It’s another three days before Sam and Sarah announce that they are going Christmas shopping. Dean and Cas are left to look after Deejay, and Dean thinks it was really all on purpose. He has a feeling Cas suspects as much, too, if the look he had given Sarah when she had tried to hide a grin behind her husband’s shoulder had been anything to go by.
The house seems quieter and more awkward when they are pointedly on their own. It’s not like they haven’t spent time alone together or that they don’t sleep in the same bed—Dean still can’t fathom how he falls asleep with his back turned and wakes up practically lying on top of Cas—but a whole day with just Deejay is a new boundary Dean hadn’t foreseen them crossing quite so quickly.
‘So…’ Dean says, once Sarah has handed her son off to him and disappeared off after Sam. Deejay is still in his pajamas, and is looking at his Uncles with the same kind of curiosity Sam had done when Dad had gone disappearing for days on end and left them with Bobby.
‘So,’ Cas echoes with a small smile. He takes a hold of Deejay and lifts him from Dean’s knees onto his own.
‘What’s the plan?’
‘Repeating everything I say isn’t helping.’
There’s a smirk on Cas’ face as he stands up and perches Deejay on his hip. ‘Why does there have to be a plan? Not everything has to be carefully thought out.’
‘I can’t believe you are saying that to me,’ Dean mutters, and he watches as Cas leaves with Deejay, probably to get him dressed. Being on his own only makes him think about how much he would really, really like to smack Sam upside the head right now.
* * *
Dean had never really given much thought as to how much work a two year old is. He only really had experience with children where Ben had been concerned, but Ben had been ten. While he had liked spending time with his mom and Dean, he had been independent too.
Deejay is the opposite. He needs dressing and feeding and changing and constant attention, even when sitting ignoring his Uncles. Dean fusses and panics so often that Cas eventually remarks that Dean is like one of those mothers who thinks every germ is out to get her child. It earns Cas a glare and the cold shoulder for half an hour until Dean needs his help changing Deej’s diaper.
Dean learns, very quickly, that the ‘terrible twos’ are aptly named after he has pulled numerous items Deejay shouldn’t have out of his grip and chased after him every time he disappears from eye-view because he just knows that isn’t a good thing.
Cas just seems amused by it all. He watches Dean with an odd, affectionate curiosity and any time Dean looks up at him he quickly hides a small smile and does whatever is asked of him. It is slightly disconcerting, and Dean wonders how many times he and Cas have been left in sole custody of Deejay in the past.
They get a small reprieve just after lunch when Deejay has a nap in his playpen. Dean spends most of it lying across the couch until he begins to wonder where Cas is. He had heard the sounds of tidying earlier, but now everything is relatively quiet. Feeling rather guilty for letting Cas tidy up whilst he wound down, he heads off in the direction he left him.
He finds Cas in the kitchen doing the dishes, and for a moment Dean stops in the doorway and stares. He hasn’t ever really paused to appreciate Cas. He might be human now, but there is still something odd about the way he holds himself, something still undeniably Cas about him. He’s humming a tune to himself softly, a tune Dean doesn’t think he knows but at the same time instantly likes. He watches the shift in Cas’ shoulders and arms as he goes about his task, and not for the first time Dean wonders how they are with each other normally.
He wonders how he is in this future, if he is greatly different or just more of the same. He wonders if he’s affectionate with Cas, or whether it’s all a behind closed doors thing. He wonders how close he and Cas really have become, or if they were already close and Dean had just never noticed. He wonders if what he has with Cas really is his own version of domestic, a million miles from the life he had forced himself to live when Sam was gone.
Dean pushes off the doorway and steps into the kitchen, boots echoing against the stone floor announcing his presence. Cas looks over his shoulder at him and smiles, though he looks surprised when Dean comes to stand next to him and offers to dry the dishes he has stacked up on the drainer.
‘I don’t normally help, huh?’ Dean asks. Cas chuckles. He looks at him out of the corner of his eye and Dean takes that as a “no.”
‘When the feeling takes you,’ Cas says, and he looks back at the sink as he fishes the last of the cutlery from the basin. ‘I just…find it therapeutic.’
‘We are on the road a lot. I have no need to tidy normally.’
‘You just like to when you’re here?’
‘I have to earn my keep somehow,’ Cas says, shooting Dean a grin.
‘They’re family,’ Dean says. ‘We don’t need to earn our keep.’
Cas’ eyes roam over Dean’s face before they settle on his eyes, and he smiles softly, looking grateful if nothing else. Dean gets the feeling he has just said something that makes Cas feel happy and accepted. He tries to bury the possessive stab he feels to his gut. He wants Castiel, his Castiel, to get the opportunity to become this—for them both to become this—but it just feels like far too much to ask.
Dean wonders how he would ever get to this moment with his Cas. There has been mention of fights and Dean doesn’t think he has it in him to fight with Cas any more. He doesn’t want things to be messy and convoluted. He wants to see his Cas relaxed and easy like this but the grandness of the gesture, asking Cas to pick him over Heaven, seems selfish, even if the Cas of now is a testament to the happiness they could have together.
He wonders how much he shut off with this Cas, it seems like the Cas of now is constantly surprised by the little things he does, like there’s a difference in what he is doing. Did he not talk to Cas as he does now? Did he push Cas away, like he had before? Had he made Castiel’s choice a difficult one that had taken time to overcome? Dean doesn’t want his Cas to go through that at all. It’s scary, but he’d rather Castiel felt accepted rather than alienated in his presence.
The rest of their day passes companionably. They take Deej and the dogs for a walk to the park and spend their afternoon talking—Dean doesn’t think he has spent so long just talking about nothing and everything, ever—and entertaining their nephew. It’s comfortable, and he’s perfectly happy to listen to Cas when he isn’t being all doom and gloom and telling Dean he has to do something he knows Dean isn’t happy about. Dean wonders if removed from the Apocalypse and Heaven’s archangel duties his Cas would be just as willing to talk about everything and nothing as this Cas is. He wonders if he’d welcome the opportunity.
He finds that Cas is very similar to him. He has many of the same likes and dislikes, but Dean figures that’s mostly because he learned from and emulated Dean when he was finding his legs as a human. He’s different in many ways, though.
Cas is smarter than Dean could ever imagine, smarter even than Sammy. He has that adorable curiosity when Dean or Deejay say or do something that he finds interesting or amusing or even upsetting. He never quite lets go of that alien element that there has always been to him and Dean finds himself glad of that. He would hate for Cas to lose everything that makes him Cas.
Dean feels the possessive little worm unfurl low in his gut when he watches Cas with Deejay. There is something heartwarming and heart-wrenching all at once, like both of them are equally as fascinated with one another. There’s a part of Dean that feels genuinely sorry that Cas will probably never get the opportunity to have his own children, make his own impact upon someone and leave his mark behind on the Earth. Dean had accepted that for himself, but for someone else it always seemed such a severe sentence.
They don’t really get a moment alone until after Deejay is tucked into bed and Cas has told him a bedtime story—Dean had watched from the doorway, just out of sight, but couldn’t understand a word. The tale was in Enochian and while Dean knew Deej didn’t understand a word, the words were soothing and Deej fell asleep quickly.
They have dinner, an everything omelet that Dean rescues from Cas’ clutches after he almost burns the bottom of the pan, and then they collapse on a heap on the couch. Dean pulls the footstool closer with the toe of a shoe and rests his feet on top of it, kicking his boots off. He heaves out a great big sigh just as Cas flops down beside him. He is sitting way too close, but Dean doesn’t tell him to move over; he just rests his head on Cas’ shoulder and closes his eyes. He feels Cas put his feet up next to his own, followed by the clunk of his shoes being kicked off, too.
‘It wasn’t so bad,’ Cas says, his voice a deep rumble against Dean’s cheek. He can tell Cas is grinning without even looking at him. It really should worry him more than it does that he can tell when Cas is smiling without even looking at him.
‘I’m not used to it…’ Dean grumbles, his voice muffled by Cas’ t-shirt. ‘Do we do this often?’
‘It is often inevitable when we spend time here,’ Cas says. ‘I don’t know if Sam and Sarah get much alone time unless Sarah’s parents take Deejay.’
‘Her Dad still as stuck up as ever?’
‘I have only met him a handful of times,’ Cas tells him, and Dean can feel his eyes getting genuinely heavy, sleep pulling him in. He lets his weight sink against Cas. Cas is comfy. ‘I don’t think he very much approves of us.’
‘Because we’re …’ Dean doesn’t want to say it, he can’t bring himself to, but Cas seems to know the rest of that sentence.
‘No…’ Cas says. ‘I don’t believe he’s homophobic…I think he is just very traditional, and he imagines Sam to be a bad influence on his daughter, and you even more so.’
‘Yes, you,’ Cas says with a small laugh, and Dean feels Cas’ arm going around him, the solid weight of his cast leaning across his shoulder and down his bicep. ‘And me… he imagines me to be as bad as you.’
‘Well…you did learn from the best.’
‘I did,’ Cas says softly, and Dean knows Cas is smiling fondly at him.
He feels the brush of lips against his hairline, and then there’s just darkness. Blissful, welcoming darkness.
* * *
Cas wakes up just as the grandfather clock in the hallway chimes nine o’clock and finds Dean still sleeping on him, arms wrapped around him possessively. Cas smiles, runs a hand through Dean’s hair and then looks up at the TV. He can’t even remember if they had been watching anything prior to dozing off, but it’s now showing Dean’s favorite show.
He smiles to himself and glances down at Dean again—he is still dead to the world, snuffling occasionally against him—and keeps on watching. One of these days he might understand what it is Dean enjoys so much about this show. As it is Cas absently watches the doctors who yell at one another and storm off and make out in closets every five minutes.
Doctor Piccolo is just telling Dr. Sexy how disappointed she is in him when Cas hears the front door open. He looks over the back of the couch as Sam and Sarah enter the living room, both of them grinning at him. He knows they think that whatever plan they had up their sleeve has worked. He knows better than to ask what the plan was. He has a feeling he won’t like the answer.
‘Sarah,’ Sam says quickly and he elbows her in the ribs. Cas looks at them curiously.
‘How’s your day been?’ Sam asks Cas instead, giving his sleeping brother a funny look that Cas can’t interpret.
‘How’s Deej?’ Sarah asks, sitting down on the armchair, Sam sits down on the arm of it next to her.
‘He’s been fine. He’s sleeping now.’
‘He misses you two, you know, when you’re gone,’ Sarah says quietly. ‘You are two of his favorite people.’
‘We try to come here as often as possible,’ Cas says. It’s a conversation they have had many times, but he knows that Dean still isn’t ready to settle down again; he needs something to do. He needs to hunt, because it is ingrained in him to do so, and Cas wouldn’t dare to change that about him. He likes that part of Dean too much.
‘Yeah, I know,’ Sarah says and she squeezes her husband’s knee.
‘Did you tire Dean out?’ Sam asks, and Cas frowns at the identical looks on Sam and Sarah’s faces, like this is the most adorable thing they have ever seen. Dean would be cursing them to the heavens by now if he were awake.
‘Deejay did,’ Cas says. ‘I don’t think I had very much to do with it.’
‘You’ll get your turn.’
‘Sorry,’ Sarah says, smiling sheepishly, hugging into Sam.
‘Did you have much luck with your shopping?’ Cas asks.
‘Yup,’ Sarah says. ‘Next week Sam is going to get a big tree and you are going to help me decorate it.’
‘The last time that didn’t turn out so well,’ Cas says, flicking a look at Dean who had just shifted against his shoulder. He doesn’t seem to be waking up any time soon, and Cas vaguely wonders if he will have to carry him up the stairs.
‘This time you will follow directions,’ Sarah says in a warning voice, pointing her finger at him.
‘Yes, ma’am,’ Cas grins at her.
‘Right,’ Sarah says, clapping Sam’s knee as she looks up at him. Sam looks back at her, smiling as he leans in to peck a kiss to her lips. An ache settles into the center of Cas’ chest. He misses that closeness he had with Dean. ‘We’re going to go to bed, you staying up?’
‘Yeah, for a little while,’ Cas says. ‘Dean will wake up soon, I think.’
‘Okay. Turn all the lights off,’ Sarah says, standing up from the armchair. ‘Sammy, will you lock the doors while I take all the stuff upstairs?’
‘Sure,’ Sam says, watching Sarah as she leaves. He looks back at Cas once she has gone. ‘How’s he been today?’
‘Dean?’ Cas asks. ‘Fine…a bit quiet at times perhaps, but otherwise he is just Dean.’
‘It’s a lot for him to take in,’ Sam says. ‘Five years ago our lives were still a mess.’
‘I’m thinking of going on a hunt in a few days,’ Sam says. ‘Dean might want to go with me.’
‘I think he’d like that,’ Cas says. ‘I think I’d still be a little useless, I’m afraid.’
‘Your services will be needed for tree-decorating,’ Sam grins.
‘You don’t have a me-shaped angel for the tree anymore do you?’
Sam gives him a sheepish look rather like his wife’s. ‘No…’
‘Just keep it out of reach of Dean, won’t you?’ Cas asks, and Sam lets out a bark of laughter.
‘Yeah…’Sam says as he stands up from the armchair. ‘Night, Cas.’
* * *
It is nearly eleven when Dean wakes up from his doze, and his body aches from the position he had forced himself into on the couch. Cas is looking at him fondly again when their eyes meet. He gives a low, sleepy ‘hey,’ when Dean blinks at him and pushes himself up into a sitting position.
‘Hey…’ Dean says. ‘‘time’s it?’
‘Ugh…’ Dean says, getting up and stretching. He grabs the remote and turns the TV off before holding his hand out to Cas. ‘Come on, let’s go upstairs.’
Cas looks at his hand curiously for a moment, and then takes it. He reaches his hand out to turn off the last remaining light on the side table, and it is only once the room is bathed in darkness that he allows Dean to pull him to his feet and follows him out of the room.
They head upstairs, and Dean feels himself falling asleep again as soon as he is under the duvet. Half asleep, he’s aware of Cas climbing into bed and shuffling close to him, wrapping Dean in his arms. And Dean doesn’t mind it, finds he kind of likes it and for the first time in five days Dean doesn’t dream of strange disembodied voices telling him he has a lesson to learn.
* * *
They have been at Sam’s just shy of two weeks when Sam corners Dean and asks if he wants to go on a hunt. Bobby’s hunt has taken longer than anticipated, and he needs help tracking down a particularly vexing shapeshifter. For a moment Dean is hesitant, still feels like he is getting his legs back after too long in domesticity, and leaving Cas behind actually bothers him now. It feels like something is missing when Cas isn’t there.
Sam is eager though, and determined and even insists that they will be back in plenty of time for Christmas. Dean honestly hadn’t been thinking much of Christmas; it was another holiday he and Sam occasionally celebrated together if there was down time. Being here, sharing it with them now, feels a whole lot weirder than some of the other things he has had to wrap his head around.
He finally agrees once Cas says that everything is fine, he isn’t quite fit enough to go back into hunting himself but it’s about time he and Sam got some time to themselves anyway. Furthermore, he has a tree to help decorate because Sarah seems intent on showing him the right way to decorate a tree. Dean tells him there is no right way, and Cas just smirks at him like he knew that already.
Dean and Sam are packed up and on their way—in the Impala, thank you very much; Dean hasn’t had nearly enough time with his pride and joy lately—just after lunch with all the intention of reaching Bobby in the next state over by late evening. The three and a half hour drive to Warwick, Massachusetts is a relatively short one for them by comparison to their ordinary journeys, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. Dean has missed chatting pointlessly and winding up his little brother.
By the time darkness falls, though, they are slowly running out of things to say that won’t be touching on subjects Dean would rather avoid. Bobby is staying in a cabin way up in the back of nowhere ,and Dean grumbles about the uneven stone road and his suspension. He cuts off Sam’s point that his car may have been more practical with a glare, and Sam returns to watching the scenery pass by.
It’s another fifteen minutes before they reach a little copse in the trees that has five little cabins and a sign that reads “Colfer’s Hideaway.” Dean parks the Impala beside an old patched up truck that he takes to be Bobby’s and kills the engine.
He feels apprehensive when he follows Sam up the steps to the cabin. Even before he had been thrown into the future things between him and Bobby hadn’t been quite right—he’d pushed him away for a year, it took time for these things to heal—and he isn’t quite sure what to expect when he sees him now. From the look Sam shoots him when he stops at the top of the steps, he thinks that maybe things had been patched up in this timeline, that now he is being foolish.
Sam knocks on the door and moments later both Dean and Sam find themselves enveloped in a bear hug as if Bobby hasn’t seen them in years. Dean notices that his hug seems to last longer, and when Bobby finally pulls away he is still holding onto Dean’s shoulders and scrutinizing him.
Bobby claps Dean on the shoulder and lets the brothers into the cabin. It has a homey feel to it. There’s an armchair and a little couch near the fireplace. The couch is strewn with books, and his gun is lying on the arm of the chair, just within reach. There are two twin beds, tidily made, with patchwork quilts and there’s a bathroom just off from a tiny kitchenette.
Dean clears himself a space on the end of the couch and flops down on it, letting out a long sigh as he looks around the room. Bobby and Sam are still standing, looking at him in that odd way that tells him they are going to start talking about him in a minute.
‘So, this is “Past Dean”?’ Bobby asks, glancing at Sam as he makes his way over to the fridge.
‘Past Dean?’ Dean says, frowning at Sam. Sam gives him a little defensive shrug of his shoulders and a look that says “What, I had to think of something.” Dean shakes his head.
‘He doesn’t seem much different if you ask me,’ Bobby says, and Dean hears the clink of beer bottles before Bobby comes back over. He hands Dean one of the bottles before he sits down on the armchair and holds another beer aloft for Sam. Sam takes it with a quiet thank you and pushes the books onto the middle cushion of the couch to sit down.
‘He isn’t that different,’ Sam says.
‘I’m right here,’ Dean says, taking a swig of his beer before glowering at his brother.
‘Figure it’s an angel thing?’ Bobby asks him.
‘Can’t think of much else it could be,’ Dean says. ‘Cas can’t think of anything else either.’
‘Well, not many things can question his knowledge,’ Bobby says, sitting back and stretching a leg out onto the coffee table. ‘How is he anyway?’
‘He’s fine,’ Dean says, and wonders at the look Bobby is giving him, like he knows something Dean doesn’t. ‘Why?’
Bobby makes a face. ‘No reason.’
‘Is this about me and Cas…?’
‘Just wonderin’ if it freaked you out and all,’ Bobby says. Both of them glance at Sam, who is pointedly staring at the label of his beer.
‘Wouldn’t it freak you out?’ Dean asks, suddenly defensive. This really is a personal question, something he’d rather not share, especially when the idea of him and Cas really isn’t scaring him so much now he’s been spending so much time with him. It is beginning to feel like the natural progression, and it’s that that scares Dean more than he’d like to admit to.
‘Yeah, I suppose it would,’ Bobby says, and he smiles as he shakes his head. ‘Honestly, boy, you got tossed through time so many damn times, it’s a wonder you know which way is up any more.’
Dean laughs and smiles and wonders why he felt so anxious in the first place.
* * *
Dean has been gone two days when Sarah decides it is time to decorate the tree. Sam had got one before he had left and stored it in the shed to give Sarah time to clear space for it. It had been Cas’ job to lug it back inside. Sarah helped deposit it in the right place in the living room, and the remainder of their afternoon was spent decorating the tree to Sarah’s specifications.
Cas had made the mistake, on the first year that he and Dean had joined them for Christmas, of pointing out that Christ’s birthday was actually in March, and Christmas was in fact originally the pagan festival of Yule. It had earned him a nudge to the ribs from Dean and a glare from Sarah before he had been quickly told that kind of talk wasn’t allowed.
Castiel doesn’t mind Christmas. He has learned to accept that it as another holiday that humans enjoy, even though he knows Dean and Sam hadn’t celebrated it much prior to Sarah being in their lives again. If anything, he appreciates it simply because it brings them all together.
This year Deejay seems to be more aware of what is happening. Sarah does her best to include him, and the toddler finds great glee in playing with the plastic ornament that Sarah had told him is his. Deejay watches with the same kind of captivation Cas once had as Cas and Sarah wind lights and tinsel around the tree. It’s another thing that Cas finds fascinating about the youngest Winchester.
Cas likes spending time with Sarah. He hadn’t really known her until after Sam had married her—his allegiance to Heaven had mostly kept him out of touch with them until he had made his decision to stay with Dean—but she is kind and accepting and fits in with the Winchesters and the patchwork family they’ve created for themselves. The moments they have spent together alone have been few and far between, though, but she still seems to have an incorrigible knack for getting under his skin.
‘Heard from Dean?’ she asks once they have finished the tree and they are sitting in the den, drinking coffee. Deejay is ensconced between them with a sippy-cup of juice, and the dogs are at their feet, paying close attention to the cookies Sarah’s eating.
‘We don’t need to know one another’s every move,’ Cas says with a smile. ‘I’m giving him space. He needs it.’
‘Men,’ Sarah mutters into her coffee and Cas tilts his head curiously at her, wondering what that really has to do with anything.
‘You always dance around the issue, you two,’ Sarah says, waving a hand as she brushes off Cas’ protest. ‘And it doesn’t matter that he isn’t the Dean of now. You still don’t notice what’s staring you in the face.’
‘And what’s that?’
‘That he likes you.’
‘Why wouldn’t he like me?’
Sarah rolls her eyes. ‘I love you, but sometimes you are just as bad as he is. He likes you, he’s just scared.’
‘This isn’t his life, Sarah.’
‘He’s not going to be here forever.’ At least, he doesn’t think so. ‘What would you have me do?’
He loves Sarah but he doesn’t know why she is pushing him with this younger version of Dean. He appreciates her earlier words that perhaps they both have a lesson to learn, and while he’s curious about the grander role in whatever it is that brought Dean here, a part of him is still sure Dean needs to embark on that journey with his own Cas. He misses his Dean, but he doesn’t know how long the younger version will be here and how long he will have to keep his distance in fear of scaring Dean off. And if that’s the case, if his continued distance from Dean serves to alienate Dean so that it carries over into Dean’s timeline whenever he returns to it, Cas wonders if maybe Sarah is right, maybe he needs to reach out to this Dean more, finally cross that line between friendship and intimacy.
It’s scary, and he doesn’t know how he should feel about altering the relationship he and Dean have.
‘You should have a date,’ Sarah grins at him and Cas frowns in a dubious manner.
‘A date?’ Cas echoes. ‘Dean and I don’t date…’
‘Which is why you should!’ Sarah says. ‘Whether it’s this Dean or your Dean, you should let him know you still love him and want to be seen with him.’
‘I do that, though…’
‘Oh for goodness sake,’ Sarah breathes. ‘The day Sam and Dean come back, you should make dinner for him. Have a nice candlelit dinner.’
Cas makes a face that he learned from Dean, one that comes with the mention of sappy chick-flick moments. ‘I don’t know…’
‘You’re having it, and it will be nice,’ Sarah tells him. ‘And you’ll both enjoy it. I’ll make sure of it.’
‘I’ll get Sam and Deej out of the way,’ Sarah grins at him. ‘You two can have the evening to yourselves.’
‘You aren’t going to let me fight this, are you?’
‘Nope,’ Sarah grins at him, and Cas reluctantly admits defeat.
* * *
It takes the three of them two days to track down the shapeshifter, and by the end of it Dean is tired out but happy that he has managed to make it through a whole hunt without someone saving his ass. They get back to the cabin at some ungodly hour after midnight and crack open three beers.
Bobby is asleep within half an hour, after complaining that he really is getting too old to chase monsters through the trees. His snores fill the little cabin, and for a moment Sam and Dean watch him in mutual amusement. It’s been a good two days with Sam and Bobby. Dean has missed this.
He has, in particular, missed hunting with Sam. It’s comfortable and familiar and easy. When he had spent that year with Lisa he had tried to push that all away in a desperate attempt not to think of Sammy too much. It had hurt. This, though, just him and Sam and Bobby and another monster taken care of, felt right, felt like he is right where he is supposed to be. Except …
‘You miss him, don’t you?’ Sam interrupts his thoughts as he passes Dean another beer. Dean hadn’t even noticed him get up.
‘Sam,’ Dean says in a warning voice as he unscrews the top off his beer. Sam just looks at him like he really doesn’t care about Dean’s hatred of talking about his feelings, he’s going to plough on anyway.
‘Dean,’ Sam says pointedly. It’s that voice that says “We’re talking about this whether you like it or not” and Dean gives a short sigh, shaking his head as he takes a deep swallow of his beer. ‘It doesn’t make you weak to admit to things. You miss him, it’s obvious.’
‘What’s not to miss,’ Dean says defensively. ‘Get kind of used to him being around.’
‘I mean…’ Sam looks at Dean for a long moment that Dean learned years ago isn’t a good thing. It’s that face he makes when he knows Dean isn’t going to like what he says. ‘You miss your Cas…’
Dean doesn’t answer for a long moment, nor does he look at Sam. He stares ahead, watching the dying embers of the fire Bobby had lit when they had got back. Things have been so easy and comfortable here that he has been putting off thinking about the Castiel from his present, it’s complicated and messy and it’s easier to watch the Cas of now rather than to think of what he had to get through to get here.
‘Look, Sam,’ Dean says when the silence gets to that heavy, pregnant stage that borders on awkward. ‘I pushed Cas away. I pushed you and Bobby away. And yeah, I miss him. I missed you and Bobby, too, but I deserved that.’
‘I get you and Bobby, you guys have been there my whole life,’ Dean carries on like Sam hasn’t interrupted. ‘But Cas? Cas had no reason to come back. He’d dealt with enough shit from me that I would have fully accepted it if he hadn’t come back.’
‘And it scares you that he did?’ Sam says quietly.
‘He shouldn’t pick me, he has no reason to,’ Dean says, staring at his beer bottle.
‘You don’t get it do you?’
‘Cas,’ Sam says, and he holds Dean’s gaze when he looks up. ‘He was always fighting for you. It doesn’t matter how much you push him away, he’ll always come back. He’s that one person you’re just lucky to find in your lifetime.’
‘I don’t deserve this,’ Dean says, voice barely above a whisper. ‘I don’t deserve him.’
‘You’d rather he had just walked away and never come back?’ Sam asks.
Dean sighs and downs the last of his beer. ‘It’d be fair…’
‘Don’t you think he made the choice for himself as well as you?’
‘Choice?’ Dean echoes. ‘What kind of choice is it picking me over Heaven?’
‘The right one,’ Sam says heatedly, and Dean frowns at him.
‘Are you kidding me?’
‘One day,’ Sam says, plonking his half-finished beer bottle down on the coffee table, ‘you are going to have to get over this self-torture thing and realize that half of the sacrifice was made by you.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘You let him in instead of pushing him away,’ Sam says. ‘It’s not as hard as you think it is.’
‘I’m going to sleep,’ Sam interrupts. ‘I want to get home to my family at a reasonable hour if that’s all right by you.’
‘Yeah,’ Dean says, and he watches Sam as he wanders to the nearest bed, stripping to his boxers and t-shirt before he crawls under the covers.
His snores soon join Bobby’s, and Dean is left staring at the last embers of the fire, contemplating.
Dean is dreaming. He is dreaming of the last time he had seen Lisa and Ben, of the routine that had become his life. He’d wake up next to her, shower, and then head downstairs to make breakfast. He’d kiss Lisa goodbye before getting in his truck and heading off to work. He’d come home from work, he’d kiss Lisa, and the three of them would have dinner and chill out until it was time to sleep and—
The images come to a stuttering stop and Dean doesn’t have to wonder what happens next. Sam and Cas come crashing back into his life and—
‘Wondering why they managed to persuade you away so easily?’ the now familiar voice from his dreams asks. Dean groans inwardly and looks around the darkness for some sign of someone else. He’s standing in a spotlight. Outside of that, there’s nothing.
‘I was happy…’ Dean says.
‘We both know that isn’t true. Not really.’
‘I was putting them in danger,’ he says. It’s an argument he’s told himself a hundred times to try and console himself that it had been all right to leave.
‘That’s not the only reason why you let them take you out of that life.’
‘Come on, kid…’
‘Have to learn myself?’ Dean asks. ‘They weren’t meant for me…my happiness lies elsewhere?’
‘Got it in one.’
‘You don’t know shit,’ Dean says.
‘I know more than you can comprehend.’
‘So what, then…Sam, Sarah, Cas, that’s where I belong? Newsflash asshole; we can’t always get what we want.’
‘You think it’s Cas I want?’
‘Dean—’ the tone of voice is bored and familiar and sounds a whole lot like Dean is trying its patience.
‘It’s like talking to sea monkeys,’ the voice says, underlined with exasperation.
‘I don’t know what you want from me…’
Dean wakes up to find Bobby and Sam already packed up and tidying the cabin. He briefly wonders why they both let him sleep so long, and when he had gone from the sofa to the other bed, but he lurches to his feet and stumbles off in the direction of the bathroom without so much as a hello.
He stares sleepily at his reflection in the cloudy bathroom mirror for a minute, still trying to shake the words of his dream away. His hair is a sleepy mess and his green eyes look tired as though he has barely slept at all. As he turns his back on his reflection and turns on the shower, he tries not to think about the implications of the fact he’s only started having these dreams again when Cas isn’t beside him.
They say their goodbyes to Bobby—Bobby promises to come to Sam’s for Christmas, he just needs to go back to the house first—and then head on their way. Sam takes a phone call from Sarah about an hour into the journey and is very quiet for a long while, so much so that Dean begins to feel suspicious. Sam eventually ends the call with a soft “bye” and a small smile, and when Dean gives him a questioning look, Sam ignores him.
* * *
When Cas makes it downstairs after his shower Sarah is coming into the kitchen laden down with grocery bags. He frees her from her weight with a questioning look, but she just grins at him before going back to the car to get Deejay. Cas peers inside the bag nearest him and frowns when he sees wine stowed in amongst the beer.
He raises an eyebrow at Sarah when she comes back in, and she grins at him sheepishly as she hands him Deejay and starts unpacking bags.
‘Wine?’ Cas asks.
‘Thought you might like it for tonight,’ Sarah says.
‘Neither Dean nor I drink wine…’
‘I know, which is why I got you guys beer,’ she smirks, snatching the wine from his hand and sticking it in the fridge. ‘Sam and I will have this.’
‘Did you just go shopping for tonight?’ Cas asks, sitting Deejay on his hip and smiling at his nephew. Deejay grins back up at him and pulls at the chain around his neck. Cas quickly takes it out of Deej’s grip and stuffs it back down his t-shirt.
‘What was that?’ Sarah asks suspiciously, moving past him to grab the bag with things for the fridge.
‘That necklace…’ she says, pausing to look at him now.
‘Nothing,’ Cas says quickly, too quickly if the narrowing of Sarah’s eyes is anything to go by. She takes a step closer to him and before he can protest, pulls the chain free from his shirt. She gives him a questioning look, then shakes her head, and goes back to putting things away.
‘Have you been wearing that around your neck the whole time?’
‘I thought he might freak out,’ Cas says defensively, tucking the chain away again.
‘It’s not like it’s a wedding ring,’ Sarah says, and she looks up to see Cas’ pinched expression.
‘No, but it’s his,’ Cas says, and he knows Dean well enough to know that he would ask for it back without knowing what the promise was behind it.
‘Right,’ Sarah says, apparently knowing when not to push after all. ‘Do you want to know what you will be having for dinner?’
‘Lunch!’ Deejay says, nodding against Cas. Cas grins at him and Sarah shakes her head.
‘Close, but no,’ she says, packing away the last of the groceries. ‘You’ll get lunch in a minute boy-o.’
‘Is this really necessary?’ Cas asks. He had let Sarah plan and get excited, but he really does think she is making a big fuss over nothing. He and Dean have always been about the simple, quiet moments. He hasn’t had any need for any big gestures since they’ve been together. The big gestures had already been done.
‘It’ll be nice,’ Sarah says.
‘A burger and a beer is really all you need to keep Dean happy.’
‘Exactly,’ Sarah replies with a grin and Cas looks at her curiously.
* * *
They make it back to the house later than Dean thought they would due to Sam insisting that they make a pit stop in Springfield—Dean points out that this is actually out of their way, but Sam brushes him off—to get some toy Sarah wants him to get for Deej. It takes Sam an hour for some reason, and by the time he returns Dean feels annoyed and convinced that the big white box Sam shoves into the back seat of the Impala completely isn’t worth it.
Sam looks pleased with himself, though, and he makes another lengthy phone call to his wife as they head back onto the highway. When Sam finally hangs up he denies acting weird and tells Dean he is being paranoid. This only makes Dean more convinced that his brother is up to something.
They pull up at the house just after four. Dean feels like they have just arrived home—not just Sam’s home, but his home—and he tries to ignore the sense of peace that washes over him knowing that Cas is inside. He gets out of the car and takes his duffle bag from the trunk, and it is only once he has closed it that he realizes Sam hasn’t got out of the car yet.
Frowning, he walks around to the passenger side and bends down to window level, leaning his elbow on the doorframe. Sam has slid over to the driver’s side and looks over at Dean with a would-be innocent expression. Dean narrows his eyes at him.
‘Sarah wants me to run over to the store and get milk,’ Sam says—Dean wonders why Sam couldn’t have got that at their last gas stop an hour ago when he had insisted he needed the bathroom. ‘You don’t mind if I borrow your car?’
‘Uh, no, go ahead,’ he says, straightening as Sam throws the car into reverse and starts backing out of the driveway.
As Dean makes his way up the path towards the back door, he is still wondering why Sam is acting so weird. It’s only once he’s through the back gate that he realizes Sarah’s car isn’t in the driveway, either. Things are beginning to feel horribly like a set up.
When he opens the back door, his worries are quickly dispelled by the smell of the most amazing food Dean can remember. The absence of the clatter-clack of claws across linoleum should be a warning sign, but Dean just follows the scent of food.
He comes to a stop in the doorway of the kitchen when he sees Cas setting the table; knives, forks, spoons, napkins, wine glasses, and Dean realizes he had been right about the set up. Cas looks up at him once he is done laying the last of the cutlery, and a clearly embarrassed look flits over his face before he grins at Dean.
Dean drops his bag and closes the five steps between them, and before he really thinks about what he is doing he has his arms wrapped around Cas in a bear hug and is holding him like he hasn’t seen him in a year. Cas stands stock still against him for brief second, then he seems to lose all the tension in his body and returns the embrace, burying his face in Dean’s neck.
Dean isn’t sure how long they stand there. All he knows is that hugging Cas is really kind of nice. Cas is warm and being this close to him feels like he has just come home. The idea should terrify him. Instead it makes him feel content. They part when the timer on the oven goes off, and Cas pulls away from him, the smile on his face softer and more intimate than ones Dean has seen before.
‘Hey,’ he says quietly.
‘Hey,’ Dean replies, and Cas untangles himself from Dean’s hold to step over to the oven and turn it off. ‘Guess we have the house to ourselves tonight?’
Cas lets out a chuckle that Dean can only just hear over the fan and looks over at Dean as he opens the oven door a crack. ‘Sarah took Deej and the dogs to her parents for tonight.’
‘I guessed as much,’ Dean says. His hands are beginning to sweat and his heart is pumping just a little bit too fast and, yeah, now he’s a little bit scared.
‘Masters of subtlety, are they not?’ Cas asks with a grin as he pulls a tray from the oven and places it on top of the stove. He turns back to Dean, who finds the image of Cas wearing oven gloves more amusing than he dare admit. It’s cute, and Dean doesn’t often think things like that.
‘Did you make dinner?’ Dean asks, ogling the two burgers that are on top of the stove. They look succulent and delicious and appear to be gently oozing cheese from the middle of them. Dean’s mouth is watering.
‘I had help,’ Cas grins, like Dean should know he isn’t a culinary master. ‘Sarah left me instructions, and I followed them to a T so everything should be fine.’
‘Should be?’ Dean repeats, quirking an eyebrow at him.
‘It’s difficult to mess up burgers,’ Cas says pointedly. He pulls off the oven gloves and sets them aside before opening the fridge. ‘We’re having shrimp cocktail to start with.’
‘Can’t we just skip it and go to the burgers?’ Dean asks.
‘We could, but Sarah would probably get cross with me,’ Cas says as he brings two dishes out of the fridge, pushes the door shut with a foot, and places the dishes down on each place setting.
‘Has Sarah been bossing you about the kitchen all afternoon?’ Dean asks, amusement in his voice as they sit down opposite one another. Cas smiles back at him as he unrolls his napkin and tidily lays it on his lap. Dean echoes his movements.
‘Pretty much,’ Cas admits. ‘You don’t mess with a Winchester woman on a mission.’
* * *
The meal is one of the best Dean can ever remember having. The shrimp cocktail is good, the burgers utterly heavenly along with the homemade fries and coleslaw. By the end of it, Dean is so full he isn’t even entirely sure he can fit in dessert, but when Cas uncovers a blueberry pie and cuts him a slice, Dean finds himself digging in anyway. The wine glasses go unused. Cas hadn’t even offered wine; he had just handed Dean a beer and that had been that. Dean had been relieved.
They talk about what each of them had been doing in one another’s absence—which Dean had always thought would be a really boring thing to do with someone every day. But to his surprise, it was fun. Dean likes listening to Cas talk and make the occasional joke—which he does in such a deadpan manner that Dean knows he is really the only one that gets it—and when he talks about Deejay his whole face lights up in a way that only their nephew can compel.
‘That was amazing,’ Dean sighs after the last of his pie is gone. He slumps down on his chair, stretching his legs out in front of him and not minding when they bump up against one of Cas’. Cas gives him a pleased look as he finishes off the rest of his own pie.
‘I will pass the compliment onto the chef,’ he says depreciatingly.
‘As far as I’m concerned, you made it,’ Dean says. ‘And it was good.’
‘You aren’t sick of burgers, though?’ Dean asks, and he grins when Cas tilts his head at him and frowns in thought.
‘I tolerate them,’ Cas says. ‘For you. Though this body still craves red meat.’
‘That body is yours now,’ Dean says, an unnamable stab in his chest at the reference that Cas’ body started out as a vessel.
‘Yes,’ Cas says, staring at his own fingers as he flexes them as though he is making sure that still holds true. Dean reaches a hand out and takes his hand, closing his fingers around Cas’ knuckles.
‘I know, Dean,’ Cas says, and there is something hard and hurt in those blue eyes.
‘Jimmy knew what he was giving up,’ Dean says. ‘This,’ he adds, squeezing Cas’ hand, ‘is all yours now, it has been for years.’
‘I know,’ Cas repeats in a whisper, and he rubs his thumb along the palm of Dean’s hand.
The air feels electric and heavy between them when Dean meets Cas’ gaze. His skin feels like it is on fire where he is touching Cas, and he suddenly feels horribly aware of the fact that they are very alone.
Dean could get lost in those blue eyes, and that isn’t a new thing at all. From the moment they met Cas had been able to look at him like he was gazing right through him and seeing all that he is. He just doesn’t know when it changed from being unsettling to being comforting to being something more.
Dean clears his throat, drops his gaze and breaks the spell as he pushes his chair back. The wood screeches across the floor, making Dean wince as he reaches to pick up the last of their dishes. Cas blinks and watches Dean as he drops the dishes in the sink and starts to wash them.
‘Leave those,’ he says quietly, and Dean turns around to look at him.
‘They can wait,’ Cas says more firmly this time. He gets up from his seat with more grace than Dean had, drops his napkin on the table before crossing the kitchen towards Dean. ‘We can do that tomorrow. Tonight we relax.’
‘Relax?’ Dean repeats, and it sounds higher pitched than normal. Cas smiles in what Dean takes to be a reassuring manner, takes his hand and leads him through to the living room.
* * *
Dean can’t concentrate on the movie that Cas puts on. He couldn’t even tell you what movie it is, though it does involve flashes of light and color, which he can tell purely by it reflecting off Cas’ face. Dean is sitting on the couch, feet resting on the footstool. He should be comfortable but he is hyper aware of Cas. Cas is curled up on the couch beside him, his knees drawn up towards his chest and he is watching the TV with rapt attention, which is probably in Dean’s favor.
Dean has been staring at him for at least ten minutes. His heart is pounding loudly in his ears, his hands are clammy and he is pretty sure he has forgotten how to breathe like a normal human being.
The thing is, Cas is close, so close, and though he should be used to that by now, this is different. This time he can’t just give a stern “personal space?” and go about pushing away the feelings it raises. This time, it’s his turn to make a move.
If he could just stop thinking about things it would make life so much easier.
Dean finally stops thinking when Cas looks his way another five minutes later, and there is puzzlement behind his big blue eyes. Dean leans in, getting way up in Cas’ space. Cas jerks back at first, and Dean pauses as he meets his gaze. Cas blinks and Dean takes that as his okay.
He closes the space between them, Cas’ breath hot on his lips for a second before their mouths meet. It’s slow, careful at first as Dean gets used to the press of their lips, but then Cas kisses him back.
Cas kisses in a way that makes Dean’s head spin. He teases at Dean’s lower lip with his teeth before he slides his tongue inside Dean’s mouth, brushing their tongues together. Dean gains confidence, hard and frantic now as he pushes up closer to Cas, bracketing Cas in against the couch as he unfolds his legs and lets Dean’s chest press against his own.
* * *
Cas quickly forgets the movie. By the time the credits roll their kisses have slowed to long, lingering presses. Dean’s body is warm and familiar and heavy over his. Castiel sighs as Dean’s hand slips beneath him and presses beneath his shoulder blade, bringing him closer. Dean is slow now, but sure, and it’s been so long since he’s had this, had Dean. Dean deepens the next kiss, lingering and drawing the moment out, and Castiel holds back a moan, one hand coming up and tangling in Dean’s hair, dragging Dean in close as his hips shift up in an unconscious motion. Dean stills above him, and Castiel freezes, the semblance of intimacy shattered.
For a moment they are pressed together, simply breathing. The Dean pulls back, pushing up to place a few inches between them, and for the first time since all this started Dean stares at him, his green eyes wide with shock, and Cas can feel a blush rising on his cheeks.
Dean looks down at Cas’ crotch and Cas follows his gaze. He gulps because, yeah, he’s hard and Dean had been pressed up against him and those kisses had been the kind of kisses he has spent the last two weeks missing. He wants Dean, but caught in the moment he’d forgotten than this Dean might not be ready for that just yet.
Dean blinks at him for a breath before tentatively leaning in again. But Cas can see the sudden fear in his eyes. He doesn’t want Dean to be afraid. Cas puts a hand on Dean’s chest, maintaining their distance.
‘What?’ Dean’s voice is hoarse, wrecked coming from kiss-swollen lips.
‘We don’t have to do this.’
Cas pushes Dean away further now, moving so as he can sit on the edge of the couch. He looks over his shoulder to see Dean pulling back, a hurt look on his face as he meets Cas’ gaze and Cas now feels like an asshole. He doesn’t want to force Dean into anything, but he can’t deal with that hurt look knowing he put it there either. He resists the urge to take Dean’s face in his hands and kiss him until they forget about everything.
‘I thought…’ Dean starts, but he trails off, appearing to think better of whatever he had to say.
‘Dean, I don’t need your pity,’ Cas says, his stomach dropping like lead as he says it.
‘Cas,’ Dean sighs.
‘We don’t have to do anything, honestly,’ Cas says more firmly. ‘Sarah just wanted us to have a nice time together and talk. It doesn’t have to become anything else.’
He gets up from the couch, turns off the TV and looks at Dean. Dean is staring back at him like Cas has just slapped him. Cas frowns, lips forming a tight line before he turns and storms out of the room.
He isn’t sleeping when Dean finally comes upstairs. Cas lies in the dark with his back to the door. He closes his eyes tight when Dean moves closer to the bed and says his name. He listens as Dean undresses and feels the bed dip as Dean gets in, the gust of cold air he brings with him as he lifts the blankets making him shiver.
Cas hears Dean sigh, and he can feel those green eyes boring into the back of his head. But the distance between them remains. He doesn’t think he’s ever wanted to console Dean so much in his life. But he doesn’t turn over and he doesn’t sleep a wink.
Current Location: sun lounge