Cas and Dean are roommates, neither one of them aware that the other is secretly flying around the city in the guise of a superhero saving innocent lives–even if they do regularly stitch each other up. Cas is quite convinced he's in love with Dean however, yet Dean is interested in someone else. Someone he "works with." Someone that later comes crashing through his window with a familiar face.

Rated T for violence and language.

Flight Paths Home

Part 3 of 3

Cas was still a little shocked, were he being totally honest. This didn't, however, overshadow how bad he felt. He knew that, logically, he'd made it as painless as possible. Rip the band-aid off quick, or so he'd heard, was the best way to go. He felt a little cowardly for flying off right after, but what would have been the point of staying? That certainly wouldn't have been any comfort to Morganite.

Morganite, who Cas had always thought got some kind of sick joy out of bothering him. But, as he looked back, he was beginning to realize that maybe he'd been a little mistaken. True, he still stood by the notion that Morganite did, indeed, like teasing him, but maybe it'd all been in a different attitude than he'd originally thought. It'd just never crossed his mind that Morganite would feel that way about him, mostly because he couldn't imagine that anyone would feel that way about him.

But he'd done the right thing. It would have been cruel to give Morganite a chance, especially when Cas knew his heart wouldn't be totally in it. Not when his feelings were so preoccupied with someone else.

Even if he'd never have that someone.

As if on cue with his thoughts, the front door slid open, grinding on its metal rails. Turning, Cas watched as Dean stepped inside, looking tired and rather out of sorts. Grumpier than usual, the door practically slammed as he pulled it closed behind him. Cas frowned. Still, he looked Dean up and down as he always did, surveying for injuries. There were none, Dean's nightly "job" having gone easy on him.

Cas tried not to focus on that.

"Good morning, Dean," Cas said in his typical fashion.

Pausing in his march across the apartment, Dean slowly turned his head to look at him, green eyes flashing. Cas was actually taken aback by the expression, eyebrows furrowing, which only seemed to anger Dean further. Teeth bared, he scowled, appearing more spiteful than Cas ever would have imagined possible.

"Dean?"

"Don't talk to me," he spat, Cas actually flinching back, gaping. Whipping around, Dean stalked across the apartment toward his room, Cas barely able to pull himself together before Dean would, no doubt, close himself up in his bedroom.

"Dean, wait!" Cas said, vaulting over the back of the chair as he headed across the apartment. "What's wrong? Did something happen?" He almost reached out to Dean, but thought better of it upon seeing the way the other man had paused outside his door. Stiff, he said nothing, not immediately.

Rather, Cas watching with growing concern, his back began to shake. Until he was laughing. No, it wasn't a laugh, not Dean's laugh. It was more like a cackle—a bitter, angry cackle.

"Dean…?"

He whipped around, lips spread wide in what was probably the sourest smile Cas had ever seen. Nasty, and dripping with disdain.

"Fuck you, Cas," he finally said.

Cas blinked, finding his own voice through his shock when it looked as though Dean was going to turn away from him again. "What the hell? What's going on?"

"Why do you care?!" Dean practically shouted, Cas almost flinching back. Instead, his shock faded to confused irritation, blue eyes narrowing as he pursed his lips. "Since when do we talk about shit? We don't! Good for you and you're super powers, whoop-de-fuckin'-do! Doesn't mean we're suddenly friends!"

"You're the one that came in pissed off and yelling at me, Dean. Forgive me for being concerned."

"Concerned?!" More of that manic laughter, which Cas was beginning to hate. "You don't have the right to be concerned, alright?! So fuck off and don't talk to me!"

"Dean!" But it didn't matter. He'd turned away. Whisked his way into his bedroom and slammed the door closed, Cas left standing outside. For a moment, he did nothing, only able to blink as he tried to digest what had just happened. Yet, no matter how he thought about it, he couldn't comprehend. Instead, stepping forward, he found himself knocking on Dean's door.

"Dean," he said, the firmness in his voice weakening. "Dean!" No response.

Finally beginning to feel the hurt through his waning irritation, Cas wavered in knocking again, ultimately deciding that perhaps he shouldn't. Dean was having a bad day, that was all. It didn't have anything to do with what had happened lately, or who Cas really was. He was selfish for thinking as much.

Besides, he had to go to work.

Taking a deep breath and ignoring how it shook in his chest, Cas turned and headed directly out the door. He consoled himself on his bike ride to the flower shop with rational objections. Dean wasn't really angry with him. It was something else. Something completely separate from Cas.

Yet, as the day wore on, his self-conscious insecurities, as well as his ignorance of Dean's job, started to get the better of him. He tried to distract himself with arranging flowers and replanting until his fingers were stained with dirt, but it didn't keep anything at bay.

What if, now that Dean knew who he really was, he was beginning to see how much of a threat to him Cas could be? If Dean really was involved with the illegal dealings Cas had always assumed he was, then certainly living with a superhero wasn't in his best interests. Or, worse, what if Cas had encountered him the night before? He didn't pay any attention to the identities of the crooks he took out. He simply did his job and was on his way. What if Dean had been one of them? What if that was the whole problem?

By the time he and his coworkers were closing up shop, Cas was so tightly wound that he couldn't think of anything else but Dean. And what he'd done to offend him. He came back up to their apartment with strict steps and tight lips, immediately skirting into his bedroom and beginning to slip on his uniform. He didn't want to face Dean, didn't want to deal with whatever it was that had suddenly put a wedge between them, and was kind of hoping that if he just ignored it, things would go back to normal. That Dean really had just had a bad day and would be back to his usual self the following day.

It was too much to ask for, of course.

"Cas." Dean's voice nearly made him jump as he stepped outside his bedroom door. He was in uniform, wings still hidden and mask in his hand. Before "everything," Cas would have made sure Dean was gone, that he was alone, but it didn't matter anymore. He'd just wanted to be gone himself, before seeing the other man.

"We need to talk."

"What about?" Cas asked, careful to keep his voice neutral as he headed toward the balcony doors. He wasn't aware of the way Dean's eyes watched his every move, taking in his partial identity despite knowing he shouldn't. "I really need to go and-"

"I don't think we should be roommates anymore."

Words that stopped Cas dead in his tracks.

Turning, he couldn't hide the stunned hurt that was etched into his features, Dean looking pointedly away.

"Why?"

"We just can't live together anymore," Dean said straight, tone without any inflection.

Cas gulped, flicking his gaze to the floor as he considered how he should be reacting. Ultimately, he did his best to remain as detached as Dean was. "Does this have something to do with… this?" He gestured down to himself.

"No," Dean said almost too quickly, still refusing to look his way. "It doesn't have anything to do with you. It's me." Yet he offered no other reason, no other defense, and it didn't take a genius to know he was lying. Even Cas could tell, and he was horrible at reading people.

"You don't have to move out," Cas replied. "If it's that much of an issue, I can go. But, you should know that…" Cas gulped, "that whatever it is you do, it doesn't matter to me." This did draw Dean's gaze, though Cas refused to face it. "I don't know what it is you do for a living, but if it's something illegal, I won't interfere."

"Cas…"

"And I'm sorry if I already have. All you have to do is tell me what you're doing and I'll stay out of it."

"Why would you say that?" Dean's voice was empty, his question clearly about Cas's integrity as a "superhero." After everything he'd said about trying to focus on what was good about humanity, about trying to pick up after their faults, and now he was making an exception?

"I just…" Breath trembling, shoulders hunched, Cas twisted his mask in his hands. "You're the only friend I have, Dean."

His admission didn't garner an immediate response, Cas continuing to remain focused on the floor. He didn't see the way Dean had gaped, or how quickly he'd snapped his mouth shut again. How he'd closed his eyes and ground his teeth.

"That's not fair," Dean eventually muttered out, voice constrained. "You can't say that."

"It's true. I-"

"Goddammit, Cas! You can't do this! I'm not- You're- You don't understand! I can't stay here!"

"Why?!"

"Because I just can't! It's too… I have to leave, alright? I just do!"

"Why are you lying?"

"Why is it any of your business?" Dean's words did cause Cas to flinch back then, his posture defensive. "We barely know each other. We're not even friends, really. So… that's it!"

"Dean…"

"That's it!" He said it with a sense of finality, willing to take no further objections, and Cas found that he didn't have it in him to argue. This was far worse than anything he'd anticipated having to deal with. So much thrown at him all at once. He couldn't deal with it—didn't know how. He'd spent so much time being careful, hiding his feelings so as to keep things the way they were. Safe. Secure. Comfortable. And all of that was being pulled out from under him.

He was tipping, what little connection he'd had to anyone slipping through his fingers. He didn't want to go back there—to that life, alone, with no one. Sure, maybe he and Dean hadn't been close, but it'd been something, and become so important to Cas over the years. Dean was all he had. Add in the feelings he'd tried to warn himself from forming and it was just too much.

Get away! That was what his brain told him Run! Don't look back! Just keep moving forward like he always had been. Because if he dared look back, then he dared to regret, and that only lead to despair.

How many years had he spent that way, alone. He didn't want it, not again.

Run!

Pulling his mask over his head, Cas flipped his hood up before pulling open the balcony doors. Vaulting up onto the railing, he jumped, not giving himself the chance to feel the fall. Wings bursting forth, he shot up into the sky, eyes narrowed as he pushed on. As he used all his self-control not to look back.

Never look back.

But this wasn't a normal battle—this wasn't simple thugs and crooks. This was crippling in a different kind of way, worse than his wing or any other physical blow he'd suffered. It was heavy, and took the wind out of his wings until he was stumbling down atop one of the tallest downtown buildings. Lurching, he fell to his knees, hands catching him on the roof as he breathed deeply in and out. His wings drooped at his sides, lifeless, and his senses were so clogged that he couldn't hear anything beyond his own heartbeat.

He hadn't wanted to feel this. That was why he'd kept his distance. But it hadn't worked. And now he was paying the consequences.

The time he spent, stranded, atop that roof was a fleeting moment to him. All he could think about was what he'd done wrong, what he could have done better. But it was endless circles, his back leaning against the lip of the building as he stared blankly at the dimming sky. A sky that was eventually all darkness. And isolation.

Again.

Had he been more himself, and not drowning, he might have heard it. The sound of soft footsteps approaching. But he didn't. Even as a voice spoke, he hardly paid it any mind.

It was only when a hand was set gently on his shoulder that he finally looked up.

"Are you alright?"

Emerald.

Which meant Morganite probably wasn't far.

"I'm fine," Cas said flatly, once more looking straight ahead. "Just… thinking."

"Oh…"

"I'm fine, really. You can go. Morganite would probably rather not be around me anyway." Because if there'd been any friendship between them, he'd destroyed that too.

"Morganite's working alone tonight," Emerald explained. "Said he 'doesn't want me around, picking through his head.'"

Cas supposed he was probably to blame for that too. "Sorry."

"Don't be." Emerald crouched down beside him. "Morganite's a pissy princess when he's in a bad mood. I wouldn't want to read his thoughts anyway. Or deal with his sulking all night. Although, to be honest, you don't look like you're any better off."

"It's nothing. You need not concern yourself."

"Look, Shadow, I get that we're not buddy-buddy or anything, but we've been working together for years. I'd say that kind of makes of pseudo-friends, at the very least." Cas did look up then, somewhat surprised. Because such words coming from Emerald, who hardly ever teased and was usually the serious one of the two, seemed to mean a whole lot more than when Morganite had said similar.

"Even after I rejected your brother?"

"Morganite's an idiot." Emerald waved the comment off, shifting his lanky body until he was sitting beside Cas against the lip of the building. "Besides, not like you weren't straight with him. He'll get over it."

"I wasn't completely 'straight' with him," he admitted, not entirely sure why. Maybe Emerald was doing some kind of manipulative mind trick, or maybe it was just nice to have someone to talk to. A friend, as he'd said. "There is nobody else."

"Just not into men?"

Cas snorted. "It's not that. I have feelings for someone else and it wouldn't have been fair to him to have accepted such a proposal. Not when I wanted someone different."

Emerald was nodding. "It's not because you hate him?"

"What?" Cas glanced over despite only being privy to a mask. "No. He's kind of obnoxious, but I don't hate him."

"Oh. He's under the impression that you hate him."

"I don't hate him," Cas repeated. "He's charming, I suppose, in his own way." Cas's eyebrows twitched beneath his mask. "Actually, I think that's part of the reason I find him irritating. He reminds me too much of someone else." It hadn't occurred to Cas until that moment, how similar Morganite and Dean actually were—at least in their senses of humor. Probably because he'd never entertained Morganite as a romantic interest before.

"Who?" Emerald's curiosity sounded innocent enough. Too innocent, maybe.

"My roommate," Cas admitted despite himself. Emerald couldn't read his mind, but he had to be doing something. Not that Cas particularly minded. "Ex-roommate, I guess."

"Really?" Emerald actually sounded surprised.

"Yeah. He's moving out."

"And that's why you're upset?"

"I'm upset because he won't tell me why. And because…" He wasn't sure he could say it out loud. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to, even to someone other than Dean.

"You have feelings for him, your roommate," Emerald deduced. "That's why you rejected Morganite." Cas didn't have to say anything to verify the truth of the words. Emerald, however, "hmphed," seeming displeased. "You two are idiots."

Cas looked over, alarmed. "Excuse me?"

"You two are idiots," he repeated, which didn't help explain anything any better. "You and Dean. You're both ridiculous." Not understanding, Cas went to question again—this time somewhat offended—but couldn't upon witnessing Emerald pulling at his mask. Until it'd been removed completely, revealing a young man with pointed features, shaggy brown hair, and kind, brown-green eyes.

"Castiel, right?" Emerald asked, holding out his hand, which Cas shook after a moment of shocked hesitation. "Sam Winchester. Dean is my older brother."

"Your…?"

"Morganite's my older brother too," he continued. "I only have one older brother."

It took a moment for Cas's brain to make the connection, to really understand what he was saying. But when he finally managed it, the realization hit him like a semi (which would be pretty rough, even for him). Blinking, he glanced quickly away, brain buzzing. Because, really, he should have known. The voice, how he'd moved, his schedule, something. But what would have been the odds? That they'd be living together and not even realize it?

It was ridiculous, in more ways than one.

"Dean is Morganite," Cas finally managed to sputter out. "Dean is…"

"He's obsessed with you," Sam—Emerald—cut in. "He's been flirting with you for years, but was always too afraid to ask you out. Until recently. Mostly because he was desperate." Because he thought Cas hated him.

"Oh god," Cas muttered, reaching up to message the bridge of his nose. "No wonder he was so upset this morning." Dean has asked him out and he'd said no! He really was an idiot. How had he not known?

"Yeah, he-"

Before anymore could be said on the subject, they were interrupted. Jumping to their feet, they turned swiftly around, peering out across the city to where a bright flash had ignited the night sky. The building beneath them had shaken, the flash only part of an explosion that was ripping one of the taller buildings downtown apart. Already Cas and Emerald could see the way the supports were breaking, both of them only taking seconds to digest the scene before they were off.

Wings spreading, Cas pushed himself off hard, leaving an indent in the roof as he flew toward the wreckage. He could see people running beneath him, screaming out. Cas, however, was far more preoccupied with what might still be inside the building.

"There's no one inside!" Emerald's projected thoughts hit him, calming his most immediate fear. He didn't know where Emerald was, but it hardly mattered. Rather, he had to keep the building from collapsing long enough for the people down below to get away.

The explosion had occurred on a corner, which meant the whole thing was tipping in that direction. Folding his wings in against his body, Cas stretched out toward it, eyes narrowed as he skidded onto one of the folding ledges beneath where the damage had been down. Avoiding the debris and ignoring how dust filtered in through his mask, he then shot up, wings flapping determinedly as he pushed up against the collapsing corner of the building. He put all his strength against the main support, gritting his teeth as his whole body tensed. He wouldn't be able to hold it for long, but even a few seconds could be the difference between saving a life and letting it be crushed. He hoped that Emerald was working on getting all the people clear, if he could.

Straining, Cas felt his arms and abs bulging, his breathing labored as he flapped his wings harder. He could feel the upper parts of the structure collapsing above him, hammering more and more weight down. But what was below him still had some standing power, so he just had to be the support that was blown away. Just a little longer.

He didn't know for how long, but until he knew. Until there was a sign. Until-

"Get out of there, Shadow Wing! The people are clear! Morganite's going to put up a shield!"

Taking Emerald's words as that sign, Cas pulled in a deep breath before, with a cry as the pressure left him, dropping away from the building. Wings spinning, he shot out, heading in any direction that equated to "away." Below him, he caught a glimpse of something pink shooting up from the ground, but it was behind him before he could register it fully.

Blinking away the dust, he flapped out, skidding to a halt on his toes before whipping around. He was on another roof, one nearby. Breathing hard, he watched as the pink shield shot up to dome the building, completed just as the entire thing came crashing to the ground. Like a wave, dust and debris filled the forcefield with a looming cloud, one that eventually engulfed the entire scene until the dome was only able to be perceived as a gray mass erupting from the city streets.

Glancing around quickly, Cas's keen senses were able to locate the source of it. Glowing to match the dome, Morganite was hovering a few streets over, his hands out before him as he held the shield together against the force of the collapse. Or tried to.

Even from this distance, Cas could see the way his arms were straining, how his hands were shaking. It was a lot of distance to cover, a lot to contain, and a long period to do so. He wouldn't hold out much longer.

Shaking the dust from his wings, Cas lifted off before back-flipping against the nearby brick wall. Thighs and calves coiling, he set his feet flat against the brick before shoving forcefully off.

Just as that pink was beginning to fade.

Wings folded, he shot out into the sky. Toward Morganite, who wasn't glowing anymore. The shield around the building vanished, the dust lifted free to roll through the city. Toward them, likely able to block out any and all visibility.

Teeth gritted, Cas reached out. He kept his eyes focused on Morganite, even as he began to fall backward. He pushed himself on, until that pink and silver suit was within reach. Until he was wrapping his arms around Morganite's waist, bulleting through the air.

Wings flaring, Cas held tight, only able to stop some of his momentum as he rolled onto a nearby rooftop. He kept Morganite held to him, however, doing whatever he could to lessen any of the damage that would be done as a result of the rough tumble from the sky.

They came to a sliding stop within but a few seconds, Cas glancing up only quickly enough to see the cloud coming toward them. Bending over Morganite, he shielded his head as best he could, closing his own eyes as they were engulfed.

The air was hot, stifling even, and barely breathable. Cas coughed, feeling the way his lungs were begging for air—for something more than dust and filth.

They were too close. They'd suffocate if they didn't get away.

Gulping down his own pain, Cas pulled Morganite up by the shoulders. Trying to hold back his coughing, he spread his wings against the gust of dust and flapped. Determined and glaring upward, he searched for sky. Waited for it.

Aimed for it until they were soaring up out of the cloud, into the safety of the night sky.

Coughing and gasping for breath, Cas kept a firm hold under Morganite's arms, looking for anywhere he could land. Not because Morganite was heavy, but because he feared his attempts to save him were already too late.

Rooftops were their havens. Heading to the top of one of the tallest in the entire city, he landed with a little less grace than usual before setting Morganite gently down atop the hardened tar.

His mask was full of dust and he couldn't see as clearly as he wanted. Pushing his hood back, he ripped it off, blinking as he looked Morganite up and down.

There were bloodspots on his mask, around the area where his nose should be as well as leaking down from the general area of his ears.

"Is he alive?" Emerald was there, beside them, before Cas could even process the question. Reaching out, Emerald laid his fingertips against Morganite's throat, checking for a pulse. "He's alive," her verified, seeming to be saying it more for his own sake than anything else. "He'll be alright. He just used too much energy." Reaching down, Emerald rolled Morganite's mask up just enough to reveal his mouth, so as he might be able to breathe through the dust that had likely clogged up in it.

Cas tried not to focus on the familiarity of those lips.

"I managed to zero in on them," Emerald started a second later, drawing Cas's attention. He was streaked in dust as well, but not as coated as Cas and Morganite were. "The ones behind the explosion. They vanished underground. Crowley was with them. I'd know his thought waves anywhere."

"You know where they're going?"

"Not exactly, they were being careful about controlling their thoughts, but they must have had some kind of tunnel to escape through beneath the building. If we go now, we might be able to catch up with them."

It wasn't even a question.

"He'll be fine here?" Cas asked, forcefully ignoring the concern he had for the unconscious Morganite.

"I think so."

"Then let's go."

Nodding, Emerald stood with him, the both of them running to the edge of the building. The dust hadn't had much time to dissipate, but Cas was ready for it this time.

"Stay close to me, since you can't read my thoughts!" Cas shouted as he vaulted from the building. Using his wings to push him, he headed directly into the wreckage, making sure to hold his breath as he was once again engulfed in the slowly thinning cloud. Pulling his angel blade from his belt, he gripped it tightly before swinging it forward. With both his strength as well as the blade, he blasted through the debris, sending it flying as he surged for the ground. He held back once he'd managed to blast his way into the basement. Standing at the bottom floor, he flipped the blade around so as to be able to slam it down hard against the concrete floor. Already cracking and about to collapse, it didn't take much to cause it to fall in entirely, the fact that it did at all proving that there was more beneath the building than should have been.

Diving in with the floor, Cas used his blade to clear a momentary path, one that would last just long enough to get through. Shooting forward into the darkened tunnel, he landed and turned, just in time for Emerald to come up beside him and the debris to collapse in behind them. It shut out the light, both of them looking away so as to avoid the dust that came billowing in as a result.

Silence.

"This isn't the sewers," Emerald projected after a moment, conscious to be as quiet as possible. "But I can sense people further down. We're not close enough for me to make out their thoughts, but they're definitely there."

Cas nodded, knowing full well that though he could hear Emerald's thoughts, the other man couldn't hear his. Angel blade in hand, he gestured Emerald behind him before continuing on. It was dark, but not too dark for Cas's senses. Easily able to make his way though the tunnel, he eventually lead them to a single metal door some ten minutes of swift walking from where they'd come in.

"They're in there," Emerald supplied.

Nodding, Cas didn't even bother with trying to figure out a way to actually open the door. Rather, he stuck his angel blade up along the right seam, slicing the hinges before forcefully kicking it open. Not supported by anything more than a lock on the other side, the whole thing fell in with a loud bang, alerting everyone inside to their presence.

"I thought you were subtle?"

"When I want to be," Cas replied out loud.

There were guns pointed at them from every angle, sufficiently surrounding them. But none in the room were able to even consider pulling them. With only a simple nod from Emerald, every figure in the room twitched before collapsing, the sounds of firearms clanking against concrete echoing from one side of the warehouse to the other.

Because that's what it was. Stacked with boxes, there were only small aisle ways between them, florescent lights hanging from the I-beams woven through the ceiling.

"Now, now, boys, that's a bit unnecessary, don't you think?"

Crowley, who was apparently the only one able to fight off Emerald's abilities.

"You've ruined a perfectly good door," he gestured behind them as he stepped over a few of the bodies of his fallen underlings, "and knocked out my entire workforce. How am I ever going to get anything done now?"

"What's in these boxes?" Emerald hissed out before Cas could respond. "I can sense something. What is it?" Glancing over, Cas took in Emerald's stiff posture, it appearing almost aggressive. Which was not normal for Emerald.

"Ah, yes, that." Crowley smiled. "I thought you might be able to sense them once you were close enough, hence I've been very careful to keep all my shipments out of your reach. Unfortunately, an experiment gone wrong in my lab lured you both here. I wasn't exactly planning for that." His voice had taken a bitter turn.

"What's in the boxes?!" Emerald growled.

"My, my, you really do want to know. Well, I would never hide such a thing from you, Moose." Not seeming the least bit fazed by their presence, Crowley made his way over to the nearest crate. With a flick of his wrist, he popped the top. Gesturing with one finger, a single glass vial floated up out of it until he had it in hand.

He turned back to them. "This," he held up the vial, which was glowing a bright, bright blue, "is a human soul."

A reveal that left both Cas and Emerald silent. Blinking, Cas gaped, his expression open to them all, before he looked quickly across the whole warehouse. Stacks and stacks of crates, all of them filled with hundreds of vials.

"All of this?" he managed to get out. "Human souls?"

"That is correct." Crowley twirled the vial between his fingers lazily. "I know, shocking. For one, that humans even have souls, and, for two, that it'd even be possible to harvest them. But, then again, I pride myself on accomplishing the impossible."

"How did you get this many?" Emerald asked.

"Oh, just being in the right place at the right time."

"Or creating the right place at the right time," Cas snarled.

"Please, even if I did organize a few mass killings around the world, it's not that difficult to know which governments are going to bomb who and where. It really is easier than you'd think, but I suppose expecting your simple minds to understand is probably still too much."

"What are you doing with them?" Emerald again, his voice echoing of distress. Because, even if they hadn't known humans had souls before, the idea of someone abusing such a thing was absolutely horrifying.

"Me? Well, that's really none of your business, is it? Let's just say I'm… trying to create an alternative energy source, one that's superior to anything that's been conjured up so far." More of that smiling. "Just think of it as a sort of recycling."

"You're a monster," Cas hissed.

"Me? Please, at least I have a soul." He chuckled. "Someone like you? You're hardly being fair in calling me a monster. You're not even human. At least I was… once."

"What are you talking about?" Cas snapped.

"You! Being a soulless invader from another planet. Parading around like some kind of superhero. Please, I think we both know the truth. You don't belong here, Sparkles." He turned his attention to Emerald, continuing before Cas could question further. "You, on the other hand, well, fully human as far as I can tell. In fact, I've been trying to devise a plan to get ahold of you and your brother's souls for some time now. After all, with powers as you both posses, it'd certainly be a powerhouse of a harvest.

"Maybe, actually, your finding this place is fortuitous on my part. Squirrel isn't here, and I have just the thing to put Angel here against the wall." Before either could react, he was reaching into his pocket. Cas went for his angel blade, surging forward, but he wasn't fast enough. As though splashing water from his fingers, he sent out what appeared to be tiny, shiny blue shards. They caught on Cas's arms, legs, torso, wings. And even through his clothes, he could feel them burning. Within moments it was stinging into his skin, hot irons all over his body.

So hot that his entire form collapsed involuntarily, spasming atop the floor as he tried to fight it. But the pain only grew worse, like there were tiny bullets slowly burrowing under his skin, shocking him all over. Like his whole body was on fire, burning all around him.

He didn't know he was screaming, or even aware when his screams turned into blood-curdling shrieks. Similar, perhaps, to the inhuman screech he'd released when his wing had been ripped apart, only this was so, so much worse. He couldn't think, he couldn't breathe. He didn't know anything but the agony, and the white fire in his eyes.

There was nothing to compare it to, and no way to escape.

"What the hell is that?!" Emerald shouted.

"Just Lot's Salt!" Crowley had to yell back.

"STOP! You're killing him!"

"That's the idea! The sooner that squawking ends, the better!"

Emerald was headed to Cas, to pick the stones out of his skin and clothes and wings, but even as he tried to move forward, his whole body locked up. He pushed against it, his muscles straining under his skin, but he couldn't. He was locked in place.

"No so fast," Crowley muttered, not needing to be heard over Cas's screams. "I said I wanted something from you." Eyes going red, he slowly turned the hand he had held up in Emerald's direction, as though opening a door. And as he did, Emerald's eyes began to glow a bright blue through his mask. Until the light was shooting out in all directions, igniting the room.

But Crowley was hardly affected. Stare hungry, he pulled the power toward him, luring it from the bottoms of Emerald's feet up all the way through his body. Until a blue wisp was beginning to leak from his mouth, through his mask. His body was limp, suspended by Crowley's own power, and soon it'd be cold altogether. Motionless, once his soul was free of it.

Or so Morganite was assuming.

Uncaring of his own condition, he pulled up a pink spear, one large and sharp enough to burst through the ground overtop the warehouse. The roof fell in atop them, Morganite only aware enough to put protective shields over the two familiar bodies inside before he reached down for the silver blade left abandoned on the ground.

Crowley had fallen back at his entrance, having lost his concentration, but he saw Dean coming. He saw the flash of the angel blade and heard Dean's outrage as he howled, running for him.

And as the blade punctured his chest, Crowley became a plume of red smoke, slithering out his own mouth before the power of the blade could undo him completely.

He escaped, but Morganite could hardly bring himself to care. There was a gaping hole in the ceiling where he'd come in, but none of the debris had hit either Sam or Cas, thanks to his own quick thinking.

Rushing over, he crouched down beside Sam, who was on all fours, coughing and hacking. Before Dean could ask if he was alright, however, he was gesturing toward Cas.

Cas, who was still writhing on the ground, screeching.

"What's wrong with him?" Dean asked, mask removed as he yanked Sam's free as well.

"Stones!" Sam gasped out. "Get them! Tiny stones!"

Surging forward, Dean slid down beside Cas, easily seeing the tiny blue daggers. Only their tops were submerged, but it was clearly enough to do damage. Cas's eyes were rolled back, and he was foaming at the mouth. His whole body was seizing, the sight almost too much for Dean to take. Raising his hands, his eyes darted to each and every stone he could spot, pink webbing its way between them. Until he had as many as he could find. With a simple twitch, he lifted the stones free before tossing them as far across the room as he could.

Upon their removal, Cas's shrieking grew momentarily louder, but as soon as they were gone, he was silent.

Still.

"Shadow!" Dean shouted, taking him roughly by the shoulders. "Shadow Wing! Cas! Cas!"

"He's not breathing," Sam said, having crouched on Cas's other side. "Does he need to breathe? Do you know, does he have to?"

"I don't know!" Dean replied, beginning to panic. "Cas! C'mon! You can't die! You don't die!" He shook him roughly by the shoulders, as if that would do anything. "I need you!"

Nothing.

"No!" Dean's shaking grew weaker, his hands beginning to tremble as he gripped at Cas's bare shoulders. Beside him, Sam was pale, leaning back some as he stared helplessly at the limp body.

Dean's breath was trembling, growing choppy, but he didn't care. Even as the tears fell freely, streaking down his cheeks, he couldn't be bothered with it. Because Cas wasn't breathing, and if he had a heart, it wasn't beating. His wings were slumped, and his whole body was lifeless.

Gone. He was gone.

"No…" Dean continued to murmur, sniffing as he slowly leaned his forehead down against Cas's chest. "N-no, please…" But no amount of begging made a difference—no matter how he asked, nothing changed. He'd been too late, and the only thing that kept flashing through his thoughts were Cas's expression when they'd argued—how hurt and confused he'd been. How betrayed.

And how alone.

"I'm sorry," Dean whispered, sobs wracking his whole body. "I'm so sorry."

He'd failed Cas—in every way imaginable.

Maybe it was the grief—the sheer loss—that warped Dean's power, that let it come springing out of him as a terrible sob wracked his whole body. It sprang across the entire room, wood and glass no match. Crates came tumbling down around them, vials shattering either as a result of the fall or because they'd come in contact with Dean's distorted agony.

All across the warehouse, blue flashes charred the concrete floor, leaving only small plumes of smoke in their wake. Expiring souls, moving on upon being freed.

Sam looked back to Cas's limp body. Cas, who, according to Crowley, hadn't had a soul.

What did that mean?

"Dean," Sam choked out against his own tears. "Dean, we have to get out of here. The police are coming." He put a shaky hand on his brother's back. "We have t-to go." But Dean couldn't hear him. "Dean!" he shouted into his head. "We have to go! Now!"

Their grieving would have to wait.

Pulling himself away, Dean was shaking, hardly able to breathe. But he dared not let go of Cas. Slipping his arms up just behind his wings and under his knees, Dean stood, pausing for just a moment to grit his teeth and close his eyes.

Control.

Finding what little strength he had left, he directed his power, taking off through the hole he'd originally come through. Cas's wings fluttering in the wind as they headed higher and higher, Dean eventually landed atop the same building he'd woken up on, Sam stepping down close beside him.

But that was it. Dean was done.

Slowly, if only because he was holding Cas's body, he lowered himself to his knees before falling back and pulling Cas up into his lap. Cradling him in his arms, Dean situated him until his head was laid against his shoulder, wings sprawled out around them. Sam sat down beside him, exhausted and defeated as he slouched. His eyes were empty, red, and still lined with tears.

Pulling Cas's limp body to him, Dean's control seeped away, leaving him a broken, beaten, sobbing mess once again. He laid his head against Cas's hair, closed his eyes, and wrapped his arms around Cas's broad shoulders.

Whistling, the wind skimmed over the roof, drying the streaks on their cheeks for only a moment before the paths were overtaken again.

Police sirens echoed below them—the world carried on, but they remained. Just two, once again alone in their own world.

Once again isolated from others who understood, by grief and loss.

Rocking some, Dean cried into Cas's hair, Sam's forehead leaning against the back of Cas's shoulder as he pressed his hands into the wings laid out on either side of him.

They were the only one's that had known who he really was, that had known him in any sense of the word, and so they were the only ones capable of truly mourning for him. The world would feel his loss, but not as they did.

Not as Dean did. Dean, who'd seen his shy smiles every day, and teased him over his strange tastes in food when they'd gone to the grocery store. Who'd bickered with him over the news and depended on him to sew him up when Jess had been too busy with Sam. Who'd sometimes seen him on Saturday's in the park, simply sitting before the flowers, saying and doing nothing. Harmless. Fragile. Gentle.

Just watching the bees.

Dean wished, then—more than ever—that he'd sat and watched them with him, if only to get a better understanding of why he'd loved this world, and humanity, as much as he had. Even when it was humanity that was always hurting him, using him, and that had ultimately ended his life.

Ripped it away as if it were nothing.

Cheek on his forehead, nose in his hair, Dean tried to stay in those memories—what few of them he had. He was haunted by the words exchanged between them last, and he wished, more than anything, that he could take it all back. That he could simply tell the truth. But regrets didn't change the past, he knew that, and so there was no point in dwelling on them. He couldn't bring Cas back.

Nothing could. Except, maybe—

A single breath.

As if the life had been rushed back into him, Cas's entire body swelled, Dean and Sam both watching with wide, shocked eyes. His wings lifted slightly, his chest rose, and his lips parted. He breathed deeply, as though it was the last breath he'd ever take. Or, perhaps, the first. Because his chest continued in a steady up and down, the warmth coming from between his lips splashing across Dean's face.

"C-Cas?" Dean sputtered, pulling away just enough to get a better look at him.

Gradually, his eyelids began to shift, lifting only enough for a slit of blue to be visible.

He gulped, his breath shuddering only a little as he found soft, cracked words.

"Dean?"

"Oh my god," Dean choked out, his hand coming up to push some of Cas's loose hair away from his eyes. "You're alive. You're breathing. You're alive." Dean pressed his forehead to Cas's. "I thought you were dead."

Cas's lips pulled up just a little, the smallest of smiles. "No. Just… needed to heal my lungs… is all."

"Son of a bitch," Dean murmured. "You r-really are incredible."

Cas expelled a swift breath, a laugh maybe, had he managed the energy.

"Dean," he started again, after a second.

"Yeah, I'm here," Dean assured, leaning back again.

"I want…" Cas closed his eyes. "I wanna go home."

Dean smiled, nodding through his tears.

"Okay. Let's go home."

oOo

Cas knew he'd been asleep a long time, when he finally managed to get his eyes open. The sunlight was blinding, and he was pretty certain he was sunk completely into his mattress. But he knew from the feel that it was his bed, and from the smell that it was his room.

And as he finally opened his eyes, he knew that the foggy silhouette above him was Dean.

"Finally wakin' up, huh." His voice drifted over Cas's ears like sludge, his senses gradually beginning to pick up speed. "You've been asleep for two weeks."

"Two weeks?" Cas muttered, voice like sandpaper. He groaned.

"Yeah. But you were breathing the whole time, so I figured you were alright."

Cas just groaned again, turning his head so he was facing Dean more fully. Beginning to blink, his vision gradually returned at full focus. Dean was sitting in a chair beside the bed, midday sunlight igniting the room behind him. The bright light made Cas a little dizzy, though the sensation passed once he blinked it away.

"You alright?"

"I will be," Cas assured. Pushing up with his hands, he tried to sit up, but found he didn't have the strength. Probably because he was starving. But he'd get to that eventually.

"Here, let me help you." Dean was already leaning over him, hands under his arms as he tugged him up into a sitting position. Taking a deep breath, Cas let it happen, ignoring any discomfort that resulted on his wings—which were smushed beneath him. Not his preferred way of sleeping—especially for two weeks—but he wasn't about to tell Dean that.

"Do you need anything?" Dean asked once he'd sat down again. "Medication, food, anything?"

"I could really use some food," Cas replied despite himself. There were quite a few other things he would have preferred to focus on in those moments, but his stomach was definitely pulling priority.

"Raisin bran?" Dean asked, cracking a smile.

"That's fine." Cas managed a small grin, which only seemed to stretch Dean's further. Raising his hand, it began to glow pink, Cas listening as the refrigerator door opened of it's own accord, cereal, bowl, and spoon clinking together before the sound of poured milk.

Cas cocked a single eyebrow. "Now you're just showing off."

"I do what I can," Dean assured, the pink-glowing bowl floating into the room a few moments later. It was placed lightly in Cas's hands, blue eyes no more amused despite how Dean continued to grin.

At least, until Cas focused down on the food, Dean's expression faltering as Cas lifted the first spoonful.

"Look, uh, Cas." Dean cleared his throat, Cas peering over at him as he slowly chewed. "I know that you only just woke up, so you probably don't want to talk about… stuff. Which is fine, I just-"

"I want to talk about it," Cas interrupted once he'd swallowed. "All of it."

"Oh." Dean took a deep breath, rubbing the back of his neck. "Then, I guess, let me started by apologizing. I should have… I should have told you the truth, after finding out who you really were."

"Yes, you should have," Cas agreed. He hadn't meant to sound scolding, but Dean had glanced down at his lap anyway, fiddling some with his fingers. "It was nerve-wracking, someone finding out my identity. I would have felt a lot better knowing it was you." Morganite, not Dean.

"I know. I'm sorry."

"But I know why you didn't tell me," Cas continued. "And I'm sorry for that. I didn't mean to hurt you." The rejection, and what Dean had taken for insults—rightfully so.

"You don't… really think I'm a glowing chatterbox that goes out of my way to bother you, do you?" His cheeks pinked some.

"No." Cas shook his head, expression soft. "Well, I don't think those first two, in any case. That last one is probably true."

"Maybe a little," Dean grinned again, pinching a little bit of empty air between his thumb and pointer finger. "But… why did you say those things, if that's not how you feel?"

Cas was quiet a moment, trying to find the best way to explain. "I think it was just… defensiveness, because I was frustrated by you." Dean frowned, eyebrows scrunching some. "You reminded me too much of, well, you," Cas released a bitter chuckle. "And it was like, no matter where I went, I couldn't get away from you. And I guess I pinned all the negative things about that on Morganite, and kept all the positive things for Dean."

"You wanted to get away from me?" Dean muttered.

Cas bit his bottom lip, gulping as he slowly lowered his cereal to his lap. He didn't know why his voice choked when he finally did speak, but he couldn't help it. The emotions were just so raw, and he'd never thought he'd ever be in a position to admit them.

"I… didn't think I stood a chance with you," he murmured.

"Cas." Reaching out, Dean laid a hand gently on his arm, Cas slowly finding the courage to look up at him. And when their eyes met, Dean squeezed only a little.

"I…" Cas took a shaky breath. "I might be… a little bit in love with you." Saying it was like lifting the heaviest weight he'd ever felt from his chest, only to pause in baited breath, as though it would fall back down at any second. Searching Dean's calm green eyes, he forced himself to breathe in and out, to grip his cereal bowl to stop himself from trembling.

But Dean didn't leave him to suffer for very long. Rather, leaning forward, he gave Cas only a fraction of a second to realize what he was doing before he was softly pressing his lips to Cas's. Eye closed, he set his other hand on Cas's shoulder, steadying them and waiting patiently for Cas to return his touch.

Which he did, it taking only seconds for any shock to fade away.

The kiss was short, sweet, but they both pulled back needing air. Leaning his forehead against Cas's, Dean smiled again, taking in those deep, blue eyes.

"I might be a little bit in love with you, too," he whispered, Cas finally cracking a full smile as he did. Leaning up into him again, he took Dean's lips with his own, reaching up with one hand to caress Dean's cheek.

His other remained steadying his cereal bowl.

"You need to eat," Dean said, pulling back again.

"I need this more." Pulling Dean back down to him again, they lingered once again together, connected.

And there was no objection, or rejection, from either side.


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