The night air hits Castiel’s face once they walk out of the barn. It’s cool and refreshing, drying the moisture that had stained his skin in the moments before his imminent death. It’s strange. There’s no trace of the black goo that had poured from his mouth and onto his clothes, yet his skin is still clammy when he touches it. That, along with the ache that settles deep in his bones and chest, make him almost feel human.
He certainly had acted like one during what he thought would be his last breaths. He never expected to say those words. He had pondered them. When he first met Dean, he felt connected to his charge. He had been the first human soul he saved in over a millennia. The men and women who lived over a thousand years ago tended to believe in the power of God and angels much more often than not. Ira had dropped to his knees with joy when he brought him back to his wife and children and attempted to offer him food and shelter during his few days on Earth as a token of thanks. Although there had been a small part of Castiel that had appreciated how grateful the man was, he felt no further connection with him than necessary.
But Dean...Dean had fought him tooth and nail as Castiel descended into the pit. He swore and spat and clawed at his skin as Castiel started to raise him from the perdition he had been damned to. But once they broke through to the light, Dean clung to him and wept, staring up at him in awe as Castiel took him home.
He had never been more intrigued by another being in his life and he and Dean hadn’t even properly introduced themselves at that point.
And now? After all they have been through? Years filled with loss, tears, laughter, triumphs, more loss, so much loss...they always pulled through and managed to find their way back to each other.
Of course what he feels is love. He’s known that for a while now.
And he loves Sam. Sam is a brother, a friend. And Mary. Despite his years on her, she treats him like a third son in a way that isn’t confusing.
But Dean? ‘Brother’ doesn’t fit Dean, even though that’s the title Castiel has received from him. With Dean it is more than that, something so profound that Castiel sometimes feels it could shatter the very Earth they walk on.
He hadn’t had time to tell Dean all of that. So he had decided ‘I love you’ was sufficient enough with the little time he had left. Besides, Castiel is relatively sure Dean hasn’t heard the phrase directed towards him very often. He deserves that much.
“I’m gonna ride with him. He doesn’t need to be driving.”
Castiel hears the words, not particularly surprised by them. But still, he had been hoping for the quiet, to take a moment to clear his head and his heart enough to be around Dean.
“Dean, I assure you, I’m fine-”
Eloquent as ever.
Sam and Mary don’t argue the point. They’re not surprised either. Sam’s eyes just shift between the two of them, scrutinizing them curiously, while Mary looks at him with a tender sadness that makes him feel exposed.
Dean’s left hand finds his way to his shoulder and it stays there until Castiel steps into the passenger seat of the truck. Sam pulls off the property first, driving down the driveway and onto the road. He and Dean both watch in silence, a silence that is only broken when Dean lets out a shaky breath.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again, man.”
Castiel’s lips purse at the words, ready to comeback with a smart response. But when he turns to look at Dean, his heart skips a beat when he sees his friend’s forehead resting on the steering wheel, eyes closed with fear.
Castiel raises a hand, wondering if he should soothe Dean’s worries. But he slowly lowers it back down to rest on his seat when Dean pops his head back up to stare at him with big eyes.
“I can’t lose anyone else, Cas,” he confides in him, “I really can’t. You’ve already died on me a few times. You don’t get to again.”
Castiel nods slowly, “Okay, Dean.”
Castiel squints in confusion, “Considering our lives, I feel promising not to die again could be potentially hard to keep.”
“Just entertain me,” Dean pleads.
He studies his friend, the lines on his face that have slowly multiplied throughout the years, the way his mouth is drooped into a sad frown, and the way his eyes are searching him, for comfort or whatever it may be that Dean wants.
“...Okay, Dean,” he answers him with a sigh, “I promise. And I trust you’ll promise me as well?”
Dean smiles a little at that and lets out a small huff before turning back to face the windshield.
“Yeah,” Dean answers as the engine revs, “Sure. Chick flick moment’s over, right?”
Castiel shakes his head in amusement, “I believe you started it this time, Dean.”
Dean snorts and pulls out onto the road, “Yeah, right. You started it back at the barn. I just finished it.”
Castiel remains quiet for a moment before clearing his throat, “I was under the impression that a chick flick was a fictional film aimed towards the female demographic. Does making sure that you know the impact you’ve had on my emotions and my life before I die constitute as a chick flick moment?”
The interior of the truck goes completely silent, with the exception of Dean’s hitched breath.
“I apologize for putting you on the spot, Dean. I just...It was a vulnerable moment for me. I’d rather it not be completely disregarded and mocked.”
Dean sputters at that, shaking his head as he does so, “I wasn’t...That’s not...Look, I was just trying to lighten the mood a little. You followed suit. I’m sorry if I touched a nerve. Really, I am.”
“It’s alright. Perhaps I reacted to the situation too harshly.”
Dean shrugs, grumbling something Cas doesn’t quite catch, before reaching over to turn on the radio.
“Damn it, it’s all static,” Dean groans, turning the dial, “I figured we might be far enough out of the woods to be able to tune into a station.”
“It’s not the signal,” Cas shakes his head, “The radio has been broken for over a week now.”
Dean lets out a sigh, “Can’t you just mojo it back to life?”
“I’m not exactly in top form.”
Dean shrugs, giving him that, then rolls his eyes, “You don’t even have a cassette player.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Dude, we need to get you a new car.”
“My truck is completely adequate,” Cas tells him defensively.
“Believe me,” Dean scoffs, “It’s not.”
Castiel doesn’t argue his point further. It’s stupid to carry on anyway.
There. Now he’s done.
Dean’s a bit too insistent and controlling regarding his rest, but Castiel doesn’t find himself minding too much.
He’s been marathoning different shows with Dean for two days now, something they don’t have time for but he’s missed anyway. He hadn’t gotten around to the new season of Orange is the New Black, so they knocked that out in the first day, before starting on Breaking Bad.
“Walter White is a fucking dick,” Dean comments during season two, “I don’t care that he has terminal cancer. He’s leaving his pregnant wife to go off and cook crystal meth, turned down money when it was offered to him because of his pride, and treats Jesse like shit.”
“I’m not sure he has a soul,” Castiel answers, concerned, “No man could be so self-centered and power hungry.”
“Believe me,” Dean snorts, taking a handful of popcorn from the bowl in Castiel’s lap, “They do exist, souls attached and all.”
Castiel likes Netflix. He enjoys becoming invested in shows. Movies are fine, but television is fascinating to him, with the way it allows the audience to follow the lives of characters and watch them grow and change. It also lets him escape for awhile and enjoy one of the many aspects of art that humans created.
But he enjoys spending time with Dean more. Most of his time during his days off have been spent with Dean, with the exception of Mary pulling them all outside to take a family picture together.
However, despite Dean by his side, he starts to get restless on the fourth day of binge-watching. Restless due to knowing he has many tasks that need tending to, restless due to being so close to Dean after revealing so much just a few days before. He’s back to his normal self, whatever that may be, and he knows it’s time for him to go.
He doesn’t know why he waits until Dean falls asleep to get ready to make his departure. Perhaps because it is hard enough to get up off the couch when his friend is curled up next to him, knees drawn up in order to not invade Castiel’s space yet his toes are grazing his thigh regardless. But he forces himself to stand and manages not to wake Dean in the process, then collects a few of his belongings from his room before making his way back towards the stairs to the exit.
Castiel pauses before turning around. Dean’s sitting up on the couch, his expression set in a tired squint as he stands up and stretches.
“Yes,” Castiel announces, looking down, “I...I believe I have taken enough time to rest up. I need to get back on task and search for a lead on Kelly.”
Dean frowns at that but nods, “Okay. Yeah, I get it. You sure you’re good?”
“Cool,” Dean grunts out, “Don’t be a stranger, Cas.”
Castiel gives his friend a soft smile, “I won’t.”
“Seriously, dude. Answer your phone. Call in, even if it’s just to chat. Answer my Words with Friends requests.”
“I was starting to feel unchallenged with that game.”
Dean gives him a double take and laughs, “You calling me dumb, Cas?”
Castiel shakes his head and frowns, “No, Dean. You’re actually much more intelligent than you let yourself believe. But it’s hard to not become bored with a word game when you know every word in almost every language.”
Dean smiles at that, “Touchè.”
Castiel shrugs and begins to climb up the stairs towards the door, “I’ll be in touch.”
It’s just when he’s about to leave. He has his hand on the knob, ready to turn it and everything, when Dean speaks up.
“Hey, Cas?” Dean calls out, sounding a bit strangled, “Hang on a sec. I got something for you. Wait there.”
Castiel removes his hand from the knob, “Alright.”
Dean walks to the other side of the common room before going out of sight when he turns down a hall. Castiel stands at the top of the steps, curiosity filling his thoughts. But it doesn’t take Dean long to return. At first, Castiel doesn’t see anything, wonders if his friend had stuck whatever he went to get in his pocket. But then he sees it. It’s small and rectangular, and once Dean makes his way up the steps to stand in front of him, he offers it to him.
“I’ve been working on it over the last couple of nights,” Dean shrugs, handing him the tape, “Figured you should finally be introduced to Led Zeppelin properly. They’re important to me.”
Castiel studies the tape thoughtfully. Dean’s Top 13 Zepp Traxx. It’s a unique spelling of tracks, one that Castiel hasn’t seen before, but he doesn’t question it out loud.
“These are your favorite songs?” Castiel asks instead, touching the writing on the label.
Dean shrugs “Yeah, most of them. But there’s a couple on there I added for other reasons.”
“And what reasons are those?”
Dean looks away at that, “I don’t know, they sort of reminded me of you. Thought you might like them.”
Castiel finds himself smiling a little at the words, although he isn’t sure why they cause warmth to blossom in his chest. He doesn’t particularly care. It feels nice.
“I’m sure I will. When I’m able to listen to them. If you don’t remember, my truck doesn’t have a cassette player.”
Dean nods, expression carefully blank, “Guess you’ll just have to come back and listen to the tape then.”
“I suppose I will,” Castiel agrees.
“Maybe…” Dean starts, almost seeming nervous as he breathes in, “Maybe you and I can take a drive in the Impala, drive until we listen to the whole thing.”
Castiel’s gaze softens at that, “I’d like that.”
Dean bites his lip, his eyes flickering over Castiel’s form once, before stepping back, “Good. Me too. So you better take good care of it until you stop back in.”
“Of course,” Castiel answers, dropping the tape into his pocket, “Goodbye, Dean.”
As Castiel drives away from the bunker, he finds that he’s overtly aware of the tape in his chest pocket. It doesn’t seem possible. In fact, Castiel knows it’s not. But he could swear the tape is making the warmth spread even further.