Actions

Work Header

together in eternity

Work Text:

The decision to watch the security tape was a mistake.

 

It hadn’t seemed like such a bad idea beforehand. After Chuck had told them on no uncertain terms that they would all live the rest of their lives on an empty planet and die alone, Dean had had no other plans for the night except to get wallow in his own despair and get as drunk as he possibly could. So why not get a few drinks down the hatch and then pull up the video of your best friend confessing his love for you and then dying to save you?

He rewinds it and plays it over and over - not out of any conscious desire to relive the pain, but more so some twisted, masochistic reflex forcing his hand to press the buttons and drive the knife into his chest over and over and over again. Each time he sees the tearful smile on Cas’ face it cuts just as deep; every time he’s taken by the Empty the knife is wrenched out again with a twist leaving just a hollow. Again and again and again. Cas loves me. Cas is gone. Cas loves me. Cas is gone. Cas loves me. Cas is gone.

He keeps drinking as he watches, hoping to numb everything. He’s sick of feeling. Eventually he tries to get up and step away from the laptop but his legs aren’t cooperating enough to actually go anywhere so he sinks to the floor instead. Rests his face against the cool glass of a liquor bottle and just lets himself drift into the darkness, a large part of him wishing he could just stay there forever.

When he wakes up, he’s in his bed again and his phone is ringing, playing out the opening bars of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult. He frowns. Did Sam carry him to bed? And also take his jeans off and tuck him in? Nah, that was a step too far. So who did? He fumbles for his phone and squints at the name on the screen. Charlie? Both versions of Charlie were gone. What was this, some trick from Chuck?

 

He answers the phone before it stops ringing.

 

“Dean?” she says, and it definitely sounds like Charlie, “I’m sorry, I don’t know who else to call but… it’s Stevie. You knew Stevie, right? Well, she’s… she was right here, we were just eating breakfast, and then…” she takes a shaky breath.

 

And now Dean is really confused.

 

“Charlie?” he says, “Wait, how are you… you’re…”

 

You disappeared, he wants to say. Except evidently not. Evidently, he’s somehow reliving what happened yesterday. Which only begged the question — which was actually real? Had yesterday all been some dream, or was this?

 

“Alright, it’s okay,” Dean says, dragging himself upright, “Just tell me what happened.”

 

He remembers, of course, but he can’t think of anything to do except play along for the moment.

 

“She just… she just vanished in front of me. Like, she was holding a plate and then she wasn’t there and the plate fell to the floor and smashed. She’s just gone. I have no clue what happened.”

 

“Okay,” he says, “We’ll be over as soon as we can. We’ll… we’ll try and figure out what happened.” He hesitates before adding, “I’m sorry, Charlie, this must be scary. We’ll try our best to help.”

 

“Thank you,” she says, “I’ll send you my address. See you.”

 

“Bye.”

 

He hangs up before looking around to take stock. His room looks the same as it did yesterday, although it hadn’t changed much anyway. He’s not hungover like he should be after how much he drank last night. He stands up and goes to find Sam like he did yesterday, and on the way he bumps into Cas. He should’ve been expecting it since that happened yesterday too, but his brain hadn’t quite caught up to the fact that if yesterday has started again for some reason, that means Cas isn’t dead. Cas is alive and right in front of him. Cas loves him and is alive and in front of him, looking exactly the same. The same trench coat over the same broad arms and wide shoulders, and the same wrinkles on his forehead and in the corners of his eyes, and the same complete lack of indication that he’s been secretly in love with Dean this whole time.

 

“Hello Dean,” Cas says.

 

“Hi, Cas,” he manages to say, still staring at Cas like a weirdo, trying to wrap his head around the fact that Cas is alive.

 

Cas is staring back at him, seeming a little puzzled. “Is everything all right?” he asks.

 

“Uhh, yeah, it’s just… Charlie called me. I was just about to go find Sam, I’ll fill you both in.”

 

Sam and Jack act exactly as they did yesterday, giving no sign that they remember experiencing this day before. He goes about the rest of the morning just like he did yesterday, unable to think of anything else to do. It’s only after they’ve packed up and set off driving to Charlie’s that he’s able to actually somewhat process about what the hell is going on.

 

“Hey so… this doesn’t feel familiar to any of you guys? You don’t feel like… all of this has happened before?” he asks while they’re stopped at a light.

 

He’s met with only blank faces from the others.

 

“Uhh… no? What do you mean?” Sam asks.

 

“Nothing. It’s nothing, forget about it.”

 

“Are you su-“

 

“Like I said, it’s nothing.”

 

Okay, so just him then. But why? What is this? Was it Chuck? Was everything that happened yesterday not real, just a vision? To scare him or warn him or whatever? Or was it real and he for some reason actually decided to start the day over and have only Dean remember? Maybe he actually died and this was some hellish version of a Heaven memory loop, where instead of reliving his best memories he experienced what would be the worst day of his life.

Whatever it was, he had no clue where to even begin at trying to get out of it.

And what about Cas? It could be fake, it could’ve been just a fake reality Chuck put in his head, but Cas might love him. What is he supposed to do with that? What is he supposed to do with that when he knows that there’s a good chance that it’s fake and Cas doesn’t really love him, and even if it’s real the whole day is repeating itself so there’s a good chance he’ll just lose him again?

 

They talk to Charlie, and everything is almost the same as before except he lets Sam do most of the talking and doesn’t join in until he mentions Billie.

 

“No. This wasn’t her,” Dean says.

 

“What?” Sam says, eyebrow raised.

 

“It was Chuck. He’s killing people. Emptying the world because we wouldn’t go along with his plan.”

 

“How-“ Sam starts.

 

“Don’t ask me how, I just know, okay? It’s him.”

 

“Okay, say it is him… what do we do?”

 

“I don’t know,” Dean says flatly. Sam looks at him incredulously.

 

“Okay so— so we’re supposed to just let it happen?” Sam argues.

 

“I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. He’s God, Sam. And as far as I remember, we already took out best shot at him and it didn’t work. We’ve got nothing.”

 

“So… you’re saying God killed Stevie? And he’s going to kill all of us?” Charlie asks.

 

“Pretty much.”

 

Charlie laughs bitterly. “Wow. And we thought the worst thing God could do to our world was abandon it.”

 

“There has to be something we can do,” Sam says.

 

“If you’ve got any ideas, I’m open to ‘em.” He turns to Charlie. “I’m sorry, Charlie. You deserved better than this, you all did.”

 

She doesn’t respond except to brush away a tear, and he turns on his heel and walks out. Joins Cas and Jack back at the car and fills Jack and Cas in on what’s going on. Sam turns up just as he’s finishing.

 

“How do you know it’s Chuck?” Cas asks.

 

“Alright, look this is gonna sound crazy, but… I’ve lived this day before. Like, I remember everything that happens.”

 

They all look at him like he’s just grown an extra head.

 

“You mean… like what Gabriel did? Like a time-loop thing?” Sam asks, “Is this Chuck?”

 

“I don’t know, probably.”

 

“So… none of this is real? It’s just some illusion?” Sam asks.

 

“Chuck isn’t Gabriel, creating some illusion in a warehouse. He’s God. He controls reality.”

 

“Right, so what, the whole world is actually in a time loop? And you’re the only one that remembers? Why you? What happened in the other versions of today?”

 

“This is only the second time. The first time, we thought it was Billie and went after her. She tried to kill me. Chuck killed off everyone else in the world except us. I feel asleep then woke up and it was this morning again.”

 

“So what do we do?” Sam asks again, and Dean is this close to punching him.

 

I don’t know. I don’t know how to fix this, I don’t know how to prevent the same thing from happening again, and right now I got no better ideas than heading back to the Bunker and drinking till I pass out like I did last night.” He gets back into the drivers seat and slams the door. The others reluctantly climb in as well, and spend the rest of the car trip trying to brainstorm new ideas, as if they’ll somehow miraculously stumble on a solution to all of this.

They get to the Bunker and Dean hits the beer while the others hit the books. Sam and Jack head out after a while to chase some probably futile lead while Cas stays, probably to keep an eye on Dean. They sit at the map table in silence. Cas may not have given up like Dean has, but he’s also not as optimistic as Sam. He knows how futile all of this is.

 

Still, he’s alive. He’s still here. Michael survived the Rapture, it makes sense that Cas would too. So as long as Billie-

 

Dean freezes. Billie. What if she still shows up?

 

“Cas, Billie. She wants to kill me. What if she shows up here?” he says, jumping out of his seat. The scythe, he needs to grab it. We need to protect ourselves, ward the Bunker.”

 

“We can try, but we don’t know of warding definitely strong enough to hold off Death — at least not forever.”

 

“It doesn’t have to be forever, that wound I gave her is killing her, we just need to hold her off until-“

 

“Too late.” Dean and Cas both look up to see Billie standing where the scythe was, holding it. She holds out her hand and squeezes and Dean feels the familiar pain in his chest.

 

“Come on, Dean. We gotta go. Come on,” Cas says, hauling him up, and they scramble away as Billie monologues.

 

“Not there,” he manages to grunt out as Cas attempts to guide him down the familiar path, “Not the dungeon.”

 

“What?”

 

“Anywhere else, just…” he pleads, unable to finish. This can’t end up the same way.

 

Cas manoeuvres them into a storage room instead and paints the same sigil on the door.

 

“There has to be some way out of this,” Dean says, looking around.

 

“She said that wound was killing her. Maybe we can wait her out.”

 

“No. We can’t. She’s gonna get through that door.”

 

“Then we fight.”

 

“She’ll kill both of us.”

 

He buries his head in his hands. Think. There has to be some other way this time. There just has to be.

 

“Wait, there is… there’s one thing she’s afraid of,” Cas says.

 

Dean looks up, ice in his veins. No. Not again.

 

“Cas, no,” he whispers.

 

“There’s one thing strong enough to stop her. When Jack was dying-“

 

“No, Cas,” he says, louder this time, “No. I know about your deal, I know what you’re planning and I’m not gonna let you do it. I’m not gonna let you sacrifice yourself.”

 

“How did you-“

 

“It doesn’t matter how I know! But I do, and I’m not gonna let you do this.”

 

“You said it yourself Dean, she will kill both of us. At least this way you will survive.”

 

“Well maybe I don’t want that! Maybe I don’t want to survive just ‘cuz you died for me!”

 

There’s a pause as they both glare at each other.

 

“Dean-“

 

“No. We find a way out where we both survive or nothing at all.”

 

Cas’ tilts his head and stares at him.

 

“After all this time… you still don’t think you deserve to be saved.”

 

“Not if it costs losing you,” he says firmly. He’s desperate to cut off this discussion and skip to the part where they find a solution.

 

“I know how you see yourself,” Cas starts and Dean snaps.

 

“No, Cas, stop it, just stop it-“

 

“You see yourself the same way our enemies see you-“

 

“No, I’m not listening to this, I’m not gonna let you do this!“ he shouts, as Cas also raises his volume to try to be heard over him, “No, no, no, no, I’m not listening, I’m not-“

 

Dean claps his hands over his ears as they continue to try to shout over each other. He feels like a child for it, but desperate times and all. His hands only remain there for a few seconds before Cas loses his patience and surges forward. Before Dean can even react, Cas has him pinned against the wall, a hand over his mouth to stop him talking over him.

 

Dean swallows. Cas looks pissed as they glare each other down - then, even worse, he cracks a sad smile.

 

No, no, no.

 

“You think that hate and anger, that's... that's what drives you, that's who you are,” Cas continues, and Dean just stands there, unable to do anything except listen. It’s a tragedy playing out before him; he knows every word of how it goes and yet he’s utterly powerless to stop it. All he can do is let Cas give his speech, albeit a slightly abridged version as they don’t have as much time.

 

“You changed me, Dean,” Cas says, the dread of what comes next is a bowling ball in the pit of Dean’s stomach. All he can feel is the warmth of Cas against him, the taste of his blood on his lips from the cut on his hand.  He’s still so alive. He doesn’t know if he can survive watching Cas be taken right in front of him again.

Billie bangs on the door once more and Dean can see that the sigil is almost burnt out.

Cas moves his hand from Dean’s mouth and rests it on his shoulder instead, as if he knows that Dean is pretty much incapable of speaking right now. Cas opens his mouth to speak and Dean can’t bear to hear those words again and Cas’ face is so close right now and it’s all too easy to just lean forward and-

He presses his lips to Cas’. It’s as if time freezes for a moment; Cas is completely motionless against him and those few seconds feel like an eternity. Then Cas gives out a sigh and he’s kissing Dean back, one hand moving around the back of Dean’s neck and the other cradling Dean’s face as he continues to hold Dean against the wall.

Dean just grabs Cas’ coat and holds on like his life depends on it. Tries to keep holding on even when Cas pulls away.

 

“Cas,” he whispers, and through blurry eyes he can see that Cas is crying too.

 

“I love you,” Cas says, a fraction of a second before Billie finally breaks the door down. And then he’s pushing Dean away and stepping back and black tendrils are once again crawling through the air and wrapping around him and then — he’s gone. Billie is taken too and Dean is once again alone. He slumps against the wall and onto the floor. There’s blood on his jacket again, as well as probably smeared over his mouth and wherever else Cas touched him. He can feel his heart racing in his chest but that can’t be true, his heart can’t still be in his body and beating when he could swear that there’s nothing he in his chest but a hollow where everything’s been punched out.

Cas loves me. Cas is gone.

He meets Sam and Jack again, tells them that Cas is gone. Goes along with Sam to concede to Chuck again even though he knows it’s futile. Chuck doesn’t mention anything about Dean reliving the day, so Dean doesn’t either. Doesn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Goes back to the Bunker, gets drunk, passes out.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

He wakes up to the call from Charlie and just lays in bed, the previous day rattling around in his head. It’s the same day again. This is officially a Groundhog Day situation.

Cas would be alive again. Dean could go and see him right this minute. See his face knowing what it felt like to feel Cas’ heat against him, feel their lips pressed together. He wants to feel it again; there’s no use denying that. Those desires are a lot harder to suppress when you don’t already know what it would feel like to give in to them. He’s tried to keep all of his illicit feelings about Cas suppressed and buried down deep, but now the carefully constructed container he’d built was leaking. The one that contained not just his tangled multitude of feelings towards Cas, but also every other desire he’d told himself he couldn’t have, every other part of himself he’d tried to lock away in a container shaped like the person he was supposed to be. The feeling of being with Cas like that — of holding him and kissing him and never wanting to let go — cut through all of it like the sharpest blade.

It’s a monumental effort to get himself together and act normal when he sees Cas again. Watch him speak and act as if he doesn’t know what it’s like to feel those lips against his. Watch his hands curl around his coffee cup and try to forget how they felt pressed to his mouth and cheek and neck.

 

“A time loop?” Sam asks, “Like Gabriel-“

 

“Yes, like Gabriel, except not the same and probably worse because it’s probably Chuck doing it, and no, I don’t know how real any of it is or how it really works or what the point of it is, and no I don’t know how to get out of it.”

 

Sam opens his mouth then closes it again, still trying to process. It’s only day three but Dean is quickly learning that most annoying part of being caught in a time loop is that your family don’t remember you’re in a time loop and you have to explain the whole thing over and over again.

 

“So… what do we do?”

 

“Well, Billie’s gonna turn up here and try to kill me in a few hours, so if we could prevent that it might be a start.”

 

This time around, he convinces Sam to ignore Charlie’s calls and spend the time preparing and warding the Bunker against Billie. He tries to avoid Cas as much as possible as they methodically paint sigils all around the Bunker. When they’re done, Cas tries to insist that Jack flies off somewhere safe, but he refuses, so they compromise by having him stay in his room while the rest of them wait in the War Room. Dean keeps one hand on the scythe as he swigs his beer and tries to avoid looking directly at Cas. Like he’s a solar eclipse or his own true form. Then, they hear it start. The banging on the door. They all wait with bated breath until they can no longer pretend that it might still be working. The extra strong warding is definitely slowing her down more than the simple sigil Cas drew, but, slowly but surely, she’s getting through it.

 

“You said she’s dying. Maybe we can wait her out,” Cas says. But Dean doesn’t know how long she has – for all he knows, it could be days, and the warding certainly won’t hold that long. They sit in silence as Billie slowly but surely beats down the warding.

 

“There has to be some way to beat her,” Sam says, as the warding fades to its last smudges.

 

“There is one thing she’s afraid of,” Cas says slowly, “One thing strong enough to beat her.”

 

Dean’s heart sinks. They can’t be back here again. There has to be some way to prevent Cas from dying. Maybe if Dean dies in the time loop he dies for real, he doesn’t know, but that’s better than having to relive Cas’ death over and over for all eternity. There has to be some way to stop him. He reaches in his pocket for his knife, but then remembers he lent it to Cas earlier. He could smash a beer bottle, but he has to be more subtle than that. If Cas notices him drawing an angel banishing sigil he might just pin Dean to the wall again.

 

“When Jack was dying, I made a deal,” Cas continues. Dean implores himself to think. Just talking over Cas wouldn’t work. How the hell was he gonna get him to stop talking? He can’t focus, can’t think of any solutions while Cas is doing his whole speech again. Saying that Dean is the most loving person he’s ever known. By the time he gets to the end, Dean is desperate. There’s only one solution he can think of right now and he hates it, but he hates the thought of watching Cas die for him again even more.

 

“You changed me, Dean,” Cas tells him and Dean forces himself to laugh. It’s a harsh, ugly sound.

 

“Where’s this going Cas, you gonna tell me you love me?” Dean hates what he’s saying, hates the mocking tone he’s saying it with, hates himself. But if he can’t stop Cas from saying his speech, he can make it not happy, at least. If he hurts Cas, if he stops him from reaching true happiness, the Empty can’t come. “You’re pathetic, Cas. Still, at least you’re smart enough to get one thing right. At least you know this is something you could never have, ‘cuz why would I ever want you like that?” The words pour out of his throat like acid, flowing out all too easily but leaving a burn all the same. Sam just stares at him in complete shock, and Cas looks as if Dean has just shot him with an angel bullet.

 

“Dean, why are you-” he whispers, but he can’t get any more words out. He just stares at Dean, a perfect picture of hurt. Dean thought he’d never be able to get the way Cas looked when he’d had to make him leave the Bunker out of his head. This is ten times worse, because Cas isn’t just upset. There’s a certain amount of resignation there, too. Maybe he’d expected better of Dean, but he’d certainly feared the worst, even if only in his worst nightmares.

 

The door breaks down and Dean forces himself to turn away and run at Billie. This would all be pointless if she got to Cas first anyway. They fight, and it’s short even if not sweet. The last thing he sees is Cas’ face and when the scythe carves into his chest, it feels well deserved.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

This time, he doesn’t wait for Billie to show up. If she’s going to anyway, may as well take the fight to her. Except he messes up and she kills him right then and there in the library.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

He throws himself at her over and over. When he gets bored of that, he tries smarter solution after solution and none of them work. Either Cas dies or he does first, every time. He gets better at saving Cas though. Learns to grab the knife and blast Cas away before he can start his speech. The days that it works are the ones he considers good days. If Chuck is doing this to torture Dean, then it’s working. He knows each time Cas dies that it’s not permanent, that Cas will be back again the next morning looking exactly the same. But that doesn’t change the pain he feels each time he has to see Cas die before him. The days and iterations of their deaths all start to blend together, although he never manages to become numb to it. It’s just a constant cycle. Wake up. See Cas. Restrain himself from just lurching forwards and hugging Cas because the feeling of Cas holding him that second day is the safest and most secure he’s felt in a long time. Decide what today’s plan will be. Fail. Try to prevent Cas and Sam and Jack dying before he does. Succeed and get killed by Billie, or fail and still get killed by Billie, if he’s lucky, or fall asleep in bed if he’s not. Wake up. Repeat. Wake up. Repeat.

He thinks about Cas’ confessions a lot, can’t stop them replaying over and over again in his mind if he doesn’t keep himself sufficiently distracted. The first time he’d just stood there completely frozen, unable to do anything except ask Cas not to do this. The third time he’d done a lot more than just asking. The second time…

It’s impossible not to remember it. It’s not like he’s never thought about kissing Cas before, but the alarm bells would sound anytime those thoughts entered his head and he’d gotten pretty good at catching them quickly and burying them deep, deep down. It’s a lot harder to do the same now that they aren’t just passing fantasies but an actual memory, an actual feeling seared into his skin. He’d spent so long pretending that this was something he didn’t desperately want because he’s always known that it was something he isn’t allowed to want. Just one in a long list of illicit desires that just don’t fit in with who he’s supposed to be.

But now a dam has been broken and it’s hard to do anything but want. The alarm bells aren’t gone, but he doesn’t have the restraint to obey them anymore. Every time he sees Cas — watches his lips move as he speaks, feels their arms brush together when Cas stands too close — all he can do is want. He’s not sure he’s ever craved anything more.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

It’s just another day. Yesterday was a pretty good one in that he didn’t have to watch any of the others die, but he’s still just exhausted at this point. He’s all out of plans and he feels like he’s completely running on empty. He’s tempted to just lay here in bed until Billie shows up to kill him.

He drags himself out of bed anyway then goes to find Cas.

 

“Morning, Cas,” he says. Then, impulsively, “You wanna go for a drive? Need to clear my head a bit.”

 

Cas agrees and they head out. It’s not the first time he’s done this, just needed to take a break in the midst of everything. He even lets Cas put on his pop music and only grumbles about it a little bit. They drive along in silence to the sound of some pop-y love song.

 

Is he thinking about me when he listens to these songs? Dean wonders. Then, not for the first time, Does he really love me?

 

Because the Cas-es in the loops certainly did, or at least claimed to. But who knew if that was real? If they were real? The Cas that he’d known for the past twelve years, did he feel the same? Would he do the same?

Cas isn’t even looking at him, just staring out of the window as they drive along and Dean’s hit with a sudden pang in his chest and a lump forming in his throat. He shouldn’t go further down this road. He should stop thinking about whether or not Cas loves him, and how the fact that Cas loves him makes him feel. He can’t be putting strain on the already fragile bindings keeping his feelings organised and packed away as they should be, not when he’s in the middle of this mess. All he knows right now, all he lets himself think, is that he wishes they could just stay in this car forever. Just keep driving, the two of them together and still alive.

 

They have to turn back eventually, and then Dean goes to grab Billie’s scythe and the key to her library.

 

“What are you doing?” comes Cas’ voice from behind him.

 

“Billie,” he says, “She’s gonna try and kill me. So I’m taking the fight to her.”

 

“How do you-“

 

“It doesn’t matter how I know, I just do. And nothing’s gonna stop me going after her, so you can save your arguments.”

 

Cas’ glares at him, but seems to realise from Dean’s voice and demeanour that there’s no stopping him.

 

“Fine. Then I’m coming with you,” he says, in a tone of voice that suggests that there’s no stopping him either. Dean shrugs and opens the door and the two of them step through. Dean fights like he’s done dozens of times before. He’s gotten better at it, though. Learnt to anticipate her moves, learnt to take advantage of her injured shoulder. The last few times he’s gotten good hits on her and this time it really seems like he’s winning. He’s managed to keep hold of the scythe for a pretty long time, getting in little nicks. And then Billie knocks him back but when she tries to wrench the scythe away from him he manages to twist it just right. The blade slices into her chest and that’s it, she’s gone. It feels almost anticlimactic.

 

“We did it,” Dean laughs, “She’s gone.”

 

Cas smiles at him as they leave the library together. He did it. He saved Cas.

 

It’s not until they leave the library and meet Sam again that Dean’s reminded of the larger problem. That he may have saved Cas, but Chuck is still killing everyone else in the world. Still, everything feels less futile now he knows that Cas is safe. And when Sam later suggests giving in to Chuck so that he’ll bring everyone else back, he doesn’t go along with it like he did before.

 

“He’s not gonna agree,” Dean argues, “I told you, remember, I’ve done all of this before. He’s not gonna bring everyone back. He wants us to suffer.”

 

He doesn’t tell Sam the whole truth. That he’s afraid Chuck will say yes this time. Dean is no stranger to dying to save the world. He’s almost done it before, would do it again, but he just figured out how to actually save Cas for once. They’re both alive, they’re all alive. What if that’s what it takes to break the loop? If they go to Chuck now and Chuck agrees to let them kill each other, or, even worse, kills Cas, he could remain stuck in the loop.

 

“Look, odds are I’m gonna wake up tomorrow and none of this has happened and I’ll still be in the loop,” Dean says. “If so, it doesn’t matter anyway. If not, if we actually proceed to tomorrow… then we can talk about this again. It’s not like one day makes a difference.”

 

Sam agrees to this and goes back to his room, leaving Cas and Dean sitting alone in the library. He knows that when it comes down to it, he could never live peacefully knowing that his death could’ve saved everyone else in the world. Despite what Cas believes, he knows that taking pain, taking sacrifice is all that he’s ever been good for. He doesn’t deserve an ending where he just gets to be with Cas forever, and definitely not at the cost of everyone else in the world. He’ll bring them back or die trying. But even knowing all of that, he can’t help himself imagining. Can’t stop his mind drifting to a future where they could just be. Just live side by side like this forever.

He watches Cas, who is intently focused on the huge lore book in front of him.

 

Cas loves me, and he’s alive. But if he ever acts on it, he’ll die.

 

Dean remembers the first confession. The later days kind of blur together, but those first few feel seared into his memory. Thinks of how it felt to have Cas tell him he loved him and to know that that was what was gonna take Cas away from him. Remembers the second confession, the feeling of Cas’ lips on his — he’d kissed him purely on base instinct, something he never would’ve allowed himself to do at any other moment — and how he wishes he could just live in that moment forever. Remembers each and every time he’d had to watch Cas die in front of him, how regardless of the fact that he knew Cas would be alive again tomorrow it never hurt any less.

I love him, Dean thinks, and he’s never allowed himself to think that before. Always tried to suppress it and pretend it wasn’t there. But there’s no point denying it now. Before all of this, Dean would’ve struggled to admit it, to admit to having romantic feelings for another man at all. Might’ve felt compelled to insist that it wasn’t like that, that he wasn’t like that, no deny what he knew he felt. But right now he feels so separate from his old life, from who he was when all of this started. It feels worlds away, almost a different reality. All he knows now is how it felt to watch Cas die over and over and over. How it feels to know that he’d do anything just to keep Cas safe. He looks at Cas and it’s just love, nothing else it possibly could be, and he knows that for sure from the pain he feels when he thinks about neither of them ever being able to say those words again without Cas dying.

Cas looks up and catches Dean staring.

 

“Alright, I’m going to bed,” Dean says, fighting to keep his voice level. Leaving Cas is the last thing he wants to do right now, but he doesn’t know if he’s strong enough to just sit here and let Cas look at him like that knowing what he knows. “See you tomorrow, hopefully.”

 

He lays down in bed and tries not to imagine a future that he knows is just a pipe dream. He doesn’t even know what’s happening right now, how much of this is real. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever make it out of here, and what’ll happen when he does. Still, he saved Cas, and that’s one win. It’s that thought that soothes him to sleep. He drifts off, managing to crave Cas’ presence beside him only a little.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

So killing Billie wasn’t the key. Even though he managed to get himself and Cas out of it alive, it still didn’t break the loop. Which made sense — this wasn’t some movie with an easy solution like that. This time loop was probably a torture device created by a sadistic God. Why would there be a way out?

 

He doesn’t even try to fight this time. Just sits in the bunker and waits for Billie to show up and take him.

 

The days pass again. He’s given up on trying to fight Billy. Just finds things to do to fill the time until she shows up. Goes on drives with Cas and Sam and Jack. Says some of the things he’s never gotten to before. Shows Cas movies and shows he never got to show him. Tries new recipes every day. Teaches Jack to drive, over and over. Reads. Apart from the being killed before dinner every day part, it’s not a bad existence. It’s predictable, at least, which brings a certain type of peace. An eternity with the people he loves most in the world — apart from the fact that they get their memories wiped every several hours, it’s not too bad.

And somehow, within the loop, he feels freer than he’s ever felt before. It’s like some of the pressures on him that had existed for so long he didn’t even notice them had eased up and he could just breathe and be more freely. For once, absolutely no one watching him — except maybe Chuck, and fuck that guy. It feels almost like being a demon again, in a weird way. Not the same lack of morals, but a lack of inhibition.

His whole life, he’s always needed to be a certain person. He’s known exactly what lines not to cross, what he was and wasn’t allowed to do. Dean Winchester is a tough, hardened hunter. Dean Winchester’s only purpose in life is the family business, continuing his father’s work. Dean Winchester likes beer, cars, weapons and women. Dean Winchester only likes men in a manly, brothers-in-arms kind of way. Dean Winchester is built to take pain and suffering so that others don’t have to. Dean Winchester is not built for romance, or a happy ending, or anything soft. Dean Winchester dies young and bloody doing the only thing he was ever meant to do. He knew his role in the world, he knew how to move and contort himself to always stay inside of that box. Pretend to be that guy, pretend that it just came naturally in the hopes that one day it would. Straying outside of those lines had never brought anything except punishment. From his dad, from the universe. He’d thought that was just the way of the world, how it went for a guy like him. 

But right now, there are no consequences. Right now, he doesn’t need to be anyone. There’s no one to see if he slips out from the role he’s always needed to play. He could go out and say anything, the most outlandish things, to Sam right now and it wouldn’t matter because he’d just forget it by tomorrow. He could walk out in a hot pink prom dress for all the long term impact it would have. He can’t just let go of everything at once, it’s not that easy, but the longer he spends in the loop it’s like the alarm bells have gotten more and more muted. Still there, but no longer loud enough to stop him.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

“Hello Dean,” Cas says, like he does every morning, and Dean’s heart breaks a little bit, like it does every morning. Except something about today makes it the straw that breaks the camels back. He’s going to die again anyway, none of this is permanent, and he needs to say it, just once. Just once.

 

“Cas, I… I love you,” he says, “I’m in love with you.”

 

Cas’ eyes widen in shock and, Dean realises a second later, fear. Cas doesn’t say anything, and they stand there frozen for a second, expectant. But nothing happens. It doesn’t come. Because none of this is real and it’s not supposed to?

 

Then Dean sees the realisation in Cas’ eyes. The resignation. He couldn’t really be happy because he knows he can’t say it back. Because if he does, it’ll come. To be truly happy, he has to allow himself to be. Allow himself to say it. He has to accept that he’s going to die and still be happy, because in what other way can you achieve happiness when the spectre of death hangs over it?

 

“I’m sorry Dean,” Cas says, “I can’t… I have to go.” He turns on his heel and escapes down the corridor, leaving Dean to turn back to his room. He gets back into bed and wishes Billie could come earlier for once.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

Although he tries to keep busy, the days start to turn monotonous. One day, out of both boredom and the realisation that he doesn’t have to worry about anyone seeing his watch history, he flips over to the LGBTQ section on Netflix for something to watch because, for possibly the first time ever, he doesn’t give a fuck what Dean Winchester is supposed to do.

The closest he’s ever come to feeling this way was around Charlie – the original Charlie, their Charlie. Even with Cas it was never the same; the alarm bells were always there, clanging incessantly. But around Charlie, they weren’t as loud. He didn’t feel that same pressure to be a specific person. He’s pretty sure he prefers the person he was around her.

On some level, Dean has just accepted that he’s gonna be in here forever. He’s stopped looking for ways out. It’s not that he necessarily wants to stay — if a way out presented itself to him he would take it in a heartbeat, no matter how comfortable he’s gotten inside the loop — but it’s been pretty easy to just sink into living like this. But sometimes when he ventures out of his room and sees Cas, he can’t help thinking about what a future might look like.

Whether or not the confession was real, whether or not Cas really feels that way about him, he wants Cas to be there. He’ll take as much of Cas as he can get. He wants all of them, together. This, what he has right now, just being able to be with Cas and Sam and Jack everyday, that’s all he wants. He doesn’t want to die, and thinking that knocks the wind out of his chest. Because death has just always been an inevitability for him; if you’d told him at twenty-one that he’d die at forty-one he’d probably think he’d had a decent run. Not the best, but not the worst. But right now, he doesn’t want to die. He wants to get to keep being with the people he loves, keep seeing them every day.

He can’t just stop hunting. And after everything he’s done, he can’t possibly believe that he deserves a happy ending. He’s known far better people that died a lot younger than him. But he wants it, he wants it so badly, and after a lifetime of being buried away those wants are rising and rising and threatening to consume him.

 

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

He wakes up. Says hi to Cas.

 

Then, he goes to find Jack. Knocks on his bedroom door.

 

“Hey Jack, wanna go for a drive?”

 

As always, Jack looks hesitant. For him, it’s only been a couple of days since Dean said he wasn’t family. That he should die for them.

 

“C’mon, I… wanted to talk to you about something.”

 

Jack slowly gets up and follows him to the car. They drive in silence for a while before Dean speaks. It’s not the first time he’s talked about this, but he tries not to follow a script. Speak from the heart, or whatever.

 

“Look, Jack, what I said the other day… I want you to know that that’s not true. That I was wrong to say that.”

 

“It’s okay, Dean. I understand.”

 

 “No, you don’t.” He pauses for a second. “There’s this… do you know what a time-loop is? Where you live the same day over and over again?”

 

Jack frowns, confused by the tangent. “Like in Groundhog Day?”

 

“Yeah, exactly like that. Well, I’m kind of in one.”

 

“So… I’m in it too? I just don’t remember?”

 

“Yeah, I guess. And well, it’s been happening for a while and I got no clue why or how to stop it. But it’s given me time to think. A lot of time. A lot of time to realise just how wrong I was.”

 

Jack is silent, looking at him with a scrunch in his forehead that is just so like Cas.

 

“Look, I’m not gonna try and excuse it by saying it was all Chuck. It was him making me feel like that but it wasn’t him making me do it. Everything I did to you, everything I said… I did that, that’s all on me, and there’s nothing I can do except apologise and try to make up for it. But being in this loop, having that time to think… it’s helped me to realise a lot about myself. About all the crap Chuck put in my head making me think that you weren’t family, and it’s all… just so wrong. So I’m sorry that I ever let that asshole manipulate me. I’m sorry that I said you weren’t family. I’m just… sorry, for everything, Jack. Truth is, you deserved a lot better than me, but I’m what you got, and I’m sorry for that too.”

 

He turns to glance at Jack. “Maybe it would’ve been better for you if I was never there. Sam and Cas probably would’ve done better on their own. But this is what we got, and we are a family, all four of us. And I’m glad the plan didn’t work, I’m glad we didn’t beat Chuck. Not if it meant losing you. I’ll even take being stuck in this stupid crappy time loop if it means we’re all here together, and that means all of us.”

 

Jack is silent for a second, then says “Thank you, Dean.”

 

They drive in silence for another few moments till Jack speaks up again.

 

“I don’t… wish you weren’t there,” he says slowly.

 

“No?”

 

“Cas always said… that you care about all of us a lot. That you just get angry and it makes you lose the way sometimes.”

 

“If Cas knew everything I said and did, he probably wouldn’t be so nice about it.”

 

“I know everything you did. With regard to me, anyway.”

 

Dean shakes his head.

 

“Besides, I did…” Jack swallows, “What I did to Mary… to other people…”

 

“Look, I’m not… not gonna say that was okay, because you know it wasn’t. But that wasn’t really you, Jack, and I know that. Mom would’ve forgiven you a long time ago, and I should’ve too. I… I do forgive you, Jack. Of course I do.”

 

Jack nods slowly. “Then… I forgive you too.”

 

“You don’t have to, Jack-“

 

“I want to. I don’t want to be angry at you. You’re still… still my dad. One of them.”

 

“Well, I ain’t exactly winning any awards at it.” 

 

“You’re better than Lucifer.”

 

“Wow, better than the actual Devil. Not exactly the highest bar.”

 

“I think you’re better than him because… he never actually cared about me,” Jack says, “He just wanted me for my power. For what I could bring to him. Sam said that… that some fathers just see their kids as something to own and control. Which is why they get mad when the kids don’t go along. That that’s why he stole my grace — because he only cared about me as a tool to control, not me. But you… you hated me because I’m Lucifer’s son.”

 

“I don’t-“

 

“You did. You thought I was dangerous because of my powers. And I was, for a bit. But when you saw me as me, you cared about me.”

 

“I tried to use you too. I tried to make you sacrifice yourself for us, and that wasn’t okay.”

 

“You said I wasn’t family.”

 

Dean’s throat tightens. “Yeah, and that was wrong, Jack. I don’t… I just got angry. About Mom, about Chuck, about everything. I couldn’t think about anything else other than that we needed to beat him. And I was willing to sacrifice you for that, and that was… so wrong.”

 

“It’s just confusing, because sometimes you’re my dad, and you care about me because I’m me, and you’re great. But then sometimes, it’s like you see me as a stranger or a monster again.” He doesn’t say the words with any kind of anger or resentment. Just confusion and sadness, which is a hundred times worse.

 

He’s right, is the thing. That’s always been Dean’s justification. Every little thing he’s said or done to Jack that he regrets, it had seemed justified at the time because Jack wasn’t his kid. After Cas died, he’d been too full of grief and anger to view this kid that he’d just met as anything other than the Reason That Cas Was Dead. When Mom died, that wasn’t Jack anymore, that was a soulless danger that just needed to be stopped — right up until he was staring into Jack’s eyes, pointing the gun at his head, and he couldn’t ignore the fact that that was his kid that he was supposed to kill. And that should’ve been the end of it. He should’ve realised that Jack was his kid, and always would be. But for some reason he just couldn’t let go of that resentment about Mom. Accepting that Jack was his kid would mean accepting that he needed to forgive him, and he couldn’t do that, just couldn’t let go of his anger. So he’d just kept Jack at arm’s length, and then when it came down to it had been all too easy to just pretend like Jack wasn’t family. And yes, a lot of it was down to Chuck, but he’d gone along with it. Had barely even tried to push back.

 

“I think… that was the only way I could justify it in my own head. Hurting you. Because if I let myself accept that you’re my kid, I never could’ve taken my anger out on you, so I just pretended like you weren’t. Like it wasn’t my job to protect you. But I’m never gonna do that again, okay? You’re my family, and I love you. And if I ever get out of this freakin’ time loop, that’s how it’s gonna be. I never wanna to be like that again, like the person Chuck tried to make me. If I ever get out, things are gonna be different. I promise, Jack. I don’t wanna be that person anymore.”

 

He’s apologised before, had some variation of this talk. But not like this. He’s been scared of unravelling this particular knot, but, as always, he feels lighter when he does. Freer. I don’t wanna be that person anymore, he says, and he realises that he doesn’t just mean with regard to Jack. He wants to be different. He wants to stop making the same mistakes. Jack nods at him earnestly and it almost feels like it could be a new beginning.

 

“Man, I wish you could remember this,” Dean mutters, “But I’m gonna tell you again, over and over, and if I ever make it out I’ll tell you again then too.”

 

“And then,” Jack says hesitantly, “We can be a family, the four of us?”

 

“Yeah, of course. If I can stop Cas from dying and we manage to beat God, of course.”

 

“Why would Cas die?”

 

“He… in the first version of this time loop, the original day, he died. Billie was trying to kill both of us and— well, a while ago, he made this deal with the Empty, and he summoned it so it would take both of them.”

 

“The deal,” Jack says, shaking his head, “He made it to save my life. He asked me not to tell you. So is he going to die again today? And every day?”

 

“Well, every day of this loop Billie shows up at the same time and tries to kill me. So unless I kill her or I die first, then maybe.”

 

“Can you beat her?” Jack asks.

 

“Done it once. Never tried again, ‘cuz there didn’t seem to be much point.”

 

“How long until she comes?” he asks, sounding almost frantic now.

 

“Bout two hours. Why, what’s going on?”

 

“I think I remember something…” he says, squeezing his eyes shut like he’s trying to focus. “It’s vague but…” His eyes snap open again. “We need to go back to the Bunker, now.”

 

“Alright, alright.” Dean turns the car around and floors it back to the Bunker. Jack refuses to explain anything and sits with his eyes closed for the whole journey.

 

They arrive back and Jack immediately seeks out Sam and Cas.

 

“Billie will be here in just over an hour to kill Dean. I need to be able to get close to her without her killing me,” Jack explains.

 

“What? Why?” Cas asks, brows furrowing in concern.

 

“It’s hard to explain, I just know I need to. Please. It’s the only way. Is there any way to keep her in one place?”

 

“Like a reaper trap for Death?” Sam asks, “I don’t know if that exists.”

 

“We need to try,” Jack says firmly.

 

Sam glances up at Dean and Cas as if to ask if either of them have any clue what’s going on. Jack is almost vibrating with nervous energy; he’s never seemed this anxious before. “Alright,” he sighs, “I’ll have a look at the lore and Rowena’s materials and see if I can come up with something.”

 

They head to the library and within an hour, Sam’s shows them a piece of paper with the trap design drawn on it.

 

“This could work,” he says, “But it probably won’t hold her forever. The main issue is getting her into it in the first place. I found a spell that could work to make it invisible until activated, but we still have to make sure she steps in that exact spot.”

 

“We can’t just paint a huge one? Or paint ‘em all over?”

 

“From what I can tell, the spell is very precise. It’ll be easier to work with small quantities. It’ll give us enough… magical paint, I guess, for one trap. I don’t think we’ll have time to make more.”

 

“Alright, well, what are the ingredients?”

 

Sam hands over the list and Dean fetches them from storage. Thankfully, they’re all fairly simple ones that they have already. Sam gets to work with the spell.

 

“Alright, done,” he says, picking up the faintly glowing bucket of paint, “Where should I paint this?”

 

“Use the scythe as bait,” Dean says, “She always goes for that first. Put ‘em somewhere that she has to step on it to get to it.”

 

Sam places the scythe in a corner of the library and the sigil in front of it. Then, they sit at the table and wait with only a couple of minutes to spare.

 

“Act normal,” Dean says, “Like we’re not expecting her.” Sam and Cas pretend to read, and Dean grabs his phone out of his pocket to show Jack a funny bird video he saw on Youtube earlier.

 

Billie appears, right on time and they all make a pretty good go of appearing shocked when she explains why she’s here, and as if they’ve completely forgotten about the scythe in the corner. She flicks a hand to shove them all away and strides over to get it and then freezes on the spot as the trap flares orange. She slowly turns around to face them.

 

“Do you expect this to hold me forever?” she asks, staring Dean down with an icy glare.

 

“No,” Jack replies, “Just long enough for this.” He walks forward and taps her on the forehead with two fingers, and she gasps as he pulls them away.

 

“You… what did you do?” she asks, sounding incredulous, “How?”

 

“I don’t know. I just know that… I was scared. And alone.” He turns back to glance at Dean and Cas and Sam. “Cas was gone. Dean didn’t seem to care about me, and Sam went along with him. I was scared about what was gonna happen, and I felt Dean watching that tape, over and over, and I just… I guess this happened. But I didn’t realise what was happening until today. And I know how to fix it, but only if you agree to help me. If you don’t… well, we can all stay trapped in here doing this again and again until you do.” He raises his chin, looking firm as he strikes his bargain.

 

Billie raises her eyebrows at him for a second, before breaking out into a dry smile. “Help you what? Kill God?”

 

“Yes,” he says simply.

 

She stares him down for a while, considering. It’s a tense silence but Jack doesn’t break his gaze. Finally, she nods.

 

“Alright. You get us out of here, get Chuck to us, and I’ll help you.”

 

“Hang on… where is Chuck?” Dean asks “He can’t be trapped in this loop too, right?”

 

“A part of him is,” Jack replies, “Like… a projection. It’s complicated. The whole world is trapped in this loop, trapped in a fixed moment in time. But Chuck exists outside of the constraints of this physical world.”

 

“So why didn’t he stop this?”

 

“Maybe he couldn’t,” Billie replied, “Or maybe he didn’t want to. Maybe he saw that the only being in the universe powerful enough to beat him trapped itself in a cage and he’s not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. He’s probably off in another dimension, or creating a new world.”

 

“I can draw him out,” Jack says, “But it’ll be better if we’re outside.” He turns to Billie warily. “I haven’t broken the loop yet. I’m going to let you out, but if you try anything…”

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll play ball,” Billie says, “I’ve always liked the idea of reaping God.”

 

Jack breaks the sigil and Billie grabs her scythe. The two disappear, leaving the rest of them to take the long way out.

 

“Ready?” Billie asks.

 

“Wait, hang on,” Dean says, “What exactly is the plan here?”

 

“We kill God,” Billie says, “And the power transfers from him over to your kid.”

 

“Jack will become God?” Cas says, “There must be some other way to do this.”

 

“The plan only works if he siphons enough power away for me to kill Chuck with that power vacuum of his,” Billie says, “Then, once Chuck is gone, the remaining power will naturally flow into him.”

 

“Jack is a child. We’ve already asked enough of him. He shouldn’t have to-“

 

“It’s my choice,” Jack says, “And there’s no other way. This is the only way that we get free of him.”

 

“Cas is right, Jack,” Dean says, “There’s always another way, we can find it-“

 

No.” Jack is firm. Then, without another word, he stretches his arms out flat parallel to the ground. “I’m starting,” he says.

 

“Jack, no!” Cas pleads, but it’s already happening. The grass around Jack’s feet starts to shrivel and die in front of their eyes. There’s a weird distortion in the air around him as Jack starts to draw in power. From the universe. From Chuck. The circle of dead grass grows larger and larger until another figure appears in front of them.

 

Chuck looks bedraggled and absolutely furious.

 

“You think you can take it that easily?” he hisses, a wild look in his eyes that Dean’s never seen before, “Come and get it.” His eyes change, one becoming pure black darkness and the other glowing with blue light. There’s an energy pulsing between him and Jack as they battle their wills against one another. Jack’s eyes are glowing too, and then his whole body. It becomes brighter and brighter until it’s almost unbearable to look at.

 

“Now!” Jack shouts.

 

Billie steps forward with her scythe and cleaves neatly through Chuck’s chest and that’s it, he’s gone.

 

The light around Jack flares and then fades away. Jack collapses to the ground. They immediately run over, Cas dropping to his knees beside him.

 

“He’ll be fine,” Billie says, “He just had the power of the whole universe shoved into him. He just needs a minute to adjust.”

 

Sure enough, after a few seconds, Jack opens his eyes and slowly sits up.

 

“I’ll leave you to it,” Billie says, “I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.” And with that, she’s gone.

 

 

Cas takes Jack off to his room and they stay in their for a while. Dean and Sam are sitting in the War Room celebrating with a whiskey when Cas comes back in.

 

“How is he?” Sam asks.

 

“Still needs some time to adjust,” Cas replies, “He keeps talking about the work he has to do, but I’ve convinced him to take a break and rest a little first. He’s currently watching Riverdale.”

 

“Not sure if that’s particularly good for the world, but I guess the kid deserves it,” Dean says.

 

“I’m gonna go talk to him,” Sam says, getting up. Cas takes his empty seat and waits till he’s gone to speak.

 

“Jack was explaining more to me about the loop. It seems as if it was primarily a self preservation mechanism that his subconscious constructed. Even his own memories were blocked to protect himself.”

 

“So what broke it? How did he just remember?”

 

“He constructed it to protect himself because he was scared and alone. He said that when you spoke to him he felt, for the first time since I died, that everything would be okay. He was no longer scared about the future and therefore didn’t feel as if he required the safety of the loop so his brain stopped blocking out the memories.”

 

“And why did only I remember what was going on?”

 

“He didn’t seem to know. Like I said, it wasn’t something he constructed purposefully. It was his brain acting on a subconscious level.”

 

“Right.” Dean pauses, “So it was… that first day, that was real? And in all the loops, that was really you, even though you didn’t remember?”

 

Cas hesitates. “I remember… the original day. Before Jack started the time loop.” He clasps his fingers together nervously, not meeting Dean’s gaze.

 

“And what about your deal?” Dean asks, “Is that…”

 

“Yes, Jack insisted on fixing that before anything else. It’s all sorted.”

 

“Okay, good. Because I watched you die enough times in that loop and I never wanna see it again.”

 

Cas nods. “Yes, I know you’ve already had to see more than enough people die for one lifetime.”

 

“No. Not just people. You, Cas. I don’t want to lose you again. Ever.”

 

Cas exhales softly. “I’ll try my best not to let that happen,” he says quietly, nodding.

 

“Not try,” Dean insists, “You can’t. You just can’t. ‘Cuz I… I am so in love with you and I just need you to stay. If that’s what you want.”

 

Cas’ eyes widen. “You…”

 

“Of course I love you, Cas, I’m crazy about you. But I just… I just lost you over and over again, so many times and I can’t do it again. And I’ve always just… let you go. Never asked you to stay because I never thought I deserved it. Hell, maybe I still don’t. But I just… can’t lose you again.”

 

“You…” Cas says again, then, seeming to pull himself together a little, “You still haven’t actually asked me.”

 

Dean takes a deep breath. “Stay,” he says, voice cracking a little, “Stay with me. Please.”

 

Cas just looks at him for a minute, his face looking like he’s just experienced revelation. “Nothing would make me happier.”

 

“Good.” Dean stands up and walks around the table and Cas stands too, looking at Dean as if he doesn’t quite know what to do. But then Dean hooks a hand around his neck and pulls him into a kiss and almost immediately Cas is kissing him back. He feels the same as he did their first kiss; solid and warm. He’s persistent and his hands are so firm and sure as they roam around, touching and holding Dean wherever he wants to. But the kiss itself couldn’t be more different. Cas is hungry, yes, but no longer desperate. He kisses Dean hard but slow, taking the time to drag his fingers slowly down Dean’s face to rest on his neck and tease his lips with his tongue. Dean isn’t scared of Cas pulling away, and when he does he stays so close that his warm breath still brushes across Dean’s lips.

 

“You should go speak to Jack,” Cas murmurs, “I’m sure he’ll want to.”

 

“Yeah,” Dean says, still trying to catch his breath. He still doesn’t quite want to let go of Cas, even though he knows he’ll have to at some point.

 

“I’ll still be here when you get back,” Cas says, stepping away.

 

“I know,” Dean says. And that’s the beautiful thing, he actually does.

 

Later, he makes dinner for all of them, one of the recipes he practiced while he was in the loop. Jack and Sam empty their plates enthusiastically, Cas watches them all, smiling, and Dean just looks around and realises that he can have this. It’s not like he can just give up hunting, necessarily, but he wants more of this. He’s sick of sabotaging himself. They’ve lost people along the way but right now, he has a little family and they’re whole and safe and together, and he wants to keep it that way — for them, at least, even if he can’t do it wholly for himself.

Sam and Jack wash up, and he heads off to take a shower. Bumps into Cas on the way back to his room, and does a cursory glance up the corridor to make sure no-one is around before leaning in to make out with him again. It’s still just as good and almost immediately, he wants more. And while Cas seemed hesitant to initiate, once Dean does he’s as insatiable as before, pushing him back the few feet to the wall by Dean’s room and pinning him up against it. Turns out that repressing what you want for twelve years makes things extra intense when you both finally get to indulge. He brushes at Dean’s lower lip with his tongue before bringing his teeth down against it and Dean feels like he’s melting against the wall. His brain certainly has, as he’s completely unable to think about anything else other than where to touch Cas next and that he wants to keep doing this.

Cas has the presence of mind to move them to Dean’s room when he hears someone coming in the distance, and Dean’s brain gets a little kickstart at that, enough to prompt him to peel Cas’ coat and jacket off because he is wearing so many layers and if Dean doesn’t get to feel more of his skin right now he might actually die. And it turns out, once both of their layers are off, that Cas’ hands feel just as good in other places as they do across his face and mouth and neck — although he is still quite fond of how they feel on his mouth. But that’s probably a conversation for another time, and right now the last thing he wants is to disrupt Cas because what he’s doing with them feels pretty great. Then Cas is inside him and Dean wraps his legs around his back and almost cries because of how good it feels just to be so completely surrounded and filled by Cas. He feels kind of pathetic but then Cas kisses the corner of his eye and moves his hips and he doesn’t even care. If there was freedom in being in the loop, there’s even more in this – in stripping away the pretence, allowing himself to have without caring about the fact that he’s not supposed to.

 

“Remind me why we didn’t do that years ago?” Dean murmurs into Cas’ hair after it’s over and they’re curled up together in the dark.

 

“There are a variety of reasons, the most important being that Chuck would never have allowed it.”

 

“That wouldn’t have stopped you.”

 

“No, but perhaps it’s for the best. We would’ve had very slim odds of beating him without Jack.”

 

“Still,” Dean says, shifting positions to wrap a hand around Cas hip and draw him close, “It would’ve been nice.”

 

“It would,” Cas agrees.

 

Dean can feel his eyelids getting heavy. Cas breathes, but other than that he’s inhumanly still. No twitching or fidgeting. It’s the little details like that that remind Dean that he’s actually in bed with an angel, one of the most powerful beings on Earth. Although a lot less powerful than their son just two doors down, who is actually God.

 

“You don’t need to sleep,” Dean observes.

 

“No, but I also don’t have the human compulsion to constantly be doing things. I’m perfectly happy to just lie here,” Cas replies. He runs a hand down Dean’s spine. “Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

 

Will you? Dean wants to ask, and the panic almost sets in, but his tiredness is greater so his body has no choice but to succumb to the latter. He rolls over and Cas follows so that his chest is against Dean’s back and he can reach his arm across to rest his hand on Dean’s. Dean falls asleep fast and, for the first time in a while, his sleep is peaceful and dreamless.

 

“All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone,”

 

Dean’s eyes snap open in a panic as he reaches on instinct to grab his phone, but it doesn’t take him long to recognise the warm body wrapped around his back that definitely wasn’t there yesterday morning and relax. Cas is here. It’s okay. He looks at his screen to see Sam’s name this time.

 

“What?” he asks, after taking a few attempts to stab at the accept call button in his drowsy state.

 

“At the store, do you need anything?”

 

“I dunno, I’ll go later,” he says as Cas runs his fingers up his side and brushes his lips across the back of his neck.

 

“Are you sure, ‘cuz I’m already-“

 

“It’s fine, bye Sammy,” he says, cutting off the phone and dropping it back on the nightstand before settling deeper against the pillow and Cas’ back. He reaches for Cas’ hand and presses a kiss to his knuckles.

 

“Morning, sunshine,” Dean murmurs.

 

“Good morning, Dean,” Cas says back, breath brushing across the back of Dean’s neck as he speaks sending a spark down his spine.

 

They should get up soon, but for now, he’s perfectly content to just lie here.

 

He doesn’t know what’s gonna happen. Can’t guarantee for certain that they’ll get to wake up together again tomorrow, or the day after.

 

But they have the freedom to make their own lives now. And it’s been eleven years and a lot has changed between them but the one thing that hasn’t is that he’d pick that freedom over peace, any day.