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I'm Dreamin' of a Grey Christmas

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Dean stirred from sleep with a deep mumble.

“Dean,” Castiel said again, ice-cold hand against the back of Dean’s neck.

Dean snorted alert, chin up, belly to the pull-out couch mattress, “Whuh,” he said.

Castiel pressed his hand to the handgun Dean aimed at him, smiling as he lowered it. “Come outside. I think you’d like to see this.”

“World ending?” Dean asked.


“Then fuck off.” Dean faceplanted the pillow.

“Dean,” Castiel touched his shoulder.

When Dean didn’t respond, Castiel sighed and got up. He went around his own empty bed in the middle of the motel room, then up to the bed Sam and Jack shared, lying head-to-toe, piled under blankets. “Jack,” Dean heard. “Sam, wake up.”


“Come outside,” Castiel said, the softness of awe in his voice. “Come on. There’s something I’d like you to see.”

Castiel waited as Sam and Jack slumped out of bed, put on their boots and coats over their sleep clothes. Sam shuffled past Dean’s couch, bleary-eyed and messy-haired, and Dean peeked out through one eye, watching Jack’s shadow follow, then Castiel’s.

“Please come,” Castiel said, so quietly.

Dean did not.

Castiel lingered, but then left, in a sad sort of way.

As soon as the door closed, and the icy draft faded, Dean groaned into his pillow, scowling. He forced himself upright, stomach churning at the thought of disappointing Cas. He pulled on his t-shirt, backwards, then right-way-round; he shoved his feet in his socks and his socks in his boots, arms down his plaid shirt, shirt into his jacket, jacket under his pea coat.

And then he snuck out, wondering what the hell could be so special to get them all up at two in the freaking morning when it was so damn cold outside it might as well be—


Dean lit up, his hands raising as he caught snowflakes on his open palms, gaze lifting in glee to the black sky. Shimmers of glitter fell from the zenith, soft, tender, each a caress of light beaming upon Dean’s freckles as they melted away.

He looked ahead into the motel’s courtyard, where the snow covered the ground in a frail blanket of lace, the dark spots only just starting to fill up as he watched. Sam was out there, his long legs all Dean could see before the motel building opposite swallowed up his silhouette in darkness. Sam rushed to Jack, kicking up a spray of snow, and Jack yelped in exhilaration, running away, then running back, bending at the waist to touch the ground.

As Dean approached, he saw the joy on Jack’s face, the grin, the light in his eyes reflected from the motel’s wall sconces.

Dean looked around for Castiel.

“Hello, Dean,” came a mutter from behind him.

Dean grinned, hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched. “Hey.” He turned casually, smiling.

“It’s snowing,” Castiel said.

“Yeah, Cas, I... I know. I kind of... got that.”

“Okay.” Castiel smiled, his breath easing out in a cloud between their chests, vanishing into the tiny ether. “I’m glad you came out.”

“You know this probably would still be here by the time I finished my sleep cycle, right,” Dean intoned, as Castiel bent to scoop up some snow in his hands.

“It would be covered in tire tracks and footprints by then,” Castiel said. “From what I’ve seen of humans, you take pride, joy, a thrill, perhaps, in touching something untouched.” He squinted one eye, almost a wink as he added, “Virgin snow.”

Dean ran his tongue over his lower lip, immediately stung by the chill of his saliva. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Snow. But, uh.” He shrugged. “Sometimes, I like my snow with experience.” He leaned close to nudge Castiel. “Most of the time. Same rules don’t apply across the... snow field. The sexiest snow just knows what it wants, you know?”

“Oh?” Castiel had a spark of mischief in his eyes.

Dean tilted his head, intrigued by that spark.

Castiel grinned and tossed his snowball at Dean’s chest. It fell to pieces and dripped away down his t-shirt, but Dean was already hissing through his teeth, snarling, panting, shaking his shirt away from his skin. “Hhh— Haaaa, Cas, shit, I’m gonna—”

Castiel laughed and darted back, escaping Dean’s grabbing hand.

Dean growled and crouched to scrape together what little snow was around, carving out a dark patch on the tarmac. He stood and hurled the handful at Cas, who took shelter behind Sam—

“Shit,” Dean laughed, stumbling away, chased by his snow-speckled brother, who was armed with what was supposed to be a snowman belly.

Jack watched them zig-zagging across the parking lot, and stood, laughing – up until Dean came at him, and his face melted into panic and he shot out of range like a startled cat. Dean lost sight of him among a snow flurry, but turned and gasped, hit full in the face by another of Castiel’s missiles.

“Oh, you are on my naughty list,” Dean said darkly, chasing after Cas, losing Sam in the process. Assuming Sam had found Jack and thought him an easier target, Dean locked onto Castiel with every targeting system his brain had, and in one fast motion, caught up to his tumbling footsteps, grabbed the flapping tail of his trenchcoat, swept up a bunch of snow, and shoved it down Cas’ open shirt.

Castiel yelped, and laughed—

Then he collapsed, having found himself locked in Dean’s arms, embraced, chilled and attacked and suffering his well-earned recompense, all at once.

Dean guffawed as he fell with him, both bending their knees, lying on the ground all of a sudden, laughing and laughing, holding onto each other as the wind cast a white spell about their heads. Dean couldn’t see Cas, but he could feel his warmth.

And then, he could see him. Lying face-up below him, head on the snowy ground, happiness in his eyes, his smile stuck to his gums so only a thin line of white showed.

Dean breathed out, wanting to kiss him.

If only...

“Hiiii-YAH!” came a yelp, and Dean was forced off Castiel by a barrage of snow, battled blind by Sam’s attack, and Jack’s attack, all so overwhelming and loud and sharp – frankly, way too cold for two in the morning.

“All right, all right, all right,” Dean said, hands up beside his face, shielding his numbing cheeks from snow torpedos. “You win! Hrgh, I need coffee.”

He stood up, shaking his stiff hands. He reached down to help Cas up, smiling when he realised Cas was still wearing the fingerless gloves Dean bought him at the gas station yesterday, when he’d started complaining about the cold. They were soaking wet, but he wore them nonetheless.

“Coffee sounds good,” Castiel said, voice slightly hoarse.

“You heard the angel. Inside, all of you.”

On the way inside, Dean hung back with Castiel, taking his arm to get his attention. “You seem a little better than earlier,” he observed. “Bit more vitality?”

Castiel stepped under the eaves of the motel, out of the snow. His dark hair glistened with white. “A bit, yes,” he agreed.

They entered the motel room in single-file, straight away engulfed by the heat of inside, so intense it was like they just stepped into the fires of Mordor. “Whew!” Dean exhalimed, shedding his coat, and plaid, and kicking his wet boots and socks off. His hands were already prickling like they were burning.

“Hhh...” Castiel looked frazzled now, shaking almost, letting his trenchcoat tumble to the carpet, gloves shed on top of the pile. “Oh...” He sat down, hands sinking into his hair, combing out the snow.

“I hav-v-v-ve a quesst-tion,” Dean said, forcing himself to control his trembling jaw. He cleared his throat, and asked, “Two in the mornin’, Cas. Last night you were so desperate to get some shut-eye that we booked us a freakin’ motel instead of heading back to the bunker. So how come you’re not asleep?”

Damp jeans now discarded, Dean sat down beside Castiel, stretching his bare feet out.

Castiel looked at Dean’s turned-out knees, mouth open. “Uh.” He looked away. “I can’t... sleep.”

“Can’t sleep or don’t need to sleep?” Sam asked, folding Castiel’s trenchcoat for him.

Castiel studied the carpet. He was quiet for a moment, then said, “Don’t need to.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a look, each wondering if the other had noticed Castiel’s hesitation. Neither knew what it meant. It was weird that Cas had requested a bed in the first place, but backtracking on that request was even weirder.

“I’ll make the coffee this time,” Jack said, already tipping out the last batch of dregs into the sink. “Enough for all of us.”

Sam patted Jack on the back, then went into the bathroom, closing the door behind himself.

Castiel reached up to shake out the wetness from his hair again. Dean watched, noticing that a few streaks of snow remained, even when the rest had melted.

“Huh,” he said, taking a closer look. “Cas, you got a couple grey hairs there?”

Castiel sat up straight. “No? No, that’s not possible.” He smiled, and said, a tad condescendingly, “It’s just snow, Dean.”

“Yeah.” Dean shrugged, and bent to pick up Cas’ dropped gloves. “Wet hair always catches the light funny. You gonna eat with us, or are you back to not eating?”

“I haven’t decided yet.” Castiel stood up, and waited outside the bathroom for Sam to come out. Once he did, Castiel went in, but left the door open.

Dean put his duffel bag on the bed and rummaged around, looking for dry pants. He enough clothes for five different people with ten different day jobs in there, making it almost impossible to find anything. He sighed, settling for sweatpants, since it was either those or slacks, and he didn’t plan on playing FBI dress-up today, just tossing cranberries and popcorn down his gullet and feeling festively full.

He turned, about to ask how long Cas would be in the bathroom, but instead spied him through the open door, stood at the mirror, hands in his hair.

“Mind preening elsewhere? Gotta use the can, Cas.”

Castiel seemed bothered, but retreated from the bathroom, too preoccupied to react when Dean patted his chest on the way past.

Dean eyed him one last time, then shut the door between them.

Later, but not too much later – post-coffee-brewing, but pre-coffee-drinking – Dean and Castiel sat thigh-to-thigh at the foot of Castiel’s bed. Castiel was cross-legged, wearing those same suit pants he always wore, his shirt untucked, rolled to the elbows. Dean thought he looked halfway-chill. Like he intended to relax, and knew how people were meant to relax, but he hadn’t quite put the concept into practice.

Dean, however, was perfectly happy in his sweats and a Dr. Sexy official merch tee. If there were ever a situation where he was delighted to have cowboy boots on his chest, this was one of those two times.

Sam perched – that was all he could do, being that big, he perched – on one of the motel chairs, head down so he could tappitty-tap on his phone, apparently waiting for his coffee to go cold.

Jack sat on the other dining chair, reading and re-reading the pamphlet that listed the motel’s check-out times, featuring terrible photos of the room they were already in. He kept his nose in his coffee, sipping it occasionally.

Castiel took a breath, like he wanted to speak.

Dean looked at him, expectant.

But Cas just looked guilty, or sad, or embarrassed, Dean couldn’t tell which. When Dean cocked his head, Castiel bowed his.

He reached up to part his hair, turning his head just enough to let Dean see...

Okay, those were definitely grey hairs. Two... three of them, clustered together in one baby stripe, a few inches back from his widow’s peak.

“Pff,” Dean said dismissively. “I got me some of those.” He kept his voice down, making it clear to Castiel and the others alike that this was a private conversation between the two of them. “Same place, too. Look.”

He let Cas see – but prickled with sensation, scalp, spine, toes, as Castiel fingered through his hair, looking, searching, then finding.

“Exactly the same place,” Castiel said lowly.

Dean’s skin was still singing. He lifted his chin, meeting Castiel’s solemn eyes. “What does that mean, d’ya think?”

Castiel shrugged, tilting his head, then righting it. “Common place for grey hairs?”

“Sure!” Dean didn’t think so. “So it’s not a ‘profound bond’ kind of thing. You and me aren’t bound together for eternity, our bodies mirrored like we’re connected, or soulmates, or some shit like that.”

Castiel drew a breath, smiling into his coffee. He didn’t answer.

And fuck, that was answer enough.

Dean tingled again.

“I’m not meant to have grey hairs, Dean,” Castiel said, watching the bubbles turn on the top of his coffee. “I’m meant to live forever and not age.”

“But you have aged,” Sam said, raising his fingers in apology when Castiel and Dean both looked his way. “You have, though,” he insisted, perching forward now. “When we first met you – no offence, you kind of looked like a doll, or a model, or something. Now you look like a... guy. A dad.”

Dean’s stomach churned with five different emotions, one for each of Sam’s descriptors, and once more for the cumulative realisation that Cas had only gotten sexier. “Yeah,” Dean said, face too hot. “But that’s just ‘cause we got to know him. Maybe all our faces look the same now ‘cause we hang around all the time so we mimic each other’s expressions, so Cas looks like us, and we look like Cas, and that’s why all couples look the same and why people’s dogs look like them. Plus, like, evolutionary stuff. Pack bonding, or whatever. Cas looks like he’d make a good papa, so he’s the guy I’d choose as my life mate. It’s bas— Basic... sci...ence...”

Dean gulped hard, ears burning.

Sam seemed stumped. Castiel just looked amused.

Dean’s face grew hotter. “I mean ‘mates’ like – likelike the friendship sort of mates, like littermates, like puppies, not like big horny dogs in heat just lookin’ to get some tail, y’know, like— Oh my God, shut up.” Dean covered his eyes with his hand.

“Point is,” Sam said, the laugh so painfully obvious in his voice, “Cas, your face has changed. You’ve aged alongside us, I just thought that was what angels did when they’re in a vessel for a long time.”

“No,” Castiel said. “No, that’s not supposed to happen. Not when they find their true vessel. Then again, angels are rarely on Earth as much as I am.”

“You’re almost human,” Jack said. He’d looked up from the pamphlet, and gazed at Castiel, with the same squint that Castiel had long-ago perfected. “Maybe you’ve been almost human for a while.”

“Jack’s got a point, you said it yourself,” Dean shrugged, avoiding everyone’s eyes. “You’re feeling, Cas. Inside and out.” He dared to catch Castiel’s gaze, and smiled at him by mistake. “You’ve been feelin’ a lot, for a long time. Feeling means you have a soul. And maybe having a soul it takes its toll.”

“May-be,” Castiel said, softly.

Too softly. Looking at Dean, with too much feeling.

Dean looked away, scared he might look at Cas’ lips and give himself away. He’d never wanted to kiss anyone so badly, or so often, as he did with Cas. It was getting worse by the day, and now by the hour, and frankly, right now, by every second they were sitting so close, so comfortable, Cas being so tired and so human, Dean being so in love and even more human.

Jack drew a breath, yanking Dean’s marshmallow thoughts out of the comforting heat and into the cold air when he spoke: “If an angel inside an expired vessel loses his grace, he becomes human.”

Sam, Dean and Castiel all turned to look at him.

Jack continued, unsure, “So... if a fallen angel dies with no grace... does he go to the Empty? Or is is judged like a human, and sent to Heaven?”

Dean and Sam glanced at each other, uncertain why Jack would bring up such a question. “Dude,” Dean said to Jack, “Cas ain’t human. He’s still got some juice in him.” He grinned, batting Cas in the side. “Right, Cas? You’ll recharge yourself. Good as new in a few days.”

Castiel looked back, expressionless, like he was afraid to let his face do so much as twitch.

“Right...?” Dean said again.

This time Castiel looked down, and Dean’s stomach dropped to his groin. Oh, shit.

“I’m aging,” Castiel said with a sigh. “I suppose that’s a fact, now.” He took a big sip of his coffee, then gulped. He let out a breath, hot and humid on Dean’s nearby arm, raising the fine hairs. Dean grasped his arm with a mug-warm hand, rubbing away the tingle.

“Well, hey,” he said, trying to keep his voice light, as his smile strained with the effort of staying put. Dean thumbed his coffee mug, shrugging, “At least we’ll grow old together.”

This time the tingle came from deep, deep within him. It swirled, and swooped, and emerged in a more comfortable smile. He glanced at Cas—

Cas was smiling too.

“Yes,” Cas said softly. “Perhaps we will.”

It took every god-damn ounce of Dean’s willpower not to lean in and kiss Cas, then and there.

Realising how easily his eyes had fallen to Cas’ lips, and his mind turned to fantasy, Dean’s stomach churned, ripping his gaze away to a far wall to remove the temptation. He sipped his coffee, burned his tongue, and figured it served him right.

· · · ⁂ · · ·

Sam was the worst.

Actually, no, he was the best. He was the best at drinking a whole cup of coffee, then somehow – somehow – falling back to sleep. Dean figured it was a superpower. Even as a kid, he’d done that. Back of the Impala, Bobby’s couch, the library. Anywhere.

To be fair, the guy was basically immune to caffeine after voluntarily not sleeping for probably two months at a time. His body was just making up for all the long research nights, the thirty-two-hour hunting stakeouts, and more recently, overseeing a dozen hunter missions at any given moment.

Yeah, Sammy was the best. And the worst. And he snored like a motherfucker.

God only knew how Jack was fast asleep next to him. Apparently he took after Sam in that respect.

Dean lay on his couch under the motel window, pillow pressed into his face with both hands. Every time Sam snored, Dean pressed the pillow a little harder. Maybe he’d suffocate himself and pass out, that would be great. At least he’d finish his sleep cycle.

The sixth time Dean checked his watch, he sighed and gave up.

He threw his legs out of bed, squinting at the black room. He shuffled to the bathroom, expelled his coffee of regret, then shuffled back out. He looked around for Cas, but Cas wasn’t in the room.

Dean lifted the lace curtain with a finger, peering out into the snow.

There he was: a glowing, elegant shape, leaning his butt on the hood of the Impala. It wasn’t snowing any more, so the settled powder glowed in the pre-dawn light, a cobalt blanket snug and bright over the top of everything.

Well, since Dean wasn’t sleeping, he might as well not sleep out there. He pulled all his clothes on, then stepped outside, wincing at the sharp slap of cold against his cheeks. He closed the motel door, already pining for the warmth of inside.

The snow cronch-cronch-slid under his boots as he made his way to the car, hands under his armpits.

“Nice night,” Castiel said, his low voice teasing the air but not disturbing it.

“Yeah, for Narnia in eternal winter,” Dean complained, plopping his ass down beside Castiel’s, then shoving up closer, forcefully sharing his heat. “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

“Hm.” Castiel tipped his chin up, smiling at the star-speckled sky. A billowing white cloud emerged before him, cast up into the darkness, and vanishing. “Feeling.”

“Feeling cold.”

“Yes.” Castiel smiled.

“Is that a good feeling for you, oooorrr...?”

Castiel caught Dean’s eyes, laughing softly. “It’s growing on me. Although...” He looked down at where their sides were pressed, and remarked, “I like the warm, as well.”

“Plenty more of that inside.”

“Why are you out here if you’d rather be indoors?”

Dean snorted. He couldn’t answer, because Cas already knew his answer, and he already knew his answer, and saying it aloud would just be redundant. And embarrassing. And redundant.

Dean sighed. “So you’re really human, huh?”

Cas sighed. “It would seem so. I can’t even open the car door with my mojo any more.”

“How did that even happen?”

“I don’t know,” Castiel said, eyebrows up. “I’m meant to replenish grace, but after I came back from Heaven, it only drained away.”


Castiel took a little while to agree. And even then, he only tipped his head, half-agreeing. “Being human doesn’t seem so bad,” he murmured.

“Oh no?”

Castiel’s eyes twinkled as he looked into Dean’s eyes. “I know some pretty good humans.”

Dean’s smile turned goofy, his heart warming. “Sure do.”

God, what he wouldn’t give to be able to take Cas and just kiss him. Anytime. Anywhere. But especially now. Right here. Holy shit, wouldn’t that be incredible?

Dean let out a longing sigh.

But then he frowned, thinking. You know you could just... kiss him, right?

Could he?


So Dean leaned closer and kissed him.

Castiel sniffed in surprise, having been smooched on the lips all of a sudden. “Oh,” he said.

Dean shut his eyes and slid his hand behind Cas’ neck, head turned... They kissed again. Dean felt himself melting. Screw the cold, the snow, the pound of his heartbeat so loud it could’ve cracked the pinwheels of ice on the Impala’s windshield. His body was burning up, eyes on fire behind his lids, tears evaporating in their ducts, hands aflame, heart spewing lava. Around them, the snow began to melt.

Castiel broke the kiss to breathe, panting a little, eyes darkened and astonished. “Dean,” he said, amused and awed, like Dean was a child who’d unexpectedly learned a new swear word.

“Shuddup,” Dean mumbled, smiling, sitting close to Cas again, hands under his arms once more.

They sat in silence.

Then Castiel leaned close and kissed Dean’s cheek.

Dean blushed. Another inch of snow melted on the car hood behind him.

“Do you feel better now?” Castiel asked.

Dammit, he could tell Dean had been holding that kiss in for ten years. And now it was done, Dean could only smile. He sucked his lip, shrugging. “Feel awesome.”

Castiel breathed in, his expression thoughtful. “Yeah, me too.”

Something was wrong.

“What?” Dean pried, sensing the unsaid words tickling Castiel’s tongue.

“There’s something I haven’t told you.”

Dean did not react. He knew whatever Cas was going to say was either ridiculous and would only make him laugh once he’d said it, or it was so utterly terrible that feeling bad about it thirty seconds early would shave a year off his life. “Okay,” Dean spread his hands, wafting white breath around him. “So tell me.”

Castiel bowed his head, and told him.

He started by speaking quietly, reminding Dean about a moment not too long ago, when Jack was dead, and Cas went up to Heaven to fetch him.

Yeah, Dean said. He wasn’t forgetting that anytime soon.

Castiel then backtracked a few years, and told Dean about the Empty: an irritable, sleep-loving beast of darkness and nothingness, which he’d met when he died. Cas woke the beast from slumber, and it threw him out of its eternal void just to shut him up.

Sure. Okay. That was a thing, Dean knew about that thing already. What about that thing was so important right now?

Cas then told Dean about how the Empty wanted Jack, up in Heaven. Jack was half-angel, and angels went to the Empty when they died.

Yeah, Dean knew.

Cas told Dean about how much love he had for Jack, and how he’d seen Jack with his mother in Heaven, and how much Jack deserved to be with Kelly and Dean and Sam when all this was over and their lives came to an end, when they all died for good...

By now, Dean was wary. He had a sense of where this was going. He listened, and didn’t interrupt, hands clenched cold around the edge of the Impala’s hood.

Cas told Dean what he’d done, the deal he’d made...

No, he didn’t say. He just stopped speaking, and Dean knew. He’d said enough.

“The Empty will come for me when I’m happy,” Castiel said. “When I allow myself to feel joy, and contentment. When I’m happy, Dean... It promised me, those will be my last moments.”

Dean swallowed hard, head turned away, jaw set. “Why are you telling me this? Now I just got a reason to keep you miserable.”

Castiel laughed, and Dean let himself laugh too, because it hurt less to laugh.

“I’m telling you this because...” Castiel took Dean’s hand and held it, warming it. “I’m happy. I’m happy now.”

Dean shut his eyes. Castiel kissed his cheek.

“I love you, Dean. And – if I’m right... I think I might be allowed to love you for a very long time.”


“I’m safe.” Castiel’s eyes shone with the truth of his statement; this wasn’t a joke. He meant it. “I’m not an angel any more. So what claim would the Empty have on me? That afterlife isn’t a place for humans. I made a deal, but there’s no Emptyhounds to come after me.”

“Wouldn’t the Empty take Jack instead?”

“I don’t think so. Not now. Not for a long time. If we’re lucky, not ever. I think the Empty would rather bet that I’d someday gain back my power, than violate our deal and take Jack. It wants me more.”

Dean smirked. “Guess we oughta pray that beast is taking another thousand-year nap.”

“You know, I dare say it is,” Castiel agreed, leaning casually on the Impala again, as the snow melted another inch behind him, warmed by his sunshine joy. The sky was pinkening at the edge now, and his face was radiant in the touch of colour. “I think the Empty was under the impression my happiness would take many, many years to come about. Decades. Centuries. I would have lived through it all, you understand. You’d all grow old and leave me behind. The empires around me would boom and die out, the stars would shift, the seas would eat away at the land. And the Empty thought I would live on, too afraid to be happy, more content to live in misery for eternity rather than die in misery for exactly as long.

“But you kissed me,” Castiel went on. “And...?” He seemed confused. “That made me happy. And suddenly nothing else mattered. So I let myself feel happy. I can’t see sense in resisting the end, Dean, not if my ending is a happy one. I’d rather be happy and have it end, than live without joy forever.”

Dean smiled, nudging Cas’ side. “I love you too, Cas.” Somehow, in this moment, it was easy to say.

Castiel smiled, chin to his chest.

Dean grinned at him. “You’ve really never been happier?”

“Not once.”

Dean laughed and headbutted him gently, kissed him again, then wrapped an arm around his back.

Slowly, as they watched, waiting together in the cold, the sun’s rays shone golden past the roof.

Dean and Castiel held on to each other, not quite praying, just hoping quietly.

Castiel remained happy.

The snow began to melt, further and further out around them.

They went inside to get breakfast, because Cas was hungry. Jack made coffee.

The Empty did not come.

· · · ⁂ · · ·

And thus, Castiel was gifted the happiest of endings. It would take fifty-something years to arrive, but still.

Like Dean remarked on occasion, in all the years they spent together, happy and in love: if anyone deserved to get a happily ever after, it was Cas.

{ the end }