Dean sighs as he steps through the beads and closes the door on them, shutting out the world, his job, and the apocalypse. He runs his hands through his hair and lets out a sigh. The tension is supposed to leave his shoulders, but it remains, knotting into all of his muscles and making a home there.
“Come here,” Cas says. He’s where he is always late at night. Or early morning. It’s probably around one in the morning now. He’s in bed, groggily blinking the sleep from his eyes as he emerges from whatever dream he’s just woken himself up from.
“What are you doing awake?” Dean whispers, ditching his coat and walking to the bed.
“Greeting my husband.”
Dean sits on the edge of the bed, right up against Cas, and runs his hand down the side of his husband’s face. The blue eyes are still fogged over with sleep, but they gaze adoringly up and it makes Dean smile. He leans down and kisses him. When their lips part, he keeps his face close, their noses touching and eyes locked.
“Go back to sleep, Winchester,” Dean whispers before kissing him again and sitting up to untie his shoes.
“I do love the ring of that. When are we going on that honeymoon?” Cas asks sleepily as his eyes stay on Dean even as his lids grow heavier.
“Right now.” Dean kicks off his boots and strips down to his birthday suit before crawling over Cas and getting into the bed. They snuggle close and Cas finally closes his eyes again.
“Tell me about it,” Cas sighs happily as he snuggles closer and rests his head on Dean’s chest over the old tattoo.
“Well, first, we drive to the beach. We listen to music the entire drive and sing along while we eat burgers and share a milkshake.” Dean rests his cheek against the top of Cas’ head and closes his eyes to watch the imaginary drive. “The road stretches with the sky. We could drive forever, but we’ve got places to be. We get to the beach and the sun is still up. It’s a perfect day: nice and warm, but not too hot. You bury my legs in the sand while I drink a beer. You give me a mermaid tail and warn me not to ruin your artwork so I stay put. You sit behind my head so I can rest my head in your lap. You look so good in Ray-Bans. Did you know that?”
“What are those?” Cas murmurs.
“Sunglasses.” Dean runs a hand through Cas’ thick hair and smiles. “While we sit like that, we start to point out clouds and say what shapes they look like. You mostly point and make me come up with something. See that one? That’s definitely a turtle.”
“Are you sure? It could be a cat, Dean,” Cas interrupts.
“Turtle cat. A Turcat?”
“Stoooop,” Cas laughs into Dean’s chest, his arms hugging him tighter as he giggles.
“I want to wash off my legs before the heat is gone so I kick my legs up, destroying your perfect mermaid tail.” Dean kicks his legs under the covers dramatically and is rewarded with another laugh from Cas. “I grab your hand and pull you into the ocean. We stand in the waves. At first we stand still, letting the water run over our feet and sweep sand out from under our arches. We keep holding hands as our feet sink into the sand. Then I take my hand back and run forward because I have to splash you.”
“It’s the rules. You splash back. We have some fun before walking back to our beach blanket and cuddling. We kiss and watch the sunset together before its time to find a hotel for the night.” Dean yawns. It brings him back to his present.
He clenches his jaw, sorry that he can’t give any of it to Cas. If anyone deserves that perfect start to a honeymoon, Cas does. Being leader of Camp Chitaqua is a more than full-time job. Surviving the Croatoan virus is all-encompassing.
But lying by Cas’ side is worth all of the ache. They had been dating secretly well before the apocalypse, but Dean hadn’t proposed until Cas was human. Dean had a close brush when a stray bullet had found him and Cas didn’t have any angel powers to heal him up. He had woken up with Cas, tear-stained and exhausted, at his bedside. He announced that he’d awoken by asking Cas to marry him.
“Dean!” Cas had thrown his arms around him and smothered him with kisses.
“Recovering here,” Dean had groaned, wincing from pain and laughing at Cas’ response. “Did you hear the question?”
“Marry me, Cas.”
“I still don’t hear a question.”
“Will you marry me, Castiel?”
“I’m already yours.” And he was.
Considering their secret relationship, everyone was shocked the day Dean moved into Cas’ cabin and held his hand publicly. Upon Castiel’s left hand was Dean’s silver ring. There had been no ceremony or reception. They had vowed their love to each other in the privacy and safety of Cas’ cabin, standing in the center of the living room as Dean slid his ring onto Cas’ finger and kissed him for the first time as a husband.
Their slice of honeymoon was the eight hours between their wedding and the next morning when Dean had been holding his husband’s hand at breakfast and the alarms had gone off, alerting everyone to a breach. Their hands untangled and Dean was gone, their honeymoon over. That was four days ago.
Dean wakes up abruptly when the bed moves. He sits up quickly, ready to fight, but finds no danger. Cas looks over his shoulder at Dean with his eyebrows turned up.
“Good morning,” Cas says, turning back to the blunt he’s rolling.
“Morning, Sunshine.” Dean flops back onto the pillows and reaches out, running his fingers gently over Cas’ bare back.
“You have thirty minutes before you’re stolen away,” Cas warns as he lights his blunt.
He’s smoking. He’s in pain. When Cas first became a human, the pain of being graceless was immense. They’d found a pharmacy and raided it. Cas had tried multiple medications and none seemed to help. When Dean found weed by chance, he had just wanted to relax with Cas so they shared some and that was the first time Cas seemed to forget about the empty pain of being graceless. Dean started seeking it out to keep on hand for Cas when he was in pain and had started refusing to have anymore. He couldn’t have fun and let loose when it was the only medicine that helped his love. He could do with the random bottles of whiskey they found here and there.
“I don’t want to,” Dean groans as he thinks about having to put on his leader face and voice instead of just staying in bed with Cas all day.
“Where did we leave off on our honeymoon?” Cas asks as he turns back around so Dean can curl up against him. Dean smiles as he cuddles in, knowing that Cas is trying to comfort him the way he had the night before. “We made it to the hotel after the perfect day at the beach. You wake up and I’m making you the perfect breakfast of eggs and bacon with buttered toast. The coffee is ready and the room smells like all of your favorite things. We eat on our patio that overlooks the beach we were on the day before. The world is waking up. The beach is still pale, but there’s a promise of another perfect day. The ocean water glitters as the sun stretches into the sky. We drink our coffee and eat together while we plan our second day.”
“What’s on the agenda, Cas?”
“We decide on horseback riding and a small hike.”
“With cowboy hats?”
“Of course.” Cas tilts Dean’s face up for a kiss. “But before we can leave the hotel, I have to ravish you, Dean Winchester.” Cas takes the final hit from his blunt before moving closer, his lips barely touching Dean’s. Dean pulls the smoke from Cas’ mouth on the exhale. It’s the only way he will take any of Cas’ medicine. Cas pulls Dean against him and brushes his lips over Dean’s teasingly. Dean captures the tease of a kiss and drowns in his lover’s lips.
Reality crashes down as a knock comes at the door. Cas, still in the middle of licking the come from Dean’s stomach, stops. Dean lets his head fall back on the pillows with an exasperated sigh. He covers his face, ready to yell out that he’s not in charge anymore. He wants to quit, but he could never do that. He’s responsible for all of the living souls in this camp and it’s been his duty since he was four to be a soldier and keep civilians safe.
“You have to go,” Cas whispers.
“Fuck,” Dean groans. He gets up as Cas moves to the side and he pulls on his boxers and pants. Cas throws him a shirt as he walks toward the door. “Cover up,” Dean says, his hand on the knob. Cas buries himself under the covers and pretends to be either nonexistent or asleep.
Opening the door is the difference between being Dean, husband and cuddle-bug, and being Dean , leader and hard-ass. He could leave it closed. He could run away with Cas… and die beyond the wall. He has to open the damn door and be the answer to everyone’s questions. He has to be the fearless leader, ready to protect and save and defeat. He sighs, steeling himself.
The door swings open, the decision made.
“Cas?” Dean whispers. Cas opens his eyes. He will never get used to waking up. He’s not used to sleeping, though he loves it. He loves dreaming and being able to rest like he was never able to before. Out of all of the human experiences, sleeping was the second best thing. The first was the flooding of emotions. He had felt love for Dean before becoming human, but when his grace was gone, his wings clipped, every emotion he had thought he’d known as an angel were suddenly so powerful he wondered how any human functioned on a daily basis. His least favorite thing about being a human, though, was the pain.
“Dean,” Cas manages through his teeth. His entire body aches. His shoulder blades feel as though the bones are cracking open, splitting and unable to stay together with the absence of his wings there to keep the body together. Pain leaks from his shoulders down into his back and up into his neck. It creeps up to the base of his skull.
“Where’s your medicine?” Dean’s hands are ice packs on Cas’ burning skin. He allows himself to breathe, soaking up the caring touch that Dean provides while he tries to process the question. His medicine. It ran out three days ago. He hadn’t said anything, hoping that he could just cope without it or deal with the pain until Dean ran across some more on a supply run.
“It’s gone,” Cas answers. Dean’s hand leaves his back and moves the hair from his eyes. “It’s okay, Dean. I’m fine.” He had learned how to speak Winchester fairly quickly. I’m fine was meant to mean that everything is terrible, but they can manage. They might be in extraordinary anguish, but they would survive.
Dean sighs through his nose before pressing a kiss to Cas’ aching forehead. When Dean doesn’t continue with his midnight interrogation, Cas curls up against his husband and tries to ignore the crumbling of his bones inside of his body.
He doesn’t notice himself fall back asleep, but it’s clear he did when he wakes up. Sun is spilling into the room from the window and Dean is nowhere to be seen. His side of the bed is cold and his boots aren’t by the door. He’s gone and he has been for hours.
Cas groans as he sits up and grabs his clothes. He pulls them on, trying not to move too much as he does, his entire body protesting with shooting pain. When he makes it to the door he glances down at the shoes on the floor. It’s too far. He can go without shoes today. He opens his door and walks to Chuck’s cabin.
“Oh, hey Castiel,” Chuck says. He’s holding his checklist like he always is. He takes inventory very seriously.
“Do you know where my husband is?” Cas leans against the wall. It probably looks like a movement of ease, but it’s for support. If he doesn’t lean now, he’s sure he might fall over, his spine threatening to crumble and collapse.
“He went on a medicine supply run this morning. Like really early this morning. Didn’t you know?” Chuck looks down at his list again and Cas can tell it’s the page for all of the medicines they have in stock and any of the ones that they need for whatever various ailments of the people here.
“He did take a group, though. Right?”
“Yeah, of course,” Chuck answers quickly. Cas nods and turns around to leave.
Before becoming the leader of the camp, Dean had been more reckless. When they were still on the run, trying to outrun the virus once it was made evident that there would be no stopping the apocalypse, Dean reminded himself he was living by stepping into danger. He would go find food for his newly human boyfriend and himself and he would always go alone, no matter how large the group was. If they needed more ammunition, Dean would slip out alone.
Dean had been alone the day that he’d almost been killed. It was after they had found Camp Chitaqua, though. They had mostly settled, but Dean hadn’t. Not yet. He still had something to prove to everyone and himself. He had gone out on a secret supply run. He had told no one, leaving Cas’ side in the middle of the night. When a small group went out to search for food, they’d seen the horde Dean was fighting, but they hadn’t seen Dean. Bullets rained down and Cas’ boyfriend was shot.
Cas had arrived too late. He could spot Dean at any distance, in the middle of a horde of mindless croatoans or not. And he did. He was the reason Dean had been shot, but not killed. He was in the line of fire, and Cas screamed, reaching out and grabbing the shoulder of the shooter. Dean fell and Cas ran to him. It didn’t matter that their group was still shooting. Nothing mattered but Dean in that moment.
Cas had picked him up, putting pressure on the bleeding wound as he brought his boyfriend to safety. He was the one who brought him to the makeshift infirmary at their camp and cleaned his wound, taking the bullet out with care, stitching as he was taught at the school of Winchester, and then he stayed. He sat at Dean’s bedside, holding his hand and sleeping there, unwilling to leave his side until…
“Marry me, Cas.”
Cas’ head had snapped up and there was no restraining him when he threw his arms around Dean and planted kisses all over his face, one for each freckle before moving to his lips. “Dean!”
“Recovering here.” Cas could hear the pain in Dean’s voice and shrank away, but only a little. His hands remained tight on Dean’s as he sat back, his heart still overflowing with relief and love. “Did you hear the question?”
“What question?” He tried to remember if Dean had asked him anything before he’d gone on that stupid supply run. He tried to think of any question that had gone unanswered that Dean would want answered so immediately after regaining consciousness.
“Marry me, Cas.”
Cas felt himself melt, a smile sliding across his face that had remained grim while Dean had slept in recovery. When he had rescued this hunter from Hell, he hadn’t had the capacity to fathom falling in love. Once he had, he never would have thought he would be the boyfriend of Dean Winchester, but then he was. “I still don’t hear a question.”
“Will you marry me, Castiel?”
Now, he had never thought about a post-apocalyptic marriage to the love of his life. Yet, here was the proposal. He brought Dean’s hand to his lips and pressed a precious kiss into his knuckles. “I’m already yours.”
The door closes and Dean kicks off his boots by the door. Cas stays sprawled on the bed, his arms thrown wide as he stares up at the ceiling. The world feels far away, the pain finally dulled.
“Hello, Dean,” Cas sighs.
“Are you alright?”
“Oh yeah.” Cas nods and he knows it’s sluggish, but there’s no increasing the speed.
“Are you stoned?”
“I mean. Generally, yeah.”
“How? I just got your medicine.” Dean holds out a bag for Cas. The severely high former angel doesn’t even try reaching out to grab it. He nods to the dresser where there’s an open pill bottle.
“Amphetamines?” Dean puts the bottle back and grabs Cas’ face, pulling his eyes open to check. Cas loves the way Dean’s face looks all the time, but worry lines look fantastic on him. His face is so expressive, the green eyes wide and searching, pink lips pursed, jaw clenched… He is beautiful. “How many did you take?”
“A few,” Cas admits in a groan as Dean lets go of his face.
“Cas, it’s dangerous now that you’re human. You can’t just take a handful of pills and expect to be okay.” He drags his hand through his hair and it stands up, making a million little spikes. “I tried to get back to you before the pain got this bad.”
“I fixed it.”
Dean continues on, but the words fade and drown in the waves of sleep that crash over Cas.
The problem with being in excruciating pain for eternity comes when Dean starts going on every mission without Cas to protect him. Cas is left at camp to take questions about inventory from Chuck and act as Dean’s voice if any problems arise while their fearless leader is outside of the fences, searching for the Colt and killing off all of the evil sons-of-bitches that he runs into along the way.
“Why do you leave me here all day when you go out?” Cas asks as he lays in his husband’s arms.
“I’m trying to protect you.” Dean’s lips press against the top of Cas’ head. “I don’t want you to get hurt out there and I can lose you.”
“You’re the one who almost died out there before. Not me.” Cas presses his face against Dean’s bare chest, the heartbeat just under his cheek. “I don’t want to be left here all the time. I fought by your side once, Dean Winchester. I was a soldier of Heaven. I am the one who pulled you out of Hell, need I remind you?”
“No, Cas. I remember all of that. I just… It’s dif-”
“It’s not different just because I’m no longer an angel. I can still shoot a gun. I can still aim.”
“I know you can.” Dean sighs and Cas can hear the defeat. “Why are you bringing this up now?”
“I have steady medication now. My pain is… managed. It’s been a year since you’ve brought me out with you and it’s killing me to wait for you because I don’t trust your life in their hands. I’m your protector. I’m your ang-” Cas chokes himself off. He’s not an angel.
“You’ll always be my angel,” Dean whispers, kissing his head again. “You’re right. I should have been bringing you… I’ll start bringing you on more.”
“All of them.”
“Most of them,” Dean tried to haggle down.
“You can go on the one you were planning tomorrow with your group, but after that…?”
“All of them,” Dean finished, kissing Cas to seal the deal.
Dean is careful getting back into the camp without being seen. He hasn’t had to sneak around from humans in a long time. He silently curses himself over the seemingly excessive amount of surveillance he has posted throughout the camp. He knows it’s good to have this kind of watch, especially during these times, but he cannot chance being caught right now.
He makes it back to his old cabin and locks the door behind him before dropping the spitting image of himself onto the floor. Dean grabs the handcuffs from the top of his old dresser and cuffs the waking impostor to a railing.
“Sorry, buddy,” Dean says as the person or thing or whatever it is starts to open its dashing green eyes. He slams his head into the side of the railing, knocking him out again to give himself some time to run tests and search the bastard.
He goes to his old dresser and pulls out the works: holy water, silver, ancient coins, medallions, talismans, everything he can think of. When none of them work, he finally searches every pocket.
“Who are you?” Dean whispers under his breath as he pulls a hidden switchblade off of the unconscious clone. He checks his own hiding place and compares the two blades. The hiding spot is as identical as the two knives and their faces. He searches the other hiding spots of his own and pulls out the lock-picks and box cutter. He’s also wearing his ring. The ring he gave to Castiel when they got married two years ago.
“What the fuck?” Dean drags his hands through his hair and steps away from his clone. He’s out of time with no more answers than he had before besides that this isn’t any kind of beast he’s dealt with before. The weirdest part about all of this was that this… thing… the way it spoke to the Impala… He’d called her by name. Baby.
Watching that car die had almost killed Dean. He had refused to let her be abandoned. He and Cas had pushed her frame back to camp, but there wasn’t anything he could do for his beloved car. He didn’t have the time or equipment to repair and restore her back to her glory. And hearing her name again after all these years was a knife in the gut.
Dean contemplates just killing the thing. No one knows about the clone. No one knows that he’s alone in a cabin with his twin. He could shoot him or stab him and drag him outside of the fences for the croats to feast on. He’d only be hurting himself. He half laughs at his own joke before he looks over at his handcuffed clone and grimaces again.
He picks up his gun and makes sure it’s loaded and ready, preparing for the worst. He looks over at the wide-eyed look that he’s seen in the mirror, but never on another living soul.
“What the hell?” the clone breathes as he looks Dean up and down.
“I should be asking that, don’t you think? Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t gank you right here and now.”
“Because… you’d only be hurting yourself,” the clone laughs uncomfortably as Dean’s stomach flips.
“Very funny.” He covers his own squirm by sitting up and taking the gun off of his prisoner.
“Look, man,” the thing says, obviously fearing for his life, “I’m no shape-shifter or demon or anything, okay?”
“Yeah, I know. I did the drill while you were out.” Distaste colors his voice as he ticks off, “Silver, salt, holy water. Nothing. But you know what was funny? Is that you had every hidden lock-pick, box cutter, and switchblade that I carry.”
The twin looks down and moves his free hand to his side where his lock-pick had been. Dean’s scowl deepens as he watches.
“Want to explain that? Oh, and the resemblance while you’re at it?”
The clone closes his eyes. He looks tired and exasperated, but the fear is gone. He sighs through his nose before opening his eyes and looking up at Dean. “Zachariah.”
Dean hadn’t heard that name in years. That angel had terrorized him once upon a time. The name leaves a bad taste in his mouth and he’s not even the one who said it. One of the last times he had seen Zachariah had been about five years ago… when he was thrown into the future. He was stuck in an ap- Shit. He was here.
“Come again,” Dean demanded, his heart slamming in his chest as the pieces all fell into place. Yes, he had been here before, but he had been the one cuffed and afraid.
“I’m you from the tail end of 2009.”
“Zach plucked me from my bed and threw me five years into the future.”
Dean doesn’t want to believe it. His skin is crawling, his stomach turning as he stares at his past self. There’s only one way to be sure though. He had been asked to prove it.
“Okay, if you’re me, then tell me something only I would know.” There’s only one correct answer: the answer he gave five years ago.
“Rhonda Hurley.” There it is. “We were, uh, nineteen. She made us try on her panties. They were pink and satiny. And you know what? We kinda liked it.” Then it’s real.
“ Touché. ” He needs to leave. He needs to breathe outside air. He needs to see Cas and talk to him. He needs to not be in charge of this fucked up backward ass future. He starts answering the younger Dean’s questions on autopilot as he prepares to leave, trying to pack up as quickly as he can so he can get the fuck out of that tiny cabin.
“What about Sam?”
Dean freezes. Sam. He had failed his baby brother. He had failed his father in failing his brother. He had failed. That’s why he’s in this mess now. That’s why he’s looking down the barrel of his gun, ready to find the colt and kill Lucifer for murdering his brother.
Dean stops his thoughts and considers how much to tell his past self. There’s no way he’s going to sit quietly if he tells him the entire truth. He’s only stuck here for a few days anyway.
“Heavyweight showdown in Detroit. From what I understand, Sam didn’t make it.” Both Dean’s hearts shatter simultaneously as they stare at each other. Only, one thinks his brother is dead while the other knows he’s walking and walking, riding with the Devil.
“You weren’t with him?”
“No.” Dean bows his head to hide his hurt. “No. Me and Sam… We haven’t talked in… Hell. Five years.”
“We never tried to find him?”
Dean thinks back to when he had. He had waited too long to reach out. He had waited until Sam was long gone down the rabbit hole. He had tried to find him. He had tried to track him down, but Sam had been slumming it with Ruby and she made it pretty easy for Sam to escape from Dean every time he got close. He had tried. He’d just been too late.
“Where are you going?” the cuffed Dean asked as Dean made his way to the door.
“I’m going to run an errand.” Yeah, to breathe, see Cas, and find that god damn colt.
“You don’t have to cuff me, man!” younger Dean calls after him. “Oh come on, you don’t trust yourself?”
Dean looks him up and down, remembering his own adventures from when he had been thrown into the future. His hand on the doorknob, he answers honestly, “No. Absolutely not.”
He hears it before he touches the beads that hang in his doorway. He knows the sounds of Cas’ panting, ragged and broken up by the kisses. Dean’s heart slams in his chest under orders not to stop, though he wants to sink to his knees and not feel a damn thing. He feels his hand shaking as he reaches out to the beads. Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe Cas is alone.
He moves into the room and can’t force his feet to move any further. Cas is in bed, the blankets covering his surely naked self. A hand is gripping his shoulder. It takes everything in him to force his eyes down to meet his own.
“You.” The word comes out harsher than Dean even knew he could muster right now. His anger is taking over while the rest of him shuts down. His betrayal cocoons him as his anger stills him and forces him over to the bed where he does not want to go.
His hand grabs the blankets before his mind has a chance to tell him not to. He rips them off and feels his stomach turn at the sight of his husband tangled up with… himself? His clone? Someone else, that’s for damn sure. Cas is still inside of him, their bodies slick with sweat and reeking of sex.
“Get cleaned up and get dressed,” Dean manages to order without his voice cracking. He might puke. He drops the blankets and walks into the back of the cabin, his hand over his mouth as if that will help him keep his composure.
“Dean,” Cas calls after him. Dean’s mind is filled with the gorgeous glow that is Castiel’s face after having slept with the other Dean, the younger Dean, the impostor, clone, bastard, heartbreaker, husband-stealing fucker- “Dean?”
“What the fuck?”
“Dean, he’s a long way from his Cas and he’s scared. Some comfort from a familiar face in a strange place can go a long way.” His voice is pleading and Dean’s eyes dip to Cas’ lips. Those lips last kissed someone else.
“So comfort is fucking now?”
“He is you, you know?” Cas points out gently. Sure, it’s the truth, but it feels wrong. It feels like a thick vaccine sliding through his veins like sludge. “Dean, I am sorry.”
“You’re sorry?” It feels dumb. Everything feels wrong. Even an apology for sleeping with his past self feels dumb. Is it cheating if it’s with you from another time? “Forget it. We have more important things happening. We’ll have this fight later. We’re having a meeting in the cabin.” He’s about to walk away when he stops and looks back at his husband. “Do you still love me? Now, I mean?”
“Of course I do.”
Dean nods once, betrayal still making a nest in the pit of his stomach as he marches back out to his bed and grabs his past self by the collar and hauls him out of his home. Dean can barely hear the protests that homewrecker is making. He’s struggling, but Dean can’t be bothered. His grip is iron, the anger and hurt making him gather strength he wouldn’t normally waste on just some human.
The struggle is gaining stares from the people of the camp. That, or the striking resemblance between their leader and the apparent prisoner. He wants to ignore them, but he’s not allowed that. He’s their leader and they aren’t just looking out of curiosity. They’re staring with their questions silently screaming. They need their answers.
“Not going to lie to you,” Dean announces through clenched teeth, “me and him? It’s a pretty messed up situation we got going on.” The image of his husband buried inside of his past self flashes in front of his eyes as he says it and a foul taste fills his mouth. He swallows before continuing, “Believe me, when you need to know something: you will know it.”
He throws Dean into the cabin, slamming the door to keep the rest of the curious camp out. He doesn’t have the patience to deal with any of them as he rounds on his past self. “What the hell was that?”
“What the hell was that ?” the other Dean retorts, clearly embarrassed. Both Deans look away from each other. Rage fills the older one. Alone with his past self, he wants to hurt him, but knows that it’s useless.
“Look, this isn’t your time. It’s mine. If I say stay in, you stay in.” Hurt crawls into his voice and he bites it back, forcing the anger to the front.
“Look man, I’m sorry.” Second sorry . What is it with everyone and apologizing? How is an apology going to undo the act? It’s not cheating. Not really. But isn’t it though? “I’m not trying to mess you… me… us? up here.”
“Tonight, none of that matters,” Dean brushes off the lingering apology. “Tonight, I’m going to kill the Devil.”
There’s a knock at the door and both Deans turn to look at it before the older of the two calls, “Come in.”
Risa walks in and eyes the two of them as she takes her seat at the table. Her face is a mixture of confusion and suspicion, but she’s not brave enough to raise her issues with the bizarre scenario. “Where’s Cas?” she asks, keeping her eyes trained on her leader.
“He’ll be here soon,” Dean answers. His jealousy and anger are still raw, boiling his blood. His own personal nightmare and twin looks away from Dean’s cold stare and retreats to go sit on the counter. It’s still not far enough and both Dean’s can feel it. They need space. Five years should do it.
The door opens as if on queue and Cas walks in. He glances from his husband to his recent lover, the younger Dean. He sits in the chair between them, crossing his legs on the table. It’s impossible to stay mad at his husband, but his heart will forever remain cold to his clone. There’s just something about the way Cas looks wearing Dean’s jeans and old beat up boots. His long legs, stretched out, ankles crossed; he looks at ease in a world of turmoil. On his hand is Dean’s ring. They still belong to each other. He still wears his clothes, his ring, his heart. Nothing has changed. Dean can finally breathe again, but is stopped short when he sees his twin also watching Cas.
Dean sets the colt down in the center of the table harder than he needs to drag younger Dean’s eyes off of his husband.
“That’s the colt?” Risa asks, her arms crossed in disbelief.
“If anything can kill Lucifer, this is it.” Dean nods.
“Do we have anything that can find Lucifer?”
“We don’t have to find Lucifer. We know where he is,” Dean says, squaring his shoulders. “The demon that we caught last week.”
“So a demon tells you where Satan’s going to be, and you just believe it?” Always Risa with her disbelief. Always with her fight. Usually, Dean would humor her, he would tell her every detail so stop her questions and be the forthcoming leader that this camp had come to rely on, but not tonight. Tonight he’s exhausted, drawn thin by recent events.
“Oh, trust me. He wasn’t lying.”
“And you know this how?” Risa presses.
Cas speaks up, drawing Dean in again. “Our fearless leader, I’m afraid, is all too well schooled in the art of getting to the truth ,” Cas says.
Dean’s stomach turns as he recalls the day that Cas had called upon him to torture Alastair all those years ago. It had been over five years ago, but the memory was still fresh: a wound ripped open every time he resorted to those methods. It felt horrible and refreshing all at once whenever he gave in. Sometimes, he believed he was made for it. He had hated when Cas had asked it of him even through his crushing want and overall relief at being handed the opportunity to torture such a horrible thing.
“Torture?” Younger Dean asks, snapping Dean back to the present. “So, we’re torturing again? That’s good. Classy.” He winks and Cas laughs and looks adoringly up at him. Jealousy makes Dean’s stomach twist as he shoots Cas a look, forcing his attention back.
“What? I like past you,” Cas smiles.
Dean slams a map down onto the table instead of answering either of them. His younger self wouldn’t understand. He had had to torture Alastair, sure, but never much else. They had spent the same amount of time in Hell, but not the same amount on Earth. His judgment and flirtations were far from acceptable and Cas… Cas was accommodating and the only reason Dean had to keep going right now.
“Are you saying we walk in, straight up the driveway, past all the demons and croats and we shoot the devil?” Cas asks him.
“Okay.” Their eyes lock and Dean silently pleads with Cas.
Every time they have talked about the imminent battle with Lucifer, Cas has stated quite firmly that he will lead the others off to be bait for the other demons so that Dean can successfully get through to see Lucifer without the threat of being killed by demons before meeting the fallen angel.
“I can’t do that.” Dean had said adamantly every time. “There’s got to be other ways. I’m not risking you.”
“You can. You will. You have to do this, love,” Cas had answered. Every time.
Now, in this room, they silently repeat their exchanges with Dean’s resistance and begging and Cas’ gentle insistence. Finally, Cas looks over his shoulder at the younger Dean. “Why is he coming? He’s you from five years ago. If something happens to him-”
“He’s coming,” Dean cuts Cas off, jealousy coloring his voice. Dean remembers when he was the other Dean. He had been forced to come along. He tries not to think about what he had seen five years ago. It would be different this time. It had to be.
“Okay,” Cas sighs.
When Risa and Cas leave to go round up grunts for their suicide mission, Dean looks away from his younger self to steel himself for the next conversation. “Sam didn’t die in Detroit.”
“What?” The innocent disbelief is enough to make Dean want to kill him right there. This Dean, this younger imposter, hasn’t gone through what he had to. He didn’t lose his brother. Not yet anyway.
“He said yes,” Dean turns around to face his younger self and watch the realization hurt him.
“Wait, you mean? Lucifer’s wearing him to the prom?”
“That’s right,” Dean nods. “The big yes. And we have to kill him, Dean. You need to see it.”
“What do you mean?”
“You need to see the whole damn thing so you can do it different.” Dean pleads through his glare. He needs this to not be their future. “When you get back home, you say yes.”
All Dean can hear is Cas from five years ago telling him no, never say yes, never give in. He sees the blue eyes that used to protect him, those blue eyes of his husband. He knows that he can’t.
“But you won’t.” His heart sinks. “Cause I didn’t.” Defeated, the conversation ends as their mission looms closer.
At midnight they all take off. His hostage is his clone and neither of them speak. He’s filled with dread as he anticipates saying goodbye to the love of his life in order to kill his brother. Not his brother. Lucifer. Lucifer killed his brother a long time ago.
He puts himself on autopilot, leading everyone to the gates of their graves as he tells them a fake plan.
“You’re going to send your friends into a meat grinder? Cas too?” His twin asks, anxiety filling his voice. Anxiety he has no right to, but they share the panic. Only, one of them is better at hiding it. “You want to use their deaths as a diversion. How could you do that to him?”
Something snaps in Dean. “He’s not your husband!” he says roughly through his teeth, his heart an angry drum in his chest. Everything in him screams. He’s the one sending the love of his life off to slaughter so that he can face his brother. He’s the one who wants to be the bait. His ring on Cas’ finger flashes in his mind.
“Will you marry me, Castiel?”
“I’m already yours.”
Dean doesn’t have time to think. His fist tightens and he swings. The younger Dean reels and crashes, his head smacking the pavement too hard. Dean’s chest heaves. His breaths are coming quickly, fending off tears unsuccessfully.
“Dean?” Cas asks gently, coming around the corner.
Dean turns around, still trying not to cry. He can feel the tears in his eyes and refuses to let them fall. His fists are still clenched as he stands over the unconscious body of his past self.
“I don’t want to do this, Cas,” Dean says, his voice shaking. “I don’t want to sacrifice you or them. I can’t sacrifice you.”
“Dean,” Cas whispers. He pulls Dean against him, his arms wrapping around him in a tight hug. Dean feels Cas’ lips on his cheek and turns his face for a soft kiss. “I know. I know you don’t. You have to. We’ve talked about this, sweetie.”
“Not you, Cas,” Dean begs.
“I’m going now. I love you.” Cas presses his lips to Dean’s one last time and holds his husband’s face between his hands. Dean can feel the tremors in Cas’ hands and reaches up to grab one. Cas allows it, gripping and giving one squeeze before letting go. “I love you so much, Dean Winchester.”
“I love you, Cas.”
He watches as Cas goes back to the group, his entire being screaming for Cas to come back. He will never be ready to say goodbye to his husband, but he has to be ready to create the diversion he needs to kill his brother.
Dean pants, but his chest resists the breaths. His heart is pounding into the floor that he’s pressed against and he can feel every broken bone he now has: 4 ribs, one femur, one shin, two kneecaps, one ankle, two feet, two funny bones, one forearm, every bone in both wrists, two fingers on each hand, breastplate, collar bone, and a shoulder blade on a pear tree. To top it all off, his neck is under the foot of Lucifer in his brother’s body.
“Oh, Dean. I am sorry that it had to end like this.”
“Stop speaking with his voice, you bastard,” Dean pleads through his gritted teeth.
Dean had failed his brother. He had failed his father. He had failed his lover, partner, husband, angel. He had failed.
He was given orders.
Keep Sammy Safe. That was his life’s mission. That was what he was ordered to do from the time he was four and it wasn’t an order with an expiration date. He had failed when he and Sam had parted ways five years before.
Say Yes. All he had been asked and he’d resisted. He’d begged Sam to do the same, but now… Now he saw that it doesn’t go that way. His resistance had cost him everything. He lost the only father he’d ever really had, his brother, and now his husband. His beautiful angel, eternally in pain after the fall of Heaven, running into the trap so that Dean could fail here too. The love of his life is dead by now, and he was soon to follow.
He’s lost. His only hope is his past self changing what was already written. Say yes despite Cas telling him not to. Say yes despite the fear of being taken over by an angel and becoming a grunt for Heaven with no free will. Say yes or be doomed to fail, lying on the ground of a courtyard in five years with the foot of Lucifer on your neck, ready to add more bones to your laundry list of broken appendages.
Dean closes his eyes and sees Sam’s face in the dark after he’d broken into his apartment at Stanford. He sees his easy smile as he called Dean a jerk for the first time in years. “Bitch,” was the only correct response. He saw Sam in his passenger seat, files open in his lap as he researched and dug through all of the information that Dean didn’t care to do often. He saw Sam settling on the floor of the hospital room with the Ouija board, worried sick over losing him. He remembered the hug, Sam’s arms tight with the tension of four months without his brother as Dean hugged back with the grief of forty years past.
Then there’s Cas, his entrance over the top and dramatic. The doors of the barn burst open, a foreshadowing of Dean’s heart. Cas’ messy dark hair, deep blue eyes, and magnetic pull stole everything from Dean that night. He’s ordered Dean to give him respect. He’d begged him not to say yes to Michael. He’d taken his side against the rest of Heaven. Cas’ voice, deep and demanding, was also soft and gentle, but only when he spoke to Dean. When he appeared in Dean’s dreams, standing by to have an intimate conversation.
Then came the day that that perfect voice spoke the words that tore at Dean’s insides. “When we find Lucifer, it’s not going to be easy. We already know that you need to be the one to kill him. I’ll lead the others to distract the demons that will be there. We’ll keep them busy for you.”
“Cas, you can’t. You’ll die.”
“Who else will do it?”
“Not you. That’s final.”
“My life isn’t more important than theirs. I have to do this. For you.”
“It’s not up for discussion, Dean.”
That was it. They’d had the same conversation over and over and over. They’d yelled it, sobbed it, ended it with hot, angry kisses, holding each other’s faces tightly as their noses stayed pressed together as they pushed the words out through gritted teeth. They’d had that conversation during the night, naked in their shared bed, in the morning as Dean was on his way out to go on another raid, outside while they were working, inside while they were supposed to be relaxing. Dean continued to resist and beg while Cas kept his feet firmly planted. Dean had never hated losing so much. He didn’t care that Cas won every game of monopoly they’d ever played. He didn’t care that Cas was better at the alphabet game that they played in the car on missions. He didn’t care about losing petty arguments about who did the dishes last or Dean’s dirty boots belonging in the closet and not on Cas’ new rug. He did, however, hate losing this one argument every single time they had it.
And now, Cas was gone, the final argument won.
Dean opens his eyes as he hears approaching footsteps. His heart leaps. Maybe Cas made it. Maybe Cas came back for him. Maybe he heard his prayers for the first time since Heaven fell. He could have made it. He could have survived it and come to rescue him. Dean’s heart fills with hope despite the pain in his entire body and his prone position under Lucifer’s hoof.
Around the corner comes his spitting image. Dean Winchester.
Go back, Dean. Tell Cas you love him because he deserves to be told every second of every day. Then… Say yes. Save them, brother and angel. Save the world. Don’t be this in five years. Don’t end up bloody and broken on the floor hoping for Cas and finding your clone. Go back, Dean. Say y-