Ghost of You

Dean stood in the middle of the bunker's kitchen, staring in the direction of Cas's room, still not quite at terms with what had happened. Yes, they had Cas back...but at what cost? Sam now bore the Mark of Cain, and Cas seemed to be nothing but an empty shell. Well, he was there, but he wasn't there. It was similar to the time when he'd taken on Sam's insanity for him, but worse. At least then he'd retained some semblance of himself. Some part of him still shone through, but now…god, now there was nothing.

It was like he was a ghost living in a solid body, and it was unnerving as hell. He emerged every so often to make himself a sandwich, but then would disappear for days at a time.

Part of Dean wanted to scream and yell at him, hit him, anything to make him react, but the other part of him knew that it would accomplish nothing. He just wanted the angel back. For the first time in a long time he had realized just how badly he had treated him over the past few years.

God, he'd treated him like a tool. No wonder Cas had said yes to Lucifer. It was all his own fault.

Dean had come to part of that realization after he'd realized that Lucifer was inhabiting his best friend. When he'd been brutally confronted with the fact that Cas had let Lucifer in, he'd been angry as hell and not understood why he'd said yes. It took a few weeks for him to realize what he was really feeling. His anger wasn't towards Cas, not really. He had really been mad at himself. Mad at himself for not noticing just how important the angel was to him.

Mad at himself for taking Cas for granted.

Mind you, he still didn't understand it completely, but he knew that something else must have happened for Cas to think that he was simply expendable, and not worth the time or effort.

Chuck was gone, and Dean was drained from the anger that had been settling into him, into his bones, still angry at God for not bringing Cas back. That it had been Amara, of all people. The Darkness had given him back his angel…but he wasn't his angel anymore.

So, now he was sitting in his room on the end of his bed, eyeing the gun sitting next to him.

Cas was gone.

Dean knew it; he could feel it in his bones.

He kept on telling himself that he should just let it go. He should let Cas go. He wasn't family, not really. He was just an angel who'd fallen and chosen to side with him, despite every one of his kin telling him otherwise, telling him that Dean was the last and worst choice, and yet he'd still chosen him…yeah, fat chance. He couldn't forget him, and Dean knew it. But maybe…maybe he could save him. For all he knew, Cas was somewhere on the Other Side, capital o, capital s, waiting for him to act.

Which was why his hand reached for the gun. It was loaded. One bullet.

He'd done something like this once before, many years ago, before he'd gone to see Sam at Yale. He had been in a bad place, and it had seemed like the only option at the time. Dad had been gone on one of his hunting trips and Dean had hit one of his shittiest lows, and it had taken all of his effort to say no and put the gun away.

But now…well, it was looking more and more inviting the more he thought about the fact that he'd lost Cas forever due to his own stupidity. If he'd simply let the angel know how he felt, Lucifer never would have taken hold. And the world wouldn't be as broken as it was.

He looked down at the gun in his hand, trying to see if he was genuinely invested.

Wrapping his fingers a bit more firmly around the grip, he thought about it a moment longer, weighing it all out in his mind. In the end, he knew he could never go through with it.

"Dean…" His green eyes snapped up. "What…what are you doing?"

Sam stood in the doorway, backlit by the hallway, his body tensed, his hand out as if he was ready to lunge forward and rip the gun from Dean's hand. Shit. Dean knew that it couldn't look good, him sitting on his bed in the dark with his gun in his hand.

"I just…nothing. Nothing, man."

Sam glared at him.

"Doesn't look like nothing…"

Snapping, not wanting to deal with his brother at the moment, he barked out, "Just leave it alone, Sam!"

At this, his younger brother shook his head and stepped into the room, flicking the light switch as he went and moved until he was standing next to him, towering over where Dean still sat on the edge of his bed. Reaching down, he wrenched the gun from Dean's hand, emptied the chamber, and then switched on the safety and tucked it in the back of his jeans, all while glowering at him.

"When my brother is sitting in the dark with his gun in his hand that has only one bullet in it," he hissed out, "I think I have every right to be fucking worried! What…what are doing, man?"

Dean let out a sigh.

"I wasn't gonna do anything, Sam. I promise. I just…I mean…Cas is…"

A wave of realization crossed his younger brother's face and his entire body went slack as he sat down next to him.

"Dammit, Dean. You can't just bottle these emotions up. It's like...a bomb just waiting to explode! When you do this whole 'no chick flick' moments thing, you know, the whole not talking about things thing…you end up in situations like this. And it scares the shit out of me, Dean…"

Green eyes met hazel, and the older hunter let out a sigh.

"I know you're right, Sammy, but that doesn't make it any easier. I don't…I don't talk," he said, spitting out the word like it was a curse word. "When I do it comes out all jumbled and messed up and makes even less sense than before! I mean, Cas is…it's not Cas any more. He's like this shell, and it's killing me seeing him every day knowing that if we had only acted sooner, then we might have just saved him. I just…" He gestured to where the gun rested in the small of Sam's back. "I just wonder if maybe our Cas is on the other side or something, and is waiting for us to make a damn move. I can't just sit here."

Sam nodded, silent, and let Dean continue to rant. His brother was actually talking about his feelings, and he didn't even realize it. He wasn't going to stop him now.

"I feel useless, Sam," he mumbled, staring down at his hands. "I feel like I should be doing something. Anything."

Finally, recognizing that Dean was at his limit, Sam spoke up.

"Dean…maybe you just need to talk to him. Did you ever think of that?"

He let out a low, humorless laugh, and then looked up at the ceiling, letting his hands fall limp on his thighs. Had he thought of that? Of course he'd thought of that. He had thought about it over a million times, but he knew that it wouldn't happen. Just like he knew that the Cas he knew was gone.

Letting out a frustrated sigh, he drawled, "Yeah, Sam, it's occurred to me."

"Have you said more than two words to him since he came back?"

Dean gave a half-hearted shrug.

"I just…I don't…"

Sam let out a disgusted sound, saying, "This is what I'm talking about, Dean! You're so emotionally constipated you can't even get up the nerve to go over to his room and just say hello, for crying out loud! Go over there and start getting this thing sorted out. I mean, it's not gonna all go right in one conversation, you know…but at least it'll be a start. Just…do it."

He stood up and walked out.

Dean sat there a few minutes longer, trying to figure it out in his mind. After a while, he gave up…and gave in.

Lead weights in his feet, he walked down the hall to Cas's room, dreading the one-sided conversation that he was sure he was about to have. Cas hadn't seemed the least bit interested in speaking ever since he had come back to the bunker.

Dean hesitantly put his hand on the door, expecting it to be locked and then gently tapped on it lightly with his knuckles.

"Cas?"

There was no response, so he firmly pressed his hand on the door and was surprised to find it open easily under the pressure. He pushed it open the rest of the way and was taken aback to find the angel sitting in the middle of his bed, stripped down to nothing but a gray undershirt and black briefs, a pair of ear phones in and an mp3 player in front of him.

Dean could hear a faint noise coming through the buds and he very cautiously approached the bed, unsure of what to do. He hadn't expected to see Cas looking and acting like an emotional teenager. So, he took several steps closer and then reached out and pressed his fingers to Cas's shoulder. The angel looked up.

"Hey, Cas," the hunter said, motioning to Castiel's headphones. "Uh, I was hoping we could…uh…talk."

Complete with eye roll, Cas pulled one earbud out and took Dean off guard with full sentences as he said, "Talking isn't exactly your forte, Dean. Let me guess: Sam told you to?" Dean nodded. "Why am I not surprised." He leaned back and laid flat on the bed, essentially ignoring him, but Dean forced him to pay attention, unplugging the headphones from the mp3 player, causing the music to blast rather loudly through the room. Dean only vaguely recognized the group. Some sort of emo-rock group that, ironically enough, only teenagers seemed to listen to.

Cas shot up, glaring at him, and Dean, though not wanting the angel to be upset with him, was glad for it, as it meant that he was finally showing emotion.

"I was listening to that, Dean."

"And you still are."

He looked down at the mp3 player and pulled it closer, trying to see what Cas was listening to. Some group called My Chemical Romance. He vaguely recognized the name from seeing it once before on Claire's own music player…and then he realized.

"You're listening to Claire's music."

Cas said nothing.

Dean sat down.

"Look…I'm sorry for all the shit you've gone through this year, Cas. Hell, it was all because me and Sam couldn't put the damn world first! Of course you were able to," he added softly, unsure if his confession would make Cas angrier or not. "You've always seen the big picture better than we ever could…"

The angel shook his head and replied, in a harsh and bitter tone, "I wasn't trying to save the whole world, Dean. Do you really think that I am that selfless?" Green eyes widened and Cas shook his head a second time. "I did it…I did it to keep you and Sam safe. It was an entirely selfish decision. Don't call it heroic. It was anything but."

Dean shook his head, dropping the argument, vaguely listening to the lyrics of the song that was currently playing through the small speakers on the mp3.

"At the end of the world…or the last thing I see, you are never coming home, never coming home. Could I? Should I…?"

He listened to it a moment longer…and then was slightly shocked when he realized that it was a song about suicide. Why the hell was Cas listening to such dark music? If anything, Dean had expected to hear some of that folky crap that he'd heard blasting from his car's speakers once upon a time, but this stuff was…well, it was dark.

He stopped the song.

The room became uncomfortably silent.

"Cas," he said, unable to take it any longer. "From the way you've been acting since you came back, I thought…shit, I thought you were gone. It seemed like your, your body was here, but the rest of you was somewhere else, man. Someplace I couldn't reach." He paused, silently arguing with himself, agonizing over telling the angel the rest, but then finally swallowed his pride and continued. "I sat in my room with my gun in my hand. One bullet."

Cas's eyes shot up.

"I mean," Dean quickly amended, "I knew I wouldn't, but…but sometimes it feels like there's no other way out, you know? I mean, my life is going to end, most likely, at the end of a gun if a monster doesn't get to me first, so I've always sort of thought that it might as well be my own, you know." He paused. "But Sammy…and now you," he added, almost embarrassed, "Have kept me from going too far. I always knew that if I actually did it, it would be entirely selfish. So…I couldn't."

Castiel remained silent, his eyes dropping back to the worn, navy comforter, and as Dean glanced him over the angel appeared more vulnerable than he'd ever seen him. The temperature in the room had dropped slightly, causing gooseflesh to appear on Cas's arms and legs and Dean had to hold himself back from reaching out and trying to warm him, like he did with Sam. Cas picked absently as a loose thread, looking more human than Dean had ever seen him.

"I…I need you here, Cas."

Cas's eyes once more lifted, and blue finally met green.

Silence.

And then… "I need you here for me."

A faint smile appeared on the corner of Cas's lips.

"Do I hear a hint of selfishness, Dean?"

He rolled his eyes and tried not to let out a groan, but also gave a single nod in the angel's direction.

"Yes, Cas. I am being selfish," he admitted. He then added, in a gruff voice, "Now, can we get past all the chick-flick crap and just punch each other in the shoulder, already?"

Cas shook his head fiercely and unexpectedly leaned across the bed, wrapping a firm hand around the back of Dean's neck, drawing him uncomfortably close, and breathed into the hunter's ear, "I have seen your Netflix account, Dean. You love chick flicks."

The hunter tried to ignore the soft sparks that were shooting down his spine from where Cas's fingers threaded through his hair at the base of head, but found himself relishing in the feeling of closeness, instead of being repulsed by it. Deciding to not fight it, he let out a soft sigh and said, "Yeah…you're right, I do." He wrapped his hand around the back of Cas's shoulder. "C'mere."

Cas leaned into the embrace, and they held it much longer than expected.

However, after a few beats longer than was considered brotherly, or even strictly platonic, Dean felt a subtle tension underneath his fingers. He tried to lean back, but only got as far back as Cas would allow him, which wasn't very far. The angel's mouth was scant centimeters away from his own, and he had a not-so-unpleasant feeling stirring in his gut at being in such close proximity to best friend.

"Dean…"

God. Any resolve he had, any 'no homo' phrases lingering on his tongue, they were all lost at hearing the tone in Castiel's voice.

He had just managed to breathe out, "Cas," when the angel closed the distance between them.

It was the softest brush of lips, but it rocked Dean to his core.

It lasted mere seconds, Dean's mouth catching on the angel's, Cas slipping down slightly so that he gently tugged at Dean's lower lip, but as they both pulled away, they both sounded desperately out of breath, as though they had been running a damn decathlon. The angel's fingers slowly slid out of Dean's hair, winding their way down in an unordered path; his thumb touching his jaw, the pads of his fingers pressing into a collarbone, the palm of Cas's hand wrapping firmly over his shoulder blade, fingernails tracing his wrist, before finally coming to rest on the bed between their bent knees.

"Dean," he said a second time.

Dean nodded, and swallowed.

"Yeah, Cas…I know."

And that was all that needed to be said.


THE END