Warnings: Warnings: Non-graphic sex scene (only took 100k for it to happen. Wonder how much more for an actual sex scene). Culmination of Dean's epicly bad decision making. So the first half of this chapter is rough, Dean goes to head to head with Alastair and all of Dean's self-worth issues come out. I promise that I don't leave him broken.
Dean knows he's decided the minute he convinces Coulson to give the Avengers and the Winchesters the day off, but he ignores the voice in the back of his head that tells him that. Instead, he sends out an email to everyone on his floor of the tower and informs them that there's a mandatory trip to Hershey Park happening. He even invites Coulson as a courtesy, but Coulson declines. His loss.
The six Avengers, two Winchesters, and Cas all head to Pennsylvania for the day, and they take a 15 passenger van, because Coulson refuses to give them permission to take a small aircraft.
They spend the day riding roller coasters until they're sick, winning the rigged games, and eating various forms of chocolate for meals (Reese's to celebrate their arrival, Hershey's with almonds for lunch, Twizzlers for desert, and Kit Kats for a mid-afternoon snack).
When they head back to the van, tired and sticky from the cotton candy they'd found on the way out, Dean has a neon orange bear in his arms, because Clint had won it for him. Dean can barely see around it, and it takes up two seats in the car, but Dean refuses to leave it behind.
Sam calls Dean a girl, but there's affection in his scowl, and Dean knows that everything's all right between them again, so he just grins and settles into the backseat with Clint and his bear and lets himself pretend for a moment that this could be his life.
The fantasy doesn't last very long, because then he remembers that tomorrow he's driving to New Jersey for what might be the end. The actual end. He's no longer needed as Michael's vessel so there's no reason for anyone to bring him back to life if he dies.
But he's not going to think about that until tomorrow. Tonight is still his. He leans his head against the bear and laces his fingers through Clint's, and pretends he doesn't feel the way Clint is looking at him like he's worried.
When they get back to the tower, Cas and Steve go down to the gym, because they're both wired from the excitement of the day and the ridiculous amount of sugar they've both consumed, and they need to work out their energy.
Tony's on the opposite side of the spectrum, about to collapse from a sugar crash, and Bruce gently leads him to bed. Thor gathers up all of his "war trophies" and goes to show them off to Jane.
Dean intercepts Sam when he and Natasha are on their way out. He touches Sam's shoulder, and Sam turns around, confused when he sees Dean standing behind him looking strangely serious.
"We alright?" Dean confirms. He's pretty sure they are, but he needs to make sure. He can't go into tomorrow if Sam's still pissed at him.
Sam frowns, confused, but he nods. "Yeah, Dean. We're alright."
Dean nods and, remembering how pissed Sam had been last time Dean died, he reaches out and gives Sam a tight hug. "Good. Uh," Dean pulls back, suddenly uncomfortable with his blatant display of affection. "Good."
He smiles and ignores Sam's gaping and heads up to the roof. He can't be inside his room right now. He can't be inside at all. He feels trapped. He is trapped. He knows it's ridiculous. He can choose not to do this at any moment. He can choose not to go tomorrow. This isn't fate or destiny or written into stone. There's no reason for him to feel hopeless. He's making this choice. Maybe that's what makes this so much worse.
This isn't the hellhounds coming for him. This isn't something that's going to happen no matter what. He can opt out. He can just not show.
Dean rolls his eyes at his own melodramatics. He needs to stop thinking like he's going to die tomorrow. He's checking in with everyone just in case he does die tomorrow, but he needs to stop expecting that he will. He's come out of worse situations. He'll come out of this one too.
"Cas thinks you're mad at him." Clint drops down next to Dean a moment later, and Dean's grateful that Clint had announced his presence by talking, because if he'd just slipped through the dark and sat down, he'd probably startle Dean enough for him to fall off the roof and wouldn't that be embarrassing. And painful. And life ending.
Still, Dean thinks Clint could've chosen something better to lead with. "Cas isn't a middle school girl. If he's upset with me, he'd tell me that point blank instead of sending someone else."
"He could only do that if you weren't avoiding him."
Dean doesn't have anything to say to that, because Clint can always tell when Dean's lying, and the truth is that Dean's been avoiding Cas. He feels guilty about it, because he doesn't want Cas thinking there's something wrong between them, but Dean can't face him. He's afraid that Cas will take one look at him and know what Dean's planning, and Dean knows Cas will try to stop him, and Dean can't let that happen.
Dean got himself into this Alastair mess, and it's about time he got himself out.
"Well, tell him I'm not mad at him," Dean says. "And that I regret we're now middle school girls."
"You could tell him yourself."
Dean leaves it at that, and looks up at the sky. It's hard to make out stars in Manhattan, but Dean can see a few if he squints. He wonders how long it'll take for him to start thinking depressing things like that this might be the last time he ever sees stars.
He wonders if heaven has stars. He wonders why he thinks he'd go to heaven. He wonders if he will.
"You're distracted," Clint says. He moves over, closing the space between them so they're now touching from shoulders to shoes.
"Long day," Dean says.
"Mm." Clint's hand runs up the inside of Dean's thigh. "That should mean you're tired."
Dean shifts into Clint's touch, spreading his legs. "Definitely not tired."
"Can see that," Clint says, amused. "You're also deflecting."
"You're the one feeling me up," Dean points out. He wonders if Clint's going to point out that that was deflection. He doesn't, just rolls on top of Dean so their bodies are in full contact.
Dean stops thinking and acts. He kisses Clint, hard, like he's trying to memorize his mouth, like he's afraid he's never going to do this again. His hands clutch at Clint's shoulders, forming marks that will last for a couple days at least. Clint doesn't protest even though the bruises will show if he wears the sleeveless tops he prefers.
He lets Dean mark and claim, and he gives as good as he's got back. He sucks marks against the skin of Dean's collarbone, flips them so he can scratch lines down Dean's back.
At some point, between kisses and bites and scratches, they lose their clothes, and Dean ends up on his back again. He spreads his legs, begging desperately for something he can't ask for. He needs to be taken, he needs to stop thinking, he needs to lose his ability to choose, to decide, because he makes shit decisions. He needs someone to take care of him, to make everything good, to make him forget.
Clint eyes him speculatively for a moment, and Dean wonders if everything's written on his face. Does Clint know what's going through Dean's head? Does he know that when he wakes up in the morning that Dean will be gone?
Finally, Clint leans in and he kisses Dean. Soft, slow, and his hand curves over Dean's cheek. It's too gentle, and Dean's afraid he's going to shake apart so he bites at Clint's lip, and Clint growls and shoves his tongue into Dean's mouth and nothing is gentle after that.
In the morning, Dean wakes up early, a little sore, and he pretends that's why it's so hard for him to get out of bed. He takes a long, warm shower, and he pretends he lingers so long because the warm spray loosens his muscles.
He takes his time getting dressed and he pretends it's because he's trying to keep quiet, trying not to wake Clint up.
It doesn't work. Dean's tucking Ruby's knife into the sheath in his jacket when Clint blearily blinks at him from the bed.
"What are you doing?"
Dean smiles, the lie sliding easily off his tongue. "Going to get some breakfast from the café. You want a crepe?"
"It's too early for food," Clint groans.
He buries his head under his pillow.
Dean pretends he isn't upset that Clint hadn't seen through the lie, hadn't reached out a hand and pulled Dean back to bed.
Dean climbs into the Impala and turns the engine on. The radio starts playing Highway to Hell. Dean changes the station and thinks it's a good thing he doesn't believe in signs or he'd probably never make it out of the garage.
Dean has to pay ten dollars to get into the park which he thinks is absolute bullshit. He adds it to his reasons to hate New Jersey.
He parks the Impala by a set of picnic tables, and he passes by a family picnic and what looks like a company retreat as he heads towards the boathouse. He wonders what the odds are of him being able to sneak up on Alastair. He wonders if he'll even have time to throw the knife before Alastair throws him into the wall. He wonders if the building will come down when he hits the wall.
Dean decides to try being quiet, because any advantage he can get will help. He can hear low voices talking as he approaches, and he'd recognize Crowley and Alastair anywhere. They came together. So he'd been right about the trap.
He slips the knife out, ignores the front entrance and goes for a window. The glass has been broken, either from vandalism or a storm, and no one's bothered to fix it. Dean supposes there's no point in fixing something that's been written off as useless or too old or whatever made the boathouse get the boot.
Dean peers through the window. There are wooden racks lining the far wall, where canoes and kayaks used to rest, but they're empty now and the wood is rotting. Standing in the middle of the room is Crowley and closer to the entrance is Alastair. Neither of them have noticed Dean, too caught up in what Dean now realizes is some kind of argument.
Dean takes advantage and the throws the knife. It sinks into Alastair's shoulder, and the demon grunts, and his eyes snap to Dean's. Well, shit, Dean thinks, because Alastair isn't dead. The knife isn't powerful enough to kill him which means Dean is officially screwed.
A moment after he has the thought, Dean is yanked forward and his body crashes into the boat racks. He misses hitting his head, but he takes a wooden beam to the back, and it knocks the air out of his lungs and when Alastair lets him go, Dean crumples to the ground.
"You brought a kid's toy to a man's game," Alastair says. He plucks the knife from his shoulder, and Dean's pleased to note that at least Alastair's bleeding even if he'd not dead.
Dean had tortured countless of people because of the demon, been tortured by him, but he'd never drawn Alastair's blood. Now he has. Despite the shitty situation Dean's found himself in, he grins. And then he prays. Cas, I'm sorry for not talking to you last night. I'm talking to you now. I need your help. I need you. I'm in way over my head.
"It's my favorite," Dean says. "Wouldn't have brought anything else."
"No?" Alastair tests the point of the blade against his finger. "I heard a rumor that you boys had something that packed a little more punch."
"You need to get a better source," Dean says. He's watching Crowley out of the corner of his eye, and he sees the moment Crowley realizes that Dean doesn't have the Colt. Disbelief, disappointment, and 'wow, this boy is an idiot' all flash across his face, and then he's back to looking bored, his hands clasped behind his back.
Alastair shrugs. "Won't be a problem soon. You'll be dead and that's all I really wanted."
Dean pretends that confession doesn't scare the shit out of him, because there's only one reason Alastair could want him dead. His soul's marked for hell. Dean's pretty sure walking into this building without the Colt just earned him a one way ticket back to hell. He wonders how long it'll take for him to break this time. He wonders if it's worth fighting at all when the time comes.
"Really?" Dean asks, going for bravado. "You really think I'm going to be fun to break a second time?"
The look Alastair levels him with is part patronizing, part pitying. "Oh, Dean. How can I break you again when you haven't been fixed?"
Dean sinks down into the floor, not caring that it looks like he's giving in, because he realizes that Cas hasn't showed up. There's nothing that should've stopped him. There's no emergency that would keep Cas from coming when Dean called. Which means Cas doesn't want to come.
He knows. He knows and Alastair knows and Dean knows. Dean's broken. He's not worth fighting for anymore, not worth protecting. Dean looks up at Alastair's deranged smile and realizes that he's on his own and seriously outgunned.
"You've been mine since the moment you made the deal for Sam's life," Alastair croons, and he slinks towards Dean. "You were always going to break, always had that weakness in you that the John Winchester school of training couldn't rid you of. All I had to do was push," Alastair crouches down, presses a finger against Dean's chest until it hurts, "and you broke."
Alastair, remembering that he's still holding Ruby's knife, trails the tip of the blade down Dean's chin. Dean wants to jerk back, roll away, but he knows it'll be useless. Alastair is faster than him, can pin him to the ground or the wall before Dean can even reach the door.
Dean knows when he's been beat. And for the first time in his life, he accepts it.
Alastair has Dean pinned against the wall, but it's only because Dean's legs won't hold him up, and Alastair wants Dean stretched against the wall like some kind of canvas or something. Dean can't bring himself to care.
He's going back to hell. Cas has abandoned him. He's not sure which one is worse. He should probably we worried about the knife that's back to tracing his jaw line, but he also doesn't care about that. He feels numb, empty. He's not even sure he'll register pain.
"Is this really necessary?" Crowley asks, looking bored.
"Sorry you can't stomach it." Alastair dips the knife beneath Dean's skin, the blade sliding in and pulling out. "Mortals bleed so pretty, don't they?" Alastair brings the knife to his lips and licks the tip.
Crowley rolls his eyes. "You are fond of dramatics, but why torture him here? When not bring him down below?"
"I'll have plenty of time to torture him down there. Might as well have some fun up here first." The knife rests against Dean's throat, a gentle pressure above his pulse, and then Alastair slowly turns back to Crowley. "You in a rush to get out of here?"
"Deals to make, souls to take," Crowley says, but his tone is too casual.
Alastair makes a small tsking sound and he taps the knife absent mindedly against Dean's skin. "I should've seen this sooner. Dean Winchester handed to me on a silver platter? Too good to be true. He does have the Colt, doesn't he? But he didn't bring it here." Alastair pauses, laughing as he figures out what's happened. "He thought you were double crossing him so he didn't bring it. But you were double crossing me."
The smile immediately drops off Alastair's face. "You dreamed too big, Crowley."
Dean watches, helpless, as Alastair rips the demon out of the human's body. The human drops to the floor. The demon shrieks and twists until Alastair puts it down in a crackle of black smoke.
Huh, Dean thinks. At least one demon died. His death won't be completely useless then.
"Oh no," Alastair says, petulant as he turns back to Dean. "I've lost my audience now, and I always perform best for a crowd."
"You need an audience?" a familiar voice asks. "Well, you've got one."
Dean looks up and past Alastair's shoulder to see Sam and Cas standing in the middle of the boathouse. Dean rolls his eyes up towards the ceiling. Of course they picked now to show up. Once Dean had resigned himself to them not showing up. Once Dean had realized that he didn't want them to show up.
"You should leave," Dean says. "He just killed Crowley. You can't do anything against him." Dean's aware that his voice is flat, emotionless. He knows that he's given up. Now they know too.
"Leave?" Sam demands. "You run off on some suicide mission, and you want me to leave you to die?"
Dean ignores Sam, looks at Cas. "Why did you come with him? You don't come when I call, I get it, I'm past saving, but," Dean trails off at the look on Cas's face. It's a mix of horror and pain, and it twists at something in Dean. He feels a sharp burst of pain, enough to choke a gasp out of him, to bring tears to his eyes, and suddenly he can feel again.
His back is throbbing from where it hit the beams earlier. His chin stings from being cut by the blade. His entire body feels tight, pressure from the magic that's holding him against the wall.
Cas hadn't hung him out to dry? That's what Cas's face is saying. It's what the tears misting in Cas's eyes are screaming, it's what the twist of his lips are explaining, but it isn't enough. Dean needs to hear him say it.
"Alastair is indeed more powerful than me," Cas says, and his eyes stay locked with Dean's not looking away, not giving Dean a chance to run. They're forcing him to pay attention, to listen, to believe. "He blocked your prayers to me. You," Cas pauses, looks on the verge of crying. "You thought I abandoned you?"
Dean looks at the knife clutched in Alastair's hands. Dean's blood is still on it, but there's so much more blood. Countless humans that had to die, because they'd had the bad luck of being possessed. Ruby's blood. Dean can still see her, chained up, begging for her life, for Dean to kill to, just for it all to stop. He can hear her screams, her pleas, can hear her broken answers to his questions.
Dean looks back up at Cas, but now he's unable to meet his eyes. "I don't deserve to be saved."
Cas shuts his eyes, and twin tears slide out, roll down his cheeks. Dean tilts his head back against the wall. Sam and Cas are here, but there's nothing they can do. Cas isn't strong enough to fight Alastair. All three of them are going to die here, and it's Dean's fault. If he hadn't made the deal, if he'd brought the Colt, if he'd gotten Alastair to kill him straight away instead of playing with him then maybe Sam and Cas could make it through this.
"Isn't this precious," Alastair says. He takes a step towards Cas, reaching his fingers towards Cas's cheek. "The tears of an angel. I heard there's no better taste in the world."
Dean struggles against Alastair's hold, but he's not going anywhere. Cas and Sam appear to be frozen as well. Alastair is the only one in the room moving, and his fingers are about to brush Cas's cheek when Dean hears a gunshot.
A moment later, Alastair drops to the ground, the demon fizzling out of the human host. Dean falls to the ground in a tangle of limbs, and by the time he's looking up, Clint is vaulting through the broken window, the Colt firmly in hand.
"I never miss," Clint says, tossing the gun to Sam. In an instant he's at Dean's side, cupping his face with both his hands then spreading them out, checking for damage.
"I'm fine," Dean says and he tries to pull away. He doesn't want Clint touching him. He doesn't want anyone touching him. His soul is marked for hell. He'd gone face to face with Alastair and almost died. He put his brother and Cas at risk.
"Are you?" Clint catches Dean's chin, forces his head up so Dean's looking at him. Clint holds his gaze for a moment, searching, and then he grabs the hem of Dean's shirt and tears. Dean's chest is covered in bites and bruises, in fading red scratch marks. Clint touches each hickey, presses his thumb into each bruise, trails his index finger down each line.
Dean tilts his head back against the wall and lets Clint reclaim him.
Cas zaps them back to SHIELD medical, not the Avengers Tower, and Dean is hustled to a room. He claims he doesn't need medical attention, but his stomach, upset from taking the Angel Bus, chooses that moment to complain, and Dean ends up vomiting all over the nice nurse's shoes.
She looks down at her scrubs, sighs, and then tells him that he can lie down on the bed or she'll break out the restraints.
After being pinned to a wall by demon magic and threatened with torture then an eternity of torture, Dean opts to stay away from restraints. He climbs into the bed, and he doesn't realize how tired he is until he falls asleep.
When Dean wakes up, there's a giant, neon orange bear in bed with him. He looks at the giant plastic eyes and groans.
"You have got to be kidding me."
"Good think I'm not the jealous type," Clint says, from the visitor's chair.
Dean smiles when he sees Clint sitting there, and he reaches out his hand. His fingers are almost to Clint's when he remembers the events of this morning. Yesterday morning? Whatever. Dean remembers walking into a trap, remembers the vicious slant of Alastair's lips. How can I break you when you haven't been fixed?
Dean yanks his hand back, because he can't touch Clint with these hands. He turns his hands over so he can see the palms, and he can see the blood dripping down them. He's killed demons and spirits and werewolves, but he's also killed humans. Innocent humans. And he's tortured. Innocent humans. He's taken their souls and twisted, and he had enjoyed it.
Dean's hands start to shake. He clenches his hands into fists, trying to stop it, but it doesn't work. His hands continue to shake and the shaking works its way up his arms, into his shoulders, down his torso until his whole body is quaking.
Dean presses his fists to his eyes. The pain doesn't do anything to help the shaking, it just hurts, but he deserves the hurt. He deserves a lot of hurt.
"Dean," Clint says, his voice soft, coaxing like he's talking to a frightened animal. Dean supposes that makes him a frightened animal. There's a brief touch to the back of Dean's hands, light, almost not even a touch. It's a warning, preparing Dean for when Clint's fingers circle his wrists and give a small tug.
Dean lets Clint pulls his hands away, and he drops them to his sheet, fisting them in the light fabric.
"You want to sit up?" Clint asks. He holds up the bed controller and puts it on the bed between Dean's hands.
Dean eases the bed into a sitting positions and fiddles with the bear until they're both positioned comfortably.
"How long?" Dean asks. He looks around but there are no clocks, no calendars, nothing to give the sense of time passing.
"Five hours," Clint says. "They weren't expecting you to be awake for at least ten so I bet they're scrambling to get people down here."
"People?" Dean doesn't like the way that sounds. People means talking, and Dean doesn't want to talk. He doesn't really want to be awake either, because being awake means thinking.
"That's enough, Barton." Coulson comes into the room, looking pristine as usual in his suit. Dean notes the clipboard in his hand, the pen tucked into the clip, the no nonsense look on Coulson's face. Dean wonders if he's going to get fired. Where will he go if that happens? Bobby's? Probably. If Bobby will even take him.
"Good afternoon, Dean." Coulson pulls up a chair and sits down. He rests his left ankle on his right knee and rests his clipboard on his bent leg. "I'm here to debrief you. I've heard what Agent Barton, Sam, and Castiel have all seen, and Sam and Castiel have speculated about your role in the events, but I'd like the truth of what happened from you." Coulson gives Clint a look, and Clint gets up and leaves without a protest.
Dean clutches the hand of the neon bear and looks up at Coulson. "Where do you want me to start?"
After the debrief, Dean's given dinner, but dinner is watery soup and a roll, and it comes with Sam so Dean's not sure it's worth it.
Sam sets the tray down and drapes his long legs over the arms of the chair. He picks at his fingernails while Dean slurps loudly at his soup, needing some sort of noise to fill the room.
Halfway through Dean's soup, he gives up. He drops his spoon into the plastic bowl and looks over at Sam who is trying so hard to stay still and not say anything that his shoulders are shaking and Dean's pretty sure that there's a permanent indent in Sam's bottom lip from biting it.
Dean looks at Sam expectantly. Sam looks back, eyes wide, wary, hopeful, and after a moment Dean looks away and tucks his head against the stuffed bear's neck.
"Was this my fault?"
Dean shuts his eyes, presses his face further into the bear's highlighter orange fur. "No."
"I," Sam pauses and Dean can hear him swallow. Dean tells himself Sam isn't on the verge of tears. "I said some nasty stuff to you."
"This isn't your fault, Sammy." Dean's screwed up a lot over the past day, screwed up even more these few months. He can't believe he's screwed up so much that he's messed Sam up. Sam was never supposed to be a part of this. This was about Dean and his demons, literally and figuratively. No one else was supposed to get in involved. No one else was supposed to get hurt.
"No," Dean growls and he turns to see Sam, knees tucked up to his chest, fingers locked around his knees. "No." Dean's voice is softer, pleading, because can't Sam see that Dean can't handle this? He can't handle knowing that he's dragged Sam down this path with him. "I did this on my own. I made the decision to deal with Crowley, because I wanted Alastair dead. I thought it would bring me peace. It was selfish."
Stop being so selfless.
The words hang between the two of them. They were the catalyst that drove Dean to find Crowley, to arrange the final meeting with Alastair, but Dean's never going to tell Sam that, and he's going to do his best to make sure Sam doesn't believe that.
"I screwed up," Dean says. And I almost didn't make it out of this. I wouldn't have without you, without Cas, without Clint. I almost lost everything.
"Yeah," Sam agrees. "We're both pretty good at that."
Sam looks over at Dean. "We're pretty good at bailing each other out too."
"Lots of practice," Dean says but there's a small smile tugging at his lips.
Sam smiles back, wide, bright, forgiving, and Dean curls up with the bear again. They're okay. Everything else will fall into place.
The guy doing the pysch eval arrives with pudding. Dean eyes the plastic cup with interest, but he doesn't want to talk to head people, and there's no amount of pudding that'll change his mind.
Clint and Coulson accompany the psych guy, and Dean looks over at where Sammy's still in the visitor's chair. He's not talking to anyone about his feelings with an audience. Not that he's going to talk about his feelings anyways.
The pysch guy apparently sense Dean's hesitance or he's been warned, because he stops a couple feet from Dean's bed and holds his hands out to show that he's not a threat, that he's respecting Dean's space.
Dean realizes that Clint, Coulson, and Sam are watching him, expectant and that this is some kind of set up or intervention. The only person that's missing is Cas.
A moment later, Cas appears in the room, startling everyone, even Dean.
"You thought my name," Cas says, eyes only for Dean, the intensity almost too much. Dean's in a thin hospital gown with an even thinner sheet, and it's not enough protection for the look he's getting. It's the look that dives into Dean's psyche, reads him, leaves him feeling bare, exposed. Dean clutches the bear, holding it in front of him as shield.
"Ah," Cas says. He steps forward, pries the bear from Dean's arms, and Dean is left with no defenses. He doesn't even have the space to hide, because his back is against the bed, and Cas is crowding into his space, until all Dean can see is Cas.
"You do not deserve to be saved," Cas says, and hurt flashes across Dean's face and his hand curls into a fist and then falls listless at his side. Cas reaches out, smooths his thumb over Dean's cheek. "No human does." Cas's other hand comes up to cup the other side of Dean's face, and Cas leans in until Dean has nowhere to look but Cas's eyes.
"You have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," Cas says, his breath a whisper across Dean's lips. "You are all damned without His grace. There is nothing you can do to earn salvation. There is no number of demons you can slay, no amount of evil you can vanquish. You cannot earn salvation. You can only accept it."
Dean can't look away from the startlingly blue eyes in front of him. He can't break Cas's grip, and he doesn't want to. Cas is confirming all of Dean's worst fears. There's nothing Dean can do. He can't fight his way to heaven, he can't impress God. And for some reason, that lifts a burden off of Dean's shoulders. He can feel tears spring into his eyes, and he realizes he's shed them when Cas brushes them away.
"You are special," Cas says. "Our Father loves you and cherishes you, and He has offered you salvation. Accept it."
Cas leans in and brushes his lips over Dean's forehead. They're warm, reassuring, and Dean sinks back into his pillows.
Cas pulls back and looks at the gaping psych guy. "Dean Winchester is the human in my charge. I pulled his soul from hell and reknit his body with my grace. I have held his soul in my hands. You cannot possibly know him the way I do; therefore, you cannot help him the way I can."
The man turns to Coulson, and Coulson gives an unhelpful shrug. "Hard to argue with an Angel of the Lord."
The man nods and shuts his mouth. "I guess I'll go somewhere else then."
Dean shuts his eyes so he doesn't know how long it takes the man to leave. He's glad his talk was with Cas and not the man. He probably wouldn't have gotten down to the real problem, probably wouldn't have fixed him the way Cas has.
Because Dean feels light now, free. He'd been trying to prove himself to God and that was probably the stupidest idea he'd ever had. He's human, he's broken, he's flawed, there's no way he could've convinced God that Dean's life was worth living, that his soul was worth saving. It's a relief to have that pressure lifted, to have that burden erased.
Now Dean just has to live. And live well. Or, at least as well as he's able. He has permission not to be perfect, permission to screw up, permission to be human.
When Dean opens his eyes again it's just him and Clint. Well, and the bear, still clutched in Dean's arms, the short fur tickling Dean's nose.
He pulls back and sneezes, and Clint smirks.
"Ready to get out of here?" Clint asks and Dean forgives him for smirking.
Clint nods like he'd been expecting that answer. "I forged your signature on the discharge papers so we can just go."
Dean laughs, and it feels good to hear the sound. It brings a smile to Clint's face and the two of them, the bear dangling between them, head back to the tower.
They're lying in bed that night, after a dinner with the Avengers where everyone pretended that everything was okay, like Dean hadn't run away and almost gotten himself killed by demons, like Dean hadn't broken all the rules by making deals with demons.
Dean's grateful that no one's talking about it, even more grateful that dinner isn't actually that awkward considering they're avoiding a pretty large white elephant.
When Clint brings it up, he has one of his legs slipped between Dean's and an arm wrapped around Dean's waist, and his head is resting on the flat plane of Dean's chest.
"Next time, tell me," Clint says.
He doesn't tell Dean not to do anything stupid again, because they both know better than to ask for things that are impossible. Clint's asked for something that Dean can actually do.
"Yeah," Dean says, and his drops his hands to run through Clint's hair. A thank you for not pushing too much, a thank you for being here, a thank you for just being himself.
Clint's hand tightens around Dean's waist, and Dean knows that he understands.
The end! Thank you for everyone who's stuck with me through both stories, and I hope you enjoyed them. I wrote a companion piece that follows Sam and Natasha throughout Domestic Bliss, because I realize that their relationship didn't get much attention in this one, and I wanted a chance to explore it.
It's called The Sam Winchester Curse, because doesn't let me link.