O, brave new world!
an epilogue to season 8
Alonso: Arise, and say how thou camest here.
Miranda: O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!
Prospero: ‘Tis new to thee.
The Tempest, William Shakespeare (Act V, Scene 1).
Written: 18-22 May 2013.
Pairings: Dean/Sam, Castiel/Dean, Castiel/Dean/Sam.
Genre and tropes: Wincestiel, episode coda, fallen angels, human Castiel, hurt/comfort.
Word count: 9500.
Spoilers: Through to (and especially for) the finale of season 8.
Summary: “Are you okay?” Sam put in, and Dean was fiercely stupidly grateful because he couldn’t ask it himself.
“I,” Castiel said, and he sounded so fucking lost. “Metatron was lying.”
“Oh, y’think?” Dean snapped out, and snatched the phone from Sam. “Where are you?”
“I’m not,” Castiel said, and, “I don’t know. Dean, everything is written in Italian, and I should be able to read it but I can’t remember most of the words and I can’t feel the Earth’s magnetic field or where the equator is or this vessel’s negotiations with gravity, Dean, I don’t know where I am.”
Say how thou camest here.
Everything was very clear suddenly, as Dean hustled Sam outside, crouched with him in the lee of the Impala: clear in a way that Dean had almost forgotten. Sam was his, fierce as iron: the clutch of his hands in Dean’s jacket, the shake in his voice when he said Dean’s name like it was the only word he knew, the warm solid weight of him against Dean’s side. What was that they said - if you love somebody set them free, and they might even come back? Sam was sagging against him, coughing and groaning, but he was leaning on Dean and happy to do it, for as long as he needed it. For the first time in - hell, years - there was no crap between them, none of the push-pull and how-could-you and anger. Brothers again, and that was more important than anything. And they were going to be okay.
Then Heaven began to fall.
Dean couldn’t leave either of his men alone for five freaking minutes.
They had to swerve to avoid running over an angel.
She was kneeling battered and bloody in the road, staring up at the sky. As they raced by, a cloud of fluttery black scraps like paper whirled up around them, tossed into the car’s slipstream. One clung to the windshield for a moment before it swept away into the night. It was the charred fragment of a feather.
Sam twisted around in his seat to watch her vanish in the red glow of their tail lights. Neither of them said a word.
Dean had left his phone in the pocket of Castiel’s coat, because he wasn’t having the guy drop off the radar again, not in the middle of everything.
Out of the corner of his eye, he kept seeing Sam try to make a call - speed dial number one - but the only answer was the faint echo of the “out of range” beeps. Of fucking course.
He pretended not to see.
One hour, two hours. Two more angels on or by the road. One of them hadn’t survived the fall - either that or he’d been taken out by a hit-and-run since.
Then they passed a field, in which something was glowing. It was a sickly pale kind of glow, and whatever it was it dwarfed the little herd of cattle that was huddling fretfully in one corner of the field. Dean only caught a glimpse of long rippling curves and something flung out like a vast arm before they were past it. All he could think, stupidly, was that he’d figured they’d be larger, like that.
Sam broke the silence, after a minute. His voice was still a weak sort of rasp.
“I wonder how many of them fell into the sea.”
Dean set his jaw, and drove faster.
They were almost to the bunker when Sam got the call, from a number they didn’t know. Dean didn’t have to tell him to put it on speakerphone.
“This had better be important,” Dean gritted out, and a rush of static whooshed out of the phone, as if the person on the other end had let out all their breath at once.
Dean nearly wrapped his baby around a tree.
“Cas? Where are you? What the hell went down? Are you - where are you?”
There was another silence, filled only with the sound of Castiel’s breathing. It was heavy, and harsh, and deliberate, and it didn’t sound good.
In the back seat, Crowley’s chained clinked, as the blindfolded King of Douches levered himself up into a sitting position.
“Are you okay?” Sam put in, and Dean was fiercely stupidly grateful because he couldn’t ask it himself.
“I,” Castiel said, and he sounded so fucking lost. “Metatron was lying.”
“Oh, y’think?” Dean snapped out, and snatched the phone from Sam. “Where are you?”
“I’m not,” Castiel said, and, “I don’t know. Dean, everything is written in Italian, and I should be able to read it but I can’t remember most of the words and I can’t feel the Earth’s magnetic field or where the equator is or this vessel’s negotiations with gravity, Dean, I don’t know where I am.”
“Okay,” Dean cut in, too loud because he couldn’t get the image of that burnt crumbling feather out of his head, ad that angel stuck out there all alone in that field, then softer: “Okay, dude, breathe. You need to breathe, alright? Remember when we talked about this? Just take it in and let it fall out. That’s it. Now, I need you to turn on the GPS on my phone. You still got that, right? You remember how that works?”
“I don’t,” Castiel began again, and Dean had never wanted to hear him this defenceless and small. “Yes. Yes, I remember. I can do that.”
“That’s my boy” slipped out before Dean could stop it, still stuck in take-care-of-Sammy mode. “Now, you’re gonna find water, and maybe some food, and get yourself a safe place to hole up until we can come find you, y’hear?”
Sam took the phone back and started fiddling with it. “Cas, if you’re in Europe we’re going to take at least a day to get to you, and Dean’s phone might not have that much battery left. Give us five minutes to get a lock on you now, then turn it off until this time tomorrow, okay? We’ll need it to find you when we get to your end.”
“Yes,” Castiel said at once, and his voice was stronger now but it still sounded like he’d been through the wringer. “I understand. I - thank you.”
As if he thought there was any doubt that they’d -
“Save it,” Dean growled. “Nobody gets left behind. You just sit tight and try not to do anything stupid.”
Castiel went quiet again, so quiet that Dean wondered wildly whether he’d forgotten to breathe again. Then: “Alright. I’m. I will hang up now.”
Sam’s mouth quirked, in his haggard bruised face. “Okay, Cas. You take care, y’hear?”
“Yes,” Castiel acknowledged gruffly, and, “Sam. I’m glad you’re not dead.”
Dean rolled his eyes at the long curve of road in front of him, and heard Sam chuckle. “You too, man. See you soon.”
“Call Charlie,” he rapped out, stiff-jawed, as soon as Sam hung up. “We need good fake passports right the hell now. Three of them. Shit. Shit.”
Sam peered at his phone, then whistled. “Tocco de - de Casauria. Italy, right in the middle of the mountains. At least he found a town - looks like a hell of a lot of forest and rock around there.”
They drove on through the night, as Sam woke Charlie up and brought her up to speed. Not on loudspeaker, this time; but when Sam had her look out her window to see the sky, Dean could hear her reaction from his seat.
As Sam hung up, they drove past another angel without a vessel. This one was hunched up, weirdly elongated head (or heads?) wrapped in pale gleaming arms, rocking back and forth like a see-saw in the wind. It was as tall as the oak beside it.
In the rear-view mirror, Dean saw Crowley’s head turn to follow it, as if he could sense the creature even through the thick black fabric wrapped around his face.
“I wonder what her name was,” he said, and Dean didn’t recognise his voice.
Charlie turned up with six fallen angels in tow. Apparently Dean had given his “no kegging” speech to the wrong guy.
‘Tis new to thee.
“I’m not sorry about Ruby,” Sam said suddenly, three hours into the flight.
Dean pried his eyes open, just enough to squint at him. “Really? You wanna do this now?”
Sam pulled a face at him. “You look like you could use the distraction? And neither of us can exactly storm out.”
“Oh, because that’s healthy,” Dean muttered at the safety card in the seat pocket.
“I’m not sorry about Ruby,” Sam ploughed on, like saying it again was going to make it better. “Because Ruby wasn’t really the problem, was she? Dude, we were messed up that year. Have been ever since, one way or another. It was like... there was a part of you I didn’t recognise after you got back, y’know? Only it was worse than that, because when you looked at me I felt like I didn’t recognise me anymore instead, but I didn’t know how to change back or even how to talk to you, really. Sort of like with Dad, after I turned sixteen and refused to drop out of high school. Like the Sam you wanted was that same chubby kid again.”
He stopped for a deep breath. Out of the corner of his eye, Dean could see Sam’s fingers tapping out a quick, irregular rhythm on the wide armrest (and bless Charlie for wrangling them business-class seats at the last minute).
“I was just so angry all that year. And the next,” Sam went on, and Dean was biting his tongue here, though he wasn’t sure what would pour out if he opened his mouth: old accusations, or old apologies. Or something else, something new. “I just wanted you to see me, really see me, you know? To trust me.”
He looked up at Dean for the first time, and even without quite looking at him Dean could see the wet, earnest gleam of his eyes. “And I think somewhere along the way we - we forgot how to be brothers. Ruby didn’t make that happen, man, not really. She was just a symptom. It’s the rest of it I’m sorry for, Dean.”
Dean looked at that big, familiar hand that had stilled on the armrest - stretched out, digging into the upholstery, tense. Waiting for Dean to answer. Hands that had always been there, ever since take your brother outside as fast as you can - nestled in Dean’s hand, clinging to his belt, wrestling with him in the summer grass, reaching out to sew him up when things went south. And later - after Stanford, before Hell - moving over his skin in other ways. Sliding through his hair, between his legs, inside him, rough and tender and hungry and utterly completely sure that they owned him, inside and out.
Hands that bore the scar of believe me, okay, you gotta make it stone number one and build on it, of Dean being the one thing that Sam could count on to anchor him to the world. And over that, the new red slice from last night, from when Sam had turned aside (this time!) from the one demon Dean couldn’t let him end. Just on Dean’s word.
He took a breath, and his stomach did a queasy little thing that had nothing to do with airsickness. So many things unsaid, for so many years. Perhaps they’d forgotten how to say them.
“So you’re saying... making time with Ruby was like teen acting out?”
It was a lame sort of joke. But he looked up as he said it, and there was his little brother right there - all big damp eyes and hope. And whatever Sam saw in Dean’s face, it was enough to make him break into his widest, most brilliant grin, the one that hadn’t changed since he was three and thought Dean making cow noises was the best fucking thing in the history of entertainment.
“Screw you,” he tossed back, and it sounded like a lot of words they’d never had to say, back when it had been just them and his wheels and the open road.
Dean smirked at him, heart soaring, and gave him the cheesiest eyebrow-waggling leer he could muster.
“Play your cards right.”
Sam’s eyes went wide and soft. Then he ducked his head and blushed like a freaking kid, but the grin didn’t go away. It just turned into something hot and private, something Dean coveted with a stupid kind of amazed jealousy because it was so long since he’d seen it that he could hardly believe it was for him.
“So d’you think,” Dean had to ask, because he thought he knew but he had to be sure, “do you think we’re... you know. Getting better?”
“Couldn’t’ve told you that otherwise, could I?” Sam returned, and shit, that was an honest-to-god dimple right there - just a flash of it for a moment. Then, more soberly and halfway back to shy: “That’s why I believed you, you know. Last night. Everything you said there... I’d forgotten it, just in the heat of things, because I’m so used to forgetting it when things get bad. But you’ve proved it all, these last few months. Almost every day.”
“Okay,” Dean said, and it came out in a croak around the lump in his throat. He cleared it, and tried again. “Okay. Well. Good.”
Sam made an amused sort of “my brother is so useless” noise, and Dean closed his eyes again.
The next time the plane juddered, a big warm hand settled on his thigh and squeezed. Somehow it made the nausea hard to remember.
Dean waited until Sam had fumbled open the impossible lid of that orange juice cup thing and taken a big gulp. Then he suggested, brightly, “Wanna join the Mile High Club?”
Sam sprayed orange juice all over his lap. Which was entirely his own fault, because, come on, he should have expected it.
Dean cackled madly.
(They didn’t. Sam could barely fit into that tiny cubicle alone, let alone with company.)
(Also, if they were going to do this, and Dean really thought they might, he wanted to relearn Sam on a real bed, so he could use his hands and his body to say everything he couldn’t articulate.)
Only, it wasn’t just Sam and Dean against the world now, was it? Somewhere along the way their dysfunctional little always-yours-always-mine thing had expanded into a trinity.
And Dean couldn’t forget that look on Sam’s face in the church last night, when he’d said, “So?”
Sam had let Dean call him back because he knew Dean loved him. He hadn’t come back because he’d stopped believing that “so?”
For Dean’s sake, Sam would live; but he would not believe for Dean’s sake that he was anything other than that abomination that had to keep right on atoning for the rest of his life, even after taking the swan dive into the Pit. But Castiel? Sam still looked at Castiel sometimes like he had right at the beginning, in those first few moments when he’d thought Castiel was a saviour. Like he was the one who got to decide whether Sam was worth anything or not.
And Dean had seen the look they’d shared last night, out by the Impala, just before Castiel’s hand clamped down on Dean’s shoulder and took him away. If Sam could be made to realise that Castiel didn’t believe that “abomination” thing - never had, or at least not by the time he’d actually said that word, before their little jaunt to Heaven - that Castiel trusted him, believed in him, maybe even loved him - that Castiel had chosen that, in a way that Dean had never had the chance to do...
If Sam could learn over time to trust that, to take that for granted - well, he might just learn to believe that he’d done enough.
Sam kissed him, just once. They were picking up the hire car, and the lady at the desk couldn’t find the form she needed and had to go hunt it down in some back room, leaving them alone for the first time since the plane. And there was some awkward throat-clearing, and eye-avoiding, and shuffling of hands in pockets (Sam), and wise-ass remarks about some of the posters on the walls (Dean), then suddenly there was Sam crowding into his space and pinning him against the counter with one hand on either side of him and pushing in so rushed and nervous that he knocked their noses together and they only had time for one quick, breathy slide of lips against the corner of lips before the receptionist was coming back with the form, and they had to pull apart and pretend to look normal and cool.
For a kiss that didn’t really count as a kiss, it did pretty damn confusing things to Dean’s chest.
It was a long way up the hill, through little windy switch-back streets too narrow for the hire car, but Dean hardly felt the burn in his thighs. His stomach hadn’t calmed down since he’d set foot on solid ground. He couldn’t relax - not knowing they were so close, not with Castiel in who knew what state up there and Sam’s warm familiar length close against his side like a promise.
He was still haggard, Sam, still in bad shape. And Dean had a distinct feeling that these weren’t the kind of trial you just got to change your mind on without something coming back to bite you in the (tight, gorgeous) ass. But he wasn’t coughing up blood or imitating a space heater, and his eyes, when they settled on Dean (and they kept right on doing that) were bright and hopeful and strong.
If anybody could bull their way out of this on sheer determination, it was Sam.
The piazza on the crown of the hill was paved in pale stones, radiating out from a dark many-pointed star in the centre. The wind off the mountains was crisp and cool, and they stretched out majestic and ancient to the north and west and south. Miles and miles of dark green and grey and purple, for Castiel to get lost in. But he’d stumbled here.
Maybe somebody had been keeping an eye out for him. Maybe not.
The little blue pulsing dot on Sam’s phone wasn’t specific enough to tell them which building on the piazza was their destination, but Dean figured they could probably guess. The church was a squat mediaeval thing, nothing like the soaring cathedrals Dean had seen when they’d skirted around Rome, but there was an authority and a solidity to it that made it look far larger than its size.
“Damn,” he muttered, and knocked his shoulder in against Sam’s, just to feel him there. “Told the son of a bitch to lay low.”
“Maybe he feels safe in there,” Sam suggested, and set off across the piazza, long strides firm and sure. Dean took a moment to breathe, to steel himself for this. Then he followed. Moving together.
The village had been almost deserted on their way up the hill. Which probably made sense, given how many flaky rumours were already flying about the “meteor shower” and people and strange creatures falling from the sky, so if Dean had actually thought that through he shouldn’t have been surprised to find a good couple of dozen people inside the church - kneeling, praying, standing about in clumps. The funny thing was, though, they weren’t... well... reverent. It wasn’t silent, like Dean was pretty sure churches were meant to be: it was all hum and buzz in there, murmurs and wails of unabashed sound bouncing off the old walls and columns. There was a bunch of guys over on one side standing around together and singing, something heartfelt and passionate, so straight-up emotional that Dean wasn’t quite sure they weren’t taking the piss. A young man with muscles that even Sam wouldn’t be ashamed of was hugging a woman who looked like his mother, and there was another sitting in a pew staring up at the ceiling and sobbing to himself.
It was distracting, and confusing, and for one terrible sinking minute Dean thought there was nobody here but the villagers, that they’d come to the wrong spot. Castiel was somewhere else, or maybe he’d let Dean’s phone fall out of his pocket here and they’d never find him.
But Sam didn’t slow down: just strode on, soft-footed between the great arches of the nave, to a little recess on one wall, half hidden behind a column. Dean had just time for a glimpse of tan coat and a tousled dark head tipped back to gaze at the ceiling before Sam was reaching him, and Castiel was turning, and Sam was wrapping the angel-who-had-been in one of those fierce rare hugs of his that made all the world fall away into insignificance.
Dean knew that hug. It was the one that said you are loved, and nothing will get to you, and we’ll kick it in the ass together. And it was only one shocked-blank moment before Castiel’s arms came up and he was grabbing Sam back, just fucking clinging, fists dragging Sam’s coat into big desperate bunches across his back.
It wasn’t until Sam gave Castiel two big firm thumps on the back and stepped clear to let Dean in that Dean got his first real look at the guy. It wasn’t reassuring. In fact, it was a wonder he hadn’t been thrown out of the church for vagrancy or something. Castiel looked like a tired hobo: muddy, shoeless, even scruffier than usual, with torn clothes and a haunting, bewildered look in his eyes when they swung around unerringly to fix on Dean.
It made Dean grit his teeth and want to punch somebody. Maybe even Castiel, just to make him stop this stupid habit of vanishing on Dean and coming back broken, because there was no way Dean’s angel should ever look this hunched and small.
Instead, he found himself stepping forward: swaying into Castiel’s space, lifting a finger to tap softly at the dark shadows under his wide, staring eyes.
“Nice peach-fuzz, angel,” he got out gruffly. It was the first thing that came to mind.
Castiel’s eyes went wider, and Dean had just a moment to think oh shit before the tears spilled over, bright and silent down his face.
Dean had grabbed him and was hauling him in before he’d even thought about it. Castiel’s heart was beating too fast, a wild flutter of a thing under Dean’s hands. And his chest felt suddenly bony and fragile against Dean’s, like it never had before, and he was soaking through the collar of Dean’s shirt and getting his neck all damp and gasping in long ragged breaths, so inescapably there, so real and solid. Which wasn’t really fair, because it made Dean’s treacherous mind remember (now that he was stirring up those Sam-memories he’d been so careful to keep on lock-down for years) what it had felt like to have Castiel shuddering against his body under very different circumstances, although that comfort at the time had been a cold one.
“Dean,” Castiel hissed, barely audible behind the roar of blood in Dean’s ears, but definitely him, desperate and cross all at once as only Castiel could ever quite manage. “Dean, I’m sorry, I don’t mean, this body - it keeps - I don’t understand, I can’t stop it Dean, what’s happening?”
Dean made little soothing sounds like he would for Sammy, rubbed Castiel’s back, drew up a hand to bury it in his hair and cradle Castiel’s skull close against him while his heart broke, just a bit. “Shh. It’s only tears. Part of the package, man. You just let them fall.”
It was a few minutes before Castiel’s death grip on him eased up enough that Dean thought it might be okay to step back a bit and look at him, hands tight on his shoulders because he was swaying a bit still. And the stupid son of a bitch had probably forgotten to eat, too.
Castiel’s face was a damp mess, and his eyes seemed torn between shamefacedly avoiding Dean’s and fixing desperately on him like he’d vanish if Castiel didn’t keep him in sight (which honestly, given this was Castiel, was more than a bit rich). But before Dean would have had to actually say anything, Sam cleared his throat.
There was a young guy standing - swaying - beside him. Dean registered vaguely that he’d been sitting in the nearest pew before, but he looked Italian enough and not-Castiel enough that he hadn’t looked any closer. Only now Dean did look, and, well: shell-shocked expression, awkward stance, bedraggled wet suit and Castiel’s shoes on his feet - nope. Definitely not a local.
“So,” Sam said, with his sheepish kind of this-is-awkward-but-what-can-you-do grin, “This is Nathaniel.”
“He fell into the lake,” Castiel supplied, as if that was all that needed to be said.
So. Four passports, then.
Nathaniel, it turned out, had hardly ever been planetside before. Which meant he’d hardly ever used any human language. Castiel had been using his English fluently for years, so he still had that - and apparently Spanish, Latin, and (for some reason) Arabic - but all the other languages he’d had stored up in that vast super-computer of a brain (or had been accessing remotely on the angel-iCloud, or whatever) had turned into a sort of mush of vague impressions. Nathaniel had some basic English, which apparently had more to do with his vessel’s memory than his own, and that was it. Even Castiel could hardly communicate with him.
This was going to be fun.
< did you find him? :)
> good morning, your highness. yes and a stray. hows tricks at batcave hotel?
< jody brought in two more guests
< one of thems trueform. doesn’t fit well around dinner table.
< kevin keeps taking crowley pizza
> why are you feeding the demon?
< because he hates anchovies. and pineapple. :)
> thats my boy.
< the world’s starting to notice.
< garth and i are spreading the word but nobody really knows what to do with them
> some of those hunters are triggercrazy
> though some of the angels are dicks
> most of them
< very confused dicks with no health cover
> just remember u have to clean up after ur pets when they poop
< three of them haven’t worked out how to do that yet :(
> give crowley toilet training duties in exchange for meatlovers?
Thy pulse beats as of flesh and blood.
The air was different here, now that Dean had time to notice. It was like the atmosphere he’d noticed in that church: open, crisp and warm in a way that had nothing to do with the lazy fingers of the sun. Like all that raw, honest emotion soaked into the old stones and the very land and left it full, ready to listen.
Or maybe it was just Dean’s body, humming with hope and the smells of a strange land. Maybe that was what was making him feel like spilling his guts - shouting things to the sky, just to hear them echo back to him and sound true.
They drove to the nearest large town and found accommodation in some little house whose owners rented it out entire, because apparently nobody really did motels here.
Sam insisted he was okay to go off and do a grocery run - clothes and toiletries for the angels, food for a proper meal tomorrow (although the pizzas they’d picked up on the way had been awesome) - armed only with his curiosity and Google translate. So it fell to Dean to settle the angels in.
It took some persuasion (and demonstration) before he could convince Nathaniel that clothes could be removed, let alone how showers worked. Even Castiel needed to be talked through getting himself clean and dry and reminded to finish his glass of water - not because he didn’t know how to do each of the little tasks involved, but because he kept doing them in the wrong order, or staring off into space and forgetting what to do, like this was all some theory that he’d hardly ever put into practice. And he was clumsy, now, unbalanced: none of the careful controlled elegance that Dean thought of as Cas, more like someone half-drunk on uneven ground. And he kept stumbling into the furniture or catching his feet on things or startling when Dean came up behind him, like if he wasn’t looking directly at a thing he couldn’t remember it was there.
But he did manage to shower himself, which was a relief, because Dean was confused enough right now without having to get his hands all over a slippery soapy Castiel and try not to remember the helpless, choked noises that used to fall out of him when -
Okay, so he needed to find Castiel a pair of his sweatpants to wander around in, until Sam turned up with clothes. Naked Nathaniel was just like a kid or something, like he didn’t even realise nudity was a thing, so he was easy to ignore. Naked Castiel was... different. And very distracting.
He managed to badger Castiel into letting him clean and dress all the little cuts and grazes on his feet and ankles and hands from his little trek. Nathaniel wasn’t in such a bad state in that regard, because Castiel had obviously decided thy need is greater when it came to the whole shoes business, but Dean made sure to look him over too. Nathaniel was easy: all passive obedience and bewilderment without curiosity, like everything in this brave new world was equally incomprehensible, from the sweep of hot water over his skin in the shower to the sting of the antiseptic wipes over a long scratch up the side of his calf. But Castiel... well, he seemed a little calmer now than he had been in the church, and he went through the motions of putting on the sweat pants and finishing his water as mechanically as any human, but his eyes weren’t blank like Nathaniel’s. They were raw. Dean knew that look on Castiel, and it meant nothing good.
Castiel stuck close to Dean, eyes following him like he had something to say. But what really worried Dean was the way Castiel just took orders, without grumbles or eye rolls or little passive-aggressive comments. Like a soldier. Like it was a relief, and Dean really hoped this was just a temporary shock thing, because a passive Castiel was really freaking creepy.
Besides. Dean wanted to kiss him. He wanted to pull Castiel down on top of him and re-learn the shape of his naked back, to show it off to Sam and cradle him between them and warm him through with their skin. He wanted to do it right, this time: not in fear and desperation, trying to punish themselves and each other at the end of the world. He wanted to work Castiel’s mouth and mind open until he forgot about restraint and missions and loss and just gave himself up to what they could make and be together, here. He wanted to take that look out of Castiel’s eyes and remind him of the awesome things about being human. Remind him that Dean was here, and Sammy too, and that they wanted him to stay.
Only it looked like that would have to wait.
They had never been exclusive, he and Sam.
The fact that they’d sometimes shoved each other down onto the bed after a hard hunt, or to win a prank war, or in the middle of a wrestling match for the remote, and ended up hours later still tangled up in each other and tracing wondering possessive fingers over each other’s bodies... well, that had nothing to do with picking up a girl for a night or three.
Sam had never been his boyfriend, because he’d been something far more important, and getting your rocks off with somebody else didn’t touch that. Nothing could.
It hadn’t been just sex with Castiel either, but by that time they’d all been bruised and torn and he and Sam had barely exchanged a laugh, let alone anything more intimate, in over a year. And Sam had seemed past caring. Even those few times he’d walked in on Dean and Castiel up against the wall, or in each other’s laps, or halfway onto the bed, so wrapped up in each other and in not being dead yet and in trying to forget bitterness and despair just for a moment that they hadn’t even got past removing a shirt or a sock - even then, all Sam had done was smile a sad kind of smile, and turn away.
The funny thing was, it had been almost the same smile that Dean had used to see on Castiel’s face afterwards, before he vanished (because he never stayed until morning). Like Dean was something precious and inaccessible. It was only since Purgatory that Castiel had started looking at Dean like he might possibly be experimenting with happiness.
It was Castiel who finally managed to coax Nathaniel into his first exhausted sleep. Dean watched from the door of the little bedroom, as Castiel murmured things to him in a mish-mash of languages and stroked fingers through his hair. His face was furrowed into the determination of the warrior, as if for now this thing - teaching a fallen brother to rest - was the most important thing he’d ever done.
“You should test the mattress too, man,” Dean murmured, when Castiel finally rose and padded across the room to him. Even - perhaps especially - wearing Dean’s sweatpants, he was still distracting out of that suit: the strong lines of his chest and belly, the dusky pink nipples and the scruff of dark hair between them, the sharp cut of his hips riding just above the waistband, the way the soft grey fabric bunched around his thighs and hips and made him look touchable. Human.
Castiel didn’t notice the quick, guilty slide of Dean’s gaze down his body. His eyes were caught by his own hands, the careful crook and relax of fingers.
“This is... nothing like last time. When Lucifer was free,” he said, instead of answering, letting Dean draw him out into the kitchen area and close the door behind them. “I was an angel then, though not much of one. This is...”
He trailed off, and Dean got him another glass of water. Just to be sure. After all, it wasn’t like Castiel would know what dehydration felt like.
“I knew so many things that I don’t know now,” Castiel went on, low, frustration and bewilderment warring in his voice, and Dean leaned against the counter next to him and tried to catch his eye but he wouldn’t look up. “Everything I look at is a mystery, but I remember knowing them. I didn’t know... he said that I have a soul now.”
It felt like an abrupt change of topic, but maybe to Castiel it wasn’t.
“What does that mean?” Dean tried; but, “I don’t know,” was the only answer, half a growl and half resignation, and Castiel pressed in a little closer beside him like he needed to know he was there. “I didn’t think it would feel like this.”
And the thing was... Dean was still trying not to think big-picture here. What this would mean for the world, what all those angels were going to do, what was going to happen to them, what the world might learn - that wasn’t Dean’s problem, not right now. First and last, always, was making sure his family was okay, right here. One day at a time.
Still, he had the distinct feeling that “Sorry, buddy” was going to sound pretty damn inadequate.
He shifted in too, returning the pressure, shoulder to shoulder; and Castiel looked at him with eyes that still looked like they could hold the sky.
“You look different. Now that I can’t see all of you at once.”
Dean flashed him a grin. “Roguishly handsome, right?”
“Smaller,” Castiel said, and he didn’t smile.
“Well, I’m a simple guy,” Dean said uselessly. Not much to see.
“Dean,” Castiel said, and nothing else, a half-hearted little scold. But there was something about it - the familiarity in it, a weary sort of fondness that sounded for the first time like Cas. Like life.
Castiel had always looked at him as if he were some kind of revelation.
The silence stretched out. Dean got the distinct, uncomfortable feeling that this was a Moment.
He cleared his throat loudly, and crossed the room to rummage through the bag he’d tossed into the corner when they’d arrived.
“Got something for you, buddy. Well,” he amended, pulling out the little wallet, “Charlie made it up for you. You’ll like her. She’s your kind of weird.”
He watched Castiel’s long delicate fingers, not his face, as he took the passport from Dean’s hand and turned it over a few times, as if he wasn’t sure what it meant. They traced the eagle on the cover as he opened it, and froze under the name on the photo page.
That has such people in’t.
Dean had caught at Sam’s arm, just before he’d left - tugged him into the little alcove by the front door, and Sam had turned around and pushed in and kissed him once, clumsy and sweet, on the side of his mouth. Which was the sort of thing they’d never done before, even when things had been good: little gestures like that, in the light of day. Just to say, this matters. You matter.
“Hey,” Dean had said, because he was almost sure he and Sam were on the same page here but he had to be certain. “You and me. And Cas, right?”
Sam had looked at him for a moment, then broken out into one of his soft my-brother-is-such-an-idiot grins. - “Think you and he will know what to do with yourselves if you give up dancing around each other?” - and Dean had rolled his eyes and tried dragging him into a headlock.
“It’s yours,” Dean added unnecessarily, just to drop words into the silence. “Figured you might just as well have some ID to actually live by instead of, you know, fake names for the job. And there’s your bedroom back at home, of course. And a seat in the car. If, you know. You want that.”The air hung heavy and still between them - so still that Dean wondered whether Castiel had forgotten to breathe again. He watched Castiel’s fingers curl up, slow, into a knotted ball, and the quick rise and fall of his chest.
When it came, Castiel’s voice was dry and cracked.
“My family burned,” Castiel growled out, and Dean fought back the mad urge to laugh, because that wasn’t a no. Because this was Castiel, the only person he’d ever had to ask that hardest question of, issue that ultimate invitation: to become family. And how many times had he screwed up the courage to say it by now, and how many times had Castiel not heard it right, and this was what got the message through? Two words printed on a fake passport?
“Yeah, well, join the club,” he growled back, shoving right up into Castiel’s space, and Castiel glared at him with that furious blue-ice burn that brought his face to life and fisted his hands in Dean’s shirt collar to drag him closer.
“I belonged to another club, and it’s gone,” he spat, “and you keep sending me away. Why do you never say what you mean?”
Dean grabbed him right back, heart thumping, and slammed him up against the counter. Castiel’s eyes flew wide and startled, like Dean had punched the air out of his lungs, and Dean pressed in close, body against warm hard body.
“You keep leaving, you dick,” he shot back, and he felt like he was flying in a dream, exhilaration and terror all at once because this was it, this was them. “You want me to lock you up in our dungeon or something to get you to stay? ‘Cos we’ve got a dungeon now, and sure, Crowley’s got the best seat right now but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind -”
“Shut up,” Castiel rasped, deep and hot. “Dean Winchester, for one minute in your life hold your tongue, you insufferable -”
He broke off, and Dean was laughing already with something more than amusement, and the brightness in Castiel’s eyes was spilling over and down his cheeks, and Castiel cursed helplessly (as if he’d honestly forgotten how much it turned Dean on to hear him swear), dashed his hand across his face and stared at the water with something like betrayal, and tried to turn his head away.
Dean caught him - still laughing - with a thumb pushing in gently against his cheekbone, sliding wet on tired-pale skin.
“Family,” he said, firm like a dare, and felt Castiel’s whole body shudder against his.
Castiel’s head tipped forward and Dean met it halfway: pressed their foreheads together, catching the breath from mouth to mouth. Holding him up.
“Promise me, Dean,” he commanded after a minute, fierce and low like the whole world hung in the balance, because damn if Castiel could ever learn to do things by halves.
Dean slid one hand up his naked back to tangle in his hair, leaned in with the other flat on the countertop behind him, pressed with all his weight into the delicious gap opening up between Castiel’s legs, rocked himself against the hot desperate weight he found there.
“Anything,” he breathed into that intimate space. “Anything I’d do for Sammy, and for just as long. You should know that by now. Dick.”
Castiel’s breath shook out messily over Dean’s mouth, and somehow Dean’s lips were pressing against skin: the soft, incredulous wrinkle at the corner of Castiel’s mouth.
“Dean,” Castiel whispered like a question; and Dean, floating on the jittery high of getting things right with Sammy, of this place where everyone shouted their feelings to the sky, hugged him tight cheek to cheek and muttered, “You know you’re allowed to take, you dumb son of a bitch?”
Castiel’s fingers went very still against Dean’s collarbone. The world hung there for a moment, nothing but shared breath and Castiel’s heart beating strong and wild against his ribs.
Then Castiel was kissing him, fierce and messy and good, gasping into his mouth like this was the breath he’d been missing. It was a rush of warmth, of right, the lithe demanding weight of him that Dean had never got the chance to learn as well as he’d wished he could. Just like homecoming, and a promise.
He fumbled his way down Castiel’s flanks, pressing hard fingers into his hips, shoving around behind to catch at the fleshy top of his thighs. Castiel grunted without letting up on the kiss, worked with him, heels scrabbling clumsily at the cupboards and Dean’s calves as Dean picked him up and backed him onto the counter. Then his bare feet wrapped around Dean’s thighs, digging in at the back of his knees to drag him in and keep him.
Dean slowed things down, then. It had always been desperate and rushed back when the world had been burning around them, when every day had felt like an end. And right now this must feel pretty damn bad for Castiel too, but Dean didn’t want that, not here. This wasn’t then: the world had changed, but they could handle it. And this, this felt like anything but an ending.
He slid his fingers into Castiel’s hair, cupped his head, spread his fingers over the straining arch of Castiel’s back and tried to feel all the life in him at once. And it was easy, easy and terrifying, to slow the kisses into something else: warm little presses against wet lips and wet cheeks. Soft and careful, and absolutely fucking sincere, until Castiel was shaking under his hands. Until the frantic grip of Castiel’s fingers on the back of his neck turned firm and sure, and Castiel’s eyes, when Dean pulled back to look, were half-lidded and soft and held the hint of a smile.
Sam cleared his throat from the doorway.
Castiel tried to pull away, but Dean held him in place just a moment longer, just to finish up with another little buss. Then he turned his head to grin at his little brother.
“Hey there, big boy.”
Sam rolled his eyes, and pointedly unloaded the bags he was hauling all over the kitchen table, but Dean could see the little smile trying to fight its way out.
“Dude. Reality, porn. Work it out.”
Dean leered at him, and rolled his hips in deliberately against what Castiel’s sweatpants were really really failing to hide - “I dunno, man, feels to me like you’re the only one here who’s confused” - which earned him a groan and a swat from Castiel.
“Sam,” Castiel began, all deep and grave and rough, and hell, it was so fucking good to hear Castiel’s sex voice again, but that note of caution in it was not okay. And it seemed like Sam was with him on that one, because he dropped the last bag onto the table with a deliberate thud and crossed the room with two long strides. Dean just had time to see his eyes, all dark and predatory and warm, before his brother’s giant hand was wrapping around the nape of his neck and tipping his head back to lick his mouth open.
Dean groaned into it, hips bucking forward against Castiel and stomach swooping into this stupid happy nervousness, as Sam just took. He had Castiel’s legs around his thighs, and Castiel’s cock trapped against his, and Sam’s hands all over him and both their bodies wrapping him around in heat, and fuck, why hadn’t they done this years ago?
Castiel squirmed against him, like he wasn’t sure he was meant to be here. Dean tightened his grip on the guy’s belt to hold him just as Sam drew back, panting and hungry and wet-mouthed, to slide his eyes over to Castiel.
“I don’t mean...” Castiel began, tired and worried under the dry tone, and Sam snorted and leaned in to press one careful, damp kiss on the side of his mouth.
Castiel stopped talking at once, like he’d forgotten how to do words. Dean knew how he felt: his own brain was sort of flat-lining here, because damn, why hadn’t it ever occurred to him just how fucking hot they’d be together?
Castiel blinked, heavy and bewildered, and stared at Sam. Then he stared at Dean, until Dean decided that was enough meaningful staring and leaned in to nuzzle at the sweet spot on Castiel’s neck. Then Castiel made the noise Dean loved, and stared at Sam again.
“So, there’s that,” Sam said, sounding kind of sheepish even while he was discreetly rubbing his dick into the top of Dean’s hip. “If you want.”
Dean felt Castiel’s eyes go narrow. It was all in the way he pulled the air into his belly like a weapon.
“Did you two plan this?” he growled, all ragged and stern in a way that went straight to Dean’s dick.
“Hey, no,” he protested into the warm curve of Castiel’s shoulder. “Not planned, so much as...”
“Wanted,” Sam supplied, and it was rough possessive Sammy and shy hopeful Sammy all at once.
Castiel made a small, hurt kind of noise. Dean turned his head just enough to see Sam’s hand, the one that wasn’t wrapped around Dean, slide onto Castiel’s thigh and squeeze.
“It’s not a condition,” Sam added, hasty and low. “I mean, you’ve got a place with us, as long as you like. We want - I want you to stick around, Cas. Wouldn’t be the same without you, man. You’re the best thing that’s happened to us since - hell, since Dad died. Not the whole angel thing, I mean. Just you.” One breath, then another, all big earnest eyes and worry and heat. Then, “I mean, I get that it’s not going to be easy,” because Sam never knew when to shut up, but Castiel was looking at him like he’d just got the best gift horse ever and really didn’t want to call the orthodontist. “But if you want - or, you know, just with Dean if I’m not - not - well -”
Castiel cut him off.
Dean would have congratulated himself on having a really really front-row seat to the best show ever, but he was too busy nuzzling in against their cheeks and jaws, and trying not to feel too ridiculously happy in case it made the world end. They looked good together, though: a bit awkward, Castiel cautious and Sam not as pushy as usual, warm mouths sliding tentatively over each other and breaths catching in little incredulous puffs. There wasn’t the same raw-sex spark between them that Dean had with - well, with both of them - at least not yet, but there was a hell of a lot of caring.
They made it to the bed eventually, on Sam’s insistence.
Rather to his own surprise, Dean would have been happy to stay where they were (wrapped around Castiel’s back, sharing hot slippery kisses with Sam over his shoulder, nuzzling in against the back of Castiel’s neck, watching Sam’s hands roving over Castiel’s body all gentle and insistent and the hard knot of Castiel’s hands in Sam’s hair, rocking his hips lazily against the top of Castiel’s ass). Just to enjoy the moment, the hope. But Sam was horny, and Sam got bossy when he got horny, so it was lucky that one of the bedrooms had a king.
Castiel counted himself out of any actual sex. He was all awkward and oversensitive in his body just now, in a way that he hadn’t been back when Dean had last got the chance to lay him out and have at him. And maybe it was that, or maybe it was just all the emotions running wild all over the place, but when they pushed him too far he got overwhelmed and shaky and started making little noises that weren’t quite happy.
But, “I want to watch” he insisted, all heat and gravel, and Dean was definitely down with immersing himself in his little brother for a while. And he was more than down with giving Castiel a show: with letting him see love, and letting him be a part of it.
Castiel was a good watcher. Not shy, but not like an intruder either. The little sounds and gasps of Castiel’s responses made every caress hotter, somehow rawer, and the sheer wonder in his hands when he reached out to touch was everything Dean had always felt about this inexplicable thing between himself and Sammy, and never known how to express. Wide-eyed and marvelling, he was, as if they were better than any miracle an angel could know.
When Sam knelt up on the bed and tugged his shirts and jacket off over his head in one big tangle of clothes Dean wasn’t the only one staring hungrily at all those miles and miles of delicious skin, and it was Castiel’s hands (fumbling around Dean’s waist from behind) that decided to help themselves to his belt and fly.
When Dean pinned Sam down with a hand on his stomach and went to town between his legs, almost forgetting to breathe himself in his eagerness to seek out every flavour, every desperate choked-off sound he remembered, Castiel’s fingers laced through his to feel the jerk and tense of Sam’s muscles.
When Sam flung out his hand Castiel caught it, and pressed little open-mouthed kisses along his palm and wrist. And when Sam looked at him with this amazed incredulity, like he couldn’t believe that an angel found him so beautiful and good Castiel scowled and wriggled closer, and Dean rolled his eyes, and they both distracted him with kisses and teeth.
When Sam sat back on his heels and hauled Dean bodily into his lap there was one mouth biting fierce purple marks into his neck, but two sets of fingers running reverently up and down the curve of his spine, criss-crossing and sliding past each other and bumping to tangle in the small of his back until he thought he’d go mad with the sheer, terrifying joy of it.
It was Sam who rolled Dean over in the sheets and pulled his legs open and dived in there with the lubed that he’d had the smarts to pick up in town, but it was Castiel who let Dean squeeze his hands too hard, who leaned down to nip at the back of his neck, who put a hand between Dean’s shoulder blades to pin him to the bed ass up when he began to curse and arch, because of course Castiel remembered what that did for Dean. It was especially good when it made Sammy growl against shivery skin and shove in harder with his tongue, and drag Dean’s thighs so wide they ached. And when Dean finally rolled over onto his back, opened his arms and his legs and reached for Sammy - when Sam pushed in and covered him and filled him and wrapped him in Sam, then had to hide his face in Dean’s neck and just shake while Dean dug his nails into his brother’s back and tried not to lose it in every possible sense - Castiel was there then, hot against their sides. His fingers tangled carefully through hair and his lips roved dry over cheeks and temples and jaws, until they had the courage to keep going.
Castiel made amused, soft noises when Dean tested the hopeful little curve at the corner of Sam’s mouth, just where it was about to turn into a dimple, and Sam wrinkled his nose and almost laughed and chased Dean’s mouth with his.
And when Dean turned his head to catch the fingers lingering on his cheek Castiel inhaled sharply, and gave Dean a look like he was seriously considering manhandling his way into things and shoving right in there next to Sam.
Afterwards, spent and panting in each other’s arms, it was Sam’s hand that fumbled sluggishly for the back of Castiel’s neck to tug him into the pile, and Dean’s that wriggled down between their bodies to give Castiel something to rut into until he came, while all three mouths slid and snagged over each other, hot and wet and tender. And when they finally drifted off to sleep - Castiel had looked so surprised at himself when he’d accidentally yawned - it was with the fallen angel nestled up between them, so that he could feel his brothers with him as he rested. Just like always.
The first time Dean woke, he had Castiel’s arms locked tight around his waist from behind and a cold nose pressing in between his shoulder blades. Also some drool. He could smell Sam (traces of morning breath, the whiff of his shampoo as long hair swept down to tickle his cheek) as a kiss was brushed gently against his forehead; and he considered waking up, but that was a ‘shh, keep sleeping’ kind of kiss, and the bed was warm and comfortable and safe, and who was he to argue.
The second time Dean woke, there was no angel in the bed either, which was just rude of them both, especially when they were the ones who should be sleeping in while Dean was cooking them breakfast. The air smelt of jizz and coffee and burnt toast, which meant Castiel had tried to cook toast, Sam had caught him and ordered him away from all things food-related, and set him to doing what he actually did amazingly (divinely) well, which was making coffee. Which meant Sam was making breakfast.
When Dean wandered out into the kitchen, barefoot and yawning and scratching at his belly, he found Nathaniel seated at the table peering suspiciously at a pancake, more pancakes and fruit and cream covered with a dishcloth on the table, and Sam draped over Castiel’s back at the counter by the coffee pot, all bedhead and early morning affection, trying to steal coffee before it was ready.
And Castiel was laughing. Not much, but it was there.
They might just pull this off.