Title: "Pain in the Head"
Pairing: Castiel/Dean (Established)
TV Show: Supernatural
Word Count: ~17,000
Rating: T+ (Euphemisms in this chapter toward sex; no sex scenes)

A/N: I can't believe that we're finally here, because it's been a few months since I started this project. Boy, am I excited to be done!

Uhm, I don't really know what to say at this final part. Dean feels OOC to me, and I can't fix him so you can just imagine he's not in total angst-this whole damn chapter is angst, by the way. That sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Also, if you squint really hard, you'll find Gabriel in this part.

Anyway, I want to take the opportunity to thank anyone and everyone that reviewed this story! It's a pleasure, and an honor, to have written for you guys, and, really, you tease me so when you say it's a good story. I, personally, could find way more stories that are better than mine, I'm just saying. Also, to everyone that favorited or alerted this story: thank you, too! I know, the waits were excruciating, and I apologize (college is worse). But! Now you can rest easy knowing how the story ends, as bad as the ending could be.

Thank you for taking the opportunity to read this story and riding along with me. Again, it's been an honor.

Enjoy the final part!

x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Cover my eyes,
Cover my ears,
Tell me these words are a lie.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x

"Mom, do you think I have an angel watching over me?"

"Of course, honey. We all do, each and every person on this planet."

"How come I can't see him?"

"Well, maybe he's hiding from you because he doesn't know how to say hello yet."

"He shouldn't be afraid of me, Mom. I'm not scary or anything."

"I know, dear. You're the sweetest kid in the neighborhood."

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

"What if my angel doesn't like me?"

"Honey, he loves you with everything he has to offer. It's why he's protecting you in the first place."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Well, then, I should love him too, right?"

"Right."

"I hope nothing harms my angel, Mom. I don't want him to go away, not ever."

"Oh, Dean, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to that."

"I know. I just—don't want him getting hurt."

"Nothing will ever harm him, and your angel will always be with you."

"You promise?"

"I promise with all my life."

x x x

No, he thought—it was all a lie.

He didn't want to believe.

It was just a dream, he told himself.

The angels never came back.

Cas was never sick.

He'd wake up from the dream, laugh about it with Cas, and move on.

Come on, he thought, clutching to something out of his reach, and what had been out of his reach for mere minutes. Come on, breathe, Cas! Just breathe!

Nothing.

x x x

For the first day, Dean wished it were all just a dream. He wished the body in his arms was still breathing, was still sleeping with him, and they were just waking up to meet a new day ahead of them. He hoped the body would move in his arms and whisper the polite, but charming "Good morning, Dean" in his ears. He thought he could still feel the small, heavy breaths of life come from the body, the little pulse in his wrist, the arm trying to wrap around Dean's to have and to hold, and Dean didn't want to leave his side. He prayed his brother didn't start talking to him about burning his corpse after Dean pried his own body and soul away from the body on their bed.

The room was still so full of items from the two that lived there together, but the bed was empty—the room could be cluttered with junk up to the ceiling, but to Dean, the room would never be full again. It was incomplete; it was bare. The only things he was so used to seeing were the hospital items, but Sam quickly disposed of them when Dean wasn't looking (and he was glad for that).

Sam took the body away from the room (Dean stayed in the bathroom from a few dry heaves) after their heated discussion over what was to happen to the body ("Dean, we can't take the chance—" "Sam, he's gone through enough. He deserves a burial." "You're not thinking clearly!" "Yeah, well, neither are you!"), and while Dean wanted to fight for the coffin he wanted to build, he couldn't. There was nothing he could do; his fighting spirit was gone ("Dean—" "No, Sam, forget it"). It was why he was standing in front of their closet, holding onto the two doorknobs on each side of him, gripping the gold metallic in his palms, and nearly tearing up at the sight of the suits and clothing Cas had worn over the years.

It was why he was having such a hard time figuring out which article of clothing Cas would want to be burned in, which part of his life would he want to take with him to Heaven. Dean had already decided on the trench-coat being one of the items to burn, although he didn't want Cas to wear it. Perhaps as a send-off, Dean thought for only a moment. And he tried to remember each day when Cas would be given something new to wear, something Dean had found in the town, or they both found, or when the piece of clothing was worn during special times they had.

He looked at a rolled-up shirt mixed in with some of Dean's shirts. He remembered how the sleeves clung to Cas's muscles, how the first two top buttons were unbuttoned, how the steel blue very closely matched his eyes, and how the dark jeans loosely fit on his waist and body when he wanted to help Dean with the house's framework at one point. He was hammering a nail into the wood when he saw someone standing in the hollow doorway. "I have finished with the stairs for the porch," he said. Dean smiled to him.

"They're not uneven this time, are they?" Cas shook his head. Dean wiped the sweat from his forehead and let himself sit down on the dirty floor underneath. Looking at Cas, he could remember how the sweat under his armpits collected, and how the jeans (they looked brand new, but it didn't fool Dean; they were weeks old) had a few rips in them, and Dean waved him over. "Want to help me in here?"

Cas nodded. "If I can."

"Of course you can."

Dean saw another shirt, another memory, another time and place. This time, he was brought back to one of the first nights in their finished house, when the walls were just right, the furniture was where it belonged, and where the two of them could have privacy whenever they wanted (well, unless Sam was bunked with them, which the two of them did not mind). Cas was wearing another button-down shirt, a white one, but Dean could easily see a bright blue shirt underneath when he turned away from the dishes in the sink. The light made it hard not to see the shirt. He looked down and saw a bag in Cas's hand.

It was pushed his direction. "What's this?" Dean dug into the bag and felt a cotton material hit his fingertips. Cas moved closer and looked inside with him. Out he pulled a black shirt, with a Batman logo sketched on the chest. Dean raised an eyebrow, then looked at Cas. "Uh, thanks?"

Cas just stared at him. "I wish for you to put it on."

"What, right now?" Dean was thoroughly confused (he laughed in front of his closet—his face must've been priceless to Cas). Cas nodded. Dean placed the bag on the ground, the shirt still in his hand. "I mean, I'm sure it'll fit, Cas, so I can probably wear it tomorrow when we put the garden in—"

"Now, Dean," Cas ordered. Dean glanced at his partner. He knew that stare—it was one of determination, prowess, attrac—Oh.

Oh.

Dean smirked, then let his eyes drift down at the shirt Cas was wearing. He looked back up into the blue eyes. "So, Superman," Dean noticed a smirk growing on the angel's face, "how can I help you tonight?"

Cas's smirk grew as he stepped closer to Dean, who was leaning toward him. Dean could feel Cas's hands trickle up his chest as he spoke. "I require entrance into your bat-cave, Batman," and Dean moaned—Cas was never the one to be subtle. And he knew the angel had some tricks up his sleeves, but some lines surprised the hunter. He bent his head down where their lips barely brushed, their hips rolling against each others, sending a shock of pleasure in their bodies.

"Is that right," he whispered, feeling Cas's already heavy breathing on his lips. "You know, I just might have some Kryptonite to bring you to your knees."

And Cas let his fingers grip Dean's shirt. "I hoped you would," he moaned in reply, before letting Dean shut him up before continuing on. He heard the shirt drop to the floor—it wouldn't be long before the Superman shirt (along with other articles of clothing) would be joining it.

Dean closed his eyes. He wouldn't feel that again. He wouldn't have the pleasure of any of those memories being relived with someone else. He couldn't see Cas alive—standing in the kitchen with him, sitting on the couch, on the porch swing, in bed, both under the shower, anything. He was gone. He felt his lips tremble again, felt his heart start to bounce against his ribcage because of the absolute terror of knowing he was alone. His angel was gone.

x x x

Dean decided on a pair of dark jeans (the ones with the rips) and a black graphic shirt with a bunch of white paint meshed into the cotton. Cas only wore the shirt once, and it was on that day—but Dean understood why he kept it all that time, and why he'd be burned with it. "You're not gonna leave if you get bored, will you?"

"I promise to stay with you."

x x x

In a year, Dean would put Cas's belongings into different boxes and store them in the attic. One box would be labeled "his books" and another "his clothing." Everything else stayed within reach, to let any visitors know someone else was there, but they were gone.

x x x

The first night alone was something Dean never wanted to experience again. Sam drank with him on the porch, listening to the crickets chirp in the woods, and they didn't talk about much. "How are you feeling?" Dean heard Sam ask him when they first sat down outside.

Dean shrugged. "How do you think?" And Dean took a swig of whiskey down the hatch, feeling the incessant burn tickle down his throat and the world getting a bit more blurry than the last time he looked at it. Sam frowned.

"I'm sorry," Sam mumbled, expressing his condolences for Dean's behalf. It wasn't long after that Dean replied with: "Yeah, well, so am I."

They didn't know how much time passed on the porch, but when Dean rose to go to bed, he heard his younger brother call out to him. "I miss him, too, Dean." Dean placed the now empty bottle of liquor on the wooden railing next to him, letting his fingers rub against the glass of the neck.

"Yeah," Dean let out before walking back inside. It had been a long day, with all of the preparation being put forth for Cas—they decided to burn him the following day, so Dean could have enough time to grieve ("Dean, it's gonna be tough these next couple months," Bobby said, "So get whatever you need to say off your chest so you can start movin' on."). He walked past the room where Cas's body was, given the fact they agreed to not leave him outside (wild animals, they argued) and went straight for their bedroom.

Hours passed—maybe it was only minutes, Dean never did know—but he kept staring at the side of the bed that was supposed to be occupied, that someone was supposed to be there right next to him. He kept looking back at the door from time to time, expecting him to come walking in because he was finishing up watching a movie on television, or something, then back to the empty side. Dean let his hand rest on the other side of the bed, and felt the sheets underneath form into the body that used to be there. His hand crumpled up the sheets and tore them away from the side to his own body. His arms wrapped around the thin layers that used to keep them warm at night—that used to keep both of them together—and he took in a deep breath. The bundle of sheets never left his arms, not even after he somehow fell asleep holding what felt like Cas.

He wasn't out for long. The dream he had, one he never wanted to have, brought him back to reality. He was given false hope in the dream, one where Cas was still by his side, still sleeping next to him in the bed, and he could still admire the once angel for being there in the first place. They had an argument in the dream, much like the arguments they had when they were together, and near the end, Dean watched as Cas rose from the bed to leave him behind.

"But you promised to stay," Dean said to him, but Cas didn't listen; he kept walking. Out the bedroom he went, and soon out the door of the house. Dean didn't know what they argued about, but he remembered hearing himself scream: "Cas, I'm sorry!"

The bundle of sheets clung to his chest, and for a slight second, Dean thought it was too good to be true. "Cas?" he mumbled tiredly, as though he could feel the angel's arms wrapped around his waist, and he leaned into the bundle. But when he opened his eyes, the bed was still empty, the sheets an illusion, and Dean turned his head toward the door. It was still closed, just like he left it, but the crack in the door was there just in case Cas wanted to come back. He closed his eyes and turned his head back to the empty side of the bed; screw this, he thought.

For some reason, Dean felt angry, pissed off, frustrated, and upset that Cas was gone. Why was he gone? Why did he have to go? He let the sheets fly off his body, the bundle flattening as Dean left the bed, and his feet could feel the cold floor tickle at his toes. Rip the door open, walk down the hallway, stop—Sam was sleeping on the couch again, resting like a baby, and Dean was outside that room. He knew what was inside; he knew it would be the last time he would get the chance to be alone with Cas, more or less (alone with the idea of Cas, he finally argued). He looked over to his younger brother before closing his eyes, feeling the tears pool once more. Another step toward the room would bring him face-to-face with a body wrapped in white material.

He pulled a rocking chair Cas always liked ("It is comforting when reading a book," he said to Dean; "Whatever," he replied) to his side, and he sat down.

He could see the faint black graphic shirt underneath.

He saw the familiar form he grew to know wrapped in silence, still, dead.

Dean felt the folded hands on Cas's stomach through the material one last time.

"Son of a bitch," he whispered, before letting his head rest against the still body, his eyes closing to still give life to Cas.

x x x

His eyes were closed. He was stirring at the sunlight trickling into the room. Soon, he felt a light touch on his shoulder. The fingertips tickled at his skin. His eyelids started to flutter open. "Dean, it is almost eight. You should get up now."

He closed his eyes once more.

x x x

He woke up to Bobby resting a hand on his shoulder; he swore it was Cas, though.

x x x

About three and a half years later, Dean would finally gather the courage to use the entire bed instead of just his side. He would remember it being so cold on Cas's side, but he would say he felt someone holding him close, just like he always did. He would always feel that embrace for the rest of the nights that went by.

x x x

"Is there anything you want to say, Dean?"

"No."

"Come on, Dean, not even a prayer?"

"I said no, Sam. Drop it."

"You wanna do the honors, son?"

"No, just—just do it."

"Dean—"

"Leave him be. We'll—we'll see you again, Castiel."

The smoke carried to the sky; Dean just stared into the fire.

That was it.

x x x

Five years would bring a house fire into Dean's world. Sam would stand by his side as the fire burned the house alive, and Dean's first thought was how much was gone. He won't know how it started (electrical, maybe) and will never understand why it happened, but when the fire would cease to burn, he'd go through the ashes to find the charred remains of his lover's life burned alive.

x x x

Dean closed his eyes and listened to the silence of his home. It scared him, knowing he couldn't hear someone breathing next to him, and he thought he would get used to the idea of silence after the previous night. Instead, he held onto the bundle of sheets once more and started to whisper.

"Cas," he started. "Hey, Cas," but it was all he could get out.

He fell asleep still hoping he'd hear the door creak open, still hear the small footsteps try to keep quiet, so as not to wake him up, to feel someone rest on the empty side, and feel a tiny kiss rest on his forehead. He wished he could smile.

x x x

Sam got him out of the house after the first week of moping around. His younger brother was not about to let him die from drinking himself to a stupor (he couldn't help it; whiskey helped him cope), and he was not about to burn another corpse in such a short time. "Come on, Dean, you need to do something."

"Yeah? And what's that?" Dean was stubborn; he'd rather sit on the couch and have his moment of dreaming where Cas was right next to him and he didn't have to do anything.

"I don't know, the Impala's looking a bit dirty. You could wash it," ah, Dean thought; his other baby. He wasn't about to neglect that pride and joy. He sighed. He did want to do something, and he was getting bored at just clicking through the TV to find something that didn't remind him of Cas ("I like this show," he said to him when they watched old re-runs of Cheers; "This show is very confusing" echoed in his head when he went past some sci-fi show; "I do not understand why people buy from this channel" was another favorite memory when he paused on the QVC channel, which he did buy a small griddle from that channel to make some really good burgers).

He rose from the couch. "Alright, alright, I'll go wash her," he said, seeing Sam give a relieved smile.

"Do you want me to help?"

He shook his head. "You're not allowed to touch Baby," still remembering how much work he had to go through to get her back to normal—as normal as she could be—when Sam drove the car. He shuddered at her being that torn up after an accident. Sam shrugged.

"Alright. I'll be cleaning up around here," he said, motioning about the living room. Dean didn't have to look to see how many bottles of alcohol ransacked the place after just a week, nor did he have to see the dirty dishes and random blankets lying around the room. So he nodded as he walked out the door, going toward his black stallion.

And was she beautiful under the Fall sunshine. He could see the chrome shine from just the perfect angle the sun gave off, and there wasn't a speck of rust on that body of hers. Sure, the dust and dirt collected, but that could be washed off, and she'd be perfect. She'd be back to normal, and he'd take her out to the town to show her off, let her growl and rumble through the streets, and smile that she was all okay, that they were okay, that others could see they were okay. He grabbed the hose from the side of the stairs, unraveling the wheel where it was wrapped, and pulled most of the hose away from the house.

When he got to his pride and joy, he turned back toward the house to turn on the water. But when he did, his eyes scanned over to the small garden next to him. The plants were wilting (partially because of the cold weather), the dirt looked very dry, and—Dean walked past it as fast as he could toward the spigot to get his one job done. He'd get to the garden; he promised. He would take care of it.

With the turn of the small wheel, he could feel the slightly warm water push through the hose. He turned around. Just wash the car, he thought. That's all you have to do. Just make sure the dirt is off the wheels, give her a slight look around in the engine and underneath, get the dirt off her body, and that's it. So that was his mission. He picked up the hose, pushed down on the nozzle, and felt the mist bounce off the hood of the car as the grime started to disappear. As he sprayed it down, as he watched the specks of dust slowly join the dirt under the car, he felt compelled to look toward the garden.

He neglected it, didn't he? He promised.

No, he thought. He'd get to it. Let me take care of her, he thought.

So he sprayed.

And he sprayed.

And he sprayed.

The Impala was dripping with water after he was done, no piece of dirt from what he could see. He was a little soaked from the mists he had to endure from washing her (at one point, the wind came through, causing half of the water to go toward him, and the other half toward Baby), but the hard work was done. He sighed; it wasn't hard work, but keeping his mind on the Impala was hard enough.

"I think you missed a spot."

He turned around; the garden was still there, nothing more. He felt the rubber of the hose rub against his fingertips, the warmth of the water still sitting there, and, one by one, he walked toward the garden. A spot on the Impala was okay, it could be washed away; the garden was something else. It needed life, it needed nutrients, and it needed to live. It had to. He promised.

He pushed down the nozzle, uncaring that the mist was hitting his body. Maybe it was just his mind playing tricks on him, but as the water dripped off some of the leaves of the plants, he could see the life slowly come back, the leaves uncurling from the dry air. And he smiled.

He promised.

x x x

Dean would start hunting with Sam again two years after the fire, seven after Cas's death. He promised Cas he wouldn't, but Cas promised he wouldn't leave, so he would think it was an even trade.

x x x

Dean dozed off at 2:56 P.M.

x x x

He remembered Cas reading a book. He never looked at the cover when he was reading it in front of Dean, but his partner in crime would talk to him about it. "Gatsby is holding some sort of celebration," as a passing remark. Dean hummed.

"A party," he said.

Cas nodded. "Yes. A party."

One night, Cas was getting a little frustrated at the book, going on about how it suggested that the character had some sort of revelation by just staring out toward a blinking green light as he stood on the dock. Dean barely paid attention, but he managed to get the basics. "Fitzgerald is praised for this novel and the style represented through the characters," he started, "but I cannot bring myself to enjoy a part of the novel, particularly this green light the characters associate with."

It was one of the few times that Dean noticed the angel actually frustrated at something. He sat across from Cas. "Is that right?"

And Cas, mumbling to himself, made no sense to Dean. "As though a green light could symbolize anything like that. It makes no sense," Cas fumed.

Dean just chewed on his sandwich, and made a snide remark: "Yeah, but what about the color green in general? You've always liked looking in my eyes."

Cas watched Dean waggle his eyebrows, but kept his hard stare. "Yes, but that green is pure, as it should be within the righteous man."

Dean almost choked on the bread. "You have to stop calling me that."

Cas never did.

x x x

Dean snapped awake at 3:31 P.M.

x x x

Dean placed the plates down on the table in the kitchen, careful so as not to bump into Sam by the oven. When Sam turned around, he frowned. "Dean."

Dean turned around. "Yeah?"

"There's—you put an extra plate on the table."

And there was. Instead of just three (Bobby was coming to visit, to make sure everything was okay, to which Dean said: "Everything's fine. It's not like I'm going to kill myself") there were four. Dean looked down at the table, then shrugged. "Yeah, well, maybe Sheriff Mills is coming with."

"Dean."

"I mean, we haven't seen her in a while," they hadn't, "and maybe Bobby invited her over for dinner."

"Dean."

Dean grabbed the plate off the table. It was one of Cas's favorites, too. He always—he always liked eating off of it because of the blue pattern decorating the plate ("It is very intricate, and different," he said, which Dean thought he was relating it to himself; "It's just a plate, Cas. No need to get so attached"). Dean gripped the edge of the plate—he wasn't going to eat off of it anymore. He wouldn't put his fork across the plate and irritate the hell out of Dean because "the food is supposed to go where the fork is, Cas," and he'd reply: "I will move it when you serve the dinner." His favorite meal would never touch the porcelain plate, and not even the clink sound would be made against the plate when he would stab at the spaghetti, as though that made sense to stab at noodles—

Dean chucked the plate against the wall. Sam flinched at the sound of the glass breaking into tiny pieces. "Dean?" He turned around; an old hunter came from the doorway. "Hey, is everything okay?"

Sam shook his head when Bobby looked in his direction; Dean closed his eyes. "Fine," he let out, "It's fine."

The timer on the oven started to beep—just like—like—

x x x

Dean shut the door behind him; it was one of the few places where Sam wouldn't go if he was in there. He looked into the mirror. "Dean, you really need to talk about this," his younger brother confronted him after Bobby had left. And he nodded, thinking it would get him away. "I'm serious, Dean. It's eating you up inside. It's not healthy." Another swig of whiskey went down the throat and that was all she wrote.

So he was looking in the mirror. "Maybe you should pray to him."

"This is stupid," he muttered, seeing his lips in front of him mimic what he just said, seeing himself shake his head.

"Maybe knowing he could possibly be listening might help you cope."

He closed his eyes and leaned against the sink. What if he could? What if, at that moment, he was linked to Dean's thoughts and could hear the desperate plea that, somehow, God would complete his family once more? Perhaps making Team Free Will exist yet again? Or, what if Cas was waiting for him to talk to him? What if he had been talking to him the whole time, but Dean was too busy getting drunk enough to forget?

"Uh," he started; he never really prayed before. How was he supposed to pray to a dead angel? Was there a proper way of doing it? "Hey, Cas," he felt awkward. It probably looked awkward, too. "I, uh. I—I hope you're doing well up there," he shrugged; well, there was his first step, and it was a whole lot of crap. Congratulations, he thought; you're on your way. "Hope Heaven's not too boring. Hey, maybe they're getting sick of you up there, what with how much you always bossed me around down here."

He chuckled.

A flood of memories poured into his head, but he continued. "Look, I don't know if you can hear me up there, but—I'm sure you can see me just having a good old time with Sam and Bobby all over my ass about—about all this," he hung his head. He couldn't even say it out loud. "But, uh—if you—if by some miracle you can hear me, I—hell," he was getting frustrated. Stupid Sam, he thought. How the hell was praying going to help with anything? Dean let his head fall back and stare up at the ceiling. "You know what? It sucks, okay?"

No response.

"I mean—I thought I could get through this, you know? I thought burning you—I thought it would end it there," he blinked, "and it probably lasted a minute before you were in that rocking chair, or—I had to water your garden—and I broke your plate because you wouldn't use it, and—damn it, what am I supposed to do?" He leaned away from the sink and threw his hands in the air; he wanted an answer. His hands dropped. "Tell me, Cas."

No response.

"I'm sick and tired of waking up and seeing you gone. And these memories—they—" he needed to lean on something again, "they're the worst thing, Cas. You'd probably tell me to stop drinking so much," which it happened once, when they first moved into the house ("Dean, you do not need to drink that much as a celebration"). He looked down into the sink. "I just—"

He expected something, anything.

But he just closed his eyes and pretended he could hear a "As do I" in reply.

Then the frustration was back. "Screw this." He opened his eyes and looked back into the mirror; stern face, defensive posture—watering eyes. He'd be okay.

x x x

Sam let his head rest against the bathroom door. It was hard, for all of them.

x x x

Hunting would continue, but his new house would be built five years after the first fire. He would stay at Bobby's house until the house was complete, but he made sure the house was exactly the same as it had ever been, minus the furniture and finishing. The layout would be the same, the bed in the same spot, books on the bookshelves—Dean really had an inkling for some guy named Foer, and he would enjoy a sister from the Bronte family—and it'd feel like home. Of course, he would replace Cas's favorite Fitzgerald book (Dean would say he hated it, but he didn't dislike it—just wasn't his kind of book) in his honor. He would keep the green covers away from it, though. The only addition to the house would be Sam having his own room. Enough sleeping on the couch, Dean would think.

x x x

THWACK!

Dean turned around. "You did not just do that, Sam."

And Sam was laughing, another in his hand. "Oh, I believe I did."

A clump of white was hurled in Dean's direction, missing, but hitting the side of the Impala. Dean started to laugh. "Sam, worst mistake of your life."

It ended with Sam's face buried in snow.

When they went inside, Dean was handed a cup of hot chocolate after Sam made a brew for each of them. The younger hunter had snow still stuck in his hair, and Dean could feel the ice in his hair melting from the heat. Their clothes were drenched, hanging downstairs with the other laundry to dry, so now they were in comfortable pajamas. Dean brought the hot chocolate to his lips, moaning at the sweet deliciousness hitting his tongue. He didn't care if it burned it—it was still so good.

"Ahhh," he sighed in relief. "Sammy, I don't know how you do it, but these are always so good."

Sam shrugged. "I'm a genius." Dean rolled his eyes, taking another sip. He hadn't had that much fun in the snow since him and Cas tried making a snowman.

Bent down, but still on his feet, Dean turned around. Aside from Cas bundled in a dark parka with red cheeks, pink fingers, and a grey scarf wrapped around his neck (okay, so maybe Dean could say he looked a little cute—just a little, though), yeah, Dean could say he wasn't doing well with his project. "No, Cas, you need to roll the snow, not mound it."

Cas frowned. "But this snow will not roll."

"Then ball it up first, then start to roll."Dean showed him an example; Cas followed suit.

"Like this?" He held a ball out in his already reddening hand; Dean nodded.

"Yeah. Nice and firm, like how a snowball should be." He turned back to his ball on the ground.

"But aren't snowballs thrown?"

"Well, yeah, but—" THWACK! Dean felt the snow lightly hit him in the back. He turned around. Cas had an innocent smile on his face. "Really?" Cas was already balling up another one.

"Yes," he replied, sort of sounding smug to Dean. Dean blocked the next one readily aimed at his head, and a THWACK hit on his arm. When he lowered it, he looked Cas right in the eye.

"That's it," With a pivot of his feet and a spring to his step, he lunged at Cas. It ended with both of them covered in snow, red skin from the bitter cold, and a few laughs shared when they started to brush the snow off one another. Cas and Dean sat in the snow, sitting across from one another, with trembling smiles on their faces.

"I rather like making snowmen," Cas remarked.

Dean smirked. "I told you not to mound it."

Dean set the cup on the table and smiled to his brother. "Thanks, Sam."

"You're welcome, Dean."

x x x

He could hear the different tools in the garage spurring through and through. Ah, yes, he thought, it was good to be back in business again. Although, Bobby put him on limited duties, like working on his own car—and that was it, because: "If you don't finish some damn car, you know how much that guy's gonna ride my ass? I ain't wantin' to deal with that." So it was settled that although Dean was back to work, he would only get to touch Baby, and that was final.

It wasn't as though he was down in some deep depression—it had been a month since Cas died, but who was keeping track? The bitter wind reminded him of how much the angel loved winter, though. "It is very beautiful when the snow falls." He shook his head; no, he wouldn't think about Cas at the garage, no matter how many times the angel visited him at the actual business (six—one of which ended with sex in the garage because Dean was working extra hours and no one was around, so why not live in the moment?). He put his toolbox down on the ground near some old junk cars and stared at his Baby.

He frowned. Something was wrong with her. When he was driving her into the garage, he could hear a clunking sound underneath the floorboard. He would get to the bottom of it, he thought. Nothing was going to hurt his pride and joy—and it sure as hell wasn't going to be some loose bit hanging around underneath his feet. So with a couple lifts of the car jack, a slide of some tools on the ground under her body, and his backboard wheeled at the edge, he let himself glide until half of his body was looking up at her car parts.

She was still beautiful, even after all of the beatings she took on the road. Sure, there were scratches and dings and he could see some lodged rocks in some of the parts, but man, he still loved her even with the faults. So he poked around a bit, probably taking an hour to make sure everything was fine and normal. And it was. Hell, he thought, he could probably be a surgeon if he—he closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. No, he would not think about that. Opening his eyes again, he let a few rocks fall from the body and onto the ground, little by little cleaning her up.

Then, he found it. Something had jarred a part of the brakes! He smirked; that smug bastard thought he could never be found. Dean reached up into the brakes and started toying around, trying to get comfortable enough where he could get a tool in there and tighten everything up, and he could—"You're not supposed to slam on the brakes, Cas."

His hand stopped twisting and turning into some impossible form. He could feel the loose bolt in his hand, ready to be turned and fixed. But he couldn't fix it, could he? The problem would come back, the problem would always come back, no matter how good things looked, and he could be twisting and twisting at the bolt all the time, but in the end, the problem would always be there, waiting to strike, waiting until it could say "Gotcha" and be the end of it.

He let his hand fall back onto his stomach, and closed his eyes. "Do you need help?"

"Cas, you wouldn't know how to fix her."

"I can help hand you tools."

"…Yeah, alright. Hand me the wrench—no, not that wrench, the other one."

"There are many other ones."

"Just—give me that."

He opened his eyes. Just once, he thought, just once.

He wanted to be left alone.

x x x

He stared at the books on the shelf. Dean hated Christmas shopping, and shopping for Sam was a pain in the ass sometimes. He looked down at the list of books he wanted; some of them were familiar, like Crime and Punishment, and something by a woman named Atwood, but he was having a hard time finding them. He looked back at the shelf, reading different titles that ranged from something about the Wild and 1984, whatever significance that made. "Am I even in the right section?" He looked around.

God damn it, he hated Christmas shopping, especially when people were never around to help. Bookstores were never his thing—he always made Cas go to them when Sam asked for books. Or if Cas himself wanted a book. Come to think of it, what would Cas have wanted for Christmas?

He sighed.

He left the section and continued his search.

x x x

"Here."

"Oh, we finally opening gifts and not getting plastered by the eggnog?"

"Can't help that it tastes delicious, Sammy."

"Wow, you actually found Camus' work for me. How many times did you have to find a person to help you with these?"

"Shut up."

"Open mine."

"What is it?"

"It's a journal, Dean."

"Sam—"

"No, just—promise you'll write in it, alright?"

"…Fine."

"Here, grumpy, have this, too."

"Oh, now we're talking. Moving Pictures—where did you find this?"

"Music store, Dean. There's one in town."

"And here I thought you didn't have taste."

"Rush isn't my kind of band."

"Music that's good for the soul."

"Yeah, to you."

"To everyone, Sam, god, have I not taught you anything?"

"Apparently not."

"Merry Christmas, Dean."

"Yeah, Merry Christmas, Sammy."

x x x

Dean flicked the small halo on the angel on top of their small Christmas tree. "You don't want a real one?"

"A small one does the same job as a really big one. This is fine."

"If you insist."

"Merry Christmas, Cas."

x x x

"We're just a few moments away from entering into the next year…" Dean watched as thousands of people gathered in one spot just to watch a ball drop. He never saw the excitement in the whole thing, but Sam always liked to see the celebrities come on screen and feel as though he were in Times Square—the nerd. "So, what's your resolution gonna be, Dean?"

He never had one, in years past. He never felt like having one, mainly because he was always on the road so damn much hunting things, and taking care of Sam. Besides, he never understood the point of them in the first place. Most of the time, people didn't stay with the resolution and broke it within a week, so really, why make the promise when it would be broken in the first place? He drank the liquor in his glass—Bobby brought scotch over for whatever reason, and it just wasn't the same as whiskey—before he could hear the ghost creep into his ears. Not tonight, he thought.

Dean shrugged. "Haven't really thought about it," he said to his younger brother. Sam turned away from the TV and stared at him.

"Come on, there's gotta be something you want to do, or to better about yourself. You could always give up drinking," and Dean laughed.

"Yeah, when I'm dead."

Sam sighed. "Well, you know, your liver won't think it's very good when it starts failing on you." Dean teased his brother by pouring another drink for himself. "You're a child."

Dean smiled. "Happy New Year, Sammy." He held up his glass toward his younger sibling and down the hatch it went. It wouldn't be the new year until an hour later, of course, but the sounds of people singing Auld Lang Syne made him want to drink as much as possible.

Low singing started next to him on the couch. He hummed. "'Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?' Should we be dancing along with them?" The former angel looked to his former hunter. Dean shook his head.

"No, they're drunk, they don't know any better." Cas looked back to the TV and started singing again.

Down the hatch, he thought.

x x x

"How do you get by, Bobby?"

"Drinkin'."

"Yeah, how's that going for you?"

"Hey, I'm still kickin', aren't I?"

"You got that right."

"You just gotta occupy your mind, boy. That's all. Don't think about it too much—nothin' you could've done."

"Yeah."

"Besides, I ain't wantin' to be around your sorry, depressed ass with you moping like this."

"Good thing I still have the whiskey."

"Yeah, the horseshit kind."

"Works wonders, though."

"Hey, you guys, get inside, you'll miss the fireworks!"

"Sam, I don't understand why you like this stuff."

"7…6…5…"

"4…3…"

"2…"

"1… Happy New Year!"

x x x

Bobby would be the next death in Dean's life, fourteen years after Cas died. He wouldn't go out with a bang either—just a really bad heart. He would live a hard and steady life, Bobby, and Sam and Dean would be there to burn the corpse to give him the proper hunter funeral. Dean wouldn't talk about the death much; the whiskey was his salvation from that. Sam would worry about his older brother and try to talk to him, but he was too busy drinking to care.

x x x

After a long day at the garage (and hearing stories of the guys hammered beyond belief because of New Year's), Dean wanted to just sit on his couch, have some dinner with his brother, talk about whatever there was to talk about in the news, then sleep the night away. He closed the door to the Impala (that rattling noise bothered him, but he was not about to climb into the snow to help her out) and walked toward the house. He needed to remember to take some of the snow off the roof, and perhaps shovel the small steps so Sam wouldn't slip half the time—

He looked over to the porch swing. The wind could barely move the entire thing, but it rattled the chains from time to time. Dean reached into his jacket pocket; a piece of paper crumpled up to Hell came out. He knew what it said. He knew what voice it would be read in, too. "Welcome home, Dean." Quickly, the paper was stuffed back into the same pocket.

"Yeah," he whispered, seeing his breath fall into the open air. "It's good to be home."

x x x

Dean closed his eyes in his bed. "Cas, if you can hear me," he whispered, "I—I just wanted to say hello."

The only response came from the blistering wind from the chilled winter night. Dean tucked himself more into the sheets, still missing the side of warmth by his side. "I never know if you can hear me, and—I gotta tell ya, this is stupid. I probably look crazy. Might be why I'm not getting any numbers from the ladies in town, you know?"

Dean smiled, picturing the glare from Cas when he went to a bar one night ("That is not funny, Dean"). "Everything's fine down here, as fine as it will be," he continued, thinking Cas really could hear him (stupid Sam, he still thought). "I always think a demon will come out of nowhere, now that you're gone. Like you protected me—well, you were my angel, yeah?" He sighed. "You still are, dead or alive."

Before he fell asleep, he wondered if a demon would kill him in the night, or if he'd wake up to another day with not a care in the world in the first place.

x x x

A chill in the air rolled right on by. The occupant lying down was afraid. "Dean?"

x x x

It was only the wind, they both agreed.

x x x

A few years after Bobby's death (two and a quarter, to be exact), the boys would officially retire from hunting altogether. They would not get bored of it, no, but Dean decided it was time to give up the life on the road, and Sam wanted to settle down with someone he had met on a hunt years ago (but still kept the connection alive, which Dean would call Sam "a sly fox").

x x x

He forgot about Valentine's Day, but he was quickly reminded when he entered the convenient store plastered with little floating hearts everywhere. He was there for toilet paper and maybe some of those candy hearts—they were always a nice treat for anyone. So with a few twists and turns down a few aisles, and a few moments where he had to dodge some old ladies booking it with carts, he was finally able to check out.

"Hello!" She smiled to him; he smiled back. He'd seen her a few times when him and Cas were there to get things at the store. As she scanned the items, she made a comment. "Where's the other man that's always with you? Is that what the candy hearts are for?"

Dean shook his head, a smile still on his face. "Uh, no," he stammered. "He's at home," he had to lie. The girl didn't care if Cas was—he just wasn't in the mood to tell a stranger. The girl nodded in understanding.

"Oh, maybe planning a big dinner for you," Cas usually did that for the day, he thought, although Cas wasn't a romantic—neither was Dean, in any account. "Tell him I say hello," she said before telling him the total. He nodded.

And when he left the register with a quick goodbye, he made a note to himself to never go to her register again.

x x x

The day was upon him. Stupid Valentine's Day, he thought. And lo and behold, he was in a bar.

He wasn't complaining—no, really, he wasn't.

Well, there was one complaint. It smelled like sweat and piss in the bar, but hey, a night out with his brother (who wanted to meet someone there because they happened to bump into each other at a store somewhere) plus alcohol never seemed like a bad idea. And it just so happened to that the night wasn't bad at all. There Dean was, sitting at the bar, chatting it up with the young bartender behind the counter every so often when he refilled his glass (sometimes with whiskey, sometimes with scotch, other times with rum), and he felt—he was alright, for the most part.

He could be sleeping—hell, he could be doing a lot of things other than watching the drunks on the other side of the bar fall over and their friends laughing, just as drunk—but every time he seemed to glance at his younger brother smiling and laughing at the woman across from him at the table, he didn't seem to mind. After all, how many times would he get the chance to see his little Sammy all grown up and flirting with women? He brought the glass to his lips and smiled; he'd have to tease Sam about it.

Someone sat down next to him. He downed the drink in his hand and let his eyes glance to the woman next to him. She was young, maybe a few years younger than he was, long, auburn hair, wearing a scandalous yet decent top. She set her glass down (something fruity, he noted) and smiled. "I don't think I've seen you here, mister," she said to him.

He set his empty glass down and smirked. "Oh, I've been here quite a few times. I think it might be the other way around, though," and her smile grew. She hummed. He could've probably called it a laugh, but she didn't seem amused enough at the notion. She turned in the stool, her bare legs brushing against his. Naturally, he turned his attention to her.

"So what brings you here tonight?" Most women asked him that whenever he showed up at the bar. Most women found out he was there with the guys from the garage. Most women walked away when he mentioned Cas.

He shrugged. "Thought I could get some fresh air from home and enjoy a drink or two."

"Or five," she counted, as she scanned her eyes up and down his body. Yeah, okay, so maybe he was getting a little drunk off the whiskey, so what? The bartender didn't seem to care; he just kept refilling it. She leaned against the counter, elbow propped. Her hair fell to one side. "You don't seem like the person to be out right now."

He raised an eyebrow. "Is that right?"

She hummed again, lips together. "Doesn't seem like you've had a good day in a while," and she moved her legs closer toward his, as though she was shifting the position in her seat. He knew what she was doing, he wasn't stupid.

He nodded. "Bad day at work is all," he said.

She smirked. "We all have them." And he agreed—he just felt like he was having bad days over and over again, just for the hell of it, though. "So why not let yourself live a little tonight?" The bartender came to refill his drink, and he turned to him and smiled. It was always the same with the women in the bar: they always wanted him to go home with them. Of course, someone else was at his house, on his mind, as though warning him what would happen if he ever tried to pull a stunt like that—

His hand rested on the rough ridges of the glass, his fingertips gliding over the jagged points. "I'm sure it'd be a great time," he commented, then let his eyes go back to her. She was smiling. And he went back to his alcohol. "But I think I'm just going to sit here and drink my glass."

As he was drinking, he heard her chuckle. And when Dean was about to ask what it was, she answered him anyway. "You know, you're the first one to turn me down in a while."

The burn in his throat wasn't gone when he asked: "Only prey on guys who look like hell?"

Her smile grew. "Give yourself credit, you look great." And, okay, he probably did. He never really gave a crap about how he looked when going to the bar, but Sam asked him to "at least look decent" so of course he obliged. He wasn't well-dressed—old green shirt under a short-sleeved woven, paired with dark denim jeans. He looked okay. He smirked, and she rose from the stool, hand out in front of her. Dean turned his torso toward her again. "It was a pleasure to meet you…" her voice trailed off.

"Dean," he replied, hand meeting hers. God, her hands were smooth, too.

She nodded. "Dean," repeated, as though she would remember. In all likelihood, she probably wouldn't. "Sarah." She quickly spat out. He nodded acknowledging her name. "I hope your work days don't suck too much."

He gave a small laugh. "Hope you find someone for yourself," he replied. When their hands left each other's, he felt the same as if they hadn't touched. Then, in the next second, a paper card was in his hands.

"In case of an emergency," She winked, and turned away from him. He wasn't going to lie, she was very attractive, and if he wasn't—he shook his head and turned back to the bar, back to the drink lying on the counter. He noticed the fruity drink still sitting there though, so when he turned to call and get her back, she was gone. Maybe she ducked into the crowds, maybe finding her friends sitting at a table somewhere. He paid no attention to her; the card was crumpled up the moment he let his hand ball, his drink was already gone, and the bartender had something else for him:

The bill.

He gave the young guy a smile. "You always know when to bring the exciting stuff over."

x x x

The woman from the bar smirked, glancing to the ceiling. "Happy?"

x x x

Twenty years after Dean's life with Cas ended, Sam would get married and move into Bobby's old place. It would never be truly abandoned, as the two boys would clean it from time to time, but Sam wanted a place of his own. A few months after he moved into the place, Dean would get a call from him about an addition on the way. Dean would wonder how Cas would have taken the news of a little kid in the family (to which he would imagine it something like: "Kids are beautiful creations of God, but can be a nuisance"). It would be the little thoughts in his head that made him realize he'd never find another.

x x x

"I'm going out to get some things from the store," Sam called out to Dean, who was in his bedroom. When he walked out to see Sam off, the younger brother noticed a book in his hands. He smiled, then glanced back up. "Need anything?"

Dean shook his head. "Just the usual," he replied. And Sam knew what the usual was: food, liquor, and more food. A quick open of the door left Dean alone while Sam walked to town, and he himself sat down on the couch. As much as he wanted to turn on the television, he figured he'd actually get some kind of entry into the journal Sam gave him for Christmas, so his brother didn't think it was a waste of money. But, hell, what did people write in a journal (he was not going to call it a diary, because he was not in high school, god damn it)?

Twenty or minutes probably passed before he opened the damn thing for the first time. He unraveled the small leather string wrapped around it, and felt the cover pop open. What a great security system, he thought. He let his fingers slip into the leather covering and open the journal up; inside was yellowish paper, thick, and it smelled like an old book. He stared down at the blank page. Seriously, what did people write in a journal? His dad had one, but that was for hunting. He clicked the pen in his hand.

He thought, and he thought, and he thought some more, but nothing was coming to mind. He leaned back into the couch; he wondered what Cas would write. Probably how his garden was doing, or how Dean was late for supper again because of work. Probably. Dean put the pen to the paper and wrote the date. So far so good, he thought. He was already on a roll. Moving the pen over to the other side of the page, he started to write.

And he didn't realize he'd written an entry until he was completely done, when the whole page was full of words. He didn't read what his thoughts were (truth be told, he didn't even know what he had written down), but he was sure it was something that would upset him.

"Hopefully now it won't," he whispered to himself, realizing he needed a drink.

x x x

"First you didn't want to come along a week ago, and now you're bothering the hell out of me by picking foods we won't eat right away."

Dean shrugged.

"Hey, I haven't had a dill pickle in years, Sam. Let a guy live a little."

Sam sighed.

"Alright, put them in the cart."

And Dean happily did, placing the glass jar on the bottom near one of the back corners, so as not to break it somehow. Him and his brother never went to the grocery store together—it was usually Sam or Cas going for the home, and whenever Dean went along, he liked to buy foods that weren't on sale and were impulse buys. Sam didn't mind; Cas always did. "Dean, if we were to leave right now, would you eat this box of rice right away?"

"Well, no, but—"

"Put it back."

"You're no fun."

"You can blame the budget."

It was true. The budget was about 75 dollars, and while they could get a lot with that money, it was usually the same things over and over—Dean was just adding a bit of zest to the bland food they've had for a long time. What was so wrong with dill pickles anyway? They were delicious, first off—

"Okay," Sam continued pushing the cart down the aisle, a list in his hands. He didn't need a list, who was he kidding? Dean walked next to his brother. "We need some lunchmeat," and he looked up from the list and to Dean.

Dean just had a wide smile on his face.

Sam understood, and sighed. "Go pick out some—" Dean celebrated in his head, walking past the cart and toward the meat somewhere in the store. As Sam turned to go into the next aisle, he yelled: "Don't get a lot!"

Dean would have a problem with that five minutes later.

There was so many he could have! Bologna, turkey, roast beef—he'd definitely have that, he thought. How did people not go nuts in a grocery store! If he wanted to, he could have one of everything on the menu, and then some, and that'd probably be the entire budget right there. And most of it was on sale (20 cents off the regular price, but hey, that's 20 cents going toward something else in his mind)! He looked around; he wondered if Sam was worried about his older brother. Then again, he was probably looking at bread, trying to figure out which brand of white he'd buy.

Dean looked back to the meat. He grabbed the roast beef (easy choice, seeing as how he could smother it with mustard and lettuce and tomatoes and cheese), then looked at the other choices. He wondered which lunchmeats he liked. He tried to remember the best tastes. Cas always made some sandwich for his lunch at the garage, and it was something zesty and tasty, and it was full of mustard, mayo, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and then a slab of meat on the bottom piece of bread. And Cas would always—Dean smiled. He'd always hand him the lunch and say, "This is for you, Dean."

Dean looked down at the roast beef package in his hands. He—"You're thinking about him, aren't you?" A voice from behind said to him. He didn't jump. Instead, Dean turned his head.

"No," he denied—he was such a terrible liar, too, "No. I'm just wondering what lunchmeat goes best with roast beef." He let his arm go to his side, his hand flicking the package into the cart. Dean's eyes turned back to the wall.

Sam sighed. "You can talk about it, you know."

"Yeah, I know. There's nothing to talk about."

"Dean—"

"Sam, not right now."

"But, Dean."

"But what?" He turned away from the lunchmeat, eyes on his younger brother, who expressed so much concern because of how Dean was reacting to just lunchmeat. He had to admit, it was pretty pathetic. "What, you want me to cry on your shoulder in front of other people here about how Cas is gone?"

Something jolted through him.

It was the first time he said his name to anyone in months.

Dean looked to the ground, then back to the lunchmeat.

"He'd like turkey, you know," he whispered, reaching for the small package hanging from the hook. Sam nodded. For a split second, Dean gave some thought on looking at the turkey wrapped inside the plastic container, and then it was tossed into the cart, landing next to the roast beef.

"Come on," he said, "let's finish up. I want to go home."

x x x

Sam was outside; Dean was alone with the bookshelf. He leaned his head against one of the shelves.

He closed his eyes.

"I got you turkey today," he whispered. "Just…thought I'd let you know."

He opened his eyes.

x x x

Five years after Sam and his wife had a child (they, of course, named her Mary), Dean would be on babysitting duty while the two went out on a long-needed date. As he would be tucking her into Sam's old bed ("You can't sleep with me," he would say to her, after she begged to sleep with Uncle Dean), she would ask: "Can you tell me a bedtime story?" And he would sit down next to her to tell her one he had been wanting to tell for over twenty-five years.

"Once upon a time, a long, long, long time ago, there were two hunters and an angel living in a house…"

It was the first time in years that Dean talked about Cas.

x x x

"Cas, the answer is no."

"Dean, we could use pictures—"

"I said no! Jesus, we don't need them."

"I thought it'd be nice to—"

"To what, capture precious moments of us together? Oh yeah, why don't you use that camera now to capture this moment. Something for the whole family to see, us arguing!"

"Dean—"

"That's what memories are for, you know."

"But you can forget them over time."

"Yeah, right, how could I ever forget you?"

"Do you wish that?"

"Just—drop it."

Dean opened his eyes and let the subtle moonlight cast into the room. His eyes rested on the dresser on the other side of the bed; he remembered Cas pulling that camera in and out of the drawer. He wondered what was on there.

He wondered if there was a picture he could have in order to never forget. He closed his eyes; it was one thing he regretted with Cas.

x x x

"That'll be $8.37 for the pictures. I haven't seen a disposable camera in here in a long time. How long have you had this?"

"It was lying around, thought I'd see what kind of pictures were on it."

"Must've been lying around a long time, sir."

"Yeah, just forgot about it."

"Well, I think you'll be happy with them. Here's your change."

"Thanks."

x x x

Dean sat on the bed with the envelope in his hands. Why he even turned in the camera to get the pictures developed, he didn't know. It was stupid, and now he was stuck with pictures of—well, he didn't know what Cas even took pictures of—and he was practically tormenting himself with the idea of looking at them. Sam saw the envelope in his hands when he walked inside. "You took pictures?"

"No, I found an old camera lying around." Sam huffed.

"Huh." He didn't question why he needed to go into his bedroom, but Dean needed to be alone, most likely, when he would look at the pictures. Close the door, sit on the bed—so he was sitting on the bed, envelope in his hands. He sighed. Now or never, he thought. He tore the sticky stuff off, feeling it cling to his skin until he rubbed it on his jeans. There weren't many pictures—maybe 20, at most, and the first one was of the lake. And it wasn't as though it was looking out into the sunset (clearly it was the sunset, because the water looked orange), no. Cas had bent over the dock to take a picture of his reflection.

The waves made him look distorted, the camera stuck to his face, his hands holding onto the green gizmo with trying delicacy, his finger on the button, and—that was it. The blue and orange colors mixed together, and the slim shape of Cas knelt down before the fish that were most likely underneath formed into just a distorted image. He wondered why Cas would take such a picture, and what sparked in his mind that would want him to take a picture like that. What was going on in Cas's head?

He flipped to the next image. Scenery—it was of the woods. Picture after picture, it was all scenery, of places around the house, of things inside the house—hell, of the house itself. And they were all taken on random days of the year—a few had snow on the ground, some with rain dripping from the roof, others with the sun beaming down on their home. He thought it would be a waste of time to go through all of them, but he did, and he expected more, and he was getting angry that Cas didn't take one picture of himself, one that—

The last picture stuck in his hands. It was one of him, of Dean. He was underneath the Impala, again, working on her parts because that's what he always did when he had free-time around the house. He was all greased up in his upper body, with his legs sprawled out in the sun. There were tools scattered by his feet, and he was holding a wrench of some kind, digging up into the framework of his Baby. It was right before Cas asked him if he could help him with anything dealing with the Impala.

Dean sighed and put the pile of pictures on top of his nightstand; like he could forget him.

x x x

It wouldn't be long after the story was told (two years) that he'd start to forget about Cas. The doctors would say it was because of his old age, and Dean believed them. He would swear the doctor never aged, though.

x x x

Dean fell asleep around 11:42 P.M.

x x x

Dean was face-to-face with their house.

The Impala was sitting next to him, same as always. The sun was glowing in the big blue sky, and the garden was vibrant with colors of the plants in the ground. Even the lake in the close distance had sparkling water and calm waves, a rare occurrence in their part of town. He looked back to the house. It was still in the same condition as it ever was, same look, same exterior, probably same interior—so why was he there? He looked around again, searching for some kind of clue, but nothing came by; only the wind seemed to guide him into walking toward the house.

So he did. His feet moved under the seemingly real gravel under his shoes, and all the noises came from the wind whistling in his ears. It was, without a doubt, creepy. Was there something wrong with his house that he needed to understand? Great, he thought, more housework. Each step he took from the stairs made a loud banging sound, the same noise he made every day he came home from work, and the swing next to him rocked just a little. He didn't dwell on it; he just walked into his home, door unlocked and all.

Something was wrong.

Why was the door unlocked? "Sam?" He called out once. Nothing. The screen door behind him shut, the things inside didn't move, and that was it. His words fell on deaf ears, and it was obvious that he was alone. Dean took a few steps inside, looking around. Yep, he thought, still the same as it ever was. The dressers were still in one piece, the table in the kitchen still kind of close to the refrigerator—even the tears on the couch were visible. So he stood there, waiting for something to happen. And it did. The wind outside picked up, and it whistled.

"Dean," it whispered. Dean turned his head toward the door; nothing. No, he thought, he would not go through this, not in a dream. He didn't want to hear Cas's voice, he—Dean still stood there, waiting for the wind again. "What do you want me to do?" He called out.

"Dean," again, it only whispered. Dean spun, looking in each room that was around. Every once in a while something would flash in and out—someone. It took form. But it never stayed. Why was his mind putting him through that? "I swear to God, if you don't show yourself right now," he threatened, voice cracking. Then, he heard something shatter in the bedroom, and his head quickly turned in that direction. Great, he thought—in our bedroom. He wasn't going to wait any longer; he had been there long enough with some sick trick going on, and he wasn't going to take it anymore. So he charged down the hallway, passing the same table he always did, and opened the door—

A person stood there, staring.

"Hello, Dean."

Dean stared back.

"Cas."

He looked the same as he ever had before the disease.

Dean felt euphoric.

Dean didn't know what to do. He was afraid the angel would disappear the moment he'd start walking, or the house would somehow explode and he'd wake up and everything would be gone, but—it was the first time in months seeing Cas again. It was the first time in a long time where Cas looked healthy and fine. Dean scanned the angel up and down, taking everything he could in; when would the next chance be, if there were a chance? Stupid mind picking his dreams—"I…" Cas started, but Dean shook his head. He closed the door behind him, hearing the latch click shut, and walked toward Cas.

If it were the last time he'd see Cas for good, he wanted it to be a good one. He wrapped his arms around the small frame and held him close. "God damn it, Cas," he whispered, his eyes watering the moment their bodies collided. He missed it, he really did. He could feel the warm breathing trickle down his chest, the small arms wrap around his bulky stature, and he could feel his heart beat as fast as it could, making it harder and harder to breathe with each passing moment that went by just holding him. Dean closed his eyes. "Where have you been?"

"Here," replied Cas.

"You mean in our house?"

"No, Heaven."

Dean's eyes shot open. He was—Cas leaned away from Dean's body, looking up at the hunter. Dean stared into old blue eyes again. "What is the matter?"

Dean frowned. "You're telling me I'm in your Heaven right now? That this," Dean let his eyes flicker around the room, seeing everything he could that was in the real house, in his time, in the room they were in. "All of this, this is your Heaven?" Cas nodded. Dean couldn't believe it; he let Cas go from his grasp. The angel did a slight tilt, but Dean continued. "Why did you bring me here?" Cas noticed the frustration, and Dean knew he would. No matter how hard he tried to hide it, there was no way he could. And Dean wished to be there with Cas, but not like that. Not in Heaven, he thought.

"You do not believe you should be here," Cas finally said. Dean shook his head.

"No, I know I don't belong here. Jesus, Cas, you're supposed to be at peace."

"I am," the angel whispered. Dean shook his head again.

"You're torturing yourself with the memory of our house." It was Cas's turn to shake his head, and he turned to the bed.

"I had found there was no place like home, as you had put it," and Cas sat down on the edge of the bed, inviting Dean as well. The hunter couldn't resist. After all, being in bed with an angel had its perks. When he sat down, Cas placed a hand on top of his; it felt so real, he thought. "I brought you here, Dean." And Dean looked at the angel, trying to get eye contact, but Cas kept his head down, as though trying to remember what it was like to hold onto something real again (which Dean was doing at the same time). "And he said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'"

Dean looked down at his lap. "Does—Does this mean I'm dead?"

Cas shrugged a tiny bit. "Temporarily. By the time the sun rises on your side, you will be alive once more." Dean felt Cas grip onto his fingers, rubbing the skin underneath his to remember it all before time was up. He realized it was the total opposite of how the other angels treated Cas; Cas died because the sun rose, while Dean would be alive when light broke day.

"So—So why did you bring me here?"

"Your prayers." Dean would have to thank Sam for the idea.

"You actually heard them?"

Cas nodded, as if surprised. "Of course I did. Who else would hear them if they were not directed toward me?" Dean shrugged; well, he certainly knew how to connect with an angel, then. "And I—I could feel your soul was not at rest, Dean. you mustn't worry about me. I am at peace."

"Yeah, well, I'm not." Cas looked up at Dean, who was struggling to maintain his mask, despite wanting nothing more than to let it all go. Cas brought his hand up to Dean's face, and felt the hunter lean into the warmth again.

"I am sorry," Cas whispered. Dean didn't know what to do. He held onto the hand that fed him, leaned into the warm skin that invited him into their world, and he closed his eyes to remember the feeling before time was up. And when Dean brought his hand to the hand on his cheek, they both lowered into Dean's lap, holding on for whatever they could hold. "For what it is worth," Dean felt Cas's forehead lean on his shoulder, probably closing his eyes at the same time, "I have missed you since being in the afterlife."

Dean bit down on his lip. He was sure he would break the skin and bleed blood soon after, but he didn't care. "I—" Dean started, but when he opened his eyes, he couldn't continue. There he was, sitting on their bed, with his partner, and that was it. It was something he never expected to happen again, and it was because Cas missed him. And of all the times Dean missed him? Nothing happened. Dean frowned. "How long have you been up here by yourself?"

Cas opened his eyes. "37 years."

Dean knew time didn't move like it did on Earth—it had only been months of suffering for Dean, and Cas had gone through years. "And you haven't gone crazy at being all alone here?"

Cas shook his head, lifting it from the shoulder to look at Dean in his green eyes—another part he missed about the hunter (there was a whole list he had). "It is quiet here."

Dean frowned. "Yeah, but you're alone. Don't you wish someone was here with you?"

"Someone like yourself?" Cas asked. Dean couldn't deny it. "I will be here for much longer than 37 years, Dean. I have learned to live here for that long, and much longer when I was a soldier, and I can continue to live in this Heaven for much longer than that. Perhaps one day I will gain company."

Dean blinked. "And when's that day?"

"All I know," Cas started again, making sure Dean couldn't say anymore. "is I will hold onto my faith of being reunited. I can never return to Earth, but you are, and always have been, invited into Paradise, along with Sam."

Dean slightly shifted on the bed, making his body turn toward Cas. Cas mirrored him. "So, so," Dean's eyes scanned him again. "You're waiting for me to die?"

Cas shook his head. "You must live, Dean. Do not end your life so abruptly because I am here without you."

"I wouldn't, but—But you're—you're all alone, Cas. The least God could do is give you a few brothers around here." Cas smiled.

"I would probably end in fights with most of my brothers," he replied, and Dean couldn't argue with that. He probably was hunted on Earth until he passed on. There was a brief silence between the two, both of them looking at the joined hands in the middle, both of them wishing they would remember every little detail when the other had to leave. Dean's eyes closed once more, and his hands gripped Cas's as he spoke.

"I'm sorry for—for everything," he whispered.

Cas leaned forward. "You needn't apologize, Dean. You had done nothing wrong."

Dean opened his eyes. "I just—I wish you were still there, Cas. I wish I could—you were still on the bed, sleeping beside me, or cooking, or—even sitting on the swing, I—" Cas moved on the bed, his hands reaching for Dean's face, a palm on each cheek. Dean leaned his head forward; Cas did the same. Their foreheads rested against the other. Dean could feel the calm breathing come from the angel; Cas could feel the stuttering breaths come from the hunter. "I just—"

Cas leaned more into Dean. "As do I," he whispered. It was the response Dean was looking for the entire time, and he sighed. It felt right. Dean opened his eyes to find his angel with his eyes closed, still calmly breathing, although he looked a bit more broken than Dean remembered seeing, judging by the fact there was a gleam of water on his bottom eyelid. And it wasn't as though Dean was teasing him; he figured his eyes were shot to Hell. When Cas did open his eyes, something inside Dean struck a wrong chord in his heart.

He knew what was coming, and he didn't want it to end. He wanted to stay with Cas, stay as long as he could with the angel without going back. He wanted—he wanted Cas back. He heard the ticking of the clock on the nightstand slowly start to fade into the background, as though time in the room started to slow down for both of them. He knew it wasn't the case; he knew the world was starting to disappear. Dean heard a sigh come from Cas's lips; he knew what was coming. "It's time, Dean," and the blue eyes flicker up to meet the green ones scared beyond belief, scared that he'll be alive once more, and Cas would still be dead.

Dean closed his eyes. "I don't want to go back, Cas."

"I know. I wish nothing more than to keep you here."

"Then do it."

"Dean—" And Dean knows he was being irrational. He couldn't die, not then. He had to live on Earth until something killed him, whether it was a demon or not. He felt the breath from the other fall on his lips again, another sigh wracking through his body. "One day, perhaps, you will belong here."

"And you belong on Earth," Dean replied, opening his eyes again. The angel frowned.

"I will be here, Dean Winchester," and one of the hands left Dean to his shoulder, over the handprint scar still charred into his body. It let Dean relax, start to feel another rush of euphoria hit his body. Soon, he thought, the dream would end. "Until you join me," Cas whispered, Dean keeping the eye contact alive, "promise me you will live for Sam and others you may encounter in your life. Do not worry about me, Dean," Dean cannot promise he won't worry about Cas. It is as though the angel imprinted some other brand on his mind. "Be at peace with my death."

They both knew what Cas was trying to say, how Cas had done enough rebelling in his lifetime, how he had done enough for the world and the Winchesters, and how Dean should be sleeping peacefully as well. "How, though?"

Cas let his fingers dig into his shoulder. "Find a way," he whispered, and Dean felt a rush of endorphins start to spiral him out of the Heaven built by Cas. They both knew Dean wouldn't sleep peacefully, not until Cas was back in his life again. He was a hunter, always a hunter, and they knew the hunter never slept until the hunted was captured and ratified. They might have their eyes closed and dream of something only for the wicked, but their eyes are always on the grand prize somewhere at the end of a long, black road, paved only for themselves.

"Will—you won't bring me back here, will you?" Cas frowned.

"There are no guarantees. I can only hope."

Dean closed his eyes; this can't be the end, he thought. Just five more minutes, just give me time to say goodbye.

And he knew he sucked at goodbyes; it was why Cas was the only one to say it in the air. "Goodbye, Dean." It was hardly wanted between the two, and it hung in the air for seconds before someone moved on the bed. Dean opened his eyes to see the tears pool in the blue eyes staring back, and he could only imagine what Cas was seeing (the beautiful green eyes of the righteous man, he thought). Dean felt like he was about to break—he had to deal with losing him again, and it wasn't fair. They both didn't realize how hard it would be to separate again until they were torn apart when time was up.

Dean heard the final seconds tick away, and with each second passing, his body was slipping away from Cas. It was getting harder to breathe in the purified air around, and it was hard to keep focus on the blue eyes still scanning him, still trying to remember everything that he once left behind. Dean heard another second tick; his hands lifted to Cas's face (which Cas remembered how rough Dean's hands were, and hadn't missed that feeling). Another second ticked by—he leaned forward to brush the lips he longed to have in his life again. It wasn't the hunger that drove them into the kiss—it was all but rough. It was his goodbye, his passing farewell, and Cas closed his eyes to relish in the burn the lips leave on his mouth.

Another second ticked by. Cas knew when he opened his eyes, Dean would be gone. The warmth on his lips would linger for all eternity, and it would burn into his memory the rest of the time in Paradise. He would never mind it, no matter how much it drove him insane, knowing he wouldn't have Dean like that until Dean passed away himself. Cas felt Dean slip away, and he dug his fingers into Dean's shoulder once more. The clock stopped ticking; it was enough. The next second occurred, and Cas felt nothing but the cold air once more swirl around his body. His hands fell to the bed, where Dean once sat, and he opened his eyes. Nothing but the familiar sheets; the warmth that once was there was gone.

x x x

Dean woke up at 5:51 A.M., welcoming the first day of Spring.

x x x

Thirty-three years would bring Dean into a state where he was on the verge of forgetting everything about Cas. He would remember little memories, but Sam would recall him being stuck in the past for most of the time. "Where's Cas?" Dean would ask.

"He's dead, Dean," Sam would reply.

"He—he can't be dead. I'll kill whoever killed him, the son—the son of a bitch."

"Dean, stop."

"No—No, he was—he was just here…" a broken voice would shake.

It would bring Dean to tears every time.

x x x

He made his bed for the first time in a long time.

He stood under the shower without having to pray.

He went through the whole day without being reminded that Cas was dead and there were memories haunting him.

He sighed in relief.

Baby steps, Dean told himself.

x x x

Dean stared down at the food sizzling on top of the oven. They'd have stir fry, because he was hankering for something really good. And Sam had gone to the grocery store some days ago, so why not take the opportunity to cook? "You sure you want to cook? You haven't cooked anything for months now."

Dean nodded. "It's not like I somehow forgot to cook." And he didn't. He splashed some soy sauce into the pan, stirred the noodles, listened to the steak sizzle in the grease, and leaned over the oven to turn it off. It was done. A masterpiece, if he really wanted to be honest. Maybe his brother wouldn't think that, but hey, Dean knew it'd be delicious—what part of "soy sauce" isn't delicious? He could probably down a whole bottle of that if he wanted to without any complaint.

He felt his brother next to him. "Want me to set up the table?"And Dean nodded. The man only had so many hands, as bad as that could be! He put the pan with the steak on a cold burner, and the noodles onto another. The sizzling died down, the food smelled terrific, and he heard the plates clinking on the table as Sam put together the table. And when Dean turned around, his younger brother was smiling back. "Smells good, Dean."

"Of course it smells good," Dean replied back, "I made it."

x x x

"'ey, yo, Dean!" One of the guys called out to him as he was pulling away from the garage. "Tell your brother to get off his ass and work for a living!" And Dean waved them off, probably giving them a few profanities back, but he tore out of the garage after a long day. Some guy had the nerve to tell him he knew nothing about cars after he noticed a scoff mark on the white leather seat. The guy didn't come in for a cleaning, Dean told him; he came in for the brakes to be fixed, and he'd be damned if they weren't fixed. The owner of the car, of course, cussed him out, but was glad his car had working brakes again. Saved his life, he thought, as he watched the guy pull out.

As he drove down the road, listening to a Beatles' song come through his speakers from the radio ("Let it Be" was always a classic in his mind, as he hummed along), he wondered what all he needed to do around the house. Probably clean some of the rooms, do the dishes, water the garden, sweep off the porch, maybe do some laundry while he was at it. He leaned back into the seat as he turned into the drive, slowly approaching the house in the distance. The purr of the Impala still rattled under his feet, but he'd fix that in the morning, after a good night's rest.

He sighed and put the car into park. Slowly, the engine stopped purring, and he was outside once more. The music was gone, but he was still humming the sweet tune of "Let it Be." Sometimes, the radio just had great taste, what could he say? He climbed the steps, looked out toward the lake for a brief moment to see the setting sun falling on the calm waves, and he turned back to the house. The porch swing slightly swung, but his eyes tore away to look inside the house. He could see Sam down the hallway picking out something from the table, and he started to sing the part blaring on the radio in the kitchen.

"And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine on until tomorrow, let it be."

x x x

Dean had a day off from the garage after a few weeks, so he spent it on the porch with Sam. "Don't you have anything to do besides lay around and drink when you get the chance?" Dean shrugged.

"Live like you're about to die tomorrow, Sammy," he held out his glass to whatever he was cheering to, then down the hatch it went. It had been a while since he had a drink—weeks, actually—and the burn of the throat caught him by surprise for a change. Sam chuckled, shaking his head as he took a drink of his alcohol.

"That'll teach ya," Sam joked, as Dean choked. As Dean wanted to tell his brother to shut up, he just let the two of them swing on by, watching the world go running past them without a care in the world for either of them. "Hey, did you know that Sheriff Mills and Bobby found…" and that would be most of the day. They'd talk about nothing in particular, whatever came up, and joke about whatever else was happening in their lives. Dean would mention the garage and what they said to him, and Sam would laugh about something that happened in town the other day. The two of them didn't mind that life; somehow, they both knew it was better than staring death in the face all the time.

Sam let his laughter fade as he looked to his older brother. "You look good, Dean," he said to him. And while Dean made a face, he laughed it off once Sam glared at him. "I mean, something about you—it's like you changed overnight completely from almost a month ago."

Dean shrugged. "Yeah, I feel pretty good, too," which got a smile from the brother sitting next to him.

"Well, it shows," Sam commented, "I'm happy for ya."

Dean smiled. "Want to have a moment where we hug out our feelings now?"

"Shut up, Dean."

x x x

A year later, Dean would start to forget about Sam and the rest of his life. He would be stuck in the past, just like Sam said, but he didn't mind. Cas was still there; Sam was okay. They were all okay. "Sammy," Dean would call out.

"Yeah, Dean?"

"When do you think Cas will come back to help us with stopping Lilith?"

Sam would hear the question every day, but it never failed to bring a slight pain to his chest. "I don't know, Dean," would always be his answer. "Maybe you should pray to him."

And Dean would, every time.

x x x

Dean fell asleep at 10:20 P.M.

x x x

He could feel his feet dipped into the cold waters of the lake, with the waves splashing dangerously close to his rolled up pants (he supposed it'd never happen), and Dean was sitting on the dock, watching the sun set over the land and the stars start to shimmer above. Dean didn't look up, though, to see the numerous constellations floating in the sky; instead, he looked to his right.

"You know, you keep bringing me up here, I'm just gonna have to stay one day," he said to the man next to him. The joke wasn't played off well.

"I hope you do not mind, Dean. I had enough power to bring you up here as soon as I could," he said, the gravelly voice speaking with the wind as it cautiously blew by, the sounds of the waves also hitting his ears. Dean shook his head.

"Where else would I want to be, Cas?" Cas interlaced his fingers together on his lap, balling his hands near his knees. Dean always knew it was a sign of nervousness, or anxiety with the angel. Dean, however, leaned his arms back to let his palms hit the wooden deck, propping himself up to watch the sunset. "Too bad I don't have a rod right now," he commented; Cas turned his head, "I'd catch a fish for you to eat."

Cas raised an eyebrow. "Like the one you caught before I died, only to have it slip from your hands?"

God, even in Heaven he could be a pain in the ass. "Shut up," Dean scoffed off the jab. He saw the faint hint of a smirk before Cas turned away, him, too, looking at the sun before them. "I didn't think suns could set in Heaven."

"Not in all Heavens," Cas remarked. Ah, he thought, that's right; not everyone had the same Heaven. So why did Cas have one with setting suns? "I had enjoyed our conversations on the porch when day was turning to night—" –damn him for reading minds— "—and I wished to share another with you."

Dean leaned forward, wanting to see Cas's face, and what he saw was regret. "Perhaps I should have left you to peacefully sleep," he heard Cas whisper, instantly feeling bad for what he had done (in Cas's mind, Dean seemed mad that he was just sitting on the dock with Cas, watching a sunset—it was hitting close to a chick-flick moment). Dean looked down at his lap; the hands were not fidgeting or anything, but one finger was itching the one next to it, and Dean saw it as a sign of his nerves flaring.

Then he looked back at the house. "Sam's not here, right?"

Cas turned to Dean, confused. "Why would he be?"

And Dean shrugged, turning back to the settling waves. "No reason," he noted, watching as the water grew darker and darker with each passing second. Cas went back to his nervous twitch, and Dean knew to take some kind of action.

He knew what always calmed him down, and it was holding onto Dean's hand. Dean moved closer to his angel, former angel, whatever he wanted to be called, and held out his hand. Cas's blue eyes scanned over to the rough skin offered, then up to Dean's green eyes. Dean wasn't looking at him, but Cas could see the want inside the green, the water about to start pooling, just like the lake. Back to his hands—he felt them itching for freedom. So Cas let his hands separate so he could feel at ease—it was much better than his nerves trying to pin him down. He felt the hunter next to him release a sigh of relief, and their fingers gently wrapped around the other's hand.

Cas looked up. "You're lonely, Cas," he heard the tough voice next to him say, "and you wanted some company, right?"

When Dean looked up, he saw the angel nod. "It has been—difficult—living here." Dean could tell; the angel looked tense and down.

Dean slowly blinked, a small smile gracing his face. "Hey, man, I get that. I wish I could teleport you down to Earth when I feel this way, though," and Cas frowned. He felt guilty that he was being selfish— "But don't feel bad." Cas wondered if he, too, could read thoughts (that answer was no). He felt the hunter inch closer next to him, nestling against his leg—it felt safe. Cas, too, moved closer, his eyes gazing up to meet Dean's once more. "I don't mind the company here."

Cas smiled. "Neither do I," he replied. The green eyes trailed to his shoulder; Cas's smile grew.

"And don't feel like you're ever alone. I mean," a huff of air breathed out, and Cas usually called those some of Dean's silent laughs, "you can hear my prayers and everything, and then some." Cas knew what he was talking about (Dean felt a little warm after the comment). "I'm always here with ya, and—when the time comes, I'll be here."

Cas let his fingers squeeze Dean's hand (and Dean repeated the notion), and with a final gaze into each other's eyes, he turned back to the sunset at hand. Slowly but surely, the sun was disappearing, but it'd come back. The light would always be there, waiting for the two of them, guiding them through life one step at a time. "I'm glad," Cas replied, closing his eyes in content.

Dean took one look at Cas, who was relaxing, then back to the sun out in the distance. The oranges and the blues were mixing above, the stars were barely twinkling away, and the waves were dying off one by one. Dean closed his eyes.

He was, too.

x x x

Dean woke up at 6:09 A.M.

But he didn't lay there to welcome the day.

Instead, he threw the blankets off his body to get onto his feet, opened the door to start walking down the hallway just to open yet another door, and stepped outside so he could see the lake near his house. He heard Sam say "Dean?" as he was walking out the door, but he wasn't going to stop. Cas was still there; he knew he was. The cold, wet ground after he stepped from the porch sank into his toes, but for some reason, he kept walking through the mud toward the water, hoping that the empty dock was just a trick on his eyes, that somehow, an angel was there, perhaps stooped on his shoulder ("Dean, that is preposterous").

If he had any neighbors, they would have made some ridiculous comments about what he looked like on the dock. First off, he wasn't wearing any shoes. No slippers, nothing—why bother, right? He was wearing boxers for pants (which wasn't hiding a thing), a t-shirt that fit him just fine, and his hair was tussled in different directions. Whenever Dean climbed out of bed, and Cas was up before him (it was rare, but it happened), Cas would take one look at him and then smile. "I believe this is what Hell looks like to humans," he'd say. And Dean would yawn, acknowledge the line, then give a sleepy smile.

"It's a good Hell when you're eating pancakes for breakfast," which was true, he always liked pancakes after a good night's rest—among other things.

But Dean didn't care what he looked like. He gazed out into the lightening sky before him, the dark night starting to fade. The stars were barely twinkling, the moon was melding in with the dark blue colors far away from the approaching light, and the waves were just about to start to pick up a bit from the cool wind sitting in the air.

Something dawned on him: a light was coming over the horizon, the day breaking before him, and he was staring out at the light shining over the fields and lake in front of him. Dean may have only paid little attention to what Cas discussed before with that frustrating book of his, but after somewhat skimming the novel himself (what better way to spend time relaxing than picking up a book, he thought, especially one Cas seemed to enjoy so much), he understood it. It had just smacked him in the face—it was right there the whole time, peeking out all along. Dean looked up to the sky.

"Cas I know you can hear me," he said to the passing clouds above. He searched to find some bright star above that was destined to be the angel (unfortunately, none of them were bright, and he was wrong anyway), and his eyes stayed focused on the sky. "Maybe you're with me on the dock right now, maybe you're floating on some small cloud right there with the stars, I don't know, but you got to listen to me right now."

Cas looked up at Dean. "I always listen to you."

Dean's mouth frowned, his eyes expressing the pain he felt for months. "Cas, when you died—it was hard. I kept thinking you'd come through the door and we'd have dinner together and nothing had changed. But—man, Cas, it was so different. It wasn't the same. It just—sucked, and—"

Dean wasn't sure if he was making any sense, but he continued anyway. "—And I tried so hard not to mourn your death as much, Cas," his voice started to break, "and I just wished—I wanted nothing more than you here, you know? Just like how you want me up there."

The angel gave a small smile. "I know."

"You remember that book you were reading, the one with the guy on the dock?" An angel nodded. How could he forget? It still irritated him. "I'm Gatsby, Cas. Right here, right now, I'm—I'll never get over your death, Cas. I'll never be the same without you, and," Dean closed his eyes, bending his head down toward the wooden planks beneath him. A small smile graced his face. "as much of a chick-flick moment this is," a small choke, "to quote The Scorpions, there's no one like you—Sam, maybe, but," he was making it very light-hearted. The angel smiled. "I'm not dating him any time soon."

A hand reached out to touch the light fabric beckoning him on the dock, to pull someone closer. The hand tried to rest on the shoulder, but failed. Dean felt the wind pick up. "But," Dean whispered. The angel stared. "knowing you're okay, knowing—knowing you're not—that the pain you had to feel, Cas, that—what they did to you," Dean closed his eyes again, feeling a knot in his chest tighten. Some nights, he couldn't sleep because of that thought of Cas experiencing so much pain before his death. When Dean opened his eyes again, there was a bit more light in the world.

He steadied his breathing; he'd get through it. A comforting hand tried to wipe his eyelid full of water; it failed him. "Knowing that you're up there, Cas," he finally whispered, "that—you're waiting, well," he looked out toward the sunrise. The sun was slowly creeping its way into day, slowly rising above the horizon giving new shadows across the land. Dean smiled. "Somehow, we'll get through this, Cas. You and I, partners in crime again," a smirk fell on his face just thinking about it. "That's hope, right? Just like—" Dean looked down into the water; he swore he saw another reflection. So did the angel.

"So I'll fight, Cas. I can't—it may be tough some days, but I have to start moving on, right?" "Right," said the angel. "I wish nothing more than your happiness, Dean." "You gotta fight alongside with me, you gotta promise—promise we'll get through this," he said. The angel accepted the promise before it was asked. Dean went back to the sun. "We can only hope," he whispered, turning around toward the house. The angel itched at his fingers, but did not break the stare the hunter gave. Instead of walking, he just stared out into the emptiness.

The angel nodded and smiled.

Dean spread his arms out to his sides, palms facing the house.

The angel spread his wings far and wide, white feathers sprinkling the clear lake under him, fluffing out in all directions.

They both closed their eyes and took flight.

One made a splash.

The other created the waves.

x x x

It started out slowly.

But he'd be okay.

He promised.

x x x

Thirty-five years after Cas died, Dean would join him.