Title: Saving Grace

Author: MissAnnThropic

Spoilers: Season 6 Supernatural, up through "Clap Your Hands if You Believe"

LiveJournal: miss_annthropic(dot)livejournal(dot)com

Summary: With everything that was going wrong in Dean's life, it took him a while to realize that the person close to him that really needed the most help was Castiel.

Disclaimer: None of it's mine. I'm just a sad little fangirl that spends her days writing fanfic and watching DVDs of her favorite shows :(

Author's Note: I haven't given up the hopes of finishing some of the WIPs posted in the We All Need Endings post, but the Muse gave me a scornful look when I sat down to write on one of them and set furiously to this project instead. I am a slave to my Muse, I can only do her bidding! (For those of you curious, the current two front-runners for that competition are Signs and the sequel to Faire Skye). On the other hand, who can turn their nose up at some Dean/Castiel? :D

Also, one more note… for whatever reason, there was quite a bit of foul language in this fic, so be warned if your eyes are easily offended by cursing of the non-magic variety.

Dean knows he can be a pretty crappy friend. And when his family is in crisis, he's a downright shitty friend, because Dean gets hung up on family in the worst way. Sam's missing his soul, and Dean's ready to gnaw through the roof of the Impala in his frustration and worry. It's not just the lack of a soul, either, but it's the Sam-thing that parades itself as Sam Winchester in his place. It might have all the birthmarks and memories, but that is not Dean's brother, and working alongside whatever Sam is has taken Dean to the ragged edge.

Plus there's a slew of creepy cousins (some of them apparently demons, and doesn't that just sound about right in the Winchester world) and a back-from-the-dead grandpa who's actually kind of douche that are fit to give Dean ulcers. Sam's no help there.

Then there's Lisa and Ben, whom Dean had started to think of as his family. Of course, now Lisa's given him the boot, and rightly so (Dean hadn't even told Lisa how desperately he'd wanted to drink her blood that night, or worse… Ben's), so Dean felt that epic failure in all its gut-wrenching torment. Again, Sam's no help there.

Bobby's still a rock, but during the debacle of getting him back his soul, the old hunter made it perfectly clear to Dean (and Sam, too, not that Sam cared) that while the Winchester boys were important to him, they weren't the most important creatures in the universe and Bobby did actually have a life of his own. Dean got that, but the rebuke for taking his worries to Bobby was biting enough that Dean pulled away and gave Bobby some breathing room, free of Winchester angst.

Short of it is that Dean feels alone and helpless, and over the last long years he had come to trust that he could turn to one person outside family. Castiel. So when Castiel was suddenly proving to be most unhelpful, instead of trying to understand why Cas suddenly had better places to be than slogging through the mess of Dean's life alongside him, Dean got cranky. In some part of his warped brain, he was angry. Mad at Castiel for building something with Dean, getting Dean to let down his guard and believe he could count on him, only to stop being there whenever Dean needed him. Dean resented Castiel making Dean need him in the first place. Then he resented Castiel not being there.

It was screwed up and Dean pretty much figured as much, but it didn't stop him from grinding his teeth every time he called out for Castiel and the angel didn't show. The times he did show, Castiel had excuses about a civil war in Heaven, but Dean could be childish when it came to what he considered being abandoned… he didn't listen and didn't care, because Castiel was leaving him.

Like a wounded animal, when Dean felt cornered and scared, he fought back. Sam didn't care about Dean's yelling, and Castiel clearly cared, but not enough.

He was so wrapped up in his own issues that he didn't pay too much attention to Castiel. Besides to bitch at him for not being more involved in Dean's problems.

A good friend would have noticed way before Dean did that Castiel was having a rough time.

The first time he realized just how bad things were for Castiel it took him by surprise, because before that moment he honestly hadn't been looking.

Sam had left for the night… after coming clean with his confession about not sleeping, he was impossible to keep in a motel room overnight. Dean tried fighting about it, but it came down to the fact Dean had to sleep, and when he did, Sam would do whatever the hell he pleased. Sam's point was that the night need not be wasted when he didn't need rest.

With his brother out doing god knew what without a conscience to guide him, Dean was alone in the motel room feeling particularly morose when the familiar sound of disturbed air made him turn his head.

Castiel was standing in the room.

"Cas…" Dean growled, "whatever it is, I'm really not in the mood right now. Find someone else to do your errands."

When Cas didn't answer, Dean looked up, ready to give Castiel another lecture about forgetting who his friends were down in the mud. The words died on his lips and he frowned when he set eyes on the angel. Castiel looked tired. The trademark trench coat he wore looked particularly rumpled, his hair more disheveled than usual, and his face looked drawn and his eyes shadowed. He stood there, arms limp at his sides, and he looked beat. Since getting his upgrade, Dean would think Castiel couldn't get tired.

"Cas?" Dean asked with a hint of concern.

Castiel blinked slowly and looked up at Dean. He looked like someone who'd pulled two all-nighters in a row. That Dean knew something about, but why in the hell would Cas?

"Dude… you look like shit. What happened?"

"I've… been at war."

It was nothing Dean hadn't heard lately already, but this was the first time it looked like Castiel was serious about it.

Without asking for an invitation, Castiel practically shuffled over to Dean's bed and sat down next to him, dropping heavily on to the end of the bed so close to Dean that their shoulders touched.

It felt like the way they used to be, before stopping the end of the world, and it made Dean's stomach knot. "You okay?"

Castiel's shoulders slumped and he looked down at his hands motionless in his lap. "Just tired."

"Did something go wrong?" Dean asked in dread. When something went wrong in Castiel's neck of the woods, it usually meant the shit hitting the fan for the whole damn forest.

"We… there was a battle. We won," Castiel sighed thinly, "but barely."

Dean nodded silently, thinking of what he could possibly say, then he asked, "What are you doing here?"

For a moment, Castiel didn't answer. The angel didn't move a muscle, as if the effort would be too taxing. Just seeing Castiel so drained worried Dean, because he'd seen the crap that tough little dude could take without batting an eyelash.

When Castiel finally looked up at Dean, the exhaustion in his eyes was enough to make Dean weary. "I went in search of respite… just a moment's peace."

"And that brought you here?"

Castiel dropped his eyes in confirmation.

Given all the shit going on around Dean lately, he'd say he was the last person to be a port in the storm. He almost wanted to laugh, but Cas looked so fucking exhausted that he didn't dare. He knew what it was like to be tired down to the core.

Hell… if just hanging out for a while was Castiel's idea of escape and rest, Dean wasn't about to deny him. In a strange way, it made Dean feel needed… the way he used to think Castiel might have come to need him. It made useless Dean Winchester feel useful again, and he would take that as long as he could get it.

"You know you can stick around as long as you want," Dean offered in a low voice. He decided in that second not to bring up any of his complaints that he'd been hammering Castiel with nonstop for weeks… the guy looked like he couldn't take it anymore. Dean might be a shitty friend, but he was still a friend. And not seeing eye-to-eye aside, Dean wasn't about to forget the fact that Castiel pulled him out of Hell.

"I had feared…" Castiel took a tentative breath, "you have been unhappy with me lately, I wasn't sure you would care for my company."

Dean almost slung his arm around Castiel's shoulders but stopped himself just shy. He still had some things to work through with Cas before they were back to that, but he was willing to let those wounds heal. "Look, Cas… I know I've been giving you a hard time, and sure, we've got some ugly shit going on between us that needs to be fixed yesterday, but you're still my friend. Hell, about the only real friend I've ever had."

It was meant as a self-deprecating joke, but Castiel looked up slowly at Dean with those damned earnest blue eyes, and it made Dean clear his throat awkwardly.

"We disagree lately, but that doesn't mean we stopped being friends." Dean offered a weak smile. "Frankly, I don't think I could deal with losing you as a friend right now on top of everything else I'm dealing with."

For half a second, Dean could have sworn he saw one corner of Castiel's mouth twitch upward. "Nor could I."

"Right, so… we'll work on that other shit later, but when you need a friend, you're always welcome to come to me."

"Thank you, Dean."

It was not even near enough to fix things since Castiel's return to Heaven, but it felt like a good start. For the first time in what felt like ages, Dean had something to feel sort of good about.

Castiel sat slumped on Dean's bed until Dean had to concede defeat and crawl under the covers to sleep. He was still stewing about the fact Sam was still out there somewhere, but having Castiel perched on his bed watching him was kind of like old times. In a weird, twisted, Winchester way, it felt comfortable and familiar.

"Night, Cas."

"Goodnight, Dean."

Cas was gone when Dean woke up – not that Dean was surprised – and Sam was back with a new hunt for them to dive into. Dean grumbled and looked sidelong at the Sam husk and never told him about Castiel's late-night visit.

To Be Continued…