He's been here, in the bunker, for almost a year.
Human for almost a year.
And he seems happy. He hunts with them, a third man they never thought they needed but now that he's here, they can't imagine him not.
They forget what it's like to hunt, with only their brother.
He likes domestic shit which makes them both laugh. Until he kicks Dean out of the kitchen and takes over cooking, until the low hum of the vacuum wakes Sam, until the scent of Downy fills the damn place and clings to their clothes and they give him a bewildered look that Dean follows up with an incredulous, Fucking fabric softener, Cas?
He ignores that and makes a cake, a three level chocolate concoction that makes all three of them stare in something close to awe.
Dean doesn't even complain it's not pie.
But when the long winter fades, and he brings out magazine after magazine of plants and gardens, they let him badger them into a garden.
Sam even gets excited about it, something he denies when Dean teases, gentle and amused after they dig and plant for two days straight and Cas falls asleep in his corner of the couch, a slump of one-time angel covered in dirt and worn to exhaustion.
Later, when they talk about it, they'll agree.
This. His damn garden. That's why.
Sam scoops him up off the couch and Dean leads the way, down the hall, to where his door is.
Cas always keeps it closed, an unspoken order.
Three dudes living together, working together, they learn to respect each other's silent boundaries. They stayed out.
But now he's tired and sleeping and they are take care of him for once. So Dean pushes open the door, and Sam stumbles in.
For a little guy, the dude is solid and his arms hurt as he lowers Cas.
He doesn't see it until after Cas is laid out, all angles and limbs flailing. Sam smiles, a slight, sweet thing.
It's good. Having Cas in the bunker, here. It's right.
His gaze flicks to Dean's, because sometimes they sync up and recognize shit like this. But Dean's not watching their sleeping angel, he's watching the walls and he looks vaguely sick.
Sam glances over and sees.
The wall is covered with them.
So many are tiny, fragile bee wings spread in flight.
There are butterfly wings and dragon fly wings and the heavy wings of a beetle, so many tiny insect wings that they blur together on the wall, into something bigger.
There are bat wings there, pinned carefully open and feathers.
So many feathers.
Pale and tiny and white. Long and heavy and brown. Fluffy, small, and gray. And black ones. Threaded through everything, there are these long, elegant black pinions and downy fluff.
That's what keeps throwing them off.
It fractures the thing that they are seeing, and brings it all together and.
Dean says it first, as it clicks in Sam’s head, “It's his wings.”
They retreat because he's sleeping and because what do you say when the fallen angel, the one who gave up every-celestial-thing for you is pining for his wings?
How do you even deal with that?
Dean says not to. Sam gives him a reproachful look and he sighs. Rubs his mouth and nods. Fine, Sam. Fine. Ok.
But there is, under the capitulation, fear. In both of them. Cas has been human for a year, has lived in the bunker for a year, the third piece in a puzzle that feels, finally, complete, with him here.
And they have never spoken of his fall. Have never spoken of his lost grace or broken wings or the home he left to be here.
What if, Dean wonders, twisted in his blankets later, it's too much? What if Cas leaves them?
Sam is afraid too--he crawls into bed with Dean near two am, wraps around his brother and doesn't speak. Just clings, the way he did when they were small and he was scared of something he saw on a hunt.
It's easier to be brave when they are together. Even when it's not a monster they are facing. Easier to remember that losing Cas won’t break their family, because they will always have each other.
And if that isn’t enough, if that fear threads through both of them, neither are willing to face it. Not yet.
Cas is making breakfast when they stumble out of bed. If he is startled by their appearance, sleep rumpled, exhausted and together, he doesn't say. Just sends them a sky blue smile cryptic and a nod at the coffee he's poured for them. Dean mumbles a thank you. Sam side eyes him until the older Winchester huffs a sigh and beats a retreat.
Cas, intent on the eggs he's stirring, doesn't comment.
It goes on for most of the morning, the brothers dancing around Cas in an intricate move of half said things, and nervous twitches, and quick retreats. And Cas notices. He watches them under his eyelashes as he prepares stuffed chicken for lunch, and as he sits curled on one corner of the couch reading and when he’s folding Sam’s flannel shirts as Sam and Dean exchange heavy glances that speak in a language he hasn’t learned, before Dean stands abruptly.
Mutters about the Impala and leaves.
Sam curses, a near silent, Dammit, Dean.
He follows his brother a few moments later, leaving Cas alone.
Befuddled and a little off balance.
It’s how he felt, after he pulled Dean from hell. Unsure of his place in the Winchesters life.
After a year of living with them, and all that he has done, he never expected to be in this place again.
And it irritates him. So he shoves Sam’s shirts back into the basket, takes a savage sort of pleasure in the fact that they will be wrinkled as hell, and Sam will be annoyed.
And then he forgets it entirely and chases his boys.
They are talking, and it stops him.
“If he wants to go, we can’t keep him.”
“You don’t know that he wants to go.”
Dean’s voice is desperate, like he’s scrambling to hold that thought and it breaks something in Cas’s chest, a deep ache blooming up so swift and sharp he pushes a hand against his heart, like that might help.
It doesn’t. The only thing that ever eases that ache is when he’s settled with the boys, in the Impala, or the warmth of the kitchen, or reading lore. Curled in his corner of the couch while Dean laughs at the TV and Sam dozes, half-aware, at their feet.
“We don’t know what he wants. We never asked,” Sam says, and enough.
For a year, he has lived, easy and happy, as Cas.
But it’s Castiel who stalks from the shadows and approaches the boys. Watches them with cold cold eyes, as Dean shifts and Sam looks vaguely afraid.
He had always loved Cas, and always been afraid of Castiel. Seeing that fear again ramps up the aching pain in his heart, but he shoves it down and ignores it.
“Ask,” he snarls, low and furious.
They exchange a quick look and Dean looks sick. “Do you want to be here?” He whispers, so soft it’s almost lost.
And the anger fades, doused by his worry and Sam’s fear and a sudden splash of confusion.
“Of course,” Cas says, emphatic and sincere. “What could ever make you think otherwise?”
Another worried exchange between the brothers. Sam, cautious and gentle, “The wings. You’re building wings, Cas.”
Understanding hits and he laughs. A high, almost hysterical noise that breaks into a moan. And it pulls Dean out of his stasis, pulls him from where he’s standing still and uncertain, until he’s holding Cas, and somehow, Cas is sobbing. These great shaking things. His hands clenched in Dean’s shirt, and his face buried in Dean’s neck, sobbing as he falls apart. Completely wrecked.
Sam is there, pressed against him, until he’s in a cocoon of Winchester and flannel and soft, nonsense words whispered in his ear, Dean’s croon and Sam’s reassurance.
How to explain it? How to say that he has never been happier, but there is still this ache? How to tell them that they are everything he would have chosen, everything he did choose, but there is something missing? How to tell them that despite being content and wanting nothing more than this--he longs for his wings?
There aren’t words, not that he can say, not that will make sense. They will startle and scare, and Dean, Sam, this means too much to risk. So he sobs, and he bottles up the words. And it is enough.
Later, when he is not crying, Sam pulls away from him, just a little and asks, soft but serious. “Cas, do you want to be here?”
He nods, once, a shaky but sure thing.
“If you want your grace, your wings--Man, we’ll find a way.” Dean, this time, and the sincerity there, the concern almost sends Cas back to his knees.
He shakes his head, and forces a smile through the tear tracks on his face. “No. I want to be here. You, both of you, are my family. Heaven…” he trails off and shakes his head.
And that is that. As simple and complex as it is. Sam nods, squeezes his shoulders and retreats. Dean gives him a searching look, brushes their fingers together and returns to working on Baby while Cas sits, knees bent, back to the wall, watching him through heavy eyes.
He’s been with them for a year now, and it’s right. It feels, with him there, like the last piece of a puzzle has slid into place and they are complete picture. And he’s happy. Taking care of his hunters and fighting beside them, stealing smiles and happy before the world shifts again and they are pulled into saving it from itself.
But they care for him too. Dean pulls him from the corner of the couch and lets the one-time angel curl against him when they watch a movie. Sam crawls into Cas’s bed, all long limb sleepy and tension, when nightmares from the trials plague him.
And feathers. Wings. Insect and bird and bat and fluff, appear. Silent gifts left on his bed, when they know he won’t see them leaving them. Until they spread, puzzle pieced together and beautiful against his wall. As large and lovely as his had been, before he fell.
Cas lost his wings and gained a family.
And when he grieved for those lost wings, his family gave him wings again. Broken and flightless and perfect.
The final piece of a broken puzzle, sliding into place.