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Somewhere Back Along the Line

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Somewhere back along the line you lost your love and I lost your trust. (Fade Away  – Bruce Springsteen)

 

When Dean pushed through the bead curtain of Cas' cabin, he didn't even look surprised to see him lying underneath one of the camp's other residents, grunting and gasping out encouragement as he was fucked deep and tender. One hand clutched at the guy's ass, the other slid through his receding hairline. For Cas' part, it didn't bother him that Dean had just walked in either, he just glanced in his fearless leader's direction without his hips even slowing their pace. Dean stood there with his arms folded and looking all kinds of imposing. Cas just rolled his eyes; sex was enjoyable, one of the most enjoyable things he had found, in fact, and Dean was not going to spoil it by being… well… Dean.

"Get out." Dean said harshly.

Cas cursed as Jeremy practically toppled off (and out of) him in shock, accidentally planting an elbow in his (soft, weak, malleable) stomach.

"Sir!" Jeremy stammered, trying to salute while grabbing for his pants with the other hand. Cas smirked, shifting himself more comfortably against the pillow so he was at least more reclining than lying. He didn't bother to reach for the sheet, there wasn't any part of him that Dean hadn't seen before. He tucked an arm behind his head and tried to affect a coquettish tone.

"Is it your turn now, Commander?" He teased as Jeremy scrambled from the cabin with his fly still open and his shirt unbuttoned.

"Are you the camp whore now, Cas?"

"Of course not, I don't get paid." He rolled over to reach his bedside drawer and pulled out a joint and a lighter, not bothering to offer one to Dean, he wouldn't take it, not anymore. "You couldn't have waited until we finished?"

He took a deep drag, letting the drug work its magic and sighing as it did. Suddenly his stomach didn't hurt quite so much, and that brief flash of irritation was soothed away.

"Would you have finished?" Dean said. And it wasn't a question, merely what passed for his version of a joke now.

Cas snorted obligingly. "One way or another, yes," he answered anyway.

"Put your pants on."

"Why? Aren't you going to just take them off again."

Dean looked revolted, as though he hadn't fucked Cas in this very room multiple times.

"I'm not interested in sloppy seconds. And we've actually got more important things to think about than your dick."

Cas took another lazy drag, more just to irritate Dean than because he actually wanted to. The smoke curled in front of his eyes and through the haze he saw Dean's shape and could almost, almost pretend.

"Are you sure?"

"Cas!" Dean barked.

"Fine."

Cas dressed one-handed —far more gracefully than Jeremy had, it had to be said (heh, graceful he wasn't, not anymore, no, he was gracegone, gracedepleted, gracedead) —and after a few minutes he stood in front of his commander, puffing on his joint.

"You sure you're not paid?" Dean observed, nodding to the weed.

Cas shrugged, "Tokens of appreciation aren't payment," he said, "I still let you fuck me and when was the last time you brought me flowers?"

Dean's entire face seemed to tighten then, he hated it when Cas referred to their naked activities when they were both clothed, or really at all. Honestly, Dean seemed to hate pretty much everything these days. It was getting depressing.

"There's a run leaving in fifteen."

"And you made me put on pants for that?" Cas complained. He didn't go on supply runs anymore, not since Risa had caught him taking whatever those pills had been in the back of the pharmacy they were raiding. She called it reckless and dangerous behaviour that put their whole team at risk; Cas called it efficiency seeing as he only would have taken the drugs back at camp anyway and at least this way he had more space in his pocket for the antibiotics they were supposed to be scavenging for.

Dean hadn't seen his side of things.

"Lewis and Gregson got got." Dean said, his voice as blank as his eyes, "There are croats wandering around near camp and I wanna find them before they find any more stragglers on patrol. Provided you're sober enough to handle a weapon?"

"Never been a problem before," Cas said with a salacious wink. He'd found it was easier to lean into the blitzed out sex-fiend persona than it was to admit how goddamned horrible everything in his life was (and goddamned indeed, literally. Abandoned, alone and stripped of everything great and righteous and holy that he had ever been).

Dean ignored him. Once he would have seen through Cas' walls, tried to talk, tried to actually show him some comfort. Even though he had admittedly never been great at feelings, at least he'd had some back then. Now, Cas was pretty sure that Dean's capacity to care had died when the resulting shockwave of Lucifer taking hold of his true vessel had been transmitted directly (and painfully) into Cas' brain.

Cas trailed after Dean through camp, not bothering to match his stride, they weren't equals anymore, not even friends really. Dean hated him, for delivering the news about Sam, for not being able to save him, for being a living, now-breathing, reminder that there was a God and that He didn't care about the world He professed to love. To Dean, Cas was just another broken promise in his lifetime of trying to pick up the pieces.

He wasn't making things better for Dean like this, he knew he wasn't, but Dean wasn't the only thing who'd lost everything. Cas' home was gone, his siblings left him without a second thought, his Father renounced him and pulled his power from him and now he was useless and human and the only other person who might have cared suddenly didn't.

Also, he'd lost two literal limbs and Dean acted as though he should just be able to walk it off. The brief high of orgasm and the longer-lasting bliss of pills was the closest he ever got to flying these days. He resented it as much as he mourned it, hated it as much as he indulged. But hey, the commander had a mission, and Castiel was still a soldier.

It was cold and Cas pulled the jacket a little closer around himself in the grey morning, glad he'd grabbed the thing on the way out and at the same time irritated that that had even been a thought to cross his mind, as though temperature was something he thought of now (it was, apparently).

Risa glared at him when he pushed through the flap of the command tent. Why their base of operations was a tent when their resident bum got the second-biggest cabin, Cas couldn't even guess. Pity probably; he had changed species after all, he might as well get a double bed.

"Awake then?"

"Up and active, thanks very much." Cas snarked back, ignoring the bare curl of contempt in her mouth at the implication. He actually liked Risa, despite all her hard edges she did still have something of a heart. She cared about her team at least, enough to know that it was better for everyone if Cas wasn't involved, and enough to fight Dean on things that she thought were too dumb and suicidal, things that Cas had stopped caring about years ago.

"Who was it this time?"

Cas grinned, "I can't seem to recall."

Risa sniffed and turned to Dean, "Is he going to get us killed out there?"

"He'll be with me."

Risa pursed her lips and nodded, clearly unhappy but not willing to pursue the argument.

"Okay, so, you've got your team ready?" Dean continued, placing his hands on the table. He seemed impatient, itching to get out there and kill some monsters. "You take your team left as you leave camp; Burrows," he indicated the large man half-hidden in shadow that Cas hadn't even noticed. Lax of him really, poor observing, especially on a mission where they were going looking for things that wanted to kill them. "will go about fifty feet out. Cas and I will go a hundred and widen the circle. We'll keep going like that until we flush these things out, got it?"

Burrows gave a jerky nod, Risa muttered a confirmation. Cas said nothing, he'd follow Dean, everything else was irrelevant.

"Then let's go kill some evil sons of bitches."

It wasn't difficult to see why Dean was the leader in the way that the others jumped to do his bidding. He had a presence to him, steel forged with blood, a legacy hard-won and a respect earned. The whole camp bowed to him, followed his word, trusted him to look after them, to take out the infected no matter who they were (or had been). They trusted that he knew what he was doing. He was revered if not liked. He could be harsh and stubborn and didn't often take the time to explain why people were to do something except 'because I say so'.

Perhaps it was only because Cas had known him before, but he had actually stopped liking Dean some years ago. He still loved him of course (he didn't think there was anything in existence that could change that), still respected him, still believed in him, but he couldn't help but miss the softness that had once been so close to the surface, he missed the easy smiles and laughter that wasn't spoiled by derision. He missed the jokes and the references he didn't understand and the music and the car.

Baby had been left to rust under a tree at the edge of camp and every time Cas saw her it felt like there was a hole boring into his abdomen. When they'd first parked her (she was impractical after all, not suited to off-roading and not big enough for a decent supply run), before Sam, Dean had been meticulous in his care of the vehicle. He'd covered her with a tarp when it rained, kept her polished and pristine, turned over her engine to keep her purring, sat inside her, sometimes with Cas next to him, drinking beer and playing through his cassette tape collection.

He missed his Dean, warm and funny and shy and wickedly intelligent, he missed the man who loved to cook, the man who had convinced him that he was worth staying behind for, the man who had kissed him like it meant something.

He had never had sex with that Dean, but he had been more intimate with him in one conversation than in all the things he had done with this cold imitation in front of him now, the one who roughly grabbed his arm to pull him to standing, who thought nothing of leaving bruises on his (now bruiseable) skin, who practically shoved him out the door and towards the armoury.

Once they were geared up, Dean nodded a tense farewell to Risa and Burrows and he and Cas headed out first. The plan was to enter the woods at the same time and to keep an even pace so they could easily find each other should help be needed.

It was stupid of Dean to just take Cas, particularly when the other teams were made up of half a dozen soldiers each, but Cas didn't question it. Perhaps Dean just wanted a break from being the leader, or perhaps Dean was finally ready to kill him, leading him into the woods and telling him to think of the rabbits before putting a bullet in the back of his head. Cas snorted, a fitting end to his life as any, he supposed.

"What's funny?" Dean demanded.

"Oh, nothing," Cas said airily. "Just wondering if this is the part where you kill me." He grinned at Dean and was surprised to see a flash of something in those cold eyes before he shook his head and turned back to the trees, gun held at the ready.

"I'm not gonna kill you, Cas," he said quietly.

"Yes you are." Cas said, as sure of this as he was of anything. "Maybe not today but you are going to be the death of me."

Dean said nothing to that and Cas frowned at his expression, it was angry, because of course it was, but there was something else there too, guilt? Sadness? Grief?

"Hey," he said gently, reaching out a hand to run his thumb once over Dean's cheekbone, and Dean let him, which was more than he expected. "Don't look like that, it was always my choice. I will die for you, Dean Winchester, and for nothing else."

Dean pulled away after a moment, his face unreadable once more.

"Eyes open," he said, beginning to walk again.

Cas followed, his gun at the ready. It was even colder under the trees, the watery sun diluted further by the lush canopy. The earth smelled of damp rot, clean in a way that so little was these days. His boots felt the ground give slightly with each step but thankfully it wasn't muddy enough to hold him. A slight wind rustled the flora and made him shiver. Dean seemed unperturbed, used to things like cold while Cas was still adjusting, even years later.

He kept his eyes sharp on their surroundings as together they moved deeper into the foliage, falling into step this time, each taking turns to check behind them. There were more places to hide now but croats were unsubtle, they didn't hide when there was the chance to spread their disease to fresh meat so he wasn't worried about an ambush so much as he was about missing the signs of approach.

They'd probably passed around a third of the camp before Dean spoke.

"So… Jeremy, huh?"

Cas shrugged, "Among others."

Dean scoffed, "Are you trying to sleep with everyone in camp?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Dean. Not everyone wants my 'sloppy seconds'." He still used fingerquotes sometimes. Partially because it had become a habit, partially because Dean used to find it funny.

Dean grunted at that, flushing slightly, which was honestly more of a reaction than he'd had to pretty much anything in a while.

"Why are we out here anyway?" Cas asked, and it was only a slight complaint, more curiosity than anything. "Everyone smart knows to stay in the camp and everyone who leaves goes with a gun."

"We've got kids back there, Cas. Teenagers. They might be smart but they're also idiots. They sneak out sometimes, dare each other to scale the walls, have parties a little way out."

"So why not stop them?"

Dean huffed, "Because they're kids growin' up in this shithole of a world. I couldn't stop them even if I wanted to and God knows they deserve to kick back every once in a while, might as well keep them as safe as we can."

And there it was, the reason that Cas hadn't swallowed a full bottle of pills and let it end on a literal high. A glimpse of the old Dean, the one that still cared about people, the barest hint of compassion. It was stupid how a bare few seconds of something other than anger could renew Cas' will to live but whatever. It was enough because it had to be.

"Yes," he said. "I agree."

"Besides," Dean continued as though Cas hadn't spoken, his voice taking on a sharper tone. "Don't think I haven't noticed you sneaking out sometimes too. At least the kids go in a group."

"I miss the stars." He confessed, his usual guards lowered by the appearance of what Sam used to call 'Mother Hen Dean'.

"You can see the starts in camp," Dean said, though less harshly than he could have. Then he lifted the walkie talkie to his mouth and pushed the button, they must have hit the halfway mark while Cas wasn't paying attention. "Risa, Burrows, any sign of 'em?"

There was a small crackle of static and then:

"Negative."

"Not yet, Commander."

Cas waited until Dean clipped the walkie back to his belt before continuing, suddenly desperate to make Dean understand.

"It's not seeing the stars that I miss. I miss hearing them, being able to fly among them, being a part of them."

Dean glanced his way, looking a little disconcerted by his honesty.

"Stars make sound? Isn't space a vacuum?"

"Not to an angel."

Dean considered that for a moment, then his eyes flicked to something behind Cas.

"Cas, look-" He started to yell, but the croat was already on him and Cas was on the ground, his head spinning with the too-quick movement and the lingering sluggishness of whatever was still in his system. Then, there was rotten breath on his face and teeth gnashing inches from his nose and he regained his wits long enough to get his hands on the thing's throat and push it away with all the meagre strength his human (only) form was capable of. One of its filthy, ragged nails raked across his cheek and he yelled, before his hearing whited out in a blast from Dean's shotgun that took the croat's head off. Thick blood splattered Cas' face and shirt and he pushed the thing off and scrambled to his feet, scooping up his own gun and firing at another croat that had just emerged from the trees. He hit it between the eyes and it dropped. Cas had been a warrior for millennia after all, he had excellent aim, even when using human weaponry and possibly a little concussed.

The commotion had apparently attracted more croats though, and it might take a few minutes for Burrows' team to find them in the brush. Dean whirled around, firing shot after shot with deadly accuracy and Cas followed suit.

Dropping bodies next to Dean everything else fell away: the drudgery of their day-to-day, their struggle for survival, the constant ache between his shoulder blades, none of it mattered because this was where he belonged.

And then Burrows arrived and a few seconds later Risa did too. Together they dispatched the croats from a safe(ish) distance, picking them off as they came into view. Soon there were none left.

Cas spun around to face Dean, grin splitting his face. This was a high in and of itself. It had been so long since he'd been in a battle, fought at Dean's side, had any kind of purpose that he'd completely forgotten about reality until his eyes landed on Dean's bloodless face.

"What?" Cas asked, glancing around, counting the soldiers, the bodies. They hadn't lost anyone as near as he could tell, this was a victory. There was an amount of awkward shuffling and glances away before Cas remembered and then he laughed, gesturing to his cut cheek, which had almost certainly come into contact with some of that first croat's infected blood. "Oh, I get it. Now is the part where you kill me."

Dean's expression twisted into something ugly and painful, then he glanced towards the others, who were watching the two of them with wide eyes.

"Go back to camp."

"We can't just leave you out here alone." Risa said at once, always practical, though she didn't suggest Dean go back to camp and let them take care of the issue.

"I said go!" Dean repeated, his voice half a growl, half a shout.

Burrows took Risa's arm and whispered something, then he addressed Dean, "Radio if you need us," he said. Gesturing for the others to follow as he started walking back in the direction of the camp. One by one the soldiers followed, some hesitating, as though they wanted to say something, goodbyes perhaps? Cas had slept with half of them after all, maybe they felt they owed him something. He waved.

"Bye."

When it was just the two of them and a dozen or so dead croats, Cas raised his gun. "You know, I can do this myself if you don't want-"

"Don't you dare," Dean growled, striding over to snatch his gun. "We don't know you're infected yet."

"Blood to blood contact is how it's spread, Dean." Cas said calmly, wiping his face on his (just as stained) sleeve, though the damage was already done. "I think we can be pretty sure."

"Well I'm not risking it."

"It's more of a risk if I go back to camp."

"Which is why we're not going back," Dean insisted. "We're waiting this out. Five, six hours and then we'll know."

"You don't have to stay and watch me turn feral," Cas argued. "In fact, I'd rather you didn't."

"Well tough shit." And with that, Dean turned his back and began to march further into the woods. Cas hurried to follow (because of course he did, why break the habit now?) but Dean didn't go far, just until they were out of sight (and smell) of the corpses they left behind. Then he leaned against a tree and eyed Cas over. "What do stars sound like anyway?"

Cas smiled. "Like the striking of a match, like a windchime in a hurricane, like ice beginning to crack on a frozen lake."

"Sounds distracting."

"I learned to tune it out. But it was nice to have the option, you know?"

"Yeah." Dean said, staring at Cas like he wasn't talking about stars. "You goddamn idiot."

Cas shrugged, rolling with the shift in topic easily. "It was inevitable really, I'm not what I used to be."

"You don't care, do you? You might be dead in six hours and you don't even care."

"Why should I?"

"Jesus, Cas!"

"I'm no use to anyone. I'm no role model, I'm no leader, I can't heal and I'm not even a good soldier anymore. I provide nothing and I'm a detriment to the group, a waste of resources. You should look at this as a problem solved."

"Wow. Fuck you."

"One last time?" Cas grinned wryly. "I'd love to, Dean, but we probably shouldn't risk it. Blood might be the main contaminant but we haven't tested it with semen so-"

"Shut up!" Dean yelled, his hand raising to rake through his hair. "Stop fucking talking like that!"

Cas blinked.

"I'm just trying to be practical."

"Yeah, well, don't. This is your life, Cas, stop talking about it like it doesn't matter!"

It doesn't. He bit the words back. Instead he raised his hands in surrender and sat down on a fallen log, soft with rot.

"So what, you're just going to stay with me until I start displaying symptoms?" He tried to keep the hope out of his voice. Selfish it may be but he wanted the last thing he saw to be Dean's eyes.

"You're damn straight." Dean said. "If the virus takes hold you wouldn't be able to do it. And-" he hesitated, "and if I left you alone then you could go wandering back to camp and convince the guard to let you in after so long, infected or not." He finished, though Cas had a suspicion that that hadn't been what Dean was going to say.

"True." He replied mildly.

Dean gave a gruff nod and leaned more heavily against the tree. They were silent for a while, listening to the sound of birds, the faint wind, the scurrying of small rodents. It was pleasant, more pleasant than it probably should be but Cas felt more at peace with himself now than he had on any number of pills. It was ending. It was over. He was finally done. It was more freeing than he'd expected.

"I'm sorry," he said suddenly, an apology he'd held in for far too long, "I'm sorry that I couldn't save Sam."

He remembered the anguished silence when he'd delivered the news, the resulting anger, the punch he hadn't had the capacity to feel. He remembered feeling hopeless as he watched Dean shatter in slow motion, knowing that if he had the ability to change such a major event he would have given every speck of his grace to make it happen and also knowing that it wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference.

"I'm not doing this now," Dean said, his voice wavering on the edge of dangerous, a glint of something dark in his eye.

"Now's sort of the only time I've got."

"Then I'm not doing this, period. I won't do deathbed confessions here. You might not even be infected, you don't get last rites yet. We've got at least three hours before any of that shit becomes relevant so until then, I'm not doing this. Clear?"

"Fine. What about this weather then? A little cold for August, don't you think?"

"Cas…" Dean warned.

"What? You don't want to talk about anything real and I don't want to spend the last few hours of my life listening to that little huffy thing you do when you're pissed at me."

Dean scrubbed a hand over his face and Cas rolled his eyes at the sound of the aforementioned 'huffy thing'.

"Stop rolling your eyes, I can hear it."

"Oh really? What do rolling eyes sound like?" Cas teased. He probably shouldn't find amusement in Dean's irritation but he was dying so he figured he got a pass.

"Like an annoying asshole sitting three feet away from you."

"That's not a sound either, Dean."

"Shut up."

 

***

 

Three and a half hours later and things were much the same, except Dean now sat on the log and Cas was cross-legged on the ground, doodling nonsense patterns in the mud with a stick. He still hadn't begun to show any symptoms of the croatoan virus taking hold and he was beginning to get bored; jittery too, he wished he'd brought even a joint with him but the whole mission was supposed to take less than two hours so he hadn't bothered.

He sighed and used the stick to wipe away his current drawing.

"Having fun there?"

"I'm ecstatic," Cas deadpanned back. "Are you going to shoot me yet?"

"No."

 

***

 

Four hours and ten minutes in and now Dean was starting to get antsy; he kept checking his watch and looking at Cas and opening his mouth like he really wanted to say something but kept changing his mind last second.

"Just spit it out, Dean." Cas said after the sixth time this happened.

Dean glared at him for the call-out but took a deep breath anyway, and he wouldn't quite meet Cas' eyes as he spoke.

"So it looks like we're getting into the end of it now but just in case… are there any messages you want me to pass on?"

Cas blinked at him stupidly for a moment, "You'd do that?"

Dean shrugged, feigning casual, "I mean, not if you're gonna start waxing poetic and shit but, you know, if you've got an idea for a will or whatever."

Cas snorted, "Sure. I bequeath all my toilet paper to Chuck and I've got a stash of oxy taped behind the headboard which I'm sure Frank would like back."

"Okay, if you're not going to take this seriously-"

"Dean, come on, I know the drill here. I'll be burned, my cabin will be given to someone else, my stuff will be divided up as most benefits the camp and as my closest friend you get dibs on anything of sentimental value, what else is there?"

"Fine," Dean spat venomously. "All your crap can burn with you, I don't want any of it."

Cas shrugged and looked away, unprepared for the sting that lanced through him at the words; not that he had much Dean would want, a ragged old coat and a few creased polaroids. "I guess that's up to you."

 

***

 

Another three and a half hours passed in tense silence before Dean finally stood from the log. It was well past noon now and Cas' stomach had been cramping for the past fifteen minutes. He tried to remember the last time he ate, he still forgot that that was something he needed to do now.

Sunlight speckled the ground with golden spotlights and everything looked just that little bit greener in the sun. It was warm enough now that both Dean and Cas had taken off their jackets.

"Right, I'm calling it. It's been over seven hours and you've not tried to eat me. Looks like you got lucky."

Cas levered himself to his feet using the moss-covered trunk behind him, thoroughly confused. There was no reason he wouldn't be infected, he had an open wound on his face and had been covered in contaminated blood, he should have succumbed to the disease hours ago.

"Maybe it's because I used to be an angel," he guessed, touching the cut on his face. "Vessels often have a faint sense of grace about them even after the angel's departure."

"Sure, let's go with that." Dean said, completely uninterested now that there was no danger. He was still as tense as a coiled spring though, an air of energy tightly controlled but primed to explode at any second.

"Either way, it saves building a pyre. I daresay the firewood will be of more use in a month or so."

He said it partially for the reaction, because he knew that Dean needed to be pushed or he'd take his anger out on someone who didn't deserve it. He also said it because for the past few hours, Dean had been fidgety and quiet, distant and present at the same time. He hadn't been barking orders or throwing out insults or disgusted looks, he'd been… almost worried and that was far too disconcerting for Cas' (not as high as he wanted to be) brain to handle right now.

Whatever his reasons for saying it, it worked, Dean was on him in the time he took to blink, one hand pawing beneath his shirt, the other holding his head in place while Dean attacked his mouth, biting and sucking, teeth clacking against teeth.

Cas allowed himself to be ravaged, craved it even. It still looked like Dean after all, even smelled like him beneath harsh soap of the camp. There was nothing gentle in it, there was nothing gentle in Dean anymore, but it made him feel more than all of the careful lovers and all the drugs combined. He welcomed the pain as he kissed back, just as feral, his hands going at once for Dean's pants, expertly popping the button and pulling down the zip without looking. Dean pressed him back until his spine hit the tree trunk and then he pressed further still, grinding the hardening outline of his cock against Castiel's.

Cas gasped, his head falling back against the tree with a thunk and Dean took advantage of the opening, latching his teeth onto Cas' neck and clamping down, not hard enough to break the skin, but enough to leave a mark. Cas's fingers danced upwards, under Dean's shirt, mapping the firm muscles, the slight jut of his ribs, memorising the shape as he had so long ago, assembling Dean atom by atom until he was whole again. He wished he could do that now.

His questing fingers found a nipple and he pinched, rolling the nub tightly between his fingers. Dean let out a growl and pulled back to spin Cas around, slamming him back into the tree and yanking down his pants.

"Dean," Cas panted, reaching behind him to pull Dean closer.

Instead of obliging, Dean took Cas' hands and placed them on the tree before jerking him back by his hips, pressing bruises into the skin. Cas scrambled for a moment to regain his balance but didn't protest, ultimately it would probably be more comfortable this way.

He heard a hacking sound as Dean spit on his hand, and then he flinched when that hand wrapped firmly around his cock, beginning to jerk him slow and hard, twisting on every upstroke. He moaned, loud and unashamed, before biting at his own bottom lip, feeling sweat beginning to gather at the base of his neck until a rough tongue licked it away.

Dean nipped at him playfully and then reached his other hand around to tap two fingers against Cas' lips, his chest warm and solid against the line of Cas' back.

"Open up."

Cas obeyed, licking around the digits, trying to cover them with as much saliva as he could, he knew this game well.

Once Dean was satisfied he pulled his fingers free with a wet pop and then, still squeezing Cas' dick with one hand, wiped them over his own cock, slicking himself up as well as he could in the middle of the woods a hundred feet from camp.

Cas whimpered as he felt the blunt head prod at his hole and winced when Dean began to apply pressure, refocusing on the pleasure from Dean's hand until he relaxed enough to allow Dean entry. Dean breached him with a grunt, sliding halfway in all at once, pausing there for only a few seconds before beginning to move deeper.

Cas whined, feeling the wind on his skin at the same time as Dean's cock splitting him open was an overload of sensation and he loved it. Dean's rhythm on Cas' cock faltered as he focused his attention on fucking him instead but Cas didn't mind, he didn't need it in order to come anyway.

"Fuck." Dean breathed as he bottomed out, rocking his hips without withdrawing as through trying to push himself deeper still.

"Yes," Cas agreed. "That does seem to be what we're doing."

He could feel the glare on the back of his head.

"Shut up." Dean said, shifting his hips back only to slam them forward again, nudging against his prostate and making Cas shudder.

"Make me," he whispered.

So Dean did. He quickly set up a brutal pace and although he didn't succeed in silencing Cas completely, the force of his thrusts kept knocking the breath from his lungs so that he could no longer form full sentences.

"Yeah, Dean, aah, just like-, yes!"

It was like his blood had been replaced with liquid fire. The lack of any real lube adding a hint of discomfort-on-the-edge-of-pain that made Cas want to scream. He bashed his fist against the trunk and desperately tried to push himself back to meet Dean's every thrust. It was so good, it was just what he needed, one of Dean's hands gripping his hip, the other on his shoulder, using him as leverage, using him to chase his own pleasure. Their breathing was ragged and too-loud and Cas was glad of the dense greenery that seemed to soak up all sound, keeping this moment theirs and theirs alone.

Shifting the angle slightly, Dean hit his prostate again and Cas keened, raising his eyes to the sky even as his shaking legs threatened to send him to the ground. His chest heaved, his ass ached, his dick throbbed, but Dean was there, Dean was looking at him, Dean was inside him, Dean was touching him as though he wasn't something filthy to be avoided.

"Yes," he urged, feeling that curl of pleasure low in his belly, chasing it with every thrust of Dean's cock, "So close, Dean. Come on, fuck me."

Dean grunted and his grip tightened, slamming impossibly harder into him while Cas moaned and whined and pushed back with what little (human) strength he could muster. He was so full, it was so good, his nerves were firing off lightning-

And then he was flying, bliss covered him like a soft blanket and he was among the stars once more, his wings were heavy and comforting on his back, his eyes opened to colours that humans didn't even have a name for. He was strong and eternal and sure of his purpose and he had Dean, the most brilliant soul ever created, and he would guard him and guide him and love him and be loved in return…

Dean groaned loudly in Cas' ear as he gave one last thrust and as spilled deep inside of him, plastering himself to Cas' back for a few seconds while they both rode the aftershocks of their respective orgasms.

And then it was over. Cas hissed when Dean pulled out and then he slumped to the ground, boneless and sore and more frustrated than ever. Tears stung his eyes and he slammed his fist into the tree again, screamed, hit the tree again and again until his knuckles were bloody and he couldn't breathe through his sobs. It was always the intense orgasms that drew this out of him; for one, glorious moment he had believed again, everything had been beautiful and right and clear. But now the moment was gone and he was back in the mud, just trying to coax air into his uncooperative lungs while Dean watched him impassively, buttoning up his pants.

"Somewhere back along the line you lost your love and I lost your trust," he said quietly when he'd regained at least a measure of control over his body. He felt empty now, drained. How could sex so good leave him so damn hopeless?

Dean frowned at him. "Are you quoting Springsteen at me?"

He didn't wait for an answer before taking Cas under the elbow and hauling him to his unsteady feet. He even bent to pull up his pants for him, which had tangled themselves around his ankles.

And it was moments like these that usually brought a spark back to Cas' life, evidence that the Dean he loved hadn't been completely eradicated when Sam let the devil in.

But they were only moments, as fleeting as they were uncertain. Neither of them were what they had once been. The most beautiful soul in existence was tarnished and ugly, incapable of love, the emotion that had once come to him so easily, and Castiel, Angel of the Lord, bore that title no longer, unfit to do anything but seek relief in moments, unable to earn back the trust of the Righteous Man that he had squandered when he'd failed Sam.

"Let's head back, I'm starving." Dean said, scooping up their jackets and guns and handing Cas' back to him before turning on his heel and heading back towards camp without a backwards glance.

Cas took a moment to steel himself before following.

Hope, he decided suddenly, was not something worth having. Not in this universe.