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Always Welcome

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“Hey, have you seen Cas?”

Sam’s fingers stop on the keyboard; he frowns as he thinks. “...No, actually.”

“‘kay I’ll go find him.” Dean volunteers without a hint of irritation, shoving back his chair and walking as he talks. He pauses in the doorway. “You get to bed.”

“Yeah, okay,” Sam mumbles around a yawn, shutting his laptop.

Not particularly optimistic, Dean pokes his head into the kitchen. Empty. Next is the only room Dean has any expectations for, because sometimes Castiel is as big of a nerd as Sam: archives, room 7B. Unfortunately, no Cas. He’s walking a little faster now, impatient. Not worried; not at all. Showers. Nope. Control room. Clear. Now Dean is just booking it through all possible areas of the building, because maybe Castiel is exploring. Maybe. After all, Sam and Dean had left him alone in the bunker while they were out on a hunt for a few hours. Dean couldn’t blame him if he’d gotten bored. Firing range. Nada. Just to be thorough or maybe Dean’s desperate he even throws open the door of his own room to peek quickly inside as he rushed down the hall.

Castiel’s not in the bunker. Even if he was, this level of effort towards concealing himself would indicate he did not want to be found.

But Dean knows Castiel is not one for playing hide and seek. So he slowly exits the bunker, trained eyes searching for any clues. Hunting for tracks. He spots a single print pointing away from the door in a patch of soggy dirt, a light impression of the edge of a heel, one that is smaller than Sam’s and even Dean’s boots. Blinking rain out of his eyes, Dean trots around the back of the bunker.

Standing stock still, Castiel stares blankly into the darkness of the forest. His hands are jammed deep into the pockets of his trench coat, white dress shirt soaked through and semi transparent where it’s plastered to his chest. Made darker by the rain, Castiel’s water logged hair dangles like limp seaweed into his eyes. Water droplets run down his face, curving over his cheeks and dripping off his chin. He blinks absently when ingrained instinct forces him to, thick eyelashes wet and clumping together.

The scene before him already sends warning bells going haywire in Dean’s mind, but what leaves his stomach sinking in dread and dismay is Castiel’s expression. He has his angel face on. No real emotions, features deliberately maintained stone. Empty. And Dean doesn’t know how or why he knows, but he just knows call it some sort of gut feeling or instinct Castiel’s been crying.

Dean recalls that when the human body suffers from an influx burden of any extreme emotions, it releases the tension through tears yes, he does read, thank you very much  and he realizes Castiel must be overwhelmed by all the purely human emotions he’s feeling right now. So Dean doesn’t mention how Castiel had been crying in the rain like he’s part of some idiotic stereotypical chick flick movie moment. He sincerely hopes that Castiel isn’t crying anymore, because Dean never really knew how to react to crying people.

Okay, Dean, stay calm. “Cas?”

Castiel doesn’t reply or move. But his next breath is audibly deeper than his previous; Dean resolves to take it as a form of acknowledgement. So he forages on, voice sounding stupidly pleading even to his own ears.

“Cas, buddy, let’s go inside, yeah? You’re going to catch a cold standing out here in the rain.”

“I don’t catch” Castiel starts, words thick and nasally in the way Dean knew only happened after crying. The former angel’s expression crumbles as he abandons the sentence, a fat droplet of water rolling down his cheek.

It could be rain. But it could also be a tear. Dean’s heart aches with the possibility.

“Cas, let’s go,” Dean repeats, voice softer, more coaxing than pleading. He could barely see Castiel through the heavy rain, and his wet clothes are sticking rather uncomfortably to his skin.

Castiel sniffles, a sound so quiet it’s instantly lost in the patter of rain against the leaves of trees in the forest.

Dean knows it’s foul play, but right now he’s more than willing to be yelled at or even punched for attempting to guilt trip Castel, if it’ll get him to move. “I’m soaked,” he gripes, “and I’m not going back without you, so c’mon.”

That seems to get Castiel. But he doesn’t yell or make any aggressive moves against Dean. Instead, he positively wilts. “...I’m sorry, Dean.” Shoulders slumping, Castiel stumbles sadly back towards the front door of the bunker.

“Hey.” Dean hurries after Castiel, matching his pace so they were braced against the pelting rain together. “Hey, there’s nothing to be sorry for.”

Castiel’s kicked puppy look doesn’t go away; Dean’s just about ready to kick himself as he locks the bunker door behind them. There are two huge fluffy white towels hanging on the railing. Bless Sammy and his nerdy brain. He wraps Castiel up in one giant towel like a snug damp burrito, making sure he didn’t drip any water from his clothes  their wet boot prints are unavoidable, but at least those will dry quickly  before grabbing the other. Dean uses one corner of the towel meant for himself to fuss after Castiel; blue eyes wide with shock, Castiel doesn’t move a single muscle, allowing Dean to ruffle the towel over his dark hair, pat it over his wet cheeks, and swipe it down his neck to chase after beads of water.

Not bothering to repeat the actions with himself, Dean simply wraps the towel around his body, shaking his head like a dog. He starts walking, gesturing with his head for Castiel to follow. “Water pressure here’s awesome. You’re ‘bout to have the best shower of your life, Cas.”

 

 

 

---

 

 

 

After a long, indulgent hot shower on both their parts, they reconvene at the map table in the war room out of sheer force of habit, both wearing a set of Dean’s clothes. The soft t shirt is loose around Castiel’s shoulders they aren’t quite as wide as Dean’s  and he’d had to roll up the bottom of the jeans, but he seems satisfied, even pleased. He also sports an unbuttoned light grey button down of Dean's, layered on top of the t shirt. Anything’s probably better than that stuffy suit and tie routine, anyway. And Dean has no qualms about seeing his own clothes on Castiel.

“Good?”

“It was quite” Castiel pauses, reconsiders his words. “awesome.” He smiles, something small and delicate, and receives a delighted grin in response.

“Told you.”

Dean promptly redirects Castiel to a corner of the library where there is a comfortable sofa and a glass coffee table facing a television, a place that Dean himself had set up so he could watch Dr. Sexy or whatever he felt like when he found himself unable to sleep. He adores his soft memory foam mattress, but sometimes he finds it too difficult to sleep without some degree of uncomfortable, after all the lumpy hard motel mattresses and the Impala’s worn leather seats. No, Baby, you’re perfect; just a tiny bit cramped for a nap. He’d fallen asleep so many times on the sofa, Sam had quipped that it could almost be Dean’s second bed despite Sam’s snark, Dean would always wake up with a thick blanket tucked around him and a mug of cooling coffee on the table.

“Be with ya in a sec, Cas.”

Pausing mid step, Castiel turns around to face Dean with a soft frown.

“Just gimme five minutes, okay? Pick a show or channel for us to watch.”

Castiel hesitates.

“Won’t be long,” Dean promises.

Nodding slowly, Castiel goes.

Barely three minutes later, Dean finds Castiel perched on the center cushion of the sofa. That leaves Dean with the armrest portion and mere inches of distance between them. The discomfort with their proximity doesn’t even register in Dean’s mind at this point, because he’s been perfectly conditioned to overlook it so Castiel doesn’t seem to quite understand personal space, what does it matter? Besides, Dean’s tired of pointing it out and explaining.

“Here.” Dean hands Castiel a mug of steaming hot chocolate that he’d stirred together (from an instant packet) with hot milk not water because Dean’s not an absolute heathen.

Despite his brows being pinched with confusion, Castiel readily accepts the mug, cradling it between gentle hands. “Thank you, Dean.”

“Always welcome, Cas.” He pats Castiel’s shoulder, not realizing what he’s done until Castiel turns from staring into the mug in his hands to staring almost through Dean. Absently, Dean wonders if Castiel misses being able to see souls. “Drink,” he encourages, nodding at Castiel’s mug.

Raising the mug to his face, Castiel sniffs almost suspiciously at the wispy steam, looking every part like a picky house cat straining to decide whether or not this is worthy of being ingested.

Suddenly struck by a bolt of anxiety, Dean hastens to explain. “Hot chocolate; promise it’s good. Be careful not to burn your tongue.” He’d never worried about Castiel immediately downing scalding hot coffee before, because angels didn’t seem to be affected by something like the temperature of liquids. But Castiel’s not an angel not anymore and Dean feels something disconcertingly near a sense of responsibility stirring inside him; like he’s held accountable for easing Castiel into the human life. So Dean pretends not to notice Castiel’s curious gaze burning holes through the side of his head, and casually demonstrates how to blow lightly across the surface of the deep brown liquid in his own mug.

After mirroring Dean’s actions with a near laughable amount of serious deliberation, Castiel takes a shy drink. Dean doesn’t miss the tiny wince as Castiel swallows the still hot liquid, but he’s instantly appeased by the way Castiel’s expression subtly brightens with delighted wonder.

“Yeah?”

Castiel hums a distracted sound, eagerly taking a few more cautious sips.

Satisfied that Castiel was enjoying the hot chocolate, Dean takes a swig from his own mug, turning his attention to the television. And nearly splits his face with how wide his grin is, because of course this is what Castiel would choose. Of course.

They sit in comfortable silence, relaxing back against the sofa and drinking from their cooling mugs, focus trained on the television. Dean doesn’t mention sleeping to Castiel; he doesn’t know how to even begin explaining sleep to an (ex) angel that has never slept in his whole existence. He figures the sofa should be comfortable enough when Castiel does fall asleep for some reason, Dean didn’t want to leave Castiel alone for his first night of being human. So they watch Dr. Sexy until their mugs are empty on the coffee table and Castiel’s eyelids are drooping.

Yet, Castiel doesn’t let himself close his eyes. Dean can see the struggle he’s putting up, half lidded blue eyes blinking sluggish and heavy and exhausted  open again each time they fall closed for longer than a second. Like he’s afraid of falling asleep, because even when he was an angel, Castiel knew humans are most vulnerable when they are unconscious. But Dean knows that the hot chocolate he’d fed Castiel is a gentle weight sitting warm and comforting in Castiel’s stomach, the perfect silent lullaby that would coax even the most stubborn of humans to sleep. He’s actually reluctantly impressed by the fight Castiel’s putting up, but Dean could see his resolve slowly but gradually weakening.

“I’m here, it’s okay. Sleep,” Dean finds himself murmuring, watching Castiel out of the corner of his eye.

He doesn’t know if his words were heard but a moment later, Castiel is surrendering to sleep.

 

 

 

---

 

 

 

When Dean wakes up in the morning to the sound of Sam placing a second mug of steaming coffee on the table in front of the sofa, there’s a firm warm weight against his side.

He doesn’t remember falling asleep.

The blanket Dean had draped over Castiel a few minutes after the former angel had fallen asleep is now shared between them both, half over Castiel and half over Dean. Castiel stirs with a low hum that rumbled in his chest, dragging himself upright on the sofa. Dean instantly misses the warmth against his side, his sleep idled brain slow to realize that it had been Castiel snuggled up next to him while they had both been asleep.

“Mornin’,” Sam chirps, much too amused and awake for the hour.

Dean grunts in reply, leaning forward to close his fingers around a mug handle, blanket falling to his legs. Don’t talk to me until after I’ve had my coffee.

Castiel nods drowsily in Sam’s direction, then lazily rolls his shoulders and arches his back in a languid stretch, his half of the blanket pooling in his lap. His eyes are still stubbornly shut tight.

Struck dumb by Castiel’s effortless and distinctly feline grace (even freshly human, that’s just unfair), Dean’s suddenly wide awake. He sets his untouched coffee back on the table, ignoring the bug eyed look Sam fixes him with in favour of picking up Castiel’s mug of coffee.

“Cas, coffee?” Dean presses the mug into Castiel’s waiting hand, watching as strong fingers slowly curl around the slender handle.

Castiel’s vibrant blue eyes don’t make a single appearance until after he’d taken a few careful sips of coffee. “Mm. Thank you,” he purred happily to no one in particular, eyes sleepily tracking the steam rising from his mug.

“Always welcome, Cas.”

“Thank you, Dean.” Castiel’s voice is loose gravel crunching under the Impala’s tires, even lower than it usually is. His eyes are warm, sincere. “Sam,” he adds, an afterthought.

Dean’s busy drinking his coffee, but he glares deadly bullets through his eyes at Sam’s smug shit eating grin. Say a word, Sammy, I dare you.

Sam doesn’t back down, his grin spreading wider and exposing more straight white teeth, absolutely ecstatic. Oh you dare me? Dean suddenly sees a younger Sam sitting across from him in a tiny diner, long bangs covering his forehead to give him that innocent puppy dog look (Dean always said it made Sammy look like he had a mop on his head), eyes bright and grin brighter as he holds up a dark tube of super glue. You didn’t. Oh, I did! It hits Dean like a hard punch to the solar plexus; when was the last time Sam had been so happy? 

When Sam turns to Castiel, his smile is small but genuine, fond and content. That was the smile Sam usually reserved for those he truly cared for, one that nearly always pulled a returning smile from Dean, no matter how irritated or exhausted he was. Somehow, Dean’s giant little brother still managed to make himself absolutely adorable, like those huge mountain dogs that are intimidating with their size and power, until you realize that they are the softest gentle giants if they don’t have a bone to pick with you.

“Like Dean said; you’re always welcome, Cas.”