Dean was miserable. In only days it had gone from Dean avoiding Cas to Cas avoiding Dean, and he didn't like it one bit. He wanted so badly to just explain to Cas how he felt, and why they couldn’t be together. But whenever he tried to talk to him, Cas seemed to find the sudden urge to busy himself with anything and everything, and the bunker was so large that Dean could go hours without seeing him at all.
Then again, it was the most awkward when he did see him. Talking Dean’s strategy from earlier, Cas somehow fixed it so that Sam was always present when he was. At dinner, Dean would send Cas glances that clearly said we need to talk, but he never saw them. He would keep his eyes down, or on other things, but never Dean.
Cas was hurt and embarrassed, and every time Dean saw it, he became a little more hurt, a little more embarrassed himself. It was a thoroughly lose-lose situation. One day after a dinner of cold sandwiches, Cas stood up to take the food back to the kitchen, and Dean stood up with him.
“I’ll help,” he offered.
Shaking his head, Cas turned away. “No, I got it.”
Dean insisted, “No, really. I’ll help.” He scooped up some plates and cups and made to follow Cas to the kitchen.
“No, Dean,” Cas said in a hard tone. Without looking back, he walked away.
For a moment, Dean stood forlornly looking after him, dirty dishes in hand. Slowly, he set them on the table.
“What was that about?” Sam demanded.
Dean didn’t look at him. “If you need me, I’ll be in my room,” he said flatly.
Dean didn’t stop. He went to his room and shut the door, leaning his back against it and letting himself slide down to the floor. Closing his eyes, Dean wondered how long he could stay in here and avoid his problems. Why did these feelings have to come along and complicate matters? They’d done just what he’d expected them to do - ruin a perfectly good friendship.
Dean told himself everything imaginable to get rid of the ache in his chest, but nothing worked. He ended up just sitting on his bed, staring at the wall. He wanted Cas; he didn’t think he could deny that any longer, and Cas wanted him, so that wasn’t an issue. The issue was the fact that Dean couldn’t, wouldn’t watch Cas suffer the ill effects of being around him, of being someone he cared about.
As Crowley had aptly pointed out, those he cared about had a tendency to die because of it.
It wasn’t until several hours later that Sam came knocking on his door. “Dean?” He waited. Dean didn’t reply. “Dean, open up.”
“Go away,” he rasped grumpily.
“Dean, Cas is leaving.”
Dean straightened out of his slouch. “What?”
“Just open the door, will you?” Sam said in frustration.
Crossing the room quickly, Dean threw open the door. Sam stood there looking tired. “Cas is leaving. I don’t know what happened between the two of you, so I won’t try to stop him, but… I thought you might. He’s packing now.”
Sam graciously left, not pressuring Dean into anything, but maybe Dean needed the pressure. He’s better off going, he told himself, but he wasn’t sure whether he meant that in terms of Cas’s safety or relieving the awkwardness between them. After all, there were still a crap ton of angels who wanted him dead.
Even so, Dean had to explain before Cas left. He couldn’t just allow him to leave thinking that he didn’t like him, or didn’t want him around. Clenching his fists and gathering his courage, Dean headed for Cas’s room.
The door was open, and Cas’s back was to it as he packed his few garments in a suitcase on the bed. Dean stood in the doorway for a minute before making his presence known. “Hey, Cas.”
Cas froze, but didn’t turn around. “Hello, Dean.”
Suddenly, Dean’s mouth felt very dry. “Cas…can we talk?”
“Aren’t we now?” Cas replied snappily.
Dean couldn’t help smiling softly. At least the factual attitude was a part of Cas which he understood. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess we are.” Not waiting for an invitation, Dean stepped farther into the room. Cas still didn’t turn around.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Dean began, “Listen, Cas, about what you said the other nigh-“
“It was inappropriate, and I apologize,” Cas blurted. “I’m going to leave now, and I promise you won’t have to worry about it again.”
Dean was silent for a minute. “Cas, you leaving isn’t going to stop me worrying about it.”
Cas spun, his blue eyes like bottomless wells of emotion, of pain. “Then what do you want me to do?” he demanded. “I’m sorry, Dean, but I can’t take back what I said.”
“It won’t stop me worrying about it because I don’t want to stop worrying about it,” Dean blurted. Cas froze. Dean blushed, but pushed on. “I don’t want you to take back what you said because it’s something I’ve been wanting to say. I just…didn’t think you felt the same way.”
Cas blinked at him, too shocked for words. “You…You feel the same way?”
“God, Cas. Why do you think I’ve been avoiding you? I thought that if I could distance myself, the feelings would go away,” Dean admitted. “If I didn’t have to look at those damned blue eyes, or the way you smile, or how your forehead crinkles when you’re confused.” He swallowed. “I knew it could never happen, so I didn’t see much point in letting myself go wild.”
Taking a step forward, Cas asked, with a hopeful look in his eyes, “Why can’t it happen?”
Dean looked down at the floor, clenching his jaw. He breathed in and out carefully before replying, “Because all I do, all I’ve ever done, is hurt the people I love. I drag them down, I get them killed. I… you’re too good, Cas. I care too much about you, and I won’t see that happen to you too. I just won’t.” He closed his eyes waiting for Cas’s reply, not knowing what to expect. After a minute, he looked up, wondering at his silence.
Cas was twirling a string in his fingers. “You know, I was wrong back then when I said this was worthless,” he said, holding it up so that Dean could see the amulet which Sam had given him attached to the cord. “I was angry. I had lost all hope, and when you threw this away… I thought for a minute that you’d lost all hope too. I thought you would give up, that you’d stop fighting, and that made me sad.
“I went back for it, after you left,” he said. “I didn’t really know why at the time. It just seemed like something too important to be left there. And… I’ve carried it with me, since then. I’ve used it to remind myself that this is what I’m fighting for - this love between two brothers. Something so pure that it generates hope, generates will, all on its own. You didn’t give up hope that day, Dean. You just found it inside you, not through an amulet.”
Dean watched as Cas wound the cord around his hand, then slipped it off and set it on the bed. He was glad that he wasn’t expected to speak, for he wouldn’t have had any words to say.
“Ever since that day,” Cas continued, still not meeting his eyes, “I’ve decided that I want to be someone who inspires that same hope in you. I want to be someone who makes you keep fighting, no matter how bad it gets. And I wanted to be there for you, to fight for you, always.” He added quietly, “I failed miserably at that part, but when I fought to come back, it was always for you. It’s always been for you. And I’ve never had any reason to expect that to be reciprocated, and for a while I was okay with that. But then… I guess I just couldn’t take it any longer.”
Now Cas was the one looking down as Dean stared at him in awe. So many thoughts were running around his head, but one was more powerful than all the rest. So powerful, in fact, that it took control of Dean’s body, urging him to take a step forward and gently guide Cas’s chin up to look him in the eye.
“Cas,” he muttered, but no other words came. He didn’t need them, but instead bent down and pressed his lips to Cas’s in a fervent release of the feelings which he’d had bottled up for weeks. Cas seemed startled at first, but then kissed back with just as much passion. Abruptly, Dean broke it off. “I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”
“Cas, I can’t,” Dean said, pain in his voice. “You’ll only get hurt.” He turned away.
“Dean Winchester,” Cas said almost angrily. “If I wasn’t okay with the risk of being your friend, would I have rebelled against heaven for you? More than once? Would I refrained from stabbing you through the heart? I’ve seen you die more times than anyone in my long history; I’m fully aware of the risk.” He had a hardened look in his eyes which Dean couldn’t deny was highly attractive. “But I’m tired of playing it safe, Dean. I want you, and I’m ready to accept every damn thing that comes with you.”
Dean’s heart was pounding so fast that it had to have been audible. He knew what he was about to say was reckless and impulsive, but he was beyond caring. “I want you too, Cas. I’ll protect you, I swear I will,” he said softly. Dean pulled Cas close by the hips and kissed him again, trying not to sigh with the satisfaction of finally being able to do this after wanting for so long.
When at last he pulled away, Cas laid his head against Dean’s shoulder. “I know you will, Dean. I’ve never doubted that you would.”
Dean smiled. “So you’ll stay, then?”
“You’re not getting rid of me now.”
Laughing, Dean pushed Cas to arm’s length, just to study him. “I’ve never realized just how beautiful your eyes were.”
“I’ve never stopped realizing how beautiful yours were,” Cas responded.
Dean smiled, a warm feeling rising in his chest, followed by a sinking, terrible weight. “Cas… can we…not tell Sam yet? I, uh… I need a little time to figure things out.”
Cas smiled gently. “Of course. I understand,” he said. “This must be odd for both you and him due to your previous associations exclusively with women.”
“Yeah, that,” Dean said, marveling at how something phrased so tediously could sound cute coming out of Cas’s mouth. He let his eyes drift to Cas’s lips, and suddenly they were kissing again, leaving Dean wondering why they’d waited so long.