The moment he'd felt his lips tremble, Castiel had, blessedly, turned his gaze to the floor, or the wall; anywhere away from him. But, it still wasn't enough to help Dean reel in his emotions, as if the Angel's presence itself prevented him from putting on his masks again, like he would have had it been Sam. It was an annoyance and a comfort all at the same time, and something inside of him gave a great shudder as the cracks began to appear, lacing his self-control with spider webs.
"Find someone else. It's not me." It was just one tear. That's all. One never hurt anyone, and it wasn't as if Cas understood the rule of Men Don't Cry anyway.
But then, the Angel spoke. The Angel spoke in that voice and that single trickle threatened to erupt into a great flood, one of more than just tears.
"Do you...want me to leave?" And it occurred to Dean, then, that Cas was only still there because he'd all but ordered the bastard to stay when the fear that he was going to flit away before he told Dean everything arose.
Yes, his mind shouted, Don't look at me like this. He wanted to yell, to tell Castiel to just fuck off already, because Dean didn't want Cas to see him like...like...this, this quivering mess of fucked-uppery.
He's seen you in Hell, Dean. He was the one who pulled you out, remember? his mind whispered, soon thereafter. Or was that his heart? Sometimes, he couldn't tell, whenever his entire body began seizing up against an onslaught of unwanted emotions.
Castiel had been the one to see him at his worst; he had seen Dean torturing souls in Hell, he knew well what the eldest Winchester had done, because he had asked him to do it all over again. "For what it's worth, I would give anything not to have you do this."
And Uriel, the dick, had told him that Cas actually liked him.
Despite everything. Everything he'd seen. Everything he had known about Dean. Everything he will learn, if there even is anything left.
But when would that change? When Dean lost his use to the Angels and Heaven and God or whoever-the-fuck? Once everything was over, would Cas just up and leave? Of course he would; he was an Angel, for fuck's sake. A Holy Rule Follower. A Good Boy. A Good, Obedient Son. Of course he would.
And Heaven or Hell, which fucking ever help him, but he actually liked the little nerdy dude, even though so much about him just infuriates Dean to fuck and back.
So, no. He didn't want Castiel to leave. Not now, not for as long as Dean could help it, because as sporadically as the Angel would show up, he was still a heavy constant in Dean's life, something he got the feeling wouldn't change for a while yet. Sam was...was pretty much not Sam anymore, not really. His parents were both gone, and even though Bobby had become like a father, he wasn't about to burden the man with any of this shit more than he could really help. As much as he really hated this whole Angels And Heaven vs. Lilith And The 66 Seals bullshit, hated being used, Cas was... It wasn't the same. Sure, he used Dean, will probably continue doing so for the unforeseeable future no matter how willing either of them would be, but to be honest, the Hunter didn't mind it at all. Okay, that was a lie. A huge one. Of course he minded. It was just...different. With Cas. Because it was Cas, and he really didn't want to think of the implications of what, exactly, that could mean.
The rumble of his name was so soft, like a distant roll of thunder with all of the strength behind it, yet so terribly gentle, and the swelling wave reached its peak and crashed into, and over, the edges of every broken piece within him.
"No," he whispered, sobbed, even, before he could even think to try stopping himself. "No... No, no, no..." He squeezed his eyes shut when he heard the Angel by his bed shift, because if he Castiel was going to leave, then he didn't want to see it happen. It was easier to deny that Cas had ever been there, that way. It was easier to get himself to believe that it had all been some...fucked up dream, brought on by painkillers; by anger, self-loathing, guilt, and grief.
But a fraction of a moment later, the Angel did something completely different. A hand touched his face, starting with just a light brushing of fingers from the left side of his jaw, over the bridge of his nose, before it settled fully against his right cheek.
The railing on the bed lowered, allowing the mattress to dip as Castiel moved from his chair to sit beside him, and before Dean could open his eyes (not that he really wanted to; God only knew what he'd see on the Angel's face), he felt the in and out of Cas' breathing (Do Angels even need to breathe?), the tickle of his eyelashes against his skin; the press of a forehead against his temple, followed by a brief nuzzling.
"Dean," he spoke again, still so quiet, "Dean, Dean, Dean..." His free hand rose as he chanted the eldest Winchester's name like a prayer, settled over the brand he had left on Dean's shoulder, and gave the minutest of squeezes. Aching limbs lifted themselves off the bed at this, fingers clutching at Cas' trench coat-covered arms and back as tightly as they could in their weakened state. Sobs wracked his body and brought more pain, more difficulty breathing, more dizziness. But Cas was warm and solid and so comforting, and Goddammit if Dean didn't want nothing more than to place himself within all of that. Allow himself to be absorbed into that body and further, into the Grace that made up his true form even if meant burning up. Even if it devoured him, destroyed him.
"Don't leave me, Cas," he pleaded, a foreign concept that wasn't entirely unfamiliar. The wording was...strange all the same, because Dean wasn't sure if he'd meant now, or...ever.
The Angel made gentle shushing noises into his ear, murmuring something in what Dean could only guess was Enochian. Once his breakdown had subsided calming down took much longer than he'd ever care to admit; the sun was starting to rise (he only knew that because the Angel had said so) and Castiel made no move to disappear yet, even though he'd spent hours holding the still shaking Hunter and probably had better crap to do, Dean felt guilt gnawing at the back of his mind. "I'm sorry," he murmured into Cas' neck, clearing his throat and shifting away. His response was another squeeze to the handprint before the Angel pulled himself further away, maneuvering until he was on his feet. He may not understand the finer points and nuances of being Human, but he still understood well enough that Dean didn't feel comfortable, now that his grief was poured out enough to be considered more or less manageable for the time being.
"Yeah... Probably for the best, right?"
Castiel tilted his head at this, and Dean turned his head away so that the Angel no longer resided in his peripheral. Still, the look that etched across that normally straight face carried over through words, "Why do you say that?"
Snorting, Dean refused to answer until his name was murmured with a low tone of...annoyance. Yeah. That. Because he sure as hell refused to believe that Castiel was pleading with him in that quiet way he sometimes did. "Because, Cas. You've got better shit to do than watch me break down like I'm a child, right? You can't tell me you sat through that because you didn't feel some form, perhaps, of obligation. Because I'm your "Charge" or whatever. That's fine. I get it, Cas. I do. I'm just a job for you. Well, okay, job's done, so you can scamper on home to Daddy and tell him to find someone else, because I'm fucking through."
And now, Dean is truly grateful he had looked away. If the piercing, heavy silence was anything to go by, he could almost swear he'd actually hurt the Angel, and now all that was left was to wait to hear the telltale sounds of wings carrying the bastard away, never to return.
And again, Castiel defies his expectations by letting out a sigh that sounded like he was trying to keep his own emotions in check. But that was absurd. Of any Angel Dean had met (Anna didn't count. She Fell, and was only an Angel now out of necessity), this one was the last that wanted to start opening those "Doorways to Doubt", right? It may have been a simple gesture of nothing at all, perhaps one he was imitating, because it clearly hadn't worked. "Dean, please look at me" was filled with honest to God pleading, and "I'm not leaving you, Dean. Surely you know that?" with a minor tremor to the words, even though he was sure it was meant to be a statement rather than a hopeful inquiry.
But Dean didn't acknowledge that he'd even heard the distressed Angel at all.
And Castiel, damn him, kept trying.
"Dean," was whispered in that same damn voice that made the Hunter break in the first place. It wasn't going to work this time. Dammit, it wasn't! "If you truly think that I'm only here because of some...twisted sense of obligation to you, you're wrong. I'm here for you. Yes, you're my Charge, as is Sam by extension. Abomination in the eyes of Heaven or not, he's still important to you. Yes, you are of even greater import to Heaven, to stopping the Apocalypse because you are the Righteous Man whether you like it or not. But none of that is why I stayed here, for as long as I have, doing what I could to comfort you when you needed it because I knew not what else to do otherwise I should have been back in Heaven, or out finding other Seals to save. But...
"Maybe...my Superiors are correct in questioning my sympathies."
"Your "Superiors" are dicks, Cas."
That, surprisingly, got an almost-snort from the Angel that sounded damn near like he'd found Dean's words funny but wasn't about to actually laugh. Dean honestly expected the guy to get even remotely angry, not...amused, and he was reminded, when he turned his head to look out of shock, because surely Cas didn't just laugh, of the first time he'd witnessed that same expression. The one that had flitted across Cas' face back in the park before their little Heart to...er, Heart? Grace?, after Dean and Sam had (or rather, just Sam, really) had ganked Samhain.
The faint quirking of lips that was almost shy, but still managed to crinkle the corners of dark blue eyes (though that could have been because it seemed Castiel was actually squinting against the sunlight. Which was just weird, but whatever.) and make Dean honestly excited because he'd made a freakin' Angel Of The Lord laugh, even minutely. Still pretty hard to believe, otherwise, especially how quickly both smiles, then and now, had disappeared. Better to blame his imagination than to think he was cracking that stony exterior that was Castiel. Or, well, his Vessel.
"I..." Castiel faltered, frowning. "care about you, Dean, despite what you might believe," was tacked on once he found words he deemed suitable. "I truly do, but the problem lies in that I'm not sure if I should. There's a difference, I think, in loving you because I am supposed to love all of my Father's Creations, and caring about you because I actually want to."
Dean didn't really know what to do with this information, really he didn't. Didn't know what to think other than, Holy shit, I think this is the most I've ever heard this guy talk.
On one hand, he was almost flattered. On another, he wondered what in the hell Cas could see in him other than some sort of Charity Case considering how fucked up and broken he was. And of course, there was the whole thing about Castiel having seen him torturing souls in Hell, for fuck's sake!
On a totally separate hand, he was kind of annoyed by the whole thing, considering the choice of words Cas' had selected towards the end.
Dean studied the Angel by his bedside, trying to figure out exactly what in the hell was going on in that head of his. Castiel stared back like he was waiting either to be scolded, told to fuck off, or get some sort of response. Sighing, Dean rubbed at his eyes. Much as his throat hurt, as tired as he was, he had to say something. "Cas, man, you can't go around saying that kinda thing to other guys. Not while you're possessing some poor man. If you were a girl, it'd be different, but not in a dude's body. Guys just don't say that kinda shit to each other. ...unless you're Sammy, but he's a big girl anyway, so that doesn't count."
"Dean, Angels don't have g"
"Genders, yeah yeah. You do when you're in your...Vessel or whatever. Anyway. I just don't know how to take "I care about you" at face value from a guy that isn't Sam, especially if the person Angel, whatever just said that they are obligated to love me, because "God" commands it. That's kinda fucked up, don't you think?
Heh, no I guess you wouldn't. Point is, Cas, how sure are you that you wanting to care isn't stemming from your little obligation to love all of us Humans or be smited?" This was followed by a growled 'Whatever! Frickin' Angels, man...' when Castiel took it upon himself to correct Dean's wording, that 'smited' should be 'smote'.
The Angel didn't answer the question for several minutes, that warring look on his face once more as he mulled over the words to come up with a worthy enough response. Finally, he muttered out the words, "I suppose...that I don't."
Not surprising, really.
"But, I would like to believe that it's not, even though I know that is a dangerous path to start down on." Blue eyes flickered to a spot on the far wall, head tilted like Anna had done whenever she could hear the other Angels. "I must go. I've neglected my duties for too long." His stance shifted, just slightly, and Dean knew he was about to leave because that just fucking figured.
"Wha Hey, you can't just up and leave in the middle of a conversation! ...again. It's rude, ya know!" And you said you wouldn't...you fucking liar.
Either the unspoken words physically manifested on his face, or Castiel had read his thoughts, because the Angel stepped forward, one knee lifting onto the bed for unneeded balance, and pressed a kiss to the top of Dean's head, to his forehead, his left temple, hands cradling his still-injured face. "I did not lie to you. Yes, I have to go; yes, I may be gone for a whilebut never once did I say I was never coming back. I know it's hard for you, but please be patient with me."
Part of him knew he should have been insulted, but it was as if a bubble had burst in his chest, filling him with an unbidden feeling of over-giddiness, a bizarre warmth washing over him.
Cas just shook his head and leaned in again to hide the faint smile that had appeared again, pressing his lips to Dean's forehead again, hand coming to rest against the brand again, and that warmth exploded. "Fuck, Cas What" And then the aches, the pain, all of it was gone. The injuries too, he knew. "You couldn't do that sooner?" He accused, well aware he sounded a little petulant, like a child.
"Forgive me, but after Alastair had..." The Angel paused, because he hadn't told Dean about this. "After he attacked you, and I realizedI was a little late, and I'm terribly sorry for thatwhat was going on, I tried to stop him. But he...overpowered me. It was more than just a physical assault on my Vessel. It was an attack on my...True Form. On my Grace. He tried to...exorcise me, you could say. Rip me from my Vessel and send me back to Heaven, and he very nearly succeeded. He was only a few syllables away from finishing the incantation... I suppose I owe a bit of a debt to Sam."
The dread began to wash over the eldest Winchester. "Sam? What's my brother got to do with this?"
"Yes. Your brother showed up, and...killed him. Destroyed him. Easily." Pale, chapped lips pursed, and Dean felt that giddiness dissipate completely. Fuck. He didn't need Cas to tell him how Sam killed the fucker, and he really didn't want to think about it, but fucking Goddammit, it was already out there. "I didn't know whether I should tell you or not, but I suppose you have the right to know, and I do not have the right to deny you that. So, I apologize, because the assault on...me, on my Grace...it left me fairly drained. I still am, but I am...recharging, I suppose you could say. And I'm sorry for not telling you what happened sooner."
Dammit, Sammy...and damn you too, you stupid Angel, for coming to my rescue and getting the crap beat out of you. You knew Alastair was too strong, even for you... Dean shook his head, willing away the images that began to form: Cas, hurt, Alastair trying to kill him (because he didn't believe Alastair would stop at exorcising Castiel); of Sam, using that freaky fucking power of his... "It's" He cleared his throat. "It's, uh, it's cool, Cas. Thanks. For telling me, I mean. And I guess for...you know."
"You're welcome, Dean. You should sleep now, before Sam comes to visit."
"Yeah... Yeah, that sounds good.
Those eyes were on him, studying him as if making sure every freckle was back in place without a scar disrupting them that wasn't there already. "Yes?"
"You better come back, you son of a bitch. You hear me?"
And there was that amused huff again. This time, Cas didn't hide the slight grin. "Of course, Dean. I cannot give you a promise, due to the circumstance we face right now, but it is as close to one as I can give you. I will come back as often as I am possible."
And with that, the hand left his arm and the flutter of wings sounded the Angel's exit.
It wasn't a promise, as Cas had said, but Dean could live with that.