Guys, this is the last part. I think this is where I want to end it, and, thanks everyone, for sticking with me through updates thick and thin.
For six days, Dean drives as much as he's able, and sleeps at the side of the road. He forgets to eat, and mostly just grabs a bag of chips or jerky from the side of the cash register when he's paying for gas. He sleeps about three hours a night, and about the same during the day. He doesn't drink, and kids himself that it's because he's driving, when that's never bothered him before. Really he needs to be sober to be alert. He needs to think, and thinking is the reason he usually resorts to alcohol.
The only reason he doesn't slip into crazy, soul rending torment, is because every morning, when he wakes up, there's a syringe of blood on the front seat of the car.
He uses it, knowing that it's Cas's, knowing that he must have stopped by to sap away some of the extra grace that's hanging around in him, but that he'd gone away again, probably to report back to Sam.
It makes him equal parts angry and frustrated, but he's cheerlessly glad that Castiel is bothering to take care of him.
For six days, Dean thinks about things. Most of those things have little to do with anything, as far as he's concerned, but he can feel that they're connected to things that he'd run a mile from if they approached him dead on. He takes a slanted, meandering path through his mind, keeping himself busy on well travelled routes, and occasionally forcing himself to consider dark byways and trails off into the deep unknown.
The thing is, he thinks to himself, it's not that he's scared of being gay. He's not scared of anything, point of fact, except maybe Hell, or losing Sam. Serious stuff that can actually hurt him. Being gay is fine. He's never hated gays, never questioned the reality that there were some guys, and girls, who just weren't wired like others. Just like some people were wired up to be Mom's or marines or whatever. It was in you, or it wasn't.
He's not worried about how Sam'll take it, he isn't even particularly concerned about what his Dad would say if he was alive. Fact was, he'd probably be a lot more angry about the whole Lucifer thing, about Dean making a deal with a demon, failing at protecting Sam from the pit, real stuff like that.
He could look at it objectively, hands on the wheel, eyes levelly looking out on the tarmac streaming towards him, and say that, maybe he was a little gay, or a bit of both, maybe. He'd slept with women, and now he'd slept with Castiel. He'd liked it, at the time, but he wasn't sure he'd want to do it again, now that things were, for want of a better word, normal.
That was the question he was facing.
Sam had pushed it on him. He'd assumed and told him that he was gay, that he loved Castiel. And, that was something Dean was not prepared to consider. Men in the abstract, in the figurative, were a possibility, never say never and all that crap. But Castiel? Castiel wasn't even human, he wasn't even a man, not really. He was a thing. A creature, like a demon or a...shifter. A thing with wings and a sword and other stuff that Dean didn't even really understand. The idea that Castiel would have a beer with him, or share a motel bed with him, was so painfully ridiculous that Dean would have laughed if it had been the slightest bit funny.
But, every time he thought he had the answer pinned down, just as he'd convinced himself that the whole idea was stupid, and Sam was just blowing it out of proportion, and of course he wasn't gay, he'd just been in a desperate situation, and while he wasn't a bigot he was certainly not attracted to any guy, let alone one being puppeted by a divine, celestial being...
He couldn't quite believe it.
Dean couldn't help but remember, usually when he was trying to sleep, or sinking a needle into his arm, that Castiel had forced him to live when they were trapped in purgatory. Castiel had made him carry on. Castiel had been there, consistently, always, there. And when they'd been...when they'd had sex, it had been...different, to how he'd felt pretty much every time he'd...
That was usually the point where his guts turned hot and liquid, and the whole furious internal argument began all over again.
On the seventh day, a little after one in the morning, Dean stopped the car at the side of the road, got out and made his way up a short slope into some dense trees, the edge of a forest he'd been driving through for a while. If he hadn't been so tired, he might have appreciated the irony.
Surrounded by thick trunks covered in moss and hanging with old creepers and dead branches, Dean set his face and tried to think like he had done, all those months ago, in purgatory.
When he heard the crumpled swoosh of feathers, he realised he'd stopped running.
Castiel didn't say anything, and Dean didn't turn around to look at him for a long while. Thoughts, seemingly at random, flashed through his head, the same thoughts he'd been having for the last six days. Finally he turned around, and found Castiel standing, rumpled and stiff, across from him.
"How's Sam?" he asked, after a silent beat passed between them.
"Worried, but...he understands, why you need to do this."
"I'm glad he does." Dean muttered, "you couldn't fill me in on that could you?"
Castiel just looked at him.
"Are you ok?" Dean asked, eyes flicking to the trees to his left, then back to Castiel.
Castiel shrugged, as if his condition was of no concern to him.
Dean sighed. "I mean, are you getting all...nuclear fallout?"
Dean swallowed. The leaves overhead fluttered as the branches flexed in the wind. Several fell, tumbling to the ground between them.
"Whatever Sam thinks...I'm not gay."
Castiel patiently absorbed the information, managing to seem interested without changing his expression or uttering a single syllable.
"I've slept with women, I like, sleeping with women. Just because we had sex, doesn't make me gay, and it doesn't mean I'm in love with you, or that I want to do it again."
"I understand that."
"But you're still hanging around, being all...and acting like you know something that I don't. Like you think I love you."
"You just said-"
"I said I understood that you choosing to have sex with me didn't mean that you loved me. But that doesn't mean that you don't love me."
Dean stood for a moment, finding his bearings, finding his own thoughts in the messed up piles of stuff that had clogged up his head over the last few days.
"Cas, I don't know how to explain that-"
"Do you think this is easy?" Castiel asked suddenly.
"This. Coming here. Coming to you, again and again, and telling you these things, when you won't believe me, or you won't listen." Castiel took a breath, and Dean realised that, while he had been beating himself up for six days, Castiel had been doing likewise. "Dean, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't say that I did. And if I didn't know, beyond certainty, that you loved me, I wouldn't be telling you. I'd be silent. And I would do whatever you needed me to. Just like I've been doing since we met. But I can't keep silent, if your pride is the only reason-"
"Pride?" Dean exploded, "Pride, seriously? That's what you're throwing at me? Cas, I'm not proud, of anything. I've screwed the world more often than I've halfway saved it, Sam's a better person than I am, and that isn't down to me, and I can't even seem to die right. I'm not proud, ok? Of anything."
"You should be," Castiel said, "if you could see what the world would be, what I would be, if you hadn't broken the order of things...mostly I can't even imagine how terrible it would be."
"You see, that's what I'm talking about ," Dean said, jerking one arm up, gesturing sharply. "you can think like that, you can see this whole big picture, because you're an angel, Cas. After everything, all the times you thought you'd screwed up, someone up there still likes you. God keeps giving you back your wings."
Castiel frowned, "Your point being?"
Dean almost laughed, almost, like a dry twig cracking, it stuck in his throat.
"You're an angel." He repeated, "why the hell do you want me?"
Silence dominated the clearing, even the trees seemed to stop rustling.
"Dean," Castiel began slowly, "you might not see it, and, I don't know how to show you, but you're just going to have to believe that, while you're far from perfect, even in my eyes, you are worth the feelings that I have for you...and, as far as being an angel goes, I'm not convinced I was ever a very good one."
"But you are. You're some...huge beam of light in some other dimension, and," Dean said, his voice carrying through the trees. "Even if we could even begin to work out how the hell the two of us could even fit into a normal life, we wouldn't even have started before things go screwed up, because in case you haven't noticed, people I love, they tend to suffer beyond the telling of it, and die."
It took a second for Dean to realise that he'd said it. He'd told Castiel he loved him.
And he meant it.
And suddenly it was like being back in purgatory, the world was wide and open, and full of danger. And Dean felt very very small. Small, but not alone.
Castiel took a step forwards, then stopped as if he was afraid Dean would bolt off into the trees. He glanced down, as if thinking, then raised his eyes to Dean's once more.
"Dean, I'm going to be here. I can't promise that I'll live forever, or that I'll never have to leave to take care of something. But I will come back. I don't really know what kind of relationship it is that you want, and, I'm not sure you do either...but we can start from here. From me being here."
Dean looks at him, at the ground, at nothing. He gets what Castiel is offering. The more and the less that the angel is willing to accept. Castiel is a million year old thing alright, but Dean realises that that makes him a hell of a lot different to pretty much any guy or girl. He's patient, and strong, and, he gets him. Dean's never denied that. Castiel understands that he's a hunter. But he's also seen him, in Hell, purgatory, in the worst parts of his life.
And, maybe, if he's around...maybe things can get to be as good as they felt before. When it was just the two of them. Just them, and a whole world of dark.
"We'd better be getting back to Sam." Dean says finally, and he turns and starts walking back to the car. Castiel's footsteps scuffling leaves behind him.
So Dean can't see them sharing a bed, a coffee, going to a movie or any of that other crap.
But right now he can see Cas in the front seat of his car, heading back to Sam, to life as they know it.
Maybe everything else can come after.