“Castiel? Oh,” said Uriel, mentioning the name of his boss like it was an afterthought. “He’s not here. See, he has this weakness. He likes you.” The angel smiled triumphantly, like he just won the jackpot.
He likes you, echoed Dean’s mind. His heart began to hammer against his ribcage so hard he half-expected it to burst out of his chest right then and there. It seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
It felt like he was betraying Caspar—being happy that some angel with his face, his mannerisms, and even his goddamn voice, actually liked him. Him, Dean Winchester, the biggest screw up of all time.
He couldn’t separate Castiel from Caspar anymore. He didn’t think it was a coincidence for their names to be so similar to each other, but he’d still succeeded in seeing them as separate people since Castiel stormed through that barn all those weeks ago. Except now the line between Caspar and the angel were blurred and Dean couldn’t remember which of them was the one he was in love with.
It feels as if they’ve gone back to the day the Winchesters first met Castiel. A great deal of uncertainty, anxiety, and even a tinge of anger seems to follow Dean around wherever he goes like a dark cloud ready to erupt. Once, when Castiel hesitantly asks if it it’s because of him that Dean is feeling the way he is, the boy forces a smile.
“It’s not,” he promises, with so much sincerity in his voice that Castiel is inclined to believe him. “I just,” Dean rubs the back of his neck and looks away. A small blush adorns his face. “I just need time to work some shit out. It’s not you, though.”
Castiel gets the feeling that Dean isn’t telling the whole truth because he’s fairly certain that it is about him, but at the same time he doesn’t get the sense that Dean is angry with him. Just confused. He seems to be more angry at himself.
He doesn’t push for answers. He tries to give Dean as much space as he can even though he feels alone in the world and Dean is a million galaxies away from him. But Dean seems tremendously grateful for it and so life goes on in the final days of the year 1996.
Castiel tries not to look too distraught when Dean dashes out the door the next night without even sparing a look at him and returns much, much later in the night with another woman. This time, it’s a rather tall blonde with stormy grey eyes. He does his best to look nonchalant as they stumble into the room, kissing each other messily while fumbling with their clothes.
It takes Castiel far more effort than he’d expected to pretend that the sight of Dean with another person doesn’t hurt him.
Christmas is looming closer on the horizon, garnering mixed emotions from the Winchester boys. Sadness and anger from Sam, and melancholy from Dean. From Castiel’s understanding of human tradition, this date should be bringing joy to them, but he already knows the reason for the lack of happiness in the Winchester household (figuratively speaking) before he even finishes asking himself the question.
Castiel knows that there is not much he can do short of going after the man himself and dragging him back from his latest hunt (and he has been tempted to do so more than once) but he tries his best.
With the money John gave him he buys a book on hieroglyphics for Sam. Sam has been showing more interest in Egyptian history since his class started studying it last week. Of all the other nonsensical traditions of Christmas this is the only one that makes sense to Castiel—gift-giving. He doesn’t understand why humans can’t bring themselves to practice it more regularly.
Then again, if finding a gift for Dean is any indication, he can almost understand why it’s only an annual holiday. Finding a gift for Sam had been fairly simple but finding one for Dean is proving more and more difficult. In the end, he is forced to ask the younger Winchester brother for help. “Sam, I need your assistance to find an appropriate Christmas gift for Dean.”
It’s quite impressive how high he leaps from the couch, The Odyssey forgotten on the floor. “Gimme two minutes.”
It actually takes him one and a half minute to get ready. Luckily for them, Dean is away on a local hunt he decided to investigate himself (Castiel had looked into it beforehand and deemed it safe enough for Dean to tackle alone), which leaves them plenty of time to shop.
Unluckily for them Dean had taken the car with him, leaving Castiel and Sam to walk to the nearest stores. They end up by the harbor amidst a sea of bustling shoppers like them. A few stop to stare at Castiel every few minutes. “You sure you’re not cold?” Sam asks after yet another person had stopped to stare at Castiel.
“I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“Because it’s fourteen degrees and you’re just wearing a shirt and trench coat.” He tilts his head and scrunches his nose as he regards Castiel curiously. “I don’t think you’ve ever taken it off since we found you.”
“I haven’t,” Castiel confirms.
“Well, you don’t stink yet so I guess I’ll let it go.”
They continue wandering down the streets. They stop a few times for Castiel to point out objects he thinks are suitable choices for Dean. Sam rejects all of them quickly. “Dean’s not a big book person,” he smirks. “So that rules out anything from Barnes and Noble.”
Castiel is beginning to feel nervous, which is not an enjoyable sensation at all. “It seems I should procure a record for him as well.” Sam mentioned earlier that he had saved money to buy Dean a Black Sabbath record he saw at a vinyl record store a few days ago.
Sam shook his head. “No way, it’s too obvious. He’ll know I helped you out so that’ll just take away the sentiment behind your present. You have to give him something that’s part of you, not just something he likes. Something that’ll let him know you... care for him.” His eyes are calculating, sharp as a cat’s. “You do care about him, right?”
That’s an easy question. “I do,” Castiel answers sincerely. He doesn’t add that Dean is important to him, second only to his love for God. He’s not sure why, but he doesn’t want Sam to know. He doesn’t want anyone else to know, for that matter.
Sam seems satisfied with his answer. “Good. So think about how you can show him that you do.”
Dean is an enigma. Castiel isn’t quite sure when he stopped viewing Dean as just a human—the Great Vessel, Michael’s Sword—and truly began seeing him as Dean Winchester. The man who went to Hell for the brother he loved so much. Who always, without fail, gave everything he had in everything he did. Who had every cruelty imaginable thrown at him but still came out of them with a shrug and moved on, like it was nothing.
He always picks himself back up and continues moving forward. It’s then that Castiel knows what he can give him.
Dean makes spaghetti for their Christmas Eve dinner.
It’s not the picture perfect celebration usually depicted in Christmas cards and the hundreds of advertisements shown on television, but it makes no difference to Castiel. Sam and Dean tackle the matter of making dinner. When Castiel asks what he can do to help, Dean tells him to set the table. “Oh, and leave a plate out for Dad,” he adds a moment later.
Sam rolls his eyes and spits out bitterly, “Like he’s gonna show.”
Castiel knows that Sam is right but obeys Dean anyway. John is two states away; he won’t be back in time for their dinner. Nor will he be back on Christmas morning. But Dean needs the comfort of pretending his father is coming home, needs to forget about the dangers the older man faces on a regular basis.
Dinner is quiet, filled with the comfortable hum from the TV. After that, Sam announces that they’re going to exchange presents.
Dean, as Sam hoped, is ecstatic upon receiving Sam’s present (Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality album). His excitement is matched by Sam’s when he gives his little brother a strange novel called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Dean ruffles his hair, earning him a squawk of indignation from his brother. “You’re such a nerd,” he says fondly.
“And you’re a metal head,” Sam retorts, but they’re both laughing.
Castiel is surprised when they both present a battered Bible to him. The leather cover is worn and the once golden words that spelled out The King James Version have faded to yellow. The only reason the spine is still held together is due to the glue recently applied on it, which Castiel suspects is courtesy of the Winchesters. “It’s not... It’s not in the best shape,” admits Dean, scratching the back of his neck. “But... we thought you might like it, since I know you don’t have one. I know it’s stupid—” Sam cuts him off with a light punch on the arm and a disapproving glare.
The brothers blink at him, like that’s the most idiotic question anyone can ask. “You’re practically family now,” Sam explains slowly, like the answer should’ve been obvious from the start. “Why wouldn’t we give you a present?”
“Thank you,” Castiel tells them. “I love it.” He already knows every word from the Scripture, no matter what version, but knowing it and having it in his hands are two very different things. He can feel the sentiment behind their gift and it fills him with warmth. “I also have something for the both of you.”
Sam’s eyes light up when Castiel places Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt in his hands. After gently setting the book down on his bed, he surprises Castiel by wrapping his arms around his middle in a tight hug. “Thanks, Cas.”
When Castiel presents his gift for Dean, the boy looks shocked. “Cas—”
“It’s a charm engraved with sigils for protection, luck, and long life,” Castiel explains.
It doesn’t look like much but it has everything Castiel promised and more. It’s a simple silver ring tied to a long black leather cord, making a necklace similar to the one Sam had given to his brother all those years ago. Dean blushes and Sam grins. “That’s pretty cool, Cas,” says the younger of the two.
“Yeah,” says Dean, his voice quiet and thoughtful. “I... thanks.” He carefully wraps the necklace into a small bundle and puts it in his pocket. Castiel tries to fight down the disappointment that bubbles up in his throat but he knows he can’t really do anything about it. “So,” Dean suddenly pipes up with a fake smile on his face. “who’s up for a movie?”
“What just happened? You and Sam saved a Seal. We captured Alastair. Dean, this was a victory.”
“Well, no thanks to you,” Dean sniped. The moments he was nice to Castiel were already rare enough. This wasn’t one of them.
Castiel squinted his eyes. “What makes you say that?”
“You were here the whole time,” Dean accused.
He knew he was right when Castiel didn’t shy away from his gaze. “Enough of it,” was his cryptic answer.
“Well, thanks for your help with the rock salt.”
Castiel sighed, sounding like a tired old man. A very, very small part of Dean couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. For an angel, the guy sure had it tough. “That script on the funeral home—we couldn’t penetrate it.”
“That was angel-proofing,” Dean realized.
“Why do you think I recruited you and Sam in the first place? That wasn’t your friend Bobby who called, Dean. That wasn’t Bobby who told Sam about the Seal.”
“It was you.” Dean’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe that these angels actually had it in them. Son of a bitch. Castiel looked down guiltily. “If you wanted our help,” he said, his voice quaking slightly, “why the hell didn’t you just ask?”
Castiel narrowed his eyes. “Because whatever I ask, you seem to do the exact opposite.” The words tumbled out like a waterfall and Dean got the feeling that he had been keeping it locked up inside for a while. When he realized what had happened, Castiel looked away, as if embarrassed that he could lose control like that.
He was beginning to crack.
“So what now, huh?” prompted Dean. “People in this town—they’re just gonna start dying again?”
“Yes.” It was frightening how sure Castiel’s voice was.
“These are good people,” growled Dean. “Don’t you think you could make a few exceptions?”
Castiel looked away from him, his eyes turned upwards to the sky. “To everything, there is a season,” he answered serenely, back in his usual angel mode.
“You made an exception for me.”
At that, Castiel returned his gaze to Dean, looking at him the same way Caspar used to. It was as if he could see every part of Dean, every single horrible part of him (especially the parts that still hadn’t completely left Hell behind), but didn’t care and loved him anyway. “You’re different,” Castiel said simply.
And then he was gone in a flutter of soft, invisible wings.
Well after the movie finishes playing and there’s nothing left to see, it’s Dean and Castiel again, sitting on opposite sides of the couch. Sam went to bed the second the credits rolled in, leaving nothing but air behind him. Though a simple movement could close the vast emptiness between them neither of Dean nor Castiel dare attempt to do so. Eventually Dean breaks the silence. “I never did say sorry,” he says quietly.
Castiel tilts his head to the side. “For what?”
“For being a jerk to you all those months ago.”
Ah. “It’s all in the past now,” Castiel tells him earnestly.
“Yeah, but,” Dean sighs. “I just... ”
“You don’t have to explain.” Castiel already knows.
Dean gives him a look, like he can’t really believe Castiel is there. “There’s one other thing,” he adds. “This past week, I... ” He waves his hand in a vague gesture that Castiel presumes means ‘awkward’. “I’ve been kinda spacey.”
Dean winces. “Yeah, um, I just wanna say... it really wasn’t you. I needed to work some things out myself.”
“Have you?” Castiel asks. He’s truly curious and worried. He hates the idea that there would be something bothering Dean which he can’t help dispel.
Dean looks at him—really looks at him. For a minute, Castiel wonders if he can truly see through Jimmy’s body and into his Grace, but that’s a ridiculous notion. “Yeah,” he says softly but with more confidence in his voice than Castiel had ever heard. “I have.”
Christmas morning passes by quietly and as Castiel and Sam predicted, John Winchester does not come home.
He doesn’t come home on Boxing Day either. He only calls to say he’s on his way, which is just as reassuring to his sons as “I’m alive.” It doesn’t guarantee he will be back soon.
When he calls on New Year’s Eve to say he had to take a detour due to a hunt, it becomes painfully clear to them that he won’t be back by New Year’s. Still, they all make do with each other’s company, with the boys trying their best to ignore John’s gaping absence. It’s not the first time Castiel finds himself angry at John but he refrains from letting the boys see it.
Surprisingly, it’s Sam who seems more intent on going out to celebrate on New Year’s Eve than his brother is.
“We should stay behind,” Dean protests, but without any real conviction. “in case Dad gets back.”
Sam gives him a pointed look. “Or,” he suggests, his voice impatient. “we could leave him a note. Come on, Dean, I just want to go out and have some fun. Isn’t that what you’re always telling us to do?”
And because Dean isn’t nearly as resistant to Sam’s ‘puppy eyes’ as he likes to think he is, he relents almost immediately. All three of them are out the door and packed in the Impala within five minutes.
It takes them ten minutes to get to Copley Square. It’s packed with people and feels like everyone in Boston is there.
The entire square is alive with lights, people, and music. “And it’s not even ten yet,” Dean notes. “Come on, let’s get some grub.”
Sam drifts off later on when he spots a couple of his friends in the massive crowd. After promising Dean to always stay within sight, he hurries off to join them.
“You can go, too, you know,” Dean tells Castiel somberly.
“Why would I do that?”
“Because... well, aren’t you bored?” asks Dean, gesturing to himself and the bench they are currently occupying. “I mean, I think we’re the only two people here who are actually sitting down.”
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” Castiel says earnestly.
Dean blushes. He’s been doing that a lot lately. “Really?” His voice is small but hopeful.
“I enjoy being with you,” Castiel replies. “and Sam,” he adds, but Dean doesn’t seem to have noticed.
He inhales and exhales shakily. “You shouldn’t say stuff like that,” he whispers.
Despite the nearly deafening incessant chatter from the people around them, Castiel can hear him perfectly well. He shifts closer to Dean’s side and takes his hand in his. Dean whips his head up, his oh-so green eyes wide with alarm and anticipation. He doesn’t pull back like he usually does when they get too close. He seems to be waiting for Castiel’s next move.
In that moment, it feels as if time has frozen. The people bustling past them are nothing more than wisps of shadows. The rest of the world, including Sam, has fallen away and now it’s just Dean and Castiel with nothing between them.
Castiel can’t look away. “Why not?”
“Because... Because that’s what you say to girls to get them to kiss you,” Dean replies, his voice a slightly higher pitch than normal. His right leg is bouncing up and down rapidly and his hand is clammy with sweat.
Castiel shakes his head. “You’re most certainly not a girl, Dean Winchester,” he says firmly. This earns him a chuckle. “But,” he continues, “I would like to kiss you.”
He wants to kiss Dean and hold him in his arms like he did on the day he raised the man from Perdition and show him that despite all his doubts, he is loved.
Dean’s eyes never waver from his. He swallows and licks his lips nervously. “You ever kissed anyone before?” he asks shakily.
Dean’s pupils dilate slightly. “Um, okay then.”
He surges forward and presses his lips against Castiel’s. The touch is feather light and hesitant in the beginning, but grows more confident when Castiel doesn’t pull away. He kisses back, suddenly desperate for Dean and only him.
Dean continues to kiss him hungrily, moving his free hand to cup Castiel’s cheek and keep him there, right where he wants. He tastes faintly of oil, pie, stale motel rooms, and the earth; Castiel can’t get enough of it.
They are forced to break apart at the sound of wolf whistles and cat calls suddenly filling the air, breaking the spell. They’ve acquired an audience, apparently.
A young woman steps out from the crowd with a mischievous smirk on her face. “Hey, guys,” she says. “I’m not sure if you know this, but you gotta wait till the countdown for the big kiss.”
“Not that that wasn’t a good one,” pipes in a male voice from the crowd. The crowd rumbles with laughter, causing Dean to groan and try to hide his face. He’s failing miserably.
The woman widens her smirk. “Oh no, we’re not saying that at all. But you know, I just thought I’d give you guys a heads up; something to keep in mind.”
“Duly noted,” Dean says dryly.
They kiss again at the same time the whole city erupts screaming “HAPPY NEW YEAR’S!”
Castiel secretly thinks this time is better than before and looks forward to sharing more of these moments with Dean. Judging by the look on his face, Dean seems to feel the same way.
Chapter Six →