“Cas, please!... I know you're in there.”
Castiel scrunched his eyes closed, trying to rid the image from his mind. He should've known better by now that that wasn't going to work. It hadn't worked any of the probably hundreds of times he'd tried it in the past few days since it had happened. He couldn't get the image of his own hands clenched around Dean's neck, choking him as he gasped and pleaded for Cas to take control. Because although it was Castiel's hands wrapped around Dean's neck, he wasn't in control of them. No, it was Lucifer behind the wheel and all Cas could do was watch helplessly while he hurt his friends – his family. It was hard enough for Cas to watch while Lucifer used his vessel to hurt innocent people and other angels – hell, he even felt sorry for Crowley when Lucifer used him as his own little pet - but seeing him lay even a finger on the Winchesters was enough to drive him over the edge.
He'd managed to take control once to save Sam from the hands of the devil that once tormented him. His love for Sam had given him enough strength to take the wheel back even if just for a moment. But that was Sam. This was Dean. What he felt for Dean was much stronger. The profound bond between himself and the hunter had always been able to overcome any and all obstacles in the way. Dean had always managed to pull him back, help him do the right thing, remember who he was. Metatron was right when he said that his mission was always to save one man. Cas didn't want to admit it out loud but humanity would always come second to Dean Winchester. Everything would always come second to Dean Winchester.
Which is why seeing Dean on the brink of death, begging and pleading for him to take control and fight back, his green eyes a mixture of fear and the smallest glimmer of hope, gave him the push he needed to undo what he never should have done in the first place.
“Cas, c'mon. Fight him! I-I know you can hear me!”
Dean's voice was strained as Lucifer used Castiel's own hands to strangle him. Lucifer was powerful enough to have killed Dean quick and easy with just a click of his fingers but his fallen brother had been in Castiel's head for some time now and he knew how much Cas thought of Dean. He knew how much the human meant to him, he'd seen every memory Cas had of him and Dean – all the private moments that were meant for no one but the two who shared them. Every smile that Dean had meant just for him. Every touch, every whisper, every glance... every kiss. Everything . Lucifer had seen it all as he invaded Cas' head. He knew how much Castiel loved him. So he should've known his brother would use it against him. So Lucifer decided it'd be much more fun to have Cas watch as he killed his lover slowly, forcing him to look into his eyes as he witnessed his own hands draining the life out of the man he knew his brother loved so very much.
“Castiel is watching, y'know.” he heard his voice say, but it wasn't him talking, “He's screaming at me to stop. Oh, you should hear the screaming. Little Cassie will stop at nothing to save his precious hunter. It's adorable, really.” He leaned in close to whisper in Dean's ear, “I've been in Castiel's mind remember. I've seen all his little thoughts and all his memories...” he chuckled and pulled back to look Dean in the eye, his grip on his neck still just tight enough that Dean had to struggle for each breath as he desperately fought against Lucifer's grip, “And I mean I knew Cassie was in love with you but I didn't realise he was in love with you.” he laughed cruelly before he pouted, “How sweet.”
“Please, Cas.” Dean choked out, a tear escaping. “I need you.”
It was then that Dean felt the grip on his neck loosen and could see Lucifer struggling to keep control of his vessel. He started to see some familiarity in those blue eyes as the hands were ripped from his neck and Cas – or Lucifer, Dean wasn't sure who had the upper hand at this point – stumbled back and held his head, tugging at his hair, groaning and screaming from the effort. It was Cas. Dean didn't know how he knew but he knew – Cas was fighting. Dean could only watch, catching his breath, as Cas was hunched over now, eyes shut as he desperately tried to concentrate. He then heard him speak – Cas. The deep, gravelly voice that he had missed so much.
“Lucifer.. get... OUT!”
Cas screamed as the blue light escaped from his mouth. Dean shrunk back as he watched it disappear off to who-knows-where. To be honest he didn't care right now, he could deal with that later, right now the only thing he cared about was getting Cas back.
Once the light was gone, Dean ran forward and caught Castiel, guiding him down to the floor to sit, leaning him against his leg as he crouched on one knee. He took the angel's face in his hands and patted his cheek lightly, “Cas, you hear me? Cas!”
Cas groaned, “Dean?” his eyes opening as blue met green.
Dean sighed and shut his own eyes, “Thank god.” he muttered before opening his eyes again to check over Cas. “You OK? How you feelin'?”
“Terrible.” Cas answered bluntly. “It took all my strength to cast him out.”
“What gave you the boost, anyway? How'dya get it up?” Dean asked, unable to help the slight smirk in his voice at the end.
“What do you think?” Cas managed a small smile.
Dean chuckled lightly, staring down at Cas for another moment before his eyes flickered up and over to his younger brother, passed out on the floor a few metres from them, “Sammy?”
“He should be fine.” Cas assured him, his voice weak. “Lucifer only wanted to knock him out while he dealt with you first.”
Dean nodded but got up to check on Sam anyway, making sure Cas could sit up on his own first.
Cas watched as Dean knelt by his younger brother, shaking him and slapping his face as he'd done with Cas to bring the taller Winchester back to consciousness. He couldn't help the sigh of relief that escaped his lips when he saw Sam wake up and Dean pull him into a tight hug. If anything had happened to either of them...
Castiel shook his head. He didn't want to think about that. And he wouldn't have to think about that if he'd never said 'yes' to Lucifer. He knew he wasn't going to forgive himself for what he'd done and it would hurt but he wouldn't blame the brothers if they didn't either.
Cas still wasn't sure if he'd been forgiven or not. It seemed that once Dean was sure he was fine, if not a bit beaten down, he remembered why the whole thing had happened – Castiel had said 'yes' to Lucifer. This meant that the car ride back to the bunker was fairly silent except from a few words exchanged between Sam and Dean. To be specific, Sam asking what their next move was concerning Lucifer and whatever-the-hell had happened to him and the Darkness and Dean telling him they'd deal with it another day – they'd had enough excitement to last them at least a week.
If he was honest Cas was surprised they were letting him stay at the bunker but he supposed they weren't so heartless as to leave him by himself while he was so weak despite what he'd done. Besides, the bunker was a big enough place that Cas figured he could stay out of their way if he had to.
It had been a few days now since he'd ejected Lucifer and he was feeling better. Still not 'fully charged' as Dean would say but he was slowly healing himself. Lucifer was an extremely powerful archangel and so taking back control and ejecting him had taken a lot out of Castiel. He stayed in what had, over the years, come to be his room during the day mostly and came out at night when he knew the boys were in their own respective bedrooms. They hadn't told him to stay out their way, he just took it upon himself to do so. Neither of them had tried to talk to him properly so he didn't try to make conversation with them if he ever did happen to cross paths with one of them.
So it was now the middle of the night, Cas wasn't sure what time, and Sam and Dean appeared to be in their own rooms so Cas had ventured out into the bunker's main library. He was sitting at one of the tables reading a book he'd picked at random. Well, he was trying to read it and concentrate on the words but his mind kept wandering. He grew frustrated and slammed the book shut with a sigh before he heard movement.
He glanced to his right to see Dean padding into the library with bare feet, still in his jeans and t-shirt, a beer in hand. Clearly he hadn't been asleep as Cas had hoped. Dean approached Cas slowly after noticing he was there, “Mind if I join you?” he asked.
“Not at all.” Cas replied before turning his gaze back to the closed book in front of him, fingering the edges to give his hands something to do. He hadn't been able to look at Dean properly since it happened because all he could see were the bruises on his neck from where his hands had been.
Dean sat to his right in the chair next to him, taking a swig of his beer before placing it down on the table.
“So this is what you've been doing? Waiting for me and Sammy to go to sleep before you come out of your cave to sit here and read books?” Dean questioned.
Castiel shrugged, eyes not leaving the book, “I didn't want to be of any bother to either of you. I feel that even my staying here is more than I deserve.”
He heard Dean sigh, “OK Cas, first off; you have as much right to be here as me and Sam. I've thrown you out once before and I ain't doing it again. We've all done some pretty shitty stuff and if we abandoned each other every single time then... well, that's just not how family works.” Dean told the angel firmly.
Cas' heart warmed slightly at hearing Dean still refer to him as family. He found it in himself to finally look up at Dean to see the hunter offering him a small smile, which he tried to return but he wasn't sure it was very convincing.
“And second,” Dean started, the smile slipping as he searched Cas' face and those blue, blue eyes, “Cas, why d'ya do it?”
Cas took in a breath. If you'd asked him that weeks ago he probably could've given an answer but now... now he could barely remember why he ever thought it was a good idea.
“I don't know, I just,” he started, dejectedly., “Before we went into the cage to save Sam, before I had that confrontation with Amara, I met this angel, Ambriel. She told me I was 'expendable'; that you and Sam are the real heroes. I merely help when I can be of use.”
Dean's heart broke as he shut his eyes and rubbed at his face with his hand, “Cas...”
“So then I started thinking,” Castiel ignored Dean and continued, “what if I could do something to prove that I'm not expendable. That for once I could save the world – be the hero instead of the villain. Become more than 'Heaven's Most Wanted'. And I thought that Lucifer was the only way to beat the Darkness and I couldn't let Sam say 'yes' to him, not that I think he would but I'd rather Sam had nothing to do with my brother, not after what he did to him. So I decided the best plan of action was to let Lucifer posses me, after he assured me he could kill the Darkness. It all seemed so simple in my mind – let Lucifer in, he would defeat the Darkness and then... well, I'm not sure what I expected to happen after that. It wasn't like he was going to jump back in the cage willingly and let me go free. But I'm not sure I cared about what happened to me, not really. I mean, I'm a pretty crappy angel.” Cas chuckled bitterly to himself, “Pretty sure Heaven would be happy if I was out the way – all I've ever done is cause death and destruction. I never did know how to take an order and I rebelled every chance I got.” Cas' eyes had slid back to the table, ashamed of himself. Looking at it now his plan was ridiculously stupid and impulsive and he wandered how he ever thought it was a was going to work or that it was worth the risk.
“Did you ever think of me?” Dean snapped, anger in his voice. “Did you think of me before you went on this little suicide mission of yours?”
Cas looked up to meet Dean's eyes and his blue ones widened slightly, “Of course I did. Everything I've ever done is because I was thinking of you! I knew you couldn't kill Amara so I wanted to do it for you. And I didn't want Sam risking his life trying either.” Cas argued.
“Oh so you thought you'd risk yours?” Dean shot back.
“Better me than him.” Castiel replied.
“No, Cas you listen to me.” Dean turned in his chair to face Castiel so he could look at him. “I don't want either of you risking your life for me. You and Sam are the two most important people left in my crappy life and I don't want either of you going anywhere!”
“But you would risk your life for us!” the angel threw back at him.
“That's different!” Dean debated.
“How?!” Cas demanded, eyes wide, furious and questioning, unable to understand how Dean could think so little of himself that he'd put other's lives in front of his but would not expect the same from them.
Dean took a swig from his beer, this wasn't what he wanted to talk about. He didn't want to argue with Cas, he wanted to try and make things right. Truth was he knew Cas had been sneaking out his room at night when him and Sam had retired to theirs for the night. He knew this because Dean was normally still awake when he heard Cas come out of his room but up until now he chose to ignore it and stay in his room. Give Cas his space. He wanted Cas to have his strength back before they had this conversation. After he'd ejected Lucifer he just looked so... tired. Exhausted. Weak. He didn't like to see Cas like this – he was an angel, for crying out loud. He was meant to be an extremely powerful celestial being; so powerful that Dean shouldn't have to worry about him being hurt. But he did. He always did. Whether he had to or not. Because he loved him.
Dean and Castiel's relationship had always been... special. They had never defined what they had but they had 'something'. The lives they lived were complicated enough with having to figure out a real functioning relationship. For years they had just taken things as they came – when things were good, they were good and if there were ever moments where they could actually be happy and pretend the world wasn't going to hell then they took advantage of them and appreciated them. Whether it was a moment, an hour, a night, they grasped the opportunity with both hands. And they savoured every touch, every look and every kiss because hell, it was probably the only source of true happiness either of them got. And they loved each other. No matter what happened, nothing would change that fact. No matter how bad things were between them.
When Castiel was human it added a new dimension to their relationship because Cas could really feel. He already knew he loved Dean but to get to feel that from a human perspective? It felt new and amazing but it also meant it hurt so much more knowing the world was against them once again. Cas just wished circumstances could've been different – that he and Dean could've had something even close to normal. But all they managed were one or two stolen moments here and there. Cas wished they could've had more even if just for Dean's sake – Dean surely deserved all the happiness in the world after all the good he'd done for the damned place. Cas could understand himself not deserving that happiness but Dean? He had the purest soul Castiel had ever laid eyes on, only tainted by his own sadness and self-loathing. He just wished Dean could see what he saw.
“Look Cas,” Dean rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose before looking back at the angel. “Why didn't you tell me you felt like that? Why didn't you talk to me?” he asked softly, a hint of sadness in his voice.
“I didn't really realise I felt that way until my conversation with Ambriel, to be honest. I mean, I'd felt like that in the past at times but I just wanted to help so I put my feelings aside. And in any case, I didn't think you'd even forgive me let alone want to hear to me talk about it. I didn't even think you'd listen. I know you're not overly fond of what you like to call 'chick flick moments'.” Cas answered.
Dean rolled his eyes slightly at Cas quoting him; he'd had more 'chick flick moments' than he'd care to think about if he was honest. “Cas I know I can be a selfish jerk sometimes but you need to talk to me if you ever feel like that. And if you don't think I'm listening then make me listen! Cause you need to realise that you are not expendable, Cas and you are not the villain. And how could you think I wouldn't forgive you? Why would this time be any different from all the other times you've done something wrong because you thought you were doing the right thing? The three of us have all done some pretty crappy and frankly unforgivable things but we always forgive each other eventually. In the end. We're all messed up and no one else in their right minds would forgive us for the shit we've done but that's why we forgive each other. Because if we didn't have each other then we'd probably have nobody. And if I have to have this conversation with you every time you feel even the slightest bit of doubt then I will – hell, I should tell you how important you are every fricken' day – because just cos I might get pissed at you Cas does not mean I don't need you. Cos I do, Cas – I need you.” Dean's eyes wide and full of sincerity, expressing the hidden meaning of those three words. “You hear me, Cas?”
A smile tugged at Castiel's lips and nodded his head, “Yes, Dean, I hear you. And I need you too.”
Dean grinned back at him warmly, “Good.” he then leaned over to capture Cas' lips in a firm yet sweet kiss, placing his hand over one of Cas' and giving it a small squeeze, assuring him he'd been forgiven. He pulled back to find Cas' grin mirroring his own. Dean then stood up and started to walk away, leaving his empty beer on the table, “I'm going back to my room.” he announced, turning to face Castiel, hands in his jean pockets.
Cas nodded, slightly disappointed Dean wasn't going to stay longer but figured it was late and, being human, he was probably tired, “Oh, OK. Goodnight, Dean.”
Dean stood there, amused, “Uh, Cas?” Castiel turned back to see Dean grinning that wolfish smile of his, “I didn't say anything about sleepin.”
Realization dawned on Cas and the disappointment washed away, replaced with happiness and excitement, “Ah,” he stood up, “Good.”
Dean laughed and waited for Cas to join him before he wrapped an arm around his neck and pulled him in for another kiss. Afterwards he kept his arm slung around Cas' shoulders and guided him out of the library.
“Alright feather boy, let's see how much of your strength you got back.”