Worth


Part 4: I Wanna Live Not Just Survive


If Dean thought they'd covered the vast expanse of uncomfortable silences a few days before, he was sorely mistaken. Logically he knew it wasn't fair to even use the silent treatment against Cas. After all the angel really didn't know what it was he'd done wrong half the time… or that he'd done anything wrong at all. So the fact that he lasted more than five minutes in confused silence before once again repeating the hunter's name was pretty damn impressive.

"Dean."

"I said shut up Cas."

"I think we should talk about this Dean."

The hunter kept his eyes trained on the road ahead of them as the pair made their way back from the restaurant. He'd planned on driving away alone and of course had remembered only when Castiel appeared in the seat beside him that angels had a tendency of not requiring actual leg work to get anywhere.

"No. We shouldn't." He countered.

"I believe it would be beneficial to our relati…"

"Cas so help me, you say one more word…."

"Sam says it is better to resolve misunderstandings and confusion before they become worse." The hunter's threat had either fallen on deaf ears or the angel had simply decided to ignore him. Based on the way he was quoting Sam, Dean decided it was probably the latter. He was going to have a chat with his little brother about teaching Cas psychology. It was bad enough that the angel already had a window to his thoughts… he didn't need the man analyzing them too. Besides… every time the younger hunter decided it was time to give advice, Dean was always the one on the receiving end of Castiel's test.

"Sam is a moron." Dean growled.

"Sam's intelligence is above average Dean."

The hunter shot the angel a look that, given just a little more practice would have really solidified Dean's entry into the field of pyro-kinesis. Cas seemed to understand suddenly that Dean hadn't actually been referring to Sam's intellect and blinked. He didn't look away though, electing instead to continue staring at the hunter as he drove. Dean let him stare, figuring sooner or later he'd look away and give up. Clearly he'd been separated from the angel too long, having additionally forgotten that they- more specifically Castiel- rarely give up. When a solid five minutes of the world's most uncomfortable silence ended with Cas still staring at Dean, he finally sapped.

"WHAT?!" The word was growled and his shoulders came up as if to shrug off the other man's gaze like an unwanted touch.

"You are upset."

"I'm not upset." He hissed, making Cas' point for him.

"I do not understand Dean. Why does the thought of my actions being done on your behalf anger you?"

"It doesn't." He lied, putting the impala into park when they pulled up outside the grungy little motel they were staying at. Cas only continued to stare at him and Dean finally gave up. "Because!" He said eloquently. "Because you're supposed to fight for the world! Not one person." He huffed.

"Why?"

Dean dropped his head against the smooth leather of the steering wheel. He couldn't believe he was having this conversation. How did one explain to an angel… a fucking angel… that saving the world for one person was just not how it worked? Wasn't that supposed to go against everything they were? Weren't they the "greater good" sort? This one person crap was the kind of bullshit authors wrote into fairy tales with girly honorable knights and damsels in distress. The realization that in this little story Dean was apparently playing the damsel galled him to no end. If Sammy ever found out he was never going to hear the end of it.

"Because Cas."

"That is not an answer Dean."

The hunter turned wide irritated green eyes on the angel, sitting up and returning the stare for a long moment. Cas didn't even blink, fuck him. Slowly Dean took a breath, collecting himself even though he was pretty sure it was impossible at this point. Half of him was still freaking out and the other half was trying to figure out just why. What was his real problem here? Knowing that everything they'd done had been for him? Did it really matter? They'd won… so who cared what the reason was. Or, was it knowing that a war had been fought because of him? Knowing that Cas had fallen…. For him?

Bingo.

The thought stuck him so hard he was literally unable to speak, and as a result pressed his lips together tightly as his mind whirled with the painful realization that once again… he was the cause. Again, despite the silence, Cas seemed to pick up on what was going wrong. Dean wouldn't have been surprised if he was reading minds again, but right then he didn't have the energy to argue over it. Their last little verbal- and attempt at physical- sparring in the parking lot had left him deplete of the strength required to pick a fight

"Dean…" He began… the low gravel of his voice the same as ever. Sure of himself… of what he was saying… what he was doing. The hunter had always envied that tone of purpose in his voice, that subtle underlying power that remained even when he was talking about something entirely unimportant. "When are you going to learn that you are worth the time and effort others put into keeping you as safe as you try to keep them?"

The hunter froze, eyes blinking as he tried to process what Cas had just said. "Excuse me?"

Castiel sighed and leaned back in his seat. It was a motion so human Dean almost wondered if someone had taken control of the angel, but when endless blue eyes turned back to him he knew without a doubt that this was still Cas.

"Stop telling yourself that every problem the world deals with is your fault."

"I don't." Dean frowned.

"You do." The angel countered, his brows furrowing. "Just because I went to war for you does not mean that I started a war because of you."

"Cas we've talked about the mind reading thing." He growled trying to hang on to his irritation and anger under the onslaught of Castiel's apparent and way too meaningful understanding. This had been easier when they'd been pretending not to talk.

"Yes. We have. But I'm an angel Dean. I can't tune you out all the time. Not when I know you're in pain. Not when I know you labor under such thoughts that are not even your burden to carry."

"You have no rig…"

"I have every right Dean." Cas interrupted much to the hunter's surprise. "I am your friend. At least that's what you keep assuring me. I know I have made mistakes… mistakes that are impossible to atone for. But I would like to try even if I manage nothing more than assuring you that your cause is just."

The hunter clung to the phrasing of the words as he tried his damnedest not to get lost in the meaning. "Just?" He grinned, the fake smile pulling at the edges of his lips. "Am I a bible quote now?" He joked.

Castiel was not amused. "This is not funny Dean."

"Sure it is Cas." Dean replied, slumping back in his seat to stare ahead with a defeated sigh. "It has to be funny. Cause if it's not funny it's sad. And you know what man… right now I just can't handle anyone else's sad. And I definitely can't handle my own." Anyone else's little moods would just drive him crazy… but his own sadness… the pity and self-hatred he had a tendency of heaping on himself…. He really couldn't deal with any more of that at the moment.

"Dean…I…." Cas looked like he was about to say something important, but whatever it was slipped away when a resounding knock thudded on the driver's side window. Dean hadn't even been paying enough attention to the world around him to see his brother come up and just about jumped out of his seat. Sam's quizzical stare met his gaze through the window and the elder brother sighed and pushed open the door, shoving the other hunter back.

"What are you guys doing out here?" Sam asked, glancing back and forth between Dean and Cas as the angel too climbed out of the car. Dean returned his look.

"Talking. What's it look like Sammy?" He asked sarcastically.

"Wow. Touchy dude." Sam snorted. "Anyway, I was just headed back in. You were gone for a long time so I took a walk." He gestured towards the room and started back, Dean and Cas both following behind him.

"We went for food." The elder hunter commented in the hopes of warding off further conversation.

Sam wasn't stupid. He might have had a few rough weeks which had been absolute hell the past few days, but that didn't mean he was suddenly going to forget years of knowing his brother. Something had Dean angry. Angry and a little, well… a lot, hurt. And if the way Castiel was sneaking quietly around the room as they stepped inside, finding an empty chair and just sort of standing behind it, was any hint, he'd put money on the angel being involved and equally hurt.

"You guys get into a fight or something?" He asked pulling out a chair and sitting in it. The only other chair open in the room was the one Cas was hovering behind. Normally Dean wouldn't have an issue stealing it out from under him, so when the other hunter wandered over to a bed instead and sat on the edge Sam was sure something had happened.

"No Sammy just frickin' drop it already. We're fine, Jesus."

Sam blinked at him. "Right… because that is the sound of someone who's fine." He knew as soon as he'd said the words he'd pushed just a little too far. Growling, Dean stood and stormed away, the bathroom door slamming behind him. Sam turned his attention on the angel instead. So much the better. If Dean wasn't in the room he'd be more likely to get Cas to speak up.

Castiel seemed to see it coming and pointedly avoided Sam's gaze. "I should…"

"Nope. Nice try Cas. What happened to you two? This morning you were fine." He gestured for the angel to sit hoping the other man would actually take him up on it. He was aware that in the past, the moment Dean stepped from the room Castiel had a tendency to disappear. He always tried not to let it get to him- even though sometimes it did- and had made it a point to try and talk to the angel a little more. Subconsciously he felt that there was something he had to make up for. Initially it had been the fact that he'd been drinking demon blood… not exactly the kind of practice an angel could just accept. Later it had been not being his brother… not sharing that profound bond that Cas had mentioned once. After the whole soul charade though… he felt they were a little more even. The funny thing was… he didn't blame Cas at all for what had happened. The guy was trying. He was attempting to fix it all the only way he knew how. They'd all been there. Sam could hardly judge him for that. And now… he'd gone a step further. Not only had he made it possible for the hunter to function again, he'd physically taken on a part of Sam's hell. So had Dean. It was something the younger man was not likely to forget any time soon.

Castiel sighed, and much to Sam's delight, moved around the chair and sat slowly. He wasn't looking at Sam or even the door Dean had slammed behind him. Instead he was staring out into space. For the second time in one day the angel was attempting to collect his thoughts.

"Irritating, isn't it? The doubt. The confusion. What are you going to say to him Castiel... he's furious with you. Doesn't want you're love. You saw the way he reacted when you told him. Do you really want to stick around for more of that… is he really worth that pain to you?"

Anna's voice, more than his own unsure thoughts was insufferable to the angel. He was used to hearing his siblings in his head of course. They were always there, like a radio station tuned low but always playing in the background. It was far less now after everything that had happened since they weren't aware he was alive, more distant and a little fuzzy. But the words Anna whispered to him were completely different. The angel hadn't yet figured out how to get her to go away. Dean always managed to make it stop… but Dean wasn't there right now.

"Go on Castiel… tell the little hunter you love his brother."

"I do love his brother. Just as I love Sam." Castiel defended internally.

"Don't lie Castiel. Every angel knows when a brother or sister is lying. You love Dean more than you love Sam."

"I…"

"Tell him…"

"No… Dean would be… angry…."

"Tell him… Tell him… tell him… tell him…"

The words became a deafening litany in his skull and the angel finally shook his head. Blue eyes moved upwards, meeting the younger hunter's gaze with confusion, loss, and not a little pain. Sam was literally taken aback by the look. "Cas… is everything ok?" He was a step to two away from panicking and calling Dean.

"I…." The angel hesitated. "I cannot make her stop."

"Who Cas…?"

"Anna."

"Anna…." It clicked. "You're seeing Anna?"

Cas nodded, still looking confused, and a little sheepish. "She wishes me to tell you…" He trailed off for a moment, eyes turning distant before he blinked and continued. "To tell you that I love Dean."

Sam blinked, shocked, but Cas only continued. "I do not understand the significance of her request. I already told Dean this earlier. Though I believe my words upset him." He seemed to think it over again and decided to ask Sam what he'd asked Dean. "Is that not the human expression of conveying to another that you care for them? I will admit that I am not always aware of the connotation humans attach to phrases which seem to mean one thing, but say another."

Sam cleared his throat. Oh. A small smile began to pull at the edges of his lips as suddenly everything seemed to fall into place. "Well… there are different kinds of love Cas."

"I am aware of that."

"Did you explain to Dean what kind of love you meant?"

The angel stared at him. If he wasn't so good at keeping a straight face Sam would have almost said that he looked uncomfortable. "Does it matter?"

And there it was.

"Well… yes and no." Sam finally admitted. "But you have to remember who it is you're talking too. Dean doesn't take affection well from anyone. Even me." Castiel nodded in understanding and acceptance. He'd seen the brothers hug before after a particularly hard hunt or emotional ordeal only to have the elder teasingly push Sam away with a comment about being gay or getting sappy or being a girl. It had taken the angel a long time to realize that the modern human world placed a different sort of acceptance on affection shared between two people of the same gender. Dean never appeared to care when others admitted to being of a homosexual persuasion but was exceedingly adamant to make sure that no one assumed such a title was attached to him.

In the distance the shower turned on and Sam did his best not to smile widely. He knew it. Dean had been listening to them and was now trying to drown out the conversation. He was never going to let his brother live this down. More importantly than teasing however, Sam realized what a giant step this was for both Dean and Cas. He'd always known they'd had a thing for each other. It was pretty obvious to every single person except the two of them. Cas liked to pretend that being an angel meant he had no emotion and Dean liked to pretend that he'd killed his emotions a long time ago. It had never really mattered before. They'd been too busy trying to stop the apocalypse, trying to save each other, everyone else, the world. Now they were hunting down Leviathans and hoping beyond hope that they could throw them back in Purgatory somehow. But somewhere between Save-the-World! and Save-the-World! they were going to have to find at least a small space to squeeze in their lives, and if these two could finally figure out that their lives would be better off with each other… Sam would consider his duty as a brother well cared for.

Of course, he was going to have to be careful. This wasn't just a fling, just a one night stand he was trying to convince Dean to take. This was a relationship… and something more. Acceptance maybe. For Dean, no matter how hard he tried to pretend otherwise, no decisions were shallow. Everything carried the weight of the world. So sharing his life with someone else, even if for a little while… well… it was going to be a very delicate situation if Sam really decided to undertake this.

"I'll tell you what." Sam started with a growing smile. "You make sure to stick around for a while… and I'll see if we cant get Mr. Hard-head to realize what he's missing out on."

"Sam… I don't think…"

"Don't worry Cas. It'll be perfect."

The angel sighed, quite sure that it was going to be anything but perfect.


Sam Winchester, was a problem.

Dean had of course decided this years before, given his role as big brother… back when Sam was just a squirt following him around, hazel eyes seeing way more than he should have and quick mind putting two and two together faster than said older brother would have liked. It was one of the reasons Dean always felt like he had to protect Sammy, because without a hand thrown out to stop him in his tracks, the kid would run right into the middle of a fray just to figure out how he could make it better.

The fact that this was an inherent trait in the Winchester family seemed to elude Dean's understanding of himself all together. Either that or he was just really good at denial. The issue wasn't what Sam went out of his way to do so that everyone noticed. Rather, the issue was what Sam did so subtly that no one noticed until it was too late.

So when Dean found himself entirely alone in the room with Castiel a few nights later, Sam having mentioned something about going out to get a drink and maybe-kind-of calling his brother to say he'd met someone and wouldn't be back and to enjoy himself… fucking enjoy himself… Dean knew that his brother was up to no good. Not that Dean wasn't happy that Sam was getting back into the swing of things; or that he was chasing tail and catching, but Sam wasn't that good, no matter how smooth he pretended to be.

Cas had taken to sitting awkwardly at the edge of one bed, hands clasped between his knees as he leaned forward, adamantly ignoring the hunter and directing the majority of his attention on the TV screen. He'd become rather fond of animal planet, the history channel and when Dean pretended like he didn't care that it was on, Dr. Sexy M.D. Dean didn't know if he watched the latter because he'd become aware that the hunter actually watched the show or because it was just something familiar, something he recognized, but either way he was always pleased when Cas neglected to make any comment about the show's presence on their screen. He'd even managed to pick up not saying anything to Sam about it who absolutely adored bringing up the memory of when Gabriel had shunted them into TV land, a memory complete with Doctors, bad acting, and a fanboy Dean.

For his part Dean did his best to put the whole charade out of his mind.

"I'm…" Dean cleared his throat, the first word sounding half broken and wholly awkward in the silence of the room. He tried again. "I'm going to take a walk. Call if you need anything." He offered grabbing his jacket and heading for the door.

Castiel looked up from the television turning blue eyes on the hunter slowly before nodding. He was aware that ever since their conversation a few days before Dean was uncomfortable being left alone with him. But he didn't know how to fix it and wasn't interested in making it worse. Making it worse meant more time away from Dean and the longer he was away from Dean the more frequently Anna's voice became a pervasive sound in his mind. So he stayed quiet and accepted that the hunter was not willing to broach the subject again.

With a sigh the elder Winchester stepped out into the chilly evening air. His breath cast a small cloud into the space before him and he pushed his collar up against the fingers of a cool breeze. It was peaceful as he started to walk, passing his baby with a half-smile and wandering further out into the night. They'd moved since the first place. Somewhere a little nicer where the beds weren't likely to infect them with whatever they'd been sleeping on and decent food was within easy reach. They should have been hunting Leviathans but all three men were aware that it was time for a break… even if that break was going to be short. Sam was back on his feet, Cas was… well, not dead… and Dean was taking the small amount of peace for what it was. Easily breakable and soon to end, but peace nonetheless.

They'd discussed the hunt a few times, agreed that soon they were going to have to go back to it. Go back to figuring out what to do, how to fix it all. How to save the world, as always. They even had a plan. But not yet. Not now. Just a few more days.

A few more days of pretending like it all didn't matter. Because when those few days were over… it was a solid bet that at least one of them wouldn't be standing anymore. Then an equally solid bet that the other, whoever the other was, would do everything in their power to change that.

It was the way their lives worked. The endless figure eight of events. An infinite loop that turned back on itself over and over and over again. If it weren't so fucking irritating… Dean might have even found it funny.

He sighed and tried to clear his thoughts. The only problem was- the past few days had proved this to be a rule rather than the exception to it- clearing ones thoughts left you too alone. Too open for that little dark sound in the back of your mind. The little sound surrounded by endless screaming.

He remembered just in time to throw a memory up in front of the sickly laugh that bubbled deep in his subconscious.

Blue eyes.

Dean rolled his own when he realized what his own traterous thoughts were doing and growled, shoving it away for another.

Dark hair. Tipped head. Confused gaze.

He snarled into the silence and tried again.

Think of anything Winchester. He bit out at himself internally. Math. Sammy in a dress. Crowly in a dress. The impala. Hunting. The Apocalypse, horsemen, demons, angels, leviathans… Castiel….

Im going to make it up to you Dean…

Always Cas.

He hissed. It always came back to Cas. Why did it always come back to Cas?! He found himself at the edge of a small patch of woods. The trees left it darker but not brooding or ominous. He'd been near ominous too often to fear it now.

Dean continued walking through it, kicking up dirt and twigs as he went. Only when he heard the hiss of amused laughter behind him did he realize the mistake he'd made.

"Awwwww. Lookie what we have here boys. A lost little hunter. Did you loosseeee your wayyyy? Where's your pet angel little hunter?" The voice was shot through with arrogance and amusement and Dean turned to catch the grinning gaze of a man about his height with short brown hair and equally brown eyes that flickered to black the next time he blinked. Behind him two other demons stepped from the cover of the woods both grinning, equally amused.

"Left him home." Dean quipped in reply. He didn't make a move. Didn't turn his hand towards the gun at his waist or reach for the knife inside his coat. Sam had left it with him for the time being saying it would have been too hard to explain going out. Dean thanked whoever was looking down on them tonight. "Thought there was still a hands off sign." He continued. "Last time I met a demon who ignored it you're boss didn't take too kindly to his version of the directions." He tipped his head as if in thought for a moment and retracted his statement. "No wait… Last time it was ignored… I killed the bastard."

The first demon sneered. "Boss? Bet you mean Crowley." He laughed. "Fucker ain't our boss."

"Oh yeah?" Dean stalled pressing his lips together and nodding as if this was interesting news to him. "Good to know Daddy's letting you run around on a longer leash then."

One of the other demons swore and took a step forward only to have his movement cut off by the first when he put a hand out.

"No no. Don't let 'im bait you. Got that knife." He gestured with his chin towards Dean's coat.

The hunter put on an impressed face. "See you boys have done your homework." He nodded. "In that case, you know the chances of you walking away from here are slim to… well… none." He grinned cockily.

The first demon snorted again in wry amusement. "Oh I know all about you're skill with that thing." He started. "I also know you're used to getting your ass kicked. So this shouldn't be too bad." He grinned widely. "But it will hurt."

Before Dean could so much as reach for the weapons they'd been bragging about avoiding he felt himself thrown just far enough and hard enough that when his head slammed into the trunk of a tree, he saw stars. Pain exploded in his skull and he gasped in air as the rest was knocked from his lungs. He tried to struggle away but found himself pinned. So the demon in front of him was higher up at least than the normal piss-ants. Good to know… bad for him without back up.

"Dean Dean Dean…" The demon stepped up to him slowly, a long grin taking up his face but the hunter could only stare. Instead of the rather normal looking man who'd gotten him into this mess he suddenly found himself faced with Alastair. The creature looked pleased that he hadn't forgotten. It was the kind of pleasure one could only see on the face of a man who took a great deal of pleasure in causing pain. The kind of pain that would send someone screaming into their own mind.

For a moment the hunter's heart stilled, frozen by the dead gaze of the demon in front of him, by the memories of forty years under his thumb. Forty years of hell… a hell he'd never been able to explain to anyone else.

"Did you really think you could be rid of me soooo easily?" He crooned, his voice no longer carrying the distant ring of a sound in his mind, but the solid vibration of a real voice.

"You're not real." Dean growled, the words escaping him as if he was trying to convince himself of this fact, struggling against the invisible bonds holding him to the tree. They were really going to have to figure out how to avoid those. He was getting fucking tired of finding himself tied up.

"Oh but I am. We've gone through this before Dean." Alastair frowned as if it was disappointing that his number one student didn't remember this. As if he wasn't paying close enough attention. "You need to listen more carefully. Here… let's repeat the lesson." The demon reached out, one thin, pale finger moving slowly towards the hunter's face. When it touched his skin, Dean screamed. He couldn't help it. The demon's touch was ice. Burning and searing down into his very soul, leaving a long angry slice on his face as is drifted down his cheek. One would have thought that the cool touch of ice would have been a boon in hell.

One would have been wrong.

Dean remembered it all in a flash. The pain. The agony of years spent on the rack. Of more years still spent subjecting others to the same ice cold burn he felt again now. The unending chorus of screams and cries, like a sick melody, all drowning in the air, begging for release and never finding any.

"What am I Dean?" Alastair asked again, leaning close so that foul breath was all the hunter could taste under the pants of his own pain.

"You're dead." Dean snarled out in response, shoving the pain and the freezing cold further back into his mind. If he concentrated he could hear the amused snorts and hoots of the other two demons. He was still in the forest, still in the woods with three good for nothing, low level demons. They were nothing compared to Alastair. This wasn't Alastair. He was dead and gone. Long gone.

Dean tried to cling to that. Told himself that this wasn't real. The pain intensified, swamped his thoughts till he couldn't cling to them anymore.

"What am I Dean?"

"Go to hell."

More pain. Agonizing, icy touches that made his skin curl up and break away. They slid down his face and neck, his arms, torso, legs, feet, hands.

"What am I Dean?"

"You're not real."

"What am I Dean.?"

The question was endless. Asked each time he answered incorrectly. Asked again, scared into his skin. Again with burning precision. Again with a soft patient croon, again, again, againagainagainagainagain.

Cas

Then nothing.

There was a split second of silence when the hunter's overwhelmed mind could process nothing more than the lack of pain. Silence and darkness where only the distant slow thud of his heart continued to make its presence known.

It was a sudden void where everything just shut off as if with the flip of a switch. It was almost a worse torture. The pain he could learn to slide away from, could learn to expect. But the silence, the nothingness… it was impossible to predict. In silence and emptiness there was only uncertainty. Only fear and darkness.

Then light.

Light so bright it was hot. It seared the way ice could never sear. Burning and boiling away the darkness in front of him until he had to close eyes he wasn't even aware had stayed open. It scorched the world around him, the fiery intensity almost too much to bare after the freezing cold of Alastair's touch.

But it never burned him.

His body fell then, released suddenly from the bonds that had been holding it up against the tree. His vision cleared enough that he could see the woods again, could look past the place where Alastair had been standing to see bodies beyond, victims of Hell. No…. bodies… three of them. Demons. The demons he'd run into.

His feet hit the ground now loosed from the tree and his knees gave out beneath him, unable to bear his weight. Pain flashed through his limbs hitting him like a brick wall. He expected to feel the sudden crush of the world beneath his hands, the harsh press of the ground as his body crumpled towards it. But it never came. He was caught, strong hands taking him by the shoulders and lowering him slowly, gently, with more patience and care than he'd ever known in just a touch.

"Dean…"

This time when his name was whispered there was no flash of pain as the response to a question he would not dignify with the expected answer, only the firm press of fingers to his forehead and a slow seep of warmth that spread quickly throughout his body. It was made of the same light the same heat that had burned away the image of Alastair. Only it wasn't burning. It was mending.

His eyes blinked open and he reeled, consciousness snapping back into place. His head spun for a moment and he would have stumbled if he'd been standing. As it was, he wavered where he was kneeling on the ground, the same strong hands holding him steady. Blinking he turned his head to look up, eyes meeting the endless blue that always watched him with such intensity, such concern.

"Cas." His voice was rough and a little part of his brain told him that he'd been screaming.

"You were attacked Dean. I will return us to the motel." The low growl of his voice was calm, flat even. But Dean knew that something was wrong. Chalk it up to being friends or knowing someone for years now, but the hunter could tell Cas was upset. Before he had a chance to say anything however, they were moving, the green eyed man reeling again as the angel's flight pulled them so instantly from one place and left them in another. Cas might have healed him, but his stomach hadn't quite settled before the flight and Dean was forced to lean over his knees where he'd been set down on the floor of the room, breathing deeply as nausea overtook him. Fingers curled, nails scraping over the harsh fabric of the rug as he just barely managed not to lose his lunch. His back arched against the dry heave of his stomach and he distantly felt the smooth comforting press of a hand as it rubbed rhythmically over his shoulder blades. As the nausea subsided he breathed deeply, tipping his chin to level a questioning look on the angel.

Cas seemed to understand that the hunter was fine and his hand stopped rubbing, moving instead to Dean's shoulder, but no further, settling almost unconsciously over the scar that was seared into his skin beneath layers of fabric. Dean could feel it like he'd had pressed skin to skin and it sent a shiver up his spine. Nothing like the shiver and shakes of fear or pain. Instead it was electric. A hum that started at the angel's fingers and slid straight into his chest. He was still breathing harshly but his eyes were stuck on Cas. The angel watched him with the same intensity as always, but the edges of impossibly blue eyes were narrowed in concern, and something else. Something the hunter couldn't quite put a name to before it hit him.

Fear.

They were close. Cas was always close. Too close, Dean would have huffed if he hadn't been so focused on breathing. "Hey man, thanks for that… out the…"

The whirl of his mind had finally begun to slow, begun to collect itself before it stopped altogether for the second time in what seemed like barely as many moments. His line of sight was quite suddenly blocked and his over-worked brain required the confirmation of open eyes to process the lips that were now pressed against his own. For a long, thoroughly confused moment, Dean didn't move. He watched the man in front of him with bemused amazement as his brain spluttered back to life, lips finally registering the unsure almost innocent press of the other's on his own. Then, before he could even collect himself to move away, to ask what the hell! his own mouth was moving. His chin tipped instinctively to one side, making it possible to seal his lips more appropriately over the angel's. He shifted, putting pressure into the kiss as heat and the same hum that seemed to resonate from the hand Cas still held against his shoulder lingered on his lips. Without conscious thought his mouth opened, tongue running a slow line along the angel's bottom lip before his teeth scraped the sensitive skin.

The sudden, breathy moan that spilled into the silent room was what snapped his mind clear. Green eyes blinked open he moved away, gaze wide and confused as he tried to process what had just happened. What he'd just done.

Castiel too blinked and looked away. His face was flushed, blue eyes equally wide and shocked as if he'd had no control over his own actions. He stared at Dean before he was suddenly standing and at least three paces away leaving the hunter to climb to his feet as the sound of Cas' moan replayed itself again and again in his head.

Dean regretted the distance instantly. His heart beat heavily in his chest and the catch in his breath this time had nothing to do with pain or fear, but rather the heady ache of need. It confused the hell out of him, yet at the same time made far more sense than he was interested in entertaining. He watched silently as Castiel shifted from one foot to the other slowly, the human gesture not lost on the hunter.

"Dean I…" Cas was looking anywhere but at him, blue eyes sliding along the floor and hitting the man's feet and instantly sliding away as if burned merely by laying his eyes on Dean. His face was as unreadable as always, as if he couldn't even process the emotions whirling through his head. "I apologize for my actions. It was inappropriate and I will not…"

Castiel's words were lost somewhere between the rush of air that marked the hunter's movement, and the press of his mouth against the angel's. Dean wasn't interested any longer in analyzing his actions. All he could focus on in that moment was the sharp, desperate thrill that had run down his spine at the sound of Cas' moan, and the over-whelming need to hear it again, to be the cause, the fucking reason the angel made it.

His hand was clutched around the messily open collar of the dark haired man's stark white shirt, hauling him forward before either of them could think better of the action. The other fluttered aimlessly before landing on the angel's hip, sliding beneath the smooth fabric of his trench coat, fingers brushing along the place where shirt and pants met. For his part Cas made a confused, surprised noise that only egged Dean on further. The normally low gravel of his voice was lost to a half-whimper as the hunter's lips sealed over his once again, this time initiated by the human rather than the angel.

After a split moment's confusion in which the angelic being in front of Dean was clearly trying to decide just what the hell was going on and how he should react, he moved. Never one to disappoint, Castiel seemed to throw himself into the kiss as much as the hunter had already lost himself. His body pressed itself against Dean's, hands sliding around his waist, fingers curling in the fabric of his shirt beneath the heavy leather of the man's coat. His lips moved against Dean's, wanting but not really knowing what it was they were seeking.

So Dean showed him. Again, his tongue swept across the line of his lips, teeth putting pressure on the sensitive skin, causing the angel's mouth to open in a slight hitch of breath, the same impossibly arousing moan following the action. The hunter's whole body hummed with pleasure and he took advantage of Castiel's gasping moan to deepen the kiss, his tongue curling in slowly, languidly, drawing the other's into a heady dance that would inevitably leave them both breathless. Any noises either man was likely to make then were only swallowed by the other as Cas battled against Dean in a seductive clash of wills, both giving as good as they got.

It was not a soft kiss. It wasn't even the best kiss the hunter had ever had. But it was filled with an electricity, a certain heat that he'd never felt before, never even considered as something to look for. Cas, for all his quirks as an angel did not seem wholly innocent to the practice of kissing or even the movement of his body during the action. So it was Dean's turn to groan when the angel shifted, hands gripping tightly around the hunter's hips and dragging them forward so that both men stood flush together, the hardening line of arousal neither had gotten around to considering, coming together in a shocking press of heat and constrained friction. Dean's eyes flew open but he didn't move away. His muddled mind barely registered the fact that his fingers were curled just as tightly at the angel's hips holding him close rather than pushing him away.

Cas seemed to notice the change in concentration and opened his own eyes, moving away slightly as their mouths disconnected with a lewd slide of lips and tongue. The endless blue of his eyes had almost disappeared beneath the deep black of lust blown pupils. If Dean had been able to see himself he'd have noted the same thing in his own gaze. For his part though, the angel looked thoroughly abused. Dark hair tousled and sexed as ever, eyes half lidded as they moved back and forth between Dean's. His mouth hung slightly open as his chest rose and fell in quick pants for air, lips red and kiss swollen, and damn him but there was just the slightest hint of a smirk pulling at the edge. It disappeared when Dean made no comment, dark brows coming together slowly in confusion and worry as if trying to determine whether what had happened was good, or bad.

"Hell Cas…" Dean cleared his throat around the slightly broken sound of his voice. He still hadn't let go of the angel and the clutch of his fingers was noted by the other man. "If I'd known you kissed like that, I'd have done it before…" He smirked then, noting the instant display of relief that flashed through the angel's face, manifesting in the slow fall of shoulders that had tightened at his first words. Cas opened his mouth to reply but was cut off by another voice.

"I didn't need to hear that."

The hunter whirled around, green eyes widening at the sound of his brother's voice, face flushing red when his gaze finally caught on Sam standing in the doorway.

"God damn it Sammy knock next time!"

Sam just looked at his brother blankly, eyebrows rising as his lips pulled in an amused smirk. "It's my room too Dean." He pointed out.

The elder Winchester opened his mouth to comment that Sam had claimed he was going to be gone for the night but snapped it closed realizing just what kind of message that would be saying. Instead he did what he did best. He ignored it. Taking a deep breath he moved to the other side of the room and sat down at the table, using it to hide the very pointed line of his erection, hoping that by some miracle Sam had missed it. He was already confused enough as it is. He didn't need his little brother pointing out what his mind was already reeling to come to terms with.

Cas continued to stand there looking slightly put out but not overly embarrassed by the sudden appearance of Sam. Thankfully for everyone's sake, the length of his coat hid his own body's reaction. Blue eyes turned to Sam who had leveled a pleased I told you so grin in his direction as if the move Dean had made on the angel had been a direct reaction to Sam's promise a few days earlier to make things work out between him and Castiel.

"It's about time Dean." His smile only widened as he looked back at his brother who was about ready to lunge for his throat, over chairs and across the table if need be.

"Shut the fuck up Sam." He snarled, his gun hitting the table with a metallic thud as he pulled it from his coat to inspect.

Sam got the hint. "What the hell happened to you anyway?" He asked, turning the conversation away from at least a lifetime's worth of teasing. The concern in his voice when he noticed the dried blood on Dean's face and hands was evident. Castiel's healing may have closed the wounds but it did not always erase traces of their presence.

"Ran into a few demons. Cas got me out." He replied, not bothering to look up from the weapon he'd begun to take apart and polish, dragging a rag and cleaning set closer to him from somewhere across the table. His finger's moved deftly over the individual parts, rendering the weapon useless in mere seconds. It was like watching an artist at work. Castiel never tired of seeing Dean or even Sam for that matter care for their weapons. In the ever changing, ever hectic procession of their lives it was something that always remained the same. A routine course of events with a definite outcome. If something was broken, it was replaced. Smudged it was polished. Caught, it was smoothed out. In the end the weapon would once again be in perfect working condition. Simple, unlike their lives. And Sam was about to make theirs even less so.

Dean's unasked question of Why the fuck are you back anyway hung in the air around them and while he never vocalized it, the brothers knew each other well enough that it didn't need to be. He took a breath, the remnants of his smirk from teasing Dean disappearing completely as his brows furrowed beneath the weight of whatever he was about to say.

"I know where Dick is."

There was a heavy silence as even the click of metal stopped moving beneath Dean's fingers. Cas knew how important this was and could practically have counted backwards from five leading up to the elder hunter's reaction. As if on cue Dean laid down the pieces of the gun that had been reassembled, looked at the wood grain on the table for a moment, then slowly raised his eyes to his little brother. His gaze was a mixture of cold irritation and heated intent. The former was directed purely at Sam and the latter on the sound of Dick's name.

"And is there some reason…" Dean drawled slowly, his irritation evident. "That you've waited this long… to say anything…"

Sam looked sheepish but didn't back down.

"I was getting too it." He grumbled, realizing he was treading the edge of hot water. "Beth, the girl I was with earlier. She was just hired by a new branch of Sucro Corps. She told me they're releasing their first shipment of creamer tomorrow."

Dean's eyes widened. The creamer was something they'd heard about before. Essentially it was a cure for the "human disease", weeding out genes for low body mass, hemophilia, and intelligence. Eventually, with the help of Sucrocorp, the human race would find themselves fat, dumb, and ready to be served up on a silver platter without a thought to their own protection. Their digging had told them it wouldn't be ready to market for another few weeks. Apparently they'd been wrong.

"He's back in town at the Sucrocorp headquarters. Apparently there's a demonstration tomorrow. A meeting for all the bigwigs, leviathans of course. It wasn't widely publicized but the rumor ran around Beth's office." His brows scrunched in concern. "We have to stop it Dean. We can't let that stuff get out there. People are going to end up hurt or sick. A lot could die."

Dean was nodding. With a quick flourish of fingers he finished putting the weapon back together checking the spring with a definitive snick as he met his brother's gaze. "We're going to. That bastard isn't going to take one more human life." He stood and leaned forward against the table, hands flat on the old wood, head bowed in thought for a long moment before he glanced up again. This time his gaze fell on Cas who merely watched him in silence.

The angel, if ever asked, would find it impossible to claim that Dean with a plan was anything less than a sight to behold. The man always seemed to transform under his task, setting himself to it with a single minded intensity that Castiel had only ever seen in other angels. Of course Sam was always a concern for Dean, but the hunter had an uncanny way of narrowing his line of sight to work through a situation. To set the stage for everything he needed, everything that was going to happen. Needless to say, Cas was always impressed, a rather new and startling feeling for the angel. It was up there with feeling humbled by the very same human. In truth… it was one of the reason's he'd stayed around, one of the reasons he'd never once regretted Falling for the hunter. He believed that Dean, more than anyone else, could accomplish the great things God had set before him.

"We're going to need some help."


TBC

Part 5: You'd Better Know What You're Fighting For