Pride. It was remarkable how one little word, one little and inane human emotion could undo millennia of steadfast righteousness. He had seen it all around him across the years while Castiel roamed the backcountry roads with the Winchesters; had studied it, watched the footsteps but never followed, guarding himself from such mundane things. But the wall between his celestial self and the very real, very human world around him waned the same day he walked into the abandoned barn house, filled with power and holy light.
Until he laid his blue eyes for the very first time upon the Righteous Man. The very one who would lead him to his imminent downfall.
Castiel had come a long way since then. To be given the gift of choice, free will, when all of his existence revolved around serving his Father, blindly waiting on every command; when being cast onto Earth with nothing but a former blood-junkie an old drunk and… Dean as examples, it wasn't hard to see why his decisions had led him there. He had acted on what he had learned, what he had seen and what he had felt. Perhaps Dean was right, maybe he was just a baby in a trench coat, and he still needed acceptance. Not guidance, just acceptance. Castiel wanted, needed Dean to understand his actions, his decisions.
Without his Father and Dean Winchester, Castiel felt blind. Small and helpless; two feelings which he despised. In the sea of bad calls and questionable actions, seeing just the slightest bit of light, seeing some good made his Grace more alight than it had been in months. The urge to pull Sam into an embrace had been genuine, seeing his hazel eyes light up with the force of his kind soul. He wanted to feel that energy as close as possible, feel it on his very skin even if only through the layers of their clothing. It hurt. It hurt when Sam quickly sat down and averted his gaze. The pain shouldn't have been physical, but it was. Castiel never tried to do so again.
Now, his blue eyes idly stared in Dean's direction as he rummaged through the trunk, pulling out his shotgun and a few other necessities. He surely did miss traveling with the Winchesters, though his presence didn't feel like it was welcomed at that specific point in time. Castiel only had himself to blame for that, along with his not so little Civil War. As Dean looked up, their eyes met, and much to the angel's dismay, he held the gaze. It was tense and surprisingly cold; the lack of trust was so blatant it nearly made Castiel flinch in horror. For a brief moment Dean saw the old Cas, the Cas that helped them derail the Apocalypse, the awkward virgin he enjoyed sharing a drink with and he couldn't help but sag.
He missed the days when his life wasn't a freaking soap opera.
"Here. Tell me you remember how to work it." Dean muttered as he handed Castiel his shotgun. With Eve in town, Castiel wasn't of much use, but he wasn't about to let his… whatever, go in blind without a mean to defend himself.
The angel nodded, took the weapon and turned towards where Sam and Bobby were waiting for them. A hand on his sleeve stopped him though, tugging him around abruptly and nearly throwing him off. For the first time in his existence, Castiel was left stunned and speechless as solid arms wrapped around him in a firm hold. He didn't know what to do other than let his face fell onto Dean's shoulder in order to hide everything. The vulnerability, the pain, the joy, the very glow in his eyes. This had been what he wanted; what he needed. The humanity birthing inside of him had left him reeling, craving for affection. But not from his brothers, not from his Father, but from Dean. Only Dean, it could only ever be him.
Castiel's own, more slender, arms came up to encase the broad figure and pull it closer, wanting to melt into the solid heat. Because for the briefest of moments, it felt like everything was going to be okay. Like they would win this war once and for all and go back to the way things used to be. Dean would be his again, something to long for and desire without touching, but unmistakably his. Castiel could smile and state that he had his best friend back. The only best friend he ever had.
It seemed like an eternity, Dean carding his calloused fingers through the short dark hair, holding him as if he would fly away again. Castiel clung to the jacket in turn, afraid that Dean would simply vanish from his hold. Years of unspoken words and emotions were conveyed in a mere ten second hug, and it was enough. It would never be enough, and yet it still was.
Dean pulled away, clearing his throat rather awkwardly as he took his gun and closed the trunk. He held Castiel's eyes again for a brief second and only hoped the other could read them as clear as he usually did. It would be even more awkward if he had to voice out his 'feelings'. He didn't have to, though. Castiel read the warmth in them, the fondness that made him breathe a little easier, his vessel twitching with newfound sensations.
Neither of them spoke of it again, both afraid of ruining the quietly perfect moment between them. One Castiel wished with every fiber of his being and every ounce of energy of his Grace he could experience again.