The sound of footsteps echoed as Castiel slowly walked down the hallway, each step a reminder that - for once - he was completely alone in the bunker, and in no rush to reach his final destination. Cool air that never usually had much of an effect on him caused him to shiver and bury his hands in the pockets of the trench coat as he continued, sparing a small glance to the kitchen as he passed.
It was in perfect order with each utensil in it’s proper place and the chairs tucked in neatly against the table; as orderly as Dean always insisted it stay.
There was, however, a small layer of dust that was beginning to gather on the counter top, which caused Castiel to frown and tilt his head to the side - instantly making it vanish before he continued on.
The walk wasn’t a long one, but to Castiel, it felt like another eternity as his heart willed him to stop, turn around, and forget he ever had this idea in the first place.
With each slow step, his legs drove him deeper into the heart of the bunker until he, almost suddenly, was standing in front of the familiar door to Dean’s bedroom.
The door was slightly ajar already, so all it took was a small push of a hand, and the door gently creaked open revealing the room that Castiel now knew very well.
It took a few moments before he was able to will his feet into stepping forward, but eventually the echoes continued as he trudged onward into the room.
Castiel let his fingers run along the bed as he passed it and up onto the desk that now rested directly to the right of it with various pictures and items laying on top. There were rejected ID photos that Dean had, apparently, decided to keep, old childhood photos that he’d saved for years, and newer ones that were of the three of them.
He smiled as he picked up a photograph that Dean had taken of just the two of them - the one where Castiel had blinked when the flash had gone off.
“What are you doing, Cas?”
Castiel jerked around towards the sound of the voice as he fumbled with the photograph and nearly dropping it.
Leaning against the door frame in a leather jacket and casual smirk, was the one and only Dean Winchester.
“Dean?” Castiel pressed the picture to his chest as he swallowed, “I - what are you doing here?”
Dean raised an eyebrow as he shrugged. “It’s my room, isn’t it? What are you doing here?”
“I - but you -”
“I was was waiting for you,” Dean said, shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly, “I mean I figured you’d come back here eventually so -” He held his hands up in the air though his face hinted at something much more vulnerable. “-ta da.”
All Castiel could do was stare with his mouth open, too distracted with studying the lines on Dean’s face to form something coherent.
“I uh, I prepared for this,” Dean admitted as he rubbed at the back of his neck, almost looking a little guilty, “I figured that, um, we wouldn’t - uh, well in our line of work you don’t always get a real goodbye, right?”
Dean’s form flickered as he took a step forward.
“It wasn’t your fault, you know.”
“Dean,” Castiel’s voice cracked as he spoke again.
“I’m serious,” Dean took another step closer with an intense look in his eyes, “It was always going to happen this way. You’re basically immortal and Sammy and I - ” he shrugged helplessly, “- well we don’t have the lifespan you do. We both had expiration dates.”
“Dean, I -”
“Listen, I know I don’t have very long before things will probably go haywire for me, so let me get something out,” Dean reached out to set a hand on Castiel’s shoulder, frowning as it passed right through him.
“Right, well,” Dean swallowed before looking his angel in the eyes, “I need you to believe that this wasn’t your fault, okay? Time. . . is weird for me right now, but it feels like it’s been a kind of a long time since. . . since I. . .”
“Died.” Castiel finished hollowly.
“Yeah,” Dean cleared his throat and nodded, “I want to move on, but not before I know that you believe that.”
Castiel just stared.
“You can’t save everyone, Cas.” Dean said with a wry smile, “You can save a lot, but not everyone. There was eventually gonna be a time where you couldn’t save us. Where you couldn’t save me .”
“But if I had just -”
“Stop it. Don’t do that to yourself.” Dean shook his head furiously, “I know you, and I know that you’ve probably been beating yourself up over ‘what ifs’ and you have to promise me that you won’t do that anymore.”
The first tear finally spilled over and down Castiel’s cheek as he tried to touch Dean’s face a foot away, only to have his hand pass through. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.” Dean’s confident facade was beginning to crack the longer he looked, “So do you promise?”
“I promise.” He lied.
“Good,” Dean nodded slowly, his shoulders sagging with relief. “Thank you. Now I can -”
“Don’t go!” Castiel gripped the photograph tightly as more tears slipped down his face, “I can’t find it, Dean. Don’t leave.”
Dean frowned and leaned forward, “Hey, hey, it’s okay. What do you mean? Find what?”
“Your heaven. I can’t find your heaven. If you go. . . I’ll never see you again.”
Dean shrugged, obviously not sensing the gravity of the situation. “You just can’t find it ‘cause I’m not there yet, right? When I, you know, move on it’ll appear.”
Castiel shook his head.
“The moment - the moment you died it should have burst into existence, even if you were still anchored to earth.” Castiel sat down on the head of the bed, setting the picture on his lap. “But I can’t find yours, and I can’t find Sam’s. I thought I’d never see you again and now - Dean I don’t want you to disappear.”
Dean smiled again after a moment of thought. “Cas, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that you’ll find me one day.”
“I wish I could say the same.”
“You are unstoppable, Castiel.” Dean sat down on the bed next to him, “I’ve seen you do so much more for much less. I saw demons cower at the sight of you while you dragged me from hell. I’ve seen gods tremble at just hearing your name.” He grinned, “And if heaven thinks a little game of hide-and-seek is enough to keep us apart, it’s got another thing coming.”
“I watched you rake leaves,” Castiel said, the floodgates opening as it all came rushing out in nearly unintelligible desperation. He didn’t have Dean’s confidence. “I knew I should have gone to you, but I just watched. I killed you thousands of time under Naomi’s thumb until I could do it without thinking and I still couldn’t do it. You broke the connection in the crypt.”
The list continued to pour out of Castiel’s mouth as he stared at Dean.
“I would have lived a thousand years watching you raze the world just for a chance to save you. I would have gone with you. I would have gone with you to the edge of the universe and back. I love you.”
The edges around Dean’s eyes softened as the final words left Castiel’s mouth.
“I know,” he murmured, “And I love you, too.”
There was a moment of silence that followed as they simply stared at each other, neither one wanting to break.
“I need to go now, Castiel.” Dean said softly as his form flickered again, “I can feel it.”
“You’re going to have to burn that picture.”
Castiel moved his hand on top of it protectively. “What? This is your anchor?”
Dean nodded. “Yeah. It uh, it means a lot to me. I made sure that it never left my room just in case this happened.”
“But. . . I want to keep it.”
“We’ll take another when you come visit me.” Dean smiled reassuringly. his eyes trying to communicate something that he couldn’t say with words “You got this, Cas. I’ll see you soon, okay?”
Castiel nodded halfheartedly, not as confident as Dean seemed to be. When he looked up again, Dean had flickered out of existence.
“Dean?” Castiel called, tugging at the fading strand of hope.
He stared down at the picture in his hand and swallowed before it burst into flame against his palm, ignoring the acrid smell of it burning away as determination set in.
He’d spent forty years fighting his way to Dean once before.
He could do it again.