After managing nothing more than pissing off that knock-off Avenger (Uma Thurman, not the superhero crap) and getting Baby totaled, Dean wants to say he wants nothing more than to crawl back into bed and forget this day ever happened, but he can't. Not when Sam is somewhere out there. Not when Mom is somewhere in here. Not when there's still a sun to rise in the morning and a him there to witness it.
Too wired to sleep, he sits up in the library, picking his way into security camera systems and trying to find any trace of his brother. Just because the world didn't end doesn't mean Dean doesn't still feel the weight of it on his shoulders. Late night, cold coffee, case to solve. It's a place he's been before, but not like this. He's tired and wired and worried, yeah, but...
Okay. So, Dean's died and come damn near close more than his fair share of times, but something about this time is different, and (as fucked up as it is) he thinks the reason is that it's uncomplicatedly good. That rare fucking unicorn: a no-strings win. Yeah, Sammy's been kidnapped, and Dean's worried as hell about the kid, but as far as they can tell, it had nothing to do with the whole sun-dying, God-and-his-sister, general family psychodrama that brings them back and forth across the fucking veil every time. The world is saved and no one had to die for it. God is... well, maybe not grateful, but kinda owes them for the counseling, and Amara isn't trying to groom her way into Dean's subconscious, and Team Free Will is all Team Fucking Alive, and Mary—
Their mom is back. She's here. In the bunker. Dean can talk to her—he could go in there and wake her up and ask her or tell her anything he wants, but he won't because she's sleeping. She's sleeping in Dean's pajamas in Cas's room, which the angel offered up the second he saw the tension on Dean's face as he offered to fix her up a room.
(Cas would've died with him.)
Cas is—he's here. He's Cas again, and he's staying, and he's helping. He made the coffee that's going cold at Dean's elbow. He's outside the wards right now, reaching out to the angels that don't hate him yet to update them on the Chuck situation and also, more importantly, find out if any of them have heard anything about Sam.
The God thing came second: the first few calls he made were on the actual phone, to the few who have gone native, and Dean overheard. (Don't judge. The kitchen has great acoustics.) His opening line was always, Something-ell. Hello. Yes, it's— No, it's Castiel. I know. Listen. Have you heard anything about a British hunter in the Americas, or anyone who might be planning to kidnap the Winchesters? Oh, by the way, our Father...
Cas had been in the kitchen because he was making Dean coffee. He took some for himself too, but Dean's not an idiot. Cas made the coffee for Dean and then took some himself, both because he actually does like it but also because he knew Dean would complain about Cas making it just for him. And when he saw Dean was alive, he threw himself into Dean's arms, not caring one way or another if Dean caught him—only caring that he could feel Dean was still there. Once again giving Dean cover for what he wants.
All it takes is a hand on his shoulder lifts Dean from the whirlpool in his head.
The hand leaves his shoulder, but only so its owner can move into the chair next to Dean on the corner. "You should go to bed."
Dean rubs his face with both hands. "I'm fine, Cas."
Cas doesn't say anything until Dean meets his eyes.
"No, you're not," he delivers like a verdict. "You need sleep. It's been a..." He pauses, searching for the word. "Long forty-eight hours."
Snorting, Dean goes to throw back the rest of his coffee, grimacing when he realizes how long it's been sitting there. He powers through anyway: it's a good excuse, proof of his own point, and also Cas made that for him. It'd be rude not to finish.
"That it has."
"What are you doing now?" Cas shuffles forward in his chair to peer at the screen. Their knees knock together under the table. "I can continue for you. I don't need to sleep."
"Rub it in, why don't you," he mumbles, but shuts the laptop. "It's fine, Cas. It's a dead end anyway."
He realizes his misstep as soon as he says it, but by then it's too late. It's times like these that Dean remembers that Cas has nigh infinite strategic experience to wield when he wants Dean to quit being a stubborn asshole.
"Then there's no reason for you to not go to bed."
Not waiting for Dean's next argument, Cas pulls him into standing—not the most gentle about it, but his eyes are kind. He doesn't say anything when Dean's knees crack, loud and mortifying in the quiet of the library, or when he sways a bit too far into Cas's space once he's up, unable or unwilling to fight gravity. He doesn't say anything either when Dean opens his mouth to tell him to shut up and finds it lost to a yawn. Cas just stands there, tried and true, waiting for Dean to give up the charade and go the fuck to sleep.
"I'm fine, Cas," he tries again once his jaw is under control.
"You said that already."
Shit. Did he? "Well, I wasn't lying then and I'm not lying now."
"Sure," Cas says, not believing it in the slightest. "And if I let go of your arm, will you stay upright?"
"Yes," Dean fires back petulantly despite not being aware that Cas had been holding his elbow this whole time until he pointed it out.
Cas looks, for a second, like he's about to call Dean on that bluff, but he doesn't. Doesn't even loosen his grip.
Now that he's noticed, it's nice. Firm and grounding. No agenda behind it. Uncomplicated. Nice. It reminds him of their hug earlier and the way Cas's hands had dragged down Dean's arms even as he pulled away to look at him, holding him in place, like he was unwilling to let Dean go for even a second. It reminds him of their hug before—what they thought would be the last one—and the way Cas's cheek had pressed adamently into the side of Dean's head like he could leave a print in his memory directly.
Dean leans into it— not because he's tired, he just. Well. Actually, being tired might be the best excuse he's got, but maybe that exact exhaustion is what makes him able to let himself lean in.
When he does, Cas squeezes his elbow with his sad-supportive Cas look.
"Working yourself to exhaustion isn't going to find Sam any faster."
"Yeah, I know." It's soothing without being bullshit, which Dean loves him for. "Doesn't make me feel any better, though."
"I know," Cas echoes, and he squeezes again. "But sleep might."
Levity shoulders its way back into the conversation as Dean groans. "Ugh. And Mom stole my dead guy robe."
Cas just laughs at him without opening his mouth, eyes squinted with pleasure. "Something I bet you never thought you'd say."
Dean rubs his eyes (one-handed, not daring to disrupt Cas), which he knows is a telltale sign but can't help. It has been a long couple days and, now that he's given himself more than two seconds to stop, it's all catching up to him at once.
But it's alright. He's still standing. And so, between the ambient sounds of the bunker and Cas's unnecessary but steady breathing, Dean lets himself be lulled.
Because his eyes are still closed, he hears every equally telltale detail in Cas's voice as he says, "I'm glad you're here."
Dean doesn't need to look at his face to know what Cas means by it, but he does anyway. It's the exact sad—alright, all of Cas's looks are at least a little sad due to his face—expression he's expecting, the downtrodden, half-hidden aching he had at the graveyard. It's the one where he's trying not to show how much he's feeling not out of the desire to pretend he doesn't feel human things, but the very human sense of self-consciousness. Dean didn't know he knew what that look meant until yesterday, really, but he can't unsee it anymore. It's burned into his memory like the sun that was burning out above them that day.
It's no easier to bear here, in their home, but... Well. Maybe there's some of that no-strings-win luck in the air still. Dean has to try anyway.
"Hey." He lets his hand fall to Cas's arm so they're holding each other, the inside of their arms pressed together, as he bumps their heads together. "I am, yeah? I'm here."
Cas's own eyes are still closed, but his eyebrows wrinkle like he's glaring at Dean anyway. "That's what I said."
He just sighs, though, and goes to pull away. "Alright, Dean."
"No, hey—" Dean's still thinking about that hug, apparently, because he pulls Cas back in now, in the exact same way, arms wrapped up around Cas's back so his arms have nowhere to go but back around Dean's shoulders.
"I made it," Dean repeats. "Yeah? We all did. And nobody even had to make a world-ending deal this time."
"I know, I was there," Cas mumbles in his ear. He's still holding on, though, so Dean's not taking it too hard. He smells like the coffee he made and...
"Did you crash land in a farm or something?"
Dean's about to volley back when he finally clocks the strain in Cas's voice. "Hey."
It's never come up before, but it turns out, yeah, one thing Dean really cannot handle is a crying Cas. Even the idea is— He stiffens, holding Cas closer, unwilling to pull back now to check his face lest he actually have to witness—
"Cas. Come on, man."
"I'm fine, Dean."
"Yeah, not buying that."
Cas's forehead ends up tucked against Dean's shoulder, the curve of his head fitting in the space under Dean's jaw so his pulse thuds against the flattened hair over Cas's ear. Outside of their first meeting, the whole Cas-stitching-his-body-and-soul-back-together thing, this might be the most they've ever touched in terms of surface area. It's definitely the longest. Wrapped together like this, Cas feels both broad and so, so small. Like Dean could conceivably hold him all in both hands and yet can't span the breadth of him.
But that's Cas in a nutshell, isn't it? Unfathomably huge and still just a guy.
It's unthinking, at first, when Dean turns to press his nose against the flat side of Cas's head, but when he presses his lips to the same spot, it's entirely conscious. He doesn't have a great track record with comforting Cas in particular, not to mention all the times he's been the thing upsetting Cas in the first place, but he wants to do better. He thinks, maybe, if things have changed enough that they can save the world without fucking it up even more in the process, then maybe he can do better. He really wants to do better.
"Hey," he says into the ruffled mess of Cas's hair when nothing changes. "Y'know, the world's not ending anymore."
Cas just hums.
"And nobody even died this time."
Dean almost feels more than hears his response. "A very low bar."
"Not with our track record."
There's a huff of breath over Dean's shoulder. It's not really a laugh, but for Cas? For the situation they're in? It's like the roar of a stadium sized crowd. It's all he wants to hear for the rest of his life.
And this time, he might even get a chance.
They stand there in the quiet, long enough that on any other day Dean would be itching to pull away, make some excuse, put on some face like he didn't want to hold on for, oh, he doesn't know, the rest of forever. But as long as Cas stays there, Dean's not flinching first. This is about Cas, he reminds himself.
"I'm glad," Cas says, soft, still not moving away. It's not a response to the last thing Dean said, but a continuation of the same conversation—it's all the same. "I'm glad you're here."
"Yeah." He stretches up around Cas's back to hold the back of his head, awkward as the angle is. "Me too."
And he means it.
Cas finally pulls away, his hands moving down to hold the balls of Dean's shoulders where they'd been before, but lingering now. His face is completely composed, the same way it was before Dean pulled him back in—so, clearly covering something. Dean can see now, at least, that Cas isn't actually crying, but he's not sure that's better. At least this way he doesn't have to wipe tears from Cas's face.
He would, for the record. But he's still glad he doesn't have to. For a lot of reasons.
"And you're okay, right?"
Dean laughs, he can't help it.
"Yeah, I'm— Yeah, Cas. I'm fine." And, because he's trying to be better right now, he adds, "Worried about Sam, but I really am fine."
Cas squeezes his shoulders.
"I actually might be the last person we've gotta worry about right now."
"We'll find him," Dean says, though he knows it's not what Cas needs reassuring of. It's more of an offer to change the subject.
Cas nods and drops his hands from Dean's arms. "We will."
The space he puts between them then is the last thing Dean wants, but he doesn't want to push his luck. They've gotten more wins than they deserve, the last couple days. It doesn't matter if he wants more.
Still, Dean does: want. He wants Cas's chin back in his neck, bony and unmistakable. He wants Cas's hands back on his shoulder blades, gathering Dean up in his arms like Dean would fall apart if Cas wasn't holding him together.
More than that, he wants Cas to hold him like he wouldn't fall apart but Cas wants to be there anyway.
He wants Cas to be there in the morning when the sun rises again, despite the odds. And then Dean wants to climb in the car with him and Mom and bring Sam home so he can wake up the next day knowing everyone he loves is under this roof.
He realizes all of that could happen.
"Yeah." Dean thinks about it for a second, then pushes that no-strings luck one more time. "Y'know. Doesn't seem like there's much we can do tonight."
Cas immediately raises his eyebrow, So you're admitting I'm right, loud and clear despite being unsaid.
"Will you go to sleep, then?"
A bit of Dean's pride revolts. "I'll try."
"But—hey. That's not what I was gonna say. Don't derail."
"Okay. Then what?"
Deep breath. "Well, I know you don't sleep, but you might give it a shot too. Taking a breather." He rushes to add, "It's been a minute since you caught a break."
Cas smiles ruefully. "That is true."
Dean waits an appropriate amount of time before 'realizing,' "I guess your room's kinda occupied, though..."
"Oh. Right." Cas glances back at the stuff Dean's left spread across the table. "I could..."
He's clearly not getting it, so Dean bites the bullet and grabs Cas's wrist, tugging him towards the hallway. "Come on, man. I won't even make a crack about you watching me sleep."
"You already have," Cas mutters mutinously, but he's following where Dean leads.
Dean fires back, "Smart ass," in the same voice. There's no heat behind it on either end.
They make the rest of their way to Dean's room in a quiet that lasts until they're lying in the dark, Dean laid over Cas like the heaviest of blankets, Cas's hands fitting in the crooks and valleys of Dean's load-bearing back. With that, getting to sleep isn't so hard. The world rolls off his shoulders and Dean doesn't even dream.