Their latest hunt had turned out to be verily easy. They had gotten wind of people disappearing in the woods only a few hours away from the bunker, so all three of them had driven out to investigate. It had taken them only two days to find the spirit that had turned the forest into a trap and kill it. They had saved five people and none of them had got injured or even sidelined.
It was a win they had all dearly needed.
They came home in the evening and Sam went to stash away their duffels while Dean fetched a six-pack of beer from the kitchen. Sam returned first and noticed that Castiel had not moved at all from the war room and hadn't even sat down. When one looked at him like that, he gave the impression of a distant friend, who had been invited in but still didn't know whether he was intruding or not.
Sam's heart clenched painfully as he thought of all the times he had not made it clear that the angel was always welcome, that he didn't even need an invitation. There had been a time, when Cas had been running on borrowed grace, that Sam had all but send him away because he wasn't useful in the search for Dean anymore. He had had no idea back then, what kind of nerve that must have struck with the angel, but after Lucifer, after Dean had gone to sacrifice himself and Cas had only had one purpose left in life, to carry out Dean's last request, after "you mean too much to me", Sam had a different perspective.
He made a decision then, pulled out a chair for Cas, which earned him a puzzled look from the angel, and purposely seated him in front of the place where they had carved their initials into the table weeks ago. When Castiel spotted them, his shoulder sagged a little and the corners of his mouth turned up. He appeared to be studying the letters carefully and there was fondness in his eyes and the set of his mouth. Yet the familiar air of sadness surrounding the angel didn't lift and Sam found himself wondering whether he had too readily accepted it as just a part of Castiel.
Still, the angel seemed as content as Sam had ever seen him, so he let a comfortable silence settle around them while they waited for Dean to return with their beers. It only took a pointed look from Sam for his older brother to understand his intentions and give his nod of consent.
Dean handed them each a bottle and they took a sip.
"Cas, do you happen to have your angel blade on you?" Sam asked, trying to sound casual.
"Of course", Cas answered in the precise and unflowery fashion Sam had come to expect of him.
"Uhm, so why don't you take it out a moment. I have an idea."
Cas now looked honestly bemused, but he humored Sam and with a flick of his right wrist he had his blade in hand.
"What's your idea?", he asked a little warily.
"Your initial would look nice up here, don't you think?" Sam said and pointed to a spot a little above his own and Dean's initials.
Cas' eyes shot up to Sam's, wide in surprise. For a moment, all he did was stare at Sam and the younger Winchester felt a sudden wave of respect for his older brother well up in him for holding that gaze so many times. Then the angel's eyes wandered over to Dean and he hesitated, as if waiting for him to throw in an objection.
But none came, so Cas reverently raised his blade and scratched in a "C". His blade was sharper then Sam's and Dean's knives had been and Cas was careful, so it looked a lot more precise then their letters. When Cas was finished, his hands lingered for a moment as if in trance. Sam had to strain his neck a little to look the angel in the face. The awed expression he found there warmed his heart.
He was about to clink his bottle to Cas' but then Dean reached out a hand and touched the angel's blade.
"Come on, Cas, gimme that", he said briskly when Cas didn't let go.
The angel nodded, surrendering his weapon, and Dean started to scratch something into the table. It only took two straight lines for Sam to realize what he was doing. Soon, there was a "W" next to the "C". It was jagged and far less precise then Cas' own carving, but Sam found the contrast to be beautiful.
He couldn't help but be a little proud of his brother. And sure enough, when Sam looked up he saw a blush spread over Dean's cheeks and a sheepish look on his face, as if he wasn't sure if he had overreached.
Dean never had to worry about that, though, for Cas was wearing the widest smile Sam had ever seen on his face. It spread over his features like the sun rising after a long night and shone all the brighter through the moisture that had gathered in the angel's eyes. Even Sam had to concede that the way his gums were showing and his nose was crinkling looked adorable.
"Thank you", Cas said simply.
"Yeah, you're family, Cas. Goes without saying." Dean's voice was rough, but his efforts at nonchalance were belied by the fondness in his eyes.
Sam didn't even bother to hide his grin. His brother was being obvious again and as always, didn't seem to realize. But for now, Sam could live with Dean' denial, for his older brother and his much older brother in all but blood where finally here with him and finally on the same page.
Sam felt a weight being lifted off his shoulders that he didn't know had been there as he looked down at the letters that now formed a somewhat misshaped triangle. It looked right. It looked complete.