Author's Note: Last of the Camp Chitaqua stories, and we're going to start working on the next episode! This one's a bit heavier than the others, but there's been a few things brewing that need to be resolved once and for all between our boys. Meanwhile: "Why this title?" someone who knows me might ask, because I dislike titling (see previous rant on this topic as regards to the 'Verse name). Answer? Because it came down the Stones or "Take It As It Comes" because that was the song before "The End" on the Doors album. I decided not to go doom us all with the Doors thing. These things make sense to me. Somehow. A little. Don't judge me!

. . . Right. Yeah. Sanity. I'm back.

As always, I'd love to know what you all think! Please read and review!

Before the Fall 'Verse: (Full "episodes" in italics.)

Before the Fall * Afterward * Incarceration * Some Sin For Nothing * Drive * Odds & Ends or Shave and a Haircut * Thunderstruck * Warm-Up * Snow Angel * Communication Breakdown * Fate's Warning * Kiss Me Like You Mean It * Pride and Prejudice * Emotional Rescue

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As captivity goes, it's not the worst Castiel has ever suffered. Dean was a very thoughtful captor, and was trying remarkably hard to ensure that Castiel failed to notice his confinement at all. In his favor, for the first two days, Castiel was fairly oblivious to his plan. Too much had happened over the past few weeks, and Dean's insistence that Castiel needed "down time," Castiel simply took as a reflection on the fact that Dean had caught the tail end of his torture at Meg's hands.

It was endearing. Unnecessary, but endearing.

(They both were having nightmares, but by unspoken agreement once the sun came up not a word of it was mentioned.)

Castiel, however, was still used to being the protector and the idea of Dean as his guardian throughout the day remained disquieting. The third day, Castiel was certain Dean's sudden insistence that Cas begin helping build up the fortifications of the camp they had found themselves in was some sort of peace offering between them on that front, and they worked together with the camp, began making plans and arrangements side-by-side. Dean threw himself wholeheartedly into physical defenses of the Campbell compound, Camp Chitaqua, and handed over to Castiel carving sigils into the wooden posts, spray painting it onto the metal surfaces, and showing others how to paint up banishing sigils in blood.

He nearly pried the knife out of Cas's hand, and it was very nearly the tipping point, but Dean's explanation of the decision after the fact won through.

"Don't you think you've been leeched enough for a few weeks, Cas? Anyway, I don't want these guys getting their hands on your blood. Just let them open up their veins for once, and shut up and eat your stew." Dean's defense was, as always, a good offense, and a gruff voice went far in that. Castiel appeased him once again, and listened to a litany of reasons why he needed to eat more red meat and how letting himself be tortured (they remembered things very differently) was a quick way to end up anemic or sickly, even if he had been 'magic fingered' back to health by the 'Hell's Angels.'

Castiel has lived a very long life, and learned patience. He tolerated this increased protectiveness as best he could, and both of them quietly pretended there wasn't something else simmering underneath, a thread of anger that they were both smothering. By the fifth day, however, his human proclivity for sarcasm began to surface, when Dean sent Sam with Bobby on a straightforward salt-and-burn, rather than the entire family going out themselves and shaking off the camp and its people, Castiel realized that it went beyond simple protectiveness and on to being a glorified prisoner.

"Are you planning to handcuff me to the bed, next, Dean?" Castiel asked in a low, angry growl as Bobby's truck trundled away, and while he couldn't at the time understand why Dean's eyes widened impossibly at the suggestion, or why he leered as he turned towards Cas, they were eventually in agreement that the next several hours at least had been well spent, and that Castiel would never innocently be able to ask that question again. They also needed to replace the bedframe before they left, would spend the rest of their stay in mattresses on the floor, and the bonfire they built out of the broken wood of the bunk-bed in the cabin likely set the gossip ring chattering and looking at them again, resurrecting the lingering questions the inhabitants of Camp Chitaqua had about the nature of their relationship. They find ways to redirect their anger. Usually physical, and pleasant for both parties.

The fact remained that however pleasantly Dean distracted him, it was all distraction from the fact that he was a prisoner, and the walls were closing in on him.

It comes to a head on the eighth day.

"Dean. . ."

"Hey, Cas, hand me the wrench over there, would you?" Normally, Castiel wouldn't mind the view from the front of the Impala, and might find a reason to sit back and enjoy the sight of Dean in his grease-splattered jeans, gently bowed legs braced wide for support, torso buried in the engine, apparently enjoying himself while Castiel is supposed to be separating their camping supplies back out from their day-to-day gear, and getting them ready for the road and an escape from the camp that had been put off for a week and seemed no closer.

If Dean needs to repeat the request, it is not because of distraction. Castiel is quite literally older than the dirt they are standing upon and does not find himself on occasion dumbstruck like a teenaged human by Dean Winchester, regardless of how smugly Dean smirks at him over his shoulder without straightening and how clearly and slowly he repeats the request, a gleam in his green eyes.

Cas glares as he hands Dean the wrench, and scowls when Dean turns back to his work after a cheeky wink, his low chuckle rich and self-assured. "You want me to teach you how to. . .?"

"I want to know why you're holding me hostage here."

And there goes all possibility of this being a polite, reasonable conversation between level-headed, rational beings. Dean straightens quickly enough that he clips his head against the hood of the car, and spins to glare back at the fallen angel, holding a hand to his head.

"The hell kind of question is that, Cas?"

"A straightforward one." Dean's all bluster and fast words, and Castiel is loose-postured, arms straight at his sides, gaze unwavering, and for some inexplicable reason he finds himself missing the trench coat, the suit, the weight and bulk and illusion of officiousness they provided.

Dean folds his arms and straightens his broad shoulders. Castiel raises his chin and narrows his eyes. And across the way, still hauling his things out of the back of Bobby's truck, Sam recognizes the warning signs of a potential knock-down, drag-out fight in the making: two of the most hardheaded creatures on the earth assuming their offensive stances, convinced they were right and inept at actually talking things through like human beings when it came to conflict between them. Sam reaches out, smacking the back of his hand against Bobby's shoulder, and points at the impending confrontation with his chin, drawing an exasperated sigh from the older hunter as he turns to look, not needing further explanation.

"Balls. You take Chucklehead. I'll handle Feathers."

Because God help them all if Dean and Castiel threw down in public and anyone uttered the words "lover's quarrel," there was going to be a bloodbath. Their relationship was already entirely too discussed in the camp, particularly since Dean's little stunt in the meeting, and Bobby didn't want to have to burn bridges here right off by doing something stupid like breaking his foot off in some idiot hunter's ass for speculating aloud where they oughta mind their own business, and after everything he wasn't exactly sure he'd step in to help anyone idiotic enough to poke at the two of them when they were clearly spoiling for a fight.

Castiel's relationship with Bobby is still too tentative for him to object when the hunter stalks by, grabbing him by the forearm and hauling him into the cabin the boys were sharing. Dean is, as he always has been, too susceptible to Sam's earnest look to do more than shrug the hand off of his shoulder in a show of discontent, but allow himself to be backed down anyway, slamming closed and then slouching against the hood of the Impala and glaring into the distance, yanking a rag out of his back pocket and scrubbing at the grease on his hands vigorously.

"Dean, what's going on?" Sam asks, quiet enough not to carry in the open door of the cabin, as he goes to sit next to his brother on the hood of the car, drawing his long legs up to rest his feet on the bumper. "You were first in line to get outta here, and now you're dragging your feet." He holds his hands up in a placating gesture before Dean can do more than glare, speaking quickly. "I'm not taking sides in this, Dean, I just. . . I think I should know what 'this' is this time."

"There's no 'this,' Sam. I'm just trying to make sure these people are prepared for. . ."

"For what, Dean? For two hellfired Angels to show up on their doorstep and just nuke the place? For the Apocalypse? Dean, there's no getting these people ready for that and you know it." Raking his hand through his hair, just now getting long enough for his bangs to fall in his eyes again, Sam watches his older brother from the corner of his eye, watches his gaze slide back to the cabin again, watches his scowl deepen. "This is about Cas, isn't it? This place can't keep him safe, either, Dean. If they come for him. . ."

Dean growls under his breath, frustrated, and throws the rag down onto the hood of the car, sliding up it to sit next to his brother properly, shaking his head slightly. "You think I don't get that, Sam? They're going to be coming for him, and I know it. He's got his head set to fighting, and I'm okay with that. This isn't about. . ." Dean tilts his head up towards the January sky, and shakes his head with a sigh. "It's about Meg."

Sam waits for further explanation, and eventually when Dean leans forward, elbows resting on his knees, he knows he can get it this time. Dean's ready to talk, he just needs the push, and Sam leans back on his hands, without crowding Dean, and keeps his voice low. "The torture? What she did to Cas . . ."

"No. What he did. Or what he didn't do." Closing his eyes, Dean drags a palm over his face, shaking his head slightly. "Lot of what she said in that cave, she said to fuck with me. But she wasn't wrong, Sam. Not really. Look, you know what I did down there. Meg. . . she's what I woulda become if Cas hadn't pulled me out." Better. . . or worse, rather. He was Alastair's star, his protégé. He would have been so much worse. "So what happened there. . . I get it. I do. She had the leverage, she put the pressure on. He blames himself for it, but we were pretty much fucked the moment she got the drop on us."

The moment Dean turned his back on a demon and dragged his angel away for a thirty, when he should have kept his guard up. He can't let himself feel guilty for that, though: so much of what was holding the two of them together were the moments they could steal between the chaos. The problem being, though. . . how together did Cas have it, really?

"He had the juice, Sammy. Meg's a demon in the end. A devious backstabbing bitch of a demon, but she's just a demon, and all through that countdown he was chalk full of Hell's Angel mojo. You felt it, too, right? He was practically Full Metal Angel again. I watched him banish Alastair himself once, bolt of lightning and the guy was gone, no touch needed, but he just. . . damnit, Sammy, he just let her carve him up like a Thanksgiving turkey."

"She said he couldn't. . . that he only could make it work for saving us." Sam says, with an uncomfortable shrug, and Dean laughs once, quietly, bitterly. God, he'd hoped never to hear that sound again from his brother, and Cas made him happy. Why the hell couldn't they just keep that.

"That's not exactly comforting, Sammy. Makes it worse. You wanna know why I don't want Cas out there, Sam? It's because Meg was right. He thinks he deserves that. Torture, death, whatever. Deep down, Cas thinks. . . he thinks he deserves Hell."

Sam shifts slightly, and draws Dean's gaze inadvertently, green eyes narrowed and intuition driving him to shoot a questioning look at Sam, who grimaces at the scrutiny. "We. . . talked about it a little, yeah. Back at the park, when we climbed up that rock without you. I didn't know how to bring it up. He worries me too, Dean. I get that he doesn't want to go off the rails again, I just. . . "

". . . Wish he had any sense of self-preservation?" Dean finishes for him quietly, turning to look back out over the camp, and the silence between them lingers, thick and foreboding. "The Cas I met here. . . he didn't have it either. He just walked right into the meat grinder. . . because I asked him to." The same way he'd died for them. The same way he'd fallen for them. Fallen for Dean.

After a moment, Sam assumes a faint, rueful smirk and a hangman humor. "He never really learned how to duck, either. I mean, he just kinda . . ."

"God, I know." Dean laughs humorlessly, resting his face on his hands. "Didn't matter if he felt it or not, he just kinda stood there for it."

"Like a statue." Sam agrees, and it wasn't funny. It wasn't even a little funny. But they laugh anyway, Sam holding his hair out of his eyes in the cold, rising breeze.

"First time I met him, I emptied a clip on him, and stabbed him." Dean reminisces, voice a low rumble, a troubled crease in his brow as he rubs his palms against his jeans over and over.

"Not love at first sight, then, I take it." Sam teases him quietly, but they're both somber again.

"Not quite. Not for me, at least." Dean agrees sadly and sighs, pushing off of the car and standing. "I'm not gonna let him go get himself killed for us, Sam."

"I know. I'm with you. Outside of you, he's my best friend too." Sam doesn't rise from the Impala, watching his brother carefully. "But you can't keep him here, Dean. And you can't keep him safe from himself this way. You two wanna throw down, I'll stay out of the way. That's between you. But we both know that's not going to do anything for it, Dean. You can't exactly beat a survival instinct into someone. Cas proved that with you." Dean pulls a face at his brother, but doesn't contest it. ". . . And I don't think you want to."

"I don't. We probably wouldn't have come to that anyway. I don't want to fight him, we've had enough of that shit, all of us." Looking at the cabin, Dean rolls his shoulders, popping his back. "Okay."

"Okay?" Sam prompts. "You going to go actually talk about this? You want me there?"

Turning slightly, Dean cocks an eyebrow at his little brother. "You really want to be there for this, Sammy? Either way you're not gonna want to see how it ends."

Sam holds his hands up in surrender and agreement. He was pretty sure he didn't want to watch Dean and Cas get physical, no matter how they did it, though the irony of his perpetually self-sacrificing brother trying to go teach the merits of self-preservation might be worth seeing. It was like watching someone plan out a train crash. He. . . really didn't want to be there, though, when the inevitable blowout occurred. "I'll crash at someone else's cabin tonight."

"I hear Jane's available." Dean snipes, and Sam retaliates instantly.

"I hear Risa's still eying you, if Cas kicks you out tonight."

"Shaddup, bitch." Dean huffs.

"Go talk to your boyfriend, jerk."

"I really hate that word."

"I know. That's why I use it."

This argument wasn't going to get him anywhere. Dean flicks Sam off before he shoves his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and trudges up the porch steps, leaving his brother on the car.

". . . told you at Christmas, and you better keep it in mind. Because I don't care how infuriating that boy is, and I don't give a damn what you are, or how old, or how powerful you were, Castiel, you fuck that up and you . . ."

Dean has no doubts that prior to his entrance into the room, Castiel had pushed back against Bobby, verbally at least, but short of actually bringing it to blows the fallen angel had little chance there. Bobby Singer has been putting Winchester boys back in line for decades, and as far as he's concerned, Castiel had just recently become another of his boys. Cas looks more exasperated and harangued than actually contrite, pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, sitting on the couch of the cabin with an elbow on his knee, head bowed. He doesn't raise his head or open his eyes as Dean enters, but he registers his presence before the other man has the chance, interrupting Bobby before he can finish the threat.

"Hello, Dean." Castiel's voice is low, sardonic, and might just have a bit of a plea in it, though he'd never admit it.

"Cas." Bobby turns to face him, and Dean offers him a faint curl of his lips, the hint of the boy who thought he could get away with pretty much anything if he offered a grin. And who usually did. "I interrupting the ass-chewin'? I can come back if you want, but I figured I oughta have words with Cas myself."

"Better just be words, son." Bobby grumbles, and Dean shows his palms, unthreatening.

"Just here to chat." But it heartens him to know Bobby's protective streak is growing to incorporate Cas, the same swell of rightness he got whenever he saw all of his family together in one place, and for as wrong as Camp Chitaqua is, it gave him that much at least. "You mind giving us the room for a bit? You can check us over for bruises afterwards if you gotta, but. . ." Castiel raises his head from his hand, and their eyes lock across the room. Dean's next words are for his angel alone. ". . . We need to talk."

Bobby shoots them both one last warning look before shuffling for the door, and he may mutter under his breath while he does, but he knows neither of them is paying him any mind any more. They're back in their own little world, same as they've always been the second they make eye contact, and he might as well be a fly for as much attention as they're gonna give him. He closes the door behind him firmly before joining Sam out front, listening for the sound of a fight.

Castiel watches Dean with something like his former stoicism, but it's contrived, it's carefully constructed to hide himself, and Dean thinks he may as well be panicking for as easy as Dean's finding it to read the lie of it. He doesn't know if it's their bond becoming profounder (it's probably not a word, but he doesn't care), but Cas hasn't been able to really fool him with that in a while now. "From what I've gathered . . . traditionally 'we need to talk' signals the end of a relationship."

Yeah. Definitely panic mode. Dean settles down on the trunk that acts as a coffee table in front of the couch Cas is perched on, their knees close enough to touch, and this was just. . . damned uncomfortable, 'talking.' He shifts, still trying to find words to begin. "'Traditionally.' What're you watching when you wake up at night, Cas, chick flicks?"

"Whatever's on. It's instructional." If he's uncomfortable, Cas is in agony, miserable and trying desperately to seem unshaken by the sudden tailspin one phrase has given him. "Dean, are you. . ."

"Cas, I'm not all here." Dean taps a fingertip to his temple, throwing himself in, and it does nothing to help Castiel's confusion, he can tell. "I'm just not. Haven't been in years. Might never have been. I am not exactly the portrait of mental health, and I probably belong in a bughouse somewhere." Cas stares at him blankly. "Insane asylum. Loony bin. Anyway, point is I know I'm not in any position to help someone get their head on straight, but yours. . . isn't."

"Is that why you're 'breaking up' with me?" Castiel asks, and Dean's pretty sure he could drown boxes full of puppies, set orphanages on fire and push little old ladies into busy streets and feel less like scum than the hitch in Castiel's voice, the terror and heartbreak it was hiding, instills in him now. Should have reworked that opening a little. "No, Cas. . . No."

"Then why. . ." Castiel begins, still floundering, eyes restlessly roaming the room as if it holds some answer for him, and Dean knocks his knee against Castiel's, unnecessarily ensuring he has the angel's rapt attention.

"I'm not. We're not. That's not what this is, Cas. It's just. . . it's just a talk. An important one, and we need to work some shit out for us to work, but we will. Okay?" Cas searches his face intently, desperately.

"So this isn't . . ."

"Cas. Pretty sure by now we're past the point of no return." Castiel's brow knits further at the phrasing, as if he's not sure if he should apologize for that or not. Dean relents slightly, reaching out and drawing his fingertips down the curve of Castiel's jaw. The fallen angel's eyes slide closed, and he leans into the minute touch, letting his breath out as Dean hooks his forefinger beneath Cas's chin, tilting it up and waiting until his eyes open again to speak. "You're stuck with me. Y'got me?"

"I've got you." Castiel confirms, but his words are rich and resonate with meaning, an affirmation far beyond confirming he was listening, and after a moment he visibly draws himself back together. Castiel takes Dean at face value, always, and letting go of the misunderstanding he squares his shoulders and nods once, indicating that Dean should continue. He hasn't felt panic like that since San Antonio, since Sam warned him that Dean might reject him after the verbal and physical abuse he'd taken, and he doesn't like it.

Dean hadn't been conscious for that, and Castiel is thankful for it. Nothing had happened in the last three minutes of conversation, no one apart from the two of them would have noticed well enough to see how shaken it had left him, and yet. . . Dean is watching him knowingly, his own intuition making his stare just as unsettling as Castiel's telepathy likely made Dean in the past, and Cas has the urge to hide himself again, his posture rigid, his gaze impassive.

The angelic defense. Dean wasn't buying it any more.

"Where were we?"

"You were going to detail our relative sanity, my instability, and how it pertains to why you're holding me hostage here." Castiel deadpans, with just enough of an edge to his word choice to drag them back to the fight, and Dean snorts. They might be a jumbled up co-dependent mess, but Castiel hasn't lost his backbone or his bite.

"You're still kinda a dick, you know that, Cas?"

"Is that another rhetorical question I'm not supposed to answer?" Dean huffs a laugh, and Castiel cants his head to the side, but there's a lightness to his eyes that Dean's come to recognize over years of friendship and six months in a relationship together (whether Dean admitted it or not at the time), and Cas got him. His humor might be bone dry, but it was there.

"I take it back, not just 'kinda.'" Dean can't help smirking.

"You're attempting to soften the impact of this conversation now by injecting humorous insults into it. You do this often."

"Pretty much since I was old enough to talk." Dean confirms, but he takes a bracing breath and leans back again, and he's not quite sure when he leaned forward towards Cas and Cas towards him, until personal space was a thing of the past, or at least of someone else's past. Cas is watching him again, though, and he leans back as well, sitting straight on the couch once more.

"You're concerned about my mental health, to the point of not wanting me to leave this camp, and confining yourself here with me despite your desire to be elsewhere." He prompts again, and folds his hands together on his lap, index fingers steepled. Dean said this was important to making them work out, and Cas wasn't the one that had problems saying what was on his mind: if this is a conversation they need to have, he'll be the one to pull them back to it, just as he was the one to pick the fight. "Why?"

"Because I can't keep watching you line up for torture, Cas, or trying to get killed." Dean finally sighs, and God he needs a drink. And he realizes after a moment, he needs Castiel to fight this, to rail against the assertion. He only realizes that need when Cas fails to entirely, ducking his head down.

"Ah." There's a moment that suspends in time and drags out, where Dean waits for some sort of denial, hopes for some sort of explanation or argument, and receives none.

". . . Seriously? Dude, seriously? Goddamnit, Cas. . ." The fallen angel grimaces at the term, but Dean doesn't slow down now that he's found his voice again, and despite his promises he was half tempted to shove Castiel, just to get a reaction out of him. "I just said 'you have a death wish,' and 'ah' is what you come up with?"

"I don't have a death wish." Castiel contradicts, but even his objections are semantic. "I am not consciously seeking to be. . ."

"It doesn't have to be conscious! You wanna tell me what that crap in the cave was, if it wasn't a death wish?" It was just so fucking typical, wasn't it? They were all just impossibly fucked up by now, and Cas couldn't even see it. . .

"Prioritizing." Raising his chin, Castiel meets Dean's gaze with defiance, and there he was. Castiel has never been weak (an assertion he made regularly in the early days after his fall, reminding the Winchesters not to coddle him) and for having been a supposedly obedient servant of Heaven he was a hardheaded pain in the ass. He'd practically declared himself captain of Team Free Will when he declared his intent to fight, expecting Dean to back down from the Michael idea again, and he sure as hell wasn't leading the way by giving up.

Castiel shoves himself to his feet, a tightly coiled ball of frustration, and he stalks past Dean to the open area of the room. He can no longer just sit there, confined to that couch, in such close quarters with Dean when they were so far apart on an issue. He wants to breathe, but he won't run from the conversation: it is important they understand each other, Dean had all but stated that their continued relationship hinged on it, but he is tired of being misunderstood for something Dean does himself. "Have you ever done any differently, when it came to the people you love, or the things you care about, or the wellbeing of the rest of the world? I chose the safety of the innocent people who were. . ."

"You're one of the people who were in . . ."

"I am neither innocent nor a person, Dean!" Castiel's words impact the conversation with the force of a bomb, rocking Dean in his seat on the trunk, stopping him partway through the act of turning to face Castiel. Cas, for his part, seems surprised at the words as well: they're ripped from him forcefully, leaving him raw and wounded in their parting, but he can't snatch them back now. He won't. Resting his fists on the battered dining table, he bows his head, shoulders dropping, drawn in on himself. His voice is hoarse as he continues, trying to smooth over what he's said, trying to bring this back to the familiar circles they talk themselves into. "If it becomes a question of saving your life and Sam's, or saving my own, I am always going to save you. You know this. It is what we are, it is what we do."

He can hear Dean breathing in the silence that overtakes the cabin, can hear Dean eventually hoist himself to his feet and stride across the room toward him. Castiel doesn't open his eyes, doesn't look up, and doesn't attempt to engage him. He can feel Dean's spike of righteous fury, though he can't hear it in the words carefully delivered from the other side of the table. Dean's voice has dropped in register and volume, deep and carrying and deceptively quiet. "Did she tell you that, Cas?" The table shifts slightly as it accepts his weight, knuckles cracking as he presses his own fists to the table, the aggressive reflection of Castiel's own pose. "Did they?"

Castiel sighs raggedly without lifting his head, and it's all the answer Dean needs. "Does it matter, Dean?"

Yes. Yes, it damn well matters, because Dean wants to kill someone. Find some way to pull Zachariah back from the Great Beyond just to gank him again for telling Castiel that he was nothing more than a tool, a weapon in Heaven's arsenal. For millions of years. Drag Meg out of whatever rock she crawled under and break every delicate joint in the hands that tortured Cas, just because she knew where to push. It'd been so easy for everyone to overlook it in the aftermath, and Dean was just as guilty: Asmodeus and Ba'el had busted out, had healed Castiel of his physical injuries, and Dean and Sam along with him, but a real torturer. . . it wasn't about shedding Castiel's blood, it was about breaking his spirit, and Alastair and his pupils had that down to an art.

Cas had fought back, he'd spit in her face and he'd saved the Winchesters instead of himself, and Dean was just slow enough on the uptake not to realize that just because he hadn't broken didn't mean he'd gotten through unscathed. How many times now has Cas been tortured, by Heaven and now by Hell, just to drive home the point that he wasn't human?

"You steal the covers just to throw them on the floor, no matter how cold it is in the room." It's sudden, and out of left field, and just random enough to raise Castiel's head back up, eyebrows rising to a point in a clear question as he looks at Dean across the table. "You hum off-key in the shower, and half the time I can't even tell if you're trying to make out a song out of it or just. . . I don't know. Purring, like some sorta bizarre house-cat. You dump about half a cup of sugar into your coffee, slather your breakfast with syrup, and think I don't notice that you're racing on your way to some diabetic coma. You'd probably go for fruity drinks and hot chocolate if you didn't think you had to keep step with Sammy and me."

"I don't understand how this is relevant to anything." Cas sounds like he doesn't know if he should be apologizing, or checking Dean for possession or brain damage, to have him rambling on like this.

"You find the weirdest shit funny, and you're so damned literal. All the time." Dean pushes off of the table, and his steps are slow and measured as he circles around it like a cop in an interrogation room, summer-green eyes locked on Castiel's stationary form the entire time, and he keeps the quiet monologue going as he does. "You can be terrifying when something threatens the people you care about, Cas. Even when you were an angel, you cared, so much that you'd take on anyone who tried to tell you not to. Even Heaven. Even me." Dean perches on the edge of the table next to Castiel, now, and slides a hand over one of Cas's clenched fists, tilting to look directly into his eyes, leaning into his personal space. "You like parks and playgrounds, and you like kids, Cas. You watch them like they're some sort of miracle. You did from that very first real conversation in the park after Samhain, remember? And now you're playing storyteller to all the juvies in camp, when the hunters around here'd have to twist your arm to get more than three words outta you."

"They're innocents." Cas says, brow knitting, and he has no idea where this is going. They're right back to the point, the innocence that he lacked, and Dean isn't allowing him time to refute any particular point.

"And you fuck up monumentally." Wrapping his fingers around Castiel's wrist, he tugs lightly at it until Cas raises his hand from the table, letting Dean slide to sit directly before him, when they reach something they can agree about, at last, and Dean doesn't attempt to soften it, doesn't change his tone, even as Cas flinches. "You take on way too much, and you try to shoulder everything on your own. You make a plan and you follow it like a freight train on the track, even if it's headed right off of a cliff. And then you carry it with you for forever, and everything goes on a scale, and it'll never add up to even out what you did."

Cupping a hand to Cas's neck, Dean tilts Castiel's head down toward him, and this time he doesn't wait any longer to make his point. "You know what that all makes you, Cas? A person."

"All you've done is describe a random assortment of personality flaws and preferences. . ." Cas chokes out quietly, and Dean can't help it. He laughs, quirking a grin up at the angel as Cas lifts a brow questioningly over eyes that were bright and liquid with unshed tears. But he's listening.

"Yeah, and? What the hell do you think we are, Cas? Don't say anything about art, or masterpieces, you've lived here too long now to miss the point. If we're art, we're like. . . like that impressionistic modern shit. Throw the paint at the canvas and see what sticks, and half the time you're looking at it wondering who pays for that crap. So, okay, you're a mess. We all are. Welcome to the club."

Thanks. Except I used to belong to a much better club.

This Cas, his Cas, doesn't believe that yet. Hell, Dean doesn't think that Castiel believed it, not really, he was just a bundle of bitterness and drugs and broken hopes, a burnt and broken shell, driving to his death with the ghost of a man he'd loved by his side. The memory has Dean leaning in and pressing his lips to Castiel's lightly, gently, and for a moment they share the same breath, his words a low murmur now that Cas can feel as much as hear as he folds himself into Dean, arms around his shoulders as Dean spans Cas's waist with warm hands, fingertips dipping into the gap between his worn, borrowed t-shirt and the low, loose band of his jeans, just for the reassurance of touch. "You're no worse than me, Cas, though you're never going to believe it. So believe this. . . I need you, Cas. Not because you pull my ass outta the fire, not because you're useful . . . because you're you. And that's not something that can be replaced."

Not for Dean.

When he seals their lips together again, he can feel Castiel's shaking breath, the splash of a tear that he slicks away with the pad of his thumb, but they don't mention it: like their nightmares, like Cas's claustrophobia, Dean's periodic insecurities, it just is, and they roll with these things. Even the pain was better than Cas popping pills not to feel. It makes them human: even if Cas doesn't entirely believe it yet, too quick to see the monster he thought he was. They've got time to work more on that, still. Dean doesn't have any intention of letting his angel go.

The tentative knock on the door from Sam, the call in to ask if everyone still had a pulse and if sutures would be required, breaks them apart eventually. Pushing off of the table, Dean turns them without releasing his grip or granting distance until he sits Cas down in his place on the table and stalks to the door to push Sam's bag into his arms and close the door again without letting his brother get a glance into the cabin, all without a word.

"Goodnight, Sam." Castiel calls at the closed door politely as Dean closes the distance between them again, and they can hear the amused snort from Sam and his retreating footsteps as he heads towards the relative safety of the camp library, signaling an all-clear to Bobby, still loitering by the truck.

Maybe some good can come out of this mess after all, pull them all a little closer together.

(And maybe Sam and Bobby are just a little too invested in the success of Dean's relationship, as his brother has accused them of being.)