Title: The Wrong Thing to Say
Author: pagiel
Rating: R for language
Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Spoilers: Ep 5.01
Warnings: Dean's dirty mouth
Word Count: 5911
Summary: They always hurt each other with words.
Notes: My first (completed) Supernatural fic, and unbeta'd to boot. Also my first LJ post in years.


Dean sat in the Impala, hands curled around the steering wheel, staring through the windshield at nothing. His eyes shone with moistness, jaw clenching and unclenching in rhythm.

Castiel hurt for Dean, a yearning to comfort incarnated as a physical pain in his chest. He could not stand idly by and watch as Dean tormented himself over his brother's betrayal. No longer did he have to. Separated from the Host, he now existed only to help Dean.

"Hello, Dean," Castiel said as he manifested in the passenger seat beside him.

Dean turned to him. "Cas," he said. He frowned, worry etched on his face, and asked, "Are you okay?"

Castiel was gratified by Dean's concern, but confusion and guilt tamped that feeling. He should not be pleased that his presence upset Dean. "I am fine," he reassured him.

"And how the hell is that?" Dean pressed. "I mean, Chuck said you exploded all over his kitchen, said that those bastards had..." He looked away bitterly as he recalled the conversation. "So how'd you come back from the dead?"

He had not come to broach that topic, but perhaps knowledge of divine intervention would ease Dean's unhappy thoughts. "I believe I was restored by God. And I believe that God placed you and Sam on that airplane, Dean. He saved us both."

Dean stared at him blankly for a moment, then shook his head. "If God's idea of lending a hand is putting me on a damn airplane, I'll pass, thanks." He stared at Castiel intently, then added, "But I'm glad you're back, Cas. You're the only friend I've got." He sounded strained at his last pronouncement.

Castiel felt that foreign pain again at Dean's distress; it resonated more fiercely than the tentative joy of Dean calling him 'friend'. He wondered if his need to help Dean was selfish, if it existed because he hurt when Dean hurt. His love for God was never urgent or aching. Castiel knew the source of Dean's troubled thoughts was Sam, and he would assuage them as best he could. "Sam is repentant for starting the apocalypse. He is not a monster."

Dean turned again to clutch the steering wheel, gazing at his lap. "Yeah, I know he's not thrilled that he raised the Devil. That's not the point. If...if killing Lilith had stopped everything instead of starting it, he wouldn't care that he left me for that demon whore of his. He'd be having a blood drinking party, and I'd be nursing my bruises back at Bobby's." Unshed tears sprung to Dean's eyes. "He's sorry about the apocalypse, but he's not sorry about kicking me to the curb. Well, screw him."

He felt Dean's devastation as his own and wanted it to stop. If Dean would not take peace in Heaven, then he must have happiness on Earth, and Dean could not be happy without Sam.

"Hey, could you fix Bobby?" Dean asked, interrupting Castiel's musings. "Make him walk again?" He paused, and with a quivering brow, he added, "Please."

Never had Castiel wanted something more than he wanted to tell Dean that, yes, he could heal Robert Singer, a man Dean looked to as a father. Then he could watch relief and joy spread over Dean's face and know that he had caused it. "I am sorry, but I cannot. Disconnected from the Host, I am incapable of healing."

"Oh." Dean's face fell, and he returned to staring forward blankly as if Castiel were not there.

Castiel knew that Dean was again lost in his grief for Bobby and his disappointment in Sam. If he could not comfort Dean, he could at least redirect his feelings. Better that he be angry with Castiel than in pain about his family. He gazed out the windshield. "I let Sam out of the panic room."

Dean paused for several breaths. "Get the fuck out of my car."

The words wounded him as a knife to the heart could not, before. Castiel obeyed without thinking. He hovered out of sight, watching Dean's familiar face intently. He resisted the temptation to peer into Dean's thoughts for insight. He had stopped doing so months ago, once he realized that Dean saw it as an intrusion.

Dean grit his teeth and tensed. Then he punched his fist into the dashboard, cursing and shaking out the pain afterward. He turned the key in the ignition and drove down the highway. "Damn it," he muttered, voice shaking, eyes blurring as he sped back to town.

Castiel was stricken. He had hurt Dean. He had not known he had this power, and he did not want it.


Three days later, Dean was nursing a bottle of liquor. Sam was elsewhere.

Troubled, Castiel observed his descent into drunkenness. He wished he could keep track of both Winchesters at once, but the Enochian sigils he had carved precluded that. He knew that Sam craved demon blood again, but now he understood the consequences, and Castiel trusted that he would suffer rather than succumb. Dean did not share his trust. In moments such as these, Castiel prayed that Sam would regain Dean's faith soon, for Dean had faith in nothing now, and that was dangerous.

Visiting Bobby at the hospital always upset Dean, and running into Sam there had not helped his mood. He had looked at his brother with desperate eyes, like a desiccated man staring at water, but in the end he had turned away.

Castiel watched and guarded, but he would not inflict his unwelcome presence upon Dean. His confession had been unhelpful; he should have waited to tell Dean the truth until Sam made amends, as he surely would eventually. Then Dean would not feel so alone now.

Alcohol tipped into one shot glass, then another. Dean leaned on his elbows, staring at the second shot morosely. Then he sighed and called out, "Cas."

Castiel was startled, and he stilled, not a feather rustling. How did Dean know he was there? He had not meant to reveal himself; he refused to cause Dean more pain. Yet he could not leave as long as Dean was in danger. However much Dean despised him, he must remain by his side, unobtrusively.

"I know you can hear me wherever you are, featherbrain." Dean's words were firm and clear, but his eyes lacked that confidence, darting around nervously. "Come here, I want to say something."

He dreaded what he felt was to come: Dean angry, Dean shouting at him, cursing his name, hating him, all while Castiel stood there and took it because Dean asked him to. But perhaps even that would be better than the nothingness between them now. So Castiel allowed Dean to see him standing in the corner, eyes fixed on the floor.

"Look, I'm sorry, okay?" Dean said. It was an aggressive apology, a demand to be forgiven. "I didn't mean what I said, and I didn't mean to hurt your...your angel feelings, or non-feelings, or whatever." He waved the liquor bottle in a sweeping gesture.

Castiel was perplexed by the apology. He did not understand Dean's motive; Castiel was the one who had betrayed and wounded him. He could not resist raising his gaze to Dean's to discern something of his meaning from his beautiful, expressive eyes.

"Hey," Dean coaxed tenderly, gaze softening. He smiled a little. "Don't look at me as if I just shot your puppy, Cas. Sit down, have a drink."

Castiel obeyed, at least about sitting. He would not disregard a direct command from Dean. He picked up the shot glass, stared into its liquid depths curiously, and set it down again. Looking at alcohol was enough of an adventure for one day. He needed Dean to know how sorry he was, even if it was not enough. Angels were not forgiving, nor were they forgiven. "I regret releasing Sam," he stated.

Dean insistently captured his gaze, pushing at him with it as if to force his point. "Dude, you exploded for me. That's worth way more than a Hallmark card. And just opening a damn door doesn't make you responsible. You didn't make Sam—"

He stopped, choking on his words about Sam, looking away for a moment before returning his attention to Castiel. "When I told you to piss off, I was out of line. Sorry."

Castiel did not feel that Dean's actions required forgiveness, but he knew Dean would not be at ease until it was given. "You are forgiven for everything. Always." He gave a tentative smile, hoping that it was the right way to express his feelings. He was not used to forgiving on his own behalf.

Dean squirmed under the intensity of Castiel's stare and the absoluteness of his words. After an awkward pause, he said, "Well, I'm gonna make you regret saying that, 'cause it means I've got a free pass to get you drunk." He nodded toward the shot. "Go on."

Castiel circled his thumb and forefinger around the glass and raised it. He recoiled as his nostrils flared at the strong, biting scent.

"Come on, you big baby," Dean cajoled, flashing a white-toothed grin. "Just down it already."

Dean's good humor made Castiel feel warm and worthy, like a revelation. If 'downing' this vile liquid would please him, Castiel would do so without regret. He poured the contents of the shot glass into his mouth and swallowed. It fizzled and burned, leaving his throat raw. He coughed uncontrollably.

Dean lay a hand upon his shoulder. "You okay there?"

Castiel nodded as best he could between coughs. Eventually his body settled, and Castiel frowned at the forming memory of constricting lungs clawing for air.

Dean drew his hand away, slowly, then he poured them both another. The shot glass clunked against the table as Dean set it in front of Castiel again. He stared expectantly. "I've already had several, so you've gotta catch up."

The path of Dean's hand as it withdrew from Castiel's arm left a tingling sensation intense enough to match the trail of alcohol down his throat. They had not touched since the green room. Castiel coughed again—more than this body forced him to—but Dean did not lay his hand upon him.

Instead, Dean hunched over the table, boring through it with his eyes, drowned in thoughts.

Castiel felt ashamed that he had thought of his own comfort instead of attending to Dean's. Immediately he straightened; helping Dean was like any other mission, except for the lack of orders, and he would behave professionally. "What is the matter, Dean?" he asked.

He bit his lip as if unsure of whether to speak. "So I guess you heard that I'm a fancy sword."

Castiel nodded gravely. "You do indeed have a great destiny."

Dean's pent anger struck like an angry serpent at Castiel's words. "A great destiny, huh? So you think should just lie back and think of Kansas, Cas? Damn it, I'm a human being, not clothes!" Then anger gave way to something else, a doubt that shrouded Dean's face in shadow as he leaned forward. "Haven't I given enough yet? I lost Mom, Dad, my soul..." He clenched his fists, throat constricting around his words. "I don't even have Sam anymore...I just can't give myself up too." Dean faced him, stared desperately into his eyes. "Am I wrong?"

Castiel frowned in surprise at Dean's outburst. Then relief coursed through him, and his body responded to it with a soft sigh; on this matter, Castiel believed he could offer some measure of comfort. He leaned over the table to meet Dean's gaze, their faces so close that Castiel could feel a ghost of Dean's breath. "God granted your kind free will. It is your choice to allow Michael to enter you or to refuse. I have faith that you will choose rightly."

"But you think the right choice is to put out," Dean said with a hint of accusation.

It was frustrating at times to believe so strongly in a man who lacked belief in himself. But it also gave Castiel a renewed sense of purpose; Dean needed his faith. "The right choice is the one you make, by definition. I could not hope to choose better. It was wrong of my brothers to attempt coercion."

"Damn right it was. Goddamn stomach cancer, Christ," Dean muttered. Then, slowly, he reached over and gripped Castiel's arm. "Thanks Cas, for everything. You're a good friend." He quirked a grin.

Dean's praise combined with the alcohol made Castiel feel lighter. He smiled unthinkingly, broad and sincere. All serious thoughts fled his mind, replaced with the joy of Dean, the rapture of basking in his praise and his strong, firm hand.

Then Dean's eyes lit, his soul shining through them. "Woah, a real smile! I think that's illegal!" They sat for some moments watching each other glow with rare contentment. Dean's hand slid to up to cup Castiel's cheek.

Castiel tilted his head, pressing into Dean's hand.

Then Dean's eyes widened, breaths quickening, and he drew his hand away. As he did so, his thumb brushed Castiel's bottom lip.

The heat of Dean's hand branded Castiel's skin. He touched his own fingers to his lips, but they could not replicate the flush of feeling Dean's touch had inspired.

Dean`s face reddened up to the tips of his ears. "Sorry, I've had too much to drink," he said even as he poured another shot. Despite his seemingly intense concentration, his hand shook, and alcohol sloshed onto the table.

The night wore on, and they sat in silence, each absorbed in his own thoughts.

Castiel tried not to think about how Dean had looked at him, how he'd affected him with his touch. He knew these things were not his to have, especially from Dean, so he would not dwell on them. Still, he held a shameful, selfish wish that, when it came his turn to die again in this war, his last remembrance before death could be of Dean's unguarded smile and gentle touch, given freely to him.

Eventually Dean rose from his seat. Together they had emptied the bottle. "I'm turning in," he declared, standing and stretching the lean muscles of his back.

Dean deserved his rest. Castiel would watch over him to ensure he slept without nightmares, but Dean would not know that; he found his stare disturbing.

But as Castiel stood, his legs wobbled. He tried to extend his wings, but they flopped and flailed uselessly.

Dean caught him by the shoulder. He leaned Castiel against him, preventing him from falling to the ground. "Looks as if I really drank you under the table." He sounded pleased with himself. "Too bad you're not a chatty drunk. Nope, you had to be the silent, broody kind," he talked on as he led Castiel to the edge of the bed. "I would've gotten better booze if I knew it would be your first time tonight." Eyes widening suddenly with alarm, he quickly added, "I mean, your first time getting drunk."

Castiel wanted to treasure all that Dean said to him, but his words were a jumble. He took a deep breath and forced himself to focus.

Dean was removing his shoes.

A gasp hitched in his chest at the sight of Dean on his knees; it was all wrong, reversed. Castiel was the one who revered him. "You should not do that," he declared, slurred but determined.

"You can't sleep in your shoes," Dean said as he tugged one off. He slid off the other, too, and discarded it. He looked up at Castiel and huffed, not yet satisfied. "Here, stand up again, may as well take off that stupid coat."

He lugged Castiel to his feet and tugged down each arm of the coat. When Castiel was about to tip over, Dean steadied him with a strong hand.

Castiel felt a fluttering in his stomach at every touch. What was wrong with him? When he first took this vessel, he had tethered himself to it only enough to maneuver its limbs, to work its mouth and see through its eyes. But since his resurrection, its flushing and sweating and yearning were all his too.

It had to be because Jimmy was gone.

When the coat was off, crumpled at Castiel's shoeless feet, Dean removed his jacket. "At least you don't button up, 'cause undoing someone else's buttons is a bitch," he chatted as he got Castiel down to his shirt and tie. "Tie's gotta go too."

HIs fingers twice brushed the skin of Castiel's neck as he undid the loose tie with sloppy movements. When he was done, he flung it to the far corner of the room. Dean gripped Castiel's shoulders and looked into his eyes. "Only dicks wear ties," he informed him.

Castiel felt a pang of loss. "Jimmy was not a dick," he objected in a small voice. He stared at the hands that were once Jimmy's. "He is gone now."

Dean cringed. "I'm sorry; I didn't know. I was just joking around." He removed one hand from Castiel's shoulder and used it to tip up his chin. "And it's not your fault, so don't go thinking dopey angel thoughts. Hey, I have an idea," he added before Castiel could reply. "Sit." He removed his hands from Castiel's shoulders and went to rummage through his bag.

Castiel had no choice except to sit down or fall to the floor.

"Aha!" Dean declared as he found what he was looking for. He produced another bottle. "One last drink—for Jimmy."

Castiel took the shot glass when it was offered, though his stomach coiled with dread.

The bed tilted as Dean plopped beside him. "To Jimmy," he said, raising his shot. "That dude sure could eat a hamburger."

A frown settled on Castiel's face as he searched for more graceful words to describe his vessel. "Jimmy loved his family and God. May he rest peacefully in the loving embrace of the Lord."

"Yeah," Dean said, looking askance. "Sure." He clinked his shot against Castiel's and swallowed its contents.

Castiel copied Dean's movements as best he could while the room blurred. No cough rose in his chest this time.

Dean put a hand on his shoulder again regardless. Then he set their shot glasses aside. He flipped the comforter and sheets open as far as he could with Castiel still sitting on the edge of the bed. "Lie down here," he ordered.

Castiel tumbled dizzily into the spot Dean indicated. He had never lain down in a bed before. With clumsy fingers he traced the edge of the sheet, learning its soft texture. A pillow cradled his head, and he relaxed into it, sighing.

The sheet and comforter folded over top of him. Dean tucked him in, a profoundly gentle expression on his face as he watched Castiel's eyelashes flutter.

Castiel was far from getting up, even if he could, but he pointed out breathily, "This is your bed."

"It's a king," was all Dean said in response as he walked to the other side. Shoes clunked against the wall as they were removed, Dean's belt thumped the floor, and his pants slid down his legs. His fingers flicked the bedside lamp on, and then he walked over to thumb off the light switch.

Castiel blearily watched Dean walk across the room and back, attention caught by his nude, well-muscled legs.

Dean caught his stare. "Go to sleep, Cas," he said with a hint of amusement as he turned off the lamp and climbed into bed.

Dean's presence drove away Castiel's drowsiness; his movements shifted the sheets around Castiel's body, almost like they were touching. "I do not sleep," he said.

"Just try. Close your eyes and don't think about anything." He rolled over so his back faced Castiel.

Dutifully he snapped his eyes shut, but his nerves were awake, attentive to every breath Dean took, every subtle shift in his position. He wanted to feel it all, but the alcohol dulled his senses. Soon his eyelids were too heavy to lift; his breathing evened, and his heartbeat slowed. He reached the edge of awareness, tipped into blackness, then sprung back in surprise and fear.

But Dean had said to try, so Castiel let himself slowly ease into that odd realm of unconsciousness. He was wrapped in soothing warmth, content to be close to Dean. "Good night, Dean," he said in a whisper.

"G'night, Sammy," mumbled Dean.

The words sent an icy chill up Castiel's spine, so visceral that he quietly hissed. He was completely awake again, staring at the back of Dean's head with an uncomfortable tightness balled in his stomach, hands clenching the sheets. He felt smaller and colder and more alone than ever.

The tightness in his stomach seeped to his chest, and his eyes watered. He curled into a ball and prayed for his wings to strengthen so he could fly away. The bed felt like a trap, a glimpse into something that couldn't be his.

Love for God never hurt.


Dean and Sam were apart even when together. They were working on separate hunts that had melded into one, and as they shared information, they seemed almost as they were before. But as the hours lengthened, the demon they hunted concealing itself artfully, a tense atmosphere formed between them. They spoke past each other; Sam hinted at how sorry he was, and Dean deflected with whatever else came to mind.

"I think something's wrong with Cas," said Dean suddenly, brow furrowed. "He always comes when I call, unless he can't."

Castiel filled with guilt for worrying Dean, who was always concerned for the wellbeing of his allies. He had followed for the entirety of this hunt, but he would not appear when summoned; his presence would only come between the reconciliation of the brothers that Castiel had prayed for these past weeks. It was what Dean wanted, yet he stubbornly refused to accept the repentance Sam offered. Though Castiel would miss being Dean's companion in his hunting, in his research and in his quiet evenings, he wanted Dean to be happy. Sam was his happiness, if only he'd take it.

"Yeah, well, sorry your boyfriend is busy. Guess you're stuck with me," Sam grumbled as they laid in wait for the demon's anticipated arrival.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean asked accusingly, shifting his eyes from their vigilant watch to glare at his brother.

"It means get a room. Cas said this, Cas did that. You talk more about him than you do about the demon we're hunting—or the apocalypse, for that matter."

Castiel frowned. That was surely not true. He would acknowledge that it was unnecessary for Dean to joke about how he had gotten him drunk. And he didn't need to tell Sam about how much Castiel had enjoyed the caramel chocolates Dean had shared with him. The discussion of his unsuccessful attempts to tame his hair was, likewise, unneeded. But Dean only mentioned those things because they were safe topics in his fraught relationship with his brother—easy and untainted by meaning.

Rage tightened Dean's face. "You goddamned hypocrite," he spat out. "You don't get to ride my ass for having a friend who's an angel when you spent the last year screwing a demon and betraying everything we fought for!"

"I messed up! I admit it!" Sam shouted, all his regret and desperation reaching the boiling point. "I'm a terrible brother and a terrible human being! I get that you think I'm a monster, okay? You don't have to spell it out every time we see each other. It's great that you have Cas, really. At least someone's watching your back." He looked away, shamefaced. "I just wish it could still be me."

That was the moment when Dean softened.

Castiel's heart leaped for Dean and quaked for himself. He determinedly focused on the former, sending a prayer of thanks to the Lord for bringing the brothers this step closer to honesty and rightness with each other.

No one noticed the demon's presence until it was far, far too late.

This demon, though one of Lucifer's lesser lieutenants, was not stupid. It did not walk into the Devil's Trap set above the brothers' heads; it did not strike out with tooth or claw, or even toss them ineffectually across the room with its unholy power. Instead it had snuck just close enough, barely out of reach of the trap's enchantment.

A glint of metal broke the demon's concealment spell as it fired the gun.

Castiel reacted in the metaphysical plane, using all his might to tear through time. It exhausted him, and it did not stop the bullet, but it gave him just enough time to maneuver in the physical world. He placed himself in the bullet's path, between the sizzling muzzle and Sam's chest.

The bullet met him there. Pain and heat struck his shoulder. He was struck again, below the ribs, another gunshot ringing through his human ears. The force of the bullets pushed him back into Sam.

He countered with a warrior's instincts, ignoring the surprising pain and flinging his blade at the demon's chest with preternatural strength.

It struck home, and the creature howled and writhed to its death by an angel's righteous sword. The corpse of its host hit the floor, and a stunned moment of silence followed.

"That was hardcore, Cas!" Sam enthused.

A grin stuttered onto Castiel's face, but it was overshadowed quickly by a sharp gasp of agony. His shoulder was aflame, and warmth seeped from his chest. His knees quaked.

"Cas?" Dean called. "You okay there?"

"Those look nasty," Sam commented idly as he examined the wounds. "Uh, you can heal those anytime..."

The voices sounded further and further away. Castiel dropped to the floor.

Sam caught him on the way, easing him down, and then everything was shouts and panic. "What the hell!" said Sam as he held Castiel upright.

Dean was upon them instantly, his hands curling in the lapels of Castiel's coat. "What's wrong? Make with the mojo!"

Words formed only slowly in his mind, barely making it to his lips. "Can't heal, remember?" he answered, boneless in Sam's arms.

Dean stilled in horror. "I thought you meant you couldn't heal Bobby, not yourself!" he shouted, panicked eyes assessing his wounds. "Shit, shit, you need a hospital. Sam!" Sam took the cue to hoist Castiel to his useless feet, the brothers half-carrying, half-dragging him out of the building. Between grunts of effort and hands shifting their grip, Dean berated Castiel. "You stupid angel, what the hell were you thinking? You're not indestructible anymore, idiot! You can't throw yourself in front of passing bullets! You should've tossed Sam out of the way, not stood there like a damn moron!"

This continued until they settled him across the back seat of the Impala. Dean wrapped his injuries tightly as Sam started the car.

Castiel was sorry that Dean was mad at him. He had no energy to argue, and the searing pain was crowding his thoughts. His head lolled against the seat as he struggled to keep his eyes open. "I am weary," he said. "I think I can sleep, Dean."

"Now's not the time!" said Dean with urgency, his voice raising in pitch. "Stay awake, stay with me." The car skid out of the lot. It ate miles rapidly as Dean stopped the bleeding as much as he could, repeating phrases like you're going to be okay and hang in there.

As Castiel's vision blurred, he saw one thing with perfect clarity. Dean was smiling at him, at him. The firm weight of his hand was on his shoulder, just above where his wound now seeped blood.

The memory was perfect, and it filled his heart with relief. "Thank you," he whispered—to his Lord and to Dean.

"What are you thanking me for? Why the hell are you smiling?" he heard Dean's voice call.

The wrongness of Dean's anguish intruded on Castiel's thoughts, but he clung to joy. "You are smiling at me," he told him.

"Do I look like I'm smiling?" he demanded. "Damn it, Cas, stay with me."

His forcefulness tore Castiel back to reality. Pain lanced through him again, causing him to writhe weakly against Dean's lap.

Dean's face was a mask of devastation and sorrow, unshed tears clinging to his shining eyes. "Don't leave. Don't leave. I'm here, stay here," he insisted in a quivering voice. His hand fell on Castiel's cheek, thumb stroking his bottom lip.

Castiel had upset Dean again, and now he wouldn't be there to protect him. "I'm sorry. I love you." The truth tumbled out unexpectedly, his mind in a daze. He wanted to assure Dean that it was okay, that he didn't expect anything, he just loved. But all he could do was try to stay awake while his life's blood seeped into the gauze.

But even that was beyond his power. As the darkness rushed to meet him like a giant wave sweeping him out to sea, he heard the words I love you too.

It was surely his imagination—but it was a wonderful dream.


"You see, George, you really had a wonderful life."

A hand waved in front of his eyes.

Castiel blinked and looked up at Dean. He sat up primly in bed, but he was needled by sharp pains in his shoulder and chest. He wouldn't tell because Dean would make him take painkillers, and Castiel wanted to finish the movie this time.

A bowl of ice cream was handed to him, and Dean silently took a seat in the chair next to him. Castiel could feel his eyes on him, watching for any sign of trouble.

Carefully spooning ice cream into his mouth and hypnotized by the movements on the screen, he was unprepared for a particularly nasty twinge in his shoulder. It showed on his face. He sighed softly as the empty bowl was lifted from his lap; he'd have to finish the movie next time he was awake.

The screen flicked off at Dean's touch on the remote. "Time for more meds, Cas, then sleep."

Castiel had done a lot of sleeping since he was shot. It was restorative, but very slow. "I'm okay," he told Dean. He worried about Castiel too much, requiring frequent reassurance that he was not going anywhere. Part of Castiel wished he would stop worrying about him, but most of him enjoyed being cared for.

Dean grinned. "Oh, you're better than okay, but you've still got some healing to do. You need to rest now."

"I don't need anything, Dean," he stubbornly insisted. Though he enjoyed Dean's company and comfort, Castiel knew that he had more important things to do. Yet he was often there when Castiel fell asleep and when he woke, seeing to his needs. Dean was grateful for his brother's rescue, but no demonstrations of thanks were necessary. Dean had to stop the apocalypse, and Castiel was in the way.

"Don't give me that stoic crap," he said in anger. "You're in pain, and you're exhausted. You're the worst patient ever, I swear. You should see yourself; you're way too pale, so it's ridiculous for you to tell me that you're fine. Let me look after you. It's the least I can do." Dean scowled as he fished out Castiel's prescription.

"I'm sorry," said Castiel, not wanting Dean to be upset.

The way he stiffened and rolled his eyes in frustration indicated this was the wrong thing to say. "If you say you're sorry again, I'm going postal."

Since he couldn't apologize for his apology, Castiel stared morosely at his hands in his lap instead.

Dean sighed and sat by the bed again. He pressed his forehead against his hands in frustration. "Cas, is there anything I can say that will not make things worse? Every time I talk to you, I stick my foot in my mouth."

Castiel was surprised by this admission. "I do so as well," he agreed. He struggled to find words to express what he needed Dean to understand. "I appreciate your concern, but you and Sam have a mission. I will be okay if you are okay."

"Yeah, well then you'll have to stop throwing yourself under a bus to save me and my brother, because I can't be okay without you." Then Dean paled as he realized what he said.

Castiel waited for Dean to issue a retraction for his hasty speech, but none came.

With a sigh, Dean declared, "Fuck it, I'm a man of action." He leaned toward Castiel's face, but at the last moment, he changed trajectory and kissed Castiel softly on the cheek.

His lips tickled Castiel's stubble. So great was his surprise that he forgot to breathe, every inch of him focused on the blissful feeling of receiving affection.

When Dean pulled back, he was red to the tips of his ears, and he looked anywhere but at Castiel. "Just don't fly away if you're pissed with me, okay? You might pop your stitches."

The heart of his flesh pounded, and his soul pulsed in agreement. "I...I am far from anger," he said. And Castiel, too, decided to 'fuck it'—perhaps Dean would be angry, but he chanced a look into his thoughts regardless. There he saw himself writ large in a reflection that Castiel was sure had no resemblance to himself. To Dean, Castiel was strong and sure, a shoulder to lean on, someone with whom he could be completely honest. Yet he was not so far removed from the world, not so angelic, that he could not be touched or taken care of in turn.

And Dean wanted to take care of him...and he wanted to touch him in ways that made Castiel shiver with desire. An unbidden impression of Dean handling himself, head thrown back in ecstasy tinged with bitter guilt as he forced a cry of Cas back down his throat, made his intentions clear.

"You're cold," Dean said immediately, reaching for the extra blanket at the foot of the bed.

Castiel grabbed his wrist. Their eyes locked with a familiar intensity and with something else: permission.

They leaned forward together, lips meeting with fervent desire. Dean's hand clutched the back of Castiel's head to pull him closer.

Castiel wanted to taste and touch. He grabbed Dean's arm to steady himself, and after some clacking of teeth he managed to match Dean's rhythm. With a heavily beating heart their tongues swept together, a burning want coiling in his stomach and tingling in his skin.

Dean pulled away first to breathe heavily. "Did I hurt you?" he asked between pants.

"No," Castiel insisted forcefully. Pain lingered, but if anything the kiss had overwhelmed it with lustful feelings. He thought he should fear such strong physicality, but Dean made him fearless.

"Okay," Dean said, "then we're okay." He smiled and pressed a hand again to Castiel's face, passing over the now familiar territory of his lips with his thumb.

Castiel felt loved, worshipped, and almost content. He scrounged up some of his former dignity and demanded, in a low voice, "Kiss me again."

With a gleeful grin, Dean declared, "Talking sucks."

They came together again, putting their lips to much better use.