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and sun-soaked we rest

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Dean!” 

He sees the trench coat flutter, hears loud banging noises, and then his hearing gives out. Cas is kneeling next to him, cradling Dean’s head in his hands. Sam appears next to them and drops down, searches Dean’s body quickly before pressing into his stomach.

Dean opens his mouth to scream, but doesnt know if a single sound comes out. He sees Cas’ lips move, and Sam moves away. There’s a warm hand on his forehead, a soothing thumb stroke on his cheek, and everything becomes too much. The coldness of the floor seeping through his jacket, the painful throb in his head, Cas’ touches hitting him like lightning strikes where they appear suddenly. 

Then, Sam’s back. Dean’s being carried into the Impala’s back seat; Sam drives, and the car is being yanked from side to side, speeds up and Dean vomits at a violent lurch. He leans his head back into the soft warmth behind him, and distantly watches Cas wipe his face with his coat sleeve. He’s still cradling his head, as if it’s gonna protect him now. Now, after he feels the blood running from his stomach, the pulsating mess of his head. He can’t hear, and his vision’s fading out, and he’s terrified. He chokes, on blood or more vomit he doesn’t know, and passes out as Cas turns him on his side. 

There are brief intermissions of bright light in his eyes, rough hands on his body. The cold hits his overheated skin as his clothes are cut away, and the cool scissors leave burning goosebumps in their wake. He wants to make the sensations stop, doesn't want evil hands on him, and lifts his arm to hit whatever he can reach. He feels his arms being held down and he’s alone and terrified. What will they do? How often does he have to lie here, tied up until Alastair has enough, when will it finally all—

40 hours earlier 

They're at the farmer's market, and Sam's sniffing soaps. Dean's standing to the side, eyeing different stands of flowers, arts and crafts everywhere. He spots a booth for honey, and tentatively walks over.

It's late April; the sun is weak but bright. Dean can feel its slight warmth on his face as he squints against it to read the signs. He takes a step closer and can smell the honey and lavender, wood and other plants he can't quite make out. The old woman behind it looks up, smiles and continues painting a small vase in front of her. 

There's candles, soap bars with petals and honeycomb pieces embedded, glinting a deep gold color in the spring sun. Undeniably handmade cups, bowls and plates are stacked on the right side, none of them plain, all decorated and painted. There's flower fields and bees, bunnies and butterflies. In the very front sit big, chunky jars with honey. They're all slightly varying in color, the little handwritten notes explaining the ages and flowers used to make them. Dean's fascinated. He thinks back to a long time ago, when Cas was hurt and buried himself in things like bees. He still speaks fondly of them, had asked Dean if they could make a small garden in the woods behind the bunker. 

A small handwoven basket catches his eye. It holds a variety of small things, a cup with a beautiful gold and brown honeycomb pattern, as well as tiny honey jars and tea. He doesn't think twice about buying it. 

Sam finds him a moment after he takes the burlap bag with the basket in it. 

"What's in there?" 

"Uh," Dean says. "Condoms."

Sam makes a face at him. "You don't have to hide that you're buying," Sam peers around him, "honey?" 

It takes a few moments before he grins. 

"What?" Dean asks. 

"Nothing. Enjoy your honey." 

"Bitch."

"Jerk," Sam laughs and slaps Dean on the back. 

Dean's happy Sam is distracted for a moment, at least while they're here. Eileen leaving had been brutal on him, and Dean knows Sam tries to hide it, but it's no use. He can read him too well. 

They circle back to the car, several full bags in their hands. They bought a little stand with several fresh herbs in little clay pots, and it was absolutely Dean's idea, and he can't wait to put fresh basil on the homemade pizza later. 

The bags are put carefully in the trunk, and as they sit down Dean’s phone rings.

“Hey Cas, you’re on speaker with Sam.”

“Hello,” Cas says. “Did you enjoy the farmer’s market?”

“It was great,” Dean says. “Got lots of stuff.”

“That’s wonderful,” Cas says. “It looked beautiful when we looked it up, I’m glad it was as nice in person.”

“What do you mean, ‘looked it up’?” Sam asks.

“We looked for stuff that might be fun to do, get your mind off things.” Dean shrugs.

"Ah," Sam says. "So you two are conspiring against people to cheer them up? Cute." 

"Shut it," Dean says. "Hey Cas, Jody called with a case. Wanna join?" 

"Yes," Cas says immediately. "When, where? What are we hunting?" 

"It's a big vamp nest in Creston, Wyoming. Too much for the two local hunters, so they need backup. We can pick up some supplies at the bunker and you can just join then? I don't think we need two cars."

"I returned half an hour ago, so I'll wait here." Cas hangs up and Sam laughs. 

"Will he ever say goodbye on the phone?"

Dean pulls into the road leading to the bunker. "Probably not." 

They drop three full duffel bags in the trunk and Sam lets Cas ride shotgun. Dean eyes him when he says it, but Sam just raises an eyebrow and awkwardly curls up in the back seat with a book. 

The drive is long, but not too much so, and they'll arrive at night. Cas had picked out the motel, interested in the historical part of town they'll be staying in.

Zep IV accompanies them on the first part of the drive, and when Dean gets hungry, he swaps with Sam to eat cheap cherry pie from a gas station. Cas is in the back, using Sam's laptop to read about God knows what, and it feels soft. It's content, it's familiar, and Dean aches with the pleasant weight it creates inside of him. 

They arrive at about nine in the evening. The motel is old but clean, neon signs reflecting in ditches from the brief downpour they encountered earlier. The air is cold and damp, sending a brief shiver through Dean as they walk towards the reception. Only one double room left, but they act like it's fine. No need to tell the clerk that the third of their group doesn't sleep. 

The room's bigger than expected. Two okay—ish doubles, a shabby sofa and everything color coordinated in different tones of blue. The bathroom is an off white, with creaky door hinges, but clean. Dean spots an Applebee's across the street, and drags the others over. They drop into a booth at the window, Dean next to Cas with Cas having the window seat.

It’s not long until a waitress comes over and greets them.

“I'll have the grilled lemon chicken with oven veggies on the side, please,” Sam says and puts down his menu. 

Dean skims the mains again. “I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger. Veggies on the side too. Thanks," Dean says.

Sam looks mildly surprised.

"What? I'm allowed to order vegetables."

"And for you?" The woman smiles at Cas, her pen hovering over her small bent notepad. 

"I'd like a slice of apple pie, please," Cas tells her, and Dean falls a little bit in love. 

They re—pack their bags in the morning. It's almost noon before they get into the car, the weather clear but not sunny. 

The old warehouse Jody told them about is right outside town, a twenty minute drive from the city center where they picked up breakfast. An uneven gravel road leads them towards lone  and run—down houses, unkempt lawns appearing further apart the longer they drive. 

They decide to park hidden in a cluster of trees and bushes. They see the warehouse; it's smaller than expected, but as dirty as they're used to. 

Everyone stocks up on weapons. 

Walking towards the building makes the hairs on Dean's arms stand up. It feels vulnerable; even though most likely every vampire in that building isn't paying attention, it still feels wrong to just.. walk up. No matter how many times they've done it in the past. 

The hard dirt underneath their heavy boots creates soft thumping noises. Dean's first, Sam right behind him on his right, Cas on his left. They pull their weapons in sync, ready to defend. They creep along the left side of the building until they find a hole that once held a door. 

Dean peeks in. There's at least a dozen of them, lounging around, two men making out in a corner and biting each other an uncomfortable amount while doing so. Dean can hear quiet rock music from an outdated boombox. A few vampires are lying in hammocks, but most are on dirty mattresses on the floor. He makes up a quick map, focuses on the clusters and tries to decide whether they should split up or stay together. 

A quick prayer to Cas sends his plan of attack. They’re using a model they’ve done before: Dean and Sam will go in first, and Cas will quietly do the job in the shadows, then join them again afterwards. Dean nods to Sam, shows two fingers, then one, and Sam nods back. Dean raises his weapon, pulse elevated, senses sharp as they can be.

Now

There’s nothing but black. No sounds to feel, smells to taste. He tries to move, but cannot. Dean’s floating in a weird kind of darkness, though it doesn’t feel suffocating, or even final. It just is. 

Suddenly he lurches forward and finds himself standing in a hospital room. 

“Not again,” he says, because right there on the bed is himself. Sam is sitting on a chair next to him, Dean’s right hand in one of his giant ones, and Cas is standing at the foot of the bed. Dean’s painfully reminded of the last time this happened, and it tells him everything he needs to know. He’s dying.

Dean looks at himself, and grimaces. He looks awful. His face is cut up, though the blood is cleaned away. There’s a bandage around his head, his left arm is in a cast, as is his right calf. A tube is in his throat. He can’t remember breaking his arm or his leg, but he also can’t remember a whole lot besides the pain in his head, and his overloaded senses. 

His eyes wander to Cas, and he does a double take. Cas' eyes are bright, a single tear track on his cheek. He's gripping the end of the bed so tightly his knuckles are white, and as Dean steps closer he can see a faint shimmer around him, emitting a soft blue light like an aura.

Dean wants to reach out to his family, to console them that it's okay, his time would've come at some point. Though, he thinks sadly, he had started to allow himself to dream. Imagined a house he owns, maybe a second car in the driveway, someone to share the chores with. He'd never dared to fill in the details for the other person. But, at some point, his quiet hope had been a death of old age instead of in the flurry of the fight. 

A water bottle sits on the tray, and he tries to move it, but to no avail. Sam doesn't react to Dean touching him, not even as he tries to pull his hair. 

Cas, however, jerks violently as Dean lays a hand on his arm. He looks around but can't see Dean, doesn't lock eyes with him, doesn't return his smile. Dean's heart aches so much he thinks it'll kill him. 

“What about Rowena?” Sam wipes his nose on his sleeve. “Maybe she can help. Maybe we can find something, it’s just a strong healing spell needed, right?” His voice is thick with emotion.

“Lock the door,” Cas says. 

“What?”

“Lock it. Barricade it, just keep it secure.” Cas rolls up his sleeves, looks around the room, rifles through a cabinet. Dean looks over his shoulder, watches him discard thing after thing. 

Sam gets up, stalks to the door and locks it. He pushes the little bedside cart in front of it and locks its breaks. 

Cas’ hands are hovering over Dean's chest. He moves them to his forehead, his stomach, back up and around. Dean can feel the warmth of them, can track Cas' touch as it wanders, and a slight shiver runs through him. 

“I thought your grace wasn’t strong enough to heal?” Sam looks between Cas’ furrowed brows and Dean.

“It’s not.” Cas takes off his tie, unbuttons the first few buttons of his dress shirt. He takes his angel blade and holds it to his throat. He flicks his wrist and cuts clean but shallow across his throat.

“Cas—” 

Both Dean and Sam yell it. Sam's halfway out of his chair, but all movement is stopped by the soft glow appearing from Cas’ wound. 

The grace takes its time. It trickles out, wafting in small cloudy pieces like cotton candy. Icy blue light is the center of the room now, the sunlight dimmed, nothing as bright as the grace that’s swirling and moving. Cas’ eyes are closed, he’s almost grimacing before he moves his hand and places it on Dean’s chest. 

The grace dims for a moment. The clock on the wall stops, and Dean watches the grace enter his body. He steps closer. He can see it, glowing under his skin. It moves to his heart, forms a circle and then bursts into every direction, reaching his toes and the tips of his ears. The lightbulbs in the room burst, the heart monitor gives out, and the last thing Dean hears is yelling outside the room. 

Dean slowly opens his eyes. 

"Thank God," Sam says and hugs him so tight Dean's scared he's gonna faint. Dean lets himself be hugged and as Sam pulls back his eyes meet Cas'. 

Cas quickly hides a bloody tissue he dabbed on his neck, but isn't quick enough to hide the wound. 

"Cas?" Dean's brain feels foggy as he tries to understand, and he can't get a grasp at the answer. 

“What,” Dean says, his throat dry, and he gestures to Cas’ neck.

"One of the vampires took my angel blade and attacked me," Cas says. "I have trouble healing it because of my weak grace." 

Dean squints at him, detects the dishonesty but lets it slide for the moment. There's people trying to get into the room, and Dean opens his mouth to say something as the door bursts open. 

The little cart is slammed back against the wall and everyone looks rattled, including the doctor and two nurses standing in the door. They're looking at Dean like he's unreal, and he looks right back. 

"Sorry about the door," Sam says. "We locked it earlier because my brother had to go to the bathroom. Uh, with help. Forgot to unlock."

"Uhm," the doctor says. "Your brother is— he was intubated!" 

Dean takes pity on the poor guy. "'m all good, doc. Just got a bit knocked around but I appreciate the great care."

Cas is flitting around the room, collecting the handful of their things as Sam helps Dean sit up.

"We want to discharge him," Cas says to one of the nurses. 

"His chart lists life endangering injuries—" the nurse replies, and they look at Dean like they've seen a ghost. "You'd have to sign that you're leaving against medical advice."

“Will do.” 

They put Dean into a squeaky wheelchair and Cas rolls him outside while Sam tackles the paperwork of fake identities and disappeared injuries. It's a bit cool outside, dusk setting in and stealing the sun’s spring warmth. A butterfly inspects Dean before returning to the flower beds surrounding the parking lot. 

"Where's Baby?" 

"Around the corner. I had to park her while, uhm. While Sam carried you in."

"Ah," Dean says. Then looks at Cas and his neck wound again. "Wait, what do you mean carried? How bad was it?" 

Cas swallows. "Bad." 

"How come I'm walking and talking now?" 

"I'd guess it's the excellent medical care of—" 

"Don't bullshit me, Cas. What did you do?" 

"Nothing dangerous. I promise. You're alive, we're okay, and that's all that matters." 

Dean glares at him, dissatisfied with the answer, but Sam interrupts them. 

"Let's go," he says. "Pretty sure I accidentally switched first names twice while filling all that out." 

They make their way to the car, and Dean accepts Sam's nudge to the passenger seat. As he sits down though, he notices the smell. And the stains. 

"What the—" 

He turns and sees the back seat covered in blood. There's vomit on the floor, dirt all over the other end. His brain tries to make sense of the amount of blood he sees, tries to make it fit into how well he's feeling and the fact that neither Sam nor Cas look seriously injured. 

"Did we hit a deer on the way and bring it too?" 

He doesn't get a reply. Cas sits down on the dried blood, dodges the puddle awkwardly and looks out the window. Sam just drives. 

Dean stretches as they get out of the car. He feels strangely good, there's a warmth in him and his muscles feel relaxed as if someone had just massaged them. Sam and Cas both eye him, but look away when he meets their eyes. The third time it happens, he’s had enough. 

"Okay, what?" 

Sam and Cas both have picture-perfect deer in headlights looks on their faces. 

"Uhm," Cas says. 

"Why do you two keep staring at me? Something on my face?" 

"We're not," Sam says, as Cas apologizes. They share a glance and Dean snaps his fingers to get their attention again. 

"I'm sick of this. If there's something going on, say it."

"We're just worried if you're really okay," Sam says carefully. "I guess we both thought you'd be more badly hurt. We're just glad?" 

Cas nods. Dean raises an eyebrow, sees a slight something in both of their expressions, but can't put his finger on it. There's open worry there for sure, and for now that's enough. 

"I'm fine, guys. I promise. I'll tell you if it changes."

That earns him a smile from both, and he rolls his eyes and exits the garage and walks into the bunkers main hallway. Sam walks to his room, declares he wants to try the tea he bought at the farmer’s market, and a hot shower, then sleep. Dean suddenly realizes how incredibly hungry he is and heads straight for the kitchen to make a sandwich.

"Do we have jam?" Cas is timidly looking through the pantry. Dean pulls out a jar of half-empty strawberry jam from the fridge and nudges a jar of peanut butter over too. 

"You wanna try some more food again? I remember making a PB&J for you." 

"Yes," Cas says quietly. "The pie I had was wonderful. I figured I'd like some more dishes with fruit in them." He takes the two slices of white bread Dean gives him and puts them on one of their mismatched Ikea plates, then cuts off the crust with military precision. 

Dean's chest is awash with the warm feeling of home and family, watching Cas make a sandwich while Sam is undoubtedly fighting with the water kettle for his green tea in his room. 

They sit at the table together, across from each other. Cas smears some jam on the table and Dean swipes it up with his finger and licks it off. 

"'S good stuff," he says. "Shoulda made one too. But," he lifts the upper bread slice, "this beautiful honey ham called my name." 

"Can I try?"

Dean nods and tears off a corner of the meat. As Cas takes it almost falls and they both grab for it, fingers briefly intertwined but letting go just as quickly. Dean watches Cas try the ham, sees him chew thoughtfully and analyze every bit of it. Then, he smiles. 

"I like it. It's sweet and savory."

"Yup," Dean says and takes a too-big bite of his sandwich. Cas looks up as he's trying to shove the tomato slice in that's attempting to escape, and he makes a weird noise. Dean chews and looks and sees him smile, sparkling eyes and all. 

"Your table manners are atrocious," Cas says smiling. 

Dean grins. "One hundred percent Winchester charm. Available in this very kitchen."

Cas tilts his head. "I think I'll be staying here indefinitely, then."

"Ugh, please," Dean says, and hurries to continue as Cas' face falls. "You moved in months ago. I keep finding new plants everywhere. Where are they even coming from?" 

Cas beams at that. "Sam brings me some small ones sometimes, when he goes to the grocery store. Most of them I've pulled from seeds and then I repot them into something else. They take the bunker's air surprisingly well."

"We need to get on about that garden thing you asked me about. Could make a fun summer project out of it, or plan it more detailed and wait ‘til next spring." 

"Did you just describe gardening and building stuff as fun?" Sam says as he comes in and rinses his mug. 

Dean raises an eyebrow. "I like building stuff, thank you very much. And Cas will do the gardening."

"I have a member card for Lowe’s," Sam says and Dean groans. 

"Of course you do." 

"Hey, you thanked me for getting those nice new towels," Sam says. "Don't talk shit about Lowe’s." 

Dean nods and thinks for a moment. He’s already considering different types of wood, if he should use the same for inside and outside, when his thoughts halt. He can’t help but huff a laugh.

“What’s so funny?” 

"Nothing, just," Dean says quietly. "Did you ever think we'd argue about Lowe’s instead of apocalypse stuff or who’s dying next?"

Sam goes quiet for a moment, and Cas just looks at Dean.

"I guess not," Sam replies, and puts the clean mug back into the cupboard. 

“I think it’s a pretty good change,” Dean says. “I could get used to it.”

“Me too,” Sam nods. 

Dean grins. “In that case, let’s build a greenhouse!”

"It’s going to have to wait until tomorrow at least," Sam says. “I need sleep.” 

“We need to plan it, too,” Cas says. “To make sure it’s perfect.”

Dean gives him a thumbs up while chewing the last bite of his sandwich. Sam salutes them and leaves the kitchen. 

"Should hit the hay too," Dean says. "Was a long day."

Cas nods. "It was. I'm glad you're okay."

Dean turns to look at him, and nods too. "Me too. Thanks for, y'know, looking out for me."

"It's what family does," Cas says but shifts and seems unsure. Dean gives in and hugs him firmly.

"It is."

They hold each other for a moment, and Dean can't fight the slight tickle in his mind, the reminder that there's something, something he's forgetting here. He can't put a finger on it, so he ignores it. 

"You gonna read?" They walk together, Cas' room-- with a new-ish sofa Dean got for him from Goodwill-- just a few doors down from Dean's own room. 

"I thought about watching some movies. I still have the list you gave me." 

Dean grins, stops in front of his room and gives Cas a slap on the back. "Have fun, man." 

Cas gives him an awkward wave and Dean watches him disappear into his room.

Chapter Text

Dean closes his door and runs a hand over his face. He brushes his teeth, puts on his favorite flannel pajama pants and worn dark gray shirt, and slips under the covers. He reaches over to turn the bedside lamp off, and with a click the room is almost pitch black except for the soft glow coming in from the vent in the door. 

He pulls the blanket over his shoulders and turns onto his side, snuggles into his foam mattress and relishes in the immediate relaxation of his muscles. It takes him a while to fall asleep. 

Sometime later he wakes up, his clock telling him it’s still nighttime, and gets up to get a glass of water. He opens the door and steps out into the hallway. There's Cas, and Dean lifts his hand to reach out, but suddenly falls. Dark, stormy clouds race past him; thunder booms and he can feel the vibrations in his teeth. Wind whips past him, making his eyes sting and he tries to control his fall, to contort his body but there's no use. He's falling, forever, until he suddenly sits up in his own bed. 

There's sweat running down his temples, dripping onto his shirt. His breathing is fast and shallow, and he has to force himself to try and calm down. Suddenly his door opens, but instead of the hallway there’s a foreign scene unfolding. It's a battle, clearly, hundreds of winged creatures around his point of view. The focus changes and it's like he's looking at his own hand, draped in a gold and white armored glove and holding an angel blade. He doesn’t understand what he’s seeing, but knows it’s somehow about angels. 

The scene changes to what he immediately recognizes as hell. The screams and dark colors mark it, lightning crackling in the distance. Then, he sees himself. He's standing next to the rack, tears streaming down his face and cutting through the grime on his cheeks as he steps back from the young man strapped to the table, the spitting image of Sam just out of high school. Alistair is there, lifting his hand, but the angel whose eyes Dean is watching this through plunges a knife into him and pushes him back. Dean watches the angel reach towards the Dean in hell, and places his hand on his shoulder. Dean can see into his own eyes, can see the tears and the bright light reflected back at him. The angel grabs, pulls him close, and they ascend towards the sky. 

This time, Dean just opens his eyes and looks at the gray ceiling. He's not sweating or screaming, but his heart's beating a mile a minute, and worst of all, he doesn't understand. Were those Cas' memories? Why can he see them? As he combs through his brain for the answer, he spots his second duffle on the floor. For some reason he feels drawn to it, gets out of bed and walks over. Slowly he zips it open, takes out laundry and a half empty bag of teriyaki jerky, and finds a plastic bag with the clothes he wore to the hunt. 

It's his pair of dark wash jeans with a hole at the shin, and a dark green plaid. The colors are barely recognizable; it's soaked in blood. The clothes are stiff in his hands, and Dean finds the shirt to smell slightly of vomit. It's too much blood. He turns the items over, puts them on the floor. 

"This is too much blood," he says to himself. There's no way someone could bleed this much and not be dead, or at the very least in critical condition. 

It hits him like a freight train. The blood loss, lack of memory of the hunt, the hospital, the nightmare and memories. 

"Cas." Dean says it quietly, scared he's gonna summon the angel accidentally.

It has to be him. Dean isn't sure what happened, what Cas may have done, but the connection is undeniable. He's utterly terrified of what he's about to find out, the memories of horrible deals always on his mind, but he has to know. 

He gets up, walks into the hallway. There's no light in Sam's room, but he can see a soft sheen under Cas' door. He knocks lightly. 

"Come in." 

Cas is sitting on the sofa, eating another PB&J with a book in his lap. He stops chewing as Dean looks at him, and slowly puts the food down onto the plate. He sets it aside and carefully schools his expression. 

"Hello Dean." 

"What did you do?" 

Cas looks at his own hands, smooths a crevice in the blanket on his sofa. 

"Cas," Dean's aware his tone is pleading, aware it must show on his face, but how can he not . Deals and stupid plans cost them so much, and he just can't. 

"What do you mean?" 

"What did you do to save me. I found the bloody clothes, I can't remember the hunt, tell me." 

"Head wounds bleed a lot," Cas says carefully. "You have a mild concussion. That's why—" 

"Bull," Dean spits. "Don't lie to me. Not after everything. Not now. What did you do ?"  

"I healed you," Cas says. He's speaking so quietly Dean's having trouble understanding him. Dean sees the distress in Cas' tense shoulders, and deflates a bit. With a soft click the door closes behind him, and he sits down to lean against it. He's looking at Cas, motions for him to continue, but he doesn't. So, Dean speaks. 

"I had dreams, " he says. "I think they were memories. Your memories."

Cas' head snaps up, and he stares at Dean. 

"What did you see?" There's undeniable fear in his eyes, and Dean doesn't know why. 

"It was like I was you. I think I saw you fly to Hell with the other angels. And I saw you," he swallows. "You and me. In Hell."

Dean rubs over his face, can't keep the terror of the past trauma out of his voice. "I looked pretty rough," he adds. 

Cas gets up and kneels right in front of Dean. He places his hand on Dean's left shoulder, and the warmth of his hand feels like it's burning Dean's skin. 

"You looked like a tortured soul trying to escape more pain," Cas says, his voice firm and eyes bold. "There is nothing I would change. I'm eternally grateful I got to lead the mission, and that I was the one to save you. Your soul is as bright now as it was then, as it has always been, the hurt was just very visible. It's how souls work, in the end. A direct reflection."

Dean doesn't know what to do with that. He came to get answers about the last day, and not to get hit by brutal emotions he absolutely wasn't ready for. The thought of anyone but Cas touching him, his soul , sends a shock wave of panic through him. Suddenly he remembers a brief moment in the hospital, flashbacks, memories of other memories kept inside a box far in the dark. A bead of sweat runs down his temple and drips silently on the floor. 

Cas must see it. He sits back but offers up his hand, and Dean barely hesitates before taking it. It's grounding, a dry warmth, strong fingers wrapping around his wrist. He shudders as he remembers the many times in hell, staring at his wrists, contemplative and desperate to escape. His grip on Cas' hand tightens, but Cas doesn't complain. He just sits on the floor with Dean and holds his hand in the middle of the night, and between the small waves of horror in Dean's chest there's a tiny sunrise trying to throw its warm rays over the stormy sea. 

"Can you tell me about today," Dean asks. "I can't— I need to stop thinking about that stuff."

Cas nods. 

"I healed you," he says again. "You were.. Very hurt."

"Tell me everything. I don't remember anything past going into that warehouse." 

"Okay," Cas says. "I had to help Sam, and three vampires attacked you at once. We were running to you as one of them threw you. You hit the wall head first, and then fell on the floor." Cas sounds slightly mechanical, and Dean in turn squeezes his hand briefly. He knows the fear of seeing other hunters get hurt, especially if it's family. 

"You had a head injury. I timed your unconsciousness, it was about three minutes. You were bleeding so much, we already— we knew. We drove you to the hospital. Sam was driving and I was with you in the back seat. When we arrived they took you from us and left us without updates for four hours."

Cas' voice is noticeably shaking now, and Dean hurts. 

"They collected us from the waiting room and brought us to you. We were told to say our goodbyes, that you wouldn't wake up again."

"Cas, you haven't been able to heal injuries that bad in years. What did you do?" 

"I did heal you. Just, more than I would. Different to how it's usually done." 

"Different how?" 

"I guided my grace inside you," Cas says quietly. "I had heard that if it's fully within someone's body it can help strengthen it. I wasn’t sure if it was true, but I tried. For you." 

"And the rest of it just.. came back out?" 

"There was no rest." 

Dean's tensing. He knows Cas can feel it, but he's scared of what he's gonna hear next. 

"I used it all to save you. There was nothing left." 

Cas looks into Dean's eyes. 

"I'm human."

Chapter Text

Dean stares. He feels panic constrict in his chest, because this , this is not what he expected. Feared, yes. But he hadn’t allowed himself to consider this possibility. As his mind starts going a hundred miles an hour, there’s a weight crushing his shoulders. Because of him, Cas is human. His grace is gone, emptied out for the sake of healing Dean; he took Cas’ identity and claimed it for himself. Dean feels guilt hot in his stomach, selfishness and horror thickening the flood of awfulness in his chest. He caused this. And now, Cas has to live with it.

“Dean?” Cas looks unsure, hovering in front of him but not reaching out. 

Dean scrambles to his knees, grabs the trashcan under the desk and throws up in it. There’s a warm hand on the back of his neck, and he curls into himself as he tries to relax into it.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and wipes at his mouth.

“For what?” Cas sounds genuinely confused, and Dean almost laughs at the absurdity of it.

“It’s my fault. If I’d been more careful on the hunt—”

“None of this is your fault,” Cas says, but Dean shakes his head.

“I forced you to make that choice,” Dean says, and now Cas looks angry.

“You didn’t force me to do anything. Everything I did, everything I do, is because I chose to. I spent too long not being the one controlling my life. None of the things that happened are your fault.”

“But you’re human now.”

“So?” Cas raises an eyebrow, and his voice carries a challenging tone.

“You’re— you were an angel. How can you say this doesn’t bother you? The last time you were human, you said you hated it.”

“I’m just Castiel. Whether or not I’m an angel or a human doesn’t matter. I’m still myself, you taught me that.” Cas’ expression is grim, but his posture relaxed, almost defeated. “I didn’t hate it. I hated the circumstances.”

“Also my fault.”

“Dean! Stop.” The bedlight lamp illuminates Cas’ hair from behind, highlighting its messy state, and Dean’s thrown back to the night they first met. 

“Yes, what you decided back then was part of what made that time difficult for me, but I understand why you did it. I ask you now to do it differently, to be honest with me. Anything beyond that is out of our control, and I’ll accept it. I chose this. And I don’t regret it.”

Dean shakes his head, fights down the nausea and gets up, still feeling slightly unsteady. 

“I’ll get it back to you,” he says, and Cas stands up with him. He reaches out, but Dean steps back. He’s wide awake now, brain already sifting through lore and books he can read. “I’ll get you your grace back.”

“Dean, no—”

But Dean’s already out the door, walking to the library, leaving Cas with his sad eyes behind him.

There are at least fourteen books on the table in front him. One in his lap, another propped open in front of him next to the open laptop. Three empty coffee mugs sit next to the lamp, and Dean rubs his eyes as he turns another page in the book in his lap.

He hears the padding of naked feet before Sam comes into the library. He’s still in his pajamas, his hair looking like a bird’s nest. He eyes the table, and comes to stand next to Dean.

“What are you doing up already?”

“Never went to bed,” Dean says, and jots down a note. 

“Are you okay?”

“Ask Cas,” Dean replies, but then leans back in the chair. Sam lays his hand on Dean’s shoulder, and Dean allows himself to relax infinitesimally. 

“He told me. About what happened. I can’t let him do this.”

“Do what?” Sam asks as he sits down next to Dean. 

“Just, all this. Throw his life away because I’m a dumbass who messed up in a hunt.”

“So that’s what you fought about,” Sam says, and Dean looks at him sharply.

“What did he say to you?”

“Not much. He found me in the kitchen after I woke up, and told me I should probably talk to you. Nothing beyond that.”

Dean nods. 

“Dean, listen.” 

It’s in Dean’s nature as a big brother to disregard Sam’s careful tone, to want to snap at him, to tell him that he’s fine and he doesn’t need some sort of talk. But he can’t find the energy to do any of that, so he lets him speak. 

“I get why you might feel like you made him do this, but Cas can make his own decisions. He chose what he wanted to do, and he knew the consequences. He told me before he did it. It could’ve been me getting hurt. It could be the next one, or the one after that. We get hurt in this job, you know that, and Cas does too. He decided to help you.”

“Crap decision if you ask me,” Dean says, and Sam rolls his eyes. “No, really. In what universe is that a trade that makes sense?”

“In which universe did one year versus an eternity in hell make sense to trade for my life?” Sam looks at him challengingly, and Dean sets his jaw. 

“I did it—”

“Because of love. Because we’re family. And that’s the exact reason why Cas did it.”

“I didn’t ask him to.”

“I know,” Sam says. “And we all know that you never would have, because that’s kind of your thing. But he helped you, and now you’re sitting here angry with him, trying to reverse the sacrifice he chose to make.”

“You did the same after I sold my soul.”

“Yes, I did. But back then it was about you being alive or being in hell forever. Cas is still alive, he’s okay and he will be okay. You can’t compare this.”

“Sam, I can’t— I look at him and I think of every crap thing he now has to deal with.”

“Like what? Eating? Showering? He’ll live.”

“How about mortality? He’s what, five hundred million years old, and now he has like fifty years left? The flu could kill him if he’s unlucky. Or a slip in the shower.”

“He has been human before,” Sam says. “He knew what he was risking, and he did it anyway. You need to accept this. Right now you’re the one struggling to live with it more than he is.”

“Because I’m selfish.”

“No, Dean. Because you’re insecure. And that’s okay. But we need to work around this. Cas is upset, and he needs our help now.”

Dean can’t look at his little brother. His words cutting too deep, his grasp on what’s torturing Dean with this situation accurate, but not getting the whole picture. And he can’t bear to say the words. 

Sam waits a few moments, before he gets up. He pats Dean on the back and walks back in the direction of the kitchen. Dean sits in his chair like he’s glued to it, can’t bring himself to move an inch. He’s thinking about everything Sam’s said, turning it over but he can’t just accept it. He never has. So he opens the next book.

He’s walking to his room when he hears voices. Sam and Cas are talking to each other, and it sounds echoey, so Dean guesses they’re in the bathroom. He walks towards the noise slowly, and stops to look into the room. 

The faucet is running and Cas is sitting on a stool. Sam’s fumbling with a safety razor, and gives Cas a handheld mirror. There’s a slightly chaotic patch of shorter hair on his right cheek.

“Okay, I’ll show you so you don’t cut yourself,” he says. “Make sure to pull the skin tight when you’re working at your jaw, if there’s a fold you’ll hurt yourself. Use a bit of an angle, and go slow.”

Cas is looking into the mirror as Sam starts shaving a few stripes on his left cheek. 

“You want to try?”

Cas nods, and they switch positions. Sam holds the mirror for him and Cas slowly drags the razor through the foam. He smiles at Sam when he leaves clean and smooth skin behind, and Sam gives him a thumbs up. Cas works his way towards his mouth, slowly and carefully.

“Pull the skin or you’ll— cut yourself,” Sam says as Cas presses his hand to the cut under his lip. 

“That’s okay. Hold on.” Sam takes out a washcloth, wets it and wipes the foam away. “It’s not bad. Don’t worry, I still cut myself sometimes.” 

Cas takes over holding the wash cloth, and Dean’s concerned. He inches closer but nudges the door with his foot, and it opens a few more inches with a creak. Cas and Sam both look up at him. Cas looks away again almost immediately, but Sam holds Dean’s gaze. He lifts the razor incrementally, and Dean steps into the room fully. He walks over to Cas and nudges his hand away to take a look at the cut.  Sam leaves after a moment. Dean wordlessly takes the razor and starts on Cas’ other cheek. He works carefully but efficiently, making sure to not hurt Cas. There’s a tiny patch of stubble left under Cas’ lip, and he looks a bit ridiculous with the band—aid, but Dean doesn’t want to try and clean it up right now. He wipes the rest of the foam away, rinses out the washcloth, and leaves the bathroom.     

Chapter Text

The next two weeks, everyone stays at the bunker. Sam and Dean train with Cas in the gym, they cook together and research for hunts. Sam approaches everything with an odd amount of joy; he looks like an excited puppy every time Cas asks him for something. Dean helps him too, usually after he hears Cas ask Sam, or whenever he finds Cas somewhere trying to do something by himself. It’s not like he doesn’t offer to help in the first place, Cas just doesn’t ask. They talk, but it’s superficial. Dean feels horrible for it, but is still trying to navigate the new status quo. He has nightmares, dreams of Hell almost every time he goes to sleep. His brain is trying to work through the endless amount of information it got when Dean was healed, and so he revisits his last moments in Hell over and over, from different perspectives. He despises it, feels exhausted from more than the lack of restful sleep. 

Cas still knows more than both the brothers about hand to hand combat, but he relies on his now-gone angelic strength. He relearns some techniques, and Dean takes him to the shooting range in the basement every day. Cas doesn’t complain about sore muscles, exhaustion, or anything else. He completes every training session with absolute focus and precision, and Dean feels proud when he’s thrown on the mat for the third time in a row. Cas helps him up, and Dean can’t stop his grin. They’ve been writing down information about Cas’ health, taking his blood pressure and weight every day. None of them know if Jimmy had any kind of health issues that hadn’t come up yet, and Sam suggested it so they can be prepared for anything. 

They make a health insurance card for Cas, and Dean had wordlessly entered Winchester as Cas’ last name when filling everything out. 

Dean’s phone rings as Sam prints the card.

“Hello?”

“Hey Dean!” Jody sounds kind but tired, and Dean’s concerned.

“Hey Jody, you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry, hold on—Claire turn the heat down! Don’t put the lid on. Did you stir? Okay, gimme a second. Dean?”

“Yup.”

“Sorry about that. Trying to teach Claire how to cook.”

“Ah, good luck with that?”

“Thanks. Anyways, the reason I called. I’ve got a hunt for you if you’re up for it?”

“Sure. Where?”

“Colorado. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s been a few kidnappings, and the local police are at capacity.”

“Sure, we’ll take care of it. Okay if we get there tomorrow?”

“The earlier the better I’d say,” says Jody. “I’ll call the sheriff's department and tell them help is on their way. They’re in the know, I’ve worked with them before.”

“Okay,” Dean says. “We’ll be there tonight.”

“Thanks guys. Talk to you soon!”

Dean hears Claire yell in the background and Jody yelling back something about oil temperature, then hanging up. Dean shakes his head, and yawns. 

“Want me to go pack?”

“Yeah,” Dean says. “We’re not sure what it is, but at least no one’s dead yet. Officially, anyways.”

“I’ll go get Cas.”

“Hey, wait.” 

Sam turns around and raises his eyebrows. “What?”

“Do you think he’s ready?”

“Dean, we’ve been training with him for weeks. He’s better than both of us with a blade. It’ll be fine.”

“I don’t want him to get hurt,” Dean says, and feels strangely vulnerable.

Sam’s expression softens. “I know. Me neither. But we’re both there to help him.”

“Maybe we can keep him in the motel. As a research backup or whatever.”

“You know he won’t do that,” Sam says. “But I’d like to see you try.”

He leaves and Dean sighs. He slides Cas’ insurance card in his own wallet, grabs his phone and heads to his room. They threw his old duffle away along with a few clothes because the blood had made them unsalvageable. Dean bought the exact same kind again, with the exception of a few extra inner pockets and zippers for practicality. He throws in a week’s worth of underwear, two pairs of jeans and grabs the bag with his FED suit from the closet next door. There’s two other suit bags, one with Sam’s suit and one with an extra one that fits both of them poorly, but is good enough for emergencies. As Dean takes Sam’s suit Cas joins him.

“Hello,” he says. “I don’t have a suit.” 

Dean debates for a moment if he wants to start the discussion about the hunt now, but decides that a little FBI practice can’t hurt. 

“You can take this one,” Dean says and points to the third bag. “I think Sam has a few more dress shirts, I just have two.” 

Cas nods and takes the bag. 

“Wait,” Dean says, “what about your regular suit? Like, the one you always had?”

Cas looks awkward. “The blood didn’t wash out.”

Dean grimaces, before nodding.

“Do you have dress shoes?” 

“I just have the boots you gave me.”

“Okay, then we’ll get you a pair on the way. Jody said the officers know about us, but we still gotta ask around. Need to look presentable.” 

“I might, uhm, need some help with shaving then.” Cas touches his beard. He’d said he didn’t want to try shaving again until his cut had healed, and then got frustrated but hadn’t accepted their help. He said something about personal grooming being a personal matter, and Dean had left it at that.

“You can use my electric razor. Pretty much impossible to hurt yourself with it, and it’ll be quicker.”

“Okay, thank you. I’ll ask Sam for the shirts.”

“You do that, and we’ll meet in the garage in 10.”

Cas nods and leaves, and Dean packs backup ammo as well as John’s journal. Then he grabs the expensive cookies he got on the last grocery run, looking forward to eat them during the drive. 

Dean’s the first one in the garage, and he rechecks Baby quickly. The forecast for Whitman had announced heavy rain, and he wants to make sure she’s set up for any kind of weather. Sam and Cas walk into the garage together, and everyone puts their stuff in the car. Cas slides into the backseat, and Dean sees him looking around. Dean spent hours cleaning the blood and vomit away, and it’s spotless now. Cas looks up and meets Dean’s eyes, and Dean gives him a terribly awkward thumbs up. Sam eyes him as he gets in the car, and Dean ignores it resolutely. 

“Colorado, here we come.”

Cas and Sam are both reading, Sam about the town’s history and Cas looking through the old hunter’s journal. Dean turns on the radio, listens to the traffic news before switching to one of his Zep tapes. He eats a cookie and drums along to Whole Lotta Love, feeling somewhat normal for the first time in a while.

“Fairytale sunset to your left,” Dean says and both Cas and Sam look. 

“Oh wow,” Sam says, because it’s truly stunning. The sky is a blue—purple, the clouds looking like they’re on fire where the sun dips behind the horizon. Sam snaps a picture, and Dean looks into the rearview mirror and sees a soft smile on Cas’ face. 

They watch the sun disappear, the colors dimming, and when it’s almost dark, the welcome sign for Whitman flies past them. 

“Motel or food first?”

“I’d say police station,” Sam says, but Dean shakes his head.

“You wanna show up in wrinkled jeans? Let’s do motel, police station, food then.” Dean sees the sign for the motel, but has to wait until the incoming traffic passes. “Cas, any dinner suggestions?”

“I’d like burgers,” he says.

“That I can get behind,” Dean says as he pulls into the motel parking lot.

They get out, and Sam takes care of booking the room. He comes back with only one key.

“They only had one room left. Two doubles. But Dean and I can share.”

“Please don’t kick me,” Dean says, and Sam bitchfaces him. They carry their things to the room, which turns out to be a pleasant earth—toned situation and not a brown and yellow paisley pattern like the last one. 

“Nice change to not sleep in a seventies nightmare,” Sam says, and Dean laughs as he peeks into the bathroom.

“Wait until you see the shower tiles.”

Sam takes a look and sighs. “That’s like, diarrhea color.”

Dean grins at Cas. “I love motels.”

Cas takes out a dress shirt and hangs it into the tiny closet. “Why don’t we book a hotel?”

“Huh?” Dean asks as he eats a cookie and changes into his suit. 

“You always complain about uncomfortable beds and bad showers. If we took a hotel room it would be nicer.”

“They also ask more questions,” Sam says as he combs his hair. 

“You can’t sneak into your hotel room covered in dirt and blood,” Dean says. “Plus motels take cash sometimes, or don’t care about weird names. It’s the easiest way for us.”

“Alright,” Cas says. “I’ll change in the bathroom if you don’t mind.”

Dean makes a wavy hand gesture. “You do you.”

Cas gives him an odd look and carries his clothes into the bathroom. Dean crams another cookie into his mouth and starts to tie his shoes.

“Ah shit,” he says. “We forgot Cas’ shoes.”

“What shoe size does he have?”

“Uh,” Dean says. “No idea?”

Sam knocks on the bathroom door. “Hey Cas, didn’t you borrow Dean’s boots before?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“Just for shoe size,” Sam tells him, then turns to Dean. “So he’s a size 14, like you.”

Dean pulls a face. “I don’t have an extra pair, and I don’t think any stores here are still open. It’s a pretty small town.”

The lock clicks and Cas comes out of the bathroom, fully dressed except for his socked feet. He looks defeated. 

“I’ll stay here then.”

Dean feels a brief moment of relief before it’s replaced by guilt. He sits down and unlaces his shoes.

“You can wear mine,” he says. “I forgot the boots I gave you were mine. We have the same size.” He toes the dress shoes off and nudges them towards Cas. 

“What about you?” Cas asks.

“I’ll stay here, look up where we can eat. I’m in the mood for a fancy burger place. Sam’ll go with you. Besides, you just have to pick up the info; most of the interview stuff comes tomorrow.”

Cas hesitates, but then nods and takes the shoes. He puts them on and, after seeing Sam re-do his tie, announces he’ll go to the car. Dean nods, but then eyes Sam warily. He never takes this long for a damn tie. 

“I’m glad you did that,” Sam says as he finishes and puts on his suit jacket. “I was kind of expecting you to make him stay here, but it’s good you’re letting him go with me.”

“Don’t make a big deal out of it,” Dean mutters. “I still don’t like this, but I’m not going to exclude him if he’s right here.”

“I kinda expected something else from you,” Sam says. “Still, good job.”

Dean waves him off. “Yeah, yeah. Now go and get it done, I’m hungry.”

Sam takes the keys off the little table. “Jerk.”

“Yes,” Dean says, and watches Sam close the door behind him. 

“What now,” he says to himself, and opts for a shower. He puts his underwear on the radiator in the bathroom, finds the towels slightly scratchy but not overly so, and turns on the shower. It sputters a few times, and Dean gets undressed as he waits for the water to heat up. He steps in and groans at the unexpectedly good water pressure. Turning around, he lets the hot water drum on his neck and back, and is surprised to find the free shampoo and bodywash to not be citrus scented for once. He sniffs it and is pretty sure it’s rose, shrugs, and uses a generous amount. The small room warms up fast, and soon Dean leans his forehead against the cool tiles as the warmth and relaxation sends a wakeup call to his groin. The ups and downs of the past weeks didn’t leave him much time or desire to do self—care related activities, and his dresser drawer with fun stuff had been shut the entire time. Now he doesn’t have much more than nice smelling soap and time, but it’s apparently enough. 

He makes use of not having to hurry, runs his hands over his nipples and stomach and teases before taking his cock in hand. A sigh falls from his lips as he closes his eyes, and he varies his hand’s pressure, speeds up and slows down. His left hand massages his balls and it doesn’t take long for him to come with a nameless groan. 

The water rinses away any evidence of it, and with a roll of his shoulders he turns off the shower, gets out, and dries off. His skin is pink and warm, and he can still smell the rose-scented soap. He puts on one of his favorite dark green plaid shirts and dark wash jeans, but leaves his boots off. Turning on the TV, he sits back on his and Sam’s bed, turns up the volume, and watches an episode of his favorite cooking show.

“Damn right that lamb is fucking raw,” he mumbles, and just then his phone beeps. He picks it up and finds a text from Sam saying they’ll be back at the motel in ten minutes. Dean continues watching how one of the cooks eradicates a lamb chop. He’s still laughing about the insults the cook got as he gets up to text Jody an update. He puts the phone back and finishes the episode just as Sam and Cas open the door.

“Hey, how’d it go?”

“Well,” Sam says and drags a hand across his face. “Pretty sure it’s another vamp nest. Honestly though, right now I just want food and rest.”

Cas nods. “I agree.”

“What info did you get?”

“Can we tell you over dinner?” Sam takes off his tie and Dean nods.

“Sure. There’s this place on the other side of town, has good ratings too.”

“Let’s go then.” 

Ten minutes later they drop into a maroon corner booth, Cas sitting next to Sam across from Dean. 

Everyone scans the laminated menus briefly, and Cas is the first to put his down. He and Dean lock eyes briefly, but both look away again quickly. Sam talks to himself about the side dish options, and a few moments later a waitress greets them.

“Hey, what can I get for you?”

“I’ll have the bacon club sandwich with a side of fries well done. And one of the,” Dean glances at the menu quickly, “uh, summer fling lemonades?”

“A chicken salad with vinegar dressing and fries for me please,” Sam says. 

Dean looks at Cas who’s gripping his menu. “Uhm,” he says. “The bacon burger please.” 

“Any side dishes with that, hon?”

Cas looks to Dean for help. “He’ll take the wedges,” Dean says, and turns to Cas. “They come with rosemary.”

“Oh.” Cas looks happy about that. “I remember you making an omelette with it.”

“Anything else?” 

“I’d like to try the lemonade too. Thank you.”

“You got it.” She leaves them be, and Dean moves cutlery around so everyone’s covered.

“So,” he says. “Let’s hear it.”

Sam takes out a notepad and scans the page briefly before sliding it to Dean. “The sheriff took notes of stuff he thought was important. Bite marks are a pretty strong sign though.”

Dean skims the page. “Remember the last time you thought that?”

“Yeah, yeah. I know,” Sam says. 

Cas looks at them questioningly, before raising his brows. “Did you mistake it for vetala? The biting and draining is similar.”

“Yep,” Sam says. “Also, no bodies have showed up so far, which means some vampires are either using someone as a more permanent blood source, or it’s a pair of vetala.”

“Okay,” Cas says. “Then we’ll have to prepare for either.”

Their waitress comes back and places two huge mason jars of dark purple lemonade in front of them. 

“Food’ll be right there.” She winks at Sam and leaves again. 

“Think your dessert’s covered,” Dean says and grins at Sam, who shakes his head.

“I’m good. Maybe you can go talk to her? I’m sure she’s not that picky.”

Dean waves the menu around. “They got pecan pie. I’m covered.”

He looks at Cas, and sees him looking down at his lap. Dean nudges him with his foot.

“Hey,” Dean says.

Cas looks up. “Hello.”

“How’d it go? Did you talk to people or just pick up the info?”

“We just spoke to the sheriff. He seemed apprehensive, but I tried to assure him we’d take care of everything. I hope I made him feel better, one of the people who went missing was a police officer who was his friend.”

Dean nods. “I’m sure you helped,” he says. “People appreciate it when someone’s there who says they’ll get the job done. We’ll prep everything for tomorrow and get this over with quickly and safely.”

Cas nods, opens his mouth to say something but is interrupted by their food arriving. The plates look delicious, filled to the brim and steaming hot. 

“Let’s party,” Dean says and digs in. 

They talk about mundane stuff like reality shows and weather, and it’s amusing to hear Cas’ take on some of it. Dean steals one of Cas’ wedges, and Cas glares at him before continuing to fight with his burger. It’s falling apart and Sam helps him by squishing it down a bit. Dean laughs, and Sam throws a fry at him.

Their food disappears quickly, and they pay and leave. The drive back to the motel is slow, lots of families with jumping and running children, so Dean’s careful. At the motel, they take turns in the bathroom. Sam comments that they should go shopping for Cas soon, since most of his clothes are ones they found in the bunker or borrowed from either Winchester brother. Dean’s heart can’t decide if it should constrict because Cas won’t be randomly wearing Dean’s clothes anymore, or because he didn’t make an effort earlier to buy Cas some nice things. To his surprise, Cas declines.

Dean’s the last one going to bed. He turns off the light, scratches his bare forearm and pads over to the bed closer to the door. Pushing Sam’s legs back onto his own side, he lies down. As he reaches to set an alarm on his phone, he looks at Cas, who’s tucking himself in and facing them. They look at each other briefly, but neither says anything. Dean sets an alarm, puts his phone down, and closes his eyes. They’ll have a long day tomorrow.

After questioning the staff at the local dive bar turns out to be a dead end, they take a break in the car. As they compare their notes, Sam’s phone rings.

“Agent Mahone,” he says, and Dean can hear the loud voice on the other end.

“Slow down please Sir, I can’t— you found what?” Sam looks surprised, and he nods along with the rest of the call. Then he looks at Dean and Cas, and shakes his head. He chews on the inside of his cheek before telling the person on the phone that they’ll be at the station in a few minutes before hanging up.

“What happened?”

“They found the bodies,” Sam says. Dean grimaces, starts the car and maneuvers out of the gravel parking lot. 

The drive to the police station is short, and they immediately notice the empty parking lot. The sheriff greets them, nodding to Sam and Cas before shaking Dean’s hand. 

“Where is everyone?” Cas asks.

“They’re out, securing the area around the cabin,” the sheriff says. “We’ve never had anything like this happen here. To say we’re glad you came to help is an understatement.”

“I’m glad Jody Mills told us,” Sam says.

The sheriff takes them to his office and hands over a folder. “I have the photos from the crime scene if you want to take a look.” 

Dean takes the folder, hands a few photos to Cas and Sam each. There are visible neck wounds, textbook vampire fangs, on the ones in his hand. 

“This is clearly a werewolf,” Cas says.

“Uh, fangs,” Dean waves the photos in his hand. “Right there on the neck.”

Cas lifts one of his photos, a hole in a man’s chest visible. “I’d say this is quite obvious.”

“These ones have burned out eyes.” Sam holds up a picture.

“O-kay,” Dean says. “We’ll need some time to look at this.” 

“Will you call us as soon as the coroner’s report comes in?” Sam says and walks to the door, Dean and Cas following his lead. “In the meantime we’ll visit the crime scene. Maybe we can find something that’ll help us.”

“Of course,” the sheriff says and shakes their hands. “Good luck.”

Their best guess is a type of shapeshifter, so they pack up and leave in the evening.        

The moon’s out, almost full, and they don’t even need their flashlights to reach the little cabin. It’s tiny, falling apart and doesn’t look like it could withhold any element anymore, with brushes growing from the inside out through the broken windows.

All of them are carrying guns with silver bullets. With everything they brought they’ll probably be okay, but there’s no knowing for sure. Dean let’s Sam circle to the side, and he walks with Cas to keep an eye on him. He can’t get rid of the uneasy feeling, as if everything he’s doing is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Cas looks at him as if he feels his gaze, and Dean just nods. Cas takes a step forward to peek into the cabin, and his foot goes right through the rotten wood. The noise is deafening, and he immediately looks to Dean, who raises his gun and almost jumps as he hears Sam’s voice.

“Over here!”

They jog around the cabin but Sam isn’t there, when suddenly a shadow falls over them. Dean turns around and stares into the face of a wendigo, shoots it in the stomach and it screams. It runs away, disappears behind trees and Dean’s about to follow it as a hand lands on his shoulder. He turns and sees Sam, who looks grim.

“It’ll come back,” he says. “It looked like a leviathan, then saw me and shifted. I don’t know how to kill it.”

“It’s back,” Cas mumbles.

They all look, and a vampire stands ten feet from them, his teeth glinting. Suddenly it jumps, flies, crashes into Dean and stands up just as quickly while morphing into a werewolf.

“Can you just decide on something?” Dean yells and the thing laughs.

“Do you have no sense of fun?” 

“Not when talking to an ugly bastard like you,” Dean says, and * now the creature’s angry. It snarls and Dean steps away a few feet, flanking Sam to his left. Then he realizes Cas isn’t on Sam’s right, and his heart drops. Dean’s looking around, trying to quickly figure out where Cas is, but the monster notices.  Suddenly there’s teeth snapping in front of his face, and Dean shoves it away, ramming his shoulder into its chest as hard as he can. Pain blossoms through it, but the creature is off of him for a moment. Then, Cas is there, right behind it with a knife to its throat. Sam jumps forward and buries an angel blade in the monster’s chest. It goes limp in Cas’ hold, who drops it. Dean shoots it a couple of times with the silver bullets, for good measure. 

“Jesus,” Dean says, and winces as he shoves the gun back into his pants, the movement pulling on his shoulder.

Cas salts the dead monster, and Sam lights it up. They pack their stuff but Dean holds Cas back with a raised hand.

“What were you doing?” Dean asks, and Cas looks confused.

“I circled around?”

“Without giving us a sign?” Dean’s angry, he knows he sounds angry, but he can’t have the worry about someone else cloud his focus. It’s too dangerous.

“This was the original plan,” Cas says. “We discussed this before. I couldn’t give you a sign without alerting the creature to what I was doing.”

“You can’t just disappear ,” Dean shouts. “I was worried there was a second one, and that's what made it attack me.”

“That isn’t—”

“Just, don’t do it again.” Dean turns and starts walking to the car, and just then it starts to pour. They have to walk through a substantial puddle to get to the car, and everyone grimaces at the feeling of wet shoes. 

Back at the station they nod politely at the officers giving them concerned looks and update the sheriff on the situation. They leave him with phone numbers of local hunters, reading material and a clap on the back. 

Dean kicks the motel door shut behind him as Sam toes off his shoes.

“My feet are still wet,” Sam complains, and Cas toes off his own shoes to inspect his socks.

“Get the wet socks off,” Dean tells Cas. “Bad for your kidneys.”

Cas nods and takes them off, then stands awkwardly with them in his hands. Sam stretches and peers at Cas, before hurrying towards the bathroom the same time Dean does.

“I have guts on me, I get the first shower!” Sam slams the door in Dean’s face, who groans and sits down on one of the two creaky chairs.

“Guts my ass,” he mutters. Dean leans back as he hears the shower turn on, and closes his eyes. After a second he opens them again to look at Cas.

“You okay?”

Cas just stands there, still holding his socks, and he nods. Then he shakes his head.

“The sheriff told me he’s scared something like this will happen again. He knew about monsters but clearly didn’t know what some of them are capable of. He couldn’t help all those people.”

“But now he knows,” Dean says. “Cas, I know you want to help, but you can’t help everyone. You told me that.”

They’re both quiet for a moment, the sounds of the street outside muted. Every time a car drives by its headlights glide across the wall, and Cas follows them with his eyes.

“I know,” he finally says.

“Either way, we solved it, we left them with a crap ton of reading material, and they’ll probably tell other stations in the area. Maybe we can create a network or something.”

Cas looks up.

“Not a hunter one, but giving the talk to people who can handle it.”

“Like sheriffs?”

“Yeah,” Dean says. “Maybe a doctor here or there.”

“We could create an online library,” Cas says. His voice has that specific tone of someone’s brain whirring, that what they’re saying can’t get out fast enough. “That way everyone can look up what they need. I could ask Sam to help categorize and type up some of the bunker’s books, and we can create message boards based on location and profession too. We could also add some sort of contact list?”

Dean blinks. “Yeah sure. That could work.”

“Dean this is a great idea. This could really help people, save lives.”

“I know,” Dean says. “No offense though, I’m too tired to plan that right now. But we can look into it when we’re home.”

Dean turns the library idea over in his head. He could help Cas find the books he needs, and look for more information on his own. He absentmindedly rubs his sore shoulder and stares out the window.

“Are you still in pain?”

“Yeah,” Dean mumbles. “‘S gonna hurt for a bit, but it’ll be fine.”

There’s quiet again. Somewhere a woman laughs and a door slams.

“It’s not your fault though.” Dean’s still looking outside, but turns his head as Cas replies.

“I know.”

Dean looks at him, and they lock eyes.

“Uh,” Dean says. “Good?"

“It was yours.” Cas’ look is sturdy, unwavering, and Dean’s confused.

“Rub it in?”

“I mean ,” Cas says and turns more fully towards him, “that I did nothing to cause your injury. I followed the plan and listened to what you and Sam said.”

“I never said you didn’t?"

“Then why did you yell at me?”

It’s like a slap in his face, and Dean feels like he can hear the aftershock.

“I couldn't see you,” Dean says. “I thought you were hurt.”

“I wasn’t even close to the shape shifter,” Cas says and furrows his brows.

“It was dark man, I could barely see Sam right next to me. I’m sorry for worrying that you’d been eaten.”

“Stop patronizing me,” Cas says. “I don’t know what your problem is, but I can hold my own for a few seconds.”

Dean opens his mouth to reply, but Cas lifts his hand.

“I’m not inept. Don’t treat me like I am.”

“Stop giving me reasons to!” Dean feels a burning in his eyes, blinks it away quickly and looks down to hide it.

“It’s okay if you worry,” Cas’ voice softens. “I worry too. But you can’t treat me like this. You don’t do this with Sam.”

Dean thinks for a moment. “Yeah, guess that’s true.”

Cas doesn’t say anything for a moment. Then, “What’s your fault?”

“Hm?”

“You said it’s ‘your fault’. What is?”

“That you're,” Dean gestures, “y’know. Vulnerable. Human.”

It’s the wrong thing to say. Cas jumps up from the bed, fire in his eyes.

“I’m not vulnerable,” he says. His jaw’s set tightly, and he looks to the side for a moment.

“I might be less experienced in hunting as a human, but I am not made of glass. I’ve fought in battles millennia before your ancestors existed. Do not treat me like I’m a toddler.”

Cas steps closer to Dean, stops an arm’s length away.

“I have gladly given my grace for you to live, and I’d do it again a hundred times if I had to. Every part of the decision I made was mine, and only mine. I don't regret it. Stop making the choice for me about what I’m feeling.”

Dean swallows. He feels heat rise in his cheeks, shame flooding him as he reflects on what he said, how Cas took it, what he must think. How can he possibly explain to him that he’ll never be worthy of the sacrifice Cas made, and how the knowledge of what he took from Cas weighs on him every day.

Cas turns and walks over to his bed. He takes out pajamas, lays them out on the sheets. Dean struggles to hold the heavy sea of emotion in. He’s worked on talking about things, to be more honest because he now knows the importance of it. Yet, it doesn't take away how terrifying it is.

“But I’m just me.” Dean says it so quietly he almost repeats it as Cas turns and looks at him.

“Your point being?”

Dean looks at the ceiling, struggling to find words, to describe the indescribable. His mind can’t wrap around it still, that someone like him got to live because of a sacrifice this big. 

Cas shakes his head. The shower turns off, and Dean hopes that Sam will wait a few minutes before coming out of the bathroom.

“I will give you the time you need to adjust to this. But the next time you think of it in this way, please consider that I chose this precisely because you’re you. Don’t insult me by insinuating I threw this away. I didn’t.”

They look at each other, and Dean tries desperately to understand every nuance of what Cas is saying. Every time a car’s lights sweep by Cas’ eyes go from a storm blue to a glowing cerulean, and he’s transfixed. Then, the bathroom door opens.

“Shower’s free.” Sam rubs a towel over his hair.

“I’ll take it,” Cas says. He finally breaks the eye contact, and it feels like a rubber band that snaps and the end of it hits Dean in the heart.

Chapter Text

It’s two days after the hunt, and Dean’s in his room. He opens the bottom drawer of his dresser, and there it sits. He reaches for the burlap bag and takes it out, sets the little basket on his bed and looks at it. The little tea packets are all different kinds of herbs with handwritten notes on suggested times to drink them, and which honey would fit. Dean lets his fingers run over the indents in the paper where the letters are, and he decides now is a good time to give it to Cas. 

The fight at the hunt still weighs heavy on him, and he wants to do something to show Cas he cares. 

Fingers curled tightly around the rough rattan of the basket he makes his way to Cas’ room and knocks. The door opens after a few seconds.

“Hey,” Dean says. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Cas says. He’s wearing one of Sam’s button ups, slightly wrinkled and there’s a coffee stain on the collar.

Dean shifts his weight. “I got you something,” he says, and thrusts the arm holding the basket towards Cas. “I actually got it a while ago, but didn’t really find a good moment to give it to you.”

Cas takes the basket. He looks at it briefly before looking back at Dean. “What is this?”

“It’s honey,” Dean says. “And uh, some tea and a mug, you can—”

“I see what’s in it,” Cas says. His voice is hard, probing.

“Just wanted to, dunno,” Dean takes a half step back, “give you something nice.”

“Thank you,” Cas says.

Dean doesn’t know if he can see something in Cas’ expression, maybe imagines it lightening, but then the door closes in his face and he’s left standing in the hallway staring at the dark wood. 

He’s not entirely sure what just happened. Did Cas not like it? Was it a dumb idea? 

Walking back to his room slowly he feels a bad mood set in, and he closes his door with slightly too much momentum.

At least he tried. 

Dean hangs up the phone as he hears footsteps, and Sam rounds the corner and steps into the library as Dean refocuses on the laptop in front of him.

“Hey,” Sam says and sits down across him. “What’re you up to?”

“Just research.”

“For?”

“Hunts? Did you know we do that?”

“Oh shut up,” Sam says. He checks his phone briefly and leans back. “Seriously though. What research?”

“Nothing. Everything?”

Sam looks at him like he’s lost his mind.

“I’m browsing local newspapers for hunts,” Dean says as he starts typing. “And Cas’ grace.”

“What?”

“I said I’m looking for hunts.”

“No, I got that. I meant what you said afterwards. The thing that Cas asked you not to do?”

“Ah,” Dean says and definitely doesn’t look at Sam. “Yes. Grace stuff.”

“Grace stuff.”

“Yes, grace stuff. Do you still speak english?”

Sam looks frustrated, imploring. “There is nothing to research. It’s done.”

“Since when have we ever accepted something?”

“Since the implications of looking for a solution could hurt someone.”

“What’s the implication of me trying to fix this?”

“The fact that there’s nothing to be fixed,” Cas says, and hearing his voice is a bucket of ice water down Dean’s back.

“Cas—”

“I don’t need to be fixed.”

“That’s not what I said or meant!”

“The last time someone tried to fix me I was brainwashed and tortured. Let me, for once, make a choice that affects only me, and live with it. If I wanted help I would’ve asked.”

Dean can’t hide his shock, he knows it’s all over his face. He desperately wrecks his brain trying to figure out what exactly Cas is talking about. Naomi comes to mind with the brainwashing, but what the family murder talk means he can’t figure out.

“I’d appreciate it if someone could teach me how to polish my dress shoes. I think I picked the wrong product.” Cas’ eyes flit between them, then rest on Sam. Dean’s already halfway out of his chair before noticing, and he looks at Sam briefly who gives him a sad look. 

“I’ll help you,” Sam says and gets up.

Dean sits there uselessly, and watches them leave the library.

As Dean stretches and considers their options for lunch, Cas peers into the kitchen.

“Hello,” he says.

“Hey!” Dean’s surprised. After the amount of time Cas had spent in his room he didn’t think he’d come out to socialize. Dean has been worried, of course. Wondering if it’s really just ‘catching up on newer pop culture’, or setting up the information network. He’d considered other options, but came up short with solutions for any of them.

Depression? Loneliness? Regret? Dean couldn’t fix any of those, he didn’t know how to really deal with any of them himself, and the latter one would just prove what he’d been thinking and saying all along.

There’s an odd little silence, just the fridge making thrumming noises and Sam banging stuff around in one of the storage rooms. Cas smooths non existent crinkles in his dark blue Henley, and takes a small step forward.

“I just wanted to say that I’m going to take a look at some of the stores in town,” Cas says. He’s not looking at Dean, and his body is turned away from him slightly.

“Sure,” Dean says. “Want me to drive you?”

“I’d like to go alone.”

Cas doesn’t add anything to that, and Dean nods like it doesn’t hurt him. Because that’s just it, Cas has been doing things on his own for weeks now. Dean hates it, but can’t do much more than wait until Cas isn’t angry with him anymore.

“Let me know if I should pick anything up. I have my phone with me.”

“You got it,” Dean says, and with a curt nod Cas turns and leaves. Dean watches after him before shaking himself out of the slightly sour taste of rejection, and browses for jeans.

A few minutes later Sam comes into the kitchen with a mug in one hand and an empty plate in the other.

“Hey,” he says as he rinses both, and Dean leans back from the laptop.

“Hey. You done with your hippie stuff?”

“Stretching and just taking a moment to calm down wouldn’t hurt you either, you know. Call it hippie all you want, I’m not the one with creaky joints.”

“You’re also younger.”

“Four years, man.”

“Eh. Maybe.” 

“What’re you up to?” Sam sits down across from him.

“Just thinking,” Dean says. 

“Wanna share about what?”

Dean makes a nondescript grunting noise, and Sam sighs.

“Can I guess?”

Dean waves his hand. “Knock yourself out.”

“Probably your favorite topic,” Sam says. “Cas?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dean hears the irritation in his voice, and Sam just lifts an eyebrow. 

“Just tell me,” Sam says. “Moping alone in the kitchen won’t get you anywhere.”

“It’s just,” Dean starts, stops again and picks at a small hole in his jeans. “I’m worried about him. He’s not talking to me at all, barely looks at me.”

Sam nods. “You got any ideas why he’s behaving like this?”

“I’d say losing your grace or soul or identity is kind of a thing , you know?”

“It’s not though. At least, that’s not his point.”

“How do you know? Do you share diaries?”

“He talks to me, you know.” Sam’s voice is quiet, and he’s looking at the table now. “We talk a lot.”

There’s a small bite, a tiny stab somewhere between Dean’s ribs.

“About what?”

“Being human. Hair cuts.” Sam pauses. “You.”

Dean can’t say anything, so Sam continues.

“The fights you both have, and how Cas feels about them. I don’t know if he’d want me to tell you this, but you’re both pretty clearly unable to have a conversation without something going sideways, so I’ll tell you some things at least.”

Dean braces, and his fingers itch to pour himself a drink to stomach whatever Sam’s about to say. He resists, and nods for Sam to continue.

“He feels like you’re more concerned with getting his grace back than with pretty much anything else. He didn’t have shoes for the hunt, he’s constantly been wearing your clothes, and he still sleeps on the sofa in his room.”

“I asked him and he didn’t want to go buy stuff, I offered—”

“Of course he didn’t. He clearly hates needing help with things we can do on our own, which is understandable, but your whole attitude makes it worse for him.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Dean says. “I’d build him a fucking bed myself if he asked. Hell, I’d drive to Timbuktu to get some fancy wood for it even.”

“He won’t ask though. He feels alone, and I’m not enough to help with that.”

Dean swallows. “Like, he wants to date? Or therapy? A new friend group?”

“You know the most obscure Chinese mind control spells from six hundred years ago but you can’t grasp the concept of feelings.” Sam shakes his head. “You had this horrible fight not too long ago, and it hurt him, a lot. He was finally happy that everything between you was okay again, and then all of this happened. He needs time, and help, and he needs you.”

Sam leans back. “He once said you both have a profound bond. I think he feels like that’s gone, or that you care less or differently about it than he does.”

“What do you mean, differently?”

“You’ll figure it out.”

“You sit down to have this Dr Phil session with me and then go all cryptic? Sam—”

“I’m not being cryptic. I’m telling you that he feels abandoned, and that you need to get your shit together and get over your guilt and all your complexes that tell you you’re unworthy of what he gave up for you.”

“Uhm,” Dean says, because what can he say to that?

“We can start small. You wanna go into Cas’ room and measure some stuff so we can look for furniture and clothes online?”

That sounds manageable, so Dean nods. “Okay.”

They get up and walk down the hall to Cas’ room. The door’s closed, and Dean looks worried at Sam when he opens it.

“Don’t worry, Cas told me I can go into his room if I needed to pick up laundry or was looking for something.”

Sam turns on the light and Dean realizes how little he’s been in Cas’ room. There are more books on the shelf, string lights woven behind and around them. There’s a little basket with dirty laundry, and a small stack of folded clothes on the armchair next to the door. Dean recognizes the folded up blanket on the couch as one of Sam’s, and he slowly realizes how right Sam is, how Dean hasn’t done enough to help Cas. He’s about to tell Sam, as he beats Dean to it.

“What’s this?” Sam picks up a few papers from the floor, turns them over and frowns. He looks at Dean, holds them up and Dean’s stomach drops so far down that it’s somewhere in the basement.

They’re house listings. For sale or for rent, different sizes and prices.

“He wants to leave?”

Dean takes one page, skims the description which has a few highlighted terms, like ‘garden’, ‘pet friendly’. Then he reads the handwritten note on the bottom. 

Bungalow, one bathroom, one bedroom, small garden. ‘Newly renovated kitchen with modern appliances’. Pet friendly (cat?), neighbourhood watch active (maybe join?)

“Did you know about this?” Dean’s voice is gruff, and it sounds ten times more sturdy than he feels.

“I swear I didn’t,” Sam says as he reads the other listings. “I mean, he talked about stuff like not feeling very at home, but I figured that was more of a furniture thing than a, you know, location thing? I’m not sure.”

“He can’t—” Dean immediately interrupts himself, doesn’t know what to say. “He can’t do this.”

“Why not? If he’s happier that way? Maybe it’s a good idea.”

“But he lives here ,” Dean says and it sounds pathetic even to his own ears.

“Maybe,” Sam says, and he looks at Dean, “he needs a reason to not move out.”

“I’ll talk to him. I’ll apologize, and we can figure this out. He shouldn’t—his place is here. With us.”

Sam takes another look at the paper and squints. “This is today,” Sam says. “This is like, in ten minutes.”

“What?”

“This listing has a date and a time on it that Cas wrote.” Sam looks at the next page. “This one does too. It’s today, but in an hour.”

“Mine has next week at three,” Dean says. “So he’s in town right now to look at houses?”

“I guess so.”

“I’ll go find him,” Dean says, takes the papers from Sam’s hands and shoves them in his back pocket.

“Dean-”

“Me being a dumbass is not gonna be the reason that he lives alone in a tiny house instead of with us.”

“Make him stay for the right reasons,” Sam says, and Dean raises an eyebrow.

“What?”

“Don’t make him think you see it as an obligation. He’s hurt. Show him why you want him here.”

Dean can’t stop the confusion slipping into his voice. “What do you mean? He’s family, that’s why we want him here.”

Sam looks at him for a long time. Then, he nods. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Dean’s leaning against the car, parked neatly in a spot almost across the bungalow with the ‘For rent!’ sign, and looks up as he hears people talking. They’re coming out of the white house to his left, commenting on the blooming rose bushes in the front yard and how nice the new kitchen looks. Cas appears last, exchanging a few words and a business card with a man in a light gray suit.

The sun’s beaming down now, right after noon and it’s fairly humid. Dean feels a bead of sweat roll down his nape and he fumbles to put his phone away. Cas walks down the little stone path to the pavement, and looks up as he’s standing almost in front of Dean.

“Dean,” Cas says. His hair looks like he tried to comb it on the way here, and he’s wearing Dean’s dress shoes. The sunlight makes his eyes look like those pictures of tropical oceans, with occasional dark streaks where his long lashes throw a shadow. He’s squinting a little, and Dean isn’t entirely sure if it’s the sun or him.

“Hey.”

“What are you doing here?”

“We found the house listings on your desk. I was worried and just uh, drove here?”

“Why were you in my room?” Cas asks as he folds a piece of paper he had in his left hand and puts it in his back pocket.

“Sam and I wanted to measure it for furniture. He said you okayed going in there if it’s for something like laundry.”

“I might not be the most seasoned human,” Cas says, and he waves to a woman with a child who called his name, “but I do believe that furniture isn’t laundry.”

“It’s not,” Dean says. “We just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Dean.”

He looks at Cas, really looks at him, and he sees everything Sam told him about. He looks pained, exhausted, and guarded. Dean hurts as he notices the last one, wishes he was someone Cas could be fully safe with. He has to remind himself he is, they’re just having some issues right now, nothing that can’t be resolved.

Dean doesn’t know where to start. “We can work it out,” he says. 

“What, exactly, do you think there is to work out?”

“I’ve been a dick to you.”

“Yes.”

Dean can’t stop himself, he asks, “Why are you looking at houses?”

“I wanted to have something of my own. Just coexisting with you and Sam, like there’s nothing else—” Cas interrupts himself, tenses his jaw and looks at his feet. “I’m not happy.”

Dean knows his face has fully derailed into kicked puppy territory, but he can’t stop it. After a beat Cas speaks again.

“You’ve told me that you care about me because we’re family. Maybe it’s time for you to show it? Instead of ignoring me and refusing to help me.”

“Cas,” Dean starts, and he has to stop. His eyes are burning, and looking at Cas so upset and tense in front of him, deliberately a foot further than they’d normally stand, barely any of his warmth reaching Dean because it’s not meant for him now. It tugs at his heart in such a painful way he has to breathe a few times.

Cas looks at the ground, then at Dean again. “I’m sorry I’m so angry with you. But I needed you these past weeks, and you weren’t there. You’re the one I go to first, always, and not being able to do that on top of everything else was difficult.”

Dean recognizes the explanation, not as a backpedal but as an open door rather than the final nail in the coffin. He gives Cas a moment to continue. When he doesn’t, Dean straightens a bit and braces.

“I’m sorry. Can we talk about this at home?”

“I have another appointment in half an hour,” Cas says as he shakes his head. “After that, if it’s not too late.”

Dean nods. He absolutely aches to reach out, but doesn’t out of fear Cas will pull away. He doesn’t want him to look at another house, or to not want to be around Dean. He wants to yell and take him home, but against what he wants he says something else.

“If there’s a window in the bathroom check the insulation for mold,” Dean says.

The tiny smile Cas gives him is enough to soothe the sting, and he drinks it up.

“I will, thank you. I’ll see you later.”

Dean smiles to himself as Cas walks away, and he has to fumble with his keys for a moment because the ring is stuck in a small hole in his pocket.

“Damn it,” he mumbles, and almost jumps when a car honks. It takes him a whole second to realize it’s still honking, and then he hears a deafening crash of metal and a woman screaming. He turns around and drops his keys

There’s an old Honda in the middle of the street, a crack in the windshield and a body in front of it. It’s a man, and he’s wearing Dean’s dress shoes. He has dark hair, and there’s blood, and Dean’s jumping over the hood of the Impala and runs into the street.

He kneels down, and it’s Cas, and he’s bleeding and his eyes are closed and Dean can’t breathe. A woman comes running. She talks on the phone and names a street. Dean is holding Cas’ right hand, the left arm looks broken. He wants to put something under his head but there’s blood and he doesn’t want to hurt Cas’ neck.

“I called an ambulance, they’ll be here quickly. It’s really close. Please don’t worry, it doesn’t look too bad. Your partner will be fine.”

Dean thinks with brutal clarity how much he wants that to be true, and he realizes he doesn’t only mean the ‘fine’ part. 

It feels like months pass. Deans kneeling on the asphalt that's radiating heat like fire, and he's started holding Cas' head to protect his spine, something the 911 operator had said. There's sweat running down his temples, he's trying to keep focused and go into work mode to keep a clear head, but this is a whole different level, and he can’t flip the switch.

Cas doesn't open his eyes. The ambulance siren suddenly roars and gentle hands guide Dean to sit back and take over. The bright jackets of the paramedics burn his eyes and he blinks a few times. 

"Are you family?" 

Dean looks up at the kind face of one of the paramedics. He realizes this isn't the first thing she's said to him, but he can't remember anything else. 

"Yes. Can I go with him?" 

"Of course. Give us a moment to get him in the ambulance and then you can take a seat. You can also follow us, we’re driving to Robert Memorial." 

"Thanks," Dean says and the paramedic turns to the woman who helped them first. She's saying stuff about time frames, length of unconsciousness, but Dean tunes it out again to look at Cas. It's all he does until he's wheeled to the ambulance and pushed in, then the other paramedic lays a hand on his shoulder. 

"We're gonna get him to the hospital now." 

Dean nods and steps back from the ambulance. He hears paramedics talk until the doors close. The car turns on, as do the sirens, and he watches them leave.

A full minute passes with him just standing on the sidewalk before he tries to shake himself out of it. He gets into his car, calls Sam on speaker.

“Hey,” Sam says. 

“Get to Robert Memorial,” Dean says, and he knows his voice is shaking. “Get there now.”

“Dean? Are you okay?” Sam’s voice is dampening the crushing feeling of fear that covers every nook and cranny of his brain, and Dean hears him run around and then the bunker door closes. 

“It’s Cas,” Dean chokes out, and he honks at a driver trying to take his right of way. “I’ll tell you at the hospital.” “Okay,” Sam says. “I’ll be there ASAP.”

Dean hangs up, clings to the steering wheel and drives way too fast. 

Dean is guided to the waiting area when he arrives, and he sits down. Barely any time has passed before he sees Sam's floppy hair appear. Sam hurries to him, and sits down next to him. The green plastic hair squeaks in protest. 

"Hey. Did you get any news yet?" 

"They said they're taking him to get an MRI, but nothing else." 

"I'll go ask," Sam says and Dean watches him walk up to the desk. He chats with one nurse, then another and Dean spots the paramedic from earlier walking past. She waves at him, and he nods at her. Then, Sam's back. 

"Okay," he says as he sits down again, pushing his hair behind his ear. "The paramedics talked to the nurse I just spoke to, and from what they said he's gonna get an MRI, some x-rays and regular lab work. She says it'll probably take a few hours. You want me to get you a coffee?"

"I'll go," Dean says and stands up. "I can't just sit here." 

"Yeah, sure." Sam hands him a five dollar bill, but Dean waves him off. 

He navigates nurses and doctors walking by briskly and almost runs into a little bedside stand that's suddenly in the middle of the hallway. It's whisked away by a stressed looking cleaning staff member, and Dean wanders around to find the coffee machine. The strong antiseptic smell makes him nauseous almost, while he can ignore it when on a job he can't when it's personal. There's an odd loop in his mind of the events from the past weeks. It's endless and frustrating him incredibly while he runs around uselessly while Cas is hurt and somewhere in this huge building.

Eventually he realizes he's walked past the same sunset painting for the third time, and he asks a nurse who points him in a direction he swears up and down he went already. Though as he walks around said corner he suddenly finds the machine. 

He shakes his head at himself and punches in one black coffee and one with milk. The machine sputters and hisses, and Dean's tempted to tell it he isn't happy about using it either. 

Constant beeping, shuffling and sometimes yelling flanks him as he slowly makes his way back to the waiting area with the little plastic coffee cups the color of diluted vomit. 

Sam jumps up as he sees him.

"I got an update," he says as he takes the cup from Dean. "One of the nurses came over and told me he just has to go for the x-rays and wait for the lab work to come back, then he's done."

"How'd you get updates? They wouldn't tell me anything earlier." 

"That paramedic who brought him in? She apparently told someone," Sam nods to the woman behind the reception desk, "that you should definitely get updates about your, and I quote, ‘partner’."

Dean immediately feels himself start to sweat. 

"You wanna talk about that?" 

“Not really,” Dean says. 

“Okay,” Sam says.

He's drinking his coffee, and Dean suddenly feels tired. He slumps in his seat, checks the time on his phone. They've been here for three hours.

Time passes slowly, but speeds up now and then. They watch a father bring in his son with a broken arm and dirt and leaves in his hair, the father hugging the child while they wait for a doctor, and Dean has to look away. 

Every time Dean thinks the biting smell of antiseptic gets bearable someone cleans something close to them and it burns in his nose again. 

He watches a nurse collect charts and pick up new ones. She walks from the reception around a little cart with supplies, takes a sip of coffee and starts walking in their direction. It takes Dean a moment before he realizes she's looking at him, and walking towards him. He scrambles to stand up and Sam follows suit. 

"Are you the family of Castiel Winchester?" 

"Yes," Dean says without an ounce of hesitation. "We are." 

"I can take you to him now." She motions for them to follow her.  

They hurry behind her and Dean's confused why she isn't telling them anything. 

"Is he-" 

The nurse’s phone rings and she holds up a hand to Dean as she answers it. They follow her through hallway after hallway, while she argues with someone on the phone, and after another sharp turn she stops in front of a door.

"Yes, but I have a patient now." She hangs up, drops the phone in her pocket, and opens the door. 

Dean expects something bad, horrific, tubes and machines, but it's just.. Cas. He's sitting on the edge of the bed, a nurse doing something to his left arm that makes him wince. He looks up at them, and Dean releases a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

Cas is okay. There are a few scrapes on his face, and he's shirtless so Dean can see a few pieces of gauze taped on his chest and neck, but he’s undoubtedly alive and staying alive.

"You're okay," Dean almost whispers, and Cas gives him a soft smile. 

"Mostly, yes." 

Dean feels like his knees are gonna give out, and he grabs the shelf next to him for support.

Cas is okay .

Dean’s brain struggles to make room for this fact in the sea of panic still prevalent in his head. He doesn’t know what he would’ve done if Cas wasn’t okay, if he lost him, if he could survive losing him again.

After all he barely remembers a time when Cas wasn't something taking up a big corner of his head and heart. There's no measurable amount of hours he's spent wishing Cas was with him when he wasn’t, for whatever reason. 

Dean looks at Cas, his dark hair and the strength in his back, the kindness in his eyes as he looks at Sam, and the depth of them when Cas looks at Dean.

It's not a brutal realization, no lightning bolt or ice cold wash of clarity. The space Cas always had in his chest just expands a little. It warms, flows a bit in every direction, and washes over the numbing fear from earlier. His brain picks up moments from the past decade, turns them over and looks at them differently. There's little pangs when he thinks of a fight or moment they'd lost each other, but it's soothed by his realization and the tiny sprouting hope every time.  

Dean steps closer to Cas and hears Sam talk to the nurses behind him. Dean reaches out, but hovers unsure. 

"My shoulder is fine," Cas says amused, so Dean gently puts his hand there. He ignores the warmth of Cas' skin under his palm, and searches his face. Cas is smiling at him, in that very slight way of his, but his eyebrows are drawn and his jaw is set. 

"Did they not give you any pain meds?" 

"He refused anything prescription," the nurse mumbles and Cas nods. 

"I'll be fine." 

Dean huffs a laugh and shakes his head. 

"If you say so." 

Sam and the other nurse step up to the bed, and Dean watches Sam put a gentle hand on Cas' healthy arm. 

"His injuries are quite minor,” the nurse says. "He has a hefty concussion and a broken arm, but that's all. He's getting his cast currently, and after he's done you can go home."

Dean wants to scream with relief, and he makes a weird little noise he tries to conceal with a cough. Sam's look tells him it didn't really work. 

"Someone should monitor him the next 48 hours, just in case there are complications with the concussion."

"We'll do that," Sam says, and the nurse nods. 

"I wish you a speedy recovery. Take care Mr Winchester, " she says and leaves them be. 

There's an awkward silence as the nurse finishes up Cas' cast, and she leaves them with care instructions and a friendly smile. The door closes behind her, and Dean scratches his neck. 

"You wanna go home?" 

"Yes." 

They help Cas gather his things. Sam had the presence of mind to bring spare clothes and toiletries, and so Cas has clean things to put on. As Dean watches him don an old plaid shirt of his he remembers his conversation with Sam. 

"Let's do some online shopping for you," Dean says. "Get you some good clothes. There's this shop that sells work clothes, jeans and jackets with lifetime guarantee. They're awesome." 

Cas nods as Sam helps him button the shirt. Dean folds up the release papers and they're making their way through the maze of hallways and out to the parking lot.

"Should we split?” Dean asks.

"Sure, I'll make a pharmacy run on the way so we have some refills." Sam reads the instructions he wrote down. "That way you guys can get home earlier." 

"I'd very much like to be in bed soon," Cas says and Dean gives him a thumbs up. 

"Let's go then." 

They pile into the Impala and Sam helps them get settled with the bag of Cas’ things.

"Thank you," Cas says after Dean awkwardly helps him with the seatbelt. He looks at Dean, then Sam. "Can we have something different for dinner?" 

"You want pizza?"

"Getting hit by a car does make me crave red meat." 

Dean tries to laugh, but he fails miserably. 

"A meat lover's then, sure." 

Sam smiles. "I'll have onion rings and their grilled chicken sandwich. Can you check if they have the cinnamon things still?" 

Dean gestures. "The little crunchy like-" 

"Yeah those."

"Will do. See you in a bit." 

Sam waves as he leaves, and Dean and Cas get into Baby. Dean rolls his window down, the now slightly less suffocating early evening air soothing. He feels warm but okay. He looks at Cas. 

"You good?" 

"Yes." Cas looks straight ahead, then turns and looks at Dean. "I was scared." 

"I'm sorry, " Dean says, because what else can he say to that. 

"Thank you for taking care of me," Cas says as Dean pulls out of the parking space and onto the street. 

"Of course," he mumbles. "'S my job." 

"I can't pay you."

Dean does laugh at that. "Gimme some more stories about how weird some ancient Greeks were and we're even."

"I can do that."

They drive in silence for a while. As they get onto the highway Dean rests his arm on the door, leans back and throws a glance at Cas who's watching the sprouting fields of produce fly past. Dean relaxes. He hums a song, thinks about the future, makes insane plans about over the top ridiculous love confessions and throws them all out into the warm summer evening. 

"This hurts," Cas says after a bit. 

Dean looks over and watches him cradle his left forearm. 

"You sure you don't want anything stronger? We have an arsenal at home." 

"I'm sure," Cas says. "When I was human for the first time I saw so much suffering related to drugs. I don't ever want to touch anything similar." 

"Okay," Dean says. "I'll get you set up with some Tylenol, usually you can take two before sleeping so it's a little better then." 

"Thank you." 

Dean sees Cas looking at him, and he looks back as much as he can. He doesn't know why but it helps him disarm all the fear and horror still sitting heavy in his stomach. The air from outside smells like ozone and rain, a bit of the scent of plants blooming and thriving everywhere, but still Dean can pick out Cas in between the cocktail of outside scents. It's nothing outstanding, and he can't even describe it beyond Cas , but it's there and he's breathing it in. 

"Does it look like we'll have some thunderstorms later?" 

"Yeah I think so," Dean says as he looks more closely at the darker clouds forming. "Probably in an hour or so."

"I'd like to watch it," Cas says. "I've always loved summer storms."

"We can sit outside the garage. Bring some pillows and snacks."

Cas beams at him, and Dean can't help but grin back.

A few minutes later they're pulling into the garage, and Dean immediately recognizes the figure leaning against a car. 

"Eileen?"

Chapter Text

Dean hurries to park. Eileen waves and they both wave back as they get out, Cas with a little help. 

"Hey," she says. "Is Sam not with you?" 

"He's getting some food," Dean says. "Uhm, did you FaceTime or text ahead? Not that we don't want you here, I'm just surprised."

"It was a bit sudden," Eileen says as they all make their way inside. “But, it was the right choice.”

It takes Dean a moment to understand what she's talking about, and he stops her gently with a hand on her sleeve. 

"You're coming back? For Sam?" 

"You and Castiel are nice enough to spend time with too," she says, but she grins and Dean hugs her. It's brief but he's beaming, can't believe his little brother managed to impress a woman as amazing as Eileen. 

"How long was your drive? Do you want me to help get a room ready?" Cas signs as he speaks, a little clumsy with his immovable forearm, and Dean once again regrets having put so little work into ASL. He makes a mental note to ask Cas for lessons. 

"A little over four hours. That would be great," Eileen says. "What happened?" 

"I was hit by a car," Cas says and Dean can't stop the slight flinch at hearing him say it. "I just have a broken arm and a concussion. Nothing too bad." 

"How could a car even hurt you in the first place?" Eileen looks genuinely confused, and Dean wonders if they should send update emails to people. 

"Ah," Cas says. "I'm human."

"Oh! Welcome to humanity!" She gives him a thumbs up, and Cas smiles awkwardly. 

"Thank you. Do you want to go to get you a room now? Maybe Dean can tell Sam to bring more food in case you're hungry." 

"I'll take anything you guys are getting. I'm not picky," she says, and Dean nods. He watches them walk down the hallway and to the right to where the majority of free bedrooms are. 

Dean texts Sam right away. 

Get another meat lover’s, got a visitor

Sure. Who is it? 

Another hunter

Ok!

Dean can't decide if it's a good or bad idea to not tell Sam Eileen came back. He knows Sam will be happy, and it makes him think of Cas. With a grin on his face Dean goes to his room, changes, puts on some deodorant and goes back into the kitchen to prepare everything for their dinner. He decides they should eat in the library, and carries plates, glasses and cutlery to his favorite table in the middle.

He's pouring Cas a glass of Sam's fresh orange juice as Cas and Eileen step into the library. 

Eileen looks beautiful. She's done her hair up in this twisty way, and she's wearing makeup. 

"Expecting someone?" Dean teases, and she smiles.

"Yes. The better looking Winchester brother." 

"Dean's right here," Cas says, and both Eileen and Dean stare at him. 

"Uhm," Cas says. "I thought we were bantering."

Dean hands him the juice, and moves to clap him on the back before softening the move and giving him an awkward pat instead. "At Sam's expense, I like that." 

The front door squeaks loudly, and Dean winks at Eileen. 

"Speak of the devil."

Sam comes running down the stairs, balancing four pizza boxes in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. 

"Sorry it took so long, the one pharmacy didn't have the pills anymore so I had to drive to another, and then waited in line behind this huge family, and—"

Sam stops. He's standing in front of them, bags lowered to the floor, staring at Eileen. 

"We'll take this," Dean says, and Cas hurriedly signs it to Eileen as Dean grabs the bags and nudges Cas towards the exit. 

"Kitchen," Dean whispers and Cas follows him. 

They put the bag and pizza boxes on the kitchen table. Dean opens one of the styrofoam boxes and takes a fry out of it.

“Hm,” Dean says, then shakes his head and eats another fry. He looks up and Cas is in full head tilt now.

“What?”

“Nah, it doesn’t matter. Just me being dumb.”

Cas studies him. Dean feels oddly like a science project, wondering if he should say something or just stare back. New realizations about feelings for his best friend make him question the entirety of his behavior, and he can’t wait for it to stop, which makes him muse about if they should talk, when, how. The second he realizes what sort of future he’s entertaining in his mind he feels his face fall. There is none. Not for them at least, not the way Dean knows he wants.

Cas steps forward. He doesn’t touch him, but lets his eyes glide over him and Dean feels them holding him up.

“Are you scared he’s going to leave?”

Dean’s head snaps up and for one wild ride of a second he thinks Cas read his thoughts, he heard him, somehow he got into his head, his grace is recovering—but Cas has just known him for thirteen years. He knows, at least about this one thing. So Dean swallows his defense mechanism and nods.

“Yes.”

“He won’t,” Cas says. “Not in the sense you’re thinking of. He might move out and live with Eileen, or she might move in and they’ll spend more time together. But that doesn’t mean he’s leaving you . It doesn’t mean you’re not important, not his family.”

In that moment Dean feels like he’s been hit by a freight train.

“That kinda hits the nail on the head.”

Cas gives him a soft smile. “I know you. This has always been your greatest fear. But it’s unnecessary.”

“You think it’ll work out between them?”

“I do. But you still won’t be alone.”

Dean looks at him. Has Cas given up on moving out? 

"Guys? You can come out now."

Cas piles the food into his one good arm and Dean takes the rest. They make their way back into the library, set the food down onto a table. 

Sam and Eileen look like a Disney couple. Big shiny eyes, Eileen's lipstick suspiciously gone, her hair shiny in the warm light as she pushes it back a few times. 

"Disgusting," Dean says as he sits down. "I'll sleep somewhere very far away from your room tonight."

They grin and sit down next to each other, which leaves Cas to sit beside Dean. As Sam opens Dean's beer while he's busy cutting up Cas' pizza, he clears his throat. Dean looks up and sees him sign with Eileen, but from this angle he can't really see what they're signing. 

"So," Eileen says after a moment. "I'd like to stay, if that's alright with you."

Sam beams at her and she watches Dean, who exchanges a look with Cas briefly. Dean knows Cas knows that he's thinking about their kitchen conversation, and even though he can feel his fear crawl in his throat, he takes another breath, and raises his beer. 

"To our new family member."

“Did I marry one of you without noticing?” Eileen raises an eyebrow, and Dean watches Sam blush slightly.

“Not yet,” Dean grins. “Either way though, welcome.”

"Hear hear," they all say and drink. 

They eat in comfortable silence. Dean's been scolded before that no one can read lips when he eats like he does, so he just chews and watches. Cas steals half of his extra barbecue sauce, and Dean picks the pickle slices off Cas' plate when they plop down because he nudged them off. Soon they move onto their second beers, and Cas reaches for the mango and orange juice. Dean opens them for him and their hands touch briefly, and all Dean’s brain registers is warm and home . Dean smiles.

"Can we eat the pie now?" Dean’s peering at the cherry pie in the middle of the table.

"Predictable," Cas says, but smiles at him.

Dean’s doing the dishes after dinner. Cas went to take a nap, and Dean’s humming while scraping off cheese from a fork. He hears steps and Sam comes into the kitchen.

“Shouldn’t you be with Eileen?” Dean asks as he fishes a piece of salami from the drain.

“She’s getting changed, we’re gonna go watch a movie,” Sam says. “Just wanted to talk to you for a minute. You alright?”

Dean shuts off the water and dries off his hands. “Yes? Why wouldn’t I be.”

“Today was, y’know, kinda heavy.” Sam sits down at the kitchen table, and Dean hesitates before sitting down across him. “Would be fair if you needed a moment to breathe.”

“Cas is okay,” Dean says, and it soothes him to say it. “Cas is okay. We’re fine.”

“Yes,” Sam says. “He is. When we got into his room, you looked kinda spooked.”

"It's not like—" Dean feels his throat constrict slightly, but Sam's looking at him in his supportive and open way, and for once he doesn't find it suffocating. He thinks he wants to talk about it, actually.

"Is it too soon to make a joke about your obvious Indiana Jones crush?" 

"Ah," Dean says. "Yeah. Let's wait with that." 

"Sure." Sam waits. 

"It's kind of this thing."

"Uh-huh." 

"I don't know man. You know I didn't want to date anyone after Lisa, and even that—" Dean looks at his lap briefly. "There just wasn't any space. And I don't mean physical space, we have enough bedrooms in the damn bunker. It just felt like there wasn't."

"Can I say something?" 

Dean motions for him to go ahead, and Sam clears his throat. 

"Maybe, that space? Maybe Cas was in it. That's why you didn't want to date for so long, and we both know that that specific part is separate from random hookups." 

Dean nods. "Yeah, maybe." 

"Dean." Sam puts his hand on Dean's shoulder, and waits for him to look. "You know this is a long time coming, right? Like, I'm not surprised. I'm happy for you." 

"Wait," Dean furrows his brows. "Happy for me?" 

Sam looks confused now. "Yes?" 

"Why?"

"You finally realized your feelings for Cas?" 

"And that means we're gonna elope now and then have sixteen children and live in a house at a lake?" 

"I don't know," Sam says. "You tell me." 

"Apart from how ridiculous this is, you do realize how absolutely not on the same page Cas is?" 

"How do you know that?" 

"I have a brain, Sam. And don't tell me you have all the answers." 

"I don't. But I've thought about it a lot since he became human. What I’m wondering though, is, when will you let it go? What does Cas need to tell you so you stop thinking that you’re not good enough?" 

"Since there was a timeframe today when I didn’t know if he could tell me anything ever again, I don’t know!" Dean realizes he's raised his voice, and he takes a deep breath.

Sam’s looking at him unimpressed.

“Look, I don’t know where this is going, if it even is going anywhere.I need to figure stuff out first.”

“Okay,” Sam says. “If you need help with that, let me know.”

Dean’s about to say something sarcastic before seeing Sam’s gentle expression, and realizing how completely serious he is. 

“Yeah,” he says instead, and Sam gets up. He puts his hand on Dean’s shoulder for a moment before leaving the kitchen. 

Dean rubs his hand over his face, shakes his head at the conversation he just had, and gets up to finish drying off the dishes.

Chapter Text

A few days later finds Dean in the kitchen, closing the laptop. He saves the google maps locations on his phone and leans back. As he drains his coffee cup, Sam comes in.

“Hey,” Sam says.

“Can you give me your opinion on something?”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Wichita?”

“Uhm,” Sam says. “Yes?”

“Also Wamego.”

“Dean, stop listing cities.”

Dean nudges over the notepad he had scribbled everything on. Sam reads it, then looks up.

“For you and Cas?”

Dean nods.

“I think this is great. He’ll love it. And this motel sounds really good. One thing though.”

“Yeah?”

“You are aware that you have to get married before going on a honeymoon trip, right?”

“Shut up,” Dean says and takes the notepad back. “It isn’t like that.”

“You mean your trip just with Cas, overnight, including a visit to—”

“It’s not like that. I just want to do something nice for him.”

“Do it,” Sam says. “He’ll be happy about it.”

Dean’s chest loosens a bit. He didn’t realize the amount of anxiety he’d piled on since he’d come up with this idea, and hearing Sam confirm it’s a good one helps.

“When do you want to leave?”

“Tomorrow morning I think.”

Sam nods. “Not gonna lie, having the bunker to ourselves sounds good.”

“Ew. Stop talking.” Dean pockets his notepad and phone, takes his cup and gets up to walk to the kitchen. Sam follows him, blabbering about Dean’s plans.

“So in Wichita, do you think you guys will— hey Cas!”

Dean almost stumbles but catches himself. He wonders if Cas overheard them, and hopes not. He turns, a fake grin prepared and nods at Cas who’s standing in the hallway in his pajamas.

“Hello,” Cas says. “Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” Dean and Sam both say, and Dean hurries to step into the kitchen.

“Okay? I just wanted to say I’m going to bed.”

“Good night, Cas,” Sam says.

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” Dean says over his shoulder while rinsing his cup.

“My sofa doesn’t have bed bugs,” Cas mumbles as he shuffles away, and Dean relaxes marginally when he hears a door close.

“You need to loosen up,” Sam says. “It’s just Cas.”

“That’s my problem,” Dean mutters and Sam just smiles at him like Dean’s an idiot.

Dean doesn’t take extra time shaving. He doesn’t apply his expensive aftershave he only uses twice a year, or wear his best pair of jeans. Those things would be ridiculous to do and he’s very glad he doesn’t feel any sort of panic whatsoever.

He knocks on Cas’ door and briefly considers peeing himself or sprinting away, before he realizes he’s helped avert two apocalypses before and this is just his friend. He pulls himself together, and opens the door when he hears a grumble from within.

Cas is curled up on his sofa, and Dean’s reminded of their abandoned plan of buying him actual furniture. He shakes off the thought, focusing on right now and his plan. An open book is half on Cas’ face, and he’s wearing pajamas that are about sixty years old.

“Morning,” he says.

“I’m afraid so,” Cas says as he blearily removes the book from his face, a red crease imprinted on his left cheek.

“Did you read all night again?”

“Maybe?” Cas sits up and turns on a lamp, and Dean almost laughs at his hair.

“Didn’t you tell me about recommended sleep hours?”

“Yes, but I’m also still figuring out how many I need. Four is not the correct number.” Cas folds away the blanket and stands up. “What time is it? Do we have to go somewhere? Where’s Sam?”

“Out having breakfast with Eileen,” Dean says, and his heart does a little flutter when Cas looks at him, and all Dean can think is how soft he looks. His eyes look puffy and there’s a dark shadow across his jaw. “I thought we could do something?”

“Okay?” Cas rolls his left shoulder and winces a bit. “Do you have something in mind?”

“Kind of? There’s this city not super far from here. They got a cool historical area of town, and a park, and this really old motel?”

Cas looks surprised. “You want to stay overnight?”

“Is that okay? We can take breaks if you need to, and none of it would strain your arm.” Dean hopes Cas says yes; his entire plan depends on spending the night. Well, not exactly, but it would be nicer.

“Of course. I just need to find something to pack, I meant to do laundry today.” Cas looks around uncertainly, and Dean takes pity on him.

“You can borrow something from me. Meet me at the car in half an hour?”

Cas nods. “How long’s the drive?”

“Like two-ish hours. It’s not very far.”

“Okay,” Cas says. “Can I borrow your razor?”

“We really need to buy you more stuff,” Dean says, but nods. “It’s charging in the bathroom. Pack it when you’re done?”

“Are we stopping for breakfast somewhere?”

Dean winks. “You know me.”

Dean’s leaning against Baby, texting Sam that they’ll be on their way soon as the door to the garage opens. He looks up and does a double take.

“Can I put this in the trunk?” Cas asks as he walks over, the trench coat swinging softly behind him.

“Sure,” Dean says and pockets his phone. “You really think you need a coat?”

“Comfort is important for road trips,” Cas says as he shrugs the coat off. He’s wearing one of his own blue shirts under it, and one of Dean’s pair of dark wash jeans. “This doubles as a blanket.”

“O-kay,” Dean says and gets in the car. Cas pulls out a book and starts reading before they even leave the garage.

The roads are sun dipped but not heated up yet and Dean rests his left arm on the door. Fields fly past, and after about half an hour of reading Cas closes his book and turns to him. 

"Where are we going?"

"To Wamego, and then Wichita tomorrow. There's a few places I looked up I thought you might like."

"Like the historical area of the town you mentioned?" 

"Yeah," Dean says. Cas looks interested, so he grins. "The oldest buildings are from 1870, and there's a lot of World War II pieces and the city has some car history. I hope you'll like it.”

"I'm sure I will," Cas says. "It sounds very nice." 

“I hope so. How’s your arm? You said it hurt the last days.”

“Better,” Cas says, and he pats his cast. “I think rain aggravates it a bit.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t rain then. When’s your appointment to get it off?”

“I’m not sure, a few weeks at least. I’ll take a look when we’re back home.”

Dean nods. “Sounds good, I can drive you then.”

Cas smiles.

They arrive in Wamego around noon. It's not humid, so they opt to sit outside for lunch. They're sitting at a dark wooden table, a small picket fence with overflowing flower pots separating and the patio from the pavement. The bright yellow patio umbrellas keep them in the shade and Cas touches the edge of the table that's in the sun, the wood undoubtedly warm and rough. They people watch in comfortable silence after ordering, and Cas sips on his peach ice tea. Dean watches the white and red striped straw disappear between Cas' lips, and is thankfully interrupted by his drink arriving. 

They toast with lemonade, and Dean's feeling at peace in a way he hasn't in a long time. The fear of Sam leaving is still on his mind, and his eyes flick to Cas' cast every time he moves his arm, but he thinks that things might actually turn out okay. 

Their food arrives a few minutes later. Cas ordered a grilled salmon with lemon on salad, and Dean went with a lemon chicken burger with a side of sweet potato fries. Cas steals a fry immediately, and Dean let's him. 

"Summer is beautiful," Cas says after a while. He cuts up his salmon in tiny bites, loads up his fork with everything on his plate for every bite. "Everything's alive and thriving. It's mesmerizing to watch." 

"Yeah," Dean says. "Although I could do without mosquitoes." 

Cas nods. "I've looked into it, but sadly they're a necessity of our ecosystem."

"Well," Dean says as he shoos a bee away from his lemonade, "at least we can enjoy driving along flower fields." 

Cas lights up at that. "Can we go back there before we go home? I want to pick some of them."

Dean specifically had picked that very road, knowing they'd drive past a huge self-serve wildflower field.

"You know me. Always down for flowers."

They spend the afternoon walking around town. The museum has them busy for hours, and they have ice cream after while they sit to take a break and talk animatedly about what they found the most interesting.

Shopping is next on the list, though Dean wouldn't call it that. They're not trying on outfits in a weird fashion show moment, just.. browsing. Cas points to things Dean missed the first time he let his eyes wander around a shop, and they pick out some little curiosities to bring back home. Dean buys a few records still missing from his collection in a tiny thrift store that smells like old sofa cushions and has dust particles dancing in the streams of sunlight falling through cramped windows. Cas drags him into an antique jewelry store and shows him a beautiful silver bracelet with tiny sapphires in it. It's a charm bracelet, and it reminds Dean of the one his mother had when she was younger.

"We could give this to Eileen," Cas says. "Put different protection charms on it." 

Dean buys it, and the elderly owner gives them a coupon for the next time they visit. Cas asks to come back around Christmas, since someone at the museum had told him about their historic Christmas market. Dean agrees without hesitating. 

They find a shop called the Flower Mill, and Dean stops Cas at the third plant he wants to buy. When Cas grabs a barbecue cookbook instead, Dean thinks he’d like to kiss him. Instead, he takes the book and pays for it, the two plants, a vanilla candle and one that somehow smells like fresh laundry. He carries all of their bags even though Cas reminds him that only his one arm is broken, and they walk back to the car to put everything in it. Dean's stomach rumbles, and he checks his watch. 

"Want to get dinner?" 

Cas nods. "Maybe we can get something to go and eat it in the park?" 

"I saw the little burger place we passed earlier had take-out options. You good with that?" 

"Dean," Cas says solemnly, "I will always be good with burgers and good company." 

Dean smiles at him bashfully, and after he locks the car they start walking.

"I could go for a burger with an egg on it," Dean says and his stomach immediately agrees, loudly. Cas laughs, and Dean gives him a crooked grin. 

The burger place smells like home cooking, and they both get milkshakes to dip their fries into. Cas sips on his strawberry shake while Dean carries the red and white checkered paper bag with a little grease stain forming, and they walk into the park looking for picnic tables. They find some grouped under a huge weeping willow, the softly swinging branches and braids of leaves leaving them in a comfortable half shadow. The sun blinks through the gaps, and as Dean looks around while Cas pulls out stray fries from the bag he watches a father play football with his kid. Another child laughs somewhere, and Dean feels the idyllic atmosphere like a blanket. 

"I've stolen three of your fries and a tomato slice from your burger by now," Cas says, and Dean's mind returns to their table. "I thought you were hungry."

"Damn right," Dean says, and lifts his milkshake. "To a great weekend away." 

"Dean, it's Tuesday."

"Whatever," Dean says, but Cas toasts with his half empty shake. They dig in right after, and Cas shoots Dean a stern look for moaning at his burger. 

"Don't embarrass us." Cas smiles at him as he eats another fry. 

When they're done eating they pack their things, throw away the trash and walk around before finding two benches looking over a pond. The gravel crunches under their shoes. Cas looks for dirt before sitting down on one side of a bench, and Dean laughs. He himself sits down on the other bench, the side closer to Cas, and points at them. 

"Hey, remember?" 

Cas looks confused for a moment before his expression softens.

“This was the first time you really made me smile,” he says quietly.

Dean leans back and lets his thoughts wander to the memory of that day.

“I can’t believe how much things have changed.”

Dean can’t tell if Cas sounds sad; he doesn’t look upset at least.

“I wanted to talk to you constantly back then because I had so many questions,” Dean says. “Now I just want to talk to you constantly anyways. It’s not actually that different.”

Cas looks up at him and Dean feels slight warmth in his cheeks as he realizes what he said. Luckily though Cas doesn’t dwell on it. He looks away again, and Dean follows his line of sight to the pond ahead. There’s a group of ducks swimming around, and they watch them in silence for a while.

Then, Dean gets up to sit down next to Cas. Their thighs brush.

"How's the hunter network thing going?" 

"It's going well," Cas says and smiles at him. "Sam has been helping me with the technical side of it, but I'm getting better. We already have an interactive map and every pin is a hunter, and people can select the ones closest to the problem area. He explained to me the way he makes sure the information isn’t accessible to just everyone, so it can’t be abused." 

Dean makes an impressed noise. "Sounds awesome. So you want to be more behind the scenes than hands-on?" 

Cas looks to the left at a cluster of orange Dahlias. He leans over and picks up a bloom from the grass, the severed stem left behind. 

"I'm not sure yet." A bee sails past Dean but has an interest in the Dahlia bloom in Cas' lap. They watch it inspect the flower before flying off and disappearing into the sky. "I like being hands-on with things, but I like data and coordination more. I don't want to live in fear forever that something's going to happen." 

Dean hums. "I get that. I like the idea, too. Kind of what Bobby did, just a lot more up to date." 

Cas laughs quietly. "Yes. No rummaging in basements for a specific book, we'll have it all online and archived for easier research. I wonder if we could include video segments? Showing protection spells for example."

"Sounds great," Dean says. "I'm really glad you came up with this."

"Me too. I was feeling very much directionless for a while, and teaching is what I used to do back in the garrison." 

Dean nods. “It sounds like a great fit then.”

Cas smiles softly, playing with the flower petals in his hand. 

They spend the rest of the evening in the park, watching the sky turn pink and orange and red. When the first stars peek through, they get up and make their way to their hotel.

Their motel room is cozy and definitely more expensive than their usual picks, but Dean has no regrets about spending the extra money. The beds are big and soft, there are no questionable spots on the carpet, and the towels aren’t scratchy.

Cas sits on his bed as he takes off shoes and socks, and he wiggles his toes against the soft dark grey carpet. 

"Dibs on the first shower," Dean says and Cas gives him a thumbs up as he fiddles with the TV remote.

Dean grabs fresh underwear, dark green flannel pants and a random tee shirt. He closes the door behind him and sighs. Turning on the shower as he gets undressed, he replays the day in his head. The museum and old parts of the city definitely were a success, and he's glad Cas enjoyed both of them. He's excited about the stuff they bought and can't wait to bring them home. 

Dean dries off, puts on his sleep clothes and walks out the bathroom while running his fingers through his hair. 

"Shower's free," he says and plops down to sit on his bed. 

"I'll take a bath," Cas says and gets up.

"Dude, that tub is tiny." Dean raises an eyebrow. "Why not just shower? You said you were tired." 

Cas is peering into the bathroom. "Uhm," he says. 

"Did you bring a bag for your cast?" 

"I forgot," Cas says. "I also don't really know how to use it." 

Now Dean's really confused. "What do you mean? You've showered at home though since the accident?" 

The way Cas is avoiding to look at him is answer enough. 

"You haven't?" 

"The sink and tub were sufficient."

"Why didn't you ask me for help?"

"I asked Sam," Cas says.

"Why?" 

"So much had happened," Cas says. "I wasn't sure. I was embarrassed." 

Dean sighs. "Did Sam help you?" 

"Yes," Cas says. "It was a lot of work though, and I decided I'd just take baths instead. They're very relaxing." 

"What do you want to do now?” Dean feels a tingle in his cheeks, but stomps it down. “I can help you." 

“I’ll be fine with the bathtub,” Cas says. “Really.”

“Okay,” Dean says. “Call me if you need me.”

Cas takes out underwear and pajamas from his bag and nods. He disappears into the bathroom, and Dean stretches out on the bed. The water starts running in the bathroom, and he expects Cas to come back out while the tub fills, but he doesn’t. Dean looks over at Cas’ bed and sees his book missing.

“Typical,” he mumbles. He turns on the TV, jumps between channels until he finds reruns of X-Files. 

Half an hour passes until the bathroom door opens again. Dean tries not to stare at Cas’ wet hair or the exposed collarbone where his shirt is lopsided and clinging slightly to his still damp skin.

“Nice bath?”

Cas looks at him and nods before carefully setting the book on the nightstand of his bed. 

They settle in for the night shortly after, both tired. When Dean comes out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth he has to walk past Cas’ bed. Cas is all tucked in, looks comfy and weirdly isn’t in the middle of the bed, but on the left side of it. 

Dean sits down on the right side of his bed, the one closer to Cas’, to toe off his socks before getting under the blankets. He turns off the light, and the room turns dark. The streetlamps are bright enough to throw a soft light into the room through the curtains. 

There’s some rustling and he looks over to Cas who’s pulling the blanket to his chin.

Dean can feel how close to the edge of the mattress he’s lying, but he makes no move to adjust. He just looks over at Cas, who looks back.

Dean doesn’t remember falling asleep.

They eat breakfast at the diner they’d gone to the day before. Cas orders a strawberry smoothie, and Dean picks the banana and peanut butter one. It's already warm, and everyone's in shorts and sundresses. They leave shortly after and, after a two hour drive, arrive at their destination.

The Wichita gardens are stunning. Dean watches Cas as they arrive, from their walk from the parking lot into the garden. Cas takes it all in, keeps looking around and reading every sign, stepping close to a few specific kinds of flowers and reading about them on the little info cards. They spend over half an hour in the first garden section alone, and Cas writes down every single kind of plant he sees and loves. 

The gravel path leads them to the wildflower garden next, and the wooden signpost has a butterfly carved into it. After a few minutes of walking they reach it, and it’s clear why there was a butterfly on the sign; they’re everywhere . Dean’s never seen this many, and he cranes his neck following one that’s a striking shade of blue. The flowers are stunning too, and even though he doesn’t know much about them, Dean recognizes the incredible variety they’re seeing. Bursts of color are everywhere, a hundred different smells, and they’re walking through a warm ocean of sunlight and flower scents.

They watch them for a while, one even landing on Cas’ shoulder. Dean takes a picture of it, the sun behind Cas, his hair wind-tousled and he’s beaming at the little yellow butterfly.    

They walk for a while. Cas enjoys watching Dean guess which herbs he's seeing, and tells Dean what their care instructions are as they consider adding fresh ones to the bunker. Next is the sensory garden, and Dean thought it would be a good idea. There are a few children and a group of blind visitors, but everyone seems to be enjoying it so Dean turns to Cas. 

"You told me that when you were an angel you could only taste molecules, and I thought with other stuff it might be similar? And here you can like, try some things? See how they feel to you now?” 

He feels silly now, unsure if Cas would enjoy it, but he looks around and nods. 

"This is a wonderful idea," Cas says and walks over to the part that marks the beginning. Dean walks with him and together they take the tour, touching and smelling different plants and stones and it's a lot more interesting than Dean would have thought. 

Afterwards they walk along a few small ponds until they reach the rose garden. The entrance has them walking under a rose arch, and Dean happily watches the soft smile appear on Cas' face. 

They stroll around, smelling a dozen different types of roses, and Dean’s surprised at the variety in color. He falls a little bit in love with the yellow ones, and Cas writes them down, too. As they continue they get to a little crossroad, and they opt for going left. The path curves, half-hidden by bushes and suddenly the path ends and they stop and stare.

There’s a pavilion made of white wood, and different-colored roses are growing all along it, winding around. There’s a bench under it, with a bush of wild looking dark pink roses behind it, caressing the edge of the seat. Bright sunlight fights its way through the flowers and leaves overhead, painting a twinkling dotted pattern all over the hardened dirt under the pavilion.

“This is beautiful,” Cas says, and Dean just nods. He’s too stunned to say anything.

The internet had described this park as lovely , the flowers as outstanding , but this is the perfect spot. Dean can’t help the grin spreading over his face as he looks from their surroundings back to Cas, who’s looking at everything in complete awe. 

“How did you even get the idea of going on this trip?”

“I thought it’d be a good way to celebrate.”

“Celebrate what?"

Dean’s suddenly unsure. “You staying? Like, with us in the bunker?”

“I never said I am,” Cas says and shakes his head slightly. “We just never talked about it after the accident.”

“I want you to stay,” Dean says. 

“I didn’t know. Your behavior made me think the opposite, actually. I didn’t know what to think about this whole trip either. I thought you didn’t want me around.”

“That’s like, the absolute opposite of what I want,” Dean says. “I want you to stay with us, with me. The accident just made it clearer, too. I can’t lose you. Not again. Waiting to hear if you’re okay..it was hell.”

“But Dean,” Cas looks down at his hands and brushes away a little leaf from his thigh, “I understand how traumatic it is to watch a loved one die, how it haunts you. I understand better than probably anyone else. But this is still not your decision to make.”

You’ve made one though,” Dean says. He tries to not sound angry or accusing, his gratitude overshadowing almost everything else, but not quite. The concerns are still gnawing at him, and he can’t understand how Cas doesn’t see what he means.

“Yes, I did. And if that means I’d die today, I would be okay with it.”

“But I wouldn’t be!”

“Maybe I should leave after all,” Cas says quietly. “We can’t seem to agree on this one, most important thing.”

Dean forces himself to calm down, tries his hardest not to start yelling. “What part about me saying I can’t lose you is unclear?”

“Dean, my decision—”

“You’ve made a decision that affects the rest of your life. Hell, you * have a rest of your life now. I’d do anything to make this not true.”

“Then I have one thing I’d like to ask of you.” Cas’ voice is firm, as are his eyes.

“Anything.”

“Spend it with me.”

Dean’s brain hiccups. He’s not entirely sure what Cas means. He comes up with an idea but discards it for its insanity. It can’t be.

Cas is looking at him, and his whirring brain must be showing somehow, because he turns now to face him fully.

“I—” Dean can’t. He gets up, paces briefly and turns back to Cas who looks like the picture perfect definition of calmness. His dark hair in stark contrast to the white and pink roses behind him, and Dean looks away again. Then he decides to circle it all back.

“How can you be so calm about this?” He gestures at Cas, then around them. “This is the end of your life we’re talking about here. You went from a badass Angel, smiting everyone who messed with you, to gardening and wearing my old shirts.”

“If my sense of style bothers you, I wholeheartedly invite you to ignore it.”

“You know that’s not the point.”

Cas stands up too. “Yes,” he says, “I know. You’re the one not seeming to understand here.”

“I’ve proven to be a fucking idiot,” Dean says. “Spell it out for me. You wanna be roommates until we both fall over and die in forty years?”

“I want to live with you,” Cas says. “I want to eat what you cook, and listen to your rants about insignificant changes to new Impala models.” Cas takes a step closer to him, and the tension lines his shoulders. “Most importantly, I want to wake up next to you until the day I stop breathing.”

Dean swallows. He feels like he’s falling, but the doubts in his mind are still the barrier between what is and what could be.

“What if after all this, everything we went through and the sacrifice you made,” Dean says but has to breathe before he continues. “What if I’m not enough?”

“Nothing was enough until I met you.”

Dean almost sags with the relief of those words and under the weight they hold too. He moves, and Cas meets him halfway, and they hold each other. Cas’ arms around his shoulders anchor him, and Dean feels like the sound of the wall collapsing between them must be audible to everyone for miles. He turns his head slightly, presses his nose into Cas' hair and Cas in turn burrows deeper into the crevice between Dean's shoulder and neck. 

They stand there, together, and it's safe. It feels right, and so there's no big fanfare, no surprising fireworks when they pull apart slightly just to tilt their heads and then meet each other again, their lips fitting to each other like puzzle pieces. There are bees and butterflies drifting past, a dog walks up to them but leaves after a call from his owner. The rose scent wavers around them and none of it matters. Their lips move slowly, softly and surely. There's warmth and certainty and it feels definitive. 

A peek of tongue and Cas opens up to him. Dean just holds him tighter, holding on with everything, because Cas deserves nothing less, and he promises himself that very second that he'll always do whatever it takes to make them happy together. 

It takes them a while to stop kissing. Every time one of them pulls back the other surges back in, and eventually Dean realizes he needs to breathe. He puts just enough distance between them to not be smushing his nose against Cas' cheek, and breathes. Cas does the same, and they just stand there, noses bumping into each other and eyes still closed. 

They grab dinner to go, and make the drive back to the motel in Wamego in the late afternoon. There are dark clouds at the horizon, and the forecast talks about a heavy thunderstorm. Dean drives a little faster while being fed the remaining fries by Cas, who sits in the middle of the bench and holds Dean's hand whenever there isn't a fry in it. 

Going to California plays quietly, and the air starts to smell like rain. There's a tingle in Dean's chest, a fire under his skin whenever Cas' thumb strokes over the back of his hand. 

It starts to rain when they're five minutes away from the motel. By the time they park it's pouring, and they get soaked on their way to the room. Dean unlocks the door and they hurry inside. Cas walks across the room to the back and opens the curtains. The field behind the hotel is swaying, the wind making waves roll through it like it’s the ocean and not just wheat. They watch a forked lightning strike in the distance. Cas cracks the window and toes off his shoes. Dean steps up behind him as Cas turns around. 

They look at each other, rain dripping from their hair, and Cas wipes away a drop from the tip of Dean's nose. They laugh, and Dean opens his arms for Cas to step into. He does, and their foreheads bump softly, but Cas makes a face when another drop from Dean's hair hits his eye. 

"Can we please dry off?" 

"On it," Dean says and grabs their big towels from the bathroom. They both dry their hair, and as Dean gives his another rub and resurfaces from under the towel he sees Cas slide off his plaid shirt. As Cas reaches for the bottom of his t-shirt Cas looks up and catches Dean's eye. He continues and pulls it up, but Dean has to help him with getting it over his cast. It falls to the floor, and Dean doesn't even give himself time to take in what he sees, but takes off his own shirt right away. 

Cas takes a step closer and reaches out. His hands are cool from the rain and leave goosebumps where they slide over Dean's sides, his stomach and his chest. Dean inhales a little more sharply as Cas' rough fingers pass over his nipples, and Cas smiles as he moves his hand down and over the button and zipper in Dean's pants. He rests it on the seam between his legs, and lays the other hand on Dean's cheek. 

Dean slowly lowers his head until his lips are brushing across Cas' cheek, and he presses his nose against Cas' with a sharp inhale as Cas' hand presses into him. Dean feels himself grow hard, and he hesitantly reaches out to touch the tattoo on Cas' stomach. He rests his fingers on Cas’ jeans, and after Cas nods Dean pops the button. The rain gets heavier; it splashes against the windows, and the thunder is constant. The little flashes of lightning make Dean focus on different details every time they happen, from the hair on Cas' chest to the vee of his hips. He runs his finger over the crease, and when he returns to open the jeans he has to work against the straining zipper. 

He wants to tell Cas that this time everything will be better, that he'll take care of him and he'll do it until he takes his last breath.

“Cas,” he says, “wait, I gotta—”

Cas looks at him, his hand on Dean’s cheek and Dean leans into it. He soaks up the warmth and his heart hurts for having to pause the moment he’s been aching for.

“I’m sorry,” Dean says finally. He stops touching Cas, taking a step back to look at him. Cas looks surprised, but says nothing.

“I’m so, so sorry. For going behind your back, for not listening to you. I won’t ever do this again, and I promise to try my best to be honest about everything. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Dean,”Cas’ expression is endlessly soft, and he steps in to hug Dean. “Thank you.” 

They cling to each other for a while before Dean pulls back to kiss him again.

A lightning strike illuminates the room again for a blink. Dean’s scared he can never stop kissing Cas, now that he’s allowed to. 

So, for a while, he doesn’t. 

Eventually they both start to grow impatient, Cas with his wandering hands and Dean with the thrumming of his pulse in his ears. He pulls Cas to the bed closest to the window, helps him lie down and moves on top of him. 

Cas spreads his legs a little, and Dean slots in right between them. They both groan at the pressure, and Cas reaches for Dean's pants. After unsuccessful one handed attempts Dean gets up quickly to take them off, and kneels at the foot of the bed again in just his briefs. They do nothing to hide him, and he doesn't mind it. 

Dean moves forward, carefully opens Cas' jeans and slides them off bit by bit. When he pulls them off completely and drops them on the floor he takes Cas' left leg, slides his lips along the calf and presses a kiss to his knee. He does the same to the other leg, then moves further up with gentle hands and lips. When he reaches Cas' underwear he skips over it and continues his trail of breathy kisses from his stomach up his chest. He spends some time on Cas' neck, and when Cas wraps his legs around Dean's hips, Dean stays there even longer and graces Cas with a substantial hickey. 

There's a bonfire in Dean's belly, and the flames are licking his ribs every time Cas pulls him closer and their hips slide against each other. A burst of thunder crackles close to them. 

"I want to see you," Cas says against Dean's hair. "All of you."

Dean looks at him, searches for hesitancy or doubt in his eyes, but finds none. There's just heat, and so he complies. He moves back down again, noses Cas' hip bones as he gently slides his underwear off. He forces himself to ignore Cas' cock as Dean fumbles to take off his own briefs, but Cas has no such inhibitions as soon as Dean is in reach. His right hand goes straight to Dean's cock, and Dean almost drops onto Cas from the unexpectedness of it.

He can't fully enjoy it with the slight drag of Cas' dry hand, so he reaches for his toiletry bag on the nightstand. Cas looks grumpy when Dean does so, because it means they have to stop kissing, and now Cas is just holding Dean's dick and he can't help but snort a laugh. 

"Lube makes it better," Dean says. "Trust me." 

He adds some onto his own palm, reaches for Cas' cock and Cas' hips lift off the bed when Dean tightens his fist. 

"Told you," Dean huffs. 

He takes their cocks in his hand and strokes them together. They can't manage more than sloppy, open mouthed kisses, but Dean enjoys every single one. 

At one point Cas lays his hand on Dean's waist. He pushes him slowly onto his side, and Dean lets him, until Cas has Dean on his back and he's on top of him. Cas is resting all of his weight on his healthy arm, and Dean knows he won’t last long that way. He discards the thought; he knows he himself won’t last very long either. 

There's fire in Cas' eyes, and Dean forgets to breathe as he watches him nudge himself between Dean's legs. The dim lighting paints over his chest muscles, makes his jaw look sharper than any blade and the feathering of his lashes makes Dean want to look at him forever. 

Dean reaches up and runs his fingers over Cas' neck, moves them up until his hand curls around the back of Cas' neck and he pulls him in for a scorching kiss. He wraps his legs around Cas' waist, and Cas doesn't hesitate. He aligns their cocks and grabs them both with a lube-slick hand. 

He moves against Dean so slowly, drags out the movement of his hips, and Dean feels himself blush.

It doesn't take much. Dean knows they're both too into it, it's been so long, and when Cas' hips stutter and his back muscles contract under Dean’s hands, Dean feels warmth drip onto his cock he follows him right over the edge. 

They take a few moments to just breathe together. Cas leans his forehead against Dean’s, then moves in a little further to place a feathery light kiss on Dean’s lips. The exhaustion made both their lips dry, and they stick together briefly before Dean hugs Cas closer to him. 

“It’s sticky,” Cas mumbles into Dean’s neck after a few minutes, and Dean laughs. 

“The downsides of sex,” Dean says. “The cleanup.”

“I’ll grab a washcloth,” Cas says, but Dean shakes his head.

“I’ll do it,” Dean says. “Gotta hit the head.”

Cas nods and moves off of him to let him get up. Dean stands up but immediately wants to lie back down. The warmth and weight of Cas on him had been incredibly comforting, and he hurries into the bathroom to get back to it. 

As he washes his hands he looks into the mirror and freezes. 

His lips are kiss-swollen and red, there’s still a slight blush creeping over his chest and neck and he can see a hickey he doesn’t remember getting on his collarbone, but most of all it’s the expression in his own eyes. 

He isn’t a stranger to sex, but it’s hitting him in a way it never has before. His fingers brush over his lips and he remembers Cas’ tongue gliding over them, and he looks at the flush spread over his chest and follows it down towards his now soft cock. Never in his life has it felt like this, has he treasured the incredible intimacy of sharing his body with someone else. There’s slight regret about not taking enough time, but he can’t stop himself from smiling when he realizes that they’ve got all the time they need. 

He grabs a washcloth and soaks it in warm water. When he opens the bathroom door he notices that the window is wide open now, but there’s nothing but the fields behind the motel so Dean’s not worried about his nudity. Cas turns on a bedside lamp when he spots him, and squints against the sudden light which makes Dean grin. He walks over to Cas who’s sitting against the headboard, the blanket pooling low around his hips. 

“Hey,” Dean says as he crawls into bed next to Cas, mirroring him and sitting up against the head of the bed. “I was gonna do a whole sexy cleanup thing, but,” he hands Cas the cloth, “you moved already.”

“I’ll remember to wait for next time,” Cas says, and he gently wipes himself clean before dropping the washcloth on the floor.

Dean watches him, and Cas just looks right back. He looks just as wrecked as Dean, with swollen lips and hickeys on his neck.

“Thank you,” Cas says. “This was wonderful.”

Dean sees Cas’ hand twitch and he grabs it to intertwine their fingers. 

“You can touch me, y’know,” Dean mumbles. “Full permission. And thank you, too.”

They sit there for a bit, and Cas turns off the lamp again. The air has cooled off and the smell of rain is drifting in through the window. Goosebumps rise on Cas’ skin, and Dean pulls the blanket over them more fully. 

“I keep thinking about our fight,” Cas says. “If someone told me this morning that we would end up right here like this, I would’ve been disappointed.”

Dean raises an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Because clearly that person is a horrible liar,” Cas says. “Mocking me for something I’ve wanted for so long.”

“I would’ve totally beaten them up for it,” Dean says. Then, he quietly asks, “How long?”

Cas looks at him like he’s asking the most obvious question in the world. 

“I don’t know when I fell in love with you,” Cas says, and Dean feels like he swallowed fireworks. “Maybe it was when I first saw your soul in Hell, maybe the first time you made me smile, or laugh. It’s been too long to know a specific time.”

“What does a soul look like?” Dean asks, because it’s something he’s always wondered. “For you, I mean. Not the dimmed version for humans.”

Cas tilts his head and smiles at him. “Yes, the angelic version is much different.” He strokes over the back of Dean’s hand, and Dean pokes his thumb with his own until they’re in a full blown thumb wrestling match. Cas wins with his giant hands, and he pulls their joined hands underneath the blanket. 

“It’s a difference visually, but also in feeling,” Cas says. “They don’t really have a color. The closest would be white with a rainbow shimmer, because they shift between every color you know, and every color that exists outside of human imagination.”

“What do you mean, ‘feeling’?” Dean searches for words. “Like if you touched them?”

“Not exactly,” Cas says, “and it’s forbidden to touch a soul without a good reason. With feeling, I mean the sort of aura? It’s nothing that’s visible, but it’s like souls radiate their essence, what the person’s character traits are. You see some and if you step closer it’s like tasting ash in your mouth, and you feel like something bad happened.”

Dean squeezes Cas’ hand, and Cas looks past him and out of the window.

“Someone like you has a soul that feels like hope. It feels like walking into a safe place, a loving place.” Cas looks back at him. “You can’t expect me to not fall in love with you.”

Dean is quiet after that. He thinks about everything Cas has said, and nudges him when he thinks of their current situation.

“You’ve got one of those cool rainbow souls now too,” Dean says. “Twinsies.”

Cas’ face falls. “I don’t think so,” he says. “Angels aren’t made with them, and I don’t see how I could’ve gotten one.”

“You must have one,” Dean says. “Every human does unless they sell it. Did you make a secret deal?” He nudges Cas, wearing a lopsided smile. 

“No,” Cas says.

“See. You got one then. Easy as that.”

Cas still looks sad, and Dean can’t take it. 

“Look, I promise you we’ll ask Billie or someone else who might know about this. We’ll figure it out. But for now I’d love for us to just sleep with uh, bodily contact.”

“You mean cuddling?” Cas raises an eyebrow.

Dean ignores him and shimmies down to lay flat on his back, and pulls Cas with him. He puts his hand on Cas’ waist as he turns to face him.

“You look like you could use some little spoon action,” Dean says. “I’m here to provide.”

Cas rolls his eyes at him, but turns over. Dean moves up behind him, his hand on Cas’ waist moving further to gently rest on Cas’ stomach. As he settles in fully, he suddenly notices the quiver in his stomach, the ache in his throat and a tear soaks into the pillow. He presses his forehead to Cas’ back, tries to cry silently because why now, everything’s okay. 

Cas moves, turns around and his thumb catches a tear. 

“Dean?”

Dean shakes his head, leans into Cas who holds him. 

“I almost lost you,” Dean says, his voice thick. 

“You didn’t,” Cas says. “And I won’t leave. Not now, not ever.”

They fall asleep a while later. Dean ends up being the little spoon, and he doesn’t mind it in the slightest. 

It’s some time during the night when Dean wakes up to a toe nudging his shin. He opens one eye and blinks at Cas.

“Can you close the window?”

Dean notices the chill in the room and nods. He rolls out of bed and closes the window, pulls the curtains shut and yawns as he walks back to bed. Cas is leaning on one elbow and watching him. Dean spins lazily once.

“Like what you see?”

“I do,” Cas just says, and Dean winks at him.

He climbs back into bed, but before he can lie down Cas pulls him in and kisses him. He kisses him slowly and deeply, and Dean follows his lead until Cas places the last kiss on Dean’s forehead. 

“Thank you,” Cas says. “For everything.”

“Right back at you,” Dean says and lies back down. They find their previous position again, this time with Dean pressed even closer against Cas’ chest.

Chapter Text

They drive back to the bunker an hour later than Dean had planned to. A lazy makeout and prolonged cuddling made them late in getting up, but neither of them minded much.

It’s cooled off since the day before, the rain all through the night had washed away the heat and left them with crisp fall-like air. Early fall still brings heat to Kansas, but it’s gonna sparse out over the next few weeks. 

Cas reads again during the drive, but he holds Dean’s hand as much as he can. It’s an incredible development of the status quo; Dean thinks. Ex-angel of the lord, best friend and now partner riding shotgun, holding his hand. Dean grins at him when he does it.

After arriving and parking Dean carries their bags and they run into Sam and Eileen in the library. There’s an awkward pause where everyone stares at each other; Eileen wearing one of Sam’s plaids tucked into her jeans with the sleeves rolled up points to Cas.

“Nice job there,” she says. Dean plays dumb but Cas’ hand immediately covers his neck.

Sam’s grin is blinding.

“You look like teenagers,” he says, and Dean shoots him an angry look that he can’t really uphold. 

“Speak for yourself,” Dean says. “Don’t act like you two have been reading books while we were gone.”

“Actually,” Eileen says, “we’ve been on the Internet.”

Dean makes a face. “Ew.”

She raises her brows, pulls him to the laptop that's open on one of the tables, and opens the browser. Dean’s knees go a little weak, and he places a hand on the table to stabilize himself.

They’re house listings. All within an hour drive, all beautiful homes. All of them are not the bunker, though.

“Before you freak,” Sam says as he steps up next to him, “let us explain.”

Cas is suddenly behind him and nudges him to sit, which he does. The others all grab chairs and Sam pulls up a specific house listing.

“We thought about moving out, into an actual house not far from here. The bunker has been our home for so long, but I don’t want to live here forever.”

Dean looks at the house listing on the screen. It’s a beautiful white two bedroom, a garage and a big yard. He looks back at Sam, and waits.

“The bunker could be used for its original purpose,” Sam says. “We can have hunters stay here when they need to, and we can use it for the network Cas and I have been building up. It’s like we’ll have a sort of nine-to-five, we go home to an actual house afterwards but we’re all still in the area. What do you think?”

Dean sits there and even though he and Cas have talked about Sam wanting to probably leave, it feels suffocating to him now. It’s like his brain got left behind somewhere on the highway, and he’s just sitting here and tries his hardest not to freak out. 

“It’s great,” Dean says. “Good place for kids too.”

Dean gets up, doesn’t look at anyone as he starts walking away.

“Need a nap,” he mumbles and flees the library. As he walks past the kitchen and is almost at his room he hears footsteps behind him, and knows it’s Cas.

“I didn’t know if you wanted space, but I thought it’s best if I talk to you before you brood about this alone in the dark.”

“I don’t brood ,” Dean says, but he opens the door to his room and let’s Cas step inside too.

They take off their shoes and Dean pulls off his jeans and drops face first onto the bed. He feels it shift and when he turns his head he looks at Cas sitting next to him. Suddenly there are fingers in his hair, running through it and scritching his scalp gently.

“Sam isn’t leaving you,” Cas says quietly. He talks like he’s afraid Dean will scuttle away like a scared mouse, but there’s confidence in his words nonetheless. “Eileen isn’t leaving you, and I’m not leaving you. Things will change, but you will never be alone.”

Dean turns slightly, allows himself to curl around Cas. He worms an arm to put over Cas’ lap and fingers the hem of his shirt while he presses his face into his jeans. The hand in his hair moves lower, travels over the nape of his neck to his back. Cas continues scratching him softly, moving in circles and keeping him grounded. 

Time passes, and Dean doesn’t know how long they spend together on the bed, but he starts feeling like maybe things will turn out okay. The anxiety of feeling like he’s gonna be alone and slowly drift away is diminished by the warm, solid body next to him.

“We can do the same if you want to,” Cas says. “We can keep living here, or we can find a house too. A big garage for Baby, a basement for a work station where you can build that nursery for all of my plants.”

“You have three plants, Cas.” Dean turns his head slightly to not mumble into Cas’ leg.

“Right now I do. In the future I’m describing to you, there will be many more.”

Dean thinks on this. “I’m not building that alone, you’re gonna help.”

“Anything,” Cas says and bows down to press a kiss to Dean’s hairline. “I’ll do anything you want me to.”

Dean tilts his head up and catches Cas’ lips in a gentle kiss. 

“Is it okay if we order food and just watch Netflix? I’m rather tired,” Cas says.

Dean knows Cas is suggesting this for him, but he doesn’t call him out on it. Instead he just nods and gives Cas his phone.

“Order me something with bacon on it,” he says, and Cas nods.

“Can I text Sam to let him know you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” Dean says, and Cas starts tapping away.

The phone makes a little ping sound after a few minutes. 

“Sam asks for a vegetarian mushroom pizza for him and Eileen, and he says he’s paying.”

“Sounds good,” Dean says. “Can you go steal the laptop so we can watch something?”

“Of course.” Cas gets up slowly and closes the door behind him.

Dean rolls onto his back and turns on the bedside lamp. He starts thinking about everything again, but shakes his head at himself. This is not an issue for today. Groaning, he stands up, stretches his legs and back until something pops somewhere, and he relaxes again. He goes to his drawer and changes into clean pajamas, washes his face and goes back to bed.

A soft knock and Cas sticks his head in. “I brought snacks while we wait for the delivery.”

“A man after my own heart,” Dean says, and pats the bed. “C’mere.”

Cas disappears before nudging the door open with his foot. He’s carrying a little tray with two mugs, a carton of cheese crackers and a few chocolate bars. 

“I made hot chocolate but cold,” Cas says as he sets the tray on the desk. He gives one of the mugs to Dean who sips the cool cocoa and then puts his cup on his nightstand. 

“Gimme those crackers, I’m craving cheese.” 

Cas tosses the carton and grabs a chocolate bar for himself. After eyeing Dean’s grey shirt he takes out pajamas for himself and puts them on. Dean absolutely doesn’t ogle him while he changes, and pulls the blanket back. Cas takes the laptop from the tray and sits down next to him.

They spend the rest of the day eating pizza, onion rings and watching Star Wars.

Sam’s sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of grapes and a glass of water. Dean hesitates for a moment before stepping inside.

“Mornin’,” Dean says as he grabs a cup of coffee.

“Hey,” Sam says. He’s looking at Dean like he’s trying to guess if Dean’s going to yell at him. Still, Dean takes his time to stir some hazelnut syrup, a gift from Cas, into his coffee before sitting down opposite Sam.

“So you’re moving out with your girlfriend, huh.” Dean takes a sip as he waits for Sam to reply.

“Yeah,” Sam says. “Yeah, that’s the plan.”

“Alright,” Dean nods. 

Sam raises his brows. “You’re okay with this? I kinda thought you’d react worse, to be honest.”

“Cas used the words abandonment issues ,” Dean mumbles. “I get why you want to do it, and I want you to be happy. But I’m probably gonna need a bit of time to wrap my head around it.”

“You know Cas is right though?” Sam’s tone is careful. “It’s not your fault either. I think,” Sam pauses and takes a sip of water. “I think it’s finally time for us to take a step back, and heal? Building the hunter network, having partners, it’s all different than the past years. We’ve never been in this position.”

Dean nods. “Yeah. It’s not just us anymore, huh.”

“It’s not,” Sam says, but he’s smiling. “But that’s good. This is—this feels final. Eileen, I mean. And I see the way you and Cas are with each other.”

“I’m not gonna act like the big relationship expert here, but it feels the same to me.” Dean takes another sip and can’t fight the smile at the taste of hazelnut. “Actually, you gave me this idea.”

“I did?”

“Technically years ago but, hear me out, okay?”

Sam gives him a thumbs up as he leans back and starts plucking the grapes from their little stems. He eats eight before Dean talks again. 

“I’ve had this dream, kind of. Like if I could pick the best case scenario? I want a house too. But, I want to build it. Buy some land, build it myself, the whole shebang. Somewhere outside the city, maybe some forest or a lake even. I think Cas would like it too.”

“He’s always said how much he loves nature,” Sam says. “I think it’s a great idea. You know where yet?”

“There’s a bunch of land about half an hour from here. One even has a small lake on it, and woods around it.” Dean grins. 

“Sounds perfect,” Sam says. “I’m really happy for you.”

“You too.”

“Does Cas know about those plans?”

“Not yet,” Deans says. “I want to surprise him. Promise not to tell?”

“My lips are sealed. On that note though, I’ve got a surprise for you. Can you get the laptop and meet me in the library in five? Don’t tell Cas.”

“Okay?” Dean’s confused but nods. He goes to his room and grabs the laptop from the nightstand. Cas had fallen asleep again after Dean left, had given him a clumsy kiss on the cheek for ‘good luck’. 

When Dean walks into the library Sam’s sitting at the first table with a notepad next to him. A few scribbled notes are on it but Sam hides them when Dean looks.

“Turn it on,” Sam says and nods to the laptop. 

They boot it up, and Sam logs into their joined bank account from the unlimited credit card Charlie had given them. There’s a new tab in their spending overview, and Dean clicks on it. It shows them their account balance, and under it lists a savings account with a sum of money on it that makes Dean’s eyes budge.

“The fuck?”

“This savings account existed since we got the card and account,” Sam says. “But it was empty. I transfer a few hundred bucks every month, figured we might as well use it. And when I checked it this morning it was..huge.”

Sam clicks around and opens the account’s history. A gigantic transfer had been sent to them, marked as a scheduled, and the subject just says ‘Live long and prosper’.

“Charlie,” Dean says quietly. “What’s this for?”

“Honestly? I don’t know,” Sam says. “But she always asked if we were gonna retire one day, and that’s my best guess.”

“A retirement fund?”

“Yeah? I mean the card still works, I checked it, but this savings account is like, squeaky clean.”

“Clean enough to apply for mortgages or whatever we’d need to buy a house?” Dean shakes his head as his eyes trace the numbers over and over.

“Exactly.”

They both say nothing for a moment, and Dean’s just staring at the screen.

“That’s like,” Dean starts, but interrupts himself. “That’s so much money .”

“I know,” Sam says. “Imagine what we can do with it. We can take what we need for our houses, put some aside and still have so much left that we could build an entire hotel for hunters to stay in. We can help so many people with this.”

Dean shakes his head. “We’re set for like, six lives.” 

“We can get a dog.”

“I can build Cas an entire fucking street full of greenhouses,” Dean says. “Dude. I don’t even know what to say.”

They browse house listings until Cas wakes up, and then Dean makes them a huge breakfast spread. There’s a lightness to his heart knowing that his absolute wildest dreams are coming true, and he can’t wait to get started.

Dean spends the next two weeks driving around. He takes trips to look at the land, to buy it, and he and Sam share a ridiculously excited hug when on the same day that Dean gets the confirmation for his property, Sam and Eileen get a call that the house they looked at is theirs. 

There’s a lot of time spent browsing online and then driving to see the wood for the floors, for the porch, or that one specific blue wall color Dean needs to buy. He tries to keep the trips secretive, but he notices Cas getting more and more suspicious.

As he pulls into the garage after taking care of the delivered wood, Cas corners him. 

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to get out of my car?” Dean nudges Cas gently to the side to close the car door. 

“Don’t play dumb, Dean.”

“I’m not,” Dean says, but Cas speaks again before he can say anything else.

“You’ve been spending time away without telling me what you’re doing, or clearly lying about it, and it would be great—”

“Whoa,” Dean holds up a hand, “do you really think I’m doing that grace thing again?”

Cas’ pressed lips are enough of a reply, and now Dean’s angry.

“Do you think that little of me? Really? That I’d go behind your back even now and do this shit?”

“Are you?”

“The fuck I am,” Dean says. He grabs the plastic bag with receipts that’ll go in a hidden box in the library, and slams the door. Cas steps aside when Dean starts walking, but follows him all the way to their room. Dean takes off his shoes and turns around to Cas standing in the door, arms crossed in front of his chest, a soft bandage on his left one. He has to put some type of ointment for his skin on it since getting the cast removed two days ago, and Dean helps him redress it every morning.

“If you can wait like, fifteen hours, I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to. But you gotta trust me a little bit here. I’m not doing anything bad, or wrong.”

Cas deflates at that, and lowers his arms. “I’m sorry.”

“I get it,” Dean says quietly. “It hasn’t been that long.” He steps forward and Cas lifts his arms to hug him. 

“You haven’t been sleeping enough,” Cas says and Dean nods against his shoulder. 

“This project is pretty time consuming,” Dean mumbles into the soft fabric of Cas’ shirt. “But I promise to show you tomorrow.”

He feels a kiss on his temple, and lifts his head to get one on the lips, too. 

“Okay,” Cas says as he runs his fingers through Dean’s hair. Dean leans forward to bump his nose against Cas’, who laughs quietly and kisses Dean again.

“You want to finish Stranger Things tonight?”

“Yes,” Cas says. “Will you make the popcorn?”

“You know you’ll get a stomach ache if I make the cheese one again,” Dean says. “You can’t just act like you’re not lactose intolerant.”

“Then we’ll use parmesan,” Cas says. “Older cheese doesn’t have lactose.”

“I’m gonna trust you on that, but if I wake up with one more biohazard-cloud under the covers in the middle of the night I will throw every dairy product in the trash.”

Cas has the audacity to roll his eyes at that, and Dean tackles him onto the bed for it. 

Netflix is rescheduled for two hours later. 

They have the last breakfast together with Sam and Eileen before the two move into their new house. Dean's still feeling a little melancholic about it, but it's a 35 minute drive from the bunker to them, and ten minutes less from their new property to the house. 

Cas helped him go all out with the food. There's a fruit salad, pancakes in sweet and savory options, and Dean made brownies for dessert. 

"So you're showing it to him today?" Eileen takes another sip of her coffee, and Cas blinks at Dean. 

"She knew?" He signs as he speaks. 

"Involuntarily," Dean says. "She caught me with some uh, incriminating material, so I told her." 

"I know too," Sam grins. "And you guys better update me later, I want to know how it went." 

"Yeah yeah," Dean says. "Invade private moments." 

"I've been told it's kinda my thing,” Sam says, and Dean groans. 

"I don't know if I should be upset that everyone except me knows, or glad that your communication skills have improved." Cas eyes Dean, but Dean sees the amused sparkle in his eyes. 

"Definitely option number two," Dean says. 

They laugh and talk while they finish the food, and everyone helps clean up before Dean grabs Cas and takes him to the garage. 

"It's a short drive," Dean says as they get in the car. "No need for books."

Cas squints at him but nods. "Show me your secret."

Dean pulls into the road and grins. "Sounds almost dirty if you say it like that." 

Cas doesn't grin back, but just places his hand on Dean's thigh, very close to his crotch, and the heat radiating from his fingers is ridiculous. "Drive." 

So, Dean drives. The sky is clear but the sunlight has noticeably lost a bit of its strength. It still warms their faces when they get out of the car, and Cas looks at Dean like he's not sure if it's a joke. 

"There's nothing here, Dean."

He's technically right. Dean pulled over into a bit of grass, and when they look there's nothing but green and some trees a few hundred feet ahead. 

"Don't be impatient." 

Dean takes Cas' hand and together they walk. A few minutes and they're past the trees, and Dean can't contain his beaming face. 

They step out of the trees a bit further, and it's ridiculously picture perfect. The small lake is glinting in the sun, there are a million daisies blinking at them in the softly swaying grass. The lake curves slightly so there's more space to the right of it, before the trees start again. Right there sits what Dean's sure gives him away. 

A container, too ugly for their surroundings but a necessity. Cas walks over to it and Dean follows him, but stays back a few steps as Cas reads the notes taped to it. They list Dean as the recipient, and the contents, which is a metric fucktonne of wood, among other things. 

"Dean."

"Yes, sweetheart?" 

"Why is this-" Cas shakes his head and Dean takes pity on him. 

"This," Dean spreads his arms and slowly spins around, "is our new home. Well, not right now, but it will be. I bought this land, and that wood you're looking at, and a bunch of other stuff and hired a lot of people to help us build the best house you've ever seen." 

Dean points to the little wooden sticks in the ground with red markings on them. 

"That's the porch perimeter. It's big, and still has unlimited space for any garden or whatever you want around it. I also have this guy's number who supposedly builds the best green houses in the state, and I thought about asking him for some pointers." 

Cas' expression is unreadable, and Dean's scared for a moment. He walks closer to Cas again, but doesn't touch him. 

"What do you think?" Dean asks quietly. 

Cas wipes at his eyes, and Dean's scared to see them wet before Cas looks at him, and the joy in his eyes floors Dean. 

"There aren't words," Cas says. "This is beautiful, all of it. I can't believe I get to live here, with you." 

Cas puts his arms around Dean's neck and kisses him, deep and slow and it makes Dean's pulse flutter and his knees weak. 

"I love you," Cas says. "So much." 

Dean fights with himself, he knows he feels it but he can't say it. Not yet. He opts for a more descriptive answer. 

"We'll have a porch swing," he says and Cas smiles softly at him. He leans forward and buries his face in Dean's neck, and Dean hugs him. He strokes over Cas' head and back, and murmurs into his ear. 

"A big kitchen with one of those hot water faucets above the stove. The master bedroom has a little balcony looking over the lake." Dean kisses Cas' ear, his temple.

"We'll have hardwood floors and carpet in the bedroom."

They sway softly together, and Dean feels a tear roll down his cheek. 

"We can spend the rest of our lives here," Dean whispers. "And I'm real glad I get to do that with you." 

It's over for them after that. Dean kisses Cas on the lips, pulls back but Cas dives right in and doesn't let him go. Cas’ hands are in his hair, and Dean can hardly tell where one of them ends and the other begins.

Chapter Text

Four months later, January  

“Cas, can we please hurry up? We’re getting soaked.”

Dean wiggles his fingers, a tiring gesture since they’re stiff from the cold already. 

“I like the rain,” Cas says, and he continues to walk the same slow pace. “Go ahead if you’d like.”

Dean goes to reply as a freezing raindrop hits him straight in the eye. “Son of a— Gimme a sec.”

He jogs to the house, rummages around inside for a moment before finding the heavy knit blanket from last night. He jogs back to Cas, pulls him in and drapes the blanket over them. It’s not a perfect solution; there’s still rain reaching their faces, cutting lines into their cheeks where they roll down, but the majority of them is covered. 

Cas hugs against him, an arm around Dean’s waist, and they walk towards the house.

Their house.

The outside is standing, with exception of the back porch, and the inside is almost ready to move in. The downstairs bathroom doesn’t have wall tiles yet, and the kitchen is only a little bit of tape on the floor, but it’s theirs. 

Finally they reach the porch steps. The honey colored wood is darkened from the rain, and Dean drapes the blanket over the banister to dry. The front door crinkles as Cas opens it, there’s still plastic and tape around the glass that frames the double doors. Shoes and damp socks stay outside on the porch, and they put on the indoor shoes Cas had ordered them.

“Slippers,” Cas had said.

“Indoor shoes,” Dean had replied.

With slippers slash indoor shoes on their feet they pad through the entrance, past the guest bathroom and into the living room. The open dining area is in the middle of the first floor to the left, sitting in an alcove with huge windows. There’s printed furniture orders everywhere, every wall has at least four different little color swatches painted on them, and it smells faintly of new , and Dean loves it.

Cas sits down on the blanket and pillow spread in the living room. It’s right in front of the main window, almost floor to ceiling, and looks out over the lake. Dean sits down next to him and looks outside.

“I still can’t believe this is ours,” Cas says. “And it’s not even done yet.”

“It’ll be the best damn house in the state. Just you wait.” Dean leans over and bumps Cas’ shoulder with his own. 

“I have no doubt about it.” 

They sit, talk and watch the outside world as it slowly gets dark. Dean cracks a few windows to let the smell of rain in, and comes back to Cas lying down on their little nest.

“I love you,” Cas says quietly.

Dean lies down next to him and turns his head. 

“I love you,” he says. 

It still tastes new, the words clunky on his tongue, but he likes saying it now. He had tested it on Sam two months ago, and after an almost crying six foot three baby in his arms he had said it to Cas, too.

It didn’t really matter to him that there was a distinct difference between familial and romantic love; the principle of a feeling that big had been the biggest scare for him. Love meant vulnerability, fear and loss, but now he knows it’s more; that it’s home, waking up together, and future.

Cas turns onto his side and Dean pulls a blanket out of the heap and spreads it over them. The fading light makes the crow’s feet around Cas’ eyes look sharper, and Dean kisses him. 

They kiss, taste and give until Dean rolls them over and frames Cas’ head with his forearms. He presses them together from chest to groin as he noses Cas’ cheek. Dean relaxes a bit, slots in comfortably between Cas’ slightly spread legs. They’re both soft under their sweatpants, too tired from a long day of working on the house and dealing with the hunter network. Right now is just about quiet, and that’s what they’re indulging in. 

Dean buries his face in Cas’ neck, drops a kiss there and waits until Cas moves his head to place an answering peck on Dean’s hairline. Dean smiles, and the warmth of Cas’ skin feels light sunlight against his face. They stay like this, Cas’ hand carding through Dean’s hair while Dean plays with Cas’ other hand.

Chapter Text

Their house is finished in mid-March.

The open kitchen looks like Dean’s most secret dreams, rich mahogany with white marble countertops, a kitchen island and brand-spankin’ new appliances. Windows along the two sides of it let light flood in and spill over the counters, and nurturing the little gestation bottles where Cas is growing fresh herbs.

They had picked the fabric for the seats of the two bar stools that sit against the island, a soft blue geometric pattern that makes Dean think of the beach. The entire first floor is open-plan with wooden flooring, with soft rugs placed at spots that Dean and Cas find themselves gravitating towards: the alcove with the dining table, in front of the kitchen island, and in the warm-toned living room past the kitchen.

An overstuffed couch with plenty of room for five guests is the centerpiece of the living room, and Cas always puts fresh flowers in vases all throughout the house.

Upstairs is a guest bedroom, two bathrooms, and an office.

Last was the master bedroom, huge and more stunning than Dean ever imagined. A king-sized bed with matching bedside tables, and slim floor to ceiling windows flanking the bed. The entire room is light, creamy colors with rich wooden furniture, a spacious closet, and a balcony door. The view from the balcony overlooks the woods, and the lake is off to the left. It's a little crowded, with a bench and a couple dozen potted plants, but it's got a roof, so they can sit out there even when it's raining.

Sam had gawked at the huge walk-in shower, with its two shower heads, with an additional rainshower one. Cas had convinced Dean to buy a toilet with a bidet, and after an ill-advised dinner from a sketchy food stand in a parking lot and the subsequent hour spent in the bathroom Dean had been thankful for it.

It’s a sunny day in late spring and Dean drills the last of the holes into the wood. He steps back and eyes the foundation of the greenhouse. It's just the wooden beams and groundwork, no glass or interior structure, but Cas looks at it like it's already the best thing in the world.

After the interior of the house had been finished, Dean had immediately gotten started on the garden; he wants it done by the time summer hits. He plans on making them a swing he's gonna attach to one of the huge trees close to their house. The flower beds are already filling up, Cas using every minute of the first beautiful days of spring to find different plants. There’s a rosebush next to the stairs leading onto their front porch that he spends the most time on.

Dean’s stealing one of Cas’ fried chicken bites as his phone beeps with a text message. He strains to reach the dining table from their spot on the floor, and grins as he reads what his phone says.

“Ten bucks.”

Cas looks up, the chopsticks with noodles halfway to his mouth. “Absolutely not.”

“It’s gonna be June, dude, pay up. I called it.”

“Show me.”

Dean hands the phone over and watches Cas’ eyes move quickly as he reads.

“Fucking romantics,” Dean says as he takes another bite of his food. “It’s been what, a month since he said he’d ask her? What took him so long? I swear they picked a summer date because they want to use you for your plants, you know that, right?”

“I’ll happily help them out,” Cas says. ”And when we finish the big greenhouse we could cater to a winter wedding if they change their mind.”

“What a bummer that you planted all those,” Dean says. “But now I’ll expect a bouquet of them next summer whenever your hard working husband comes home from work.”

“We’re not married, Dean.” Cas tries and fails to pick up a microscopic piece of salmon, then gives up and just uses his fingers.

Dean lets his bowl sink.

“We could be,” Dean says. “If that’s something you want.”

Cas looks up at him. Dean breaks eye contact after a few moments, and when he looks at him again Cas’ eyes have softened.

“If that’s something you want.”

“Are you a parrot?”

“No, but if this conversation continues in this direction I’ll apparently be affianced to you.”

Dean stares at him. “This is a very tame proposal.”

“I don’t think we need any more grand gestures in our life,” Cas says. “We have everything we need right here, don’t you think?”

Dean closes the distance between them. He hovers in front of Cas, takes his face in his hands and is sure that the heartbeat in his fingertips must transfer to Cas’ cheeks somehow.

“Are you serious about this? Do you want to? Get married?”

“Yes,” Cas says. “Then we can order the Winchester sign for our mailbox you’ve been wanting.”

Dean surges forwards and kisses him. Cas hugs him close and kisses back, his nose smushed painfully against Dean’s, but he doesn’t care.

The food sits next to them on the floor, cooling while Dean feels a bead of sweat run down his nape as Cas’ chapped lips brush over his lower stomach.

They get each other rings a few weeks later. A small Etsy shop owner listens to their wishes for details on the phone for over an hour, and they send in photos of Enochian letters.

Dean’s ring ends up as a stainless steel band with a tiny sapphire in the center, Cas’ is a yellow gold with an equally small demantoid garnet; a rare light-green gemstone Cas absolutely insisted on picking. Both rings have Enochian engraving on the inside, and since they couldn’t decide on one idea they went with two: Dean’s ring has 9.18.2008 engraved, and Cas’ just the word Angel.

“I don’t give a damn if you have any grace or just your beautiful soul,” Dean had said, sliding his lips over Cas’ pulse point. “You saved me, over and over, and nothing else matters.”

A dinner with Sam and Eileen happens a few days after the rings arrive (which fit perfectly of course, since Cas had insisted on getting measured multiple times). Dean makes a show of giving Sam the salad bowl, who stays oblivious until Eileen starts laughing.

“I just got fifty bucks richer,” she says. Sam signs Why?, before looking at Dean and then at his hand.

“Oh, you mean this old thing?” Dean grabs his coffee cup, a double shot espresso for his upcoming night shift in the Bunker, and he knows the sapphire sparkles in the lamp light.

Cas laughs and signs with Eileen, but too fast for Dean to follow, though Cas does give her his hand to show the ring at one point. Dean just grins at Sam, who smiles back and claps him on the shoulder.

“So,” Sam says. “When’s the wedding?”

“We decided we don’t really want or need a wedding ceremony,” Cas says as he takes Dean’s hand. “We just want to be married.”

Dean nods. “It was pretty spontaneous,” he says. “We didn’t want to make a fuss. But, we’d love for you guys to be there when we sign everything, and say our vows.”

“Of course we will! Congrats guys,” Sam says. He looks happy, and Dean’s cheeks hurt a little from how wide he’s smiling.

“Sorry for cutting the line with the marriage stuff,” Dean says. “But we’re providing the flowers for your wedding, so that gives us a pass.”

Sam grimaces. “Uh, about that.”

“Don’t tell me you changed the date again.”

Sam looks weird, and Dean raises an eyebrow. Suddenly Eileen stands up and grins at them. She then takes her right hand, holds it in front of her belly with the palm facing it, then moves it outwards.

“Are you full?” Dean asks, wondering why she stood up. Then, he realizes. “Holy shit! You’re pregnant?”

They all laugh, and Dean hugs her. “Wow,” he says, and bends a little to stare at her stomach. “I don’t see anything.”

“I’m fourteen weeks,” Eileen says. “Nothing to see yet.”

“Holy shit,” Dean says again, and he turns to Sam. “You’re gonna be a dad!”

Cas gets up and hugs Eileen too, and Dean feels like dancing.

“We’re gonna be uncles,” he says to Cas. “We need like, a list with the best Christmas gifts for the next eighteen years.”

“If you one-up me in front of my kid we’re gonna have a problem,” Sam says, but he’s smiling.

“Summer will have a baby sibling,” Sam says, and Dean pulls a face.

“That’s a way too poetic name for a pee-machine puppy.”

“That’s what they’re all about,” Eileen says.

“We’re gonna have even more of that with the baby,” Sam says, and his face is nothing but dopey and happy.

“It’s the consequences of your actions,” Dean says. “Call us if you guys need something, we’ll be in tonight but off the rest of the week.”

“We need to discuss details for your wedding as long as I can fit into a regular dress,” Eileen says and she takes a sip of her water. “And sorry Cas for rescheduling again.”

“It’s no problem,” Cas says. “I’m sure we can live with having some extra peonies around the house in the summer.”

Later that evening, Dean brushes his teeth and Cas gets changed to head to the Bunker. When Dean puts his toothbrush back in the cup with a soft cling, Cas comes up next to him.

“Can we take a look at something before we leave?” Cas asks, and concern grows inside Dean’s belly at his serious tone.

“Sure,” Dean says and Cas leads the way.

They walk upstairs and into the office.

“This room is a bit redundant,” Cas says.

Dean looks around. “What do you mean? It’s our office.”

“Dean,” Cas says gently. “Why would we need one? We do most of our work in the bunker, and the rest at the laptop downstairs together.

There’s something constricting deep inside Dean’s chest. He had added the room in his planning, a fever dream idea and he had never dared to speak about it, to further consider the pulling in his chest. Everything spoke against it, they’d never talked about it, but he still built this room.

“I don’t know what to say,” Dean says. “It should, I—”

Cas’ expression softens. “It’s okay,” Cas says. He steps into Dean’s space, kisses him gently. “We gotta go, our shift starts in half an hour.”

One week later, a man shows up.

Dean’s washing dishes when his phone rings. He carefully puts down the mug Cas had given him for Christmas, and answers.

“Uh, hello?” Dean pulls the plus in the sink and sticks the phone between his cheek and shoulder as he’s drying his hands.

“Dean Winchester,” the man says. “I’m Daniel, a reaper. Sam sent me to speak to you, however the warding keeps me from entering your home.”

“Um, yeah sure, we’ll be right with you. Gimme a minute.”

The reaper hangs up, and Dean jogs outside. He spots Cas planting dahlias in the flowerbed in front of the house

“Hey Cas,” he shouts and Cas stands up. “We got company, nothing bad though. Sam sent someone.”

Cas nods and tries to wipe the dirt off his jeans, but gives up and they walk to the front of their property together.

Daniel’s dressed in a black suit, and nods at them as they approach.

“Hello,” Cas says, and Dean nods back.
“What’s up?” Dean asks, and he feels Cas take a tiny step towards him.

“Sam helped us with a problem,” Daniel makes a face, and Dean remembers the issue they had with a rogue demon trapping Daniel. “We granted him a favor, and I’m here to fulfill the debt.”

“Can you be more specific?” Dean’s trying to not sound annoyed, but he’s tired of cryptic statements.

“I was asked to look up your Heaven,” he says to Dean. “And its markings.”

Dean shakes his head. “Markings?”

“It’s like a guest list,” Cas says. “Who is destined to live there.”

“Kinda grim for him to want info about my heaven, but okay. Is there a problem with it or something?”

“No,” Daniel says. He takes out a small metal plate, and Dean recognizes it as one of the name plates at every heaven’s door. He throws it towards them, and it lands in the grass. Cas picks it up and turns it around.

Dean Winchester
January 24th 1979 - XXX

Castiel Winchester
The Beginning - XXX

Cas’ fingers glide over his name, and Dean doesn’t know what to say.

“I’ve been told you formed the bond of marriage,” Daniel says, and he sounds impatient with their apparent lack of understanding. “It was unnecessary. You were destined to share a heaven.”

Dean grins at that and nudges Cas. “You hear that sunshine? We’re soulmates.”

Cas looks at him briefly before his expression changes. “Wait,” he says. “What does that mean regarding my soul?”

Daniel tilts his head. “It’s written to be united with Dean Winchester’s.”

Dean’s stunned. “Then that means—”

“I really do have a soul,” Cas says. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Daniel says, and now he really sounds annoyed. “I need to get back to work.”

With that he disappears, and Dean sees Cas looking stunned next to him. He hugs him and Cas clings to him.

Cas mumbles into his shoulder. “I figured I’d just cherish every moment we have until—” he stops talking and Dean’s eyes water.

“Until death do us part,” Dean says into Cas’ hair. “But that won’t happen.”

Cas pulls back to look at him. “It won’t.” There’s a tear sneaking down his cheek, and Dean’s thumb catches it.

“You’re stuck with me.”

“It looks that way,” Cas says and Dean tilts his head until his lips meet Cas’.

“I told you not to worry. You got a nice and sparkly soul in there.” Dean pushes back Cas’ hair, trails kisses over his forehead. “I love you.”

“I love you,” Cas says. “And I get to love you forever.”

That night Dean showers for a long time. He uses Cas’ vanilla scented body scrub, lets the hot water flow over his back as he drags his hands over his cock, between his legs and his fingers find his hole. There’s a bit of hesitancy as he slides a finger inside himself, but his mouth falls open on a quiet moan. Resiliently he doesn’t touch his cock, just enjoys getting himself worked up and turned on until he absolutely has to get out and touch Cas, be touched by Cas.

He walks into their bedroom naked, his cock half-hard and chest flushed. Cas looks up from where he’s reading on his side of the bed, shirtless but with a pair of dark green boxers peeking out from under the blanket.

Cas watches him, and Dean climbs on the bed, takes the book out of his hands and straddles Cas’ lap. Dean kisses him, dragging his lips over Cas’ cheeks and forehead, tilting Cas’ head back and nipping at his pulse point. Cas wraps his arms around Dean, holds him close as Cas turns his head up to kiss Dean again.

The soft sounds of their kissing join the whisper of the wind in the trees outside, and after a while Dean takes Cas’ hand and guides it between his legs. Cas grabs his cock, but Dean shakes his head, pries his fingers off and guides him further.

Cas gasps into his mouth as he finds Dean ready for him. Cas had been the one the first and only time they’ve done this, fearless and determined where Dean was hesitant, scared to hurt. The work involved made them both prefer other ways of intimacy, but tonight Dean wanted and needed to be as physically close to Cas as he could.

There’s more lingering touches and a few position changes. Then, Cas is on top of Dean, looking into his eyes with his forearms framing Dean’s head as he sinks into him. Dean shudders, and Cas noses at his cheek as he bottoms out.

“Are you okay?” Cas’ voice is vibrating through Dean’s chest, and Dean nods.

“Yes,” he says, and there’s so much emotion on Cas’ face as he pulls out and moves back in. Dean closes his eyes, wraps his legs around Cas’ hips and clings to him.

Neither of them last very long. They’re almost quiet, heavy breaths and clumsy kisses shared between them. Cas helps tip him over the edge, and Dean buries his face in his neck as he comes. A few breaths later and Cas follows him, his hips stilling, pressed to Dean.

Cas’ hand comes up to rest on Dean’s cheek, tilts his head slightly to look at him. Dean looks at him, takes in every detail of his face while Cas is still inside him. There’s a burning warmth in his chest, spreading to his stomach, and he puts a hand to the back of Cas' neck and pulls him into a kiss.

Cas breaks away after a moment, keeping his forehead pressed to Dean’s.

“I love you,” he says.

“You’re an incredible sap,” Dean says. Cas shakes his head but his expression is soft, and he gently stands up. Dean feels boneless, watches Cas bring him a washcloth, and lets him clean him up. The cloth lands on the floor with a wet thud, and Cas pulls the blanket over them.

“Goodnight,” he says, and Dean presses close to him.

“Night, Angel.” He feels Cas’ smile against his neck, and grins too.

Dean is awakened by a soft punch to his back and he squints through the darkness. The windows are open, curtains billowing softly in the wind and the moonlight spills onto their bed.

“Cas?”

He lifts the covers a bit, and Cas is curled up slightly, his face grimacing and hands tightened to fists. His breathing is erratic, and he keeps whispering words Dean can’t understand. As Dean stretches to reach the bedside lamp, Cas’ words become clearer.

“Naomi, stop.”

Dean freezes, turns back to Cas and nudges him. “Hey,” he says gently. “You’re havin’ a nightmare, wake up.”

Cas turns away from him, and the noise he makes breaks Dean’s heart. Dean grabs Cas’ shoulders and shakes him a little, while stroking his hair with his other hand.

“Cas,” he says louder, and he knows Cas is awake as his breath hitches.

“C’mere,” Dean says and Cas peers up at him from half underneath his pillow. Dean reaches over him and Cas slots right into his arms. Cas is warm, shaking and clinging to Dean.

After a few minutes Cas pulls back, props himself up and kisses Dean with a vigor Dean can barely keep up with in the middle of the night. It’s messy, and Cas trails the kisses from Dean’s lips over his cheeks, eyelids and forehead. When he reaches Dean’s lips again, he pauses.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I keep waking you.”

“Nothing to be sorry for,” Dean says and shakes his head. “But I’m worried. This is the third nightmare you’ve had this week.”

Cas nods. “I think it’s the training.”

“The hunter training? You think it’s bringing angel stuff back up?”

“Yes,” Cas says. “I don’t think of it during the day, just when I sleep.”

Cas lies back down and presses into Dean’s side, who strokes his hand over Cas’ back.

“Wanna talk about it?”

“I’ve never told you,” Cas says. “About Naomi.”

“You don’t have to. It helps me to talk about this stuff sometimes,” Dean says and presses a kiss to Cas’ temple.

There’s a bit of silence before Cas speaks again.

“Part of the training,” Cas spits the last word like it’s poison, “was preparing me to go to any length necessary to get the tablet. They found my weak spot and dug into it. Naomi realized I would never kill you, so she created scenarios in which I had to. Sometimes you were younger, sometimes older. Talking to me, or running away from me. I couldn’t do it, and she tortured me until I did.”

“You fought it anyway.”

“It took six hundred eighty four Deans,” Cas says, and his voice breaks.

“Cas,” Dean’s voice gives out, and he presses his forehead to Cas’.

“When we were in that crypt, you pulled me out of the hell I was in.”

“Seems like that’s kinda our thing,” Dean whispers, and Cas’ eyes smile at him.

“I’m sorry I broke your arm back then. I still think of it.”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Dean says. “You weren’t able to think straight.”

“I’d still like to apologize for it. And the other times I’ve hurt you. I’m sorry.”

“I’ve hurt you too. I’m sorry, for all of it.”

“We’re a mess,” Cas says, and Dean laughs softly.

“Yeah. But maybe we can, y’know, get better. Eventually.”

Dean smiles at him, relaxes into Cas’ sleep-soft smell. “I have a list even.”

“A list?”

“Yeah, like, get sober, check. Start jogging, maybe. Sleep more, not with you looking like that. You know, healthy stuff.”

“Interesting,” Cas says. “I’d like to see the full list one day.”

Dean snorts and stretches his arm before laying it around Cas again.

“Hey, don’t we have a couple of shrinks in the network?”

Cas furrows his brows as he thinks. “I think so, yes.”

“Maybe you could talk to one of them? I know you looked at people online, but I don’t know how you could explain killing your husband six hundred times to a regular person.”

Cas’ face is grim, but it fades as he rolls out of Dean’s arms to grab his phone. “I like when you call yourself that,” he mumbles as he thumbs through their contacts list.

“I got a ring to prove it,” Dean says and slots against Cas’ side to peer at his phone as well.

The network’s server has a support section, with people working in healthcare. There are seven therapists on the list, one of them in Kansas.

“We can look at it tomorrow,” Dean says and noses Cas’ shoulder. “Let’s sleep.”

“Okay,” Cas says, puts his phone back on the nightstand and pauses before he settles back into the pillows.

“Can I hold you?”

Dean blinks at him. “I was gonna be the big spoon, thought you’d need some cuddling?”

“I do,” Cas says, “but I want to see you, and feel that you’re okay.”

“Let’s go,” Dean says and turns around. He wiggles his ass and Cas places a gentle hand on his waist before lying close behind him.

They stay awake for a while, murmuring to each other in the dark.

Dean jumps into the lake ass first. Sam laughs at the splash, kneeling behind Eileen and rubbing sunscreen on her back.

Summer is in full swing, the days long and the lake warm every day. The rustling of the trees around them is a constant soft background noise, and the air smells of their endless flowers. They’re having a barbecue, just the four of them, and Dean grins as he watches Eileen place Sam’s hand on her huge stomach. There’s still two months left until there’s a fifth Winchester, but Eileen looks ready to get it over with often. Dean doesn’t envy her.

He paddles around, floating on his back, and then flinches as strong arms suddenly close around his waist and pull him under. Sputtering he turns, resurfaces with Cas' arms around his neck.

“Hey,” Dean says, and Cas beams at him before placing a sloppy kiss on his lips.

The weather has done Cas good. He’s happier, smiling often and laughing more and more. The therapy has helped, the nightmares lessening in frequency and intensity. There are still nights they sit together in their shower, hot water drumming over them and holding each other, remembering they’re safe, but those nights are further apart now.

The hunter network keeps building; they acquired a detailed database with locations, occupations and phone numbers for hunters in the entire country.

In the beginning of creating the network Dean and Sam stepped in once to help with a large vamp’s nest two states over. Eileen had agreed to stay with Cas, her belly stretching everything she’d wear by then, and although Dean had returned with nothing but a few bruises, Cas had asked Dean to not hunt unless they were going together. Waiting for news, not knowing if they were okay, all the stress made Cas fiercely determined to know Dean to be safe, or be there to ensure it.

So, they created their shift system. They’re usually on together, which means incoming hunts would go to both of them and they’d drive out and take them. Nowadays though they made actual hunting trips the smallest part of their lives; mainly helping with lore, research and taking care of hunters coming by and staying for a bit.

Dean's cooking more, trying out recipes with Cas as his voluntary taste tester. So far Dean's favorite things have been Greek yoghurt bagels and a sweet potato soup. Today there's steaks with a honey barbecue crust on the grill, and he can't wait to eat.

Cas pulls him out of his thoughts by nudging him, his shoulder warm in the cold water and his golden tan glistening in the sunlight. Dean looks at him, then past him to the porch where Sam's waving from behind the grill, Dean’s bright pink apron visible from their spot in the water.

"Dinner time," Dean grins and Cas nods.

They swim to the shore and get out, grabbing their sun-warmed towels from the grass. Eileen's putting down plates on their picnic table, and the long grass tickles Dean's ankles as he steps up to it to survey what's still missing. Everything's pretty much ready, and as he sees Cas approach with drinks in his hands he sits down.

A bottle of lemonade is pressed into his hand, the condensation shockingly cold in his palm. Dean takes a sip and the bubbles tickle his throat. Cas sits down next to him, their thighs brushing and their damp swim trunks leaving dark prints on the wood.

Eileen sits down across from Dean, and Sam walks over with everything that had been on the grill. Cas nudges aside the vase filled with dark red dahlias to make space for the big serving plate, and soon they eat.

As Dean chews he is stunned again by what their life is like nowadays. Cas is warm against Dean’s side, and he smells like outside. Cas is laughing with Eileen, whose hair looks like caramel in the sunshine. Sam's looking at Dean, as if he knows what Dean is thinking, and he raises his glass.

Dean's carrying one of the huge watering cans for Cas, helping him make his evening round. The sun hasn't set fully but it's not reaching the ground anymore, just dipping the crowns of the trees in molten gold. The air smells like damp soil, and Cas is cutting a handful of his roses for a small bouquet. Dean watches him dethorn them, his big but gentle hands swiftly cutting over the stems and binding them together with an elastic. He looks up and catches Dean staring, who walks over and drops a kiss on Cas' temple.

"You look good," Dean says, and Cas looks confused.

"I'm just in my garden clothes," he says. "They're always dirty."

"Nothing wrong with a little dirt," Dean smirks, and Cas rolls his eyes and nudges him to step out from between the plants.

"I meant you look good," Dean tries again. "You look happy."

"I am," Cas says, adding a few pink gardenias to the little bundle of roses. "Very much so." He leans into Dean who reaches around and drapes his arm around Cas' waist.

After a few moments, Cas adds, "I barely ever dreamed of something like this, and it’s perfect."

Something catches in Dean's chest. He smiles through it, squeezes Cas' waist and looks over their garden. Cas kisses his cheek, then steps away but takes his hand.

"I want to see the next movie," Cas says as they walk around the house to the front and take off their shoes at the door.

"I know you do," Dean laughs. "They're classics."

"You say that about everything we watch,” Cas says as they walk into the kitchen.

"Because," Dean grabs two bottles of cooled juice from the fridge, "I have outstanding taste."

"Far be it from me to disagree." Cas sits down on their couch and Dean plops down next to him.

They watch the third Back to the Future movie. Cas had disliked the second, ranting angrily about Biff, and Dean had had to convince him to continue watching.

As it gets fully dark their string lights turn on. They're woven through the bookshelves flanking the couch, creating a web of warm stars over the ceiling and fading out where the hallway starts.

When the credits start rolling at just after eleven Dean stretches and curls into Cas. A kiss on Cas' neck, slightly salty from the day's sweat, makes Cas turn towards him. He noses Dean's cheek, catches his lips and Dean leans into it. Their makeout session is cut short by Cas pulling back to yawn.

“Offense taken,” Dean says as he watches Cas yawn again and his eyes water a little.

“It was a long day, and we’re both supposed to be in at six tomorrow morning,” Cas mumbles as he clumsily gets up.

“I know,” Dean says and collects their empty bottles. “Make it up to me with some sexy cuddling.”

They clean up and walk upstairs together. Dean starts brushing his teeth as Cas undresses and walks into their shower. He turns on the rainfall shower setting, and turns on the hot water. Dean stares unabashedly.

“You might as well join me,” Cas says as he rubs his hands over his face. Dean wastes no time and stumbles into the shower with his boxers still clinging to one of his feet.

That night they only get a couple hours of sleep.

When they arrive at the bunker they see the dirty bags and clothes at the war table. Sharing a concerned glance they walk out and into the main hallway, following voices until they reach the kitchen. It’s crowded, eight hunters sitting or standing, all wolfing down food like they’ve been starved.

“Hey guys,” Dean says. He gets a chorus of mumbled greetings and a few waves, and Cas walks over to a young hunter with a gash across his forehead.

“What happened?”

“Nest was even bigger than we thought,” someone says. Dean turns and it’s a red-haired guy with a beer belly, and he remembers him as Ron.

“Is everyone okay?” Cas asks as he grabs the kitchen’s first aid kit and starts cleaning the young hunter’s wound while he’s trying to eat a gigantic sandwich.

“More or less,” Ron says. “No one got killed, worst is a messed up ankle and we got a few cracked ribs.”

“Pretty sure the worst part is the kid.”

Silence falls over everyone. Cas looks at Dean, who raises his brows.

“What kid?”

“They had kidnapped a family, two kids. The second one got away from ’em, but the first one, like a ten year old maybe? He was in bad shape. They left him alone, and went for the parents, but that boy needs therapy until he’s sixty.” Ron shakes his head. “Killed them right in front of him.”

“Jesus,” Dean says, and Cas looks upset as he’s packing up the first aid kit.

“Where is he now?”

“Jody took him in until they can find a foster home,” Ron says. “They’re looking for his sibling.”

“I’ll call her later to see if she needs help,” Dean says. “Thanks guys. Let us know if you need anything besides grub and sleep.”

A few nods, and Dean leaves the kitchen. He walks back into the war room and takes some notes on food he needs to restock. When he comes back he runs into Cas.

“Do we have anything else to do today or are we free after our shift?”

“Nothing as far as I know,” Dean says, but he puts a hand on Cas’ shoulder. “You okay?”

Cas nods. “Yes. Just tired. I’ll see you later,” he says and hugs Dean briefly before scurrying off, a package of bandages in his hand.

Dean distracts himself with needed chores. Most of the hunters went to sleep after eating, but the few that stuck around are sitting in the library with him. They’re reviewing the case description, how the network worked and if they need to improve anything. Safety’s their biggest concern, but everything’s been running smoothly after the last few changes.

Then, finally, it’s time to go home. Cas needs a bit longer, sitting in the young hunter’s room he had been taking care of earlier. The young man looks like he’d been crying, and Dean leaves them to it, Cas’ gentle words floating out of the bedroom after him.

Half an hour later Cas finds him in the kitchen. He looks tired, and Dean pulls him into a hug.

“You did good,” Dean says, and Cas buries his face in Dean’s neck. Cas had started to be everyone’s go-to person to talk over difficult hunts, when they needed more than technical talk. Dean wasn’t the greatest at it, and everyone gravitated towards Cas anyway. He’d taken up the task with dedication, but Dean could see the toll it was taking on him too.

“I wish I could help them more,” Cas says. “There must be something else I can do.”

Dean presses a kiss into Cas’ hair, and doesn’t reply. He doesn’t know what to say.

A week later Cas pulls him up the stairs and into the office.

“What if we help the boys,” Cas says.

Dean stares.

“Help how?”

“Take them in. Be their foster parents.” Cas’ look is steady, his shoulders tense but he looks incredibly determined. “They need people that know what they’ve been through. Your typical foster family isn't going to be equipped to help with this kind of trauma. How could they talk about what happened to anyone not in the life?”

“We’re not trained either,” Dean says, but there’s something tingling in his chest.

“I was thinking,” Cas says. “I want to be. Trained, I mean, for this kind of thing. We both know plenty of combat and lore to help hunters, but we’re missing the scientific knowledge on dealing with the mental health side of hunting. I want to take care of that.”

Dean sits down on the floor, and Cas joins him.

“You’d need a degree for that,” Dean says, and Cas nods.

“Yes. None of the hunters need me to help with their anxiety, or depression, they need help with trauma. So,” Cas pauses, “I want to apply to universities to study clinical psychology. I’ll need a Ph.D, and it’s gonna take a while, but I want to do it.”

Dean thinks for a moment. “You’re gonna be a doctor?”

“Technically,” Cas says, and he smiles shyly. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re the coolest person I know,” Dean says. “We’re definitely lacking that kind of help.”

Cas beams at him.

“I want to,” Dean says. “I—”

There’s stinging in his eyes suddenly, and Cas leans forward, his hands on either side of Dean’s face. “Dean.”

“I kinda,” Dean says, and has to swallow before continuing. “I kinda always wanted kids. Never talked about it, ’cause usually that’s not something you get to have when you’re a Winchester. But everything’s changed, and I know fostering isn’t the same, but I really want to. I think about those kids and it makes me think of me ’n’ Sam, and Sonny, and how much we needed help. I want to help.”

“Then let’s do it,” Cas says.

Dean wipes over his eyes. “You’re pretty damn perfect, you know that?”

“I’m not,” Cas says gently, “but I try. I love you.”

“Love you too,” Dean says.

The two kids from the vampire case live with Jody, get therapy, and are cared for by Alex and Patience. Dean and Cas visit them, and Cas tears up in the car after the first time. The six year old Matt is a firecracker, and some intense counseling had helped him immensely already. The older brother Alec is ten years old and with as many anger issues. He didn’t speak to them at all in the beginning, needed time and gentle coaxing and building trust to even look at them.

The first time he hugged Dean though, two months after increasing numbers of visits, they both cried.

Life continues in their new routine between helping hunters, visiting the kids and being happy and together. On a beautiful September day Sam and Eileen’s daughter is born. It’s a long day in the hospital, with Dean dragging Cas there far too early and ignoring everyone’s suggestion to go home until they’re called. Six hours later Sam collects them from the hallway, teary eyed and beaming.

They name her Mary, and Dean loves her the first time he holds her. She has tufts of dark hair, brilliant blue eyes and falls asleep a minute after Cas places her back in Eileen’s arms.

A few months go by with an abundance of visits to play with Mary, spend time with Matt and Alec. Cas gets accepted into the University of Missouri, and takes his classes online. He works from home mostly, and Dean collapses into his arms after long days at the bunker. Cas finishes his first semester, acing every exam, and Dean’s filled with pride.

Matt starts school a little late, and aside from nervousness and a few tears he does well in his first weeks. They’d discussed things with his therapists and doctors, who all suggested he started even though he’d move to Kansas with them soon.

Shortly before Christmas, the kids’ therapists give them the go-ahead. On December 20th there would be four people living in their big beautiful house, and they could barely wait until the day of.

They fill the days until they can drive to get them by making the office into a children’s bedroom. Matt and Alec will have to share a room in the beginning, but Dean’s fierce in his determination to give them the best home they can have.

They decide on a light blue for the walls and white curtains. They order two sets of white Ikea furniture, and they ignore the numbers on their receipts.

Books are bought, clothes collected, and everyone seems to have something laying around from their own kids they want to give. Cas buys two giant teddy bears in different colors, and laughs at Dean for the pile of small band shirts in their living room.

Matt’s bed has whale stickers applied around it, since they’re his favorite animal. Alec asked for a skateboard, and Dean saved a couple of Reddit posts from people DIY-ing a small skate ramp in their backyard.

The night before the drive to South Dakota, they both stand in the middle of the now-finished room, toes buried in the soft light grey carpet.

Dean hugs Cas, arms firmly around his waist, looking around the room. Every item in it helps create an aura of comfort and softness, and Dean had sat in it a few times just because.

They go to bed early, too excited to wait, but don’t sleep a lot out of nervousness.

Jumping in the car with only a small breakfast they start the drive. It started snowing sometime during the night, and even though it’s still dark out the white blanket over the fields they drive past illuminates everything and makes it bright enough to see the road in front of them.