Well this is it. The last chapter. It's been an interesting one to write I'll say that. I'd always intended on tying this little piece into the season finale in some way or another. As it turns out a line I had written basically hit the whole thing over the head with a ton of bricks and left me scared by how similar my brain is to that of the writing team. Be afraid!
Otherwise, thank you to everyone who has been reading, alerting and most especially reviewing. It's made this a joy to write as usual.
Castiel does not completely understand what Dean is trying to tell her as he approaches. His eyes are full of conflicting messages that she does not know how to interpret. The hunter's eyes have long been the key to understanding him, bright and expressive even when his mouth lies his eyes broadcast his thoughts to all those who know him well enough.
The angel likes to think that she knows the man she saved from Hell enough to know how he will react to certain truths. Enough to know that he deserves better than her and to believe that he knows it too. Dean is special, to be cherished, and that is something that she does not have the time to dedicate to, much as she may want to. Lisa was everything that Dean needed and Castiel does not think she will ever understand why he let Sam tear him away from her.
Still, Dean's eyes are so full of emotion, so conflicting, that she cannot meet his gaze. She does not want to attempt to decipher his thoughts and find the one thing which will make her give up all hope.
"Cas," he follows her gaze, his eyes burning into the side of her face and not for the first time she wishes that she still had her wings so that she could flee this conversation. It is the gentle pressure of his hand that makes her look up, makes her meet his eyes and see the fear and tender concern that lingers in them. "I know."
She whispers his name, her head starting to tilt of it's own accord in line with her confusion. Something in his gaze changes, then, shifting from concern to something else and she feels like she cannot breathe, like the air has been sucked from the room. When he covers her lips with his it is chaste, a promise and a goodbye and she reaches for him before he can pull away. Delicate hands fist in his shirt, her head tilting slightly and her lips parting. He groans, the hand that still rests under her chin shifting to support the back of her head as his other one grips her hip and pulls her closer to him.
Castiel has never before dared to think about what it would be like to kiss Dean, it has always been something out of reach. It has always been a dangerous desire. Now it is something that the angel never wants to stop doing. Both of them gasp as they come apart, faces flushed and eyes opening lazily. They stare at each other for a long moment and she sees the way that Dean looks at her. She sees the hurt and despair in his eyes as he looks her up and down and sees her still as she is. The angel reaches for him again, positive that it is not Dean's fault and that it is actually the solution that they have found which is in error.
"I'm sorry, Cas, I shouldn't have..." She cuts him off with a sharp cry, agony racing through her. It feels like the body is being turned inside out, everything within being torn at with fire and steel. Dean's voice is a concerned shout to one side of her, questions pouring from his lips as he tries to work out what is happening to her.
It is too bright, everything is too much, and Castiel feels something within shift and shatter then knit back together in a way that is familiar and right. It is a feeling that the angel has not felt at night for a long time. The angel glances once at Dean's completely stunned face before vanishing.
The freedom of being his true self again is something Castiel knows he will revel in. The thought that he will be able to return to his task of stopping Raphael and dedicate his energy to it once more is thrilling and perfect. First, however, he has to discover who cursed him so that he can ensure it never happens again.
The glade he was attacked in is easy to return to and not as deserted as the angel had suspected it would be. In actual fact there is a man waiting for him. His beard is a dirty grey and his watery eyes are shrewd. Castiel does not instantly recognise who he is, but he knows what he is. This is another of the old pagan gods and it is either powerful or has allied itself with many others.
"I see you found him, then," the old god rumbles. "It took you long enough."
The angel's stare is icy, pure rage simmering just out of reach and buried by grace. The eyes of the god are just as cool, completely unconcerned with the powerful creature in front of him.
"Why?" Castiel demands. "Why target me like this?"
"There is a lesson you should have taken from this, little angel, and it is not my place to explain it to you if you are too foolish to work it out for yourself. I will give you some advice, however, the path you are on is a dangerous and dark one. It is not something that he will forgive you for easily. Quit while you're ahead and ask for his help, things will go smoother for you if you do."
It appears this old god is no fool, he is gone as soon as he has spoken his piece. Castiel stares at the space he has vacated for a long while as he thinks. He has to wonder how this ancient creature has knowledge of his plan when the only other is Crowley. It is concerning and if he had time he would look into it a little more closely. Time is one thing that he is dangerously short of right now. Instead he decides to assign the task to Balthazar. He has something else, someone else, to worry about.
Dean stares at the empty kitchen, eyes fixed on the floor where Castiel was curled in pain only moments before. Seeing the glow that filled his friend as the angel changed from woman to man was awe inspiring. To know that it is him, that Castiel feels as deeply for him as he does for his friend is something that fills the hunter with warmth.
Which is why the angel's sudden disappearance bothers the man. He knows that Cas sucks at saying goodbye, knows that the angel is completely unaware and unconcerned with normal human courtesies, but at the least he could have stayed for a moment to discuss this.
"Dean, what's going on?" Sam bursts in, evidently alerted by Dean's shouts and Castiel's cries. Which is when Dean realises that as much as he has acknowledged his feelings for Castiel he is not ready, not yet, for all of the 'I told you so''s and questions that will come as a result. He is not ready for this part of him to be brought out and examined.
"He changed back," Dean mutters. "Cas changed back and he left."
"Did you...?" Sam leaves it hanging but Dean knows what his brother is asking.
"No," he lies. "We were wrong, it wore off." Sam pulls a face, apparently ready to argue it all out. "There's nothing to talk about, Sam, okay, just leave it. We've got other things to worry about. Let's just get some sleep and sort it out in the morning, alright?"
"Whatever you say, man," his brother agrees but Dean knows that he is not convinced. He needs to be honest with himself, however, and he knows that he needs to talk to Castiel before he says anything to Sam and Bobby.
It is much later when Dean is already asleep that he sees his angel again. There is something almost peaceful about the way that Castiel uses a dream to come to him, a place where they can talk and yell without the others interfering. It is still Bobby's spare room that they are talking in, however, the scenery has not changed in the slightest.
"Hello, Dean," Castiel keeps his distance, blue eyes nearly completely unreadable. The hunter is not entirely certain what he expected, but this is hardly it.
"That's all you got?" He asks and the angel tilts his head. "You left without a word, Cas."
"We should talk about this, I know, there wasn't time," there is a sorrow in Castiel's voice that Dean does not want to hear.
"There's never time any more," Dean mumbles, anger rising in him. Castiel comes closer, staring up into his eyes and Dean can see that emotion there which both scares and thrills him. He can see the emotion that tells him he is not alone.
"We will talk about this," Cas promises, "just not now. Not when things are so uncertain."
"When we win?" Dean asks and somehow he is alright with the idea. He does not want to talk about emotions, does not want to examine that place in his soul that has become so attached to the angel. Instead he settles for pulling Castiel close, the being is loose and pliable in this dream, settles for pressing a chaste kiss to his lips.
"I will protect you," Cas mutters and Dean thinks that he has heard it wrong. Then the angel is gone and the words that they both need to exchange are left unsaid.
Dean can only hope that when Castiel wins against Raphael and they defeat the Mother of All the price of it all is not too high.
So, possible sequel? First Love. Let me know, I'm well aware that there's a few unanswered questions here.