table. “About the way…he felt about me.”
“Oh.” Sam barely breathes the sound. There’s a long moment of silence, and Dean feels like he’s going to come out of his skin. This was such a mistake. Now that Sam knows, it’s real. The whole thing. Dean can’t just keep pretending he imagined it, that Cas meant it a different way, that he couldn’t have possibly meant that. What if Sam’s grossed out? Hates the idea? What if he thinks-
“Did you say it back?”
All of Dean’s thoughts come to a screeching halt, and he looks up at Sam, mouth slightly open. “What?”
“Did you say it back?” Sam’s eyes are bright, somewhere between gentle humor and an old sadness. He’s doing that thing. The thing Dean hates. The thing where he looks unshakably calm and wise and together.
“I wasn’t-“ Dean splutters, “It happened so fast and-“
Sam hums, ducking his chin down to his chest and smiling to himself.
“You – you knew?” Dean’s losing his mind. He’s losing his goddamn mind. There’s no way.
“Dean, everyone knows,” Sam opens his hands, earnestly, “Bobby and I had a bet going during the first apocalypse.”
“I can’t deal with this,” Dean releases his beer bottle – if he squeezes it any harder it’ll shatter. “You knew.”
He can feel the way it cascades through his brain, like he’s having a freaking out of body experience. Sam knew. He saw it. The whole damn time. He’d been watching for years, probably thinking Dean was a complete and total dumbass. Watching the two of them dance around it – the way Dean always tried to keep it cool, Sam’s right there. Dean tries to draw a deep breath, but he’s suffocating. What was the goddamn point, then? Of any of it? He drops his head into his hands, running his fingers into his hair. His blood is roaring in his ears, and he’s panicking. He realizes, loosely, that Sam’s still there, still watching him.
“You know it doesn’t matter to me, right? I mean, it doesn’t change anything about the way I see you.” Sam sounds so calm – how can he sound so freaking calm? Dean’s having a heart attack. “You’re my brother. I just want you to be happy.”
And, suddenly, Dean can’t be sitting any more. He just can’t. He flings the chair back, on his feet before he even knows he’s doing it. He steps away from the table, rubbing his hand over his face, flicking his eyes all over and focusing on nothing. He pulls a few shallow breaths in through his mouth, swaying on his feet.
“Dean,” Sam starts, but it’s too late. Dean runs.