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The Only Ones Left

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[September 2014, Camp Chitaqua]

Dean looked around the cabin, observing what little decoration Cas had put up. This was his second time inside, after yesterday when Chuck had pointed him here and he’d met the future Cas. There were several oil lanterns hanging from the ceiling or resting on windowsills and the dresser. There was the thick rug on the floor, and the rattily dressed bed. On the ceiling above one of the windows was a message painted thinly in Enochian that Dean couldn’t read, and he wondered if it was a spell or warding of some sort.

“I gotta say, Cas, you’ve figured out how to play human pretty well,” Dean said, turning in a circle to take in the room.

Cas stared blankly for a moment, then shrugged. “It took practice.”

“Huh,” was Dean’s only reply. A moment passed, then, “How come Old Me is so weird around you? He acts like he doesn’t even like you.”

Cas’s eyes widened for a split second, then he resumed his calm authority. “He doesn’t know how to behave with you around. You make him very uncomfortable just by being here.”

Dean frowned. “Well, I guess I can’t really blame him. It’s his turf after all and I just popped in outa nowhere.”

Cas looked at him with a strange expression. Some sort of pity, maybe regret…longing? It made Dean a little uncomfortable, and he fidgeted where he stood, shuffling his feet slightly and looking off to the side, then back at him. Cas didn’t move.

“Uh, Cas, what’re you doing?”

“I’m thinking. There’s something I should tell you about.” Cas tilted his head a little, something Dean hadn’t seen in the entire time he had been here. His Cas did it all the time, but Future Cas never did. Dean guessed he’d grown out of it, the same way he had grown out of every other socially awkward habit he’d used to have.

Dean waited, but Cas didn’t say anything more. “And…that is…?” he prompted, causing Cas to nod.

“When you get back to 2009,” he said, “You need to sit down and have a talk with me.”

“About what?” Dean asked, getting frustrated with Cas’s edging around.

Cas cocked an eyebrow at him. “About the way we feel about each other.”

Dean was bewildered. “What? That sounds super gay, dude.”

“Because it is.”

“What the hell, man!” Dean blurted out. “What even—?”

Castiel sighed and rubbed his forehead, looking up at the ceiling as he dropped his hand. “Please don’t pretend. Zachariah sent you to this time, this future, because it is the one most likely to play out from when you come from. In this future, you and I are together, which means that in your time, you likely have feelings for each other as well.”

Dean was even more weirded out. “You guys are together? Like together together?” He clenched his jaw, suddenly very uncomfortable. The Castiel from his time said some strange crap, but this was way worse than anything he’d ever said before.

“Yes. We are in love.”

“Holy shit,” Dean gulped, taking slow steps backward and starting to turn away. “Um, I don’t know what you want me to say to that, because that,” he waved his hand in Cas’s direction as he turned away even more, “is some weird-ass shit, man.”

“Is it?” Cas asked pointedly.

Dean snorted in shock. “Yeah!”

“Relax, Dean. I’m just talking to you. It’s not like you’re being infected.”

“I’m leaving now,” Dean said, ignoring him.

“Dean, wait,” Cas replied, lunging at him and grasping his shoulder before he could reach the door. He pulled Dean around so they were face-to-face, and stared him directly in the eyes. Dean gulped.

“Please just hear me out,” Cas begged. “Just listen.”

“No way,” Dean said, trying to pull away. “Future me and you are—god, how far have you two gone?”

Cas rolled his eyes at him, his mouth turned down at one corner. He pushed Dean’s shoulder towards the couch on the other side of the room. “Sit, and listen to me. You can run away once I’m done.”

“No.”

“I’m not letting you leave until I say what I have to say.” Cas frowned sadly. “Am I really so repulsive to you? I know I’m not who I used to be. No one is. But I am still your friend.”

Dean grimaced slightly. “You’re Cas, but I don’t know you. Not really.”

This hurt Castiel pretty badly; Dean could see it in his eyes. Cas looked down and away for a moment, and suddenly Dean felt sorry.

“Look man, I’m sorry. That was a dick thing to say.”

“No, you’re right,” Cas said with a painful laugh. “You don’t know me. I’m too different. I’m stoned out of my mind most of the time, I spend my time sleeping around, and I haven’t shaved in two days.” He stepped away, throwing his hands up. “I get it. You’ll be going back to your own time soon, and you’ll forget about all this the moment you get there.”

“That’s not true. I’m sorry, Cas, honestly. Tell me what you were going to say.” Dean grabbed Cas’s shoulder, trying to convince him.

Cas sighed sadly, then pointed at the couch carelessly. “Sit.”

Dean set himself gingerly on the couch, uneasy as hell. But he didn’t want to hurt Cas’s feelings, no matter how strange he was acting, so he forced himself to sit up and listen. “Okay…shoot.”

Cas nodded and sat next to him, leaving quite a bit of space between them. “I know that you, especially from when you’re from, aren’t comfortable with the idea, and I’m sorry about this, but trust me, you’ll be glad I told you.” Cas looked sideways at him, judging his reaction.

Dean didn’t say anything, just clenched his jaw a little and nodded, staring at the rough wood floor a few feet in front of hm. “Yeah, well—” he stammered, giving up just as soon as he tried to speak.

Cas snorted, laughing at him, before continuing. “You already know that I became close to you not long after I met you. You and Sam became my friends, and I trusted you both completely. I always liked you particularly, and it was only a year or so later that I truly fell in love with you. I tried to let you know, but I didn’t know how to, and you always were so interested in women. I suppose I could have found a female vessel, but I had grown attached to mine, and I doubt you and Sam would have gotten used to me that way.”

Dean jerked his head up in surprise. “Wait, only a year later? You’re in love with me now? I mean—” he corrected himself. “You from 2009?”

Cas nodded sadly. “And Dean from my time and I only connected properly about seven months ago. It was a long time to wait.”

Dean swallowed. “Yeah, sounds like it.”

“Five years.”

They sat in silence, both lost in their thoughts. Dean realized that he actually felt kinda bad for Cas. He still wasn’t sure how his future self could possibly…but that didn’t mean that he didn’t care about his friend. Listening couldn’t hurt, and Cas was at least being sensitive enough to try not to freak him out too much.

After a moment, Castiel cleared his throat. “We are very happy now—well, as happy as we can be with the word as messed up as it is. But that’s not the point. You can be happy with the younger me, if you talk to him. Believe me, he’ll listen.”

Dean raised his eyebrows, still feeling very overwhelmed. “Cas, listen, you’re my best friend, and nothing can change that. But I don’t…you know.”

Cas stared at him blankly.

Dean tried again. “I don’t…you and I…”

Cas’s expression didn’t change. Dean sighed, exasperated. “Come on man, you’re not an idiot.”

Suddenly Cas smirked bitterly. “I know exactly what you’re talking about. And I also know you’re full of shit.”

“Why are you so sure I love you?” Dean burst out angrily.

“Because you told me!” Cas hollered back. “Even from when you’re from.”

“Wait, what?” Dean asked, suddenly confused.

Cas calmed down a little and looked at his folded hands between his knees. “You told me that you had feelings for me long before you ever admitted them to yourself. So I’m trying to help you realize that.” Cas looked up, and Dean was struck by how sad he seemed. “Dean, what is so wrong with being bisexual? I know you have always considered yourself to be interested strictly in women, but what makes it so wrong in your mind to let yourself love me?”

That really hit him hard, and Dean felt his resolve crumble. Cas sounded so damn heartbroken, and when he looked at him, his expression matched his tone of voice. Shit, Cas even had tears in his eyes.

Dean pressed his lips together, feeling guilty as hell. “Look Cas, I do care about you. I do. I just,” he paused, “don’t know if I feel that way.” He gritted his teeth, waiting for a reaction.

Castiel exhaled slowly. “I know you care. And that has always meant so much to me.”

“So you’re okay?”

“Yes Dean, I’m fine.” Cas blinked a few times to get rid of the tears, then stared at him. Even through the griminess of his face and the ratty beard, his eyes were just as deep blue as they had always been.

Dean had always found them so striking and empathetic. Fricking puppy eyes; a lot like Sam’s, except from Cas, it was never annoying.

Suddenly unsure of himself, Dean spoke very softly. “I’ve never let myself think about this.” The corner of his mouth twitched. “How am I supposed to know?”

Cas smiled sweetly. “Just a minute ago you were pretty sure.”

Dean shrugged self-consciously. “I guess.” He tugged at his sleeve cuff, playing with the button holding it closed. “I guess I’ve never really treated you like any of my other friends. You’re different.”

This time, it was Cas who put his hand on Dean’s shoulder. “I’m not asking for confirmation, or a commitment, none of that. I just want you to think about it, and when you get back, to talk about it with me.”

Dean sniffed. “Yeah, I can do that.”

“That’s all I ask,” Cas reassured him, rubbing his thumb over his shoulder.

Just then, the door across the room was yanked open, and Dean the Older marched in, looking angry and tired as ever. When he saw Castiel and Dean on the couch, he stopped, looking tense. “’m I interrupting something?”

Dean froze awkwardly, but Castiel answered anyway.

“I told him about us.”

Now it was Dean the Older’s turn to stiffen up. “You what?”

“What?” Cas asked in annoyance, hauling himself to his feet and going to stand next to him, “he’s still you. Diamond in the rough.”

“Are you insane?” Older Dean hissed quietly through his teeth, gesturing stiffly. “We talked about this. Back then, I would have freaked out about that, big time. Did you freak out?” he asked, suddenly turning and talking to his younger self.

Younger Dean balked, stammering out, “uh, yes?” before Older Dean turned immediately back to Cas to continue arguing.
“See? I told you he’d freak out!” He leaned into Cas’s face, looking desperate and comically panicked.

Cas chuckled and patted the other man’s cheek like a child, before pointing at Dean the Younger still on the couch. “Look at him. He’s fine.”

Older Dean took a breath to retort, but Cas raised his eyebrows at him, and he shut his mouth with a frown. They glared at each other for a heartbeat before Dean the Older rolled his eyes and examined his younger counterpart, who was feeling more than a little uncomfortable.

“Yeah, ‘fine’ my ass,” the Older grumbled, before changing the topic. “Whatever, we’ll talk about this later,” he said, stressing the last word at Cas. “I came here to say we gotta go. Bunch of Croats are camped out on the main road few miles out, screwin’ with people. Let’s go light ‘em up.”

Cas frowned, obviously not done, but after a moment he relented. “I’ll get my gear.” He looked over at Dean the Younger, who was still barely following along with the course of events. Cas quirked a smile at him, then went into the other room. The two Deans were left alone, and both chose not to say anything, thereby making it more awkward by the moment.

Several seconds passed before the Younger finally spoke up. “So…you and Cas?”

“Shut up,” Dean the Older snapped, his face very red, and turned around and left out the front door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

[Late That Evening]

“Look man,” he groaned, running his fingers through his grease-spiked hair. “It’s really not that hard. I was a dick and ignored him for months until he confronted my ass and told me to stop. I told him why, he didn’t care, so we started talking again. A while later, we were having a very heartfelt conversation and we ended up kissing. That’s pretty much what happened.”

Dean frowned in annoyance. “You ‘ended up kissing?’ Dude, I’d buy that if we were talking about some chick you picked up at a bar, but a long-term relationship with a dude? That’s different. You’re gonna have to give me more than that.”

Dean the Older made a face. “I don’t have to tell you anything. If you want it to happen you’ll figure it out.”

“You know, you really don’t talk like you love him.”

The Older took a swig from his beer, then let his hand hang down over the arm of his chair again. “I don’t need to try to convince anybody. He knows.”

“Because I’m sure you tell him all the time,” the Younger pressed.

The Older looked directly at him, his ever-present bitchface amplified. “I do.” He looked into the fire again, and Dean the Younger sat silently, intimidated.

Without speech, the other sounds of the evening descended on them. The crackling of the campfire in front of them, the laugh and chatter of the other Camp Chitaqua residents in the near distance, the snap of sticks in the woods as someone went to pee. Dean mulled over the events of the past few days. This was all disturbing as hell, seeing the world as fucked as it was, and the fact that Sam was dead in this time, only five years from the time Dean knew. He had five years to change all of this. And to somehow figure out his romantic inclinations with an angel.

Dean the Older broke the reverie, speaking gently. “I’m scared of losing him. That’s why I don’t want to talk about it. It’s like tempting fate, and we’ve all had enough bad luck by now.” He let his head fall back so he was looking up at the stars through the jagged trees. “If I say how I really feel then he’ll only be taken away from me, somehow. He’s the only one left. All my old friends are dead.” He brought his gaze back down to earth, and all Dean could see across the light of the fire were the patches of orange-lit skin between the dark pits of his older self’s eyes and the shadow of his nose.

The Older continued. “I’m still pissed that Cas told you even though we agreed not to. But, since you know, I think he’s right. You need to talk to him when you go back. Because right now I feel like we’re on borrowed time, and if you can buy us five more years, then you need to take that opportunity.”

Dean the Younger felt very sobered. He didn’t like to show his emotional side for exactly the same reasons the Older had just described: tempting fate and knowing that sooner or later, attachments would break him. But he guessed neither one of them could ever hide anything from the other, so why even pretend?

“How did you first decide you were okay with…being with a guy?” Dean asked, looking hesitantly at the Older as he took another drink of beer.

“I didn’t decide. I just went with it. It was late, we were both depressed as hell. Someone we loved had died that day, and we just wanted someone to hold onto. It didn’t start as a kiss, but neither of us stopped it.” He snorted good-naturedly. “Turns out he’s a pretty good kisser too. But he’s had more practice than yours has.”

“Orgies,” Dean the Younger muttered.

“Yeah, not gonna lie, that was weird,” his older self agreed. “One or two, I get, but the dude had them like every week. Still does every once in a while. They’re fun, get pretty frisky.”

“Woah, TMI,” Dean protested, raising his voice.

The Older just chuckled. “Come on, I know you have more questions. Ask them while I’m still drunk and happy.”

Dean was pretty sure the guy was neither drunk nor happy, but decided to take advantage of the momentary friendliness nonetheless. “What’s kissing a dude like?”

“No-o!” the Older whined. “That’s cheating. Figure that out yourself. Next question.”

“Who’s top?”

“Cas. Next?”

“Wait what? No he’s not!” Dean nearly choked on his drink, sitting up straight and looking at Dean the Older in shock.

“Why’d you ask if you didn’t want the answer?” the Older asked, drinking his own beer with much more dignity.

“You get fucked in the ass by Castiel?”

“On a pretty regular basis too.” This he said with a smirk.

Dean was stunned into silence for a moment. “Is it…nice?”

“Would I be doing it if it wasn’t? Good lord, dude, I was you once and I know you’re a kinky bastard. This is in no way a step up from some of the crap you’ve fantasized about. Next question.”

Reeling from having himself exposed like that, Dean answered. “Uhh, since Cas and I are both kinda virgins in a way, anything I should know going into this?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, I’m asking you! I don’t wanna feel like a dumbass teenager!”

“Hmm,” the Older thought, staring into the fire. “Okay, I got somethin’. Use a lot more lube the first time than you think you need. Think you’ve got enough? Trust me, use more. Over time you’ll figure out how much you actually need.”

Dean’s face felt a little hotter than the fire could account for, but he stored away the knowledge anyway. “Anything else?”

The Older drank the last of his beer and chucked the bottle into the fire disappointedly. “Cas has this one spot on his neck that really turns him on, but you gotta be kissing him when you try. Stick your thumb up behind his ear, then go straight down an inch or so.” He demonstrated, touching the left side of his neck with his right thumb, lightly rubbing the skin over the nerve clusters. “It won’t do anything on its own, but he likes it.”

“So much for cheating,” Dean pointed out.

“First kiss is different. That’s all heart and less technique.” Older Dean looked around his chair for the cooler. Finding it, he twisted backwards awkwardly so he could grab another bottle without getting up. “You want one?” he asked, voice muffled from facing the other direction.

“I’m still working this one,” Dean replied.

When the Older was facing front again, Dean could see through the dim firelight that he had gone somewhat somber again. “He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, man,” he admitted, twisting the cap off his bottle. “You need to talk to him. You have no idea how happy that would make him. You too, if you don’t wimp out.” He drank, then didn’t say anything for a second. “Do you love him?” he asked quietly, as if he was scared of the answer.

Younger Dean sighed, slumping a little farther into his chair. “I guess so. I’d do anything for him. Care about him just as much as Sam. I guess,” he added tentatively, “the idea of kissing him doesn’t suck. Pretty nice, actually. But I’m not there yet with sex.”

“You don’t need to be. He’s as ignorant as a baby about that, so whatever happens you probably know more about it than he does,” the Older commented with a dry laugh. “He was such a dweeb.”

“I have no idea what I’m going to say to him.”

“I don’t know either. I was lucky, I didn’t have to say anything. But as long as you tell him the truth, and don’t try to play it off, it’ll be fine. From what my Cas tells me, he was pretty desperate for anything from me back then, so I don’t think you can really go wrong.”

“Thank you,” Dean suddenly said. “If you and Cas hadn’t told me, I probably would have had my head up my ass for the next decade.”

“This life sucks. Cas is the only good thing in it. If you can keep the world from breaking and get with the love of your life, then that’s as close to paradise as I can imagine.” Dean the Older took a swig from his beer, inhaled, and pushed himself up out of his chair. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said, looking down on his younger counterpart. “All this talk of love and sex has left me wanting to make out with my boyfriend somewhere. See you sometime tomorrow.” He winked, then turned and stomped off towards one of the other campfires, looking for Cas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

[Three Days Later, and Five Years Previously]

Dean stood awkwardly in the middle of the motel room as Sam grabbed the car keys to make a supply run. He and Cas had listened to Dean’s story intently, and asked several questions throughout. They were properly horrified of the destruction, of course, but both refrained from saying anything about making a decision about letting Michael in. Dean had told the story truthfully, but had left out the relationship between future him and Cas. He wasn’t ready for Sam to know about that yet.

Although, with Sam leaving…

“Well, I should be going,” Castiel said, turning to Dean as Sam shut the door behind him.

“Wait,” Dean quickly replied, grabbing Cas’s forearm to keep him from teleporting. Cas looked at him expectantly, and Dean gulped. “There’s something I wanted to talk about.”

Cas squinted, sending a pang of happiness through Dean at seeing the familiar expression. It meant he was home. “What is it?” Cas asked, looking mildly concerned.

Dean didn’t reply, letting go of Cas’s arm and sitting nervously at the table by the window. Trying to maintain his confident appearance, he kicked the other chair out from under the table. It skidded a few inches, and Dean nodded to it. “Sit.”

Cas sat cautiously, staring at him. “Are you alright, Dean?”

“Yeah,” Dean said breathlessly. Good lord he was terrified. There was no reason for him to be; both the older him and older Cas had told him that this Castiel was in love. It made sense, Dean knew. He had seen the look in Cas’s eyes before. But what if he was wrong? What if he looked like a total dumbass? He couldn’t just expose himself like this! He wasn’t ready.

But Cas reached across the table and touched his sleeve, so delicately Dean could barely feel the angel’s fingertips through the fabric. “What’s wrong? Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

“I know,” Dean said, looking into Cas’s lovely eyes. “I just—I suck at emotional crap. I don’t know how to say this.”

Cas just looked at him empathetically. Dean thought of what Dean the Older had said, about Cas being the best part of his life. Granted, the future sucked, so it wasn’t saying much to be the best thing in someone’s life, but when the Older had said it, it had really meant something. Dean looked at Cas across the table from him and couldn’t help but smile. He really did love him. God, he loved him so much it hurt.

“I missed you,” Dean said quietly, not really intending it to be part of the conversation.

“You did?”

The question was so innocent and sad. Dean’s little smile broke into a full-on grin. “Yeah. Every day I was there. I mean, I talked to you while I was there, but you were a completely different guy. I like you better.”

Cas was wonderstruck, and it was the most adorable thing Dean had ever seen him do. “For the sake of curiosity,” Cas said, regaining his composure, the look vanishing from his face, “What did I have to say?”

“Well,” Dean said, feeling his stomach clench as they got closer to it, “That’s what I want to talk about.” He looked at his clasped hands on the table and realized he was wringing them. He tried to get mad, tell himself he was acting like a child, but found he couldn’t do it. He cared too much.

“He told me that I needed to have this conversation with you,” Dean said painfully, trying not to panic.

“Dean, what did he say? You’re frightened,” Cas asked imploringly, leaning forward and staring intently at him. “Is there something in the future, some evil we need to be worried about?”

Dean barked out a laugh, surprised. “No, just the apocalypse. He wanted me to talk about us.”

“What about us?”

Dean pressed his lips into a line, thinking how to say this without scaring Cas off. “Well, he’s you, right? So he knows everything about you.”

“That is the nature of time, yes.”

“He said you’re in love with me,” Dean blurted out, unable to play it safe anymore. Fuck it, he was just going to say it all and then go die in a hole somewhere. “In the future, you and I are together. Like sleeping together. In love, whatever.” He was certain he was blushing, and refused to look at Cas.

Across the table, Castiel was very quiet. Dean didn’t know what he was thinking, and that terrified him almost more than the conversation itself. When he couldn’t take it anymore, Dean jerked his head up and saw that Cas’s eyes were huge with shock. He sat with his hands in his lap, also staring at the table. Dean was sure this was a bad sign, until he saw the corner of Cas’s mouth quirk up into a tiny, tiny smile.

With a deep breath, Cas made eye contact. “I said that?”

“Both you and I did. And they weren’t bullshitting me, either,” Dean said with a smile of his own. “They told me that when I came back I needed to tell you, because if the world’s going to go to shit, then we should get together as soon as possible. Then we have more time.”

Cas blinked. “Get together? But I thought you didn’t…I thought you weren’t interested.”

“I didn’t think I was either. Old Me convinced me that I am.”

Cas bit his lip and swallowed hard, looking very overwhelmed. “Can you say it, so I can hear it?”

“I love you.”

Cas looked quickly out the window.

“You okay?” Dean asked.

When Cas looked back at him, he had tears in his eyes. “I am wonderful.”

“Hey,” Dean said consolingly, reaching across the table. “It’s okay, I’m here man. I know it took me a while, but I am.”

Cas looked at Dean’s hand, lying palm-up on the table, and tentatively took it in his own. They laced their fingers together slowly, trying desperately not to break the moment. Cas squeezed gently and stroked Dean’s hand with his thumb. The smile on his face had only gotten bigger, and it looked like the tears in his eyes would actually fall. Dean had never seen Castiel cry before, and he decided he wasn’t about to.

Not letting go of Cas’s hand just yet, he stood up suddenly and walked around the table. He bent over and took Cas’s face in both of his hands and kissed him, pressing their lips together firmly and fitting their noses next to each other like they had been made to. The angle was awkward, with Dean leaning over and Cas’s neck bent backwards, but neither of them cared in the slightest. Dean could feel Cas trembling slightly, and when they broke the kiss off, Dean could see that Cas was indeed crying under his still-closed eyelids.

“Don’t cry,” Dean said tenderly, rubbing his thumbs across Cas’s cheekbones to wipe the tears away. Cas opened his eyes and tried to smile, but when he saw Dean he let out a sob and closed his eyes again.

“Hey, c’mere,” Dean said, taking Cas’s hands and tugging him to his feet. Cas stood easily, and Dean folded him safely in his arms. Cas let his cheek fall onto Dean’s shoulder and buried his face in his neck, holding him tightly around the waist.

Dean rubbed up and down Castiel’s back, making soft, comforting noises. After a moment, Cas murmured into Dean’s collarbone, “I was certain you would never love me.” He pressed his forehead harder against Dean’s neck, keeping the outside world away.

“Well I do,” Dean replied, not sure how to comfort him. “You don’t need to think that anymore.”

“You really have a way with words,” Cas grumbled playfully, making Dean frown in mock offence, not that Cas could actually see it.

“You could have talked to me about it,” Dean said.

“Why would I do that? You’d turn me away, avoid me.” Cas paused before adding, “It would have ruined our friendship, and I couldn’t risk that.”

“What?” Dean scoffed, about to deny it. However, as he thought about it, he realized he was probably right. So, instead, he said, “I’m so sorry, Cas. It’s over now.” He leaned his head away a little, so he could look at Cas. Cas noticed the movement and lifted his head up off of Dean’s shoulder. They stared at each other for a moment before they kissed again.

This kiss was perfect. No difficulty, just each other. The first one had been thrilling enough, but this was amazing. Dean felt the tip of Cas’s tongue slip between his lips and a moment later they were absolutely desperate for each other. After the initial shyness was past, Castiel took absolute control, holding Dean behind the neck and at the small of back and pressing their bodies together. For a moment, Dean felt that he should be startled by the feel of Cas’s stubble against his cheeks, but he really didn’t care. All he knew was Cas’s lips and his hands and the feel of his hair through his fingers.

They stumbled towards one of the beds in the motel room, the one Dean had claimed, and collapsed. Cas shrugged off his trenchcoat and climbed on top of Dean, pinning him with his weight before kissing him again. Dean pulled on the bottom of Cas’s shirt, untucking it and sliding his hands up the back, loving the warmth of Cas’s skin. Cas, feeling this, returned the favor and slipped his fingers up under the hem of Dean’s t-shirt and brushed against his stomach, rubbing small circles with his thumbs.

Cas gently broke off contact at the lips and pressed his forehead against Dean’s, eyes squeezed shut. “Dean, I love you,” he murmured, holding Dean’s waist on both sides, stroking his skin.

“I love you too,” Dean panted, breathless from kissing. His heart was pounding with excitement, and all he wanted was to hold Cas in his arms and kiss him again. “I’m sorry I didn’t know it. It took a trip to the future to get it into my dumbass head,” he added, laughing a little.

Cas pushed himself onto his hands and knees so Dean could see him smile. “You’re here now.” He ran a hand down Dean’s chest. “That’s all that matters.”

Dean grinned as Cas leaned down to kiss him again.

 

 

Close to an hour later, they were curled on the bed, Dean wrapped full-body around Cas. Dean’s flannel had been tossed to the end of the bed, along with Cas’s tie, and the first few buttons of Cas’s shirt were undone. Both of them had long since kicked their shoes off, and for a while now had just been laying there together, listening to each other breathe. Dean was nearly asleep, and Cas was relaxing to the feeling of Dean’s heartbeat pulsing into his back.

That was how Sam found them when he opened the door, back from his errand run. “Hey Dean, I was wondering if you wanted to check out now, or—” he asked, turning around to close the door, and finally noticing the two men on the bed.

Dean, startled out of drowsiness, jumped onto his elbow, accidentally kicking Cas in the process. “Sam! Jesus man, what the hell?” he shouted, mortified at being discovered and terrified of what his brother would think.

But when he looked at Sam, he was shocked to see that Sam was actually trying not to laugh. He completely ignored Dean, instead talking to Cas. “I told you,” he said smugly.

Cas snorted. “Very well, you were right.”

“Excuse me, someone want to tell me what’s going on?” Dean demanded, pushing himself upright and looking back and forth from Sam to Castiel, who was still lounging comfortably on his side, not appearing at all alarmed.

“Dean, you don’t need to be freaked out, man,” Sam said, bemused. “I’ve known that Cas likes you forever.”

“He told me you felt the same way, but I didn’t believe him,” Cas added, half-smiling. “I suppose he knows you better than you know yourself.”

“No, I’ve just never been terrified of my sexuality,” Sam responded, moving into the kitchenette to drop off the bags he was holding. He turned around, leaning against the counter, obviously thinking that this whole situation was hilarious. Dean glared at him, and this only made Sam giggle like a child.

“What?” he asked, as Dean only got redder with embarrassment. “I’ve always wanted you to be happy. Why would I care that you like guys? And honestly,” he added with a shrug, “the two of you are perfect.”

“You didn’t tell me Sam knew!” Dean demanded, turning on Cas.

“Well, to be fair, you didn’t really give me much of a chance to,” Cas answered, staring meaningfully at him.

“Yeah, okay,” Sam quickly interjected. “It was just a conversation in the car one time. I asked him why he never made a move—”

“I told him what I told you,” Cas cut in.

Sam quirked an eyebrow, conceding. “It made sense why, but I told him you already had feelings for him. He didn’t believe me.” Sam looked pointedly at Cas.

“You’ve already said ‘I told you so’ quite literally,” Cas complained. “There is no reason to make that expression.”

Sam laughed and shook his head. “Yeah, okay, I’ll stop. But you,” he said, directing his attention to Dean, sitting stiffly on the bed, “need to stop acting like a teenager. I’m not your mom, I’m not going to ground you for having someone in your bed.”

“Technically, we’re on it,” Dean muttered.

“I don’t care what the two of you do,” Sam forged ahead, ignoring him, “just don’t do anything when I’m in the other bed next to you, and all’s good. Okay?”

Cas looked a little confused, but that wasn’t anything new. Dean just nodded quickly. “Yeah,” he blurted out, refusing to look at either of them.

Sam groaned. “Okay, whatever. You’re hopeless.” He turned around and started unloading the food and beer into the fridge. Cas sat up and buttoned his shirt, then reached for his tie.

Dean sat staring at the wall for a moment, then sighed and pulled his flannel on.

Chapter Text

[May, 2011. Camp Chitaqua]

Castiel popped another handful of pills in his mouth as he heard the heavy bootsteps on his porch that could only be Dean. He wondered what he had come to harass him about this time.

The beads over the doorframe clacked as Dean brusquely pushed through them, and Castiel didn’t bother to turn around to face him from where he was sitting on the floor. He was watching the yellow light of the setting sun scatter around the shadows of those beads, projected onto the far wall of his cabin, and thought it looked very pretty. The people at Camp Chitaqua didn’t take much time to appreciate beauty anymore, himself included, when he was sober at least. Which was why he’d mostly given that up. Everything hurt too much without the drugs anyway.

“Have you been sitting in here all day?” Dean grunted without preamble.

Castiel knew he was trying to guilt him into doing some manner of work, but Castiel was tired of exerting himself to no end for so little gain. Lifting things required more muscle than he had, and he didn’t have the brains for any strategic planning anymore. Once, he had been the smartest and most worldly person in the room, but no one wanted to hear Castiel’s stories of Creation, or, contrastingly, his newfound fascination with honeybees. Now that he was human, he had no place in the world.

“Yes,” Castiel responded just as bluntly.

“Dude, we could use you! You can’t just leech off of everyone and not put in any effort back.”

Castiel turned his head slightly to look at the sun dancing on the wall more clearly. “What exactly could you use me for, Dean?”

Dean snorted from behind him. “Something!”

When Castiel didn’t reply, Dean stalked forward and planted himself directly in front of him, blocking his view of the wall. Castiel looked up into Dean’s face, twisted with frustration and who knew what else. Probably self-loathing, if Castiel were to guess.

Dean frowned deeper. “What the hell is with you, man? You just gonna sit in here and melt your brains into grey goo with that stuff?” He waved a hand at the worn bottle of painkillers. “What you do on your own time is none of my business, but this is getting old.”

Castiel smiled wearily. “What would you have me do instead, Dean? What task could you possibly assign me that I wouldn’t either fail at completely or inconvenience everyone else simply by attempting? Why not melt my brains into grey goo?”

Dean scoffed. “Get over yourself. Just because you’re human doesn’t mean you’re useless.”

Castiel looked away without saying anything, unconvinced and tired of arguing. Not much got him worked up these days.

Dean stared at him for a few seconds, before throwing up his hands with a loud huff and striding back to the door. Cas listened to his heavy work boots thudding against the rickety stairs, and then he was gone.

The shapes on the wall didn’t look so vibrant any more, but maybe that was because the sun had gone down too far.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

[August]

Castiel was sprawled in his chair around the table in the cabin they all had taken to using as a conference room. It had been nearly two years since Lucifer had taken Sam, and the small band of survivors at Camp Chitaqua had more or less settled in to fighting this battle for the rest of their lives.

In the beginning, Dean had been desperate, certain that Sam could be saved. He was driven, and the other humans thrived off of it. They scrambled to win small victories, killing angels and demons alike, and then later, the Croatoans. The Winchester survival instinct kept them going for a time, but as Lucifer won more and more often, and they were pushed back to the gates of their Camp, their hope had wilted to nothing.

Castiel knew the futility of it all long before they did. His grace had been seeping away steadily since the war began. When the last call of the angels went out across the air as they left, Castiel felt it disappear completely, stranding him on Earth. Not that he would have left Dean, but it was confining to walk the ground alone, the last of his kind having abandoned God’s creation forever. It was terrifying.

And so as the human race either died out or was infected by the virus, Castiel’s own drive vanished. The narcotics became a balm to a world that grated against his skin like sandpaper, leaving him temporarily at peace between doses.

Dean went through a number of reactions to the bombardment of the planet. There came a time when even he couldn’t muster the strength to keep up his faith, and sometime in those two years since Sam’s possession, Dean gave up on ever saving him. As Castiel’s drug use became intensive to an alarming rate, Dean protested, but then gave up on that too. Now, Dean barely spoke to him.

Castiel had tried to mend their friendship to no avail. Either Dean had decided he hated the fallen angel, or simply didn’t care anymore. Castiel wasn’t sure which was worse. Before the apocalypse, he had been one of Castiel’s only friends. Now, he was the last one alive.

But Dean hadn’t spoken directly to him in weeks. Castiel had been invited to this meeting, but he rarely had anything to add, and Dean refused to make eye contact with him.

As the other leaders in the Camp shuffled out the door into the warm summer night, Castiel stayed at the table, knees spread wide as he slumped in his chair.

Dean hadn’t noticed him yet. He sat with his head in his hands, elbows braced on the table. He was holding his breath and gripping his hair so hard that it must have hurt. Castiel said nothing, and after a moment, Dean exhaled with all the despair of one who sees no more joy in life.

As Dean made to stand up, his eyes caught Castiel watching him, and he frowned deeper.

“What do you want, Cas?”

“Have you been avoiding me?” Castiel asked mildly.

Dean rolled his eyes and shoved back from the table. “I don’t have time for melodramatic crap, Cas. Go home.”

Castiel pivoted in his chair as Dean walked past towards the door. “So you are avoiding me.”

Dean stopped a few feet in front of him and half-turned back, face drawn with weary irritation. “What are you talking about, man?”

Castiel sat up a little straighter in his chair, somewhat surprised that he had actually snagged Dean’s attention. “When was the last time the two of us talked like this? Alone?”

Dean shrugged. “I don’t talk to anyone alone these days. I got stuff to take care of. Not a whole lot of time for chit chat.” He started walking away again.

Cas frowned. “Is it because I fell? My coping habits? Because you’ve gone off on drinking sprees more times than I can count, and I haven’t kept you away. I don’t see how this is different.”

This time, Dean actually came stomping back. “I am not avoiding you! Okay? Look, I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt because we can’t be all buddy-buddy anymore, but that’s not my problem! If you haven’t noticed, the world is literally burning up around us, and I gotta stop it before everybody dies! These people are already counting on me to come up with some magical solution, and I got nothing! I am doing the best I can, because that’s all I can do. I lost my chance when I said no to Michael, and now I can’t get it back. How the hell am I supposed to beat the devil when I’m no friggin’ better than anyone else? Sam’s gone! Now I gotta kill him and Lucifer, and the only thing we think might be able to pull that off is the goddamn Colt, which hasn’t been seen in two years!”

Dean paused for breath, and the echoes of his shouting rang in Castiel’s ears. Castiel said nothing, momentarily stunned. Dean inhaled, seemingly to calm himself down, and said, “What else am I supposed to do, Cas? Keeping up with relations is the last thing on my mind right now.”

Dean stood there a moment more, then looked away into nothing. His shoulders sagged, and the bags under his eyes looked darker than ever. Cas wondered if he got any sleep at all these days.

Before Dean could walk away again for good, Cas found something to say. “You don’t have to suffer alone, Dean. That’s the point of having friends.”

Still looking away, Dean answered, “Yeah, well it seems like I manage to get all my friends killed anyway, so I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”

“I’m still here.”

Dean snorted. “You’re the last one.”

“Then rely on me.”

“And when I get you killed too, what am I supposed to do then?”

Castiel leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “I’m not dead yet. So instead of waiting for it to happen, why don’t you let me help you while I can, since you’re so determined that I’m going to a bad end?”

A corner of Dean’s mouth tugged down with distaste. Castiel took this as an invitation to keep going. He stood up for emphasis.

“So is that why you’ve been avoiding me? To spare yourself?”

Dean met his eyes. “Well, it’s not like you make an effort either.”

“I am now.”

Dean sighed. “I can’t really unload all my problems on a guy who avoids his with LSD.”

“How is that any different from all the benders you go on? We’re more alike than you think.”

Neither one of them said anything for a moment, Dean staring intensely as Castiel, probably evaluating his options. As last, Dean clapped Castiel’s shoulder and said, “Here’s the deal. You gotta be sober more often, and do some goddamned work for once, and I’ll come by for some crap therapy session sometime.”

Castiel rolled his eyes, but agreed nonetheless. They left the cabin, parting at the door, and as Castiel walked back to his own cabin, he wondered if Dean intended on keeping his promise.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

[February]

The entire car ride back to camp, Castiel felt numb. He stared out the window, keeping the unofficial agreement between the four passengers not to talk about what had just happened. The snow-covered pines whirled by the window, somber and regal where they blanketed the mountains. They seemed almost like a warning, the first sign of the violence that swept this land. Perhaps once they had been something of nature to admire, but too many people had been ended here for those trees to be anything but markers of death.

Dean drove steadily, but quickly. Castiel could see his forehead and eyes reflected in the rearview mirror, and his brows were drawn low together. His intense green eyes roiled with anger and grief.

Looking around, Castiel saw the same emotions in the body language of the others in the car. Death was not an uncommon occurrence in their line of work, but it still was a tragedy. This particular death had shaken them all badly, and Castiel knew he wasn’t alone in his longing for the alcohol at home.

When they arrived, Dean slammed his car door harder than necessary, echoing painfully in the natural silence of snow, causing the others to close theirs more quietly. The other residents of the camp came forward, inquiring about Rachael. The look on Dean’s face told them all they needed to know.

Castiel retreated to his cabin, trying not to reimagine the poor girl’s last moments. They had been gruesome. She had shrieked with magnificent power before she was silenced at last. Castiel couldn’t comprehend the pain involved in being ripped apart and disemboweled. There hadn’t been a body to recover.

After lighting the multiple little lanterns in his cabin, Castiel sprawled on his back and followed the woodgrain of the ceiling with his eyes. A newly opened bottle of whiskey sat by his hip, and he took a careful swig, struggling not to drown himself with it at this angle.

His eyes darted to a space on the ceiling over one of the windows, in which he had scrawled in Enochian a message to himself and anyone who might see it in future years.

'Of all those He told to love humanity, only I did. And I alone remain.'

It had been written in a moment of despair, when the angels of heaven had abandoned the Earth, and Castiel felt himself fall for certain. He wasn’t sure if the message was a sentiment to his loyalty, or a damnation of God and his holy decrees. Either way, he felt no desire to remove it from the ceiling.

He had just taken another spluttering drink from the bottle when his front door was pounded on. Dean barged in a moment later, carrying a bottle of his own. Castiel tilted his head back on the rug to look at him. They stared for a brief moment before Dean dropped to the floor and laid next to Castiel, their shoulders almost touching.

“Time for the magic of friendship,” Dean muttered.

“Are you here to drink and forget with me?” Castiel asked dryly.

“You know it.” Dean took a drink and choked, lurching into a sitting position and spewing whiskey onto his shirt. “How the hell are you drinking like that?” he objected at where Castiel watched him with amusement from the floor.

“Not very effectively,” Castiel admitted.

Dean smacked Castiel’s shoulder and scooted on his rear to lean against the footboard of Castiel’s bed. “Come on, dumbass, this is a way better idea.”

Castiel rolled his eyes, but joined Dean at the footboard. They sat with their legs sprawled out haphazardly, occasionally taking drinks from their respective bottles. They didn’t say much, Dean naturally being introspective in times of trauma, but Castiel was content to sit and enjoy his company as well as he could.

It was well past midnight by the time they were both feeling truly drunk. As the liquor began its work, Dean opened up a bit. He vented about the unfairness of life and their lot in it, and talked a bit about Rachael and her contributions to the workings of the camp, how messed up her end was. Castiel chimed in every now and then, but mostly felt too depressed to say much more.

“I don’t even know why we try anymore, Cas, I really don’t,” Dean was saying, slumped low against the bed. “Everyone we love dies. Painfully. Torn apart.” Dean shuddered a little at that last part, and rubbed at his face. “If you die, that’s it, I’m done. No reason to stay.”

“Don’t do that,” Castiel protested weakly.

“I’ll do it! Who gives a fuck anymore? I’ve done enough for this godforsaken place. Literally godforsaken!” Dean slapped his hand down onto Castiel’s knee. “You and I are the only sons of bitches keeping this place running! We deserve some fucking rest!”

Castiel looked at him skeptically. “Don’t do it.”

Dean slumped over so he was leaning against Castiel and looked up at him. “Watch me.”

“Dean!”

“What?”

Castiel smacked Dean’s chest with the back of his hand. “Who’ll take care of everyone if you don’t?”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Dean objected. “I don’t want to take care of them anymore. I just want you and me to go off somewhere by ourselves. Then we’d only have to take care of each other. We can do that.”

Castiel softened a little. He squeezed his left arm, currently pinned between his body and Dean’s, into the open and maneuvered it around Dean’s shoulders. “We could. But I think you would feel very guilty.”

Dean looked up at him again and pouted. “Probably.”

Their eye contact lasted a little longer than usual, even for them.

“I’m not as drunk as you think I am,” Dean said softly.

“Do you mean what you’re saying then?”

Dean looked at where his hand still rested on Castiel’s thigh. “I don’t know. I want you to be there, whatever happens.”

“I’ll always be there.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Dean said, doing so.

Castiel chuckled. “If you keep that up, then you will be as drunk as I think you are.”

Dean lifted the bottle again in a salute. “That’s the point, buddy.” He shifted so he was sitting mostly upright again, but Castiel made no effort to remove his arm from around Dean’s shoulders, and Dean made no effort to get out from under it. They sat hip to hip, thighs touching for a while, unspeaking.

Castiel wondered if he was just overreacting because of the alcohol, but to his recollection, this was far more physical and emotional intimacy than Dean usually allowed. Castiel was intricately focused on every point of contact between them, his arm tucking Dean into his side, the pressure of Dean’s leg against his, the fact that Dean’s head was close enough that Castiel could have buried his nose in his hair if he had chosen.

After a while, Dean asked gently, “Did you mean what you said?”

“About what?”

“Will you stay with me?” Dean turned slightly against Castiel’s body to get a better look at him. They stared into each other’s eyes yet again, each time longer and more potent than the last.

“I will never leave you as long as I live,” Castiel asserted. “Unless you wish it.”

“Oh,” Dean murmured, his eyes dropping just slightly below Castiel’s. “That’ll never happen,” he added, staring at Castiel’s lips.

“Dean…”

Dean looked up again sharply. “I’m not as drunk as you think I am.”

Castiel felt a spike of fear and exhilaration. “Well in that case…”

They leaned into each other, bridging the gap of a few inches until they were kissing, chastely at first, and then more desperately with each moment that passed. Castiel’s arm slipped upward until Dean’s neck rested in the crook of his elbow, and Castiel pulled him closer, his other hand going to cup Dean’s face.

Dean pressed forward until they were falling gently to the floor, Castiel bracketed securely between his elbows. A myriad of emotions ambushed Castiel. Everything he had submerged for years, things he had thought would never be relevant, exploding to the surface with each caress of Dean’s tongue and the sweet touch of his hands. Castiel rested his hands lightly on Dean’s waist, then slipped them up the back of his shirt, pressing his fingertips into his skin, kissing him like he had never kissed anyone else.

Since falling, Castiel had become no stranger to sexual intimacy, but this was different. He had always treasured each and every lover, sometimes more than one at a time, and hoped the best for them in the world after, but he had never felt the life in his body flush open the way it did now.

Castiel broke away from Dean’s mouth to kiss and suck his way under his jaw down the side of his throat. Dean’s eyes were closed, mouth open in a silent plea, breathing hard and whispering Castiel’s nickname with a tenderness he never had before.

When he got to Dean’s collarbone, tonguing the sensitive skin, Castiel hooked his legs around Dean’s and deftly rolled them both over, coming up on his hands and knees as Dean sprawled wildly on the rug. He looked at Castiel with a mixture of curiosity, and…love? Whatever it might be, it was tender and soft, a side of himself that he rarely let the outside world see.

Castiel had been privy to it a few times. There were exactly two instances in which Dean had fully wept in front of Castiel, which most certainly counted, but then there were also those tiny moments after a successful case when Dean let the light glow from his eyes and his laughter bubbled up from where he kept it locked away. Castiel knew that Dean loved him, in his own way, but before tonight he wouldn’t have thought that what they were doing now was something Dean would have wanted.

They admired each other, embracing the moment they were sharing. Castiel hated to interrupt it, but knew that if he didn’t ask now, then it would only be ruined once Dean’s hangover fell into place in the morning.

“Are you sure you aren’t drunker than you think?” Castiel rasped.

“Yeah,” Dean said, pressing himself slightly sideways against one of Castiel’s knees.

“This is what you want?”

Dean’s only answer to that was to grip the front of Castiel’s shirt and pull him close enough to kiss again, hungry and persistent. Castiel pressed his tongue into Dean’s mouth, settling his weight down on top of him and bracing his hand on the side of Dean’s head. Dean meanwhile was thumbing gentle circles just under the hem of Castiel’s tee shirt above his hipbones. This elicited a small noise from Castiel, and Dean chuckled.

“You wanna move this to the bed?” he asked with an attempt at nonchalance that was unable to hide his desire.

Castiel smiled against Dean’s lips, kissing him briefly but sweetly. “Yes I do.”

They struggled to get to their feet without breaking apart, unwilling to stop kissing. Dean shrugged out of his jacket and let it drop to the floor behind him. Once his hands were free he brought them up to cup both of Castiel’s cheeks as he pressed deeper into his mouth. Castiel slid his hands under Dean’s shirt and helped him pull it over his head, then stripped off his own.

Skin brushed against skin as they collapsed onto the bed in a tangle of arms and legs. Dean spent about three seconds rapidly unlacing his boots and throwing them aggressively across the room. Castiel laughed softly, and Dean growled in response, startling him. Nevertheless, the sound was effective, and Castiel pulled Dean back on top of him to fumble with his belt buckle.

Moments later, they were completely unclothed and wrapped tightly in each other’s arms, aching and desperate. What had begun a few minutes ago as a sweet and emotional kiss had escalated into an animalistic need for release, and both felt a new sense of urgency.

For a short time, Castiel was content to let Dean take control, but eventually he flipped them both over again and enjoyed the startled look on Dean’s face as Castiel thrust against him, panting and sweating. Dean lay back heavily into the pillows, clinging to the headboard with one hand. He cried out Castiel’s nickname as he climaxed.

Castiel braced his forehead in the hollow of Dean’s shoulder, and Dean’s hand came up to grasp the nape of his neck, helping him through his own last moments. With a final exclamation, Castiel finished. Shuddering, he fell onto his back next to Dean, one of his legs flung over his.

Castiel at last took a deep breath and let it out all in a rush, practically leaking contentment from his pores. He looked over at Dean, and Dean smiled tiredly at him from under his eyelashes, appearing oddly tranquil compared to his usual intense demeanor.

Dean took Castiel’s hand from where it was resting on the mattress between them and entwined their fingers, squeezing quickly once.

“Is it just me, or was that a long time coming?” Dean asked. “No pun intended,” he added with a childish smirk.

Castiel rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “It’s not just you. Though I thought you weren’t interested.” The way he said the last word made it almost a question. As far as Castiel knew, Dean was attracted to women only, but his recent actions spoke to the contrary.

Dean looked up at the ceiling. “Yeah, I guess for a while I wasn’t. But I think I was just ignoring it. Pushing it down, the usual. But now,” he turned his head back toward Castiel. “Who gives a fuck anymore? There’s no one left to care.”

Castiel was puzzled. “Were you afraid of the judgement of your peers?”

“Maybe. I dunno. Dad had this thing. He wouldn’t have liked it if I…whatever. Like I said, who cares? Dad’s gone, Sammy’s gone. You’re the only one left and obviously that’s not a problem.” Dean’s grip on Castiel’s hand tightened ever so slightly.

Castiel spoke gently, “We may still be able to save Sam.”

Dean said nothing, a slight twitch of his mouth the only betrayal of his thoughts, and not a very good one at that.

“Would you like to stay here for the night?” Castiel asked, changing the subject.

Dean nodded. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“You never were.”

They slept next to each other with Castiel’s thick blankets and comforter over top of them, the frigid winter night leeching away what warmth it could. They faced each other on their sides, hands clasped between them.

Castiel watched Dean drop off to sleep, remembering his days as an angel when he had no need of it himself. He had stood guard over Dean at night more times than Dean had known, and knew the softened planes of his face intimately. The tension that tortured Dean in waking was gone when he was asleep, and it was like looking at a child. Like he was something precious needing protection.

Of course, Castiel knew Dean was more than capable of protecting himself. He was a light sleeper, and woke from the merest touch or sound, courtesy of long years hunting. Dean was also followed into the dreamworld by truly terrible nightmares, some of which Castiel, as an angel, had seen firsthand. Despite all this, it was good to see Dean get some manner of peace, and Castiel was sure nothing would bother him tonight.

He tenderly kissed the tip of Dean’s nose, and Dean stirred a little, but didn’t wake. Castiel smiled, so happy he might cry, and mouthed the three words he hadn’t the courage to say out loud yet. Maybe one day.

Castiel took one last look at Dean before letting himself fall into sleep as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

[September, 2014]

Castiel was sitting cross-legged on his bed, thumbing through some of the few old photographs that had survived the apocalypse so far. They were mostly of Sam, Dean, and Bobby, sometimes smiling, sometimes not. There was one candid of Dean that Castiel especially loved. He liked to take it out and look at it when he was feeling more depressed than usual.

Dean was sitting in the driver’s seat of his old Impala, arm propped up in the windowsill, the other holding a half-drunk bottle of beer. His face was partially turned away from the camera, but you could still see what might have almost been a smile gracing his mouth. His eyes were far away, looking out at whatever was beyond the car window. He looked calm, certainly not yet tormented by the tragic turn his life had taken. Before he had gone to hell, before the stirrings of Armageddon.

Sam had taken the picture. Sitting at too close a distance in the passenger seat, using a low-quality disposable camera, he had somehow managed to capture a side of his brother that was very rarely available to the public, even then. The picture was taken over six years ago now.

How wrong it had all gone. Good intentions had meant nothing, in the end.

As always, Castiel heard Dean coming before he arrived. The deck creaked, and Dean pushed through the beads, calling ahead. “Finally got the bastard to settle in. He didn’t seem to want to room with Chuck; can’t imagine why.”

Seeing the photographs on the bed, Dean interrupted himself. “You lookin’ at that one picture again?”

Castiel smiled, unperturbed. “Yes.”

Dean groaned and sat down next to him on the bed. “I don’t know why you like it so much. It’s so soap opera-y.”

“I think you look contemplative.”

“Yeah,” Dean half-agreed. “So, soap opera-y.”

Castiel shook his head and leaned over slightly to kiss him. “What were you saying about the other you? I assume that’s who you were talking about.”

Dean leaned back onto the pillows, kicking his feet out and crossing them at the ankles. “Just saying he’s a pain in the ass. He’s nosy. Doesn’t follow orders. Stirs up trouble. You saw how he acted when I had to shoot Yaeger. Had to drag him inside and get some sense into his head.”

“Sounds like someone I know,” Castiel said wryly.

“Shut up. I’m serious,” Dean replied, giving Castiel a hurt frown. “I even told him about the Colt.”

Castiel nodded. “Well done on retrieving it, by the way. But he’ll be fine. We’re hiding nothing here. It’s probably better if he knows everything, so maybe he can change it when Zachariah takes him back. Sam might not have to die,” Castiel added gently.

Dean clenched his jaw and ground his teeth a little. “Yeah, he said that’s the whole reason Zach brought him here. The apocalypse, he should know all about. We need to teach him this crap so he can back away from it fast. But…I don’t know if he should know about us, you know?”

Castiel was stunned. Of all the things for Dean to be concerned of in this situation, this should have been at the bottom of the list. “Why not? I’d think hearing it would be beneficial. We’ve both talked about how we loved each other long before we ever did anything about it. This could be his chance, with his own version of me.”

“No, Cas! That would not be ‘beneficial!’ That would be a goddamn nightmare! You know how I was! I would’ve freaked the fuck out!” Dean sat forward and crossed his legs, eyes wide as he stressed his next words. “I would have thrown a fit if somebody had told me I was having sex with a dude! You know I would have!”

“Woah, Dean, calm down,” Castiel urged, taking both of Dean’s hands out of the air where he had been waving them. He pressed his thumbs into the middle of Dean’s palms, discerning in his head the real reason why Dean was so obsessed with this. “Are you worried of his judgement? You’ve said that was partly why you never made any romantic move for me.”

“I don’t give a crap what he thinks,” Dean scoffed unconvincingly. “I just don’t think he should know. Too much to deal with.”

Castiel wasn’t sure how to reply, knowing that Dean had already made up his mind “Hmm.”

“What?”

“I think you may be overreacting. You got used to the idea of being in love with me. So can he.”

“Ugh, Cas—! I—” Dean tried and fail to express his frustration. Taking a breath, he tried again. “I don’t think it’ll go over well.”

Castiel decided to yield, certain that there would be no winning with Dean when he was this worked up. Perhaps he could try again later. “Alright,” he crooned, letting go of Dean’s hands. “Have you eaten yet?”

“Nah. You want grub?” Dean asked, seemingly relieved not to be talking about the secret he wanted kept anymore.

“That’s why I asked,” Castiel said deliberately, sliding off the bed and going to search for a pair of socks and his boots.

They didn’t speak about it for the rest of the night, but when they encountered Dean the Younger in the mess hall, Castiel couldn’t help but wonder what his reaction would be to the news. Maybe he would just have to find out, despite what the Older said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

[The Next Evening, Very Late]

Castiel was sitting on a chopped tree stump listening to his companions talk. The conversation had taken a turn for the nostalgic. They all remembered vividly the days before Armageddon, and they all missed them desperately. Castiel could relate. He’d had wings and a sense of real purpose. Both were gone these days. Hunting Lucifer had been nigh impossible, and now that they had found him, the idea of killing Sam made Castiel’s skin crawl. Lately Dean had had little objection to it, and that was more terrifying to Castiel than Lucifer had ever been.

Thoughts like these had troubled Castiel for the past two days, ever since the younger Dean from 2009 had been brought here. He and Dean the Older may have looked the same, but the Older’s character had been so wrought with grief these past few years that he was unrecognizable from the Younger. The Younger still had hope for a bright future, still wanted to fight back against the evil in the world, but not if that entailed giving up his humanity.

And that was the difference. The Younger was the man Castiel had fallen in love with, and the Older was the one traveling along a bridge that led to something Castiel knew there was no coming back from.

As if thinking of him had summoned him, Dean the Older came marching out of the woods, sticks crunching under his feet. Making eye contact as he got closer, he smiled widely, startling the hell out of Castiel. He looked genuinely happy.

“Dean!” someone called as he emerged into the light of their fire.

“Hey fellas, mind if I borrow Cas for a while?” he asked, sliding up behind Castiel’s tree stump and resting his hands on his shoulders.

“Hello Fearless Leader,” Castiel purred, prompting some knowing chuckles from the others.

“He’s all yours,” one of them replied with a laugh.

Dean didn’t wait for any further permission, gently tugging Castiel to his feet and kissing the side of his jaw before leading him away by the hand.

“What inspired this romantic endeavor?” Castiel asked dryly as they struggled through a patch of brush. They were heading into the darker parts of the forest, and the nearest campfires were far enough away now that they couldn’t quite see the faces on anyone.

“I’ve been talking about you for over an hour,” Dean replied, still hauling him along. “I missed you.”

“You talked to him, then?”

Dean stopped and turned around, his eyes unusually lit up. “I’ve damn well convinced him, buddy. He’s gonna do it.”

Castiel cocked his head wryly. “Buddy?”

“Love of my life, one true soulmate, angel of my dreams,” Dean drawled with a toss of his head. “Your pick.” He leaned forward and kissed Castiel firmly and thoroughly.

When they broke apart, Castiel smiled despite himself. “Tell me about it. When I talked to him this morning he seemed quite hesitant.”

It was hard to tell in the darkness, but Dean appeared to shrug. “My guess is he got time to marinate in it. Decided that he was tired of bullshitting himself. He was asking me about sex just a minute ago.” Dean let loose a single guffaw. “He didn’t believe me when I said you were the top.”

Castiel laughed as well. “He knows me as the angelic child who doesn’t know how a cellphone works. I doubt he could imagine me being in any way a dominant figure.”

“Well he sure is imagining it now.”

Castiel huffed. “You didn’t tell him everything, did you?”

“None of the good stuff.”

Accepting this, Castiel looked around them more systematically. “Why did you drag me out into the middle of the woods to tell me this?”

Dean stepped closer, leaning his shoulder into Castiel’s chest. “I didn’t. I had hopes of pushing you up against a tree and kissing you until you were desperate, and then seeing where it goes from there.”

“In the woods?” Castiel asked skeptically. “Dean, I know from experience that making love out here is not in any way pleasurable.”

Dean made a noise of disgust. “Aww, don’t tell me you hosted one of those damn orgies out here before.”

“Just once, and it didn’t last long,” Castiel replied. “For reasons I’m sure you can discern.”

“How come I was never invited?” he pouted, then grinned. “At least until recently.”

“Because you were a dick.”

“I thought dick was the point.”

“No, the point was spiritual healing and mutual orgasms.” Castiel made a face, glad Dean couldn’t see it in the dark, and began to lead him out of the forest towards his cabin. They had taken to sharing that one rather than Dean’s because they were less likely to be bothered. Of course, at this point, their fellow hunters knew that if Dean wasn’t at his place, he was probably at Castiel’s, which could be annoying when the two of them were aiming for privacy. But the Fearless Leader didn’t really get that luxury, so they made do.

As they reached Castiel’s front porch, Dean became increasingly grabby. He turned Castiel around where he stood on the bottom step and kissed him hungrily, both hands clenched on Castiel’s ass.

“What if I just blew you right on this porch?” Dean grumbled against Castiel’s lips, moving along Castiel’s jaw and sucking hickeys into his neck.

“Then I think you would horrify half the camp,” Castiel objected, pulling away slightly.

Dean chuckled low in his throat. “But then I could show off how flustered and pretty you get.” His hands slid to the back of Castiel’s thighs as his nibbled on Castiel’s collarbone.

Castiel continued to protest, moving up one step higher on the stairs and out of Dean’s reach. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. What’s gotten into you tonight?”

Dean took a step up so they were closer together, but didn’t try to grab him again. His flirtatiousness seemed to seep away into solemnity as he said, “Talking to the other me made me realize how much time you and I lost circling each other. The idea of loving you—and sleeping with you—is completely new to him. He’s excited and scared, and I’m just grateful I have you now.”

Castiel smiled softly. “Well then, why don’t we go inside and make up for that lost time? In a normal, non-pornographic way.”

“What’s the fun in that?”

“Nobody wants to see us having sex, Dean, no matter how much you wish it were so.” Castiel turned around and led the way into the cabin.

Their entanglement of the evening ended with Dean’s wrists lashed together to the headboard, face flushed and head thrown back in ecstasy as Castiel rammed into him a final time with a lusty gasp. The ropes strained as Dean twitched, and Castiel shuddered as he slowly worked through his climax.

A few minutes later, the sweat was cooling on Castiel’s body and he had recovered enough strength to untie Dean. Castiel watched as Dean rubbed the blood back into his arms, pressing deep into his deltoids. It was just erotic enough to keep him interested without getting overly aroused again so soon.

“Who would’ve known that the little angel Castiel could fuck like an animal?” Dean asked, grinning cheekily.

Castiel smacked him. “You’d do well to remember that I learned it from God’s hairless apes—animals in their own right.”

“I’ve slept with a great many of those hairless apes, and let me tell you,” Dean said, flopping down onto an elbow next to Castiel, “They don’t have half the oomph you did tonight.”

“You’re welcome.”

Dean just laughed and thanked him.

They laid there for a few moments before Dean wrapped his arms around Castiel and snuggled up behind him, kissing the nape of his neck and tucking Castiel’s head under his chin. Castiel pressed his back tightly up against Dean, glowing the in the aftermath of love and sex.

The only sounds were the voices of the other hunters around their campfires, laughing and shouting, until Castiel whispered, “Do you really think he’ll talk to the other me?”

“Yeah I do. You shoulda’ heard him. It was kind of cute.”

“Good.” Castiel snuggled deeper into Dean’s arms.

“Yeah. I kinda feel bad for them at the same time though. Neither one of them has fucked a dude before,” Dean added with a quiet but hysterical giggle. “That first time is gonna be rough.”

“Well you’d never slept with a man before me,” Castiel replied. “You figured it out. And they don’t have to anything intensive the first time. Simple touch can often be enough.”

Dean hummed interestedly. “Good point. I just can’t imagine our first time being back before you fell, because that sounds absolutely ridiculous.”

“Why?” Castiel objected, turning half-around to look offendedly at Dean.

Dean’s face twitched as he held back a laugh. “You’d barely lost your virginity, dude. You didn’t understand any of the slang I used to talk to you just every day. I think I would’ve died laughing if you tried to talk dirty.”

Castiel looked upward as he reimagined himself before his sinful nature as a human. “I would have used the word ‘penis’ quite often.”

“That’s what I mean!”

Castiel snorted lightly. “I will admit, that word isn’t very good for bedroom talk.”

“No!” Dean dissolved into laughter, shoulders shaking as he braced his forehead against the side of Castiel’s neck. “God, I love you, man. I love you so fucking much.”

Castiel shook his head, but warmed inside nonetheless at the words. “I love you too, Dean. And I suppose we should be celebrating a mission accomplished, if the younger you truly is convinced.”

“Isn’t that what we just did?” Dean asked. His eyebrow quirked as he got an idea. “Or was that just the beginning of a long evening?”

Castiel growled. “Which would you prefer?”

Dean licked his lips and eyed Castiel’s. “Whadda you think?”

The evening did, in fact, turn out to be quite long.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

[22 Hours Later,
13 Hours Before The End]

Castiel looked up as Dean the Younger came staggering out of the Older’s cabin, so stunned that he nearly ran into the jeep parked by the front steps. He bounced hard off the bumper, cursing loudly but without heart. He moved around the side of the vehicle, heading off along the road to a different part of camp, eyes wide and haunted. Castiel wondered what the hell had just happened.

The door to the cabin slammed open again, and the Older scowled widely as he stomped down the steps. Seeing the question in Castiel’s face, he made his way over to him.

“What was that about?” Castiel asked as Dean settled next to him with a huff.

“Nuthin’. Don’t worry about it.”

Castiel glared at him. “Bullshit.” He tossed the duffel bag of weapons he had been carrying over to the jeep onto the dirt and propped his fists on his hips.

Dean sighed and shifted slightly away. “I just told him what happened to Sam.” He ran his hands roughly through his hair, avoiding eye contact.

A sinking void filled Castiel’s gut. “You told him when he got here that Sam died in Detroit, right?” The Younger had been holding up surprisingly well over the past few days, and Castiel knew how terribly he would take the truth.

“Yeah. Figured that if I didn’t tell him ‘till last minute, it would hit him harder. Now he knows what we’re really doing tomorrow.”

Castiel stared sickly at Dean for a moment. “You don’t have to do this.” He stepped closer and gripped Dean’s bicep urgently. “And not telling Dean because it would hurt him…that’s cruel. I thought you’d lied to do the opposite.”

Dean clenched his jaw, looking just as ill as Castiel felt. “Of course I have to. It’s already too late for most of this damn planet. We have to kill Lucifer before there’s nothing left. And if Sammy could’ve been saved don’t you think we would have done it by now? We’ve tried, Cas, you know that.”

Castiel squeezed Dean’s arm harder. “But keeping that a secret just for the shock value—!”

Dean interrupted him, yanking his arm free as he threw his hands up. “He needs to see him! He needs to see the devil wearing his little brother and know that I made the wrong choice!”

Dean’s voice carried, and the few people getting ready for the raid stopped and stared. Dean glowered at them, then exhaled heavily, the anger draining out of him and leaving only exhaustion. “He needs to say yes to Michael. Zach’s gonna take him back, and then he can do what I was too stupid to.”

Castiel’s voice trembled. “Dean.”

For a moment, Castiel thought that Dean was about to relent and fall into his arms. It was the way he had behaved since they had become a couple, oddly sensitive and more willing to be weak. But instead, Dean’s face went cold and his lips pinched together. Falling back into old habits instead.

“This isn’t up for discussion.” He began to walk away.

“Dean, wait!” Castiel cried, following. “What are you really planning? We aren’t just walking into a hotzone, are we!”

Dean turned sharply. “If that’s what it takes, then yes!” Again, he looked like he might relent, and his eyes darted down to Castiel’s lips for a moment. But in the next, he stiffened again and met Castiel’s eyes once more. He spat, “I will do anything it takes to finish this. Even if that means making a choice the little me really won’t like. This ends tomorrow.” His voice was hoarse, and so quiet that Castiel knew that only the two of them heard.

Castiel’s body felt strange as Dean’s words poured over him. More frightened than he had been in years, he asked tensely, “Dean, what wouldn’t he like? What’s going to happen?”

Dean swallowed. Castiel thought he would answer, but as he turned away for the last time, the guilt in his eyes was enough for Castiel to suspect.

He watched the love of his life stalk into the dark without looking back, shoulders tense and steps heavy. Very slowly, a creeping horror slithered around Castiel’s stomach and up the insides of his arms to his heart, before coiling around his windpipe. Horror as he considered what a man as broken and desperate as Dean might consider unforgiveable to his more-complete younger self. Something that had caused Dean to push Castiel away tonight, to bury his own blame deep within his ribcage or risk giving it, and the true plan, away to his lover, who he had sworn not to lie to again.

As Castiel watched him disappear into the dark, he knew that no matter the events of tomorrow, the end of the world had come for the second time. And it had finally chewed Dean Winchester into one of the monsters he had once so proudly hunted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter Text

[54 Minutes Before The End]

The two Deans had gone around the corner to talk privately. Only the Older Came back.

“Where’s the other you?” Risa asked pointedly.

“Not coming.” Dean grunted, swinging the strap of his weapon across his shoulders. “Let’s get the others. You and Cas’ll take the front and I’ll pick up the rear.”

Risa squinted. “Why are we leading? You always go first,” she pointed out, glancing at Castiel as if to confirm that he was as confounded as she was.

“I gotta make sure nobody drags behind,” Dean claimed. “We’ll need to be tight for this to work.”

Risa looked to Castiel again, openly astounded. “Something’s wrong with you, Dean. You’ve been acting funny all morning.” She directed her next words to Castiel. “You don’t think this is weird?”

Castiel stared at Dean without saying anything, and he stared right back. He didn’t know what Dean’s plan was, but if what he had seen in his eyes last night had been as prophetic as Castiel had thought, then it couldn’t be good. Nevertheless, Castiel said, “I see nothing wrong. Let’s go.”

Risa gaped as Dean walked away without another word. Castiel followed him so she wouldn’t have a further chance to object.

Twenty minutes later, the rest of their force was assembled, and Dean explained their movements. As everyone shuffled to get into position, Castiel whispered almost inaudibly to Dean as he passed by. “I love you.”

Dean flinched.

Dean walked faster, eyes turned earthward and nose pointed away, saying nothing. The fear that had curled itself around Castiel’s heart froze a little colder. He took a step to catch Dean and demand truthful answers when Risa grabbed him and pulled him with her into the most forward spot in their formation. There was still no sign of the younger Dean.

When they had all crept into the front entrance of the abandoned building, they were uneasily surprised to discover that there were still no Croatoans to be seen. Castiel’s dread increased with every step. There was something very wrong about this.

They discovered what it was when they were too far away from the door to escape. As the Croatoans swarmed around them, dragging Castiel’s companions screaming off into the dark depths of the building, he whirled around frantically, looking for Dean as he shot monsters left and right. But Dean wasn’t there.

The trap was sprung, and they had been bait.

The choice that the Younger would had resented had been made. It was no wonder Dean had left him behind.

In the same moment that a monster clamped its dead hands around Castiel’s gun, he realized that he was out of bullets.