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Between Yes and No

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In the beginning, all Castiel said to Dean was ‘yes.’

Yes, he would try to find that spell-book Bobby thought might be able to do some damage to Lucifer.
Yes, Dean could come with him to Jerusalem, to look for God.
Yes, they might as well stick together, since neither of them was getting anywhere alone.

Castiel didn’t try to fill Sam’s place. As his powers slowly faded and instantaneous travel took more and more out of him each trip, Castiel took up a place in the passenger side of Dean’s Impala. He sat uncomfortably for months, on the edge of the seat, ready to give it up the moment its rightful owner returned.

But Sam was gone, so Castiel kept saying ‘yes’.

Yes, he would have a drink, or two, or seventeen at the nearby pub.
Yes, he was interested in the pornography Dean has just flipped past on the fuzzy motel television. Intellectually, of course.
Yes, it would probably be okay if Dean kissed him.

Without Sam by his side Dean always looked slightly lost, like his brother had been the landmark by which Dean set his course. Often, Dean would look over, lips twisted up into a half-smile and joke on the tip of his tongue. He startled visibly when he recognized Castiel, riding shotgun. “Tell me,” Castiel said, and with some hesitation Dean would share the joke or the story or the observation. Castiel didn’t always understand, but Dean was surprisingly patient with Castiel’s lack of human experience, and they managed to fill miles of aching, empty highway with conversation.

It was a promising start, and it made Castiel want to say ‘yes.’

Yes, it would be okay if their room tonight had one king instead of two queens.
Yes, he wanted Dean to suck his cock, please.
Yes, he wanted to know what it felt like to have Dean inside him.

Castiel sometimes wondered what Sam would think about the fact that they were lovers. Dean didn’t call them that, of course, but he brought Castiel coffee with six creams and three sugars in the morning, stayed by his side all day, and threw one possessive arm over his chest before falling asleep at night, and that amounted to pretty much the same thing. They hunted for over a year and saw no sign of God, found no clue as to how Lucifer could be defeated, but Castiel felt they were making progress all the same.

The Croatoan outbreak brought a series of new questions, but Castiel’s answer was always ‘yes.’

Yes, he would be the one to shoot Dean in the head if he ever got infected.
Yes, he was tired of running, too.
Yes, they could set up camp; he would always stay by Dean’s side.

They parked the Impala, switching her out for a Jeep more suited for supply runs. Cas could tell Dean was restless at first, but they eventually settled into a new kind of routine. Dean seemed lighter, almost happy, organizing the camp and heading up rescue missions. At camp they actually helped real people instead of chasing after gods and devils, ghosts of their absent families. Forgetting Heaven and Hell, they planted themselves firmly on humanity’s ground. Dean spent all his days on missions, and his nights in Cas’ cabin.

This was the happiest Cas had ever been in all the long years of his existence, so it was no trouble saying ‘yes.’

Yes, he would wait up until Dean got back from the supply run.
Yes, he would let Dean bind his wrists together and cover his eyes.
Yes, he said into the dark behind the blindfold, yes, I love you, too.

The problem was, Cas wasn’t the only one who said ‘yes.’

When they hear the report from Detroit, Dean merely nods, and Risa stands there for a moment – hesitant, like she wants to give Dean her condolences. “You can go, now,” Dean says, voice flat, and she does. Then, once they are alone, Dean shatters. Cas sees something break in his eyes; he imagines he can hear an audible snap. Cas still has some trace of his old abilities left, and looking at Dean now makes him shiver. In the blink of an eye, somehow, Dean is as good as dead. Sam is gone, and Dean has followed him.

Because Cas doesn’t know what else to do, he says ‘yes.’

Yes, they can fuck against the cabin wall so hard Cas’ gets wooden slivers under his skin.
Yes, he will go back to his own cabin right after they finish, and let Dean get his sleep.
Yes, he knows all about Dean and Risa.

Somehow, it still surprises Cas the day Dean kills a man in cold blood. Jackson had been ambushed during a supply run, and his partner had only barely managed to pull him out of a mob of croats and back onto the truck. They took him to the infirmary and put him under surveillance because it could take up to twenty four hours to turn. Dean came in to visit, and shot Jackson straight through the forehead, perfect clean shot. “There’s no way one of them didn’t infect him,” Dean says flatly, when he sees the expression on Cas’ face. The Dean Cas knew would have waited, just to be sure.

Cas has never asked Dean for anything before, but still he always answers ‘no.’

No, Dean does not think he’s had enough to drink for tonight.
No, he doesn’t want to talk about Sam.
And no, they will not be having a funeral. He doesn’t need any fucking closure.

Cas wonders if this is something like how Dean had felt when they got the news from Detroit, the way he feels when he looks across the campground at the cold, hardened man who looks like his Dean but isn’t. Apart for years, the Winchester brothers still move in concentric circles. Someone else is wearing Dean’s skin, and it makes Cas feel like he’s being torn apart in slow motion, all pain and loss and total disorientation.

Because this isn’t even Dean, Cas says ‘no.’

No, as Dean backs him toward the cot in his cabin.
No, as Dean catches him by the arm on his way back from the latrine, twisting painfully.
No, alone in the dark forest with Dean’s weight and whisky-scented breath pressing down on him, quick punch to the gut that startles him enough for Cas to get away.

Chuck notices his hands shaking, after that, and offers him something. Cas swallows three.

The drugs make everything lighter and easier, make Cas feel like Castiel again, all-powerful and never, ever alone. He feels like his actions have no consequences. He sleeps with most of the women at camp, and a few of the men, and he can almost convince himself that it’s good enough. For his part, Dean doesn’t even seem to notice. That is, until he barges into Cas’ cabin one night, while Cas is on a particularly pleasant trip. Dean had seen him that day, tall figure wearing a spotless white suit leading a column of demons. His back was turned, but Dean had still known, would always know.

Torn between the numbness of the drugs and the terrifying determination on Dean’s face, Cas doesn’t have any answers.

Cas says nothing, and Dean pushes him to the ground, in too much of a hurry to get to the bed.
Cas says nothing when Dean doesn’t bother with lube, just spits twice on his hand before taking Cas practically dry.
Cas says nothing, just holds his breath, bites his lip until it bleeds, and waits for it to be over.

Cas never runs out of drugs. Their medical supplies are limited and should be rationed for emergencies, but Chuck delivers a grocery bag of plastic pill bottles to Cas’ cabin every month, and Cas never turns him away. He can tell Chuck doesn’t like making the delivery, of course, can see the hesitation in his face. It’s obvious he’s acting under orders, and Cas wonders if Dean’s convinced himself he’s doing Cas a favour. Probably he doesn’t care, either way.

When he’s high, Cas can’t seem to bring himself to say ‘no.’

Dean tears at Cas’ throat with his teeth so viciously he draws blood, like an animal or one of the monsters he used to hunt, and Cas is silent.
Dean curses and hisses and sometimes says “I hate you,” and Cas doesn’t know for sure who he’s talking to, but he stays silent.
Cas waits for Dean to come – in his mouth, on his face, in his ass – and breathes a sigh of relief when he goes, but all the while he doesn’t say a word.

The drugs numb him physically, but they do more than that. Privately, Cas laughs at the irony that being a drug addict is so emotionally similar to being an angel. When he’s high Cas loses track of things, and sometimes he forgets, just for a moment, which Dean is leaning over him. The confusion never lasts long enough for what Dean is doing to him to feel good, but it’s enough to make him hold his tongue. When he’s high he can convince himself that there’s something left of his Dean, still, and that he might show up at any moment.

So Cas doesn’t say ‘yes,’ but he also doesn’t say ‘no.’

Dean breaks a bone in Cas’ wrist, but Cas doesn’t really notice until later, when the drugs start to wear off.
Dean straddles Cas and wraps his hands around his throat while he fucks him, and Cas closes his eyes and watches the colours swirl behind his eyelids.
Once, Dean pulls a knife.

Cas thinks about Sam a lot. He thinks about the way Sam first tried to shake his hand, like he didn’t think he quite deserved to be in the presence of any angel. Sam’s worst fear had been turning into something they might have previously hunted, and that’s happened to both of them, now. When he’s sober Cas knows without a doubt that Dean isn’t human any more, not in any of the ways that count. Cas wonders what Sam would want him to do about that. He remembers the promise he made to shoot Dean if he ever turned croat, and he reflects on Dean’s maniacal plans to destroy the monster who looks like his brother. In a rare moment of clarity, Castiel makes a choice.

He isn’t very good with words, but what he needs right now is action.

Castiel doesn’t take any drugs on the last day.
He loads a gun with two bullets and tucks it under his pillow.
Then he waits for Dean.