This is it, the end! Thanks so much for reading this far. I might do some side-stories for this, especially to flesh out Sam and Gabriel's relationship because I focused more on Dean and Castiel for this epilogue, so let me know if you would be interested. Thanks again, and enjoy!
Note: references and quote from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. If you haven't read it, you should, it's a phenomenal book. Cas thinks so too!
Epilogue – Two Years Later
"How much longer?"
"Cas, it's only been five minutes since we went over this. Be patient."
The angel crossed his arms and set his jaw, watching the endless corn rows fly by out the window of the Impala with narrowed blue eyes. "We could have been there hours ago, Dean."
"Are you mad because it's taking a long time, or because I won't fly with you?" Dean teased, a smirk playing on his lips as he glanced over at his passenger out of his peripheral vision.
"I just do not understand what you are afraid of," Castiel huffed indignantly. "You have flown with me before."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah, bring that up, 'cause that ended so well."
"Your bowels need time to adjust to flight, but once you are used to it –"
"Oh, c'mon, man! We are not discussing my bowels," the hunter cried, waving the hand not gripping the steering wheel through the air. "Dean Winchester doesn't fly, okay? Not on a plane, not with an angel, no up in the air, ever. Period."
"You are being absurdly stubborn, Dean."
"Says the guy who won't even look at me because I'm not letting him fly everywhere," Dean retorted. Castiel didn't bother to reply, just continued to stare sullenly out the window.
With a heavy sigh, Dean patted his lap. "Come on, Cas. Lay down. Read your book to me."
A slender eyebrow quirked up. "You want me to read to you?"
Dean shrugged. "Sure. I liked when you read me that other one – uh, the one about the detective guy?"
Castiel's hunched shoulders relaxed and a blinding smile crept onto his face. "Sherlock Holmes," he informed him, impressed that Dean had even been paying attention when he recited a few select short stories from the thick volume Sam had given him last Christmas. He tugged a slender novel out of his trench coat pocket and flipped it open to the first chapter. He opened his mouth to begin, but was interrupted before he even got the chance to start.
"You gonna read all the way from over there?" Dean patted his lap again. "C'mere."
Although he had rested on Dean's muscled thighs during car rides or television show marathons or simple conversations many times in the past, any request by the hunter for contact never failed to make Castiel's cheeks flush with a bright pink color. He flashed another smile, though this one was much more shy, and shifted sideways so that he could lie with his head in Dean's lap and his legs bent at the knees, socked feet perched on the edge of the seat up against the door. Shoes remained on the floor of the car – a lesson Castiel had learned the hard way once and had never forgotten since.
He cleared his throat and began to read, deep, gravelly voice vibrating in his throat, rolling words around on his tongue and spewing them out with practiced ease. Reading had become one of Castiel's favorite things to do ever since he became permanently attached to Dean's side. There was a lot of down time for an angel who didn't have to shower or eat or sleep, but had to wait around while his hunter did all of those things, so to pass the time he picked up a book off of Bobby's bookshelf (that didn't have to do with lore) and quickly became enthralled by words of the written page. In fact, the first novel he had ever read – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – was the very same one he now held gently in his hands; he always kept it tucked away in his coat pocket because it was his favorite.
Dean suddenly broke through the steady mantra of his reading. "What kind of name is Sodapop? That's seriously his name?"
"That's his brother," Castiel explained. "The main character's name is Ponyboy."
"Nickname, you mean."
"No, Ponyboy is his real name."
"What the heck? Is this real?"
"It's a novel, Dean. It's fiction."
"Oh, okay. You can keep going."
Castiel picked up again, closing his eyes and just reciting some parts from memory because he had read them so many times they were forever engrained in his head. He listened to Dean's even breathing, felt him shift between the gas and the brakes, heard his small intake of breath whenever something exciting happened to the boys in the story. He could have been reading for minutes or hours; he had lost track of the time in the serene lull of his own voice.
Suddenly the smooth pavement of the road gave way to the uneven dirt and gravel of Bobby's salvage yard and Castiel sat up, blinking in surprise at having arrived already.
"See, wasn't so bad, was it," Dean murmured, pressing a soft kiss to the back of the angel's neck as he put the Impala in park and reached into the backseat to grab their duffel bags. "You can, um, finish reading that later, if you want."
"You like the book," Castiel smiled knowingly.
"I like you," Dean corrected him, pecking him lightly on the cheek before getting out of the car.
"There you boys are," Bobby greeted them from the porch. "Those other idjits aren't back yet, they left for somethin' this mornin', but they'll be in soon."
The whole family was coming together to spend Thanksgiving at Bobby's, reuniting after heading their separate ways for the better part of the past couple years. Dean and Castiel hunted most of the time, Sam and Gabriel hunted some (though Dean suspected they mostly just traveled to random ass beaches or the world's greatest libraries or whatever because that's all he ever heard Sam talk about), and Bobby... well, did whatever Bobby does in his free time. Dean wasn't exactly sure what that all entailed, but he assumed it meant a little of hunting and a lot of getting to know Sheriff Mills, who was 'just joining them for the holiday' at the older hunter's house – though she seemed to be all but officially moved into Bobby's house at this point.
"Good to see you, son," Bobby muttered as he clapped Dean on the back in a tight hug. "You too, Cas."
Castiel nodded warmly and followed the hunters as they moved inside the house, Dean immediately dropping the duffel bags and heading for the kitchen. "Yeah, missed you too," he heard Bobby grumble in mock-irritation as they watched the hunter disappear around the corner in search of a beer.
"Jody!" they heard Dean exclaim. "You makin' turkey? Man, that smells good."
"Oh good, you're here Dean, you can help," a familiar female voice said, at which Bobby smirked.
"Me? Uh... actually, you know, Cas is a great cook, he could help you a lot better than I could."
Castiel narrowed his eyes and made his way into the kitchen, where he caught sight of a thin and weathered yet still strikingly attractive woman running around frantically, trying to cook a whole buffet by herself, while Dean was leaning casually against the counter, sipping on a beer. "Ah, speak of the devil!" Dean joked.
"I would be obliged to help you," the angel told Jody sincerely, throwing Dean a very clear 'you're-such-a-lazy-ass' look, to which the hunter shrugged and grinned.
That was how they spent the afternoon – Dean drinking beer and swinging his legs from his perch on the counter, catching up with Bobby on their recent hunts and adventures, while Castiel and Jody bustled about the kitchen getting dinner ready. Jody roped the two hunters into helping a little with easy things like stirring ingredients or grating cheese, and they grumbled but did as told. Bobby caught the older Winchester eyeing his angel appreciatively more than once doing things such as bending over to retrieve the turkey from the oven, or licking stray bits of flour and dough off his lips, or even something as innocent as furrowing his brow in confusion while he tried to figure out a foreign recipe.
On one of those instances, Bobby cleared his throat loudly. "You asked him yet?"
Dean snapped his head around to look at him with wide eyes. "Keep it down, will ya?"
"Just wonderin'." Bobby defensively held up the hand not wielding the potato peeler.
"No, not yet, okay? Stop putting so much pressure on me, dammit." Dean turned his attention back to the apples he was slicing on the cutting board balanced on his lap.
"I ain't doin' anything! You were the one who told me about it in the first place," the older hunter pointed out. "S'been what, half a year? Man up already."
"You man up," Dean mumbled, lightly kicking at Bobby's leg.
"Not like he's gonna say no. That boy is stuck to you like glue, I tell ya, if he was any more attached y'all would be Siamese twins."
"Okay, I get it, thank you!" Dean snapped. "Can you just drop it?"
"Dean, is everything alright?" Castiel had walked over close to where Dean was sitting as he stirred the contents of a large blue bowl and overheard his last comment.
"Yeah, Cas, everything's fine," he sighed, corners of his lips turning up a little when he noticed a smudge of something bright red and sugary looking across the angel's cheek. "C'mere, you got a little something..." Dean set his cutting board down beside him to pull Castiel in between his knees and cradle his face gently in his hands. With a swipe of his thumb, he removed the red smear from Castiel's cheek, bringing it up to his lips where he flicked out his tongue and lapped it up. "Mmm. Cherry?"
Castiel nodded, face slightly flushed from watching the hunter lick the pie filling off his finger. "Thank you, Dean," he stammered.
"Don't mention it," Dean told him with a wink, still keeping his gaze trained on the angel when he turned away to continue his cooking, sending him off with a light pat on his ass.
"You two are gonna make me puke," Bobby groaned, earning a lighthearted punch to his shoulder.
"He's my Cas," Dean shrugged, which only caused Bobby to make a small gagging sound.
At that moment, a loud rustling of wings sounded from the living room, and the four working in the kitchen looked to the door expectantly, no doubt in their minds as to who it was.
"...could be centuries old," Sam was saying as he wandered in to the kitchen with Gabriel on his heels, who had a look on his face of such pure boredom Dean had to laugh a little bit. "Just look at the detail on this." He turned sharply and held the giant book in his arms right up to the archangel's face, too close for him to actually see it, but he nodded and murmured something of feigned agreement anyway just to humor Sam before looking up at everyone else.
"Dean-o and Cassie! What a nice surprise," Gabriel cried gleefully, slinging an arm around the older Winchester in greeting.
"You knew we were coming." Dean rolled his eyes, but accepted the bear hug nonetheless.
Castiel was even less enthusiastic about his brother's over-the-top hello, turning his back protectively to shelter the bowl of dough in his arms. "Don't even think about it," he warned Gabriel.
"Hey, Dean," Sam grinned, finally looking up from his book.
"Heya, Sammy," Dean replied, flashing a smile back at him.
"Look, I wanna show you this, it's incredible..." he began excitedly.
"Oh God, what'd you give him, Gabriel?" Dean groaned. "He looks like a kid in a candy store. Must be something really geeky, huh?"
"You're telling me," the archangel slurred around a lollipop that had just appeared from who-knows-where. "We just spent three hours in a library. A freaking library."
"Not just any library, Gabriel," Sam corrected him irritatedly, "the Library of Alexandria. You would think you'd appreciate it more, considering you were there when it was built, and all."
"Yeah, I know, that's exactly why I couldn't care less," Gabriel rolled his eyes. "It's just crappy old books, Sam."
The younger Winchester looked deeply offended. "You don't mean that."
To Dean's great relief, Jody coughed and motioned to the mess on every surface of Bobby's kitchen. "You boys gonna help, or are you gonna stand around arguing all day?"
Sam reluctantly went into Bobby's office to put his precious book somewhere safe from flying flour and fruit juice before returning to 'help' – which meant that he and Gabriel mostly goofed off around the kitchen and let everybody else fix the food. The archangel had been a bad influence on Sam, Dean noted resentfully.
While he was throwing cherry stems at the back of Castiel's head, Gabriel started to ask, "So Dean, when's the wed–"
"What, when's dinner?" Dean interrupted quickly, nervousness apparent on every single one of his instantly rigid features as he quickly glanced over to Castiel to see if he had caught on to what the archangel was saying – thankfully, he hadn't. He continued to babble, "I dunno, ask Jody, she probably knows, 'cause she's got this whole thing going, and I, uh, I don't know."
Gabriel raised his eyebrows in amusement and grinned mischievously.
"Probably just twenty minutes or so," Jody announced, completely oblivious to the subtext of the conversation. "You all can go ahead and sit down, I'm pretty much done."
Dean glared at Gabriel, who was still wearing a cheeky smile, and then at Sam, who was chuckling under his breath.
"Told you," Bobby whispered, earning himself a Dean-glare as well.
The four of them left Castiel and Jody to put the final touches on the dinner and made their way into the living room, where the couches were pushed against the wall and a few card tables were laid out end-to-end in the center of the room as a makeshift dining table – the one in Bobby's kitchen was too small to seat all six of them.
"You seriously haven't asked him yet?" Sam asked his brother in disbelief once they were out of earshot of Castiel. "I thought you were going to do that, like, forever ago."
"Can we please not talk about this?" Dean hissed, glancing nervously at the kitchen. "He can hear us."
"Nah, he can't," Gabriel reassured him – though it was all but reassuring to Dean.
"You're not gonna chicken out, are you?" Sam pressed. "I mean, the guy's probably been dreaming about it ever since he met you, he's such a cute little romantic."
"Did you just call Cas a 'cute little romantic'?" Dean scoffed. "Shut up, Sam. Just stop talking."
"He's right, Dean-o," Gabriel commented. "You'd make all his little dreams come true. Wouldn't that be sweet?"
"Will you guys give it a rest?" Dean gritted through his teeth. "Why don't you two go get married, if you're so worried about it? I'm about two seconds away from punching the daylights outta the both of you."
"I'd like to see you try," Gabriel egged him on, but Sam caught his eye and shook his shaggy head.
"Alright, alright," the younger Winchester relented. "I'm serious, though. Grow a pair and just do it. We all know he's gonna say yes."
Dean didn't respond, just plopped down in his chair at the table and rolled his shoulders to ease the tension that had been steadily building up in them.
"Dinner is served!" Jody called cheerfully, appearing in the doorway. "Come on in and get it, we're doing it buffet-style. I ain't carrying all those plates and platters in here."
The men eagerly jumped up and headed to the kitchen, lining up to fill their plates with delicious, traditional Thanksgiving-style food.
"Jody, you're a Godsend," Bobby announced, gaping at everything she had prepared. She beamed and pecked him lightly on the cheek, which got a few raised eyebrows from the rest of the company but was left un-commented on – it wasn't as though the boys didn't already suspect, anyhow.
Plates stacked tall with slices of stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes dripping in gravy, cranberry sauce, corn pudding, cheesy pasta, fruit salad, dinner rolls, and an assortment of odd little cheese-and-vegetable-crackers, everyone settled down at the table and dug in without hesitation. There wasn't much conversation, considering how full everyone's mouths were. Castiel had the most etiquette of the group, closely followed by Jody, because they both actually chewed before they swallowed and used cutlery like it was made to be used, but the rest of the men ate as if it were their last meal on earth, using forks like shovels to cram in the food until they couldn't fit any more.
"Holy crap," Dean cried around a mouthful of pasta and potatoes. "This stuff is amazing."
"Castiel did the potatoes," Jody told them, winking at the angel.
"Cas, you gotta make these more often, man," Dean raved, hardly pausing in stuffing his face. "You never told me you could cook like this!"
"They're really good, Cas," Sam added, nodding in agreement.
"Thank you," Castiel replied shyly.
Although no one was voicing it, and a couple people (mainly Dean) were probably too distracted by their heaven-on-a-plate to really stop and think about it, there was an air of contentment and honest-to-goodness gratefulness surrounding the table. Castiel and Gabriel had never celebrated any kind of holidays the traditional human way, except last year's Christmas, and even that had only been a half-assed affair because both Sam and Dean were busy working on hunts across the country from each other. The Winchesters had never celebrated the holidays like this either; John hadn't put much value on spending time together as a family when they were younger, and even once they had grown up, they just hadn't had the time for it. But here, gathered around the table at Bobby's, it was a real, true, all-American Thanksgiving dinner; brother sitting across from brother, lover next to lover, father beside son. It was a whole new experience for everyone involved, except maybe Jody, but when she thought about it, she realized that even none of her own Thanksgiving holidays had been this special in a very long time.
And of course, who would be the one to channel into all of the sentimental feelings floating around but Sam, who looked down at his half-emptied plate, biting his lip and feeling tears prick the backs of his eyes.
"What's wrong, Sam?" Gabriel asked him with concern, noticing his silence immediately.
"It's just..." The younger Winchester shot a glance at his brother, hoping he wouldn't be made fun of too much for what he was about to say. "This is really good, you know? All of us here, sitting down and eating together, like a family. It feels good."
To his astonishment, Dean didn't even crack a smile. He paused, fork partway to his mouth, and met Sam's eyes with a serious look that seemed very foreign on his face. After a long silence, he said, voice breaking slightly, "Yeah. Yeah, Sammy, you're right. It feels good."
Sam swiped at the tear trailing down his cheek, embarrassed, but smiling hard. He assumed he would be made fun of for this somewhere down the road, but right now, bringing everyone's attention to the special thing they had right there, in that moment, was most important. Gabriel placed a tender hand over his own, and he interlocked their fingers tightly, hardly noticing Dean and Castiel do the same. Bobby seemed stunned by the sudden onslaught of emotion being displayed at his table, but caught Jody's eye, and her knowing smile and wink snapped him out of his stupor.
"Sure is nice to have you boys home," he told them in his typical gruff voice, though it was just a touch softer than usual. "All of ya."
Sam and Dean smiled a little, while the angels both stayed completely stoic and nodded, recognizing the weight of what was being said.
Home. They were home. And it had never felt better.
"'...before it was too late. Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand then and wouldn't be so quick to judge a boy by...' Dean?"
The hunter started, caught off guard by Castiel's sudden interruption in his own reading. "Yeah, Cas?"
"Why do Gabriel and Sam keep looking at my hands? Is there something I am missing?" the angel asked.
Dean sucked in a sharp breath and closed his eyes, letting his head fall back against the headboard of the bed that had been set up in their room at Bobby's house. He stilled his fingers, which were stroking through Castiel's dark mess of hair while the angel rested his head on his lap and read out loud, drawing near the end of the book they had started on the day they arrived for Thanksgiving. His heart began thudding dangerously in his chest. He wasn't ready for this, but he didn't really figure that he'd ever be ready. So it was now or never.
"Dean?" Castiel brought him out of his reverie, staring up at him with wide blue eyes.
"Uh, no, Cas, you're not missing anything, man," Dean began slowly, stumbling over his words in his nervousness. "It's just... I've been thinking about maybe... If you wanted to, I mean, it's not a huge deal or anything. Well, no, it is a big deal, to me at least, because I – I mean, I would be really happy, but you don't have to –"
"Dean." A firm hand placed over his thundering heart reminded him to breathe, and helped him clear his head.
"Sorry," he whispered. "Um, can you let me up for a sec?"
Castiel knitted his eyebrows together in concern but nodded and sat up, watching closely as Dean stood on shaking knees and bent over to his duffel bag, rummaging through the pockets. When he finally found whatever he was looking for, he hurriedly hid it behind his back and stood to face his angel.
"Cas... Castiel," he breathed, swallowing hard and taking a step forward. When Castiel stayed quiet, unmoving except for a questioning eyebrow, he continued, "We've known each other for a long time. I mean, it feels like forever. You've always been there to help me, and to guide me, and I'm really thankful for you having my back all the time. You've changed my life in... in so many ways. You're my best friend, Cas. And now you're more than that, and I'm so lucky, I can barely believe it sometimes..." He choked on a huge knot of emotion that was rising up in his throat, threatening to burst out and take over him, but he swallowed again and pushed through. He had rehearsed this a million times, had a million and one different things to say, but when it really mattered, they all flew out of his head and left him here, with nothing but his heart to speak from. So he stopped thinking, and just let it out.
"I don't ever wanna be without you, Cas. You mean so much to me. And I... I love you. I love you so much sometimes I feel like I'm gonna fall apart. I need you, Cas. Always. So I was wondering, if maybe... if you would..." He blinked back tears of what might have been either joy or nervousness – he couldn't tell – and crowded between the V of Castiel's legs, kneeling down and pulling the small canvas bag out from behind his back. Gathering all the courage he could muster, he spoke in a voice so small that it was almost a whisper. "Cas, will you marry me?"
A ring slid out of the bag and into Dean's waiting palm. It was a simple silver band, but around the center was a circle of tiny blue stones, glistening in the light from the small lamp beside the bed. When Dean tilted his hand, Castiel noticed the small engraving on the inside; 'C.W.' It took him a moment, but when it hit him, it hit him like a truckload of bricks. Castiel Winchester.
"Cas, man, say something," Dean pleaded up at the angel.
"Dean," he breathed, the only thing he could remember how to say. "Dean..."
His bright blue eyes shone, matching the stones in the ring exactly. He searched his hunter's face, trying to find words, coming up empty-handed, stuck on the edge of putting feelings into intelligible sounds. Finally, he found what he was looking for, gasping in relief, nodding frantically and throwing his arms around Dean's neck in a vice-like grip, a breathlessly tight embrace. "Yes," he cried out. "Yes, Dean, yes."
Dean wrapped firm arms around his back and stood, holding him close, lifting him off the bed and Castiel wrapped his legs around Dean's waist, never wanting to let go. "I love you," he whispered against Dean's skin, wouldn't have been able to stop himself from saying it if he tried. "I love you, Dean."
"I love you back, Cas," Dean choked, burying himself in his angel, feeling a sort of absolute joy that he couldn't remember having ever known before.
When they finally fell apart, crawling onto the bed, tangling loosely together, Dean opened his clenched fist to reveal the ring, which had left a circular indent in his palm from his tight grip. He grinned at Castiel as he tenderly pulled his left hand toward him, slipping the ring onto his third finger. "God, that feels good," he sighed, rubbing Castiel's knuckle with his thumb. "Looks good, too."
Castiel said nothing, just nuzzled into his hunter's chest, twining their bodies together and humming. He thought back to a couple days ago at the Thanksgiving dinner table, when they had all shared in that peaceful moment, that feeling of family. And as his heart thudded against Dean's, as he breathed in the scent of his hunter, as he reveled in the warmth of his arms, the embrace that he would never, ever have to give up now that they were going to be married – married – he agreed with Bobby even more wholeheartedly than he had before.
Yes, it sure was nice to be home.