These moments were perfection. His whole family at the table eating pizza, drinking beer and having fun. Dean felt happy – especially with the good news they had gotten today. Cas finally had his grace back. One big problem off their plate.
Dean took a large bite of pizza and watched as Cas and Charlie played with one of those paper fortune tellers that Charlie had folded out of a piece of paper earlier. “Okay, let’s see what your near future will bring.”
Cas looked at her in confusion: “I don’t think a piece of paper will tell you that.”
“It's a game, Cas. Just go with the flow. So, what's your favorite color?”
“Green,” Cas answered without hesitation. Dean looked at him in surprise: “Didn't know you had a favorite color, Cas.”
Cas’s lips twitched into a small, brief smile. “I haven’t had one for a long time but my time as a human has given me a new perspective on a lot of things.
With those words Cas stood up, took off his coat and folded it over the armrest of the chair. Dean smiled at the casual way Cas sat next to him now – the angel had come a long way since they had first met.
Charlie opened the fortune teller fives times for every letter in the word 'green' and presented Cas with the symbols to choose from. Cas tapped on one that looked like the symbol for eternity and Charlie opened it with a smirk: “Sleep with one eye open, gnomes are going to draw on your face!”
Cas bent over to look at the text before looking up at her with a serious expression: “I don’t sleep.”
Dean couldn’t help himself and started laughing – nearly choking on his pizza. Regardless of how much Cas had learned and adapted, some things never changed and Dean was grateful for that.
He clapped Cas on the shoulder – still laughing as his hand wandered to Cas's neck for another affectionate gesture, when he suddenly felt it – like a punch to the heart. The mark was silent. He was used to it as a constant throb in the back of his mind and heart but suddenly it was gone.
Dean looked at his arm in shock, watching in disbelief as the mark faded: “What the fuck!”
Everyone at the table had fallen silent and were tensely staring at Dean.
“Dean?” His brother asked tentatively as he slowly stood up from his chair.
Dean slowly pulled his hand away from Cas and felt the mark coming back – red and angry on his arm, breaking the silence and momentary peace in his heart with its dark beating of lust and power.
“What's going on?” Charlie asked anxiously: “It was fading right? You all saw that!”
“Dean, what happened?” Cas asked slowly, a concerned expression on his face. Dean shook his head: “I don't know. It just suddenly faded and went silent and now it’s back again.”
“Something must have triggered it...,” Sam said thoughtfully as he stared at his brother with a look of concentration. Charlie nodded: “Touch Cas again!”
“What?” Dean asked incredulously.
Charlie rolled her eyes: “You touched Cas when it happened. Do it again.”
Dean and Cas looked at each other for a moment before Dean reached out and touched Cas’s arm with a defeated sigh and an exaggerated eye roll.
Nothing happened. Dean didn’t know what to think about that – obviously this wouldn't have had anything to do with Cas. Charlie interrupted his musings: “No, I mean like you touched him before. Skin to skin contact.”
“Really?” Dean huffed self-consciously. Did she have to put it like that? He didn't get a chance to do anything though because Cas had already laid his hand on Dean’s.
The silence was instant. All eyes went wide as they watched the mark fade from Dean's arm. “Son of a bitch…,” Dean whispered and looked up at Cas with a stunned expression.
“I don't understand...,” Cas murmured, confused.
Sam and Charlie looked at each other excitedly: “Cas, do you think – I mean... um – could that mean you could get rid of the mark permanently?”
“I don't know. I don't know why it suddenly reacted to me. It doesn't make any sense.”
Dean stomped down his rising hope with sarcasm: “Yeah, maybe Cas and I can just hold hands forever. A perfect solution.” He angrily snatched his hand away from under Cas but instantly regretted his choice when the mark came back, pulsing its darkness back into his heart. “Why now? I remember you touched my arm when you found out about the mark. You know, when you were pissed at me about it? What the hell changed?”
Cas stared at him thoughtfully: “I changed. I got my grace back.”
“But how is this connected to the Mark of Cain?” Sam asked, and Dean hated the hope he heard in his brother’s voice. He couldn't let himself hope. It was too dangerous. He could control the mark better when he knew he had to live with it.
Cas shook his head slowly and he squinted his eyes, as if deep in thought. “I'll have to make inquiries. Sam – can I talk to you in the library?”
Dean stared at Cas and his brother in confusion. Since when did they keep secrets from him? “Um – something you want to share with the class?” Dean huffed as he shot his brother an annoyed look.
Cas shook his head: “It’s a personal matter, Dean.” Cas turned around and walked towards the library, closely followed by Sam – not noticing the hurt look on Dean’s face. Charlie did notice it though and she looked at him with a mixture of pity and confusion.
“Isn't that usually your job?” She asked quietly.
“Huh?” Dean took a sip from his beer, trying to ignore what she was implying.
“Cas usually talks to you about personal stuff, right?”
Dean growled and put his bottle down on the table a little bit harder than he had intended to. “Cas can talk to whoever he wants.”
Charlie gave him a look that said ‘I-can-see-through-your-shit-Dean-Winchester:’ Talk to me, Dean.”
Dean shook his head: “There's nothing to talk about. Cas and I – we just haven't seen each other for a while. He has better things to do than talk to a hunter with demonic tendencies.”
“Wow, Dean. What's it with men and their total incapacity for communication? I think you shouldn't just presume things. If you want to rekindle your friendship you could just talk to the guy a bit more. You know, make an effort.”
Dean buried his face in his hands and sighed dramatically: “It's not that easy.”
Charlie laid a hand on his arm: “It actually is. When he comes back, just take him to another room and talk. Tell him you miss him.”
“Woahh, I didn't say I missed him,” Dean looked at her, eyes wide with shock.
“Yeah, actually you kind of did. I can read subtext. Do yourself a favor, Dean and get your head out of your ass. Talk to him.”
Dean took a sip of his beer, trying to avoid talking about this any further. He knew Charlie was right and, yes, somewhere buried deep in his mind he knew that he had missed Cas a lot over the last couple of months. He had thought that Cas would stay with them after he and his brother rescued Dean from being a demon. But instead he had left with this Hannah chick on some Heaven business, even though he was running on stolen grace again and they didn’t really know how long it would last. Sam had told him about how broken Cas was in the final days of his other stolen grace fading. Dean hadn't been comfortable with letting Cas go around while he had this threat looming over his head, knowing that Cas could end up dying somewhere in some god forsaken, dirty motel room far away from him.
He was angry at himself for thinking like that. Cas was an angel and he could look after himself. Especially now that he had his grace back. He didn’t need the hunter anymore and the one time he ever did need him, Dean had left him high and dry. Dean still felt the guilt heavily weighing down on his heart and he guessed that he still had this false image of Cas in his head. A broken angel in need of protection, but Cas was anything but. Cas didn't need him – it was always the other way around.
A while later, Sam and Cas came back to the map room and the angel looked at him with a serious expression before quietly saying: “Dean, can I talk to you?” Dean looked up in surprise at his younger brother's sheepish glances and Charlie's wide grin. So Cas had asked to talk to him before Dean could. Worked for him.
He stood up and gestured for Cas to follow him into his room. After closing the door behind them he slumped down onto the bed, leaning against the headboard. “So spill.” Dean tried to be nonchalant about everything but in reality he was feeling tense with Cas looking at him all serious and whatnot. This could only mean that the angel was going to tell him something he wasn't going to like.
Cas looked down at the floor guiltily. “I don’t want to lie to you. Hannah didn’t get the location of my grace. I got it from Metatron himself.”
Dean looked at him in confusion: “So?”
Cas knelt in front of the bed, folding his hands together as if for a prayer and looked up at Dean with a sad expression: “Sam and I – we were desperate. You know we both would do anything to help you get rid of the mark.
Dean leaned forward and narrowed his eyes suspiciously: “What did you do?”
“I broke into Heaven and freed Metatron to convince him to help us. And by convincing I mean, I took his grace to make him human and Sam shot him in the leg. He told us he didn't know how to get rid of the mark but at least he could tell me where my grace was. I found it but...,” Cas looked down at the floor again. “... he tricked me again and fled with the demon tablet.”
Dean rolled his eyes: “Shit... Why didn't you tell me?”
“Sam explained to me that you didn’t want us to help and that you would get angry.”
Dean closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Oh yeah, he was angry, alright. He could imagine what consequences this would have for Cas and his relationship with Heaven. Why this guy was always sacrificing everything for him was beyond his understanding.
“Let me guess, Heaven isn't on good terms with you at the moment and Metatron is probably out there and wants to kill us all.”
“I will find him and kill him,” Cas told him in his deep, gravelly voice.
Dean raised an eyebrow: “I thought you were all for not killing any more angels?”
“He killed you. I’ll make an exception.”
Dean felt a strange, tingly feeling in his chest when Cas admitted that. Metatron had done horrible things to Cas. He’d stolen Cas’s grace, used him to destroy Heaven, and he caused the angels to fall, but somehow Cas thought that killing the hunter was reason enough to go against his principles.
Dean smiled, laying his hand on Cas's and was still surprised at the immediate reaction this had on the mark. He watched it fade, shaking his head in awe.
“And then there is that...,” he murmured and looked at Cas, who had tilted his head, watching the fading of the mark with curious eyes.
“Yes... I can't go to Heaven and ask around. I doubt the other angels will talk to me again, but I assume they wouldn't know more than I do.”
Dean nodded, his fingers were still on the angel's warm hands: “You could stay here, you know. We have enough space and a big library.”
Cas gave him a warm smile that made Dean smile in return: “Thank you, I appreciate that. Due to this new development I think it's a good idea for me to stay near you. I don't know how to fix the mark permanently yet but in the meantime I can make your life a little easier.”
Dean didn’t know why, if it was just because he was holding Cas’s hand, freeing him from the effect of the mark, or because Cas had agreed to stay with them this time, but he felt happy for the first time in a long while.