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a soft epilogue

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"Cas helped," Bobby said, and every thought in Dean's head went abruptly quiet.

"Cas... Cas is here?" Dean asked, stunned. Bobby chuckled.

"Yep. He showed up with that boy of yours not too long ago, helped him figure out what Heaven should look like with the new management." Bobby took a swig of his beer. "Gotta say, I approve."

"Cas is here," Dean repeated, almost to himself. His mind was racing now, filled with all the thoughts he'd been repressing these last few weeks, the things that hurt too much to want.

Bobby looked at him then, a little too knowing for Dean's comfort.

"I don't think he was expecting you up here so soon," Bobby said gently.

"Yeah, well, me neither," he said. It was mostly true; drunken late night thoughts didn't count.

They sat in silence for a moment, both just staring out at the horizon. Then Dean cleared his throat.

"You, ah... know where I might be able to find him?" Dean asked, trying to make the question seem casual. His chest felt tight, every nerve alight.

Bobby smiled.

"I don't think you'll have to worry about that," Bobby said. Dean opened his mouth to reply, but then he heard it.

Faint, barely audible over the sound of the breeze, but it was unmistakeably the sound of wings.

Dean froze.

"Well, I think that's my cue," Bobby said, nodding decisively. He pushed himself up and out of his chair and made a show of brushing imaginary dust off of his shirt. "Should go see what Karen's got baking."

He clapped Dean on the shoulder as he passed by. Dean was so numb he hardly noticed. Every sense was attuned to the presence behind him.

He knew the gaze boring into his back. He knew the warmth of their presence.
But he dared not turn around, just in case this was another dream. Another nightmare; he'd had so many. Dreams where he'd been a little faster, dreams where Cas had been a little slower, where just being wasn't enough for him to find happiness and Billie killed them both. Dreams where Dean couldn't scream or move as the Empty dragged Cas away.

In all of them, Cas had vanished by the end.

Dean didn't think he could handle seeing that again.

But then.

"Hello, Dean."

No force in Heaven or on Earth could've stopped Dean from turning around at that point. He turned and stared, stunned to the point of speechlessness with an ache that grew sharper by the second.

Cas stood there, looking just as he always had. Messy hair, trenchcoat, blue tie. Blue eyes, soft pink lips, a dark spray of stubble along his jawline.

Dean had noticed. He had always noticed, even before he let himself look, and then after, when he tried to force himself to stop noticing.

Because good things did not happen to Dean Winchester, and angels didn't fall in love with the battered, worthless human they'd dragged out of Hell too late to stop the from start of the Apocalypse.

Except, against literally all odds and all permutations of the universe, apparently good things did happen to this Dean Winchester.

"Cas," Dean breathed, standing up slowly from his chair. Cas watched him, a small, uncertain smile on his face and sadness pulling at the corners of his eyes.

"I didn't expect to see you again," Cas said. Dean waited for him to finish, to say something about 'not so soon' or 'not for a while yet', but there was nothing. Dean felt his heart drop, something cold taking its place.

"Like... ever?" Dean asked. Cas shook his head even as he stepped closer.

"The Empty was supposed to keep me forever," he said. Dean nodded, not quite understanding.

"Yeah, but Jack busted you out, right?" he asked. He wanted to ask a thousand questions, mostly variations on 'how' and 'when' and 'why didn't you come find me', but wasn't sure he wanted to know the answers.

A variation on the last tripped off his tongue anyway.

"Were you ever gonna tell me?" he asked. He didn't know what he was asking about. Cas being back in Heaven, where he belonged? The 'I love you'? Both? Neither?

It didn't matter what he thought he was asking; Castiel had an answer for him anyway.

Cas took a deep breath.

"No," he finally said.

The word was like a stab to the gut.

"What," Dean asked. Cas looked at him with the saddest, most resigned expression Dean had ever seen.

"It was enough for me to be your friend," Cas said. "I knew we could never be anything else.  If I told you... things would change. And I wanted to stay with you."

The implications were staggering. Dean felt almost bowed under their weight.

"And you thought that, what, I wouldn't welcome you back if I knew?" Dean asked. He wanted to laugh incredulously, to try and lighten the mood, because that was just ridiculous, of course Cas didn't-

Cas's silence spoke volumes.

It hurt worse than the 'no' had.

"You really thought I wouldn't," Dean said, stunned. Cas looked away.

"I'm sorry to intrude," he said, shifting on his feet. "This was meant to be your space, but it's not quite finished yet. When I sensed you had arrived in Heaven..." His voice trailed off, like he wasn't sure where to finish the thought.

"Intrude?" Dean echoed. "Cas, you're not intruding. You're-"

Years of biting his tongue and bottling up his feelings came back to bite him on the ass. He'd spent so long trying so hard not to name what he was feeling that, now that he could, now that he had to express himself, he'd lost his words.

"If this is supposed to be my Heaven," Dean finally said, scraping something together from the shreds of his vocabulary. "Then why wouldn't you be in it?"

Cas looked at him, startled, and Dean pressed on.

"If this is supposed to be where I'm happiest, how can you think that doesn't include you?" Dean asked, stepping forward. Cas's eyes widened and he went still, just like that time Dean had found him by the stream in Purgatory.

And just like that time, Dean broke. He closed the last of the distance between them and pulled Cas into a hug, clutching his angel to his chest as it finally sank in.

Cas was here. This wasn't Dean's imagination. Cas was there, tangible, having just come back from the dead after saving Dean's ass again.

And now there was nothing in their way. No more hunts, no more world-ending Apocalypses, no more sacrifices. Dean just needed to be half as brave as Cas and finally say what he'd wanted to for years.

"Stay with me?" Dean asked, whispering the words intimately into Cas's ear. Cas shivered and slowly, tentatively wrapped his arms around Dean, like he wasn't sure he was allowed.

"As your brother?" Cas asked. Dean could feel the deep rumble of Cas's voice in his chest and he chuckled, breathless and giddy.

"God, I hope not."

Cas went still, shocked, and Dean pulled back just a little. Cas's arms flexed, like he didn't want to let Dean go just yet, but settled when Dean didn't go far.

"What are we, Dean?" Cas asked softly. Dean could hear the underlying question, the 'what do you want us to be?' "If we're not family-"

"We are family," Dean said firmly. That had never been up for debate. Dean took a deep breath. "Cas, I..."

He cupped Cas's face with one hand, drawing his thumb tenderly across Cas's cheekbone. Cas inhaled sharply, looking thunderstruck.

It was too much. Cas here in his arms, warm and solid and real, and looking at him like that, tongue nervously wetting his lips like that, with just about everything out and open between them.... Dean didn't think he'd ever been happier.

"I love you," Dean said, and the smile that broke out over Cas's face was the most beautiful thing Dean had ever seen.

Later, neither of them could say who had moved first, but the next thing Dean knew, his mouth was on Castiel's, and they were kissing. Gentle at first, then deep and soft, twelve years of longing and pining conveyed in the press of lips to lips and tongue to tongue.

Dean's Heaven was finally complete.