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"You're the best friend we've ever had"

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The first time it happens, Dean and Cas are about to have lunch with Mary and Sam, (as soon as they come back from interviewing the main victim’s family in their current case) and the occasion has them sitting across each other at a four place table inside a fancy restaurant, filling only two of those places. They’re both quiet, very obviously trying not to stare at each other for too long, lest the other one finds out.

It’s only been a few weeks since they got everyone safe, sound and back at the bunker and if they were being honest, they haven’t been talking much in… well weeks, ever since Dean got back. Dean was clearly happy to see Cas and introduce him to his mother. Cas was very obviously relieved to see Dean was alive, but between getting Mary up to speed, saving Sam and hunting Lucifer, they really hadn’t made an effort to really talk. They didn’t have much to say anyways… right?

Castiel senses the waitress and her attraction towards Dean coming their way; he watches as Dean lifts his gaze from his menu. Dean looks the waitress up and down and gives her an easy smile, he hopes it will make her linger, he’s not feeling terribly comfortable sitting in silence with his best friend. Neither is Castiel, already used to quite involving dialogues whenever he’s addressing Dean; but the angel understands if they were to talk they wouldn’t be that much more comfortable together, considering the last conversation they had on their own.

You’re our brother, Cas. I want you to know that.

“Hey guys!” the waitress says, her chirpy tone laced with slight embarrassment, Cas and Dean frown slightly at that. “There are tables in the back for two” she goes on and her embarrassment clicks in with her apologetic expression and her passed-on dialogue “do you want me to move you there? maybe you’ll be more comfortable”

Nah, I don’t think that’ll cut it. Dean thinks. 

Castiel feels Dean’s thoughts silently and constantly poking his mind but he ignores this in favor of Dean’s privacy (like he always does) and turns to the waitress:

“Oh no, it’s okay,” Cas says, a polite smile on his face “We’re just waiting for his other brother and his mother” he signals to Dean. The hunter who had been watching him, lets his jaw fall a little. “They’ll be here any minute, don’t worry” Cas finishes, deliberately ignoring Dean’s reaction and gauging the relief his words inspire in the waitress.

“Oh okay” she answers “I’ll bring more menus” she adds, then she happily walks away.

Castiel looks back at his menu and ignores Dean completely, don’t get him wrong he’s far above human pettiness. Oh no, his is an angelic pettiness, and he’s allowed to it.

Dean stares at Cas while the waitress walks away, while the angel looks at his menu, while the waitress comes back, while his mother and his brother arrive, while the waitress comes and goes again, while they eat, while Sam goes to pay and as they go separate ways again.

He must’ve heard wrong.

 

✧・゚:*  ✿  *:・゚✧

 

The second time it happens, Dean and Cas are waiting for their beers at a bar. Sam and Mary stayed at their table but Dean suggested off-hand that maybe Cas could come with him to the bar and help him carry the four beers. Castiel felt confused at the suggestion but he easily went after Dean, deliberately shutting the hunter from his mind as he did. Cas is back at full power now and it isn’t easy for him to be around Dean, as a matter of fact, it’s frustrating. Cas can listen to Dean’s heart, loud and clear at any time of the day, and he can’t help but notice again how Dean’s heart rate goes up when he touches Cas, or looks into his eyes, or suggests they do something on their own; like it always has. But that doesn’t happen when he does those things with Sam, so God only knows what type of brothers Dean meant they were, certainly not the Sam-type. Cas’ head is now filled with this kind of thoughts and it worries him, Castiel is not one to forgo communication in lieu of inciting conflict, but something about Dean, and Dean specifically , inspires the angel to make his best decisions sometimes, but his very worst in others.

Dean asks the bartender for their beers, his mind nervously alert to every one of Cas’ movements. The bartender nods and smiles at them, a very charming smile, Dean would’ve probably enjoyed flirting with him and his deep chocolate eyes if Cas hadn’t been there, if only to forget about the angel. Instead, Dean smiles back for a second and then shifts his attention back to the angel by his side.

Cas has been distant from Dean, to say the least, for a good number of months now. Dean knew some of it had been Lucifer, he knew that now . He had been trying to give Cas space to heal and he gave him so much that Cas somehow let the devil inside of his head, quite literally. Cas’ process for decision making bothers Dean to no end , and he should’ve said so, at least a while back, y’know, a several-years-wide while back. They have talked about it, a few times before the Lucifer thing, once or twice after Dean was finally freed from the whole Amara thing and it became about the devil, but it had never been much more than I can’t apologize enough and You’re already forgiven from both of them. Only shells of conversations waiting to be filled by the emotions they both held captive in their heads, waiting just behind their politely sealed lips. Dean wants to say it. Cas you’re an idiot , an idiot for thinking you have to save the world all on your own. But who am I to say that , Dean thinks, the irony getting him to roll his eyes.

The angel still isn’t the same, Dean knows it’s immensely stupid to expect Cas to be the same after so much shit happened, but what he was waiting for was for Cas to come back to him. Dean had foolishly assumed that by saying what Cas had done was correct, he would inspire the angel to see his own worth, without actually having to tell him Cas you’re an idiot , which was the prominent thought in Dean’s head whenever he thought of Lucifer, always tinged with reproach, worry, and fear. But the angel does not appear any more satisfied with himself and he seems far away now.  Dean’s used to answering his silly texts, introducing him to new foods, watching shitty TV with him when Dean grows tired and they leave Sammy at the library on research duty, trying to get Cas to ditch the trench coat for a while, telling the angel everything he knows about the cars that show up in late night movies or at gas stations. Dean misses it, Dean misses him. Even if those things had only happened in a few rare weeks, Dean wants it back.

Of course, things are different now that Mary’s around. She rides in the back of Baby, with Cas, and now his blue eyes don’t search Dean’s in the rearview mirror, they’re directed at Mary, and the angel asks her stuff about the time she had their sons and what she thinks of it all now, and Dean really loves it, but he misses him. Mary fixes breakfast for them now, and she teaches all three of them how to, so that they can all do it and it’s awesome, but now Cas doesn’t have to come by every other morning with breakfast and so when he’s got a trail on Lucifer he kinda fades, and Dean misses him. Mary tends to their wounds now, she likes it, they do it more for her because it grounds her she says, so Cas doesn’t linger after hunts. And Dean misses him. Of course, Dean had expected things to change, but he had hoped...

“Here you go” the bartender delivers in a rich tone along with their four bottles, snapping Dean out of thought. Castiel can sense Dean’s attention snapping back to the handsome young man and something akin to frustration invades him, he looks down at his hands. “You know you really don’t have to carry all of  those right?” the bartender asks them “You can ask any of the wait staff to do it and we’ll bring your drinks to your table so you guys can have your date undisturbed.” Cas looks up at that. Dean, quite aware of Cas and his attention rushes to explain:

“Oh, we’re not-” he tries. Cas laughs and cuts Dean off, seeing a clear opportunity to reproach him his irrational wording a second time without actually having to say anything about it, a human kind of behavior that perhaps will be clearer for Dean than plain emotional communication.

“Oh no!” Cas talks with a smile that’s far better than the bartender's and Dean’s heart constricts “We’re not on a date!” Cas goes on “We’re practically brothers!” he finishes, placing a hand on Dean’s shoulder. Dean’s stomach turns. Shit, he thinks, he heard right the first time after all.

Castiel feels Dean tensing under his hand but before he can feel guilty the bartender answers.

“Oh! I’m sorry” he says “Well, then, yours can be on me” the guy winks at Cas. Cas blushes slightly with the unexpected attention, but then quickly chuckles at the irony. The guy wants to pay for something Cas isn’t even gonna drink, he might as well have given him tap water on a beer bottle, and to top it, Cas is trying his best to get Dean’s attention, not the bartender’s.

Dean, however, misses the irony, his head has been replaying We’re not on a date! with the enthusiastic undertone implying that, oh yeah, also: they’ll never be in one. And that’s bullshit. Dean understands he shouldn’t have called Cas that, but Cas acting like he’s okay with it just to get Dean’s attention, considering it’s already on Cas an excessive amount of hours a day, is just childish, what’s worse, it actually gets to him. It hurts Dean to even think what Cas is saying and implying could be true and Castiel must know this, and is probably hurting Dean on purpose. Meanwhile the stupid bartender…!

“That’s okay, champ,” Dean tells the guy and slams a few bills on the bar, taking all four beers from the necks and swiftly turning away. He hears Cas apologize for him and then come after him. He ignores the angel when he shows up at his side.

Cas is deliberately torturing him, right? Well, two can play at this game.

So Dean sets on to be the most handsy he’s ever been around Cas because he knows why Cas is distant now, he knows Cas is mad and he knows he should apologize, but he feels like being childish too. If Cas didn’t speak his mind about what Dean said, then why should Dean speak his mind about what Cas is doing? Oh no, he’s determined to win this one, Cas will break. Because Dean sits by his side on every meal now, he nudges Cas anytime he tells a joke, he leans his elbow against Cas’ shoulder as he talks with Sam and his mom, he bumps his head on Cas’ shoulder when he sees him standing on his own in front of the coffee maker, he puts all of his weight against Cas’ side during late nights at the library, he swings his arm across Cas’ shoulders and pulls him close as the four of them wander the supermarket halls, he ruffles Cas’ hair constantly and he squeezes Cas’ shoulders when he asks to know if the angel is alright. Cas smiles that small thing of his every time and it all feels so good, Dean almost forgets about their stupid game.

 

But then it happens a third time, maybe a week after the first. They stopped at a supermarket to get something to eat before they headed back home after they closed their case. Dean is getting it all while Sam, Mary, and Cas wait in the car. Cas silently watches as the hunter walks into the store, he seems relaxed today, it puts Cas at ease.

“You really care about him, don’t you?” Mary asks as if she had been reading Castiel’s thoughts. Cas turns to her, an unreasonable blush creeping up his cheeks.

“I do” he answers sincerely “ I really care about both your sons” Cas adds. Mary laughs a little.

“Well, yes. But that’s not what I meant, Castiel,” she answers, with a knowing smile. Cas clears his throat awkwardly.

“You can call me Cas if you want” he ventures, wanting to change the subject.

“I suppose Castiel is a bit of a mouthful,” Mary says in her motherly tone “it’s undoubtedly beautiful, though” she adds. Sam smiles at them through the rearview mirror. Cas smiles too.

“That’s what Dean says” he murmurs “...about it being a mouthful, of course” he rushes to explain, a sinking realization that he would be just extremely flattered if Dean ever implies he agrees with his mother’s second observation. Mary’s knowing smile returns to her face.

“So you two are very close, huh?” Mary asks, just as Dean opens the driver’s door and climbs back in. The car dips with his weight and he opens the bag he’d been holding between his teeth. Cas sighs in relief and lets Mary’s question go unanswered.

“Okay” Dean sighs, his tiredness weighing his shoulders down slightly “Sam here’s your grass” he hands Sam a salad and a fork, rolling his eyes at Sam’s happy face “Mom, here are your snacks” he hands Mary another bag filled with potato chips, protein bars, gummy bears, chocolate bars and yogurt cups and his mom smiles widely. Dean bought her pretty much anything that could pass for her shy request of ‘a snack’.

“Thank you, baby,” she tells him. Dean smiles absently, a rare smile Cas had only seen about once every few months before Mary came back into their lives, it’s a smile that says he’s brimming to the top with happiness, it’s a smile that looks unplanned and inevitable.

“There are a couple of sodas here if you guys want some” Dean tells them, tapping a small bag next to him, then he puts his hand inside the bag and retrieves a magazine. “...And this is for you, buddy” Dean says hesitantly, stretching his hand back behind his seat towards Cas.

Cas raises his eyebrows in a surprised gesture because of course, he didn’t ask for anything, he never does, but he takes the magazine now, curiosity sprinkling his every thought. It’s a copy of this month’s National Geographic with a picture of a beehive on its cover. Cas’ heart swells a little with the sight and a tiny bit more with every word Dean says next.

“It’s um-” Dean fidgets a bit with the car keys before he jams the right one in the ignition. “There’s some stuff about bees in there,” he continues “so you can read it while we sleep, y’know... if you stick around” he finishes. The gesture is especially meaningful because Cas knows their headed back to the bunker, they’re going home, and Dean is asking him to stay. Cas lifts his gaze then, meeting Dean’s eyes in the rearview mirror as a smile spreads across his face. Dean smiles back, big and warm.

Cas is about to say a heartfelt “Thank you, Dean” when Mary lets out the tiniest of happy sounds and Cas is reminded of the opportunity here for whatever reason so he looks out his window and calmly says “Thanks, bro”.

Sam snorts and Mary frowns. Son of a bitch , Dean thinks, he rolls his eyes, takes a deep breath and drives as fast as he can, letting the car be the extension of his body that lets out every feel of impotence and angry frustration. He drives silently until they’re parked outside the bunker a couple hours later.

 

✧・゚:*  ✿  *:・゚✧

 

Inside the bunker, they store away the remaining sodas and yogurt cups and order pizza. Cas sits at their kitchen table calmly reading his magazine. Mary fuzzes over Sam’s hair offering to cut it for him and Dean laughs at them, trying not to pay attention to the way his heart swells at just the thought of Cas being around for dinner, let alone sitting next to him exclusively reading a magazine Dean got for him.

Three pizzas come and go. Mary asks a ton of questions to Cas and he answers in his usual polite but excited-that-he-gets-to-share-his-Winchester-knowledge way. They talk of Stanford, John and Bobby, Charlie and Claire, and how Mary wants to meet Jody and thank her for welcoming her boys. After a few beers, Sam goes to bed and Mary follows shortly, leaving a slightly drunk Dean and an amused Cas sitting right next to each other, leaning their weight on their joint sides as they look over shark pictures in Cas’ magazine. Dean loses count of the beers he takes because he doesn’t want to go to his room,  so he falls asleep drunk out of his mind, with his head atop their kitchen table in the middle of telling Cas about the time he stayed up late watching a shark documentary when he was ten and looking after Sammy while their father hunted and then he couldn’t sleep and stayed up all night reading his father’s research books to see if there were any shark-like monsters that they could encounter.

Cas laughs softly at the tale and watches fondly as Dean drifts into sleep before he remembers how Dean hates that and goes back to his magazine, pouring all of his effort in taming the wild feeling inside him that suggests he should touch Dean’s cheek and see if it’s still really as soft as the day Cas build him back up, or draw a line in his jaw and see if it’s still as defined, or run his fingers through Dean’s hair because it looks so good when it’s all mussed up, or take him to bed because he must be uncomfortable here. It makes no sense, Dean is a human and Cas is an angel, he shouldn’t feel this, he shouldn’t feel anything , and Dean shouldn’t want this, this is a mess, but it’s a mess Cas unequivocally loves, it’s their mess and it’s the living, breathing testament of their free will.

It’s 4am the next time Dean wakes up. He looks over and feels a smile stretching his lips slightly when he sees Cas is still there, calmly reading his magazine.

“Anything good?” Dean rasps out, his voice heavy with sleep before he clears his throat. He awkwardly lifts his head and stretches, his head pounds and his back complaints about the brilliant idea of sleeping on a chair when his bed is just a few rooms over.

“It’s actually very interesting” Cas answers, lifting the magazine pointedly. Dean leans over and sees a few yellow graphs with bee statistics next to some big chunks of text that probably contain words that are too complicated to get at 4am after a drunk nap.

“Thought you already knew all of that stuff, man,” Dean says as he leans back in his chair, his head heavily protesting against the alcohol that’s not yet out of his system.

“I do,” Cas answers “the biologic and genetic data at least.” Cas chances a glance at the magazine looking like he’s about to say something he would only tell Dean, he has things like that, that he suspects might be inappropriate so he confides only to Dean, knowing the hunter never actually judges him. “...In fact, some of it is wrong” Cas adds quietly. Dean bursts out laughing.

So that’s interesting” Dean mimics through his laughter like Cas was the most arrogant person. Cas tries to say no but he laughs too.

“It’s interesting to see the way these people care about the bees and how they try to get other people to care” Cas corrects once their laughter dies. Dean hums in response.

“Glad you liked it” Dean lifts his chin to point out the magazine. Glad you stayed is what he means. I am such an idiot he thinks, and maybe it’s the alcohol but he needs to say something, and he needs to say it now .

Cas can feel Dean’s heart pumping louder and when Cas looks over, Dean is looking at him like the angel just did something that made him really happy. Cas gives him a sad smile, of course, this is the moment Dean chooses to explain: 4am and still half drunk. Castiel knows it doesn’t really matter, knows deep down that it’s not about Dean not caring, it’s just about Dean having trouble talking about feelings and that is not Dean’s fault, Cas knows this like he knows Dean loves him, but somehow, right now, he doesn’t want to hear it. Not like this.

“Cas,” 

“You look very tired, Dean,” Castiel cuts Dean off, even as Dean’s eyes fall with disappointment “maybe you should go to bed”

Dean looks at him, his only protest a tortured look but his bravery quickly deflates as his headache rages on, he realizes this is most definitely not the time. His look twists Cas’ heart and the angel can’t help it, he runs a hand through Dean’s hair until there’s a half-smile on the hunter’s lips, his eyes close and his head leans into the touch. Cas smiles fondly but retrieves his hand shortly after. Dean slowly opens his eyes and gets up then, absently nodding his head. He understands.

“Night, Cas” Dean says, scratching the back of his neck “Guess I’ll see you in the morning...um, if you stick around, or uh- I guess you don’t really have to stay since we don’t have a new case so I- uh, I’ll see you when I see you” Dean finishes, looking at his shoes.

“Good night, Dean” Cas answers simply. Dean just walks away.

 

✧・゚:*  ✿  *:・゚✧

 

It happens a fourth time the next day. When Dean wakes up finally sobered up, Cas is in the kitchen with Mary and they’re reorganizing the now full pantry for the third time this week, which is surprising, considering they spend a lot of time on the road.

“I’m real close to hiring a maid for you, mom,” Dean says in a sleepy tone as he serves his coffee. Cas chuckles, making Dean smile. Mary turns to Dean.

“Oh, good you’re up!” Mary says, completely ignoring Dean’s maid-comment. She comes by and places a kiss on her son’s cheek, Dean's smile widens. “I need you to drive Cas to the florist,” she says. Dean raises his eyebrows.

“To the… to?? Th-the florist?” Dean stammers, making a face and turning to Cas, his green eyes demanding an explanation.

“Your mother thinks the kitchen and the bedrooms could use some more color in them” Cas helpfully provides. Dean turns back to his mother.

“When did you even look into all of the bedrooms?” he asks with a half-hearted frown. Mary laughs and cradles his face in her hands.

“Just, can you drive Cas or will you trust us with Baby?” she asks, she tends to be impatient on account of how independent she is and how she feels she could very easily become a burden for her sons now, Dean thinks she is absolutely wonderful. He chuckles at her impatience and pats one of her hands dismissively.

“Nah, it’s fine I’ll drive him” he turns his head slightly and places an affectionate kiss on the inside of her palm before she gently drops her hands, a satisfied smile on her face. “What kind of flowers do you want?” Dean asks her.

“I’ll trust an angel to choose the right ones” she answers, smiling warmly at Cas. Dean takes the last of his coffee and scoffs.

“You’ll trust an angel with anything” he tells Mary as he starts walking out the room, “but I’m telling you, the only one you can trust is this specific one, right here” he ruffles Cas’ hair as he walks by him and relishes the blush it brings to the angel’s cheeks. “I’ll go get ready,” Dean tells them as he exits the room.

 

✧・゚:*  ✿  *:・゚✧

 

They get to the store and Cas knows exactly what he wants. As soon as the lady offers her help Castiel parrots a list of flowers alongside their meaning and the quantity he wants, and together they form five colorful bouquets, each different than the others, each very beautiful. Cas gets chrysanthemums for optimism, goldenrod for strength, carnations for bravery, green roses for good health and Peruvian lilies for good fortune. He seems happy that he gets to do this and even happier when Dean keeps asking the meanings of pretty much every flower they see. Cas even tells Dean he hopes Mary will be open to the idea of starting a garden and Dean very much enjoys seeing him this excited.

Dean has a smile on his face as he watches Cas check out some seeds while the lady rings them up.

“Hope you enjoy the flowers, you two make a lovely couple” the lady sweetly points out as she hands the credit card back to Dean “if you ever need flower service again we’re here to help, we even work weddings and anniversaries,” she says. Dean’s smile dims a little as his stomach drops to his knees. She not only assumed they make such a great couple that they’d get married, she also thought they would stay together for many years, anniversaries she said. Dean takes the card she’s offering with the florist number on it and searches his mind for an answer, but before he can even think again, Cas is talking.

“Oh that won’t be necessary” he says, his raspy voice laced with disappointment, it makes Dean feel like he’s the disappointment “we’re not a couple, in his words, we are actually brothers ” there’s sadness in his tone too, but Dean knows he’s the only one who knows Cas well enough to hear it and it only makes it worse. The lady is smiling like that is the sweetest thing and Dean thinks he’s about to be sick. He knows Cas is staring at him, he can feel it but he can’t bring himself to face him, to see the hurt look in his eyes and so he hears Cas storm out of the store, the loud bang of the door making Dean flinch. If Cas had his wings he'd probably be in Mumbai by now.

“I’m...sorry, did I say something wrong?” the lady asks, Dean sighs and sweeps a hand over his face.

“No… I did” 

 

✧・゚:*  ✿  *:・゚✧

 

Cas stands by Baby’s passenger door, a feeling of disappointment coiling in his gut that he wishes hard he could direct at Dean but is only pointing at himself, for not handling things with calm when it really mattered. Dean walks towards him with a bag on one hand and something Cas can’t see in the other because Dean is hiding it behind his back, and Cas doesn’t want to pry. Cas watches him and waits for the hunter to start yelling, say Castiel’s being a child or something along those lines; instead, Dean just stands right in front of him and sighs, says “I’m sorry” and extends the hand he was hiding, offering Cas a single peach peony. Peonies symbolize romance , Cas knows this, it’s why his eyes go wide and he freezes in place.

“First of all, I’m sorry I didn’t explain before” Dean offers hesitantly, his extended hand trembling just slightly, Cas moves by some miracle and takes the flower. Dean doesn’t let it go, drawing courage from what little contact their hands have “I wanted to Cas, I really am sorry,” Cas is still pretty much unable to move and Dean, seeing Cas has apparently no intention of answering, keeps talking “I even tried to explain last night, but- "

Dean starts retreating his hand. Cas, seeing the conflict in his face holds on tighter to the flower, stilling Dean as those green eyes focus on him. “I want you to,” Cas tells him, finally finding his voice, but he doesn’t say anything else.

Dean looks into the angel’s eyes and thinks yet again, that he’s a huge idiot, he sees nothing there but understanding, support, forgiveness, sheer adoration, he sees what he’s always seen and while he dares not name it, deep down he knows it’s love . Cas wouldn’t have given up on so much for Dean if he hadn’t loved him, wouldn’t have forgiven him so many screw ups, wouldn’t have saved him so many times; they wouldn’t get into stupid arguments and have childish contests to see who admits first to the fact that they’re not brothers like they did this past week if they didn’t love each other. Dean swallows against the lump in his throat and finally explains:

“I hadn’t realized this until recently,” Dean starts off nervously “but whenever someone said the world would end, I assumed if it did, you and Sam would be by my side,” this is the fastest, most loud beating Dean remembers registering from his heart and it feels oddly relieving, like his whole body knows this is an important moment “...and that day was no exception.” Dean says, looking into beautiful blue eyes “I always thought I’d tell you right in the end, right when I knew we were both about to die, which is incredibly selfish,” the hunter half-heartedly laughs at himself “‘cause that way I wouldn’t die without telling, but you wouldn’t have a chance to …” Dean looks down now, shy “I don’t know, walk away from me. ‘Cause it’s always been about that, man, I just can’t stand not having you around, ...much less if it’s my fault”

Dean trails off then, remembering purgatory, remembering Cas trapped and Lucifer inside his body, remembering Cas’ scent around him when he hugged him that day for what was pretty much the first time and they thought to be the last, the lump in his throat is harder to fight when he talks again.

“I never thought we’d have to say goodbye like we did last time, in front of everybody, knowing it was just me the one not walking out of this, and I couldn’t tell you then because I didn’t want you to walk out on Sam...but that’s beside the point” Dean says, his heart beating impossibly faster “The point is, I didn’t mean what I said in the car, none of it, I wanted to comfort you and tell you it was all alright, that you did the right thing- but you didn’t.” 

“You’re an idiot, Cas. And I’m not even sorry to tell you. That wasn’t the best call, it wasn’t the only option, and it wasn’t in any way okay.” Cas bites his lip when he sees Dean’s glassy eyes, and hears the urgency in his tone, but Dean gives him no chance to reply “I was so scared, I thought I would lose you and I thought it would be my fault , because I wasn’t there for you to tell me whatever was wrong enough that you would even consider-” Dean’s voice breaks and he clears his throat “That was stupid . Don’t ever do that again, and I’m getting tired of saying this. Just- just please don’t - you don’t have to do that Cas. Your life is not something you can trade for our well-being, it’s ….” Dean touches Cas’ hand with intent now and his tone becomes the softest it's ever been.

“We’re fighting so that people can have a home, that includes you , and we fight to preserve our family and that includes you ;” Cas half smiles at that “but that doesn’t mean you’re my brother.” Dean finally says. Cas huffs a laugh and Dean smiles at him. “You’re not, so stop saying that,” Dean absently draws small circles on Cas’ hand with his thumb as he speaks “you may be Sam’s, but you’re not mine, and I’m sorry I said you were.” Cas blushes beautifully. Dean feels a weight drop from his shoulders.

“Thank you, Dean,” the angel says. Dean takes a deep breath, not able to contain his thoughts anymore.

“I was confused,” he says remembering their conversation in the car “she- she messed with my head man, I …” Dean remembers his fear, the way Amara talked to him like he already belonged to her like she owned him. A shiver ran down his spine “I had just realized you’d been just an illusion for weeks and I didn’t even notice and I thought- maybe she was right, I didn’t even know what was real anymore, I-” Dean takes a moment to breathe and focus on the angel in front of him “I’m sorry” he finishes. Cas brings a hand to cup his cheek and Dean leans into the touch.

“I know,” Cas says, his thumb sweeping over Dean’s cheekbone as a small frown appears on the angel’s forehead “I’m sorry I was so childish,” Cas tells him, Dean huffs a laugh, comfortable enough to roll his eyes. Cas regrets every second of every day he wasted by not telling the hunter that from the moment Cas first laid his eyes on him, he became what mattered the most.

“You know what that one means?” Dean asks, tilting his head towards the flower. Cas nods, a beautiful, warm feeling reaching his very essence. Dean smiles at him.

“I missed you,” the hunter tells the angel on a surge of bravery. Cas gives him a slightly sad smile.

“I’m sorry” Cas repeats. Dean shakes his head.

“I love you,” Dean says, his hand leaving the flower and coming to take Cas’ hand from his face, interlacing their fingers. “I just want you to stay ” Dean adds, barely a whisper, “Cas, can you stay?”

Dean's green eyes twist Cas’ heart. The angel squeezes their hands.

“I want to.” Cas answers, “I will,” he says, then he moves his flower aside, takes a step ahead and kisses Dean’s lips.

Their lips move softly together and they both melt into the kiss, neither realizing how many minutes they spend with their mouths joined on a public road and neither really caring. Eventually, Cas smiles against Dean’s lips and draws back just enough to look into Dean’s eyes. “I love you too,” Cas tells him. Dean smiles that inevitable smile and thinks, relieved, that Cas will never call him his brother again.