Coda 12x2, “Mamma Mia”
As the door closed heavily behind him with a too-loud thump, Cas reached the kitchen counter and place the palms of his hands grippingly on the ice-cold surface. The sudden shuttering sensation grounded him, cleared his mind, if only for a brief second, and his quickened breathing somewhat steadied within the next few minutes. The low, dull hum of the fridge surrounded him as he looked hesitantly up, taking in the all too familiar room, trying to focus on the peacefulness of its usual cool, quiet air under dim fluorescent lights.
He had left the library only moments before - left Mary alone with Sam and Dean. They had almost finished dinner, were sure to break up soon and leave for their respective rooms as the hour was late and the day’s events were many and exhausting. But Cas had left before the rest of them. “Excuse me”, he might have mumbled, he wasn’t even sure at this point - but off he was, hurriedly, and, as always, mindlessly, with the kitchen as his refuge.
Before he had fully realized it, the family dinner and the catching up and the changing dynamic had all been too much for him. He was truly and honestly happy, so profoundly happy, that Mary was back - that Sam and Dean finally got the chance to talk to and get to know the mother who’s protective, nostalgic presence they had so desperately yearned for all these years. But Cas could not deny the way her return also made him feel.
As he placed himself slowly, shakily, at a chair by the long kitchen table, with his hands folded in front of him on its top, he felt a momentous surge of loneliness; a sudden, well-known realization of being yet again alone, with nowhere to go, nowhere to feel safe and no place to call home. The whole evening, Dean had looked at his mother with the light of the universe in his emerald-green eyes and a smile of innocent bliss across his familiar features - such a look as Cas had never seen the like of before. All memories of Dean and his shared knowing glances and light, caring touches the previous days evaporated in the mist of Cas’ crowded mind, as every ounce of attention Dean had to give was suddenly directed elsewhere. Cas had never known how starved of attention one could be, and how embarrassed and utterly foolish it made you feel.
And he could never tell anyone, either, least of all Dean. It wouldn’t be fair - it would come out all wrong; Cas would only sound selfish and cruel when really, he just wanted Dean to be happy. That was all - all he had ever wanted, all he could ever want. It was only this new smarting, bitter realization that Cas wasn’t the one who could make him so that pulled at his heartstrings and brought tears to his eyes. If crying was a human thing to do, then so be it. He had no wings anyway. Didn’t belong in Heaven - perhaps he never really did. He was no angel anymore. And all he had ever been to Dean was an angel, a warrior, a useful sidekick. Now he wasn’t even that - no, in this moment, he was nothing, nothing beyond the weight on his own shoulders. He closed his eyes shut and saw before his inward gaze billions and billions of stars, distant, white, infinite. “Take me there”, he thought, silently. “Please, God, just take me there.”
When he opened his eyes again, a single warm tear fell across his cheek and down to his chin where it settled, until it fell and hit the table top, solemnly, soundlessly, effortlessly. Cas looked at it through a hazy cloud of more to come, and wondered why humans had always talked so highly of being in love; praised it endlessly in songs and tales. In his experience, it was nothing but pretending, avoiding - and pain. It was a pressing, choking feeling deep in his chest when Dean touched his shoulder only to let go mere seconds later. It was an awkward, helpless sensation of never knowing the right things to say to make all of Dean’s problems disappear. It was the heartbreaking realization that Dean would always put his real family before Cas.
At this final, devastating thought, the door to the kitchen was suddenly burst open, followed by a soft voice calling out his name across the room.
“Cas, you here?”
Dean took the few steps down the stairs, bear bottle in hand and cheeks flushed by the long talk over a full dinner (the first in a while) and the onset of sleepiness. Cas had just enough time to get up from his seat and sniff away the worst of the pending tears with a shake of his head before Dean came into view. His hair was a little messy, too. He looked content. Cas kept his gaze low, however, fearing that traces of sadness might still be visible on his autumn-pale skin.
“What’re you doing in here? Where’d you go? You missed pie.”
“I don’t eat pie.” Cas could have hit himself in the head with the nearest stainless steel pot, preferable very hard, that’s how awful his reply was. He clenched his teeth together behind closed lips.
“Okaaay. Well, still, you didn’t have to leave, you know, to just… sit around?” Dean looked at Cas like he didn’t really know if he should be concerned, or if Cas was simply being his usual weird, dorky angel self.
Cas realized he hadn’t answered yet, when Dean suddenly found the pause too long.
“You okay, buddy?”
Cas finally looked at Dean, red eyes and all.
“I- I don’t know.” He hadn’t planned on being so honest, but something unconscious in the tone of Dean’s voice somehow assured him that it was alright to open up, just a little bit.
Concern, and confusion, at once clouded Dean’s tired features. He approached the table quickly and put his bear down, eyes full on Cas. Cas suddenly felt horrible that he had burst Dean’s evening bubble of happiness - that he was the reason Dean didn’t have that beautiful smile on his face anymore. He regretted ever having said anything instantly.
“Hey, Cas, what’s going on”, Dean insisted, his voice so gentle. As warm as a hug and protective as a steady hand on a shoulder.
“You look upset. Hey. What is it, Cas? Talk to me.”
Cas’s body felt like it was going to explode. His heart was pounding all the way to his temples, and his knees felt weak. It was becoming a habit.
But he couldn’t tell Dean how he felt. He just couldn’t.
“I don’t know, Dean. I’m not…”
“Cas.” He was not letting this one go, Cas was sure of it.
“Dean, I am so happy that your mother is back.” He hadn’t gathered he courage to say these things yet, and yet here they were, out of his mouth before he was ever conscious of it. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted for you and Sam. And you both seem so happy, and your mother’s happy. She’s adjusting, I know, but the way she looks at you… And the way you look at her, Dean. I’m just- I’m so glad you finally have the family you deserve.”
“Cas, alright, okay, stop - why are you saying this? Where is this coming from?”
“You don’t need me anymore, Dean. That’s all I’m trying to say. I shouldn’t be here.”
Dean’s eyes lit up like blazing torches. He took a slow step back, disbelieve parting his lips and furrowing his brow.
“Dean, you know it’s-”
“I know that’s bullshit, that’s what I know!” He was all but yelling, his voice echoing through the silvery cold air of the room. The fridge hummed away under his tenor.
“What the heck, Cas, where is this coming from? What, because my mother is suddenly here again, I don’t care about you anymore? Is that what you think? You think me that petty?”
“I can’t believe you! What, you- you want to go back to Heaven, is that it? And my mother’s just some convenient excuse you’re using? Cas?”
Cas could feel the tears rising in his eyes again, despite every effort to keep them away. He looked back down; the anger on Dean’s face was too much for him. He never wanted this, ever. How did he end up in this terrible situation with nowhere to go and nothing to say?
Dean’s voice, his whole attitude, changed as soon as he saw Cas’ tear-stained cheeks beneath the long, dark lashes. He took a step closer again.
“Cas. Cas, hey, I’m- I’m sorry. Cas?”
Dean placed a careful hand under Cas’ chin and lifted his head.
“Please, Cas, don’t-”
Their eyes finally met, inches apart.
“I thought I’d already told you, you idiot, but apparently I didn’t make myself clear enough. You’re family, okay? You. You are my family. Nothing’s ever going to change that, ever. I need you to see that.”
“I’m not your brother, Dean.”
“That’s right, you’re not.”
And in that minute moment, the world around Cas ceased to exist. There was no bunker, no Earth, no universe. No monsters on their heals or dangers ahead. There was only Dean, and Cas was flying through billions and billions of stars scattered across smooth, rosy skin, basking in an infinite light of emerald-green warmth and divine radiance. Cas saw now how no song or tale every really got it quite right.
Dean kissed Cas on the mouth. There was no hesitancy in the soft movement of his lips, or his steady, firm hands on Cas’ arms. When he pulled back a few seconds later, the light in his eyes had returned, brighter and more innocent than Cas has ever seen it, and his cheeks burned scarlet with something else besides sleepiness.
“You’re such an idiot, Cas. You really gotta stop thinking like that, you know, like you don’t matter. God, if- if you knew how much you mattered, Cas…” He trailed off, shaking his head slowly and sighing into the little space between them.
They stood like that for a while, foreheads touching, clinging to each other in comfortable silence. Cas wasn’t sure he deserved everything that Dean was offering - his love, his family - but Cas still couldn’t resist taking it all. Maybe he deserved to be happy, too. And maybe, just maybe, Dean and him could find that happiness together. Then and there, even that seemed possible.