A/N: I was really reluctant to write this because 1) I wanted to make sure I did it justice and 2) I didn't want this fic to end. I'm excited to hear what you think, though. I'm pretty happy with this ending and the fic in general. Thank you so much for reading it and sticking with it and taking the time to review, I appreciate it a lot. Anyway. Thank you again to Nicki, the light of my life, my perfect beta. I hope you like the epilogue. Stay sassy.
Six months later
Cas isn't sure how to break the news to him, really. But when they're on their sixth pointless action movie in a week, he reaches his breaking point.
"Dean," Cas says seriously, his tone sombre enough to make Dean actually glance over, manic grin still on his face, even during the credits.
"How awesome was that?" He's positively gleeful, and Cas's willpower crumbles. He loves seeing Dean happy (which is basically all the time these days).
"It was great. I liked the car chases."
"What?" Dean frowns. "There are no car chases in Fellowship of the Ring. Did you even watch it?" His face falls. "Didn't you like it?"
"I'm sorry, Dean. I just have a lot on my mind."
Dean nods, immediately losing all anger. He understands how much pressure Cas has been under, rebuilding his father's business after the scandal of his arrest. But what he doesn't know is that Cas's mind has been rendered completely useless by one thought. A question, to be precise.
He's known he wants to marry Dean ever since they'd left the hospital. Dean had complained the entire way about the wheelchair, and Cas had argued with him, saying "it's for your own safety" and "you're an idiot" and "no sit back down". But when they'd taken those first steps into the cool city air, free to do what they please, free to just be together, Cas had known that that's what he wanted to do forever.
Although, this may be a problem, seeing as Dean still hasn't said "I love you".
Cas said it in that moment, right there on the hospital steps, looking into Dean's eyes; green and blue, the colours of the Earth. He'd worn a modest smile and stood up straight and crinkled his nose and said, "I love you so much."
And Dean had replied, after a long, awkward pause, with: "Awesome."
But Cas can tell he feels the same. It isn't just him being cocky; he knows what it feels like to be loved, and he's feeling it in waves and oceans.
Dean puts the television on mute, leaning back on the couch to rest his arm behind Cas's shoulders. Their apartment is small and bright and warm, paid for with Dean's part-time job and Cas's new CEO salary. Sam's stop-dying-fund they'd rejected, with Dean insisting it go to pay Sam's college fees. He's living in California now, and he sends them a postcard every week, and an email every day. He's happy. He's healthy.
"I'm sorry about the film. I'll watch it when you're at work tomorrow." Cas rests his head on Dean's shoulder, looking up into his eyes, trying to mimic that puppydog look that Sam does to get Dean to forgive him.
Dean laughs. "Stop that."
"You know what I'm talking about, you sneaky bastard. Put it away."
Cas just pouts, his bottom lip sticking out farther than Dean thought was humanly possible. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I'm gonna hit you."
"Empty threats don't work with me. I know I'm your everything." He lets his innocent expression melt into a sly smile.
"Oh, you are so gonna get it." He doesn't specify what "it" is, choosing instead to throw his body on top of Cas's, pinning his arms above his head. When their faces are an inch apart, he laughs breathily, heart hammering for reasons other than physical.
"You are, though," he says quietly, and Cas disregards it immediately, craning his head upwards to kiss Dean's lingering mouth.
"I love you," Dean interrupts, and Cas stops moving, eyes wide. "Don't ever think I don't."
Dean is so shocked that his arms collapse and he falls onto Cas, yelling as their heads butt together. "Sorry, sorry." He pulls himself back up, hovering higher so he can read Cas's whole face. And right now it's telling him that he's pretty friggin' serious.
"Then so am I."
Cas breaks into a smile so beautiful and true and pure that Dean counts himself endlessly lucky that he's his.
"If there's anything I've learned from this shitstorm," Dean tells him, the lines beside his eyes standing out as he smiles, "it's that me and you? We can do fucking anything together. Everest? Piece of cake. Moon? Back in time for dinner."
"That's a little unrealistic," Cas mentions from under Dean's gaze.
"Yeah? Well so are you."
He leans down to press their lips together, an art they've perfected by now, but are still not tired of.
Gabriel opens his bleary eyes and groans, throwing a hand dramatically over his forehead. "I am dead," he calls, even though he's fully aware that he's alone in his apartment.
"No you're not, but I wouldn't blame you for thinking you were in Heaven," comes a sleek voice from beside him, and he jumps so much he falls out of bed.
He stands up quickly, holding his hand out in front of him like he's holding a weapon in order to fool his intruder, because he's drunk enough to think that that might actually work.
The woman standing in front of him is so beautiful that he lowers his fake weapon and becomes very aware of the fact that he's naked. "Hello. Who are you?"
She laughs. "Do you not remember me?"
"Sorry, darlin', I was pretty smashed."
"You and me both. I, however, can handle it."
"Ooh, feisty. I like you."
"I know. That much was evident from last night." She cocks an eyebrow. He represses a blush. "I'm Kali, in case you forgot that too."
"I didn't." He did.
"The one and only. Living legend."
She purses her lips. "Right, sure. Anyway, I have to go to work. It's 9am."
"Really?" Gabriel scrambles for his phone and shoots a quick text to Sam, making sure it's equal parts crude and suggestive, as usual. When he looks back up, Kali is gathering her things.
"Hey, wait." He puts a hand on her arm, and she stops, looking at him. "I'd like to ask you out, for realsies."
Kali smirks. "Charming." Nevertheless, she snatches his phone and programmes her number into it. He watches her as she leaves. She looks back when she reaches the door, saying, "Put some pants on," before making a graceful exit.
Gabriel exhales heavily. Even if she was gorgeous enough to make him regret drinking too much last night, he's still not gonna put pants on before noon.
Bobby had fussed a surprising amount, making sure he had pens and notebooks and band-aids, to the extent where he had to be physically held at arm's length and told, "I'll be fine." He'd nodded and gone off to get a beer.
But Sam's glad it had happened, because as he steps foot on the Stanford campus – without someone holding him upright – and looks around for the first time, he feels like the luckiest bastard alive.
Alive. The word still makes him smile. Alive, healthy, all of it. Even though it's only 9am, he knows already that this is the best day of his life.
His phone vibrates in his pocket, snapping him back to reality. Beautiful, beautiful reality. He pulls it out and glances at the screen.
'don't get your ass kicked. keep it fine for me.'
Sam laughs quietly, sliding it back in his pocket. Gabriel had stolen his number from Dean's phone back at the hospital, and they've been good friends ever since. Sometimes Gabe's attention is a little... intense, but it's nothing Sam couldn't handle.
Orientation's at 9:30, but Sam got here early with the idea of sitting under a tree and having a quiet moment. But that all changed when he saw the coffee stand.
Well, specifically, when he saw the beautiful blonde girl smile as she handed someone their order.
Damnit, I've already had two cups of coffee this morning, he thinks. Then he catches the girl's beautiful blue eyes for a second and realises he really doesn't give a shit about the consequences. Or any consequences. Ever.
She smiles at him as he approaches. He smiles back, already sweating. "Good morning," she says, voice bright and warm.
"Hi, how are you?" he asks, because he really wants to know. He wants to hear about her day, her favourite movies, listen to her talk about her break ups at 2am with soft lighting and an empty bottle of wine. He wants to make sure her beautiful smile never leaves her face.
"I'm good, thanks. Yourself?"
"I'm perfect." He's grinning like an idiot. He tries to stop. He can't.
"I'm glad." She sounds like she means it, which makes his heart do dumb things. "What can I get for you?"
He watches her make it, the way her fingers move and her hair brushes over her shoulders. "You go here?" he asks casually, like it's not the most important question in the world ever.
"Yep. Freshman," she replies, glancing over to him. "I worked here last year while I went to high school nearby."
"You like it here?"
She hands him the cup and he hands her the money. "I do, yeah. The people seem nice." She gives him a look that roughly translates as 'that means you', and he laughs.
No more customers come, so they spend the next half hour talking about their classes, their home, their family, jeez, just anything. Sam finds personal information pouring out of him, but he doesn't feel cheated out of it. He gives it willingly. He wants to. And that's never happened to him before.
"Crap, it's half past," she says suddenly, checking her watch. "Crap. We gotta go."
"Yeah, you're right. Hey, I don't know your name," he realises (and kind of blurts).
She smiles again. It's lovely. "Jess."
"Sam." He holds out a hand. She takes it. Her skin is soft and warm.
"Nice to meet you. Come on, we should go. We shouldn't be late. It is the first day of school, after all."
Sam rather thinks it's the first day of something else, too.
"It's my birthday, you know," says Dean later that evening as they wash the dishes together.
Dean frowns and looks sideways at Cas. "You do?"
"Why do you think I chose today?"
Dean grins. "What, your gift to me is I get to spend the rest of my life with you? Pretty arrogant, Cas."
"What can I say? I'm your angel."
"Shut up." Dean flicks water at Cas's face. "Did you at least get a cake?"
"Oh." Dean looks away to hide his disappointment, and Cas takes pity, saying, "I got something better."
Dean's face lights up. "Pie?!"
Cas just smiles.
"Tell me it's pie. Cas. Cas. Tell me. Don't do this to me. Don't leave me hanging."
Cas opens the fridge. Dean peers in and punches the air. "YES! God, I love you so much."
"Playing it pretty fast and loose with the 'I love you's, Dean."
"I've gotta make up for all the lost time," he says, coming up behind Cas, snaking his arms around his waist so that Cas drops the plate he's holding back into the sink.
"Stop distracting me," Cas mutters as Dean kisses down his neck.
"Shut up. You've got forever to do the dishes."
"You've got forever to start kissing me," Cas says, attempting to push Dean off him. It doesn't work. Probably because he didn't really try.
"Yeah." Dean grabs his hips and flips him around, pinning him against the counter. "Yeah, I do."
They go to bed early that night, simply because Cas is so excited to call Gabriel, and Dean is so excited to go see Sam at Stanford. Cas puts on his glasses – "I didn't know you wore glasses." "Didn't you ever wonder why I squinted all the time?" "I thought it was cute." – and reads for ten minutes, while Dean sprawls an arm over his lap and falls silent, head buried deep in the pillow. Every few minutes, Cas looks down at him and smiles. It's a good life, he concludes from the evidence before him.
He falls asleep eventually, but wakes up for some reason at midnight. Reaching over to switch on the lamp, he notices Dean isn't beside him and starts to worry. His mind jumps to horrifying conclusions and he stands up, calling out Dean's name as he staggers towards the living room.
Dean is sitting on the floor, barefoot, hair sticking up like crazy. And he's holding his guitar. Not playing it, just holding. Staring at it.
"Couldn't sleep?" Cas asks from the doorway, and Dean's head snaps up. He relaxes immediately.
"Not getting cold feet already, are you?" Cas jokes, walking over to sit opposite Dean on the carpet.
Dean smirks. "The opposite, actually. I'm so excited to marry you, see Sam, all of it. I'm so happy with my life, I don't want to fall asleep and miss it." He laughs self consciously. "It's dumb."
"No, it's not. It's sweet." Cas nudges Dean's arm. "Why the guitar?"
"Oh, right. Well, I used to play to get out my feelings, you know? Like, sad old songs, or just the notes. It made me feel better to express it in some way. Problem is – well, two problems. One," he says, counting on his fingers, and Cas is thrown way back to Dean listing the rules of his kidnapping. "I already do express my feelings, I guess. I'm kind of healthy now."
"You're welcome," Cas murmurs, and Dean smacks his knee.
"Asshole. Anyway, number two, I can't think of any songs that fully express how I feel. Like, I'm so happy. I'm so fucking happy, Cas, I can't..." He trails off, smile turning into a grin with his words.
"Me too," Cas says, taking Dean's hand.
"Promise you'll never leave me," says Dean suddenly, and Cas blinks.
"Of course," he replies, frowning. "I thought you knew that already."
"I did. I just like hearing it." He raises his eyebrows and winks, and Cas rolls his eyes fondly. Very fondly.
"I'll never leave you, either."
"I feel like I could fall asleep now."
"Am I that boring?"
"Shut up. Come on." He stands, pulling Cas up with him, pressing a soft kiss to Cas's lips before leading him back to their bed, which they share, in their home, which they share, in their lives, which they share, and which couldn't be more perfect because of it.