Title: The Skies Cannot Ignore Us
Warning: Spoilers for “The Rapture,” “When the Levee Breaks” and “Lucifer Rising”
Word Count: 2090
Summary: I don’t know wonder well enough to recognize it when I see it.
Notes: This is the end of the All Souls and Angels series. Title is from “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” by the Smashing Pumpkins.
Once Dean said to Castiel, “This probably confuses me as much as it does you.”
“I am not confused,” Castiel said.
They were naked together in the back of the Impala, another stolen night, and Castiel was touching Dean as he often did, exploratory and curious. His fingertip traced the dip of Dean’s philtrum as Dean spoke, his head tilted as if he were reading a book in an unfamiliar language.
“Yeah?” Dean said, determined not to be distracted. Though it was distracting, Castiel’s light and gentle touch. “You know exactly what’s happening here?”
The finger traveled slowly up Dean’s cheekbone to the corner of his eye. It glided over Dean’s eyebrow and Dean closed his eyes, more aroused by this than he anticipated. “You are asking me a different question than you think you’re asking,” Castiel said softly, his voice as gentle as his touch. “You think you are asking me isn’t this strange, isn’t it frightening.”
Dean whispered, “And what am I actually asking?”
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Castiel said and his entire hand framed Dean’s face. “Isn’t it wonderful to love?”
Dean rested his head on Castiel’s shoulder. He’d experienced very little wonder in his life, though there had been horrors aplenty, and he said, “Yeah. I don’t know wonder well enough to recognize it when I see it.”
“This,” Castiel said, “is wonder.” He took Dean’s hand and pressed their palms together, a broad and calloused hand partnered with a slim and smooth one. “That we are here, and we have each other.”
“Yeah,” Dean whispered and felt his throat close. “It’s a wonder.”
“You know what I wish?” whispered Dean as they bent over some of Bobby’s books. In the next room, Bobby and Sam argued, though it had a tone of joking and camaraderie to it that made Castiel smile rather than worry.
“No,” he said. “What do you wish?”
“That I could see you.” Dean swallowed, and then slurped some tepid coffee from a mug older than he was. “I mean, really see you.”
“You wouldn’t see me,” Castiel said and bent over the book again. “Your eyes would burn out.”
“Yeah, but,” Dean said, and Castiel looked up at him. Dean looked away. He said slowly, “I think that moment, before everything went black, when I really saw you? I think that would be worth all the rest.”
Castiel reached across the table and took his hand. Dean let him hold it until Sam came into the kitchen to refill his coffee cup.
Sam was absorbed in research and there was nothing on TV. Dean shifted and fidgeted, not missing Sam’s annoyed looks, until finally Sam said, “What, Dean?” and Dean decided getting out for a while was the wisest course to take tonight.
Gravel crunched under his boots as Dean walked across the parking lot of their motel. He tried to think, but it was hard to think of a solution when he wasn’t entirely sure what the problem was. He felt itchy and unsatisfied, but he didn’t know if he needed to kill a monster or kiss an angel more.
It had been too many days since he’d done either.
A soda machine glowed with faint blue light next to the motel’s office building, and Dean headed for it, lacking anything better. He had the necessary change in his pocket but no thirst for anything they offered there, so he stood in front of the machine with his hands shoved in his back pockets and debated the merits of Mountain Dew verses something that would taste more like a grape lollipop than a grape.
Somehow it made sense that Castiel would choose that moment to join him. “Dean.”
Dean jumped and looked at him, feeling a mix of annoyance at being taken by surprise along with the pleasurable rush of being in Castiel’s presence. Castiel made the air feel electric and full, like just after a lightning strike. There was always that scent around him that made Dean think of ripe apples and new grass and rain on pavement. Castiel was undeniable, not that Dean ever would.
“Cas,” he said simply, taking his hands from his pockets, and he was not surprised at all when Castiel tugged him closer by the back of his neck.
It wasn’t a kiss so much as it was two desperate mouths seeking each other out and mashing together. It was a kiss of too long and I missed you and there isn’t much time, and when Castiel backed Dean against the office building wall it took on a tone of give me, give me, give me.
Dean put his hands on Castiel’s chest. They both were trembling. He took a moment just to touch Castiel, the narrow chest and fragile waist that sometimes made Dean think he could snap the angel in half with a twist of his fingers. Deceptive, this body. So slight and contained to the eye, so strong and infinite to the touch. “I needed you.”
“I know.” Castiel’s hand was still at the back of Dean’s neck, and they both tipped their heads forward just enough to touch. “I’m sorry I was late.”
Dean laughed at that, just a quiet chortle he didn’t bother to make into something more dignified. He whispered, “See that it doesn’t happen again,” and felt more than saw Castiel’s smile.
“I’m here now,” Castiel whispered, fingers moving slowly through Dean’s hair like he was petting a sleeping cat he didn’t want to wake. “Tell me what you need.”
“Just you.” Something real, Dean thought, something true, something that won’t turn to dust in the sun. “Just you.”
They kissed again, tongues and lips and breath, as Dean held the collar of Castiel’s raincoat and Castiel’s hands gripped and regripped his hips. It had been a long time since Dean had just kissed, had wanted to just kiss, had felt like he was stealing kisses and there might be dire consequences if they were caught.
And then like that, Castiel stepped back, expression sorrowful. “I must go.”
“Cas—” He wouldn’t beg, but he did touch Castiel’s hand a moment. “Come see me again soon.”
“Yes,” Castiel said simply and then was gone in a rush of wind and rustle of wings.
Castiel watched Dean sleep far more often than Dean knew. He sat on the bed—or the floor, or in the front seat of the Impala as Sam slept in the back and Dean tried to sleep wedged behind the steering wheel—and watched over him, like a dream catcher in a trench coat.
All I want, he thought at these times, is to keep you warm.
This kind of love was strange and frightening, beautiful and overwhelming. He thought sometimes he didn’t know what he’d begun when he began it. He thought sometimes Dean never intended it to be what it had become.
Sometimes Dean woke. Sometimes Dean reached for his hand and held it, gave him a tiny smile and fell asleep again.
Sometimes Dean took his hand and gave it a tug, and they left the room or the car or Bobby’s house and found a place where they could wrap around each other and breathe each other in. Castiel lost count of all the doorways and fields they kissed in. If it was dark enough and they were alone enough, if it were only the stars out to see them, they undressed each other just enough and touched until they both shivered.
“I never used to think of this when I thought of passion,” Castiel confessed to Dean as Dean wiped his hand on the grass. “I almost wish I still didn’t know.”
“Why’s that?” Dean reached under the tails of Castiel’s shirt to rub his stomach, and Castiel closed the eyes, reminding himself not to think of this body as his. It would never be his.
“Because I will miss it.” He touched Dean’s hair. It looked like it shouldn’t be soft but it was, and so pleasant to touch.
“Don’t say shit like that, Cas,” Dean murmured. “Don’t say goodbye to me before it’s time.”
“I won’t,” Castiel promised. “I won’t say goodbye to you at all.”
In a city big enough to have such things, Dean whispered to Castiel, “I’ve never been to a gay bar before.”
“We can leave if you’re not comfortable,” Castiel said. He felt less strange than he expected. They were among other men who wanted to drink and dance, and Castiel supposed this was as close as he and Dean would ever come to an actual courtship ritual. To a date.
“No, no, it’s okay,” Dean said. “You wanted to dance. We’ll dance.”
“We could park the Impala somewhere private and turn on the radio,” Castiel said, and this made Dean slam down his beer mug and hold out his hand.
“I’m not ashamed of you,” he said, which made Castiel smile and put his hand in Dean’s. Dean led him out onto the little dance floor and put his arms around him. Castiel followed his example and leaned their heads together, and listened to the music and talk and click of billiard balls, to the sound of laughter and other slowly dancing feet.
“Feel a little weird,” Dean muttered as they swayed. “You’re not soft anywhere.”
“I thought you liked the body.”
“I do! I do.” He ran his hand over Castiel’s back. “I like it a lot. But you’re still—I’m still getting used to how different you are.”
Castiel gazed at Dean, loving him down to the freckles on his nose and the flecks of gold in his eyes. “I’m glad you want to try.”
Dean blushed and looked away, and Castiel loved him for that, too.
He kissed Dean simply, not caring that there were other eyes to watch them, that anyone who cared to look will see. Dean gasped and held him tight, and they kissed and danced until the bartender told them it was time to go home.
Dean often thought he and Castiel were something to treasure and protect, but he had never thought they were fragile. He had never thought that there were secrets so big the army of heaven would move to keep them.
He never thought that Castiel would be punished for being his friend.
All it took was one look, one statement: “I don’t serve you,” and everything he kept close to his heart was simply stripped away. He never thought of it as service: it was love, it was need, it was reliance, it was trust. But he never thought he was above Castiel—if anything, Castiel filled him with wonder and awe, and he was humbled that the angel so simply loved him.
There was no rage, not at Castiel, not at Sam. There was only pain at this double betrayal. There was only the dark, empty center of himself, the something he knew he left behind in Hell calling out to be claimed again. He was too tired to be angry. He was too lost.
When he and Bobby locked Sam in the panic room, he thought the dulled sound of Sam’s shouts was the closest to manifesting his pain that he would ever see.
This is the mistake of feeling, Dean thought. For every moment of warmth there was another of cold. For every truth there was a lie. There was hunger for every moment of being full, there was a night spent waiting in the dark for every night slept in a lover’s arms.
There is a kind of nothing, he thought, only made worse when you’ve had everything.
Their relationship began in blood and pain and fire, though as Dean remembered it, it began in wind and sparks and gunshots. If he ever remembered the very beginning, the absolute beginning, he would see what Castiel saw when they are alone in the waiting room, Dean’s body against the wall and Castiel’s arm dripping blood. He would see that they were back at the beginning, yet starting something new.
Castiel may have saved Dean Winchester, but Dean Winchester would save the world. Castiel believed that almost more than he believed in the existence of his Father. He once wrote this belief into the cells of Dean’s skin, and it was a belief he was willing to sacrifice himself to sanctify.
All it took was one look, one nod, and then they were a man and his angel again.