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Messages to the Aether

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Castiel stood in his new room in the bunker clad in an old T-shirt and jeans that Dean had lent him… and one sock.

He had been back from the Empty and human again for a little over a week and he had somehow already managed to start losing what few possessions he had.

Castiel sighed heavily and knelt down to look for the errant sock under the bed.

There was a knock at his door and he let out a frustrated, “Come in.”

“Hey, Cas. Lose something?” Dean asked, his tone making Castiel look up from his search.

Dean stood looking down at Castiel from the doorway, his slight smile not enough to distract from the lines of tension creasing his face. He looked nervous.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel said as he stood, lost sock forgotten. “Is everything alright?”

Dean chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand as he said, “Yeah, everything’s fine.”

Right. Fine.

Dean seemed to sense Castiel’s skepticism and rushed to continue, “I just got your new phone set up.” He hesitated before holding the device out for Castiel to take. “I was able to program it with your old number.”

He could tell by the way Dean said the words that there was some significance to them which Castiel did not understand, and he felt his head tilting slightly to the side as he took the phone and asked, “My old number?”

“Yeah,” Dean said, his hand returning to rub the back of his neck again as he explained, “It’s got the same number as your old phone. You’ll be able to see any calls… or texts you missed while you were…”

Dean gestured vaguely before shoving his hands in his pockets.

Castiel was about to ask why he would need to know what calls he had missed while he was essentially dead, but Dean cut him off with a nervous chuckle before he could get the words out.

“So, anyway,” Dean said as he backed toward the door. “Have a good time!”

And, with that, Dean bolted out of Castiel’s room like a scared rabbit.

Castiel frowned down at the phone in his hands.

That was… odd.

His search for the missing sock temporarily abandoned, Castiel opened his phone to find that he had dozens of unread messages.

Castiel’s eyebrows furrowed as he opened his messaging app and saw that all of the text messages came from Dean.

Was that why Dean had seemed so nervous? Was he embarrassed by the fact that he had been sending Castiel messages long after he was no longer able to receive them?

Castiel briefly considered deleting the messages without reading them. If Dean found them embarrassing, they could just pretend they never existed.

But then he hesitated. Dean had gone to all the trouble to set up this new phone with his old number. He had seemed to want Castiel to understand what that meant, emphasizing it until he was sure that Castiel had understood, even though he had clearly been uncomfortable talking about it.

Castiel opened their conversation and saw that the first unread messages were sent just a few days after he had been taken by the empty.

You were right, Cas

Jack saved the world

He kicked Chuck's ass

When we get you back you’re gonna be so proud…

Castiel smiled down at the screen, they must have been so excited, the day that they had defeated Chuck. He felt a slight pang that he hadn’t been there to share it with them.

He scrolled down to find another string of messages, dated a few days later.

We “buried” you yesterday

Well obviously not you, we haven’t gotten you back yet

We buried some shit to “represent” you

Sam was going on about “closure” or some bullshit

We didn't even have your damn coat this time

I’m sending this to you so you can remind me to rub Sammy’s nose in this when we get you back

At this, Castiel felt a pang of a different kind. He had been gone for many months before he and Jack had finally made it back. Dean sounded as though he had been so sure that Castiel would be back soon. It must have been difficult for him to realize that that wasn’t the case.

Sure enough, there were a few messages scattered over the next couple of weeks in which Dean seemed to slowly realize that there was a possibility that they weren’t coming back any time soon.

After that, the tone of the messages shifted.

It’s been weeks and you’re still not back

How could you do this again?

You're not supposed to die. Dammit, Cas

Of all the stupid people on this planet…

Humans are supposed to be the fragile ones

The ones that die

You’re a fucking angel of the lord

You’re not supposed to leave

Why in the hell do you keep leaving?

The anger in Dean’s messages left Castiel’s chest aching with sympathy as he sank down onto the edge of the bed.

He wished, as he always did, that there was some way he could reach out to Dean. Some way to soothe his anger, as well as the pain and fear that so often hid behind it.

But there was nothing he could do now, this Dean was months in the past.

Besides, Dean had always protested when Castiel had tried to comfort him anyway.

The next cluster of messages was dated a few weeks later.

Okay, I've got it figured out. I'm going to call Jack and we're going to find a way to bust me into the empty and I'm gonna pull you outta there, Cas.

Billie sent Jack there before, we just gotta figure out how. Maybe we can make some kinda deal with the new Death.

Well, maybe Sam can make the deal, I kinda killed the first Death and Billie, so maybe they won't wanna talk to me, but we'll figure something out.

We're gonna find a way to bring you home.

And then, a few days later.

I can't get a hold of Jack

I've been praying for days and he’s not answering

He's probably just busy

I'll keep trying, Cas. We're bringing you back, no matter what it takes.

The hopeful tone sent another aching spasm through Castiel, even as his heart warmed at the fierce determination evident in Dean's messages.

He made a mental note to apologize to Jack on Dean's behalf for the barrage of prayers the hunter had undoubtedly sent Jack's way.

There were texts here and there over the next weeks, notes about possible artifacts or spells that could be used.

Messages detailing attempts to breach the Empty… and failures.

Then the tone of the messages changed again.

Jack's not answering

We've been trying to find a way to bust into the empty for weeks now

Nothing's working

Sam and me went on a hunt yesterday

I had kind of a close call

Sam freaked out

I think he’s worried about me

Would it be so bad? Dying?

At least then, this would all be over

You wouldn't be there, though

Castiel sat at the edge of his bed, phone clutched tightly in his hand as tears welled in his eyes and pain burst in his chest.

He would give anything; beg, borrow, or steal; ransack heaven and hell and any realm in between to find some way to let this past-Dean know that he would be back.

That he hadn’t been abandoned.

That there was a reason to keep fighting.

Castiel took a few deep breaths and reminded himself that Dean was alright, he had made it through, he had kept fighting and was now just a few doors down the hall.

Castiel pulled himself together and saw that what appeared to be the final cluster of messages was dated just two weeks before he and Jack had returned.

I visited your ‘grave’ yesterday

Sam was right, about closure or whatever

Don't tell him I said that

Jack's not coming back and neither are you

I miss you

Castiel had to pause to draw a shaky breath and wipe the tears out of his eyes before he could continue reading.

I couldn't ever find a way to say this to you while you were here

Maybe it'll stop buzzing around my head if I tell you this way

Almost from the first day we met, you were the first person who gave a crap about me

You dragged me outta hell

You turned your back on heaven

You gave up an army of angels… a freakin’ army, man

Every time somebody made you choose between anything else and me, you chose me

Every time I thought they were asking too much, you just kept choosing me

I have no idea what to do with that

Nobody’s ever done that before

As long as I can remember, I’ve been taking care of everybody else

Nobody’s ever really taken care of me

Don’t get me wrong, Sam tries sometimes

But it seems like I’m kinda hard-wired to not let him do it

I mean, I half raised the guy, it just seems weird, you know?

Anyway, here you come along, a freakin’ angel of the lord and you just keep choosing to help me no matter what

I could never figure out why

I’m nothing special

Hell, I’m a mess

I drink too much

I get so angry I can’t control it and I say shit I don’t mean

I must have pushed you away a thousand times

I know I hurt you

And you still…

“Always,” Castiel whispered, his voice breaking as he brought the phone even closer to his face, his entire body tensed, leaning toward the screen.

I remember everything you said, you know

It’s been playing over and over in my mind on a loop ever since you said it

You said that I was the most caring man on earth

That I was the most selfless, loving human being that you would ever know…

It’s funny

I’ve always thought the same thing about you

No matter how much or how little you had, you always tried to help people

Even when you were dangerously low on power, you’d use anything you had to help others

To help me


I kept thinking you’d figure it out

That I wasn’t anything special

That I was just one messed up guy in a world full of ‘em

And then you’d leave

But you never did

And every time something dragged you away, you always came back

I guess I took that for granted

Anyway, I don’t know if what you said is true

I’m a complete train wreck most days, man

But you also said that you love me

And that you knew that you couldn’t have me

That’s on me

That’s my fault

Cause I never had the guts to do what you did

To say it out loud

I know I probably won’t ever see you again

Maybe when I die, I can talk Jack into taking one last road trip

To bust you out of the empty

But no matter what happens, I just needed to tell you

I love you, too

Castiel sat frozen.

Tears streamed freely down his face.

He sat in shock for a handful of heartbeats.

Then, the phone slipped from his hand.

Castiel was across the room and out the door before the device had time to hit the floor.

He pelted down the hallway, barely registering the cold bunker floor on his one bare foot.

He burst through Dean’s bedroom door without stopping to knock.

The sight of Dean drew him up short.

Castiel stood still in the doorway, staring at Dean like he was seeing him for the first time.

Dean was standing in the middle of his room, looking at Castiel with a nervous wince that looked like it could have been a smile if he were more relaxed.

His hair was mussed, as though he had been running his hands through it, and the set of his shoulders told Castiel that Dean had most likely been pacing restlessly since he had delivered the phone.

He was the most beautiful thing Castiel had ever seen.

Dean opened his mouth with a hesitant, “Cas, I—”

But Castiel cut him off impatiently by crossing the room in two quick strides and slamming his mouth over Dean’s.

Dean inhaled sharply through his nose in surprise, before melting into the kiss with the most wonderful moan of satisfaction that Castiel had ever heard.

Castiel wound his arms around Dean and was thrilled to feel Dean’s arms wind around him in return.

And Castiel knew, if another apocalypse came knocking right that second and he had to choose between saving the world and staying locked forever in Dean’s arms, he would let the world burn.

Several hours, a long conversation, and many, many kisses later, Dean helped Castiel find his missing sock.

After all, if you’re moving into a new room, you should at least try to take all of your belongings with you.