Title: Writing on the Wall
Author: Das Mervin and Mrs. Hyde
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Family
Rating: R for language, themes, and sexuality (SLASH)
Spoilers: Through the SPN Season 6 finale
Summary: The writing was on the wall. And now Dean just had to understand it. Set vaguely post-Season 7.
Author's Notes: So—this is my and Mrs. Hyde's go at shipping Dean/Cas a little more explicitly than we usually like, and trying to reconcile the idea of a genuine romance of sorts with our perceptions of the characters, in particular Sam Winchester's reaction to it.
Disclaimer: "Supernatural" is the property of Kripke Enterprises and Warner Bros. Television, and no profit is being made from this work and no copyright infringement is intended.
Part I: Show Me the Way
Sam opened his eyes.
He stared up at the watermarked ceiling, in that state half-in and half-out of sleep, trying to figure out what was missing, what was wrong. It took him a moment to realize that what was missing was the feeling that something was wrong—because nothing was wrong. There was no dread in his chest, no clenching fear in his gut, no mystery gnawing at his brain, no sense of urgency pushing him into action.
It was morning, and it was quiet, and he had nothing to worry about.
He tried to stretch and immediately regretted it; he's spent the night cramped on the narrow sofa in the upstairs back bedroom, and his spine felt like it had frozen in a permanent S-curve. Screwing up his face, he sat up, feeling the pops that rattled their ways down his spine as he straightened.
Yawning hugely, he scratched rather vaguely at his head before grimacing at the greasy feel of his hair; he needed a shower.
Sam leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and just sat for a moment, listening to the stillness in the house. They were done. They were all done, they were all safe, and they were all alive—everyone. He could relax. He didn't know if the thought made him feel astonishingly young or profoundly old.
With a sigh, he hove himself to his feet and rummaged in his knapsack for a shirt that looked passably clean. Finding one, he pulled it over his head as he shambled out into the hall and towards the bathroom.
After pissing what felt far more than his bladder could actually hold, he flushed the toilet and then twisted the tap on the sink, letting the burst of rust pass before leaning down to splash a cold handful of water over his face. He groped for the ratty old towel on the bar by the sink; drying his face, he caught sight of himself in the mirror and couldn't help but pause. He was still himself, of course, but when he leaned forward, he thought he saw traces of tiny wrinkles lining the corners of his eyes.
Well, he would be thirty next year, after all. As if to reassure himself, he ran his hand through his hair as he dropped the towel back on the bar to dry; it was, thankfully, uniformly dark. Although if being possessed by the Devil himself wasn't enough to make him go gray prematurely, he didn't know what else could.
But when he moved out into the hallway and spotted the door to Dean's room slightly ajar, he realized that yes, he did know.
He had only the slightest idea of what he was in for when he stood on the edge of that precipice in the graveyard…but until last night, he had no idea of what Dean had gone through, watching him make that jump.
Not until he had to watch the same.
This time, it had been Sam who had been forced to stand aside. He'd had to watch his big brother march out to face something bigger and more powerful than anything that they had ever dealt with—to march to some fate worse than death and leave Sam behind and alone.
Only…he hadn't. He'd faced it—and he'd won.
Sam still didn't know quite what had happened, and Dean wasn't talking. All he'd seen was that blinding flash, the release of millions upon millions of foul, twisted souls, and for a moment had known what it must feel like to stand at Ground Zero, the needles of heat and light lancing every inch of his skin.
And then it was over, and when the spots behind his eyes had cleared, there had been a smoking crater on the ground in front of him…and there was Dean, sprawled on the rim, dazed and bewildered, but utterly unscathed.
Sam had run to him, a wild joy filling him up to the brim. He'd thrown himself on his knees next to him, seizing his brother in a bone-crushing hug, because he was here, he was alive, and it was done. And then Bobby was grabbing them both, holding them tight, and when Sam pulled away Dean was actually starting to grin, because he was here and alive and Sam had never seen anything so wonderful…but it was gone an instant later.
Sam had followed his eyes, looked over his shoulder at the burnt and blackened pit behind him…and to the small, unmoving figure crumpled at the bottom.
Sudden, unexpected grief had hit him like a punch in the stomach. That—that thing they'd been fighting wasn't Cas, that was some psycho on a drug trip, just a bigger, nastier version of all the same old shit-sucking supernatural monsters that preyed on innocent people. Cas was their brother, their friend, the one who had given everything for them, had died for them, had stood by them in their darkest moments…and who was lying dead on the scorched dirt at their feet.
And who then moved.
"Cas?" Dean's shout had been rough with disbelief. He'd scrambled down into the smoking shell, and Sam and Bobby had followed after.
He'd looked so small, collapsed on the ground, as if he was nothing but an empty husk, burnt out from inside by the inferno of souls that he'd swallowed. But when they'd rolled him over, and those bright eyes had opened in his smudged and bloodied face, Sam had known in an instant that it was Cas, that he was back, that he was himself again.
He'd stared up at them, at their still-wary, questioning faces…and Sam couldn't help the reflexive clench in his gut when he saw something in his eyes shatter, and then they filled with tears.
Cas had curled in on himself, into a huddled ball of misery, those horrible, silent tears pouring over his cheeks, so utterly broken. And what else could they do but flank him, draw him up into their embrace, and forgive him.
Sam peered through the open door, and there he was. Cas was sprawled out in the empty bed, tangled up in the sheets, his hair more rumpled than usual, his long bare limbs motionless as he slept. He still looked small, but his face was serene in a way that it never was when he was awake—not merely serene, but peaceful. A little angel, Dean had once said, and a tiny smirk curled Sam's lip at the thought, but it fled quickly. That was all that would be angelic about him now. Those souls—or maybe something else, he didn't know—really had burned him out. Now he was nothing but a man—or as close as he could be, anyway.
It would take some getting used to again, Sam supposed, but a de-powered Cas certainly wasn't the weirdest thing he'd dealt with in his time.
But the fact that it was Dean's bed that Cas was currently lying in was definitely a contender for the title.
The three of them had dragged Cas up out of the crater left by the release of the souls; he'd been unable to walk, either too weak or too grief-stricken to do so under his own power. He'd been limp in their arms, but felt somehow weightless, as if a strong wind would just pick him up and blow him away; no wonder he'd clung to them as they manhandled him up, his pale hands fluttering around their shoulders like the broken wings of a bird. He didn't make a sound, not even with those tears streaming down his face, until they'd finally gotten him up away from the blast radius. Only then, hiding his face in his hands, had he said he was sorry, so sorry, and they said they knew, it was okay, everything was okay now, but he just kept saying he was sorry, so very sorry, because he loved them so much.
Dean had peeled Cas's hands away from his face, leaned in low to look him in the eye and told him that they forgave him. When Cas just asked in disbelief why, Dean had looked away and then roughly told them that, well, they loved him too, and that's what you do for the people you care about, and that was that.
Their faces so close and their expressions so intense, Sam supposed he shouldn't have been quite so surprised when Cas closed the distance and messily kissed him, but he was. And he wasn't sure what surprised him more: that, or the fact that for a moment, Dean had kissed back.
Afterwards, Sam was pretty sure Dean didn't know which shocked him more, either.
Unable to help himself, Sam leaned forward to peer further into the room, but aside from Cas, it was empty. Quietly, so as not to wake him, he slipped by, tiptoeing past the closed door to Bobby's bedroom, and made his way down the stairs.
They hadn't said much else last night; just hauled Cas into the car and drove home in silence. They'd bundled his unresisting form inside, and Dean, not meeting their eyes, had taken him upstairs, said he'd clean him up. Sam and Bobby had looked at their retreating backs, then at each other, and then just went their separate ways in the house.
The last few steps creaking under his feet, Sam padded his way into downstairs hall and toward the kitchen and stopped short.
Dean was sitting at the kitchen desk, and there was a three-quarters-empty bottle of whiskey sitting next to him. His shoulders were hunched; Sam watched him tip back the glass in his hand and then fill it back up again. He didn't react to Sam's presence behind him. Really, he didn't even seem to notice he was there, which told him just how preoccupied his brother was.
"Bit early, isn't it?" Sam asked, pointing at the whiskey bottle as he rounded the table. Dean nearly leapt out of his seat at the sound of his voice, looking up at him with that typical mixture of shock and outrage that everyone got when someone snuck up on them. However, it was gone just as quickly, and Dean looked away from him. Sam saw the back of his neck flushing darkly.
He didn't say anything, but Sam knew he couldn't hold his silence for long. Dean never could. Sam just plonked down opposite him at the table, staring out the window at the gray sky for a moment, and then gave Dean the opening that Sam knew he wanted. "So—how is he?" he asked.
Dean's gaze flashed up at him, quick and wary, and then went back down to the tabletop. "He's—uh, he's fine. Ish. I guess," he grunted. His voice was rough, and Sam could smell his breath even across the table; he'd been at the bottle for a while already.
"This going to be permanent?" Dean tensed and looked up at him sharply, not relaxing when Sam quickly continued his question, "This de-powered thing? He's just gonna be one of us for good now?"
"How the hell should I know?" Dean shot back.
Sam shrugged his shoulders. "You were the one who faced him down, not me—I just thought you might know something we didn't," he said placatingly.
"Yeah, well, I don't!" Dean bit out. "And quit staring at me!" he abruptly snarled.
"…I'm not?" Sam said after a moment.
"Well, then don't just sit there—say something, dammit!" Dean flew out to his feet, his chair scraping loudly behind him as he thrust it away and turned to stare out the window, his shoulders taut and brooding.
Sam shifted in his seat. "What do you want me to say, Dean?" he finally asked.
"I want to you quit pretending like—like you—like you didn't see that, last night," Dean finally said.
Sam's mouth twisted. "I'm not pretending anything. I saw," he said.
"And?" Dean demanded, still not looking at him.
Sam pursed his lips. "And—nothing," he said with a shrug.
"No!" Dean roared, spinning around. "It's not nothing, it's—I'm—son of a bitch!" He whirled back around to stare out the window.
Sam sat, quiet; there were times when he had to extract information out of Dean like a dentist pulling wisdom teeth, but there were other times that he just had to let him get it out on his own—he'd eventually manage to say what he needed to.
When he still didn't speak, Sam again offered him an opening. "Dean—I really don't see what the problem is—"
And that was all he needed. "Really?" Dean asked furiously, spinning on his heel to glare down at him. "You don't see the problem? Oh, well, I do—I like pussy, goddammit!"
Sam bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing in Dean's face—that was the last thing he needed. Dean was breathing heavily, and looked about ready to start swinging, so Sam sat still until he could speak. "Okay," he said in measured tones. "That's fine—that's great. You like pussy." He looked him in the eye. "…And you like Cas."
There. It was out. Dean seemed to sag where he stood. He rubbed a hand across his face, looking out the window for a moment, and then turned back to Sam. "And—what? That's it? That's all you have to say?" he finally asked.
Sam looked off, praying for patience. "Dean, I don't know what you want me to say," he finally said. "You want me to try to talk you out of it? To give you some Chick Tracts? Or—or light some candles so we can pray to the Mother Goddess?" Dean gave him an incredulous stare, and Sam spread his arms in a helpless gesture. "It sounds like you're the one having trouble, Dean," he told him. "I'm fine with it. Really."
"How in the hell are you just 'fine with it,' Sammy?" Dean demanded.
Sam rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Dean, did you forget that I went to college in Stanford? In San Francisco, California? America's Bowl of Granola—the Pride Lands?" A chuff of laughter escaped him. "Dude, half the population of that place was so flamingly gay that they made Liberace look subtle."
Dean had twitched a little at Sam's words, but he just went on. "After living there for four years, believe me, I'm not going to be bothered by what you do on your own time with one guy. Who," he added, talking over Dean, who had looked like he was struggling to speak, "if you think about it, since he was an angel, may not technically be a 'guy' anyway."
"The hell he's not," Dean blurted, and immediately the blood slammed into his face.
Sam squinted his eyes shut. "Okay," he finally got out, holding up one finger, "see, now that was too much information, Dean." Dean had slumped down in his chair and wouldn't look at him. Sam just shook his head and looked at the scattering of used glasses on the table until he found one that was clean enough not to have anything growing in it and then poured himself a finger of Dean's whiskey. "Seriously, though—whatever you want to do is your business," he said, raising his glass to his brother's still somewhat disbelieving expression. "Just so long as you keep it your business," he informed him with a wry grin. "For a change."
Dean furrowed his brows at him. "And what is that supposed to mean?" he asked, glaring.
Sam gave him incredulous look. "Uh, maybe that you're an exhibitionist along with being a voyeur?" he challenged. "And don't try and deny it," he said firmly over Dean's attempt to protest. "I've seen more of you than I have ever wanted to, and in positions that still haunt my dreams." He snorted into his glass. "Sometimes, I think I've seen more of your sex life than my own."
"That's bullshit," Dean retorted. "Name one time you've seen me."
Sam gave a bark of laughter. "One? Is that all?" he taunted. "How about your little sex-romp with the two lookalikes outside of St. Louis?"
Dean scoffed. "I had a year to live, man—I owed that to myself," he said loftily. "Besides, you knew what I was doing in there, and you walked in anyway."
"Okay, well, then how about that time in Clancy, Montana?" Sam fired back. "I was fourteen, and we'd talked Dad into letting us get our own motel room so we could stay up and watch movies. I went out to hit the vending machines and when I came back, you were in bed with the owner's daughter. I ended up crashing on the floor of Dad's room."
Dean's chin jutted out. "That wasn't my fault. I was eighteen years old, and she jumped me, not the other way around, and you think I would just—"
Sam was on a roll. "Oh, and let's not forget that time we were enrolled in school in Lebanon, Kentucky. You slept with Jennifer Morris, the Homecoming Queen—"
"Hell yeah, I did," Dean said with a laugh, and then abruptly looked disconcerted. "Wait a minute—how did you know about that?"
Sam smirked. "Because her little brother had a peephole into her room through the back stairwell and took pictures and sold them all over the middle school for five bucks."
"And I cannot count the number of times," he said loudly over Dean's outrage, "that we've been in a bar somewhere, you've disappeared with some girl, and when I go outside looking for you, I'm treated to the sight of your pasty white ass waving in the rear window of the Impala."
Dean's face got that pinched, pissy look that he always did when he had no response. Sam couldn't resist one last needle. "Why do you think I never want to sit back there?"
The glower Dean was giving him would have peeled paint; Sam just snorted. There was a brief silence, which Sam broke. "Dean," he said, leaning forward over the table. "We've seen what the end of the world is like—and this isn't it."
Dean flushed a little and looked at the tabletop, but when he looked up, it was with a strange sort of hopeful amazement. "Then…that's it?" he asked, his voice quiet.
Sam shrugged. "Don't see why not. It's…kinda weird, maybe," he admitted, and felt something like relief to see Dean's eye-rolling agreement, "but it's not gonna sent me screaming into the night or anything." He met and held his eyes. "You're still my brother."
They were still for a moment in their silent communion, until Dean went back to tracing the wood grain of the top of the desk with his eyes. Sam blew a breath out through his nose, regarded Dean for a moment, and then lightly said, "Besides, not to, ah, belittle your accomplishment, or anything, but I think I've got you beat." When Dean looked up, Sam leaned conspiratorially across the table. "I've shacked up with much, much worse than you ever have."
Dean gave a rough chuckle and then polished off the last of his drink. He stared out the window for a moment, and then he said, his voice a little hoarse, "Thanks, Sammy."
Sam smiled. "No problem," he said, and Dean smiled almost shyly back.
There was a creak of the floorboards, and they looked up to find Bobby standing there at the entrance to the kitchen. He eyed Dean. "You two lovebirds finally get yourselves sorted out?" he asked dryly.
Dean turned red again and looked off. Sam chuckled. "Hey, Bobby," he said. He poked around on the table at the small forest of old glasses. "You wanna join us for a little morning Wild Turkey?" he asked. "Breakfast of champions."
"Way ahead of you, boy," Bobby said, plopping down in the chair next to Dean. "Was workin' down in the basement."
"Oh—I thought you were still asleep."
He gave a rude snort. "Are you kidding? My room shares a wall with his—ain't nobody sleeping on that side of the house last night."
Sam couldn't help the laugh that escaped him, particularly not in the face of Dean's mortified expression. "Oh, man, I know how that is," he said, rolling his eyes. "Any time we make a stop and Dean picks up a girl, I request a room on the other side of the motel."
Dean's face was the color of old bricks; Sam just smirked at him, but when the movement in the doorway caught his eye, he did a bit of a double take. "Oh—hey, Cas," he said lightly.
Dean tensed, and they all looked over. Castiel was lurking in the doorway, dressed in his usual getup, his head held low and his expression unsure. "Hello," he said after a moment.
"Come have a seat?" Sam offered, keeping his voice neutral.
Cas hesitated, and then slowly crossed the floor, paused again, but then slid into the seat next to him, opposite Bobby. He kept his eyes down, only daring to look up once, and when he caught Bobby's gaze, looked quickly away again.
"You okay, kid?" Bobby asked him after a moment.
Cas looked up slowly, his expression one of uncertainty tinged with disbelief. "I—" he started, and his eyes flicked toward Dean once. He licked his lips, and then finished, "I am…getting by."
Sam gave him a half-smile. "Hey—that's about the best any of us can hope for," he told him. Cas looked at him for a moment, his face filled with a painful, grateful sort of wonder, and then nodded.
The four of them around the table were quiet; Sam finished his whiskey and looked over to Cas; whatever he had been thinking of saying died on his tongue.
Cas was looking at Dean. Not just looking, but looking, that way he always did—the way he always had, Sam realized—even though he wasn't an angel anymore. His eyes were focused, unblinking and intense, as if drawn towards Dean by an irresistible force.
Sam flicked his eyes to Bobby and raised his eyebrows; he just rolled his eyes back. Guess all those times demons and angels joked about him being in love with Dean, they really weren't kidding, Sam thought. He looked at Cas a moment more and then over to Dean. He was mostly just staring down at the tabletop, but every so often, he'd look up and meet Cas's eyes, and…well. Clearly this was "going to be permanent."
Yeah, sure, it was weird, Sam supposed, and it would definitely take some getting used to. But Dean was his brother, and, well, that's what you do for people you cared about.
And that was that.