Castiel tries not to be grateful.
He tries because he shouldn’t be; they’re in Purgatory, have been for the past few weeks. He shouldn’t be satisfied with the betrayal Crowley has committed, but he is. He is because he has had Dean all to himself for the same past few weeks, and it’s made getting back into their routine, their familiarity, so much easier than if they were still amongst humanity.
And besides, Dean seems to appreciate the company; he isn’t the lone wolf that he wants to appear to be.
Sam is the one who keeps Dean sane, and alive with hope. He’s also the one reason Dean ever meets anyone new, speaks to anyone, and tries his hand at love. Unfortunately, outside people can’t fit into the life they live, and Dean can’t completely leave it behind. It could never work - not long term.
And the truth is Castiel doesn’t mind filling the gap Sam usually fills, even if it’s only for a short while. He likes that Dean trusts him enough (again) to fall asleep while Castiel does the guarding and the fighting. He’s amazed at how much Dean tries to do the same to let Castiel relax and regenerate his powers. But maybe it’s more out of necessity than actual caring.
They both know that if Castiel doesn’t take a break, even if only for a few hours, his gifts from God – literally – start to dim, they abandon him, and it left them both bleeding half to death one night when Dean didn’t have angelic back-up.
Castiel’s grace is like the flame of a candle in Purgatory. It’s burning when it should have long since been blown out. Trying to keep it from being suffocated, extinguished by the overbearing surroundings, is like trying to keep a candle lit when all around the flame is hard, impenetrable glass with only a few cracks for oxygen to slip in. It’s a constant struggle for Castiel.
So, now that they’re aware of the serious consequences, they created a schedule to follow. Castiel stays up for three or four nights maximum, and on the following evening Dean will cut his own rest down to 3 hours or less to allow Castiel’s grace sufficient recovery time.
Neither of them can really, truly, sleep anyhow. Not with the dangers present and lurking about. But it gives them time to do some research at least.
First and foremost, Purgatory is made for dead angels.
And Dean – he is not only alive, but he’s human. Purgatory doesn’t know how to cope with that, so it gives him free passes of sorts. It’s not as giving as Heaven is, of course, but there are a few perks.
Dean doesn’t feel tired, can’t be harmed by the creatures around as much as the Purgatory-bound ones can, and isn’t carrying a smell that attracts the leftover Leviathan or those slimy things Eve brought with her. He’s practically neutral in this realm; just an ant minding its business, working hard on things the rest of the inhabitants haven’t yet noticed.
Castiel, on the other hand, is an angel. He would be meant to stay here if it were not for his shining, vibrant grace. But for the same reason that they’ve been chased almost every night by the most unfathomable monsters, they’ve been saved time and time again. Castiel’s grace draws out the creatures, makes Dean suddenly appear on the map of available targets, and yet, if he didn’t have it, they would have long since been devoured and fallen into the void.
This - Castiel allows himself to be slightly grateful for.
They have their misunderstandings still, yes, but without Castiel, Dean would have been long gone. No human has ever been lost in Purgatory before, so the result, if Dean were to be killed, would not be as in Hell. Dean wouldn’t magically come back in one piece just for it to all start over again. There’d be no coming back.
Castiel would be to blame then, and Sam would never stop trying to find a way to bring Dean back, to find crossroad demons to make deals with. But worst of all, deep down, Sam would never forgive Castiel for failing to protect Sam’s big brother. And that would devastate Castiel.
But that won’t happen tonight. Not since Castiel is performing his duty; the one, simple thing he seemed created to do: be alert and strong.
He’s an efficient soldier, despite wanting to change that in recent years. It’s his calling, his roots; he doesn’t know how to be anything else. And in this moment, this is all he can do. This is his sole purpose, once more, and he’s not going to let the Winchesters down by rebelling against what he is.
Dean is dozing off finally, head propped up on his jacket as a makeshift pillow, his arms tucked under his body and his legs curled inward against his stomach for warmth. Castiel has seen the way Dean shivers, heard his shuddering breaths, and watched as his skin lost some of its colour due to the chilling cold that often passes through this part of Purgatory.
They thought being in this small cave – their backs protected by stone, their eyes only having to stare in one direction – would solve all of their problems. But, clearly, it hasn’t.
Dean is freezing, trembling so hard Castiel is grinding his teeth not to voice his worries for his friend. Perhaps Dean can’t be killed by the things lurking in the shadows, but that doesn’t mean something as commonplace as climate won’t try to coil its fingers around Dean’s neck, and squeeze until it steals every last breath from his throat.
It’s a morbid image for Castiel to project, he knows.
When Dean’s teeth begin chattering, Castiel silently removes his trench coat, keeping his eyes straight ahead, watching for any movement in the horizon. The beasts of Purgatory are something to be taken very seriously. He takes a few, slow steps backward until he’s standing right next to Dean. Not taking his eyes away from the opening for a second, Castiel drapes his coat over Dean, and quietly moves back to his post.
There’s muttering after a stretch of silence, and Castiel’s brow furrows with the effort of understanding.
“What?” Castiel asks softly, his hand gripping his angel blade tighter.
“You…to…me…” Dean repeats, his teeth still clicking together from the cold.
Castiel knows Dean doesn’t like when he reads Dean’s thoughts or slips into his dreams to send the nightmares away, but Castiel can’t understand what Dean is saying. If it’s important and Castiel ignores it or takes too much time trying to decipher it, Dean will be the one to suffer in the end.
So, Castiel dives in, albeit hesitantly.
It’s easier than pretending to breathe - going into Dean’s mind. Probably because this is part of Castiel’s make-up; it’s one of the things he was granted at ‘birth’.
Dean’s mind is a jumble of images and sounds, but there are words near the surface. Castiel draws them in, needs to make sure what Dean’s saying isn’t a danger Castiel failed to notice on his own.
“What did you say, Dean?” Castiel prompts, then waits for the mental nudge.
You’re going to need your coat more than me. A little wind isn’t going to kill me after all I’ve been through.
Castiel sighs with frustration, but mostly relief. There’s nothing to worry about after all. It’s just Dean being who he always is; considerate and hard-headed. And it knocks the air out of Castiel when he realizes how much he’s missed this side of Dean.
Certainly Castiel had spent most of his time on Earth worrying about his charges, saving them, arguing with them, dying for them. But they had given him so much in return as well. They would always be worth all that pain. Dean will always remain the righteous man in Castiel’s eyes.
“I’ll be fine,” Castiel replies, just to be polite.
He’s not expecting the come here that Dean says, voice tinged with sleepy satisfaction. Dean’s eyes are still closed when Castiel allows himself a glance.
“Go back to slee—”
“Come. Here,” Dean urges, the words more convincing this time.
Castiel sighs. “I have to keep us safe, Dean.”
Dean’s eyes open slowly, the green burning into the back of Castiel’s skull. He can tell what Dean’s expression must be just from how heated the look feels on his neck. There’s a shuffling sound, and then Castiel’s coat makes contact with Castiel’s back.
Most humans have that quality, but Dean carries it like a badge of honour. However, Castiel is not appreciating it right now.
Dean’s teeth begin chattering, and Castiel nearly considers using his powers to send the coat back on top of him. Dean will just throw it again, though, then they will continuously battle for the upper hand until the sun comes up, and Dean will be even more difficult to deal with if he doesn’t get some semblance of rest, even if Purgatory makes him feel like it’s unnecessary—
Castiel is walking backwards before he finishes that train of thought, kneeling next to Dean. His eyes are fixed on the opening of their shelter, but he sees Dean sit up and shift towards him. Before Castiel can ask why exactly he needed to come over, Dean is wrapping Castiel’s coat around both of them, his shoulder pressed to Castiel’s.
It’s entirely too distracting for such an innocent action, and Castiel’s heart starts painfully banging against the ribs in his chest.
“Dean,” Castiel starts, but Dean leans closer, a hand slithering between them and wrapping around Castiel’s waist to pull him in.
This is not a good idea.
For a moment, Castiel can’t figure out if it was his thought or Dean’s until he looks over at Dean and hears: Definitely one of my worst ideas. God, I hate his stupidly blue eyes.
So it was Dean then, Castiel decides.
Castiel means to turn away, to continue watching the entrance, but Dean is staring at him so openly frightened that Castiel can’t look anywhere else. The fingers at Castiel’s waist squeeze, and Dean is breathing hard, his chest bumping into Castiel’s side.
Castiel opens his mouth to ask a sensible question like is something wrong, but Dean uses that small opening to kiss Castiel and slide his tongue between the parted, pink lips.
And this – Dean’s mouth so firm and sure, but his tongue gentle and careful, practically pulling Castiel’s grace away from him with each new kiss –
The hands that grip at Castiel’s waist more tightly, dipping simultaneously underneath Castiel’s dress shirt and below his pants –
The soft hums and gasps Castiel swallows up, the pleas that he gets when his fingers scrape down Dean’s back (that Dean will surely deny uttering) –
The way every touch, every sound, every minute attempt at moving closer proves to Castiel that Dean hasn’t given up on rebuilding the closeness they had before everything fell apart –
Castiel is also grateful for this.
Even if it means they spend the rest of their lives struggling to find a way out of Purgatory, hiding and running and frightened to the point of mental scarring, Castiel can’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be than in this sanctuary, this cave, with Dean.