Dean is aging every day and Castiel can see it in the fine lines when he smiles, the way his eyes crinkle. Every day there’s another line forming and Castiel can see it. Every single one of them. He sees the first small gray hair that starts at the root of Dean’s hair. He doesn’t think Dean can see it, at first, but after a week Dean begins parting his hair differently. Castiel cannot see the single gray strand anymore, until there is a small bundle of them.
With each waking day, Dean’s hands begin to ache in the places that strains when he holds his gun. He pretends not to care, but Castiel knows. He can read Dean like a book he’s read a million times.
Castiel stays the same. Humanity caught up with his vessel in the short while he had no grace, yet now he seems to have stopped aging once again. He stays young while Dean’s knees ache. Small touches let Castiel ease the pain, and Dean catches on to what he is doing. He says thank you with his eyes, that still sparkle a beautiful sage color. The love Castiel has for Dean never dulls, but only deepens the more Dean let’s him heal.
It seems, eventually Dean wants to skip out on hunts. His bones throb too badly, or he’s catching yet another cold. Sam notices, too, but says nothing. It’s inevitable. Dean is much older than Sam is, and not as nimble anymore. Castiel always stays with Dean. Just in case.
Sometimes Dean will let Castiel sit with him while he watches the latest game on television. Usually Dean will fall asleep by halftime, never able to sleep well at night. His head always ends up on Castiel’s shoulder, beer slipping through his fingers that once held it tightly. Castiel puts the beer on the coffee table, and maneuvers to lean back enough for Dean’s head to rest comfortably on his chest. Castiel has no heartbeat for Dean to listen to, but placing a firm hand on Dean’s shoulder lets him pulse power through Dean’s veins, easing any ache or pain. Dean always sleeps better this way. It seems to give him a little bit more life that way.
Dean does not like it when Castiel heals him of his aches. “They let me know I’m still human, Cas. Just let me ache. That’s why they invented Advil.” Dean will say, giving Castiel a glare. But Dean always comes to Castiel at night, or comes to get him when the Advil won’t help his restless leg syndrome, or ease the throb of his nerves enough to get a few un-solid hours. Castiel is always more than willing to place that firm hand on Dean, watching him sleep peacefully like he deserves after a lifetime of restless nights.
“Let me heal you, Dean.” Castiel demands, watching the man he loves practically decay on the sofa. Dean had insisted on going to a hunt with Sam, and had sprained a few bones. They were not healing, and it had been over a week. “Please.” Castiel begs.
“No, Cas.” Dean repeats over and over. Castiel doesn’t care. Dean isn’t quick enough to dodge Castiel’s hand as if clamps around his ankle. It’s healed within seconds, and Dean is angry at him once more. “Damnit Cas!” Dean jerks his leg away, and glares red hot towards Castiel.
“I don’t understand, Dean!” Castiel barks back at him, “You can go on hunts all you want if you just let me heal you when you come back.”
“That’s not how life is supposed to work, Cas. I go on a hunt and I get hurt, if I die from it then that’s how it needs to be! No more loopholes, Cas. I’m gettin’ old, I know it, you know it, Sam knows it. Shit happens, and nature takes its course. It can’t do that if you keep interrupting it!”
“It sounds as though you want to die,” Castiel says dully, and blunt.
“Maybe I do.” Dean says quietly, hardly shocking Castiel. “I’ve lived a long life, saved a lot of people and then some. I’m alright with it.”
Castiel can’t cry, but if he could then he would be sobbing. He can feel it inside, how sad he is. “Dean, I’m not alright with it. My whole purpose of being is because of you. Every day before you, I simply waited for the day. And every day after, I was living for you and fighting for you. There was never a moment I was doing something that wasn’t for you in some way. If you’re gone, what am I supposed to live for?”
“Live for Sammy, Cas. He needs someone, too, you know.”
“Dean, as soon as you’re gone Sam is going to go back to a normal life. And you know that.”
Dean shakes his head, “I don’t want you to interfere anymore, Cas.”
Castiel nods a final nod, and says nothing the nights he still eases Dean’s pains when Dean calls for him. The days go by quickly, as do the seasons. He is worse in the winter, and soon he hardly moves from his worn spot on the sofa.
Castiel leaves Sam with him a single day, saying they need him briefly in Heaven. Dean smiles at him and says he’s happy Cas is off doing angelic things for once. Castiel smiles back and Sam nods. He knows Castiel’s plan.
Castiel comes back over a day later, and Dean is asleep in his bed. When Castiel enters, Dean stirs and reaches for him. He must be hurting again. Castiel gets down to his briefs and slides in bed with Dean, the single brush of skin easing all of Dean’s pains. He relaxes entirely against Castiel. Dean feels very hot, and clammy.
“Are you sick again?” Castiel asks worriedly.
“Yeah,” Dean grunts. “I went out for a drive and got caught in the rain. I think it’s the flu,” Dean grumbles. Castiel brushes a soft hand over his forehead and dulls the fever. “Thanks,” Dean says softly. Castiel is thrown off by the acceptance but says nothing. Dean begins talking. He’s somewhere between sleep, stuck in a limbo. “I am gettin’ scared, every day.” He admits in the quiet air of the bedroom. “Once my light goes out, that’s it. No more chances like I’m used to.”
Castiel interrupts softly. “I could give you another, Dean. We can age together, this next time. If you let me.” There’s a pleading tone in Castiel’s voice that Dean can recognize.
“No, Cas. I need to be a man about this.” Dean grumbles, head rolling to rest on Castiel’s pale chest. “I’m just scared of where I’m going. I always thought death would be easy, that I’d die out on a hunt. It’d be quick, maybe not painless, but I thought it would happen so fast the fear wouldn’t set in. But dying of old age? Slow like this? Every day, man. I can feel it. I’m gettin’ closer. Every time I’m sick it’s like death is just looming, beggin’ me to go to sleep so it can take me. It gives me time to think about it, and the fear gets bad. I hate bein’ scared. I’m scared I’m goin’ to hell, or purgatory again. Or get stuck in the void like Kevin did. I wanna go to Heaven, and be with Bobby and Ellen and Jo.” Castiel faintly realizes Dean is crying silently, tears pooling beneath Dean’s cheek.
“In Heaven,” Castiel begins. “I talked to some of my superiors.” Dean ‘mm-hmms’, quietly. “They would not take my grace, so my age would catch up. But I reserved you a spot, right where you want to be. And I will escort you myself. Not a reaper, or a demon. Me, and I will hide nothing from you. I will hold your hand the whole way.” The love Castiel has for this man is swelling hugely in his vacant chest, and if Castiel could cry he would cry for love.
Dean’s fingers skim past Castiel’s chest to grab his hand. The hold is limp, and weak. Castiel’s worry is at its highest, and he feels the desperate need to go yell for Sam.
Somehow, Sam senses Castiel’s desperation. He barges into the room, eyes wide with worry. Castiel and Sam’s eyes meet and the words don’t need to be spoken.
“Dean?” Sam asks, walking to his brother. Dean let’s out a small moan of acknowledgement, and faintly tells Sam he loves him. The grip on Castiel’s hand is slightly stronger when Dean finds the energy to kiss Castiel’s chest, the words unspoken but there. Castiel wraps fingers through Dean’s damp hair and holds him close.
Sam is crying silent tears and holds back a sob by biting his fist.
Dean goes quietly, in his sleep. Castiel slips from underneath him and makes sure to tuck him in as he goes to console Sam, who has aged as well, but is still young and healthy. Death won’t take him as quickly if he begins to settle down. Castiel makes sure to tell him this.
Castiel explains his plan to Sam over once more. He’s going to lead Dean to Heaven himself. He’s going to be with Bobby and Ellen and Jo. Just like he wanted. Castiel will be there, too, and he will be down whenever Sam prays to him. And if Sam wants, Castiel will walk him through the veil, too.
Castiel’s conversation is interrupted by Dean. A Dean Sam cannot see, but yet the same Dean he knows. Dean has a worried look in his eye, watching Sam cry silent tears. Castiel tells Sam it’s time, and gives him a large hug goodbye. He pleads for Sam to go find a woman, and settle down and have kids. Go back to Stanford. It’s possible. Sam promises he will try, and that he will pray often.
Castiel takes Dean’s hand and vanishes. The veil is shadows and daylight mixing together, like oil and water. Mixing but never becoming one. Dean holds Castiel’s hand tightly, fingers laced. Castiel steps through a very certain strand of daylight. Dean covers his eyes when it becomes too bright.
They’re at Bobby’s. It takes Dean a single moment to blink and look around. Ellen comes from the kitchen, stirring something in a pot.
“Heya, boys. Just in time for supper.”
That night, Castiel holds Dean close. Dean let’s him. After all, they’re stuck in a piece of Heaven where no one dies, aches, or bleeds. Despite Dean’s healthy bones, Castiel still caresses Dean’s body just like before.