Castiel’s scrolling clumsily through the news on — Sam’s? Dean’s? — the laptop, diligently searching for signs of a new job. He’s been finding absolutely nothing for the past two hours, which is decidedly strange, but Castiel’s not complaining. Because although Dean’s face seems to fall a bit and Sam’s brighten considerably the increasingly rare times that Castiel reports no possible work for the Winchesters, each of them are equally relieved for a break.
Dean has a chance to clean and take care of Baby, lounge around on his bed watching television. Sam likes to read miscellaneous old lore books from the bunker’s library, surf the internet with his laptop. Castiel simply enjoys watching the Winchester brothers being relaxed and occasionally drowsy as they meander through the halls of their home (sometimes while reading, watching something on their phones, or just for the sake of pointless wandering like restless felines), the way Dean glows with surprised delight whenever he makes a meal and Castiel joins them at the table to partake in “good molecules.”
The sound of boots clomping down the front steps of the bunker breaks the thick silence, slow and subtly dragging in the way that speaks of exhaustion. Castiel knows it’s Dean by the weight of the footsteps and the way they fell in the signature gait Dean has. Abandoning the laptop at the table, Castiel hurries over.
Dean staggers down the last few steps, one hand hovering anxiously over the handrail. There’s blood on his collar, Castiel notices with no small amount of distress.
“Hey, Cas,” Dean near sighs, voice hoarse.
Castiel doesn’t miss the way Dean’s casual lean against the end of the handrail is practically the only thing keeping Dean upright. Or the way he’s gingerly cradling his ribs, favouring one arm, subtly leaning more weight on one leg. He looks like he was beaten within an inch of his life, but that’s not what’s most alarming.
“How was the hunt?” Castiel already knows it wasn’t too far away from the bunker, something that reeked of a vengeful spirit — one of the easier types of hunts, if Dean’s enthusiastic optimism before he’d left with Sam was any indication.
As Castiel had expected, Dean breathes a dismissive huff. “Salt ‘n burn, easy.”
Castiel remains silent, waiting for Dean to continue. Then?
“Figured we’d stop for some gas, ‘n I got jumped by three vamps at the pump—” Dean glances up at Castiel, attempts a reassuring confident smirk. (He fails; it’s more of a wince.) “‘Course I put ‘em down, and—”
Dean’s face crumples. “They took him, Cas.”
No, Castiel knew exactly who they took. There is no other reason Dean would make such a face: defeated, angry, frantic, lost. He patiently repeats the question.
“Who took your brother, Dean?”
“I don’t know.”
“Sam was gone and I looked— Cas, I looked for Sammy and I couldn’t— I couldn’t find him.”
Dean straightens up and takes a step away from the stairs. “Gonna check CCTVs—” He pauses with a wince, but hobbles determinedly onward; he doesn’t make it very far, because Castiel’s standing firmly in his way.
—don’t know if you can hear this—
“Dean. We will find your brother.”
“But you need to rest.”
“What,” Dean growls. “Sam’s out there, in danger, and you want me to— to what, Cas? Take a nap?”
Castiel doesn’t react in the face of Dean’s sudden anger — he knows he has to remain calm, encourage Dean to do the same. “Sleep is essential. And you haven’t had any in days. You’re exhausted, Dean; that isn’t going to help anyone. I can search for Sam.”
“Two’s better than one,” Dean insists, stubborn. “‘Sides, get me some coffee and I’m good to go.”
“Not changin’ my mind, Cas.”
“...Alright. Just—” Castiel raises the first two fingers of his hand, pressed together. “Let me.”
Dean’s shoulders sag as his anger leaves him and he dips his chin in a tiny nod. As usual, Dean’s eyes flutter shut when Castiel presses two fingers to his forehead, but this time, they don’t open again.
Castiel feels the sharp bite of guilt as he carefully catches Dean before he begins tipping forward. This is necessary, he tells himself as he bends to hook an arm under Dean’s knees; with his angelic strength, Dean’s weight is hardly a discomfort to bear.
It isn’t until after Dean’s lying peacefully — and hopefully comfortably — on a sofa, snug under a blanket as he breathes softly, does Castiel allow the corners of his lips to curl upward in a faint smirk. He can feel it with some effort and a bit of searching; they (whoever they are) had let Sam fall asleep, and it’s the last mistake they’ll have the misfortune of making.
Awareness slowly trickles in from the fuzzy edges of Dean’s consciousness. He breathes, deep and languid, shifting restlessly with a satisfied sigh. Dean had slept extremely well — quite possible the best sleep he’s ever had — but oh. That’s not his bed. It’s definitely not glorious memory foam that remembers him under Dean.
He wiggles a little and yep, that’s an armrest, plush and solid, supporting his head and neck. Sleep is still dragging at his thoughts, warm and heavy; Dean struggles to ponder exactly why and how he’d ended up sleeping on the sofa instead of his own bed. There’s a blanket pulled up around his shoulders, neatly tucked in a way he wouldn’t be able to do himself. Maybe he’d accidentally fallen asleep and Sam had covered him up?
But that couldn’t be possible, he had dragged himself back to the bunker without— Sam! Dean’s eyes fly open and he bolts upright with a sharp gasp, one leg slipping over the edge of the sofa. His head spins with the sudden movement and Dean hunches over with a groan, squeezing his eyes shut as he fumbles to shove the blanket off himself.
Someone shifts a few paces away, grumbling softly. It sounded like Sam, all low and rumbling in the way Dean’s little brother always has when he’s mostly asleep or just waking up.
Dean’s afraid to look. Afraid that if he does, he’ll find that he’s just dreaming, imagining that Sam’s there and real and safe because Dean could never really accept being without his brother. Afraid that if he does, he’ll find that Sam actually isn’t there, that Dean’s failed to save his brother again. But, no matter what, he has to know. So Dean turns, glancing over.
And sees his giant sasquatch of a brother curled up clutching a square decorative pillow, long limbs sprawled all over a separate sofa near Dean’s. Half of Sam’s face is smashed against the pillow, and a blanket is valiantly attempting to cover all of him (it’s not doing very well with the last bit of Sam’s legs).
Hardly daring to believe, Dean cautiously reaches out a finger and pokes at Sam’s cheek. It’s very much solid and real; Sam huffs but doesn’t wake, shifting his head away with a slight frown.
Sam is really in the bunker. Safe and unharmed as well, far as Dean could tell. Which means…
Cas found him and brought him back.
Speaking of Castiel—
The winged asshole tricked me!
Having confirmed that Sam is perfectly fine, Dean storms in the direction of what they had designated as Castiel’s room some time ago, anger simmering under his skin. Well, not anger. More… indignation, really. And above all else, Dean’s grateful that Castiel has brought his brother back.
The door is cracked open and Dean knocks lightly — just the once, a timid tap of his knuckles against the wood — before nudging it further open. Castiel is slouched in a chair on one side of the room, hair disheveled and eyes closed. There’s blood splattered on the lapels of his trench coat like morbid paint, nearly black by the light streaming into the dark room from the hallway behind Dean.
Concern replaces everything roiling inside Dean, unyielding and overwhelming. He steps further into the room, flipping the light switch before shutting the door behind him. “...Cas?”
Castiel’s eyes slowly open; he blinks twice before replying with a bland “Hello, Dean.”
Dean warily approaches, slightly hunched over with his hands out in front of him like Castiel’s a wounded wild animal he shouldn’t be startling. Bright sapphire eyes track his every movement, sharp and attentive as Dean folds himself into a crouch just outside the v of Castiel’s legs.
“Hey, everything alright?”
“So you’re hurt,” Dean declares, already searching for wounds.
He knows Castiel’s stubborn like that, understands and shares the same desire to hide injuries; perhaps he relates a little too well, to Sam’s constant frustration. But Dean’s getting better, steadily learning that it’s okay to be a bit more vulnerable around those he trusts, and he’s been subtly coaxing Castiel to do the same. Sure, there’s not much a human can do for an angel, but Dean’s determined and he’s a Winchester, so he reckons he’ll figure something out.
“I was not informed that they would have any angel blades,” Castiel deadpans, surprisingly near sulky. “However, in Sam’s defense, he was not aware of any angels.”
“Hey, you beat ‘em anyway. That’s awesome, Cas.” Spotting a faintly glowing wound partially hidden behind torn fabric, Dean stands. “I’m gonna go grab some stuff.”
“Dean, I don’t need—”
“Cas. Let me do this?”
Castiel appears prepared to argue back for an instant. Then he tips his head to one side — his signature move for confusion — and narrows his eyes in his I don’t understand frown. “...Alright.”
Dean smiles. “Okay. Don’t move; I’ll be right back.”