A/N - I thought "Forgotten" was all finished, but little follow-up scenes keep floating through my head, so here is what happened the rest of that last day after Cas woke up in the bunker. Just a little bit of fluff. I maintain it is still purely non-slash, though if you have your pre-Destiel goggles on you might disagree. :)
Cas didn't last very long on his feet. Dean delivered him, as promised, to the kitchen, where Cas got the expected big-goofy-Sam-hug. This lasted almost as long as Dean's hug had, and Cas was even doing an excellent job at the hugging-back part, but Sam was forced to let go when Cas started to actually slither down Sam's side, his legs buckling. Dean had to shove a chair under him before he actually collapsed.
"You ok?" said Dean, watching him closely.
"I'm sorry," said Castiel, looking down at the chair in surprise. "I seem to be unsteady."
"Maybe you should go lie down?" said Dean.
"I'd rather stay here," said Cas, looking back and forth between them. "I'm fine."
Dean raised an eyebrow at Sam. Fine, right.
"He should eat something," said Sam to Dean. "Cas, how about some soup and then you should probably go back to bed."
Dean pushed Cas's chair up to the table, and Sam passed him a bowl of the tomato soup that he'd been warming up, off and on, all morning. Along with a fresh hot piece of cheese toast that Sam had apparently just made. Dean had to smother a grin, for this was exactly the meal that Dean had often made for Sam, back when they were kids, whenever little Sammy was sick.
Then they both watched while Cas ate the soup, both studying him with such focused attention that Cas began to look a little nervous. He paused after the second spoonful.
"Am I doing something wrong?" he finally asked.
"No! No, no," said Sam. "Uh... are we staring?"
"Sorry," said Dean guiltily. "Hey, uh, Sam, why don't we all eat."
Sam set out a couple more bowls and they all ate side-by-side, Sam and Dean trying their best to stop staring at Cas so much, and Cas pausing between spoonfuls to dart semi-confused looks at both of them.
"Everything all right?" Sam said at last. "Soup hot enough?"
"The soup is very good," Cas said, nodding. "Thank you, Sam. It's just... this is still somewhat hard to believe." He paused, looking down at his cheese toast. "This is really not what I thought was going to happen. At the lake, when neither of you answered your phones, I thought... I tried so many times..." He paused, and looked at Dean, and looked at Sam, and looked at Dean again.
"I am very relieved," Cas said at last, his eyes bright with that simple, earnest sincerity that was so...
So Castiel, thought Dean.
"And I never thought..." said Cas. He paused, looking down at the cheese toast again. "A minotaur simply never occurred to me. I haven't seen one of those in millennia. It seemed there were other explanations that were much more likely."
"Cas," said Sam. "We seriously did not want to let you go. Damn, Cas, it was so ... it was just so weird without you, man. Like something had been ripped out by the roots."
Cas still looked a little uncertain.
"Wanna go argue with Crowley some more?" Dean suggested.
"Maybe later," Cas said, nodding. "I will visit him again later. I am... I seem to be a little tired right now."
And actually Cas was nearly falling asleep at the table by the time they'd all finished their little meal. His head was actually starting to nod forward in sleepy little jerks. Sam and Dean had to each take one of his arms to steer him back to his room safely. Dean got him settled back in his bed, and shook the sheets and blankets out over him again, while Sam went to fetch Meg-the-cat from wherever she'd ended up.
But once Cas was settled with Meg at his side, he seemed to snap awake again, watching Dean with wide worried eyes as Dean reached to turn off the light.
Something in Cas's expression stopped Dean.
"You need anything?" said Dean.
"I was just wondering," began Cas. "If."
"If?" Dean said eventually.
"If you might be tired too? Perhaps you also need some rest," said Cas.
"Nah, I'm okay," said Dean, and Castiel looked so crestfallen that Dean backpedalled mentally through the last few minutes to try to figure out what was wrong. Dean glanced down at the floor, where the mattress from his own room was still sitting.
"But I was thinking maybe I could hang out here for a bit," said Dean. "I could just sit here and read or something. You wouldn't mind, would you? If I hung out here?"
Cas's face immediately relaxed. "I wouldn't mind," he said.
Dean said "I'll just go grab a book or something," and headed out to the hall, grinning to himself.
Dean ended up bringing a deck of cards and setting up a solitaire game on the little desk. Cas watched him lay out the cards, and pretty soon Cas had drifted off to sleep again.
Sarah emerged from one of the side rooms in mid-afternoon, saying, "Damn, I've got to get going already." She took a quick shower and then (at Sam's insistence) chugged down some soup and cheese toast herself. Then she quietly checked Cas again, somehow managing not to wake him, and insisted on checking Dean and Sam as well. A head-to-toe check, very professional, checking heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, even the sites where they'd had the IV's in.
Once she'd decreed that they were both capable of standing upright on their own, she said "I need to tell you some things about caring for Buddy. I mean, Cas. First off, as you've already seen, he'll probably be very tired. Don't worry if he sleeps a lot for the first few days — that's to be expected. Even though he's at normal body temperature now, that doesn't mean his body can instantly bounce back to normal; if he was that cold for that long, there's likely some systemic tissue damage. It's sort of like getting over the flu. He'll be fine, but it'll take a few days. Just keep him quiet and let him sleep as much as he can."
She told them, in elaborate detail, how to care for him. What to feed him, how often to change the dressings on his wounds, when to take the stitches out, how many painkillers to give him and what sort and how often, and she even described all sorts of motions and positions he should avoid, so as to not tear out any of the stitches on his chest (no raising his arms, no showering, no carrying things, no sitting up suddenly...).
She made them repeat it all back to her, and then she wrote it all out in a little list.
Dean watched her as she wrote. She was sitting at the world-map table now, Dean standing to one side of her and Sam perched up on the table on the other side.
Sarah had her head down, frowning in concentration, as she made tidy entries on one of Sam's pads of paper.
She'd made no comment about the enormous map-table. Or the bunker.
She finally put the pen down, looked at both Dean and Sam in turn, and said, "I know I said this already, but I have to say it again: Neither of you are really in the best shape to be taking care of someone else. All three of you are still healing. You really should get to a doctor to be thoroughly checked out. All three of you, actually, but especially Cas. And if you still refuse to go to, you know, an actual clinic like normal people would, then you really should get somebody to come here and help you."
"Well, we had somebody lined up, but she had to go back to Wyoming," said Sam.
Sarah grimaced. She said, "I'm sorry. I wish I didn't have to leave."
Dean said, "Kidding! Kidding," with a scowl at Sam. "Sarah, we already owe you so much." He took a breath and added, "I really don't think we would have gotten him through it without your help. We really owe you."
Sarah smiled and said, "I'm just glad I could help."
Sam said, sounding contrite, "I was just kidding. Don't worry at all about having to leave us. We're used to being on our own. And actually I still can't even believe you got up at three-thirty in the morning and drove all day, on your day off, just to help out some guys you didn't even know."
Sarah gave a little laugh. "I've done further for less," she said. "I've done twenty-four hour overnight drives to get some medicine to someone who needed it. I've done thirty hours a couple times. I used to do home healthcare, you know; when you do that in the rural West, you get used to long drives." She paused, and said, "And also..." She crossed her arms in front of her chest, staring down at the map table.
Her eyes roved over the world map, and she said, "There are a few times in life, a very few times, when something truly unusual crosses your path. When you realize something really exceptional is happening. And that you might be able to help. And that it might be really important. This seemed like one of those times." She paused again, and looked up at Dean. "Was I right?"
Sam and Dean glanced at each other over her head.
Sarah added, "Your brother Castiel... he's important? Isn't he?"
Dean nodded, and said, "Yes. To us, for sure. And... in general, yes."
Sarah studied him for a moment longer, her arms still folded. She said, "I had to make kind of an educated guess that you were good guys. Bit of a leap of faith."
"We're the good guys," said Sam. "At least, we try to be."
"Just to be clear," said Sarah, reaching out one hand to trace her fingers over the world map, "You're my patients first. All three of you. Patients first, mystery men second." Her fingers lightly traced the coastline of Australia, and drifted over to the tip of Africa. "I never press patients to talk till they're ready to talk. You're all still healing and that's my priority, to get you all healed, all of you. So I don't want to press. But..." She took her hand off the map and looked over at Dean. "If I could just ask one thing, only one thing, and it's okay if you can't tell me anything, it's really okay, but... who is he?"
Sam and Dean glanced at each other over her head again, as she looked back and forth between them. Sam gave a slight nod to Dean, and Dean looked down at Sarah, studying her serious, intelligent face, the forthright way she was meeting his eyes.
Dean thought, She can take it straight, and he said, "He's an angel."
Sarah's eyes widened. She stared at Dean, her mouth falling slightly open.
"Like, literally," said Dean.
"Well, not literally, c'mon, Dean," objected Sam. "Not any more."
"Okay, he was literally an angel," Dean corrected himself. "He was, in the past."
"But not right now," explained Sam, as Sarah looked back and forth between the two of them again. "More like a fallen angel at the moment."
"Yeah," agreed Dean, nodding. "He got his grace ripped out, uh, that's kind of his angel mojo, it got sort of ripped out by this minotaur thing from Crete and..." Dean sighed. "It was kind of my fault, there was this mask I broke in Miami during spring break and turned out it called up this smoky minotaur thing that was stomping around in our heads and it went after him and..." Sarah was getting a bit of a glazed look on her face, so Dean said hastily, "Well, never mind, it's a long story, but anyway he's human right now. You gotta understand, he's not used to being human. English isn't even really his native language. It's still all kind of new for him. That's why he acts a little...well, he's a little different. But he's a good guy."
"A good guy," repeated Sarah.
"You wanted to know if we were the good guys," said Sam. Sarah turned to look at him, and Sam explained, "Cas kind of helped save the world. Back when all that crazy stuff was happening, all those freaky accidents and quakes and stuff, back in 2010? That actually was the Apocalypse starting, but Cas helped stop it. Oh—and—I guess he saved the world a second time later—the next year—" Sam looked at Dean, and added, "Y'know Dean, I kind of kept forgetting that the reason he did all that stuff, unsinking the Titanic and the god thing and Purgatory and the Leviathans and all, was actually because he was trying to stop Raphael from destroying the world. And he did succeed at that. He did stop Raphael. Even if everything kind of went haywire right after, he did stop Raphael. We gotta remember that. So that's two times he saved the world, really. Once with us, then once on his own."
Dean nodded, and said, "Yeah, I kept forgetting that too." He added, "And now three, if you count what just happened in Wyoming."
Sam said, "Well, that might have just saved North America. Not the whole world."
"Yeah, just North America maybe," said Dean. "Though maybe it would have affected the whole Northern Hemisphere? If the sun had really got blotted out and the food chain collapsed like that dude was saying, no way would that have been confined to just North America."
"Okay, call it the Northern Hemisphere," said Sam, "Half the world."
Dean said helpfully to Sarah, trying to sum it up for her, "So, Cas is a former angel and he saved the world two and a half times."
Sarah just looked at him.
"Okay," said Sarah. "Uh..."
"Oh, um... " said Dean. "Is that a lot to take in? Probably that's a lot to take in?"
"Yes. Yes it is. Yes," said Sarah rapidly, nodding.
"Sorry," said Sam, glancing at Dean, "I think we're both still a little worn out. Usually we do a better job at explaining all this."
"It's also just been getting much more complicated to explain," said Dean to Sam, "You know how it used to be that we just had to tell people, 'Yes, ghosts are real,' which didn't take that long to explain. But then we had to add 'ghosts and demons are real' and then it was 'ghosts and demons and angels are real' and then it was 'ghosts and demons and angels and Lucifer are real', and then—"
"Dean," said Sam, and Dean stopped, glancing down at Sarah again, who was looking a little pale and had started fiddling with her pen, flipping it around and around in her hand.
"Sorry," said Dean contritely. "But you did ask."
Sarah blinked at him, and said, "I did." She set the pen down and looked down at her list of things to do to take care of Cas: Keep him warm, let him sleep, lots of fluids, watch for any signs of infection around the stitches, don't let him get the wounds wet, you'll need to help him wash his hair...
"You know what, I actually believe you," said Sarah, looking up again. "It sounds crazy, but..." She shook her head, with sort of a grimace. "There's been such crazy stuff going on, all over, these last few years. We see more of it than most people do, you know, in the hospital. This year especially, people have been... well, exploding, actually. And... some other strange things. And. Well. It's just been strange. Strange times." She glanced around the bunker again, her eyes roving once more over the map table, the vintage old 1950s appliances and sound equipment arrayed against the walls, the dim shelves just visible farther away in the library.
She said, "I said I wouldn't press for more, and I won't. But thanks for telling me. And in case it matters... I'm very strict about patient privacy. It's sort of a professional ethics thing for me, actually. Point is, I'm good at not telling people stuff. So I won't be telling anybody anything."
"Not even at Gordito's?" said Dean, grinning.
"Not even after two margaritas," said Sarah, grinning back. "I'll just tell everybody I found you guys, the weird brothers who had the hiking accident the night of the big slide, and that you all finally got reunited and Buddy has his cat back. Oh...there is one more thing though. Do you think I could ask just one favor? For Sherry?"
When she finally drove away twenty minutes later, she had two new pictures on her phone. One was a picture of Cas asleep on his bed, curled up with Meg tucked right under his chin. The second photo happened after Cas had woken up and had demanded to know what they were all doing standing in his doorway cooing over the first photo (which, Dean had to admit, had come out pretty damn adorable). The second photo showed all of them sitting together on Cas's bed: Cas sitting on the edge of the bed looking a little confused, Dean and Sam on either side of him with big grins, Sarah leaning in from the side while holding the phone. And little Meg squished between everybody looking quite skeptical about the whole situation, one furry ear pressed back and the other one cautiously forward.
"Oh, thank you," said Sarah, looking at the two photos. "Sherry will be so happy. You know, Buddy — I mean — may I call you... uh,... could I... call you... Cas?"
She'd suddenly gotten very stammery around Castiel.
Cas nodded, looking a little puzzled at her confusion.
Sarah blushed, but forged on with, "The photos are for Sherry. Sherry, uh, the girl at the Teton Pass Motel? She was really so worried about you. She kept Meg for you till I could bring her here."
Cas's eyes softened. He glanced down at Meg. "Sherry was very kind to me," he said. "Please give her my thanks."
"I won't tell her where you are or anything. Or your name. She's not really the prying type anyway. But she'll just be so happy to see you got the kitty back."
"And everybody will have a whole nother round of margaritas!" said Dean. He thought a moment, dug out his wallet and said, "Actually. You know what. The round's on me." He handed Sarah several twenties. "Buy Sherry and you a round or two, on me, and that fireman guy too, and whoever else is there."
"Oh, no, you can't—"
"I can and I just did. Now, you better hit the road or you'll never get home."
There was another series of hugs — Sarah gave a hug each to Sam and Dean, and then a very tentative gentle hug to Castiel, who was still sitting on the edge of his bed.
He hugged her back like a pro.
"Thank you, Sarah," Cas said seriously. "Thank you for all your help. I am very grateful."
That just seemed to make Sarah even more nervous.
"I'm really glad you're okay," she said, blushing again. "Take care, now. Remember, make sure you rest, and sleep, and stay warm, and make sure you eat enough. And no activity till those cuts heal up, all right? No more zipping around, okay?"
Castiel said, "All right. Don't worry, I can't even fly right now."
Sarah said, "Right, right, of course, right." She gave a nervous little wave and backed out of the room, looking even more flustered, and Dean and Sam followed her outside to see her off.
Cas dozed on and off the rest of the day, Sam and Dean taking turns sitting with him. He seemed to keep jerking awake every hour or so, though, and each time he would watch them for a while — watch whichever of the brothers was in the room — until he finally fell asleep again.
As night fell, the brothers had a brief discussion out in the kitchen and decided Dean should sleep on Cas's floor again. Tonight, and maybe for a few nights after that, too. Till they felt more confident that Cas would really be okay on his own.
Before they all turned in for the night, Dean checked Cas's dressings one more time, as Sarah had instructed. Dean made Cas lie on his back propped up on the pillows while Dean carefully undid the tape that was holding the dressings in place. Dean winced to see the angel-blade wounds all across Cas's chest and arms — Ziphius really had sliced Cas up pretty badly — but Sarah's stitches were very tidy, and there were no signs of infection. Dean added a bit more antibiotic cream, laid down some fresh gauze, and taped everything carefully back in place. Dean then checked the healing whip-marks on Cas's face.
He realized, when he got to Cas's face, that Cas had been watching his every move, his eyes never leaving Dean's.
He went to check Cas's feet next, now feeling Cas's eyes on him the whole time. Cas continued watching him steadily while Dean checked the dressings and re-taped a stray bit of bandage that was coming unwrapped.
"How's everything feeling?" Dean asked.
"Fine," said Castiel immediately.
Dean rolled his eyes.
"No, I mean, really. How are you really feeling?" said Dean.
"The wounds are stinging," he said at last. "Everything feels...sore, I suppose. Aching. But it is not too bad. Dean, I do feel very..." He stopped.
Dean waited. He lingering on the last bit of bandage at Cas's ankle, fiddling with the tape unnecessarily, re-taping it several times. Trying to give Cas some more time to gather his thoughts.
Cas didn't finish his sentence, and Dean eventually said, "Very...?"
"Very...tired," said Castiel at last, after a long pause. He was still watching Dean.
Dean was pretty sure that "tired" was not the word Cas had originally had in mind, but he just said, "Apparently that's normal. Sarah said you'd need to sleep a lot." Dean tucked Cas's feet back under the blanket, and then arranged the blanket all around him. He made Cas drink some more water and swallow down a couple painkillers (because, Dean figured, any time Castiel said "it is not too bad" about physical pain, that must mean it was bad). Then Dean gave Meg a little pat on the head for luck — she was curled up at the top of the pillow next to Cas's ear, safely out of the way of all the bandage-checking. At last Dean stood, and said, "There. All tucked in. You need anything else?"
Cas shook his head. He was still watching Dean.
Cas nodded. "Thank you, Dean," he said. But Cas had got that wide-eyed look on his face again.
Dean thought, I know that look. It was the look Cas used to get sometimes when he was waiting for the answer to an important question. Especially, if he had just asked for help, and if he were unsure what the answer would be.
Except he hadn't asked a question yet.
Right then Cas said, "You will go back to your room now, I suppose?"
"Oh," said Dean. "Forgot to tell you. Actually, Sam and I thought maybe I could sleep in here again. Just, you know, in case you need any help or anything. If you don't mind."
Cas brightened. "Oh. Yes. I mean, I don't mind."
Dean headed out to brush his teeth and prep for bed, smiling slightly to himself.
Cas dropped back to sleep almost instantly as soon as Dean got back in the room. Dean lay down with a sigh, stretching out under his sheet and blanket. It felt wonderful to be able to lie flat again, and just relax.
Dean lay there listening to the sound of Cas's breathing for a little while. He could just make out Cas's outline in the faint glow of starlight from the one tiny window in the room. Cas was lying on his side; from where Dean was lying, Dean could see the contour of Cas's head, and the angular shape of his shoulder under the blanket. And he could see Meg padding around Cas in a slow circle, apparently inspecting all the possible options before picking out an ideal spot to curl up for the night. (Between the feet seemed to be tonight's choice.)
It was just so damn comforting to be able to look over and see his outline there on the bed, and hear his steady breathing.
Dean just lay there watching Cas's shadowy outline for a long time, till finally sleep carried him away.
Dean jerked awake an hour or so later. He automatically turned his head to look for Cas, and was startled to see the bed empty. Meg was sitting all by herself by the pillow, and Cas was gone. Dean tried to sit up, and found that his top sheet seemed to be tucked around him more firmly than he'd remembered. It was almost holding him down.
He pulled free of the sheet and jerked upright, his heart hammering. "Cas?" he called.
"Yes, Dean?" Castiel said.
Dean groped for the little desk lamp and turned it on, and there was Castiel, lying on the floor a few feet from Dean's mattress, in the gap between Dean's mattress and Cas's bed. He was just lying right on the floor, without even a blanket or a pillow. For some reason he seemed to have the edge of Dean's sheet in one hand; that was why the sheet had felt a little tight.
Goddam it, Cas was actually shivering again.
"Cas? What are you doing down there? Did you fall off the bed? What happened?"
"Nothing," said Cas, blinking up at him in the light. "I didn't fall. I got out of the bed."
"But... why? Cas, you need to be in bed. You've got to stay warm. Look at you, you're shivering! What's the deal, you just got too used to sleeping on the floor? You missing your hermit cabin life or something?"
Cas didn't answer. Dean sighed, and said, "Come on, let's get you back to bed."
Dean helped him up, and got him repositioned on the bed, the blanket tucked around him again. Again Cas gave him that wide-eyed look.
"Cas, is something wrong?"
"No, I just..." Cas stopped. "Nothing's wrong. No."
"Promise I won't find you lying on the floor again?"
Cas looked a little sheepish. "I promise, Dean."
Dean waited till Cas dropped off to sleep again, and then Dean allowed himself to doze off too.
Once again, an hour or so later Dean jerked awake again. Castiel was gone from the bed again, and once again Dean's sheet seemed to be stretched snugly across his chest. Dean spotted Cas right away this time; he was sitting upright, leaning against the little end-table right by Dean's mattress, his head nodded down on his chest. And again Cas had hold of the side of the sheet, bunched up in his hand.
"Cas? What are you doing?"
Cas flinched, and his head jerked up. Dean sat up and flicked on the desk light again, and studied him.
Cas looked exhausted.
"I'm not lying on the floor," Cas said hastily. "I didn't break my promise."
Dean sighed. "But you're sitting on the floor. You're out of bed, is the point. Cas, what's going on? Why do you keep getting out of bed?"
"Oh, it's just... It's nothing," said Cas, not meeting Dean's eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't think I would wake you. I'll get back onto the bed." He let go of the sheet and started to clamber to his feet.
Dean said "Wait," and reached over to put a hand on his shoulder, pulling him back down. "What's wrong?"
Cas sank down against the little bedstand again. He was silent.
"Cas. Talk to me."
The "Talk to me" seemed to strike a chord; Cas looked over and met Dean's eyes.
Cas said, "It's nothing, really. It's just, I keep waking up and thinking that you're gone."
"That I'm gone?"
"That none of it was real. That you and Sam are not... that you've... I seem to keep having dreams that you and Sam are... " Cas stopped, looking down at the floor. His hands knotted together in his lap.
Dean thought, Oh, I know what it is.
He said gently, "Cas, are you having nightmares?"
Castiel nodded. He actually looked ashamed. He gave a short sigh and said, "It's surprisingly difficult to tell that they are just dreams. You know, Dean, I really never realized before that it can be so difficult, as a human, to know that a dream is a dream."
"Cas, what happens in the nightmares? What are they about?"
Cas fell silent again.
"Are they about Ziphius?"
"Actually, no," Cas said, glancing at him briefly. "That would be logical, wouldn't it? But no, it's... There's a variety of different scenarios, but it's always... you and Sam..."
He stopped again.
Dean thought a moment.
"Cas, have you been having dreams that something happened to us?"
Cas nodded rapidly, still looking down. He said, his voice very quiet, "There seem to be various scenarios, but either you've both... uh, left me a note and gone for good, or you've...both...um. Died. And then I wake, and I'm not sure if it might have been real or not; if you're still here or if you might not be here at all." Cas glanced up. "I'm very sorry, Dean, I really did not intend to wake you. I tried to move very quietly. It's just... it's hard to see you in the dark, and, it's, well, it's reassuring if I can get... hold... of... If I can hold the edge of your sheet, or..." Cas seemed to be having some trouble meeting Dean's gaze, and his eyes slid to the floor again. He finally said, in a rush, "It just seems to be quite reassuring if I can hold on to something that indicates that you're still here in the room. For example, if I keep hold of the edge of the sheet, then, if I have a dream and I wake up, I can feel, from the tension in the sheet, and the way it is moving when you breathe, that you are still here."
He hesitantly lifted his eyes to Dean's. That wide-eyed look again.
"Dammit, Cas," said Dean softly.
"I apologize," whispered Castiel. "I didn't mean to wake you. I'm sorry, Dean."
"No apologies, Cas," said Dean. "No sorrys. I mean it. Hey... You got enough energy to stand up for a sec? Could you sit in that chair for a sec?" Cas blinked at him. Dean said, "I got an idea. Come over to the chair."
Dean scrambled up and turned on the overhead light. Castiel squinted in the sudden brightness, and Dean coaxed him to his feet and into the little chair. Dean picked up a sleepy Meg from Cas's bed (she was also squinting), and put her in Cas's lap.
Then Dean pulled Cas's mattress right off the mattress frame and set it next to Dean's mattress on the floor. He shoved the two mattresses together and straightened out the bedding. He wasn't unifying the bedding; it was still two separate beds; just, next to each other, that's all.
"But, Dean..." said Cas. "Isn't that... Isn't there some other rule... I'm fairly sure there's some rules about this sort of sleeping arrangement."
"Special circumstances, Cas," said Dean, setting Cas's pillows in place. "And we're not gonna be lovers or anything, okay? It'll just make it easier for you to know that I'm still here. You'll just be a little closer and you won't have to reach as far. Better than you being on the floor."
Dean set Meg down by the pillows, and then helped Cas back over to his mattress and helped him lie down, on his side, facing Dean's mattress. Dean turned the light off and climbed back into his own bed. They were only about three feet apart this way.
Dean reached out one hand and said, "Here, take my hand."
He felt more than a little awkward, and suddenly had a stab of worry that despite what he'd said, Cas might get the wrong idea. But the awkwardness faded when Castiel grabbed hold of Dean's hand with both his own and just hung on like a puppy, his need for contact so clearly innocent that Dean relaxed immediately.
"Better?" whispered Dean into the darkness.
"Better," said Cas, clinging to Dean's hand. "Thank you, Dean."
They fell silent. Cas had hold of Dean's hand in almost a deathgrip at first, but gradually his hold relaxed, and Dean heard his breathing start to slow, and deepen.
Dean felt Cas's hands slowly go slack. He felt one hand twitch a couple times as Castiel finally slid into sleep.
Dean lay there in the dark for a long time, just listening to Cas's slow breathing, and feeling the warmth of his hands.
Eventually he dozed off.
Later, Dean woke to find that Castiel was whimpering and twitching, clutching Dean's hand tightly again. Dean knew the signs; Cas was having some kind of nightmare. He shook Cas on the shoulder with his other hand. "Cas," he called gently. "Cas. Wake up."
Cas woke with a sharp gasp, panting hoarsely.
"You were dreaming," Dean informed him. "It was just a dream."
"Oh—I—Dean?" said Cas, gasping. Dean could actually feel his hands trembling. Cas said, "I—what? Dean? You're okay? Dean, is that you?"
"I'm right here," said Dean. "I'm fine. It was just a dream. Everything's fine. You're at the bunker, remember?"
"Oh," said Cas, still breathing heavily. "That was...it was very...realistic. Is Sam okay too?"
"Yeah, he's in his own room, remember? And we're on the floor of your room, remember? Hey, hey, there, you're okay, you're okay," said Dean, for Cas was still trembling. "Hey, everything's all right," said Dean. On a sudden impulse he moved the hand that had been on Cas's shoulder to Cas's head, and began to stroke his hair, gently.
After a moment Dean thought Hell with it, wriggled a little closer and got one arm under Cas's head and across his shoulders, while the other hand kept stroking his hair. Cas was lying sort of curled up in a little ball, still trembling, his knees drawn almost up to his chest, his head down. Their heads were almost touching — Dean could have kissed the top of Cas's head if he'd wanted to — but they were lying almost at right angles to each other, so that the rest of their bodies were pretty far apart. It was sort of an odd configuration, but it worked.
Not lovers, thought Dean. But something. Something worth holding on to.
He kept stroking Cas's hair and felt him slowly relax. The trembling finally began to fade.
"That's...nice," said Cas quietly. He added, "Dean, what does this mean? To humans? This sort of touch? I am not sure I understood it correctly, before."
Dean thought a moment. "You had it right. Comfort. Goodwill," he said. The words Castiel had used earlier, to describe the pats on the head.
He felt Cas nod.
"And affection," said Dean.
Cas's head moved slightly, in a different direction than the nod, and Dean almost burst out laughing when he realized Cas had tilted his head while lying in bed in the dark. Dean would have bet a thousand dollars that Cas had that puzzled squint on his face, too.
"It's not common," Dean tried to explain. "You'd only do it with... well, with certain people. In special circumstances."
"Give me examples," said Cas. Dean couldn't help grinning at the thought of Castiel still trying to parse out "the rules", even while lying here in the dark in the middle of the night, but then he thought He's had to try to figure out all this kind of stuff all by himself, and the grin faded.
"Um," said Dean. "Well, like... If you were a parent, with a young child, you might do this with your child. If the child were scared or hurt or needed comfort. Or, lovers might do it with each other. Or...well...like you saw, if someone's badly hurt. And... well, I guess that's about it."
"This situation is none of those," Castiel observed.
"Yeah. Special circumstances though," said Dean. "Seemed like you needed it. I guess friends who just almost died of hypothermia and blood loss and who were missing for six months before that and who just had a nightmare are in a special category."
Castiel was silent, and Dean kept stroking his hair. Dean felt him relax further, and heard his breathing steady.
"Suddenly it is seeming like it is a good category to be in," said Cas, his voice a little slurred.
Dean laughed softly, and kept stroking Cas's hair, feeling him relax further and further, till at last Cas fell asleep again.
It took only a very slight motion for Dean to lean his head forward, and give Cas a very soft kiss right on the top of his head, on his hair. Dean did this very gently, careful not to wake him.
Dean cradled Cas like that all night. Dean woke him out of every nightmare (it turned out poor Cas was having one every single hour), and held his hand every time he woke, and talked him out of the fear and confusion, and stroked his hair afterwards to help him relax. And every time Cas finally fell back asleep, Dean quietly, gently, secretly, kissed the top of Cas's head. Hoping to somehow protect him against the nightmares.
Dean wasn't quite sure what it was all adding up to, but found it didn't even really matter. The important thing was that Cas was here, and alive, and that at last Dean was able to take care of him.
Dean found he really didn't care at all what anybody else might think.
Even when Sam poked his head in the next morning and found them still in that position, Dean still cradling Cas's head, Cas fast asleep, still Dean didn't care.
Dean whispered "Nightmares" to Sam. Sam immediately got a very dopey expression on his face and went to get his phone to take a picture (at which Dean stuck out his tongue and gave Sam the finger, taking pains to hold the finger up long enough so it would register clearly in the photo). And even with Sam drifting by the door every ten minutes after that to check in on them, looking so puppy-eyed about the whole thing that Dean was pretty sure Sam was about to melt on the spot into a big wet soppy heap of sentimentality, and even though the arm that Dean had under Cas's head had gone totally numb, and even though Dean was actually starting to get pretty hungry, still Dean didn't move. Castiel was finally sleeping soundly, and he finally seemed comfortable, and that was simply all that mattered.
A/N - See, it is still totally non-slash! I swear! Kisses on top of the head don't count. :)
Other fluff epilogues may follow and possibly (much later this summer) another whole follow-up story. You can click the Follow Author button if you want to be updated about any other chapters or stories that might happen.
Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed it!
Update, March 31: I'm working on a sequel. Please consider leaving a review if you liked this story - it'll give me encouragement to keep working on the next one. (And it'll make me happy) Thank you!