The thing about recovery is that it’s hard. It’s long. It’s not automatic. It’s messy.
Large, dark shadows send Dean reaching for an angel blade or pushing Cas behind him. Sometimes, when Cas smiles wide and gummy, he forgets how to breathe and he’s thrown back to when it happened.
When he’s choking on words said almost too late, Cas grabs his hand and tells him, “I’m right here, Dean. I’m not going anywhere.” And Cas doesn’t. He stays, and
thank god he stays.
Dean doesn’t think he could see him leave again.
He knows Cas doesn’t want to leave again. Cas has told him that, again and again. He’s told Dean that sometimes the shadows scare him, too. Sometimes Cas wakes up in the middle of the night and Dean holds him while Cas remembers that it was just a nightmare. He made the deal of his own volition, but the thought of leaving again haunts him. It haunts both of them.
But the thing is, they have each other. They’re so close to everything Dean— everything they have ever wanted. They’re together, they’re happy.
Dean just wishes that they could recover, instead of waiting with bated breath for the other shoe to drop.
Because good things do happen, and Dean knows that now. They do, they do, they do. He knows it, but just can’t believe it.
Maybe that’s why when he wakes up to an empty bed, his first thought is panic.
The tan blankets of the bed have been thrown over him and he’s sunken into the memory foam. It’s pure bliss, at least until he extends a hand to wrap around Cas and is met with emptiness. His side of the bed is empty.
Cas was right here when they fell asleep, his arm had been thrown across Dean’s waist and his head buried in the crook of Dean’s neck. Dean had had an arm around him, too, and been able to feel his steady breaths as his chest rose and fell levelly.
There’s a strong sense of dread rising in Dean. He can’t breathe, he can barely think, because Cas was here and now he’s not.
He remembers last night. It had been nice. More than nice. Just the two of them, no monsters— physical or otherwise. They curled up on the couch and watched one of Cas’ weird bee documentaries. Half asleep, they lugged themselves back to their room and crawled into bed.
When the lights were out, Dean had pulled Cas closer.
“Love you,” he whispered.
He could feel Cas’ smile against his chest. “I love you, too.”
Soon enough they had drifted off and now Cas is gone and Dean has to find him.
Dean stumbles urgently out of bed and towards the open door. Heart thudding painfully, he hurries down the hallway.
There’s the muffled click of a mug being put down in the kitchen. Barely thinking, Dean bursts into there, and—
Cas’ hands are wrapped around a steaming mug embellished with gold bees. His hair sticks up six ways to Sunday, and his eyes are tired and the shade of blue they get when he’s thinking. They flick up to meet Dean’s, concern bleeding into them.
There’s no lurking shadow. No inky tendrils of nothing reaching out to drag him away. It’s just Cas. Just sleepy, coffee-addicted, bed-headed Cas.
Dean nearly sags in relief when he sees that Cas is fine. He’s fine.
“Dean?” Cas says
“I’m fine,” Dean says, even though he’s anything but.
“No, you’re not,” Cas says knowingly. He sees through Dean easily. “What was it?”
“Just… woke up, and—“ Dean doesn’t finish the sentence. The and you were gone echoes loudly in the quiet.
Cas stands, leaving his mug on the table, and moves forward to wrap his arms around Dean, tucking his face into Dean’s chest.
Dean practically melts at the contact.
“I’m sorry,” Cas says, words muffled.
“It’s not your fault,” Dean tells him, and it’s not. None of this is Cas’ fault. Dean’s just… broken. Slow-mending.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Cas says. “Today— today is six months.”
“Six months?” Dean repeats blankly. Then it hits him. “Oh.”
“Six months ago I left,” Cas says, and Dean realizes that he’s clinging to Dean as much as Dean is clinging to him. “I left, and I don’t regret saving you, I could never regret that, but—“
Dean holds him closer. “You didn’t leave, Cas.”
“I did,” Cas says.
“Well, you came back,” Dean says firmly. That’s the important part. That’s the part he cares about.
Cas opens his mouth to say something but Dean cuts him off.
“And you know what else this is six months since?” Even though he’s fucking traumatized by it, the memory still brings a faint smile to his face. “You told me you loved me. If you hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be here, right?”
“Yeah, you ended up in the Empty for awhile—“ Dean’s voice wavers just a little, but he recovers and continues lightly,“but it’s also kinda our six month anniversary. So… happy six month anniversary, babe.”
That wins him a soft laugh from Cas. “I don’t think this is our anniversary, considering we didn’t actually get together until after you rescued me. Or it would be when we met for the first time, which was much longer than six months ago.”
“Okay, smartass. Just was trying to be a little romantic,” Dean grumbles good-naturedly.
“I appreciate it,” Cas says, overwhelmingly sincere.
They just stand there for a while, arms still around each other. Dean focuses on the pressure of Cas’ hands on his back, the tickle of his hair on the side of Dean’s face. Cas is here. This is real and Cas is here and he’s alive .
Dean pulls back a little to cup Cas’ cheek. Their eyes meet. “You okay?” Dean asks gently.
“No,” Cas says, “but I’m getting there.”
Dean nods and leans forward to press a kiss to his temple.
He gets it. They’re not okay. They haven’t been for a long time. They’re battered and bruised and broken. They fight shadows and wait for something to drag them apart. They’re damaged, in almost every way possible.
But they’re still standing. Piece by piece they’re putting themselves and each other back together. Slowly, slowly, but together. Salvaging what they can and reinventing what they can’t. Recovery is long and hard and painful, but they’re doing it.
“What do you think about breakfast? Pancakes?” Dean suggests.
Cas gives him one of his small smiles. “Whatever you want.”
“Then we’ll do pancakes,” Dean decides, “and bacon. Lots of bacon.”
Cas’ smile widens and he brushes a kiss against Dean’s lips. “I love you,” he says. This time, this I love you, it’s better than six months ago.
“I love you, too,” Dean says.
And yeah. Maybe they’re messed up, but they’ll figure it out, how they always do.