“Cas?” Dean knocks on the door–is it the second time, or the third?–then says again, “Cas. I’m worried, man. I’m coming in, alright?”
He’d been walking by, on the way back to bed after a late night snack, when he’d heard thumps and crashes from inside Cas’s room. He’d banged on the door, but Cas wasn’t answering.
Done waiting, Dean announces himself again and pushes the door open. His desk chair is in pieces, scattered all over the room. The middle shelf on his bookshelf is askew, most of the books in a haphazard pile just below it. And there is Cas, slumped on the floor, knees pulled tight to his chest…crying.
Kneeling at Cas’s side, Dean says softly, “Oh god, Cas, what can I do?” He reaches out to put a hand on Cas’s shoulder, but stops just shy of actually touching him, unsure. Cas looks up at him, blue eyes wet with tears, and ever so slightly leans into Dean’s comforting touch.
Cas steadies his breath, then he says, “I was asleep, then I had a nightmare.”
Dean closes his eyes, schooling his face to stillness so he doesn’t wince. Angel or not, all the trauma Cas has been through in the past few years means he needs to sleep sometimes. And that same trauma means his sleep is almost always interrupted by nightmares. It’s a vicious cycle, one Dean would do anything to break.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asks.
Cas shakes his head. “It’s…my room feels too…confined. I need to get out. Could you…would you…walk with me?”
“Outside? It’s the middle of…” He’d meant to finish with ‘winter’ but seeing the hope fade from Cas’s eyes changed his mind. “Sure, Cas. Give me five minutes to change. This robe ain’t exactly cold weather gear.” As he’d hoped, this brings the hint of a smile to Cas’s lips. “And you too. I don’t want you wasting your grace just to keep yourself warm. I know it’s not what it once was.”
Bristling, Cas starts to protest, but Dean holds his hands up to stave off argument. “Come on, Cas. You take care of me. Let me take care of you, too.”
Cas leads them into the woods that surround the bunker, a flashlight in one mittened hand. The snow squeaks under their boots, the only sound in the otherwise silent night. Breath frosts the air around their faces. After ten minutes or so of silence Dean tentatively asks, “Do you have a destination in mind?” Cas nods. Dean shoves his mitten-covered hands into his pockets, content to let Cas lead, both their steps and their conversation. He knows Cas will talk when he’s ready.
I can watch him, though, he thinks, and smiles inwardly. Cas had done as he’d been told, somewhat. He was wearing heavy boots, fleece-lined pants made of heavy canvas on the outside (Sam had bought him those, and Cas had protested rather loudly), a wool sweater over a long-sleeved t-shirt, wool mittens, a wool hat with a big blue pom-pom on the top…and his trench coat. Nothing and no one could make him wear a different coat.
Cas ducks to pass a low branch, and suddenly Dean is overcome with a fit of laughter.
Startled, Cas turns, asks, “Is something amusing?”
Dean gasps, in between barks of laughter, “I’m walking through the woods next to an ancient celestial being…with a pom-pom on his head.”
Scowling, Cas tears the hat off his head.
Dean sobers. “No, don’t do that. I’m sorry Cas. It was just bobbing around when you ducked under that branch, and…” He takes the hat from Cas and tugs it back onto his head. “There. We can be ridiculous together. See, I’ve got one too.” He shakes his head with a smile.
Sighing, Cas says, “Alright. Come on then, we’re nearly there.”
A few minutes later the trees, which had been tight all around and had made a broad canopy overhead, suddenly open up. They stand in an almost perfectly round clearing, about thirty yards across, bathed in moonlight. Cas switches off his flashlight and puts it in his pocket.
“Cas, this is…” Dean lets his voice trail off.
“I know,” Cas says.
Their eyes meet, and neither has to say anything else about it.
“I like to come here to stretch my wings,” Cas says in an offhanded tone, and Dean has to work to keep from gaping. Cas never really talks about his wings, especially not since they’ve become so damaged that he can no longer fly. “I can unfurl them in the bunker, but I worry about knocking things over. Here I can spread them wide and really stretch out my muscles.”
“I never even thought about that,” says Dean quietly. “I’m sorry, Cas. The bunker, there must be so much that’s–”
“No, Dean. I like living in the bunker, with you. And Sam.” After a heavy pause he turns and walks toward the opposite side of the clearing. “I made something.”
Curious, Dean follows. When he sees, he draws a breath. He’s been coming here all winter, and we had no idea, he thinks.
“Come. Sit,” Cas says, and Dean follows, sitting at the table Cas had carefully built out of ice and snow. A mound of snow, hollowed out underneath for their legs to fit, flat and nearly smooth on the top. Behind the hollowed out portion he’d built what was clearly meant to be long, low bench, just the right height for the table.
Dean can’t help but ask, with wonder in his voice, “When did you do this, Cas?”
“I come here at night. You know I do not need to sleep every night, and sometimes when I do…” He looks up at the moon, filling the clearing with silver brilliance. “I thought it might be difficult, living in the bunker. I’ve spent millennia with the cosmos as my backyard, how could I possibly live in a speck here on earth? But that adjustment was surprisingly easy. It’s the nightmares, Dean. The nightmares, and the guilt. Oftentimes when I wake up crying…or screaming…I come here.”
He wants to speak, to apologize for not knowing, for not helping, but he just listens.
Because finally–finally–Cas is talking.
He talks about pulling Dean out of hell: the demons he battled, the brothers and sisters he lost, the brightness of Dean’s soul pulling him ever onward. His eyes shine as he tries to put into words the elation he felt when he finally held Dean’s soul in his hands.
He tells of his rebellion, of the joy of free will coupled with the pain of disappointing, hurting, or sometimes even killing his brothers and sisters.
When he talks about his alliance with Crowley his eyes fill with pleading and pain.
When he tells Dean what it felt like to be full of souls from purgatory, to cast judgments upon heaven and earth, his eyes overflow. Soon the top of the snow table is pitted with holes from Cas’s tears.
He remembers letting the souls go, and being destroyed by leviathan.
The words keep coming and coming, sometimes in order, sometimes not. Purgatory. Naomi’s reprogramming. Killing Samandriel. Killing Dean, and killing Dean again and again. And then not killing Dean, the real Dean, and being free from Naomi. Metatron. The nephilim. The angels falling, falling, falling…
It’s as if something broke inside of Cas, letting all the words come out, and Dean knows all he can do is listen and hold on until the flood of words has passed. With a jolt he realizes he really is holding on: their mittened hands are clasped together. When did that happen? he wonders. He squeezes Cas’s hand. Cas stumbles over a word, startled, then squeezes back.
About the time Cas runs out of words, Dean begins to shiver.
Cas looks up, his eyes clear and bright. “Dean! You should have told me you were cold!”
Dean tries to laugh at being scolded, but it comes out as an odd braying noise through his chattering teeth. “Not important,” he says.
“But I can easily take care of this,” Cas says. “Ancient celestial being, remember?”
They’d been sitting close, but Cas scoots even closer to Dean, pulling all four of their hands onto their laps. “Lean forward, just a bit,” he says, and then there is the unmistakable sound of feathers rustling.
Dean whips his head around to see the blue-black flash as Cas’s wings unfurl, filling the space behind them. He’s never seen Cas’s wings this close before. The feathers are exquisite, each one inky black at the base slowly lightening to midnight blue at the ends, with just a hint of electric blue on the very edges. There are broken feathers, and gaps where feathers are just gone, but somehow the imperfection makes Cas even more beautiful. He’s caught up, staring, when Cas says, “Just hold still for a moment,” and suddenly those brilliant, majestic wings are suddenly wrapped around them, a cocoon of warm feathers.
“Cas, this is awesome!” He turns his head toward Cas and he is there, right there, their noses only separated by a breath, and he knew he’d been meaning to say something else but his mind had lost everything but blue eyes and feathers.
There is only the sound of their mingled breath for a long, long moment, then Cas says, “Are you warm now, Dean?”
Dean tries to answer, but his words get caught in his throat. Because suddenly he’s not warm, he’s hot, his skin prickling, his breath coming in gasps. Half of his mind says, But this is Cas, while the other half is screaming CasCasCas! He’s not sure which half he’s listening to when he closes his eyes and says, “I’m fine, Cas. Thank you.” His voice is raw and strained, and even with his eyes closed he can feel Cas’s confusion. He looks up, softening. “This is amazing. Absolutely the best blanket I’ve ever had. Beats goose down any day.”
Cas tries to keep his face serious but fails as he says, “Angel feathers are far superior to goose feathers.”
Dean grins back at him. “I’ll keep that in mind next time I’m shopping for a blanket for my bed.” The instant he says it he wants to take it back; his face burns with embarrassment. Quickly he says, “Cas. Next time you have a nightmare, you don’t have to go through it alone, okay? Wake me up. I’ll sit with you in your room, or in mine, or wherever you want. Even out here in the cold.”
“Thank you, Dean.” There is so much relief, not just in Cas’s voice but in his whole body. Even his wings tremble. “Thank you,” he says again. When the tension leaves his shoulders his head falls forward a fraction of an inch, and suddenly their foreheads are pressed together, and their noses, and it seems like the most natural thing, good and pure and right, when their lips crush together, too.
Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you
And grace tonight will pull us through
Until the tears have left your eyes
Until the fears can sleep at night
Until the demons that you’re scared of disappear inside
Until this guilt begins to crack
And the weight falls from your back
Oh, my dear, I’ll keep you in my arms tonight.
–from Oh My Dear
Tenth Avenue North
Inktober with the Bunker || Day 17: Wings