Dean kept coming back to that dream by the pier. Not the message Castiel hadn't been able to deliver, or the question of how different things would have been if he'd been just a little faster getting to Cas in that warehouse, but to the dream itself and what Dean wasn't sure he'd seen. It had only been from the corner of his eye and only for the briefest instant, but Dean remembered seeing a shimmer on the water, not glare from the sun but more like a spray of diamonds just under the surface.
Dean had never been good at directing his dreams, lucid dreaming or whatever Sam said it was called. The next time he managed to dream of the fishing pier was the night after they'd trapped Raphael in the fire circle, only a few hours after Castiel had disappeared from Dean's car to search for God. "Hey, Cas."
"You really here, or am I just dreaming you're here?"
"Is there a difference?" Dean saw Castiel's reflection in the rippling water, his head tilted to one side. "You've been trying to return to this dream for some time."
"Yeah. Thought I saw something the last time. Guess it wasn't important." He was about to turn around to ask how the search was going when the sun broke through the clouds and Dean felt like a giant hand had reached into his brain and ripped out language.
He'd always known Castiel had wings. He'd seen their shadow, heard them when Cas zapped in and out. That knowledge didn't do a damn thing to help him now. Castiel's reflection still stared back at him, same mussed hair and rumpled trenchcoat, but stretching from his shoulders were massive wings, far larger than Dean would have ever thought from their shadow. It wasn't the size that made Dean forget how to breathe, though; the wings shone like they were lit from within, each feather reflecting the light like a finely carved jewel. "Cas."
Castiel's brow furrowed. "Dean? What...?" His head inclined, lips curling up. "Ah." He rolled his shoulders and the reflected wings stretched to full length, light dancing across the diamond feathers and creating flashes of color that came and went too quickly for Dean process, every color that had ever existed and some of such fragile beauty Dean knew they could only be seen in Heaven or in dreams. "The human subconscious is fascinating."
"Is that what they look like?" He tore his gaze away and turned to Castiel, still standing behind him looking just as he always did. When Cas didn't answer Dean stared back at the reflected wings, the shimmering beauty of them putting a lump in his throat. "Is that what's been there the whole time?"
"I have to go."
Dean whirled around; no way he could leave now. "Cas, wait, don't..." He reached for him and woke up back at the motel, staring at the water damaged ceiling. His eyes ached for what had been stolen from them.
He didn't dream of the pier again until after the whole Whore of Babylon fiasco. He wondered if that had been Cas' doing, but it didn't really matter now; Castiel was sitting beside him, still looking miserable and hung over. "Cas, you know we can talk when I'm awake too, right?"
Castiel was silent. The sun was high Dean couldn't help staring at the reflection of his wings shimmering in the water; they were curled around him this time instead of extended, the light reflecting from their curved edges into patterns that were hypnotizing in their complexity. "Dude. Just look at yourself."
Castiel tilted his head, the slight movement bending the light against his wings in a way that kept Dean from breathing for a moment. A bleak look of appraisal crossed his face. "I'm really very ordinary, Dean."
That was easily the most insane thing he'd ever heard Castiel say, and there was a lot of competition for that title. Dean just shook his head. "How're you holding up?"
He didn't know how Cas' eyes could look so desolate surrounded by such beauty. "I don't know what to do now," he whispered. "I was so sure of my path. I..." His voice dropped low. "I hadn't thought my sin so unforgivable." His lips pressed to a thin line, then he pushed himself to his feet. "I don't mean to burden you. I'll..."
Castiel paused, his eyes puzzled. "Yes?"
Dean tackled him into the water. He wrapped his arms tight around Castiel's waist as the water passed over their heads, watching the impossible wings stretch and expand to fill his field of vision like a glittering diamond sea. He cradled Cas' face with one hand and kissed him, gently coaxing his lips open as he felt surprise gradually turn into something desperate and fragile. They were still kissing as Dean pulled him back above the surface; the wet hair hanging in Castiel's face made his eyes look even more impossibly blue. "God is a dick, Cas," he said, watching the shock of the blasphemy rush through him. "Fuck him. If he doesn't want you, it doesn't matter. I do." Dean didn't know Cas could pack so much emotion into a single look. "You understand? I do."
He felt Castiel shiver and then Cas was kissing him, pressing close with a sigh that hit Dean like a drug. Just before he closed his eyes Dean caught one last glimpse of those perfect wings, shining under the surface of the water like a promise.