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My knees hit the ground and my hands start shaking

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Blood. There was so much blood.

There were tears too. They came from Dean’s eyes, plopping into Castiel’s dark hair. There was blood in there too.

They hadn’t seen the demon behind them, didn’t see he had an angel blade.

Cas had saved Dean. Jumped in front of him, taking the weapon in the stomach.

The blood was his. Cas was dying. And Dean was holding him tight against his chest.

Cas pleaded to him to let go because his wings would burn Dean,leaving a painful scar.

Dean didn’t, he couldn’t let go.

And, when Cas died, his wings reached out, but they were trapped by Dean's body.

Cas' gorgeous wings burned into Dean's chest, down his arms, into his hands. They burned his legs too.

Dean could feel his skin burning, bubbling like boiling soup, destroying his nerves. And he could smell it too. But he didn’t cry out in pain, he wanted the last thing that Cas could hear was him singing their song.

 

You are my sunshine

My only sunshine

You make me happy, when skies are grey

You’ll never know Dear, how much I love you

Please don’t take my sunshine away...

 

That’s how Sam found him. Passed out, covered in severe third degree burns. Clutching a dead, bloody Castiel.

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Sam was losing it.

Dean had been unconscious in a coma for three days recovering from the severe third degree burns that were on his chest, arms, hands, and legs. The doctors were worried about long term damage to his nerves and his lungs. Cas’ wings had not just boiled Dean's skin but his insides too. Everything inside, muscles, nerves, organs, all were damaged where the wings had touched. Dean would be oh-so-lucky to even live through this.

Sam just wanted him to wake the fuck up so they could talk about Cas, instead of bottling it all inside. But Dean, of course, is way too stubborn to wake up just because Sam has his 'glorious mane in tangles’, as Dean would kindly put it.

At this point Sam wasn't just losing it, he was freaking the fuck out. His fingernails were just nubs by now and he hasn't left Dean's side in 72 hours, and counting. He just came back from a quick shower, a change of clothes and a shave at the motel because a nurse had actually gagged when she came to check on Dean. She gagged so bad, Sam thought she was going to start dry heaving right there in the doorway. Then she not so subtly told Sam to take a shower. Well, it was more like she told he had to take a shower, if Dean woke up, they would call him.

And of course, he would wait until Sam looked presentable, and smelling like fruit, to wake up. Fashionably late.

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It had been four months since Dean had woken up to what felt like a stranger's life. Their lives had changed so much, and it was hard to decide if it was good or bad. They no longer hunted, they couldn't. Dean couldn't.

Dean was still in the hospital for surgeries, skin grafts....and physical therapy. The doctor told them that Dean had severe nerve damage in his hands, arms, chest, legs; where his scars were. The doctor had explained that he would have great days, good days, okay days, bad days, and worse days. Doc told them everything he could to prepare them. But nothing could prepare them for what happened, not even the hospital staff was ready.

On great days, Dean would be able to walk around with little to no help, his hands would not shake and be able to grasp things well, and he wouldn't be in pain.

Good days he needed a cane, his hands shook slightly and fumbled a bit. He had minimal pain.

On okay days, Dean relied on a crutch to help him hobble around, his hands were shaking and barely holding on to the crutch, and pain was around a 7. At least, on the Winchester pain scale.

Bad days, Dean leaned heavy on a walker, shuffling from sitting spot to sitting spot, barely being able to hold anything, he was in a lot of pain.

But what scared the absolute living shit out of Sam was the worse days. Dean could sometimes get out of bed, but it was into a wheelchair. If he even tried to walk, his legs would shake terribly and buckle underneath him. He couldn't even hold anything, it would fall out of his spasming, weak hand. And Dean was in such agony, there was no number to describe it. Sam saw Dean crying once, the indescribable pain was so great. Sam cried with him that day too.

On top of it all, Dean’s lungs were so scarred and the tissue had thickened, causing for him to be on oxygen all the time. Without it he wouldn’t breathe.

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Dean was getting tired of the hospital and Sam had his hands full of grumpy Dean. All Sam could do was thank Chuck that Dean was finally able to leave in two weeks to a small split-level home Sam found a couple weeks ago. He had shown Dean some photos and it had Dean’s stamp of approval on it.

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After three weeks out of the hospital, they had a routine down. Sam would go to work at the local library, he had a knack for organization. And since Dean was somewhat independent on any days above ‘bad’, he would stay at home. Bobby, Charlie, and Ash had a computer set up for Dean's needs and soon he was doing research on all the spooky shit that went bump in the night for Bobby. Everything had finally calmed down after that intense whirlwind, it was almost perfect.

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Of all the days, it had to be not just a usual worse day, but one of the worst Sam had experienced in the three years since....Cas. Dean woke up that Thursday exhausted after a full night’s sleep, eyelids heavy with unfocused eyes, trembling head to toe, shivering despite the heat of the summer, and mumbling Cas’ name under his breath. No matter what his pain was, Thursdays were always the hardest and Sam knew why. Castiel, the angel of Thursday. Losing him made Dean dislike Thursdays, so Sam did too. He didn’t work on Thursdays, Dean could barely function on those days. But today, today was going to be hard.

Lifting Dean’s upper body up off the bed and resting him against the headboard, Sam tried to ignore the fact that he could feel Dean’s spine through his sleep shirt. Sitting next to Dean on the bed, he smoothed Dean’s hair to the side with his fingers, having stopped putting gel in his hair long ago. At the feel of Sam’s fingers, Dean stirred and sleepily slurred “G’d m’rnin’ S’m”. Dean opened his eyes a little more, showing Sam his green eyes while squinting to get Sam into focus. Six months after moving into their home, Sam had noticed Dean squinting like crazy and took him to an eye doctor where it was confirmed that without corrective lenses, Dean was nearly blind. Sam figured it was Cas’ light flashing when he died.

“S’mmy.”

Right. Pushing the past away, Sam quickly put the braces on Dean’s legs and back. He wasn’t going to walk today, but having the braces helped with managing Dean’s pain levels and Sam would do anything to help his brother. Gently placing Dean in his wheelchair after checking the oxygen, which Dean had playfully named ‘Little Impala’, he grabbed Dean’s glasses off the nightstand and carefully arranged them on Dean’s face, adjusting the nasal cannula underneath. Sam beamed at Dean, who weakly smiled back.

Pushing Dean out into the hallway, he began telling Dean about what they might do that day. Maybe go outside to their little garden or down the street to the park because it's such a nice day out, wouldn't it be nice to enjoy it?

“Dean? What do you say?”

“No Sam. Don't got it in me today.”

Damn it. Dean spends way too much time indoors for it to be healthy, and Sam is getting concerned. But he hates arguing with Dean so as per usual, Sam sucks it up and lets Dean barely leave the house.

Sighing, Sam brings Dean into the kitchen and parks him at the table.

“Do you want pancakes, waffles, or eggs? Or maybe a combination of them?” Sam asked.

Dean mumbled, “Feel like pancakes today I think.”

“Alrighty.” Sam smiled brightly, always hoping maybe Dean will return the same enthusiasm. With the usual no response, he makes them breakfast. And he doesn't burn it.

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After breakfast, Dean takes his plethora of pills. His immune system is all kinds of wonky and his nervous system is shot to hell. He takes painkillers, vitamins, supplements, and antidepressants. Sam often jokes that Dean could almost run his own pharmacy, with all the medications he takes. And Dean takes them without a fight, he doesn't want to leave Sam behind.

“Sam? Can you push me to the back bay window? I wanna look outside.”

Dean enjoyed looking out into the garden on the days he didn't want to go outside, they had a big bay window just for that reason. Rarely Dean will look out the front window, but he didn't like the people seeing him, he thought they tended to stare. And, after looking out the window for a bit, the sun will warm Dean up and he'll get sleepy and Sam will put him back in bed around noon for a much-needed nap. These days Dean's sleep is fitful, tossing and turning, dipping into a REM cycle only to be shocked awake by a nightmare.

So of course, around noon, Sam is tucking Dean in his bed and hoping Dean will actually sleep and have nice dreams. But sometimes the dreams are what he wanted with Cas and those are worse than the nightmares.

Dean wakes up two hours later groggier than he was this morning so Sam puts him in the recliner they have in Dean’s room angled to the window, letting Dean look into the garden. Sam sits in the other one next to Dean reading, drinking tea, and making sure Dean’s okay.

That’s where they are when the doorbell breaks the silence.

Dean doesn’t shift or blink, for second Sam wonders if Dean’s hearing got damaged too and it's only now becoming a problem when Dean goes “Get th’ door S’m.”

Sam walks down the hallway wondering who it could possibly be. No one said they were visiting and everyone but Charlie calls ahead so they don’t surprise Dean. Is it his boss? She knows he doesn’t work today. A neighbor? No, Dean faked a seizure once to get out of a party and since then they all avoid them like the plague. So Sam is the one who nearly has a heart attack when he opens the door that perfect Thursday afternoon, but at least it’s not Dean.

“WHAT THE FUCK!? CAS?!”

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“Oh my God, Cas.”

 

“Why are you mentioning my father?”

 

Sam blinked. Was this Cas? That sounded like Cas. I should check that it’s Cas before I take him to Dean. Oh my God, Dean. DEAN.

 

“Sam? Is everything alright? ” Cas was squinting at him as he frantically paced back and forth.

 

No. “Cas, I gotta check that you’re, well, Cas.”

 

“But I am.”

 

“No, no, Cas, it's just, ah... uh, Jesus--”

 

“He is my half-brother.”

 

Okay, there's no way this ISN'T Cas, but I've got to ask him the question. The question Dean insisted only Cas would know.

 

“Cas?”

 

“Yes, Sam?”

 

“What was the first song on the mixtape Dean gave you?”

 

“Ramble On, Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, 1969.” Cas looked like he was remembering a fond memory, it’s probably one with Dean.

 

And, Sam smiles, not one he wears for Dean, not the one he uses at work, not even the one he uses for their family and friends. A true smile and Sam swears his face fucking creaks.

 

Welcome home Cas. We have a lot to talk about.”

 

It was Cas’ turn to smile. And God, he missed that.

 

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When Castiel entered the Winchester brothers’ home, he was surprised to see it not look like the Bunker in any way. It was bright, open, and airy. There were dark hardwood floors and baby blue walls. The couches and recliner were nice and not cheap looking, and looked immensely comfortable. Sam lead Castiel farther into the home, the latter of the two noting that it was a wide open floor plan, easy to navigate.

 

The kitchen was Dean’s dream: a fancy stove, a huge, stainless steel fridge, granite countertops, and a farmer’s sink. It was beautiful, all light gray and white with a pale blue backsplash that complimented the baby blue in the living room. Altogether it gave an aura of calm over the entire room.

 

“Hey, Cas, uh, I’m going to go tell Dean that someone wants to see him, and then I’ll come get you, alright?” Sam sounded hesitant, even afraid, as if he was worried about Dean and Cas’ well being, primarily Dean’s.

 

“Okay.” Why would he need to warn Dean, did something happen when I died? Oh Father, did I hurt Dean?! I told him to let go!

 

Snapping out of his head at Sam’s retreating footsteps, Castiel took a deep breath and looked around. Next to the fridge on the wall was a calendar, but something looked different. Next to the calendar were a few sticker sheets, five to be exact, each a different color. There was a dark green, a light green, a yellow, an orange, and a red one. Each day on the calendar had a sticker on it. Sometimes there were multiple days in a row of the same color, other days had more than one sticker on it. There was no obvious pattern and Castiel felt his heart begin to pound and quicken along with his breath. He felt scared and worried all at once, and he didn’t know why.

 

Castiel stepped out into the living room in an attempt to calm down, when he realized that Sam was not back from talking to Dean yet. So Castiel made a split-second decision.

 

Fuck this shit. I’ll just fucking go find Sam, the stupid oversized man-child. Castiel paused. Well, that sounded like Dean. Castiel huffed a laugh and smiled a little bit. I miss that little shit, with his cute ass, how he always seems to need my di--- FOCUS CAS!!! OH MY FUCKING DAD!

 

Castiel looked around and found two steps up that led to a hallway where a door was ajar and headed in that direction. As he neared the door, he heard whispered voices, then he heard Sam tell Dean that he’s getting them and it will be fine. Castiel jumped at least two feet and flattened himself against the wall near the door that Sam stepped out of two seconds later.

 

“Oh! Hey, um, sorry about the, uh, wait. Dean’s a little irritable right now and nearly refused to, uh, see you. He doesn’t know it’s you, I just said it’s an old friend. Probably thinks you’re Missouri or something like that. He’s in bed, he needed to lay down. I think his muscles were getting stiff from sitting.” Castiel must have made a worried face because Sam was quick to reassure him. “Don’t worry too much Cas, that’s normal for Dean. He sits too long and he gets really stiff and has to lay down for a bit to relax his muscles. It’s normal.”

 

“But why is that normal for him Sam? What happened after I died? What happened?”

 

“Cas-”

 

“Tell me, Sam, damn it!” Castiel’s hands were clenched into fists and he was holding himself back from pounding against Sam’s chest with them. He was terrified and furious at himself for leaving Dean and allowing him to get hurt. Castiel wasn’t sure if he could handle it if he was the one that had caused Dean any pain.

 

There was a little bench next to Dean’s door. Sam shoved Castiel down to sit on it, then plopped himself down with flailing limbs and flopping hair.

 

Sam let out a big breath and ran his hands through his hair. “Alright, um. When you were stabbed, I guess you started to fall and Dean caught you. You told him to let go, but he ignored you. When your grace burned and your wings flared out, Dean got severe burns on his torso, arms, and legs. I took him to a hospital.” Castiel looked at Sam in surprise because for them hospitals tended to be the last resort. Neither had been to one in years. “I had to, there was no other choice. It was more than what we normally could handle, and it was pretty bad for a bit. He was unconscious for three days and when he woke up - God, Cas, God - it was-it-it was like he wasn’t the Dean I remembered. I thought he was okay, but then the pain started and there was a week, one week where he was fine, but at the end of that week, something happened inside his body overnight. I'm not sure what happened, but when I visited I had to call the nurses because he was in too much pain to even reach the call button. After that they put him on so much pain medication he was barely functional. Cas, his pain is chronic. How bad it is depends on the day or how much he’s worked himself up. And, he has scars, scars in the shape of your wings. I know you wanted him to let go, but Dean is stubborn, he didn’t want you to die alone. He wanted you to feel loved in your final moments. Don’t blame yourself for any of this, you are not at fault for Dean’s injuries, got it?”

 

Castiel was crying, how could he not be blamed? If he had seen the demon beforehand, this never would have happened. He and Dean could be married, maybe even had a family and retired together. But they didn’t. Pulling himself as together as much as he can, it was akin to putting shattered china back together, he asked Sam if he could go see Dean.

 

“Just...Be careful and be prepared for what you’re going to see.”

 

And Sam told Castiel all of the things Dean struggled with daily.

 

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Dean didn’t deserve this. Dean doesn’t deserve this. Dean never deserved this and never will. How could I be so senseless to let this happen? Father, have I forsaken you so much?! Is this how far I’ve fallen from Your Grace? Do you hate me so much that You would send me back to the only person I’ve loved as a human with essentially no grace to heal them?! He’s so broken Father! He’s lost! He thinks there is nothing for him because he is so damaged! HOW CAN YOU, A GOOD, GOOD FATHER, SEND ME BACK TO HIM UNABLE TO HEAL HIS INJURIES COMPLETELY!? HOW COULD YOU?! HO-. How could you?

 

Castiel leaned against the wall of the Winchester’s bathroom as he earnestly and feverishly prayed after seeing Dean three years after he... he died and left. He returned, once again, wholly human, with the tiniest amount of grace that could heal nothing he wanted to. He was no angel, he was going to age, with Dean. He might have enough to take away the pain, just for a little while at a time, but that pain will come back. He can never take it away completely. Dean had told him it was fine, that it was okay that Cas couldn’t heal him. It was fine that he could only ease his pain, it was more than enough. Dean said that him being here, alive, was enough.

 

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(DEAN’S POV)

 

When Sam came back after answering the door and told Dean an old friend was here to visit, he tried to get out of it, it wasn’t a good day. Dean grumbled at Sam, telling him “Fuck off, I wanna sleep”, but Sam was adamant that Dean sees whoever it is, probably Missouri or some other shit. Dean finally relented after a lot of coaxing on Sam’s part and some threats on Dean’s part. Finally, he told Sam to go get them, he’ll be right here, but when Dean shifted in the recliner, he winced because fuck he was stiff and in some pain. Sam, being the prissy little bitch he is during his free time (which Dean swears is 24/7), sighs (again, like the pretentious little fuck he is) and moves Dean onto his bed and gave him some painkillers.

 

God bless fucking memory foam, this feels like an orgasm. Fuck me up comfortably.

 

Maybe a little too much painkillers for once.

 

“Dean. I’m going to get them, alright?” Dean grunted in response. “Dean.”

 

Dean turns to look at Sam. Oh look, a bitch-face.

 

“Jesus Sam, I heard you the first time. Go. I’m going to doze for a bit.”

 

Oh my God, he’s still here.

 

“Dude, just, go.”

 

Sam huffs and steps out the door gently pulling it shut. As he leaves, he shakes that ridiculous, floppy hair that Dean can’t get him to cut, not for love or money. He sometimes ties it all back and Dean wants him to fall asleep with his hair like that so in one snip of a pair of scissors, Dean can save his sanity.

 

Dean tries to take a catnap, literally just give me two seconds, but hears Sam in the hallway whispering like some damn secret agent. Sam’s voice is bothering him ( LET ME FUCKING SLEEP ), but someone else is with him. Dean can’t really make the voice out, but it sounds so melodious and soothing that Dean finally gets his fucking catnap.

 

Cas? That sounds like you... where are you?.... Cas?

 

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Dean is woken up later by gentle hands, Sam? I heard Cas, is he- no, he’s g-gone , and opens his eyes to find Sam, teary-eyed yet joyful, looking at him. Dean is confused and still sleepy, not understanding the quiet joy flowing from every pore of Sam.

 

“Dean, you’re talking to yourself again,” Sam said, finally bringing Dean out of sleep-land enough for him to function, just enough.

 

Oh shit, I said that out loud.

 

“Dean?” Dean cracked an eye open, rubbing the other one.

 

“Sammy?” Sam fucking chuckles, the dick.

 

Dude. I am not processing this shit right now. Explain. Dean can’t do anything more than a half-hearted glare at Sam.

 

“God, Dean.” The dude is nearly crying, weirdo.

 

Jesus FUCK, continue.

 

“There’s someone here who you need to see. It’s really important.”

 

“Sammy, wha’s going on? Wh’ was a’ the door?” Asshole just smiled as he propped Dean against a mound of pillows, oooh that’s comfy , not saying anything. “Sammy.”

 

“Dean. Just stay there. And don’t move.” Dumbass then nearly sprints to the door, all excited like a dog. Well, more like an overly hyper puppy.

 

“Really, Sam? Fucking really?” Like I could move without help right now.

 

“Just-just listen to me, Dean. You want to be sitting down for this, trust me.” Oh God, here comes Samantha, damn it. “You’re going to be happy for once, I promise. Trust me, man.”

 

Dean blinks. Happy? Yeah, sure. “Okay, Sam.”

 

“Okay. But don’t die on me or anything.”

 

“No promises. It’s standard procedure now.”

 

“Not fucking funny dude.” Sam was standing by the door now. “Ready?”

 

“I’m not supposed to move. How am I ready?” Oh lovely, another bitch face. “Your face is going to get stuck like that, you know.” Sam just glares. Does the guy blink?

 

“Dean. I swear to God if-”

 

“Dude, just open the freaking door.” Dean heard the near silent creak and the gentle woosh of the air as Sam opened the door and-

 

“Hello, Dean.” And a smile.

 

Dean fucking chokes. It was like he had just eaten something dry and when he tried to swallow, it got stuck and his throat burned. Elephants were sitting on his chest and his head began to pound against his skull like the bass drum of a live rock band.

 

Sam and I are having hallucinations, a mass hallucination. It’s a damn ghost, a shapeshifter, skinwalker. Its something, its anything. I’m dreaming? What’s this I’m feeling in my heart and stomach? Oh, God. If this is a lie, I can’t handle this. I can’t, I ca-

 

“It has been a long time, Dean.” A soft hand brushes his own weak one resting on his lap above his comforter. It pulls him from his mind. Blue eyes, that have always reminded Dean of nebulas and ocean waves, looked at Dean with such empathy and love; yet, Dean could almost see his own pain reflected back at him, raw and violent, capable of breaking men and nations. Dean’s heart skipped beats and threw itself against his rib cage, as if it wanted to see the most beautiful man Dean has ever loved, sitting on his bed, hip to hip, holding his hand. Like it was the only thing keeping him from drowning into his own mind.

 

Dean’s breathing stuttered, butterflies formed tornadoes in his stomach, his hands felt as though they were earthquakes attached to his arms- wait. He should be happy, right?

 

Why am I terrified? Why do I feel this way? I mean, come on. It’s just-. Cas. It’s just Cas. Oh God, he’s falling in love all over again.

 

Cas. ” God, that sounds broken. “Y-you, you, y-” I can’t breathe, oh God, are these tears? My chest is tight, I can’t-

 

“Cas. Cas, please” Dean was sobbing softly, tear tracks tracing his cheekbones.

 

“I know, Dean. I’m here. I’m here, don’t worry.”

 

The hand in my hair feels nice.

 

Dean lets out a small laugh. “I’m not a dog, Cas.”