Castiel sat on a park bench in the rain. His umbrella leaned, unopened, against his knee. His damp hair clung to his forehead. Streaks of water dropped down the smooth plains of his face, hiding any lingering evidence of tears. He knew his eyes would still be red but embraced small comforts.
He wanted to go home – not the Heaven home that was never really a home but a job or a set of unrealistic expectations. Do as I say, not as I do. Don't look where I'm pointing. No, the home he wanted was smaller in scale than the whole of Heaven but bigger in heart. Warmer.
Home was a pair of green eyes and a splatter of freckles. Home was two warm arms that wrapped around him when he was worried or happy or sad or anything in between. Dean didn't always need a reason.
But Castiel couldn't return to this home because he was running from it. He couldn't protect Dean, not like this – so weak, so worthless, so human. He missed his grace for many reasons but chief among them was his ability to protect. His strength, his speed, and his healing power, all gone. He could offer Dean nothing as he was. Nothing but love. Nothing Dean could actually use.
The cell phone Dean had given him buzzed in the pocket of his trench coat. He didn't answer it, didn't know why he still carried it.
A barred-iron trashcan stood beside the park bench. Castiel rose to his feet, letting the unused umbrella clatter to the concrete sidewalk. He left it there as he approached the trash can.
He retrieved the cell phone from his pocket, holding it as the buzzing starting again, numbing his hand with its vibration. Dean's name appeared on the screen. Water droplets congealed, blurring the accompanying picture into splotchy ovals of color. Castiel slipped his thumb across the screen, wanting to see Dean's smile once more before throwing it all away.
"Cas?" The worried voice crackled the speakers. It was louder than the rain and the throbbing of Castiel's heart.
"Dean," Castiel whispered. He hadn't meant to click the answer button, but to hear Dean say his name one last time made this moment worth the clumsiness.
"Where are you? Are you alright?" Dean asked.
Castiel frowned. He had left a note. He had explained everything. Dean had no reason to worry.
He brought the phone closer to his face. "I am unharmed physically," he said into the mouthpiece, and then realized he shouldn't have said that last word. He amended quickly, "I'm unharmed," but Dean had heard what he said and started talking again.
"Damn it, Cas," Dean said. His usual exasperated sigh shook at the edges. He didn't just sound worried; he sounded scared.
"I brought an umbrella," Castiel said. "I won't get sick." Humans were always afraid of spreading disease. He of course omitted the part that he hadn't opened the umbrella since he left and he didn't even remember where he put the thing since it wasn't still in his hand.
"I don't give a shit about the rain," Dean growled, then sighed again. "I mean, I don't want you to get sick, but that's not why I… I don't want you to get sick."
"I won't," Castiel assured him, though he had no way of fulfilling the promise. He was susceptible to disease now. The rain cascaded down his suddenly slumping shoulders. "I shouldn't say that. I can't…"
"Cas." Dean said his name like he did when they were wrapped around each other in bed after making love – when their hearts beat together and their chests expanded in mirrored breaths. Dean would hold Castiel against him in those moments. He would ruffle his hair and whisper, "I love you," into the curve of his neck.
Castiel had to end the call. He had to or he'd never be able to. His thumb hovered over the red button. End the call. Throw the phone in the trash. Walk away. Three easy steps.
"Come home," Dean said.
The phone shook in trembling hands. "I- I can't," Castiel replied, tears threatening. The rain washed them away.
"We'll figure this out," Dean said.
Dean's voice swelled with determination. "Then I'll come to you."
"Tell me where you are, Cas," Dean said. The Impala purred in the background.
"Dean," Castiel said, stronger.
"Don't you do this," Dean said. His flash of anger deflated instantly, becoming a broken plea. "Please don't do this."
End the call.
"I can't help you anymore," Castiel said. He wished it would rain harder. He wished lightning would strike him so he wouldn't have to feel his heart lurch at Dean's words.
"You help me every day," Dean said.
"I need you."
Castiel shook his head against that insanity. "It's better this way."
"Bullshit!" Dean cursed. "I don't give a shit about your powers, Cas." This time, his anger did not dissipate but pulsed behind every word. "I need you to smile when you look at me and think I don't notice. I need you to misunderstand my references and I have to explain them to you. I need you to stare at me with those goddamned blue eyes of yours, like I'm the most interesting thing you've ever seen in your entire life and not just the jerk that I actually am."
Castiel opened his mouth to argue, a common reflex when Dean put himself down, but Dean continued talking before he could say a word.
"I thought you knew how I… I need this, Cas. I need you."
"Please, stay," Dean said, brokenly. "Just stay."
The rain poured down with more strength, and before Castiel could think to shelter his phone, the screen flashed and turned black.
The weight that sat in the pit of his stomach doubled and then tripled. His head felt light. His skin numbed.
"Dean?" he asked, choked, into the phone, but nothing replied. He bit his lip to hold in a sob, but it escaped him regardless, shaking his entire body. He gripped the edges of the trash can for support. The phone dropped from his hands into the trash.
Throw the phone into the trash.
The phone sat in the basin of the trash can, cradled in a crumpled McDonald's bag. Its plastic cover that Dean had bought him for Christmas, white with the outline of two wings, stared up at him in accusation.
Castiel swallowed the lump in his throat. "Walk away," he ordered himself, but his legs refused to move.
A car drove by, engine blaring.
"Dean?" Castiel cried, spinning around to the street. A red hatchback sped past. The woman behind the wheel stared at Castiel, both through the windshield and then in the rear-view mirror, until the car turned down another street, out of view.
Castiel wanted to go home. He wanted Dean. And Dean wanted him too.
Before he could even condemn himself as the idiot he was being, Castiel flung himself over the trashcan, reaching down to retrieve his phone. With the lip of the can catching his shoulder, he stretched as far as he could, but his fingertips only brushed over the plastic cover. He couldn't curl his hand around it. He couldn't get grip.
More cars passed behind him, but Castiel didn't care. This was his mistake. He was going to fix it. He was going to stay. He wanted to stay.
A car slid on the brakes behind him.
Castiel's arm muscles strained against the stretch.
Almost. He could almost reach.
A car door creaked open. Footsteps thundered over sidewalk.
Castiel glanced over to the park bench. Dean reached for the umbrella underneath it.
Dean straightened and looked Castiel over from head to foot. He held out the unopened umbrella, shaking it. "This only works if you open it," he said.
"I know," Castiel said, still reaching into the trash can.
Anger hardened Dean's features. His shoulders were high and tense, and the muscle in his jaw ticked. But his eyes revealed his vulnerability. A line of red hugged the underside, and maybe Dean was as grateful for the rain as Castiel was.
"What are you doing?" Dean asked, gesturing to the trash can.
"I dropped my cell phone in here," Castiel said. He reached once more before retracting his arm. "I can't reach it."
Dean approached him and shoved the umbrella into his hands. As Castiel fumbled to open it, Dean grabbed the lid of the trash can and ripped it off with a pop. He dropped it onto the ground and bent. When he stood upright again, he stuffed Castiel's cell phone into the pocket of the trench coat.
Castiel held the umbrella over Dean. Dean took a step forward, standing chest to chest with Castiel so that the umbrella protected them both. Dean radiated warmth and comfort and Castiel wanted to drown in him.
Dean pulled the note Castiel had left him from the pocket of his jacket. Castiel took it from his hands and held it out into the rain. The ink bled. Words melted into blue streaks across white paper. He dropped what was left into the trash.
"Let me stay," Castiel whispered.
"Please let me stay." He avoided Dean's gaze, so afraid he might say no. If things were too shattered to glue back together, Castiel would have no one to blame but himself. In Dean's silence, Castiel's panic flared. He rambled, "I was scared that if I couldn't help you, you wouldn't need me. I don't want to be a burden to you. I was so scared. I still am, I don't…"
Dean kissed him, soft and gentle, a mere pressing of lips. "You don't have to be scared with me," he said when they parted. "Not ever."
Under the safety of the umbrella, Castiel couldn't hide the tears now. But then, neither could Dean.
"I want to stay," Castiel told him.
Dean's lips curled into a small smile, but Castiel hated how vulnerable it looked, like it could vanish at any moment. Dean kept his arms at his sides, not touching, unmoving. Maybe Dean was afraid Castiel would vanish too.
"Then stay," Dean said.
Relief pulsed through Castiel. The weight in his stomach lifted, and his numbness switched to tingles. He wanted to touch Dean, to kiss him, to love him. Castiel fell into the warm man before him, wrapping an arm around his waist and melding their bodies together. He kept his other arm out, still holding the umbrella protectively over them both.
Dean reacted at once, snapping his arms around Castiel and dropping his face into his shoulder. "I can't lose you again," Dean whispered there.
"You won't," Castiel promised. "You won't," he said again. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." The words poured out of him again and again, a quiet mantra breathed into Dean's ear. "I love you. I'm sorry."
"I love you. Don't be afraid." Dean's words were muffled into Castiel's jacket. "I'm going to take you home."
Castiel's smile felt genuine. "Now that you're here," he said. "I'm already there."
A/N - Thank you for reading! :) If you've seen this before, it's because I posted on my tumblr first. This seems to be the norm with me now. The screen name is the same. I don't have a beta so any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Disclaimer - I do not own Supernatural. I do not make any money from this.