"Cas!" Dean called out.

"Dean."

Castiel didn't look at his friend when he whispered Dean's name aloud. Instead, he took in his surroundings, making sure the Leviathan had backed off. He was successful at being one step ahead of the monsters, for the most part. When the few did catch up to him, Castiel thought he would falter, despite fighting as hard as he could, but they didn't win. He persevered at being the distraction, the bait, for as long as he had to. For as long as Dean Winchester was in this God forsaken place.

That was Castiel's only goal in here: to keep Dean alive. If the angel had been thrown in here by himself, he would have let the Leviathan tear him apart already. He didn't care what happened to him. His life wasn't important anymore. He was a fallen angel that left countless bodies in his wake. Angels, humans, all dead because of him. But death wasn't an option for Castiel in here. He had to keep the Leviathan away from Dean and if it took eternity to do it, then so be it.

Terror filled him when he turned to see his dirty and bloodied friend approaching. This was too dangerous. Dean couldn't be this close to him. Not while he's being hunted. Castiel's eyes scanned Dean from head to toe, inspecting his friend for any possible wounds. He stopped on Dean's eyes and they seemed to be shining now. Underneath the hunter's beaten and bruised face, he was elated to see Castiel.

Why is he happy to see me?

"Cas," Dean said again, softer in tone.

He hugged Castiel and for whatever reason, the angel didn't hug him back. Oh, but he wanted to. Just the feeling of Dean's body pressed against his, caused his heart to beat so fast, it was like a constant drum. Castiel weakened when Dean's strong arms wrapped around him, holding him like he was going to float away.

He quickly glanced at the other person Dean was with. The gruff looking man started accusing Castiel of ditching Dean. Castiel tried not to pay attention to the… vampire but his energy was strong that it was hard to ignore the venomous glares.

Who was he and why was he protective over Dean? That was my job. That was my duty. That was my desire.

"The way I hear it, you two hit monster land, and hot wings here took off. I figure he owes you some backstory," Benny said to Dean while looking at Castiel.

Dean shook his head. "Look, we were surrounded, okay? Some freak jumped Cas. Obviously, he kicked its ass, right?" Dean kept his eyes locked on the angel as well, waiting for the confirmation that he was right.

"I ran away," Castiel said, cringing as the words left his mouth.

Dean's eyes grew wide with disbelief. "You ran away?"

Now Castiel had to explain to Dean why he had taken off. Why he had left his closest friend in this land of monsters. The hurt in Dean's eyes made it clear to Castiel that the hunter might not understand. Dean was as tough as they come but when it came to Castiel, it seemed he had this vulnerability to him. Castiel was capable of hurting Dean, though it was something he had never wanted to do.

Causing his friend any kind of pain destroyed Castiel. In the past, the angel was so set on his missions. So determined to make everything right, but the look he had to bear witness to when Dean found out about his deceit was probably the single worst thing Castiel had ever seen. It continued to haunt him every day that he was alive. The regret ran deep in the angel for being the one responsible for the tears that Dean spilled over his reckless betrayal.

"I prayed to you, Cas, every night."

"I know."

Castiel wished his wings worked so he could just disappear.

"You know and you didn't... What the hell's wrong with you?"

Hearing Dean confirm the fact he'd been praying to him every night for nearly a year, caused that wound to open, followed by a certain anguish. This was what he had been avoiding. He knew that seeing Dean would pull at his heart in every direction possible. The guilt was inevitable but even more than that, Castiel felt unworthy of his hunter's concern.

Unworthy. That was why Castiel didn't hug him back. Castiel did not believe that he deserved Dean's love.

And he heard every single prayer. Castiel wanted to run to Dean every night that his friend's words echoed in his head. He wished to embrace him, lament over his decisions in the past and present. Instead, Castiel lied in the dark hearing Dean's heartbroken and confused cries.

Dean's prayers started out simple. They were more or less, "Cas, where are you? Cas, are you alive?" Then they became more desperate. "Cas, please come to me. Cas, I'm scared"

Then the prayers turned into something else. Dean would just fill Castiel in on his current status. He would tell him what was going on with him, how many monsters he had to kill, how he wished to find Castiel, and how much he missed him. He had felt Dean's pain. His fear. His longing. Escaping Leviathan was a tough feat but for Castiel to ignore his best friend was almost impossible to endure.

Now he stood here, reunited with Dean and he had to at least try and explain himself.

"I am an angel in a land of abominations. There have been things hunting me from the moment we arrived."

Shame was keeping Castiel from looking Dean in the eye, no matter if leaving him had been the right thing to do or not.

"Join the club!" Dean shouted at him.

Dean should know by now that Castiel had his own ways of protecting him. The fact remained, everything he had ever done since pulling him out of hell was for his green eyed friend. And Dean knew it. Dean had to know it.

"These are not just monsters, Dean. They're Leviathan. I have a price on my head, and I've been trying to stay one step ahead of them, to… to keep them away from you. That's why I ran. Just leave me, please."

Castiel noticed that Dean's face softened a little. While Castiel felt a certain joy in his heart at seeing his friend, he knew that being apart was better for the both of them.

Then Dean mentioned that he and his vampire friend were escaping, going home, and Cas was coming with them. Benny talked about an escape hatch and he wasn't even sure it was angel friendly. Castiel knew that he'd stay behind. He didn't deserve a way out or a second chance. No. He killed countless angels and humans and released the Leviathan on earth.

Even his attempts at redeeming himself to Dean by taking Sam's nightmares or assisting in killing Dick Roman, didn't clean the taint off of Castiel. So he'd remain here in this dark and dirty place that held every nasty nightmare imaginable. Castiel knew by staying it would mean he'd most likely be ripped apart by Leviathan. If Dean was gone, there was nothing stopping Castiel from accepting his fate.

And then Dean had to tell him the one thing he had always wanted to hear. "I need you."

Castiel's eyes burned, as if tears were about to spill. He wasn't sure if he could cry. There were a few times the salty water had collected and blurred his vision but he could always prevent the tears from falling. However, this time would be challenging.

Dean was looking at him like he was the single most important person in the world. He needed him. He needed him. Not for his angel powers. Not to help him escape. Not to save the world, or Sam. He needed Castiel because he loved him.

"Dean," was all he can say.

Castiel knew love. He was created for it. God wanted him to love all of humanity and in a way, he did. With Dean, though, the love was different. This wasn't just the simple acknowledgment of the miracle that is humanity. No. This was a love that ran so deep through Castiel's inner core, that it filled every fiber of his being.

He had grown to admire Dean. Castiel adored him so much so that he had wanted to emulate him. Question it all. Take no orders. Do what's right because his heart told him it was right, not because his superiors had said so.

This admiration turned into a feeling that he had never, in his entire existence, felt before. Although the love was always there, this was on a different level now. Castiel saw it in passing couples over the millennia of being an observer. He witnessed this beautiful spark in the random lovers' eyes as they'd look at each other.

He started seeing that between Dean and himself. The way Dean would glance at him and flash a sweet smile, or how Dean would watch him when Castiel pretended not to notice. There were times, too many to count, when they would keep their eyes locked, even long after the conversation had ended. Castiel would find it hard to swallow and heat would rise from his stomach to his cheeks, and Dean would become flustered. It was all pretty amazing to Castiel.

Despite this, Castiel refused to believe in the hunter's love back then. He assumed that he was just useful to Dean and someone he would eventually come to rely on. It was when Dean had begged him, pleaded for him to stop working for Crowley that Castiel understood the depths of Dean's love. Dean had reminded Castiel that he was a part of his family, which meant everything to him. Castiel wasn't just a tool or a weapon that Dean could throw around and use to his advantage. He was more.

He was someone in Dean's heart.

And now here, in God's armpit, as Dean called it, he needed Castiel again. Although this filled Castiel with a certain warmth, it was also causing him pain. Dean needed to be far away from him. Far away from the Leviathan. Castiel wasn't going to put his beloved friend in danger. So he figured this was the time to tell Dean to go, leave him, go on without him but Dean didn't budge.

"Let me bottom-line it for you. I'm not leaving here without you. Understand?"

Castiel looked on, fully aware of what was happening and what would happen when he lets Dean go home without him. He didn't have the heart to tell him that he was to remain here and suffer his penance. Either way, his hunter, his Dean, will be brokenhearted. He'll most likely beat himself up over it, find ways to take all the blame. Yet knowing all of this, Castiel's mind still didn't change. He was not going home with Dean.

"I understand"

What he understood was Dean's need to have Castiel by his side. He searched all year for his lost angel. Dean didn't let a day go by without prayer or just a simple word or two, letting him know he'd find him. Despite having a clear way to leave, Dean refused to go without him and Castiel felt a heavy burden on his shoulders. He would have to hurt Dean again and knowing that day would soon come covered Castiel in a gloomy cloud.


The trio marched through the dense forest, fighting whatever monster was dumb enough to throw themselves at them. Castiel fought hard, as he had been doing for the past year. He noticed Dean looking at him a few times, probably ensuring his safety, or sanity. The last time Dean had seen Castiel, he was broken. He had taken on Sam's burdens and it nearly killed Castiel.

From the human perspective, Castiel was bat-shit crazy, a lunatic rambling on about bees and flowers. But from Castiel's point of view, he was aware. Fully aware. He saw everything as if for the first time. What he'd known during his entire life span had only then started to make sense. He saw paths and connections, every deliberate action of nature, and how beautifully harmonic it all was. But most importantly, he saw his path with Dean.

Castiel wasn't sure what to make of it at the time. What he had seen in his chaotic mind back then were quick flashes, as if he'd been watching it from a projector. The images were of him and Dean, together. Somehow, really together. They were happy and Castiel saw himself with a huge grin that even surprised the angel. Dean's eyes sparkled in the sunlight as he squinted to take a look at Castiel.

The warmth between them was undeniably intoxicating and Castiel knew, at that moment, why he was destined to be paired up with Dean Winchester. The angel and the hunter were soul mates. Of course Castiel has no soul, he was an angel. But he was pretty much the essence of a soul. What made up Dean and what made up Castiel, had always meant to become one.

Castiel wanted to tell Dean all of this as they sat in the hospital day room not too long ago. He didn't, though. Dean was still angry and hadn't forgiven him yet for causing so much disaster, and lying to him all the while. Instead, Castiel kept this life changing and utterly beautiful image to himself. Maybe one day he'd share it with Dean.

The three stopped walking and Castiel watched as Dean took in his surroundings.

"We set up camp here," Dean said as he kicked some rocks out of the way.

It was a nice little hidden alcove, deep enough to be out of plain site.

This must be what Dean and the vampire had been doing when they needed rest, Castiel thought.

He watched the two as they sat close together and Castiel couldn't help but recognize something peculiar about the way they responded to each other. It was romantic in nature, but Castiel wasn't entirely sure as to what extent. Benny would reach for something and brush against Dean, purposely. Or Dean would rest his hand on Benny's shoulder and leave it there for longer than he would with anyone else.

He used to do that with Castiel.

"So, Wings. Must have been some kind of hell, what with all that fightin' by yourself," Benny said, catching Castiel off guard.

"It hasn't been pleasant, if that's what you think."

Castiel's cheeks burned. This vampire treated Castiel like he was some kind of asshole. He wasn't sure if he was more bothered by that or the fact that he'd been acting like Dean's overprotective boyfriend.

Castiel was aware that being jealous would serve no purpose in their current situation, but he couldn't help it. Apparently, a lot had been going on in their time apart that only now it had started filling the angel with unnecessary questions and feelings.

"Calm down, Benny," Dean said as he rose.

Castiel watched Dean open a small container filled with the water that he had brought back from the river. He caught his angel staring at him as he washed his hands. Dean smiled, slightly.

"Waste of time, I know. But I hate when my hands are dirty," Dean said, watching Castiel.

The angel looked away, as if being caught staring should shame him. It didn't take long for Dean to make his way over to Castiel and sit beside him. They didn't exchange words right away. Instead, Castiel looked around at everything else but Dean. He was afraid that eye contact would give away his true intentions.

Of not leaving.

"Cas, man. You okay?" Dean brought his knees up and rested his arms on them. He leaned in, as if to remain out of Benny's earshot.

"Yes. Thank you for asking, Dean," Castiel said, almost robotically.

He felt stupid. He had no reason to be cold to the hunter. They had been through hell and back together, and now Purgatory. But Castiel was a terrible liar and he was well aware that Dean could sniff out deceit from a thousand miles away.

"Good. I've…" Dean turned to Benny and then back at Castiel who was now hanging onto Dean's words. He drew in a breath and stared deeply into Castiel's eyes. "I've missed you, Cas."

Dean didn't shy away as he normally would after saying something like this to Castiel. Dean's typical behavior after revealing a deep or meaningful thought to him was to brush it off like it was no big deal. Not this time. Dean kept his eyes on his angel and he didn't waver, his stare burning into Castiel like a holy fire.

"Dean."

Castiel looked away. He couldn't handle this intensity between them. It was causing Castiel to have doubts about staying. Impossible thoughts lingered now in his head. What if he did leave with Dean so that they could start over and build something beautiful together again? Have it flourish into what Castiel had seen in that vision.

But he didn't deserve such a happy ending with Dean and he knew that he'd be the happiest he could imagine himself ever being. Castiel pictured how it would be. They would be fighting evil together, going on hunting jobs with Sam. He saw Dean smiling at him in the Impala as he drove them to some greasy burger joint. Then flashes of him and Dean, walking hand in hand on a beach somewhere, and Dean turning to Castiel and winking at him.

Castiel had been lost in this image for a few more seconds before Dean nudged his arm, breaking him out of his reverie.

"Dude. Give me something. I know you had to think about me at least once this last year."

Dean's words weren't filled with sadness as Cas would have expected. He was lighthearted and he knew that Castiel missed him too. He knew his angel loved him, and maybe he just wanted to hear it.

Castiel sighed. "You know I've missed you. Not a day went by that-"

Castiel frowned, regretting every moment he had to be without his dear friend. He had rehearsed many different things he would say to Dean if they ever did meet up again but none of those speeches could make their way past Castiel's lips. Dean smiled and patted his shoulder, as if to silently tell him that he didn't have to continue. That he understood.

"It gets crazy at night. Why does Purgatory have a day and a night?" Dean asked him, assuming that Castiel would know anything about this place.

"For show, I guess. Do you need to eat?"

"Nope. Eating and sleeping… not in the cards here. Which is good, 'cause I probably would've been killed in my sleep."

Dean smirked and stared at the ground as he kicked some of the dirt away with his boot. The reality of Dean and this vampire fighting their way to him, day in and day out, bloodied exhausted, distressed Castiel. He could see it now, Dean with that fury in his eyes. That determination to find him no matter what. He wondered what the vampire had thought about that.

"I'm sorry, Dean."

"For?" Dean turned to Castiel, his head tilted.

"You stayed here because of me. I can never make that up to you." Castiel's eyes dropped and he laced his fingers together in his lap.

"You make it up to me by coming home with me," Dean said, looking hard at Castiel.

"Of course, Dean," Castiel lied.

Dean's demeanor remained unchanged and that was a good sign that he wasn't onto Castiel's lie about leaving. He hoped it would stay that way until they found this supposed portal and then he'd make sure that his hunter got out okay. That was something he would die for. Not his own escape, but to make sure Dean was safe.

Castiel felt a tug on his arm and he watched as Dean laid back, using his jacket as a pillow. Castiel wasn't sure if Dean had wanted him to do the same, so he just let his body fall beside the hunter in an awkward position. Dean closed his eyes and exhaled, and this confused Castiel a little. Before they rested in this alcove, Dean had been all fury and restlessness. Now he was relaxing with a half smile, breathing steady and calm.

"You said you don't need sleep," Castiel said, sweeping away some of the rocks in his way.

"I don't. But I like to lie back, close my eyes, and think of a good memory. Or a song. Something to get my mind off of this hell hole."

Castiel had thought about what it must have been like for Dean. It didn't surprise him that he had found an ally. Someone to fight with. Dean was good, but when he had someone by his side, he was better. Castiel knew that Dean's fears turned into pure survival and he had used his lack of comfort as a weapon.

But Castiel was extra curious about what he and this vampire had together, because whatever it was, they appeared closer than Castiel had ever seen Dean get to anyone who wasn't Sam.

Dean turned his head and looked at Castiel. "Tell me a story, Cas."

Castiel glanced over at Benny who was sitting on the very edge of the alcove and out of earshot. He was keeping guard, from what Castiel gathered. Benny looked over at them, briefly, and he gave Castiel a small nod.

Did Dean ask Benny to do this so he could have some time alone with me? Castiel thought.

It seemed pretty obvious to Castiel now. Dean wanted to have a moment alone with his friend. His angel. After being apart for nearly a year and not knowing that Castiel was even still alive, it was to be expected. Dean needed assurance or reassurance that his angel was there with him now. Castiel would give his friend what he needed and although he didn't want to admit it, he needed it too.

"What would you like to hear, Dean?" Castiel sat up, removing his trench coat and placing it behind his head, mimicking Dean. This made Dean smile.

"Tell me about the time you rescued me from hell."

Castiel almost gasped. He wanted to know that? Of all things?

"We wiped your mind for a reason" Castiel said, eyebrows raised.

He didn't want to relive this memory. As heroic as it was, there were certain aspects of it that he found hard to share. Parts of that feat were never talked about again between himself and the garrison.

"Right, so being in hell, hung up on meat hooks, or-or torturing people was better?"

Dean turned his head again to face Castiel. His expression was still light and cheerful, reminding Castiel of days they would sit around and talk in a motel room, or outside of a fill up joint. Their discussions were usually about nothing in particular, just wasting the time as Sam went in and bought them snacks. Castiel's heart grew heavy when he realized that Dean probably hadn't smiled all year.

"Well, that isn't… there were things… Dean. I don't know if I can."

"Humor me, Cas. Come on." Dean sighed. "I need to know that there was once a time I was seen as important."

"Wh-what? Dean. You're still very important, how can you…?"

Castiel's nostrils flared and he found it hard to swallow. Was this his fault? Did he make Dean feel insignificant because of all that had been going on these last couple of years?.

"You thought you were pulling me out of hell because God wanted me to stop the seals… or whatever. Mission failure." Dean smirked.

Oh Dean was so wrong. How could Castiel have let Dean believe this? Sure, when he first appeared to Dean in Jimmy's vessel, he told him that God had work for him. Told him that he was saved because of the job at hand.

But the truth was, Castiel took on this task because of the awesome creature that this man was and would become. Castiel never told Dean that. He never told him that, yes he was following heaven's orders, but what had happened to Castiel and Dean in hell would re-write everything. Dean was always important to him, not just God.

So he would tell him. Castiel owed Dean that.

"We laid siege, countless angels against mountains of demons. We were all looking for you. The righteous man." Castiel smiled at Dean who hung onto his every word. Dean rolled his eyes at that last bit.

"But it was I who'd found you," Castiel continued. "I saw you-" Castiel looked away, feeling the pain of the memory. Dean nudged him to continue. "There was a woman, you were… Dean I can't."

Dean placed his hand on Castiel's arm and smiled. "It's okay. I know what I did. Go on."

Castiel sighed, never wanting to see Dean like that ever again. Just reliving it in his mind was making his stomach turn. "You were torturing her and I stepped up behind you. You turned to me with a strange looking blade in your hand but you didn't use it on me. You just stared."

"What? I stared? Was I in a trance?" Dean was smiling but Castiel could tell a hint of panic in him. He would have to choose his words wisely.

"No, it was just a moment when our eyes met and... Dean, hell was very traumatic for you, are you sure you want to hear about this?"

Dean rolled his eyes. Castiel loved watching his friend's expressions. He had about a million different ones. This one, the "dammit Cas, just come on" was one of Castiel's favorites and probably the one he'd seen the most of - other than look of love which he only started to notice recently. Or rather, only started to understand.

"So, we-we locked eyes, and then what?" asked Dean.

Castiel exhaled as he repeated Dean's, "So…" He smiled slightly. "You let me touch you. And I did. I put you into a deep sleep and held you tight as I fought to raise us out of the pit. It was bloody. Many angels died. I almost lost you a hundred times. I almost died a hundred more."

"Gripped me tight and..." Dean chuckled. "Well, I let you touch me? I must have not been that far gone."

Castiel cringed. Dean was that far gone. He was so damaged that his soul was shredded into a million pieces. Dean's bright green eyes back then were dark and stormy and Castiel remembered the look of pure rage in him. Castiel had briefly doubted that raising him would be a good idea, because he wasn't even sure what kind of man he would be bringing to the surface.

But there was something about Dean's soul that acted as a magnet. Castiel began to have feelings that he had never felt before. Something was happening to him and he didn't understand any of it back then.

"You were… in pretty bad shape, Dean. I put your soul back together, best I could."

"You did? Like how?" Dean's eyes widened and he sat up, leaning on his elbow.

This was the tricky part. Dean had no idea that the special bond they shared had occurred before the fated day at the barn.

"Something us angels do. We repair souls that are still… repairable. It's nothing really special, other than using our grace on you. Little by little."

"Our grace. More than one angel healed me?"

Castiel smiled. "No, just me."

"Uh, how long did it take?" Dean was fixed on Castiel.

"Not long. A week, maybe, according to your human time frame."

"Was I awake? Did I see you?"

Dean had that little boy wonder on his face, his green eyes wide and glistening. It was adorable enough for Castiel to soften to it. Dean was a man in his thirties but he could appear so young and innocent sometimes. Castiel often chalked it up to Dean's stolen childhood and how that child with a million questions peeked out every now and then.

"Yes."

Castiel didn't feel the need to elaborate. Dean had seen him in his full glory, or a version of it anyway, and he wasn't sure how to tell Dean this. That short time in heaven with the righteous man was forever living in Castiel's mind but he had made a decision not tell Dean about it. Not because Dean didn't deserve to know, but that it would have been a lot to take in.

But with Dean giving him those puppy dog eyes and without even having to hear Dean beg him for the details, Castiel proceeded.

"You saw a version of my true form, which was why I wrongly assumed you would have been able to see and hear me after your resurrection."

Castiel looked away as a heaviness came over him. The memory of that time was a little difficult to bear. It was a million miles away from him now.

"I- oh wow. Was I scared?"

"Not at all."

"Was I a dick?" Dean grinned and it made Castiel laugh a little.

"No, you were appreciative and-" Castiel paused and remembered that smiling Dean up in heaven with him. He looked at Castiel like he was precious, up there. Castiel was already taken by the hunter at that point. "You and I grew close in that time."

Dean inhaled and looked up briefly and then returned to Castiel's blue eyes. "Maybe a part of me remembers." Dean smiled at the angel.

Castiel had often wondered that too. There were times Dean would be looking at him, his eyes piercing into him as if there was something he was remembering. Something. Maybe not a full blown memory, but a feeling. Something inside of him maybe, just maybe, remembered how it had felt to be with Castiel in heaven.

"I wish I could see you now." Dean turned his head back to the sky and from what Castiel could tell, his eyes were watery.

"Sorry Dean. You're stuck with me like this for now."

Dean chuckled and returned his focus onto the angel. "I like your messy hair and scruff." Dean smiled wide as he lightly brushed his fingers across Castiel's beard. "It would be cool though, ya know, to get those memories back."

Castiel returned his friend's smile. "If I do find a way, I'll return it to you."

That was all Castiel could say. He had always been apprehensive at giving Dean the memory of heaven. He'd been scared, actually. He'd assumed Dean would not know exactly how to process it. He'd either be freaked out about being that close and intimate with Castiel or he'd be too attached to the angel, when all Castiel felt like he did was hurt Dean.

"Yeah, okay," Dean sighed. "I need something good to look forward to. This place, it's-it's draining me. The fighting is endless. I like the purity of it but… I need to get out. Go home." He turned to Castiel and softened. "With you, of course."

"Of course," Castiel said with sadness because he was sad. All of this was depressing. He wished they had more time together before landing in here. He wished he didn't lose himself in the 'crazy' all those months prior. Now that they were here, the pain only increased.

Yet Dean didn't appear as broken as Castiel imagined he'd be. There was something about the word Dean chose to describe this place that made Castiel curious. "What do you mean, 'the purity' of it?"

"The killing. It's like, my job but it's only my job. Nothing else. Well, except-" Dean paused and Castiel noticed his face flush.

Dean continued, "I can feel how I want… without the guilt or insecurities."

He looked away.

Castiel understood. Dean felt pure in his gut here. He could kill without consequence but he also could love. He could love without feeling like he was going to lose something. Dean was always so worried back in their world about losing Sam, or him. Worried about death and pain. Here, Dean can just be himself and let his heart do what it was made to do.

"You and Benny… are you-" Castiel wasn't even sure what he was asking or that he even wanted an answer.

"He's good people, for a vampire." Dean raised his eyebrows and smiled. "He's been by my side since the jump. He was helping me get to you."

"He doesn't like me."

Castiel popped his head up to see if Benny was still keeping guard. He was there and not paying any attention to Castiel and Dean. He was sure that if he and Benny had met under different circumstances, he would probably have been a lot more confrontational.

"He doesn't know you," Dean said, kicking Castiel delicately. "Not like I know you."

They shared a smile and for a few moments, the angel and hunter's eyes locked. Normally the both of them would be nervously coughing, or looking away, trying to find a distraction to the magnetic pull of their stare.

Instead, it was okay. It was comfortable. Castiel didn't get to the bottom of the relationship between the hunter and the vampire but he understood that here, he didn't have to feel scared of how he felt about Dean. He could just let it flow and he was aware that Dean was feeling the same way.

Castiel lost himself in Dean's emerald eyes, that seemed to be even more green next to the dirt and grime that covered part of his face. Dean was filthy. He had never seen him so disheveled. Even while fighting monsters back home, Dean had always found time to shower and change his clothes. Castiel had to admit that witnessing Dean in this state wasn't as terrible as it should have been. Dean did look pure. He was a killing machine in this land, merciless and determined.

Castiel was covered in Purgatory's slime as well. His trench coat was a disaster and his white hospital uniform was almost entirely black. Castiel eyed them both and chuckled.

"We're a mess."

Dean lifted his head enough so that he could look down at himself. "Tell me about it," he said and then he gave Castiel a once over.

Dean reached out and started to pick dirt and pieces of grass out of Castiel's hair. Castiel froze, unsure of how to react to such an intimate gesture. Dean was close, so close, and he could feel the hunter's breath against his cheek. Castiel's insides ignited. He remembered Dean and his personal space issues but that didn't seem to matter anymore. In fact, it hadn't mattered for a couple of years.

Castiel's eyes landed on Dean's lips and he imagined how warm they probably were. He'd be lying if he said this was the first time he thought about kissing Dean. He had thought about, fantasized about it many times over the years, always leaving him with the same burning questions; Would Dean push me away? Would he yell at me, telling me that I crossed the line?

Castiel didn't want to find out. This moment was acceptable to him and a thousand times more intimate than anything they had shared up above.

When Dean was finished grooming Castiel, he flashed a side smile at the angel and returned to his former position of staring up at the sky. Castiel did the same, exhaling as he did so. Being this close to Dean was intoxicating and almost too much to handle. The only other time they were this close was when Castiel was healing his soul up in heaven. Even then, Castiel didn't have the feelings he had now. Maybe it was because he'd been in a human vessel for so long, or that he was around Dean for as many years as he had been, but he felt dizzy.

Castiel had to come back down to reality and focus on what was really happening and that was Dean, this vampire, and himself in the worst place imaginable.

"Why don't you tell me a story of your own. Something from childhood? Something happy," Castiel asked him in an attempt to shake off the desire to kiss him.

"Hmm. Lemme think on that." Dean's finger tapped his own mouth and this brought Castiel's attention back to his friend's lips.

Dammit.

"One Halloween, while my dad was hunting a ghoul in Nebraska, Sam and I sneaked out, went trick or treating. We knew that kids with costumes got more candy so we," Dean chuckled, "we cut holes in the sheets and paraded around as ghosts."

"And then we got so sick from eating candy, we couldn't get out of bed. Dad thought we just had a flu," he added.

Dean laughed at his memory and then his smiled faded as he continued, "He would have killed us if he knew we left the motel."

Castiel smiled at his friend and rested his hand on his shoulder. "It seems like a good memory, regardless."

Dean looked at Castiel. "Yeah and the next day, Sammy and I were still really sick but Dad had to drive like ten hours to the next job and that whole time in the car, I wanted to puke."

Castiel chuckled, himself. "That sounds terrible."

Dean turned on his side and lightly brushed his fingers across Castiel's arm. "Yeah it was terrible but happy at the same time. It was a night that Sam and I didn't have to worry about demons or monsters - just too much candy and an upset belly."

Dean grinned and continued, "And oh, what was that song Dad played in the car?" Dean asked himself while looking upwards. "It was the Beach Boys, that's it." Dean rested on his back again and began to sing.

"I may not always love you. But long as there are stars above you,

You never need to doubt it. I'll make you so sure about it.

God only knows what I'd be without you..."

Dean laughed again and Castiel watched him with a furrowed brow. "This song contradicts itself."

"Yeah, that's the cool part about it." Dean smiled. "I used to cringe when I heard it, because it reminded me of being sick but now… now it reminds me of a simpler time."

"I see," Castiel said.

Dean had many good memories of him and Sam. Castiel couldn't imagine what it must have been like for the two of them growing up the way that they had. Castiel didn't know much about human families but from his lifetime of observation, it was clear that Dean and Sam had the short end of the stick.

"Do you think Sam is okay?" Castiel had been putting off this question, knowing how emotional Dean would get when it came to his brother, but after hearing this nice story, Castiel figured it was okay to ask.

"He's probably going nuts looking for me. For us. Not knowing where we are. Can you… hear his prayers?"

"No."

"But you heard mine." Dean looked down as if that reality hurt him.

Castiel sighed. "Probably because we're in here together." He turned to his side and his stomach did a small flip when he saw Dean doing the same.

Dean frowned but then shook his head. "I'm sure he's fine. Just worried sick"

The silence took over again as they kept their eyes on one another. Castiel wasn't sure what Dean was telling him with those sparkling green gems but it started to make the angel feel warm. His body tingled, like something invisible was tickling him all over. He didn't know what compelled him to lightly brush Dean's cheek with his fingers but Dean's reaction to it was quite pleasant.

Dean placed his hand on top of Castiel's and squeezed. Castiel felt his heart skip a beat and he knew that his face was red. Dean Winchester was holding his hand. He could feel Dean's energy flow through him like a warm current.

Every time they touched, Castiel was hit with the most amazing feeling. It was love and power and… heaven and here it was again, making Castiel forget how to breathe.

"I can't do it without you," Dean said, his voice breaking.

Castiel wasn't sure what 'it' was but he thought best not to ask. It could mean escaping Purgatory. It could mean finding Sam. It could mean just dealing with the day to day. Whatever it was, Castiel knew that the inevitable heartbreak would come. Dean would have to do it without him.

If Castiel could make this world better for Dean, he would. He would extinguish all the monsters and hate and pain so that Dean could be at peace. So that he could be on the beach that Castiel saw in his vision and so full of life. He would mend this dirty and damaged man into a shining beacon of love.

That wasn't reality, though. Castiel seemed to only cause problems for the hunter. He broke his heart and made things impossibly difficult. It saddened the angel that everything he wished he could fix, was most likely too broken to mend.

"Cas?" Dean furrowed his brow. He lowered their hands to his side, keeping hold of Castiel's. Castiel snapped back into reality.

"Sorry, I was thinking of-"

"Simpler times?" Dean interrupted.

"Something like that."

His mouth twitched into a smile. Castiel squeezed back. It was amazing how they could just lie here, with no care about monsters or Leviathan. Right now belonged to them. Even Benny was out of sight and had obviously been warned not to disturb them.

And Dean was holding his hand. Holding. His. Hand.

Then something jolted Castiel out of his calmed state. It was Dean and he was crying. Castiel wasn't sure what was making his hunter weep but he'd seen enough of human interactions to know that he should comfort him. The angel pulled Dean into his arms and placed his hand on the back of his head. He won't be stiff and cold as he was when Dean hugged him before. No. He'd embrace his friend and surround him with his love.

Castiel tried to remain calm, despite everything inside of him unraveling like a ribbon. He needed to soothe Dean, make him feel better, chase away his sadness. He had seen Dean scared, depressed, even cry before but now, he was determined to do all he could to make him feel better, because now Dean would let him.

"Dean, what is it?"

Dean pulled away, his sobbing slowing down. His eyes were red and watery as he tried to smile, causing Castiel to feel a sharp pain in his chest. "Just wishing things could be, you know, simpler or whatever."

"Dean," the angel said with a sad tone.

Dean pushed his body off of Castiel's and shook his head. "S-sorry man. I didn't mean to-"

Castiel smirked. "Dean. You're being human."

Dean ran his hand down his face, removing any trace of tears. "Yeah yeah. Sometimes I just lose it." Dean forced a smile. "Sometimes it just gets to be too much."

Castiel wasn't sure what to say to his sad friend who had taken on the world and had been burdened with saving it, every day. Dean and Sam never had a break. They never gave up fighting and those boys had really put the angels to shame.

"It's okay to feel."

Dean clicked his tongue. "Yeah, right. I wish I could be an angel sometimes and be numb."

Castiel turned away. He noticed Dean try to meet his eyes.

"I mean-"

"It's okay, Dean. We are supposed to be… indifferent. On the other hand, God wanted us to love, so you tell me, does that make any sense?"

"I guess not." Dean chuckled.

"And I'm not numb. I do feel. It's just... inconvenient to display, sometimes. We angels, we… feel as humans feel, we just have a different way of showing it." Castiel defended himself, unsure as to why he needed to. He knew Dean didn't mean anything by it.

Dean shifted. "I didn't mean it. I know you have a ton more heart than your dick brothers and sisters." Dean smiled at the angel.

"Thanks," Castiel said with a hint of sarcasm.

Then silence again. This time, their bodies were closer, touching, and fingers still intertwined. Castiel didn't care that their palms were sweaty, it just fascinated him to be able to have this moment with Dean. A moment he had longed for and yet had never seen coming. Castiel realized that this was probably the last time he'd get to be this close to Dean. With his eyes fixated on him he slid even closer to the hunter. Dean inhaled, welcoming the warmth.

His insides burned when he glanced at Dean's lips again. They were slightly parted and Castiel wanted to kiss them, so badly. An electric shock went through him when Dean squeezed his hand again. Their eyes met and Castiel knew it was time. His heart raced like it was ready to jump out of his chest as he brought his face closer.

This is probably my last chance, my only chance to kiss Dean Winchester.

He pressed his lips to Dean's and gave him a very soft and chaste kiss.

There. He did it.

Castiel sighed with relief. But as simple and sweet as that kiss was, Castiel felt like he was flying. He knew his wings didn't work there but he had to make sure he didn't float away by pressing his body to the ground. The touching alone was intense, but this... this was like witnessing a supernova and being pulled into space.

Dean jerked his head back a bit and smirked. He didn't say anything at first but he wore a silent look of approval. "That was-" Dean blushed and his eyes fixated on Castiel's lips.

Castiel smiled and gave Dean's hand a slight squeeze again. "I've been wanting to do that for a long time."

Dean grinned. "Oh yeah?" His eyes widened.

If this was the last time they would spend together, he wasn't going to hold back how he felt. Castiel placed his hand on Dean's cheek. "I love you, Dean."

Dean closed his eyes and leaned in so that their foreheads touched. Castiel could see a hint of a smile on Dean and that filled the angel with so much joy, he felt like he could burst from it. This was such a special point in time, and even though it took being in a place like this in order for to happen, he was just glad it did.

Castiel loved Dean and always had, since he first laid eyes on him. Since that first touch in hell. Since he saw those steely green eyes looking back at him, even as destroyed as he was. The words of Uriel and other angels warning him of his feelings for Dean echoed in his head.

"You're getting too close, Castiel. It's not safe to feel this strongly toward the human in your charge."

And Castiel didn't stop. It felt good to be around Dean while he ate, slept, or even just stared at the sky. Castiel loved watching Dean behind the wheel of the impala, singing along to his favorite rock songs, sometimes messing up the lyrics and flashing that "oops" smile at him.

Then there was the time that Dean took him to that brothel. For Castiel, that was the most awkward experience ever, but for Dean, he was having the time of his life and in knowing that, it had turned into one of the most memorable moments between the angel and the hunter. Sure, Castiel had no intention of losing his virginity to the prostitute, but it still amused him to watch Dean's determination in not letting his friend die without knowing a woman's touch.

But Castiel didn't want a woman's touch. Of course he didn't understand it back then. Those were the confusing times when Castiel was cut off from heaven and in search of his father who didn't want to be found. The parallels to his life and Dean's became much more apparent as that year went on.

Dean's heavy breathing startled Castiel. He glanced at the hunter's face and saw that he had fallen asleep. Castiel was sure Dean said he didn't need to sleep in this place, but here he was, in such a deep slumber, that Castiel thought he'd start snoring.

"He hasn't slept at all 'til now," Benny said from behind them. Castiel lifted his head at the vampire who stood over them, holding his large weapon.

Castiel shifted. "Is he okay?"

"Yeah, chief, now that you're here. Let him sleep, God knows he needs it."

Castiel nodded but the confusion was nagging at him enough to continue this conversation. "I thought he didn't need sleep in here."

Benny knelt down and smirked at the angel. "He don't. But here he is, catchin' z's in his angel's arms."

Benny flashed a pirate smile before walking away.

Castiel bent his head so that it touched Dean's and he adjusted his arms so that Dean was resting, entirely enveloped. Castiel let his wings spread out, even though he wouldn't be able to see them, and he wrapped them around Dean, warming him.

He wondered if Dean was dreaming and if so, what about? He hoped it was something pleasant. Maybe the Halloween night with Sam or another good memory. His gazed at the sky and a chill ran through him as he eyed the dark void. Then he saw something amazing. A sparkle. It was faint and so far away but there, in the black sky of Purgatory, was a twinkling star.

But long as there are stars above you…


Dean awoke hours later. "Wha?" Dean said, as he sat up, looking around and then down at his angel.

Castiel sat up. "You fell asleep."

Dean shook his head and rose to his feet. Something about his behavior left Castiel in bewilderment. The hunter seemed edgy, panicked. He watched as Dean walked over to Benny and say something to him. Castiel couldn't hear the conversation but Benny was nodding and Dean had his arms stretched out in his usual argumentative stance. Then Dean placed a hand on the vampire's shoulder and they shared a smile.

Castiel was very curious as to what they were discussing but just like that, it was over and Dean was coming back over to him. Castiel stood and eyed Dean and the vampire, who remained a few feet away with a painful expression on his face. Castiel couldn't tell if it was a physical or an emotional pain coming from the vampire.

"We gotta move, Cas." Dean reached for Castiel's arm. "I can't believe we've been monster free for this long."

Castiel nodded and the trio went on their way through the muck and horror of Purgatory. It was difficult at first for Castiel to go from having the best night of his life, to being waist deep in the filth of this place again. Monsters finally came out and the fighting was relentless. It was treacherous and difficult but Castiel had to admit that fighting with two extra people made it much easier. Especially when those two people were a hunter and vampire.

The search for the portal seemed to be taking forever, Castiel's skepticism that it even existed was apparent to Dean and Benny. He had made comments here and there that if this portal was real, chances Castiel could go through it wasn't a guarantee. He could tell Dean was growing wary as well.

They continued down the bloody path and it took everything they had to survive, the bickering between the men wasn't helping matters as the monster activity increased, but Dean kept on, as he was so insistent to get them out.

"It's here, they promised," Benny said.

Dean stopped in his tracks. "Oh, they? Well that's comforting."

Castiel trekked behind them. "Well, even if it does exist-"

"Broken record, Cas," Benny said while taking the lead.

Castiel stopped. Though, he knew he had no intention of going through that portal, he also didn't want Dean to be disappointed if said portal didn't even work.

"I'm just saying," Castiel placed a hand on the hunter's shoulder. Dean stopped and looked at his angel with confusion in his eyes. Castiel continued, "If it doesn't work, thank you for everything."

"Save the hallmark. Okay? It's gonna work. Nobody gets left behind," Dean said, roughly.

Dean walked on, not looking back at him. Castiel followed, reluctantly. He wanted to brace himself for the inevitable moment he knew would hurt Dean. Castiel wished he could get rid of his guilt for everything he had done in the last two years. He wished that his penance didn't involve him staying behind in this awful place. But this was how it was and how it would have to be. Dean would someday understand. He'd have to.

The three stopped to catch their breath. Benny began looking around, his brow furrowed and it was almost like he was sniffing the air as a dog would. Castiel sighed, feeling hopeless about this escape hatch. He had hoped, prayed it was real. He wanted Dean to leave, to be free, but his growing doubt overtook him.

"Maybe you were lied to," Castiel said to Benny.

Benny looked down at the angel and shook his head. "I lie. I don't' get lied to. Aren't you guys all about faith?"

"Not particularly," Castiel said, squinting at the sun that really shouldn't exist there at all.

They watched a leaf which seemed to be borne upwards by an air current. At the top of a cliff far above them, a patch of blue light shimmered and changed shape. Castiel's eyes widened.

So this vampire was right all along.

He was filled with mixed feelings about it, though. He wanted Dean free, but the pain of hurting his friend was unbearable for Castiel. The pain of never seeing Dean again was even worse.

"Oh ye of frigging little faith," Benny joked.

Castiel watched as Benny and Dean performed their ritual so that Dean could carry Benny through the portal. Castiel's stomach was in knots. The time was here and he had to be as convincing as possible so that Dean would fight hard to leave. They climbed and trekked up the steep hill and then The Leviathan showed up right as they reached the top. More fighting ensued as they finally made it.

The portal tear above them glowed a brilliant blue and white. After disposing of the Leviathan, Dean slipped one leg inside it. Castiel squinted at it as Dean held his hand out for him to grab. "I got you, hold on," Dean shouted to the angel.

Castiel couldn't pretend anymore. Holding his friend's hand again tore a hole in Castiel's heart. His mind flashed to their night under -what was supposed to be- a starless sky, and that one celestial twinkle that seemed to be there just for them. And the kiss, Dean's smile, lying close, hand in hand. The scent of Dean was still all over him, the sweet musky smell mixed with soil.

His hunter was inside the bright light now and all he could do was say his name. Dean looked at him, as if he was growing impatient but…

Castiel let go of Dean's hand.

"Dean. Go," Castiel yelled and all of the sound around him seemed to disappear.

The shock on Dean's face before the portal closed filled Castiel with the worst possible ache he's ever felt. He was relieved, yes, his friend made it out and he was going to be okay. He would find Sam and maybe even spend more time with this vampire, who seemed to care a lot about the hunter. But that look... Dean's eyes...

Dean was free and Castiel fell to his knees.

This hurt too much. Did he make a mistake? Should he have gone through? No. Castiel had no right being up there. Not after what he'd done.

Castiel tried to stand but his knees buckled. His chest felt like it was collapsing in on itself and his eyes burned like someone was throwing embers into them. He felt a warm liquid trail down his cheek and he wiped it, curiously looking at his hand to see if it was blood.

Tears.

Castiel had never cried before and now he couldn't seem to stop it. The tears streamed down his cheeks and he buried his face in his hands. Every single moment he had spent with Dean flooded his mind and shattered his heart into a million pieces.

"I'm sorry Dean. I'm so so sorry." Castiel whispered in between sobs. "Please remember that I love you."

You never need to doubt it. I'll make you so sure about it...


Six weeks later

Dean stood in the dark motel room. The room lit up as the lightning flashed outside and he winced at the sound of the impending crash of thunder. He'd been seeing his angel lately, and it wasn't only in his nightmares. It was while Dean was awake. The sight gave Dean a sharp pain in his heart. He kept reliving that last moment over and over again in his head.

He had him. He had him and lost him just like that.

"I feel like I'm seeing him."

Sam approached his older brother who was staring out the window. "That's... not possible. I mean, you said it yourself. You made it out and he didn't, right?"

"I tried so damn hard to get us the hell out of there."

Dean hadn't been the same. Purgatory changed him, alright. He was so insistent on leaving but the purity, the raw nature that took over in there was overwhelming. And when he found Cas, he was so fucking happy, and only then he could think about leaving, now that he had his angel with him.

Visions of Castiel swam around in his head. He saw him by the river, then his smile as they lied in the alcove. Dean felt that kiss. Oh, that kiss that set Dean's heart on fire. He could still feel Cas' warm lips on his and the scent of Castiel's skin still filled his nose. It drove Dean crazy. It had always driven him crazy.

Then they were at the portal, hand in hand, and Dean watched Cas slip away.

He turned from Sam and fought back the tears from falling like he'd been doing for weeks now. Every time he saw Castiel in his head, he wanted to break down and sob like a baby. He failed him. He didn't get him out. Castiel slipped out of his grip and was left there to die. Dean knew, for certain, that there was no way Castiel could have survived there on his own for much longer.

"I know you did," Sam said, obviously trying to make Dean feel better about leaving his angel in behind.

"I just don't understand why he didn't try harder."

A single tear fell from his eye but he quickly wiped it away, not wanting Sam to see him get this emotional. It wouldn't have mattered, but Dean felt like the more he held it in, the better he'd be able to deal with the utter loss that was tearing him apart.

The next day, Dean was washing up in the bathroom while Sam investigated the disappearance of people that was occurring all over the world. Dean heard the word Rome and he thought that he could do Rome, if only he'd get over his fear of flying. He splashed water on his face and looked up. There in the mirror, staring back at him, was Castiel. Dirty and scruffy, just as Dean had left him. Here was his angel who he fought so hard to find in Purgatory. His angel that told him he loved him.

Dean turned, wide eyed and speechless. His lower lip quivered and he wasn't sure if this was real or not. But he could smell Cas. He could hear him breathing. Cas was here. He was here and Dean had to try and swallow the lump in his throat before it choked him.

"Hello Dean," Castiel said, with a hint of apprehension as if Dean was angry at him.

But Dean wasn't angry. No. He was elated, shocked, but on the verge of tears. He wanted to smile but his face wouldn't allow it. All he could do is utter Cas' name and bring him into a hug. Castiel hugged him back tightly and Dean didn't ever want him to let go.

How. HOW is he here?

This was a second chance and even though Dean had no idea how Cas got out, it had to mean something. Dean didn't have to endure another day without him. Dean wasn't the same when Cas was gone. He needed him. He had always needed him. He loved him.

God only knows what I'd be without you.

It had occurred to Dean that he had only seconds alone with Cas before Sam heard what was going on. Dean was shaking when he buried his face in Cas' neck and whispered "I love you, too" so low that he was sure Cas' couldn't hear it and that was okay. Cas knew. He knew.