Human Perspective

the Good I have hidden thou didn't pass by

Dean was rather disappointed; and he shouldn't have been, in reality it was idiotic that he should be. He wasn't sure why he was disappointed, only that he was; and fuck, he could run himself in circles with this all night. But he stopped because Cas was there, looking at him. He came forward, hit the little button and reeled the target in from down range. It had a series of neat holes almost in perfect alignment down the center of the head, then the chest, and another line of neat, precise, almost aligned holes going from shoulder to shoulder. Cas ejected the clip from each hand gun and checked the chamber to make sure it was empty. He smiled at Dean as Dean inspected his marksmanship and took off his ear muffs.

“How did you even do this," Dean asked, awed and sad that he wouldn't be teaching Cas to shoot.

"Mathematics," Cas said proudly. "For the horizontal direction you use X=Vi*cos(theta)*t and for the vertical direction you use Y-Vi*sin(theta)*t - 1/2gt^2," and he stood there, obviously expecting praise when Dean didn't have the first fucking clue what Cas had just said. So, "Nice shooting," he tried, and Cas nodded, satisfied.

"I know," Cas said, fitting the handguns back into their cases. "It's all pretty simple when you understand propulsion." He shrugged, locked the cases up and Dean helped him put them away. "So can I go hunting now?" Cas asked him as they made their way back to the war room. "I do realize this delay in our departure was your way of making sure I wouldn't pose a liability to your efforts." Dean slapped him on the shoulder.

"Yeah, you can go hunting now, you can run and tell Sammy you passed," he told Cas with a smile.

"You think I haven't picked up on the insinuation I'm some sort of schoolchild earning grades and I need to run and tell someone the good news," Cas said. "It makes me want to break one of your kneecaps if I'm honest with myself," and Cas smiled at him pleasantly. Dean gave him a tight little smile but then Sam appeared and Cas grinned.

"I can go hunting now, Sam," Cas said and Dean rolled his eyes and wondered why he even bothered.

The good thing about having Cas on a hunt was he didn't scare easily. In fact he didn't scare at all; and while Sam and Dean both still occasionally jumped when things tried to eat them, Cas would very calmly start shooting. It was a pretty good asset. He was also a handy, walking, supernatural encyclopedia which threatened Sam's beloved laptop, and sometimes Sam would sulk off with said laptop so they could have some alone time. To say Cas was a know-it-all wasn't much of an exaggeration. Dean found once he showed Cas a task, just once, Cas learned it within the span of minutes, sometimes moments. This, of course, meant straightforward tasks: for things that took some creativity, like cooking, Cas was intuitive but not as quick. He often stood and watched Dean cook, asked a million questions and nosed in at any given occasion. He ate the raw ingredients, all the while asking how he could help.

“You could help by not eating these as I chop them up,” Dean would inform him. Cas would hurriedly stuff a few more into his mouth, apologize with his mouth full and stand back. “You're a freakin' menace,” Dean would inform him with a smile and Cas would stand there, looking unrepentant and shaggy with his messy hair and barely shaved face, and Dean would wonder why he even noticed those particular things. Dean wondered about this settled life he was living and how long it would last. And as it turned out, like most things good in his life, it didn't last.

It was a suicide that started it. They caught it on the evening news and then when it was re-showed the next morning on the local news in the motel near the Kentucky border. They'd come from a hunt, had stopped to spend the night, and the shower rotation had started. It was Sammy's turn and Dean was done so the only one left was Cas. While they packed up Dean had switched on the news and the story of the suicide began to play. Dean didn't pay much attention, doing a sweep to make sure nothing was left behind, but Cas had sunk down to sit on the end of the bed and give the screen his rapt attention. There was a young man, perched on the ledge of a bridge. He was screaming about wings, he was saying he could fly. Dean looked over when he heard what he thought was Enochian coming from the TV set, he looked over just in time to see the man jump. The camera, mercifully, didn't follow him all the way down. Cas leaned forward, pressed his fingertips to the screen.


“Cas, was it an angel?” Dean asked quietly.

Cas didn't say anything. He got up, switched the TV off and grabbed up the nearest bag, ducked out the door with it. Dean watched him go, a bit uneasy, finally grabbing up his own bag to follow. Cas stood next to the trunk and Dean came over, keyed it open and they both threw their bags in, then Dean shut it.

“No shower?” it was the only conversation started he had at the moment.

“Do I stink?” Cas said listlessly, but playing the game he knew was expected of him.
“No, man, no, look ...” Dean leaned back against the trunk, folded his arms. “We're gonna run into it, in fact I'm kind of surprised we haven't run into anyone yet. I just wonder what that's going to be like — for you mainly. I mean, will they even know? Would they know us? Would they know you on sight now that you're not connected anymore? I guess, Cas, I'm asking what you want to do about it?”

“What can I do about it? So I guess I don't want to think about it, and least of all want to talk about it,” Cas said, looking up at him finally.

“Don't tell Sammy I said so, but we could do that,” Dean offered. “You and I, we can not talk about it until the cows come home. I can't promise for Sam.”

“Understood,” Cas said, “and thank you.”

Sam chose that moment to yank the motel door open, towel around his waist, just to make sure the bastards hadn't left him there as a prank.

But then Cas started looking for them, despite what he said, and he tried to hide it from Dean. But there was only so much he could do; they both looked at the same papers, Dean could stroll by while he monitored any news program. The computer was usually shared among them (well Dean's was, Sam was very possessive of his laptop). Dean would look at him, a clear question in his eyes, but then he'd seem to remember a promise and so he wouldn't speak; and ultimately, as predicted, it was Sam who brought it up.

It was after dinner one night, sitting at the war table.

“Hey, Cas, these articles you keep creasing in the paper; do you think they are angels?” Sam asked, not knowing he was treading on a pact. “It sort of fits the MO, I guess. What's odd is some of them are people who've recently relocated, people who are new to a technical or teaching position, even one who was called out on false credentials for a mathematics job; if they are trying to fit in, then why suddenly kill themselves?”

“The void,” Cas said quietly and glanced at Dean. He never said he would hold Sam to the pact, and maybe it would be good to get some of it out. He watched both Sam and Dean wait for him to continue. It was his practice to withhold elaboration until it was asked for; it was his way of making sure they were interested in a topic and would pay attention.

“What void?” Sam asked and Dean bit down on his lips because he promised he wouldn't talk about it.

“The one in here,” Cas tapped his head, “the absolute silence. What you don't understand is angel radio was a continuous thing; whether I was participating in it or not, it ran in the background of my every moment. A friendly white noise I could join anytime; the thoughts and observations of my brothers and sisters. Now it's only silence. I know you have a hard time grasping the concept of what a hive mentality is like; I can speak from experience now that I'm a human, too. I suppose, after a bit, some of us can't cope with the isolation; and though we try, we are not cut out to be here. It was just a matter of time before these things surfaced.” Cas went quiet then, put his elbows on the table, pressed his hands together like a prayer and then rested his lips against them.

“There isn't anything we can do?” Sam asked. “Nothing at all? I mean you seem to be handling it pretty well; aren't you?”

“I've had more experience. I have for a while done without,” Cas said slowly.

“But maybe that's something you can teach,” Sam said. “Shouldn't we try to reach out to some of them? You've been actively looking for them.”

Cas was silent, it wasn't as if he didn't appreciate Sam's compassion, and he understood it; but why would any of them want help from him? How could he face them? What would he say? What could he offer? Here he had cursed them to this human existence; this body of flesh and blood, this miserable course; what could he possible do to make any of it better?

What he really knew, of course, is that he was a coward. What he knew is he would buckle under the weight of their looks and their words and he could only imagine the accusations; and they were right of course; he they fell on him and tore him limb from limb they were within their rights.

“Sam,” Dean said quietly and Cas looked at him then, looked at him because Dean knew. Dean always knew. Sam looked at his brother and Dean gave a slight shake of his head, so Sam retreated with his questions and an apologetic look which Cas could hardly bear, either.

After Sam was gone, Cas turned to Dean. “You shouldn't have stopped him,” he half-whispered.

“I'm not going to stand around and watch you drag yourself over the coals,” Dean told him. “It won't solve anything, it will just hurt you.”

“You forgive far to easily,” Cas said, hating the quaver in his voice. “And far too often, I wonder Dean, when you would ever hold me accountable.”

“If I'd found you dead, I would have held you accountable,” Dean said, looking off into the room and not directly at Cas. Cas felt his chest tighten, like it always did, when he had these particular moments with Dean.

Neither of them had anything more to say, but neither of them wanted to leave the others company; so this finally progressed into Dean fetching them both a beer and turning on the news.

Cas whipped the throwing knife down the range, hit the target right in the throat.

“Fuck,” Dean snarled. Sam just grinned.

“You act like you expected me to be less than proficient with a blade,” Cas snorted. “You do remember that a blade was my weapon of choice?”

Dean said nothing, gave him a dirty look, stepped up to take his turn. His grip was all wrong, and Cas cleared his throat loudly. Dean turned to look at him.

“Your using a blade-heavy knife,” Cas informed him, “so place your index finger, middle finger and ring finger center on the hilt, let your little finger just hang down the side, put your thumb directly on the other side of the handle.”

Dean tried this a moment, Cas came over to help him and Dean huffed and pulled the knife away and did it himself. Sam shook his head.

“Step forward when you throw,” Cas told him, looking at him very intently as if it was very important he teach this to Dean properly on the first go. “Don't be timid, throw it very hard, make sure your shoulder is facing the target.”

Dean was watching Cas now, nodding, and Sam was leaning against the stand. He gave Dean an encouraging thumbs up.

“You can do it, Dean,” Cas said urgently.

“Okay, quit going on about it, let me think,” Dean told him. “You're crowding me.”

“If you think about it too much, you'll hesitate and then you won't make a good throw,” Cas said, hoping back a step as if to give Dean room. “Throw it now, throw it hard!”

“Yeah, okay,” Dean said, looking very much under pressure. He eyed the target and wet his lips.

“What are you waiting for, your opponent has rushed you and stabbed you by now, you're dead!” Cas said, lifting and dropping his arms.

“Shut up,” Dean said, “I want to make sure I do it right, okay? Is that okay with you, I'm trying to do what you told me to, back off!”

Cas took a deep breath, took another step back and clenched his fists.

Dean threw the knife and it sailed way off target, hit the wall and clattered the ground. Both he and Cas just looked at it silently. Then Cas spoke.

“Don't despair, you have a lot of potential,” Cas said.

“You think I suck,” Dean returned. “I can just hear it in your voice, you think I suck at this.”

“No,” Cas said, “why would I think you suck at this? You just clearly have a bad stance and no ability to aim properly.”

“Here we go,” Dean said, “come on, this is just like when you thought I was supposed to automatically know how to use that coke machine with the billions of choices and no clear instructions.”

“I love that machine,” Sam said, “I love cherry Sprite.”

“Hey, you shut up,” Dean told him, “it's not a clear cut and dried experience, okay? And no one there was willing to give me any advice.”

“I was,” Cas said, “but you told me there would be no way I'd know how to work it, being something of an isolationist and hostile to changes to my funny little routine. That's a direct quote.”

“Rub it in, go ahead, both of you, rub that in,” Dean said. “The fact of the matter is I can never show my face in that Five Guys Burgers ever again.”

“It's a shame,” Sam said, “they are really good.”

“Sam and I think of you when we eat there without you,” Cas said.

“Nice,” Dean said, “thanks. Okay, lesson over for today.”

“But, Dean,” Cas appealed, “you haven't hit the target once. If you hit the target, Sam and I will go to Five Guys and get you a burger.”

“And an orange Sprite,” Sam promised.

“You know what, I don't need your pity,” Dean told them, “I make damn fine burgers on my own.”

“The have amazing fries,” Sam said, not to argue, but really, to argue. “You make good fries, too.”

“I think Dean's cooking is superior to any of the food we eat in establishments outside the bunker,” Cas said. “I prefer it and I'm always somewhat disappointed when we go out.”

Dean worked his jaw, stood there a moment, went to get the knife. “Okay, let's do this until I hit it at least once,” he told Cas as he went.

Sam shook his head, watching them all but spoon over knife throwing, and knew if they didn't kiss soon on their own, he'd make them.

Dean thought he was over waking to find Sam wandering the halls in the wee hours of the morning; but as it turned out, it was Cas. There was still a sleep debate: as in, Cas should do it, once a day, for a few hours at a stretch. Dean had exacted that promise out of him during the fight to make Cas less self-destructive. Cas had then dutifully complied, and usually went to bed at the same time Dean did, and, as far as Dean could tell, got up about the same time. But something had disturbed Cas' routine. Cas made routine an art form; Sam had pointed out it was probably a way of coping for Cas, to find comfort in something or another than Sam spouted off about in a touchy-feely way that Dean never quite got. When Dean opened the door on him around 3 am, Cas looked startled. He stood there, guilty, caught and watched Dean's face anxiously, looking like he was braced for the inevitable question; so Dean asked it. “Cas, why the hell are you up?”

Cas didn't look to be forthcoming. He said, “I can't sleep,” as if that somehow would make Dean dismiss it. Dean was tired and he almost wanted to let Cas get away with it; but then he couldn't.

“Why not?” Dean said tiredly, “what's wrong? And be straight with me and don't make me play twenty stupid questions with you, ok? Can't you tell by now I can look at you and tell when you're lying? You are really, really bad at lying, Cas.”

That made Cas clearly unhappy, it was written all over the top of whatever was bothering him to begin with and Dean groaned and leaned his head against the door frame. “Oh no, Cas, come on, just talk to me man, don't look at me like that, you know I hate that. You want me to make you something?” Offering to cook for either of them at a moments notice was always Dean's fall back comfort strategy, it sometimes worked, but then Sam complained of gaining weight. “I dunno, want some warm milk or something like that? That is supposed to help people sleep?”

Cas said nothing. Instead he stood there looking at the floor like a child waiting to be scolded. It had a very devastating effect on Dean's need to mother everything in sight. “Okay, come here,” Dean said. He reached out and took Cas' arm and Cas looked surprised but didn't resist and Dean brought Cas into his room and over and sat him there on the side of his bed. Then Dean sat down beside him and rubbed his own face, and then put on what he thought was his best, patient 'I'm listening' face and looked at Cas.

“I'm not sure what's expected of me in this situation,” Cas said, looking around the room slowly, or what he could see of it in the dark. “The fact of the matter is, I can't sleep, and that is all I have to offer.”

“No, no, no,” Dean said, “the correct answer is I can't sleep because of reasons. Then you give me the reason, like ... clowns will get me, that was always one of Sammy's favorite ones; or, I'm having nightmares, which I'm going to go out on a limb as to say that could be yours.”

Cas turned his head away, tightened up his hands into fist and broadcast Dean's correctness so loudly it should have woken Sam up down the hall. “I don't ... I am not ... I have never,” Cas said, and then sucked his lower lip in hard and flared his nostrils and bowed his head.

“You're human now, dude, you're gonna have nightmares,” Dean said. “Hell, with some of the shit we've been through I'm amazed we sleep at all. It's a helluva thing.” Cas started to get up, but Dean grabbed his arm and made him sit again. “Don't start that again,” Dean warned. “Don't start that I'm better than sleep and food and shitting stuff again. Because you're not. Yeah, you use to be, but now, you're not. You're just like the rest of us. Feeling like shit, nightmares, stubbed toes, hang nails, pop music, we all got to suffer it. You learn to deal with it; it seems bad, but you can deal with it. I'm here. Cas, Sam is here. Cas, we've told you over and over, come to us, talk to us. Fuck your humiliation bullshit, it's not humiliating if you don't know how to do it in the first place. Come on, Cas, it's just me, loosen up here, talk to me.”

Cas looked as if he was going to remain tight-lipped, but then he twitched a little, around the edges, and let go a breath. “I don't know why I would do this, is it guilt?” Cas said, giving Dean the look that said 'you know how to human, explain this'.

“Yeah, yeah, probably,” Dean said. “I mean I dream about people that have died and ... things, so, good, that's good, see you're getting the hang of it.”

“I don't want the hang of it,” Cas said, honestly, painfully, then closed his eyes. “I suppose that attitude isn't acceptable,” he continued quietly. “I'm sorry, Dean, but it's the way ... I feel.” And he looked up at Dean, gave him a little shrug, and Dean remembered a little shrug he gave to Satan after lying to his face about throwing molotov cocktails.

“You think I don't get it, Cas, but I do,” Dean returned. “It sucks and until we find some way to fix it, it's going to keep sucking. I wish I could do more, but, such as it is, we're keeping you alive, and fairly sane.” Then Dean gave him a small smile.

“I am eminently grateful,” Cas said, looking mostly at Dean's chin. “I know perhaps my actions speak otherwise, but there is nothing ...” and he collected himself a moment, “or no one that I know, here or in heaven, that would have given me more. Especially after what I've done. The fact you even worried about me; looked for me.” He looked away again, twisted his hands together. “I think in my own opinion you show more compassion then even those of us that were supposed to watch over you. You and Sam, what I did to Sam,” he stopped then, looked down again, went silent. Dean didn't realize he'd thrown his arm over him until he did, and since he'd done it, he just tugged Cas against his side. After a little bit he leaned his cheek against the side of Cas' bowed head and they just sat there for a while, in silence. Dean even rubbed Cas' arm a little, and Cas made a little hitching sound.

“This human emotion stuff is tough, isn't it,” Dean finally asked, very quietly.

“Yes,” Cas replied, just as quiet, sounding a little wet.

“I don't know if I should be saying it will be okay to you, since you don't want to get acclimated to the condition,” Dean said, then kissed the side of Cas' head without really thinking about it, “but I'll say it anyways. It's gonna be okay.”

Cas leaned into him hard then, and they sat there the rest of the night.

The bleeding was sluggish and it wouldn't stop. He kept pressure against it, a wadded up t-shirt similar to the way Sam bandaged his arm that while ago. Dean looked at him, coughed, winced. “Is it bad?” he asked and Cas had no way to tell him. Not like before when he simply laid a hand on Dean and all bleeding stopped, all pain stopped, he just flooded Dean with grace and made him whole again. His stomach clenched and he forced himself to speak.

“Don't move around, it will be okay, Sam went to get the car,” he just repeated to Dean what Sam told him and felt pointless, helpless and feeble. “You shouldn't try to take on these things yourself,” Cas said, haltingly, “you can't be so reckless when I can't ... you know that, you know that now Dean, you can't.”

Dean patted his arm, trying to comfort him, and Cas' stomach rolled. He had to learn to keep his stupid mouth shut.

“It's okay,” Dean said solely for his reassurance, Cas knew, “you got it.” Then Dean grinned that grin at him, and Cas felt selfish and small and bleak, but he stowed his crap; Dean needed him. Instead he did what Dean did: he used bravado. “And it got you, idiot.” But there was little conviction in his words and Dean half-laughed, half-groaned. Cas moved to lift Dean's head onto his knees, keeping the shirt against his shoulder. Dean looked up at him and kept smiling. Cas tried to smile back but wasn't sure of the results, so he stopped trying.

“Maybe I did it so you'll take care of me,” Dean told him.

“Don't say stupid things,” Cas warned him. “This isn't funny, Dean.”

“I'm hilarious,” Dean reminded him, “I see you trying not to laugh sometimes. I'm adorable, too.”

You're beautiful, Cas thought.

“If I die, take care of Sammy,” Dean said, giving him his best pout.

“You're not going to die, why are you even saying any of this?” Cas said. “Can't you be concerned with yourself for once?”

“Kiss me, it will make me feel better, might even make you feel better,” Dean told him.

Dean Winchester is saved, he heard, in his memories of a time when his head was always filled with sound.

“You're an idiot,” Cas reminded him, then leant down as far as he could with Dean in his lap and Dean pressed up to meet him. They only pulled apart when they heard the Impala, coming closer to take them home.

Dean was on bed rest. He was lousy at it, he constantly got up, asked for things, complained about anything he could find to complain about. Sam grabbed a pillow and attempted to smother him; at least that is what it looked like but Cas realized it was a jest just in time. It would have been awkward to have to fight with Sam. Both brothers snorted and glared at each other.

“Quit being a pain in the ass,” Sam told Dean, “it isn't cute, no one here wants to fawn over you.”

“Cas will fawn over me, won't you, Cas?” Dean asked him, having caught sight of him leaning in the doorway.

Cas felt confused, and it showed, because Sam snorted and pulled a face. “Don't listen to him Cas, he's a jerk.”

“I'm injured, wait on me hand and foot ,Sammy.” Dean grabbed his brother's sleeve with his uninjured arm and Sam yanked his sleeve away. Cas just watched them being so easy with each other and teasing, knowing each other so well. Dean tried to include him again.

“Cas, make me a sandwich,” Dean asked him, grinning, and Sam gave up, rolled his eyes and had had enough. He moved to leave the room.

“Don't let him boss you around, Cas,” Sam said as he went, “he'll milk that 'I'm injured' thing forever if you let him.”

“Ham and cheese sandwich, Cas,” Dean said and gave a mock-pout. “And potato chips, not the regular kind, the salt and vinegar kind. Sam hides them in the very top cabinet over the ovens but you can use a stool to get to them.”

It was annoying how Dean told him this as if he'd obey. It was even more annoying he was willing to obey: to go and do this menial task just because Dean wanted him to. Then he remembered, the kitchen was downstairs.

“There are stairs,” he intoned and squinted at Dean. The squint was meant to be intimidating, but Dean never seemed to take this hint.

“Oh my fuck, Cas, yes, there are, are you still resenting the hell out of stairs?” Dean asked.

Yes, he was, not that it was any of Dean's business. Stairs were taxing. He had to lift his foot instead of just shuffle along. He'd already come up them once, helping Sam carry Dean to his room, and now he didn't feel the need to traverse them again; especially not because Dean wanted a sandwich. And Dean probably only wanted to see if he could make Cas make him a sandwich. No, there were stairs, he wasn't interested. If it was his choice he would stay upstairs all the time and they could move the kitchen up there, then the bunker would be perfect.

“You're going to let me starve because your lazy ass hates stairs,” Dean stated. “You're not starving, don't exaggerate, it's irritating,” Cas told him.

“I took you out to shoot at things like you wanted and I got injured,” Dean said, dragging out the last syllable of the word injured, as if somehow that made his condition worse.

“I know,” Cas said, “I was there. You didn't have to take me, in fact you made me go, I wanted to stay in bed under the coverlet. I don't remember you being this annoying in the past. What has changed?”

“You kissed me,” Dean sighed. “You kissed me and therefore you're supposed to have more pity on me when I'm injured.” And he did the syllable dragging again and Cas squinted harder.

“Then I won't kiss you anymore, if that's the requirement,” Cas informed him and left the room.

Cas had determined that for the duration of Dean's annoying new habits, like kissing, he'd be inaccessible, and he took to locking himself in his room — again.

“This is an excuse,” Dean yelled through the door, “it's an excuse not to come downstairs and join the world just like the fucking stairs used to be an excuse! Like you try to keep using the fucking stairs as an excuse! Dammit, Cas, come and talk to me. I won't kiss you anymore, fuck, I was reading too much into that, I guess. I mean, I thought you wanted me to kiss you, you used to stare at me like you wanted me to just grab you and kiss the everloving fuck out of you, then fuck it back in you. What am I supposed to know? I thought now that we were on more even footing, maybe we should try that out. I wanted to try that out while you had mojo too, you dick, just so you don't take my acting on it now as some sort of thing about how fucking shallow I am or something; I don't know why people say that shit to me. Are you listening to me?” Dean pounded on the door again for good measure.

The door jerked open and Cas glared at him and said, “I can't have you, please stop presenting yourself in a manner which suggests I could.”

Dean didn't know what the hell to say to that.

“I regret 'stringing you along', and I hope that is the right terminology, I researched it on Sam's iPad,” Cas continued. “I enjoyed the kissing, but it's not permitted. I can't have you, I hope you respect my requests and discontinue any signs of flirtation and affection directed at me in hopes of reciprocation. It is hard not to reciprocate when you give me that sort of attention; because I want it, but I can't have it.” Cas stopped then; his eyes were on Dean's lips.

You're saying you want me to kiss you but I can't because you can't have me? This makes sense how?” Dean questioned finally. “You're looking at my fucking lips,” he said, and he leaned forward. Cas jerked back and slammed the door in his face.

“No way, angel,” Dean pounded on the door again and Cas jerked it open and stepped on his foot hard and when Dean howled and hopped back Cas glared at him some more.

“No only am I not allowed to have you, you are not to call me that ever again,” and Cas snorted loudly but looked less sure of himself. “Do you not understand that I am responsible for the destruction of my kind? The only thing I am allowing is that I let myself live in this pitiful state until some redemption is extracted from me. I would do penance but it's impossible to do it properly in this pitiful shell, I will kill it and therefore rob myself of any way to redeem myself. So I have to do what you have taught me to do to live. But, I can't enjoy this thing I have been reduced to, I can't let this body want you; and it does and I don't know how to stop it. So please, Dean, don't tempt me. Don't come to me and kiss me and say ... the things you were saying outside this door. It's just better if we maintain a clinical detachment. It was much easier before all this ... emotion was inside me.” And Cas looked at Dean like Dean should just roll over and surrender to this.

“What a bunch of bullshit,” Dean told him. “Man, have you got your wires crossed. Are you saying you didn't want any of this when you were an angel?” Dean made a vague gesture at himself. “And besides that, I call bullshit on you being the 'destroyer of your kind',” and Dean did air quotes, as Cas had done to him in the past. “The last time I looked, your kind did a pretty good job of destroying themselves. All the fucking backstabbing and corruption that was going on, hell, Cas, you were the only good thing to come out of heaven in my experience. Maybe a few others, but the point of the matter is I don't care what level of involvement you had, this is Not. On. You.” And he moved back close enough to poke Cas in the shoulder with each word for emphasis.

“I will not allow you to give me excuses, isn't that what you were preaching out here not five minutes ago? I will not allow you to absolve me and defend me like you always do, I won't allow that this time, Dean,” Cas said, clenching his fists at his sides. “You make me think I am invincible and this is what it has brought me,” and now his face flushed and his eyes got bright and Cas was shaking and Dean felt this had been coming and he needed to get it out. Other than the one night of screaming, which had been horrible, and after which they'd sat on the floor under a blanket, Cas hadn't really said much about the situation, or shown much emotion. Dean figured there was a time and place, maybe it should be here and now.

“I don't remember where you get to tell me what I think,” Dean told him, narrowing his eyes. “I do remember the part where you can be a fucking petulant child about every fucking thing in existence, and that includes playing god. This time you didn't make the play, you were a victim just like all the other victims. Get it through your head: Metatron saw that and used you for this end. You know, I even feel this is kind of my fault for just shoving you out there after you took the fucking tablet and did your little run away shit. Fuck, Cas, just fuck it all. I'm tired of it always being your fault and I'm tired of these dicks always finding a way to get to you. You're human now, I'm human now, it's time for you to trust me. And that's implicitly, I've fucking earned it.”

“This is what I'm talking about,” Cas half-shouted. “I was not put here for your kindly intervention; I am not here to make you feel better about yourself because you are finding a way for me to be free of my sins! They are my sins, you don't get to take ownership just as I don't get to tell you how to feel about them! I don't need you to shoulder this for me, if maybe you'd let me be something other than what you perceive, an angel, I would have come to a messy conclusion on this planet long ago and spared everyone some grief!”

“Not my grief,” Dean screamed back then and it was a stand-off, and they stared at each other and Cas retreated into the room and slammed the door. Dean just stood there, breathing and shaking and feeling shit he couldn't describe. He kicked the door, slammed both fists into it.“Fuck you, angel angel angel,” he screamed letting it bounce off the walls of the hallway, knowing Sam has heard everything. He shoved away then, strode down the hall, down the stairs, grabbed the paper off the table and back up the stairs, then he thew himself into a seated position there in front of the door, opened the paper and began to read the sports section out loud.

At least food left outside the door was eaten. Sam wasn't sure when any other necessities were taken care of: presumably in the wee hours of the morning after careful monitoring of the situation outside the door. This couldn't go on, mostly for the good of his own sanity. It'd been nearly a week. He knocked on Cas' door.

“Cas, it's not Dean,” he announced himself. “Will you talk to me face to face? Dean went out to get things. Please, Cas? I'm forgetting what you look like.”

“You are Dean's advocate, intentional or not,” Cas said tiredly from the other side of the door.

“Yeah, okay, I get that, but you know what? I'm worried about you, too. Cas, you can't keep on with this, you can't just shut yourself up in that room until what? What is going to happen if you just stay in there? It makes no sense. Fine, you told Dean to fuck off, he'll respect that eventually but not if you keep hiding in that room and never making it real to him. He can't see you so he can't see you mean it.” Sam sighed and leaned on the wall beside the door. Then the door opened, slowly, and Cas looked out at him. It wasn't a look that said he meant it, and his eyes searched Sam's face as if expecting answers and then dropping when he found none.

“You should tell me to leave,” Cas said. “I shouldn't have to be told, I should just leave. Don't start your endless protests,” Cas looked tired now, and he just leaned his whole body into the door. “I have no resolution that will satisfy Dean. He is determined to wear me down. He is a hateful and loving tyrant and I just... can't steel myself against him like I could in the past. I am in every sense his prisoner, voluntary or not and even if I leave, it won't change. Hester was right: the moment I laid hand on him in hell, I was lost.”

“It shouldn't be a bad thing,” Sam said, throat thick, “for either of you. Cas, instead of looking at this as your punishment, why can't you look for a way out? Look for something you can do instead of just tracking back over what you can't do over and over. That isn't a road to redemption, it's a way to punish yourself that no one wants or cares about. If this is all about you, then how can you ever make it right? Keeping yourself locked up, either here or elsewhere, that solves nothing. It just makes you someone to pity.”

Cas made an inarticulate noise in his throat and he looked like his knees might give out. And he just looked at Sam as if somehow Sam could end it all, or end him and it didn't look like he cared which option Sam took. They both heard the door open then, both looked toward the sound of footsteps downstairs.

“Sam?” Dean called.

“It's your choice, Cas, it's free will and I'm sorry,” Sam said. “Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it sucks, but in the end, whatever choice you make? It's yours and you can live with it. Ever since you came to us, Cas, ever since you rebelled, you still haven't grasped it. You have still looked for orders from somewhere and you look at everyone except yourself. You only thought you knew free will, but you still have no clue.”

They could hear Dean at the foot of the stairs now. “Sammy, you up there?” he called.

“Stay, go, be with him, don't be with him, that Cas, that is what is actually on you.” Sam turned then, called out to his brother, “Yeah, I'm up here ... talking to Cas.”

A simple betrayal, Cas crumbled with it, looked at him like he should be ashamed. The sound of Dean half-running up the stairs startled them both and then he was on the landing and he immediately schooled himself, dared either of them to comment on the rush. Cas took a step back, shut his door and Sam scrambled out of Dean's way, Dean's fury, Dean's fists and feet against the door. And he stood there panting and Sam knew better than to say anything, he just went away.

They were going to hurt each other, they were hurting each other, they were never going to be with anyone else again, and that ... that hurt Sam.

It was 2:14 am, and he couldn't sleep. He took his pillow, his blanket, he propped the pillow against a door, he sat and leaned back against it, he put his blanket over his legs and he pressed his ear to the door. He could hear him, there on the other side. His movement roused him, he could hear him shift.

“That can't be restful,” Cas said, pulling the blanket between his hands. “You'll have a sore neck.”

“What do you care?” Dean said from the other side of the door.

“Enough to mention it,” Cas said, pulling the blanket through his hands, around and around and around he'd go; like he did every night, when he knew Dean was in the hall. Usually he just stayed on the bed, and usually Dean eventually went away and they didn't exchange words. But he betrayed this silence today, he'd spoken to Sam and it made Cas regress to the first few days he'd barricaded himself in his room. They'd both grown friendly with it over the week, but now it was raw again. Now, there was talk.

“I'll leave,” Cas said.

“I'll break your fucking legs,” Dean threatened. He didn't mean it. “No,” he amended, “I'll follow you.”

Cas was more comfortable with this, despite the threats. Dean wasn't insisting he come out. There could still be this barrier between what Cas was and what Cas wanted. But it was starting to blur. He should have never spoken to Sam. Sam was poison to him because Sam's words carried weight and they'd added to Cas' own heavy words and he was getting tired of holding them all; it was just a matter of what he decided he must let go.

“What do you want from me?” Cas asked, wondering what he'll do with the answer he'd get.

“Everything and nothing,” Dean said, “because I don't know what to want from you.” Cas leaned there and knew he is lost, all over again. If Dean's answer had been some glib assurance, some bravado; it would have been easy to turn away. But Dean wasn't playing fair, he didn't know how; Dean was being honest. Cas reached above him, turned the knob and heard the lock pop. He heard Dean move on the other side of the door and he slid himself on the floor because his door opened inward. After a moment, slowly, almost cautiously, it did swing inward, and Dean was there, on his knees in the hallway.

He was devastating to look at.

Dean didn't move into the room, he just sat there on his knees, looking at Cas through the doorway. Cas was pulling his blanket through his hand again, around and around the edges, working it slowly in a circle. He liked the feel of this blanket, he liked the snags and little fuzzy pills that clung to it's surface. He liked it's waffle pattern, he even liked its color. He wasn't sure these details mattered, but he liked them. When Dean moved, he crawled forward, he came up to where Cas was still sitting on the floor and he sat on his ass, too. Cas stopped turning the blanket now, looks at his hands holding it instead.

“What changed your mind?” Dean asked. “It wasn't me.”

“I did,” Cas said. “I changed my mind. It's allowed.”

“So what are we doing to do about it?” Dean questioned, picking at the edge of Cas' favorite blanket.

“We are not going to do anything about it. I'm going to do something about it. I'm going to go and find out what I am supposed to be doing about it. You are going to drive me and bury me if I die doing it,” Cas told him.

Dean made one of his faces, his nose twitchy, lip curling, eye rolling faces.

“So what's in this for me?” he said, snorting, finally looking at Cas directly.

“I need you,” Cas said, then went quiet as Dean tugged on the blanket. Cas didn't relinquish his hold on it, so he was pulled inevitably forward, and when Dean put his arms around him, he found that he was found.

They were still hunters; and so they hunted. On most hunts, Cas chose to go, on some hunts he didn't. He weighed the options with great care (causing Dean to huff and gripe they had to play a billion questions before leaving), he had his own scale of severity. One day, before Sam and Dean left and left him there alone with his coffee and sandwiches and TV and papers to read; Sam asked him if he might like a job of cataloging one of the many rooms of the bunker. It was underutilized, this vast wealth of knowledge, maybe Cas could make more sense of it than he could. Maybe what Cas was looking for was already here somewhere. Dean didn't want to take the time to research; he was as he ever was: hands on. So Cas agreed and the brothers left and he picked a room and took the first box from the shelf.

Dean found him because he was Dean's first priority when he wasn't part of the group. He was surrounded by small stacks, organized in a way he knew, and paper and pencils and sketches and volumes written in explanation and he was holding in his hands links from a rusty chain and when Dean came in and Cas saw him he lit up and he smiled and he said, “I was on this detail!”

“Have you eaten?” Because Dean saw no plates or glasses and he and Sam had been gone almost three days and Cas was forgetful and it looked like he'd been busy.

“I don't know,” Cas said, and Dean knew this was true because Cas could get so mono-focused it could be frightening, “but look ... King Herod was holding Peter in prison. I was on the detail, as back-up. I watched the whole thing.” Cas ran his fingers over the links and looked up again at Dean, very pleased with himself.

“That's great, Cas, let's get a sandwich,” Dean said, worriedly.

“There was a lot of speculation about theological significance afterward,” Cas continued on, “this is written in the Book of Acts. The theme of that particular book was that Christ's servants follow in His footsteps. It is argued that the events of the chapter recapitulate the resurrection of Jesus. There was also Rhoda's message to Luke, but most of the disciples refused to believe the news of the resurrection brought by a group of women,” Cas sighed then, looked a little sad.

“Sandwich,” Dean said again, cheerfully.

“I appreciate your concern,” Cas snapped, “I am trying to impart some history here,” he shook the chain. “I was here, I was part of this, it's written in your bible. It's part of who I am and I don't want to lose it, please listen to me, Dean! I am not ... a child you have to care for! I have weight now, I have no wings, I have to do something.” He let the chain slip to the floor.

Dean was so not cut out for this. Cas was sometimes so beyond his ability to comfort because he felt he lacked the words and the knowledge needed to make Cas feel better. Sam was better at it, but Sam insisted that the between the two of them, the one that would mend Cas was Dean, himself. But Dean didn't see it. But Dean sank to his knees there, in front of him, picked the chain up.

“Why uh, why did Herod have him in prison?” Dean asked.

“It doesn't matter,” Cas said, snatched the chain from his hands, put it in a box next to him.

“Wait, five seconds ago it mattered, it was in the bible, come on, Cas,” Dean said. “I'm trying here, ok? I do want to listen,” but he sat there on his knees not knowing what more to say. See, Sam? You'd be so much better at this.

Cas looked at him, drew a breath. “Now about the time Herod the King stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. Then were the days of unleavened bread,” then Cas went quiet and looked at him.

“Uh, that was the bible? You got that memorized, huh?” Dean said. “Reading your own press,” and he gave Cas a little smile that faltered when Cas didn't smile back.

“He saw the disciples as a political attack on the church, not a religious one. There were two factions ... this is really not necessary to go into with you. It's not something you'll take away from the conversation,” Cas said flatly.

“I'm sorry I'm not book-smart,” Dean said and got up. “Don't starve to death, okay?”

Cas looked up at him, watched him a moment, dropped his eyes. Dean felt helpless to connect with him, it was like the closer they were the more they found out what they didn't know before; they were not that much alike.

“What's happening?” Cas asked, still not looking at him. “Where are you going, Dean?”

“What do you mean, I'm just going to take a shower,” Dean responded, stomach tightening because in this moment, he knew Cas felt it, too. So if they connected but they couldn't connect, what then? What happened now? How could he put his angel back together again?

Cas made a helpless gesture, nodded his head. “You must be tired, I take it the hunt was good?”

“If you mean did Sammy and I kill things? Yeah, it was good,” Dean said, lingering now. “I am tired,” he confessed. “Worried about you not eating, too, okay?” he challenged.

Cas just bowed his head. “I'm sorry,” he offered. That was not what Dean was looking for, it was not an apology he wants from Cas, it was ... it was participation in life and Cas was trying, Dean knew he was. He was stumbling around looking for a way to fit in and it was heartbreaking and Dean sometimes just wanted to somehow pry it out of himself and put it in Cas. Human grace: if Dean had it to give up, he would, he'd pry his out and put it in Cas and let Cas live. He didn't know why it was so hard and he did; he didn't know what to do, how do you make an angel human? How could it possibly compare? He didn't know why Cas needed him. But Cas got up then, came over, rubbed Dean's sleeve and walked past him out of the room.

Dean turned to follow him, watched Cas go into the kitchen, and, after a moment, Dean went upstairs to shower.

Sam leaned his head into the doorway of Dean's room, he said goodnight and Dean waved at him. Later, Cas came into his room, crawled into bed with him and lay with his head on Dean's stomach. It was just something he did. And Dean flopped his hand onto Cas' head, tugged his hair, rubbed his scalp: it was just something Dean did.

“And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones,” Cas whispered against his stomach.

“Why are you so morbid?” Dean asked, pulling at the short, dark strands between his fingers.

“Because you are so mortal,” Cas answered. “If it's graphic, you understand it better. Also, you're book-smart and you're beautiful.”

“Shut up,” Dean whispered. “First book of Kings, chapter 13, verse 31. How about verse 22? So you drank the water and ate the bread in the place the lord told you not to? I didn't know our kitchen was so important.”

“See, book-smart,” Cas said, pressing his nose against Dean's stomach.

“I have to keep up with you,” Dean replied, eyes closing, stomach tightening.

“There isn't much to keep up with,” Cas said, “I don't know what I'm to do.”

“Holy tax accountant,” Dean answered him, “you got the look down.”

“Salesman of advertising on AM radio,” Cas said with a bitter half-laugh, his fingers drew circles against Dean's side. “When I do get back to heaven, Jimmy is going to kick my ass,” he sighed.

“There's a cable show about that, advertising, it's called Mad Men, sort of works for us,” Dean said, eyes closed, head rubbing in full swing now.

“You try to line your life up by TV shows,” Cas said testily, “I don't understand why, you're so much more interesting.”

“It helps me keep track,” Dean told him, finding Cas' earlobe and rubbing that, too. “If I'm lucky I will see how this all works out in the end. It's like a guidebook.”

“Then where do I fit in? Do you have me in this line up of life on television?” Cas asked. “I'm surprised I'm honestly curious.”

Dean was quiet for a long moment, then he sputtered a laugh and tugged on Cas' hair. “Roma Downey,” he said grinning at the ceiling.

“Who is that?” Cas asked because Dean knew that Cas was still a TV infant. In fact, Cas wanted to watch the same five episodes of Star Trek over and over lately and made mumbled whining protests when asked to move on.

“Touched by an angel,” Dean's voice was full of wicked intent. “Only wow, I need to get you off that Roma Downey image, she is pretty much the girl next door.”

“That reference suggests wholesomeness and good values,” Cas said, “why am I not a good choice for that? No, maybe you shouldn't answer that,” Cas said after another moment.

“It's not that,” Dean said, “what I need to do is line you up with an image I'd fuck through a mattress. That's what I need to do.”

“You don't need an image for that,” Cas said, “just do it.”

“No,” Dean said, “you're not human enough yet: you think you are, but you're not.”

“Why do you get to be the judge of that?” Cas asked, irritation plain. “I can watch all the porn you require. I don't understand this hesitation, I'm not innocent of the act, Dean.”

“Just the fact you had to tell me that means you are,” Dean sighed. “Don't worry, when it comes it will come like a freight train and I will pin you to something and I will make you see god, trust me.”

“I have a feeling this is all bravado,” Cas grumbled, a finger now investigating Dean's belly button through his shirt, “are you nervous?”

“No, I'm going to do this right,” and then Dean shoved Cas' head off his stomach. “Go sulk in your room.”

And Cas left to do just that.

“And I commanded you at the time all the things which ye should do,” Cas yelled across the alley. Dean flipped him a bird from the other side.

“Deuteronomy, chapter 1, verse 18, stick it up your ass, Cas!” Dean yelled back. The new game was 'is this bible quote relevant?' and they both played it very religiously. Sam rolled his eyes at himself.

“Then why didn't you do what I told you to do?” Cas yelled back.

“Maybe because you're full of shit,” Dean bellowed.

“Maybe,” Sam interjected, “you could stop all this foreplay until we find the Banshee again? If you two lovebirds hadn't been squabbling she wouldn't have gotten the drop on us and our ears wouldn't have been ringing for the last thirty minutes.”

“Shut up, Sam,” Dean and Cas said in unison, both glaring at him now.

“Cas was supposed to be covering the back of the building,” Dean said. “So, have a chat with Cas about how we lost her.”

“Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor,” Cas huffed.

“We're still in Deuteronomy, we've moved to chapter 5, verse 18 yet again,” Dean informed Sam.

“I just want you to know what fucked-up foreplay this actually is,” Sam said.

“It's not foreplay, we're not fucking,” Dean told his brother.

“I don't know why not,” Cas added, “I told him I would be a willing participant in any carnal event he wished to have, preferably with just me, but I'm not opposed to other suggestions.”

“Stop,” Sam yelled himself. “I don't want details, the both of you do this shit on purpose, I swear!”

“What you're not proud of me for not jumping the angel until I felt he was really ready?” Dean said. “I thought that would get fucking brownie points from you at least!”

“The angel is ready,” Cas informed them from across the alley. “It's the hunter cock-blocking himself.”

“Who taught you that word?” Dean yelled across the alley.

“We have to have this discussion now? We have to have this discussion at all?” Sam stressed. “I'm not here to be your referee or your therapist or whatever you two are looking for, can we leave me out of it?”

“And all the people shall hear and fear and do no more presumptuously,” Cas snarled at them.

“Get out of Deuteronomy, you're obsessed with it.” Dean shook his fist, “Chapter 17 ... uh, verse—” He stopped to think.

“Verse?” Cas said loudly, “The countdown has started, you only get two tries!” Sam threw his hands up, got up and walked away. Dean looked at Cas, gestured after Sam. “Look what you did,” he told him.

“No stalling or distraction tactics,” Cas said, unmoved. “Verse?”

“11,” Dean said.

“Wrong,” Cas smiled.

Then Dean got up and went after Sam, so Cas got up and went after Dean.

“I don't know why were are hunting a banshee in the first place,” Cas said, at the rear of the little group. “They're harmless as far as spirits go; they only wail to warn of an approaching death, they don't cause them.”

“Technically we can't kill her, she's already dead,” Sam said, “but we can send her over. This one has supposedly been around for generations with the O'Grady family. It was actually a request of the ancestor who moved here and brought the banshee with him. He thinks it's the spirit of one of his long ago relatives that died in childbirth.”

“13!” Dean suddenly said, and looked triumphant.

“That took way too long, penalty,” Cas said.

Sam swore Dean and Cas looked like they were about to have a slap fight.

“I'm glad you guys are taking this so seriously,” Sam told them.

“I was also upright before him, and kept myself from mine iniquity,” Dean said, and gave Sam a pout.

“That's book of Samuel,” Cas told Sam, “Chapter 22, verse 24. Dean remembers all the iniquity verses. I think he's using the book of Samuel to poke at you,” and Cas gave Sam that head dip and eyebrow lift he did when he though he was pointing out something obvious that had been missed.

Sam opened his mouth to reply, but a strange loud wailing came out instead, then they realized that it wasn't Sam wailing and their quarry was nearby.

The trap of choice was Enochian. Cas still knew spells and invocations, conjurations and exorcisms. The seats of power might be vacant, but the magics still worked. It was handy when a body to burn wasn't forthcoming. Done and done, it was a little late for a drive back home, so they decided on a small motel with a diner attached to spend the night. They checked into the room and headed over to the diner, comfortable in silence for the moment. Cas slid into the booth beside Dean and Sam slid all the way into the corner of his bench seat and slung his leg up on it. They were tired and they felt accomplished. Dean gave Cas the laminated menu from behind the napkin holder, but he needn't have bothered. Cas just copied his order and they all still felt they had nothing to say.

Sam was the one to finally break the spell.

“Why do you guys play that bible verse game all the time now?” he asked, smiling up at the waitress when she brought them coffee and glasses of water. “You got to have a good memory to keep up with Cas,” Sam told Dean.

“I'm book-smart,” Dean said with a little smile and Cas looked pleased and turned to look around the diner. A woman came in, the little door bell chimed and she came over to the counter and stood near the register, waiting to be noticed. She looked over at the three of them sitting and waiting on their food and she tilted her head and hugged a sweater she was wearing around her tighter. The waitress came to take her order and she mumbled it, paid in wadded bills and stood there to wait. Dean finally looked at her. She was wearing things that didn't fit her well, like a pair of old tennis shoes, and while he checked her out, she kept looking over at them, looking at Cas specifically.

“She's checking you out,” Dean said lowly, with a little mirth in his voice, just to see how Cas would react. Cas looked up at the woman then, squinted at her. She stared at him and he gave a little jerk, sat up right and then she moved and she was on him. It happened so fast that neither Dean nor Sam had much time to react. The woman shoved the table back into Sam and jumped to straddle Cas' lap. Her knee connected solidly with Dean's side. She had grabbed a fork off the table as she came and she drew it back. Cas just sat there, made no move to defend himself, and she brought her arm forward. Her intent seemed to be to bury the fork in his throat. Dean was moving now.

Get off him,” he roared and threw his arm across Cas.

Dean gave a half-shout when the tines of the fork sank into his arm. Sam kicked the table away, grabbed the woman by the shoulders and threw her off of Cas' lap and onto the floor.

“What the hell, lady?” he asked her, looking down.

Dean was getting to his feet now and Cas was reacting, reaching for Dean's bleeding arm. Dean pulled the fork out of it, let it clatter to the floor and grabbed a napkin from the table. By now the rest of the diner was in motion.

“I'm calling the police,” the waitress said, grabbing at a phone behind the counter, and Sam swore and Dean grabbed Cas' arm to pull him to the door. The three of them went outside. The woman ran to another door at the other end of the diner, she shoved out of it, and stood there, looking at them in the parking lot. She pointed at Cas.

“This is your fault, this miserable turn, did not enough of us lay dead at your feet before? You have to run us all from our home! I call thee evil spirit, cruel spirit, merciless spirit; I call thee, who sittest in the cemetery and takest away healing. Go and place a knot in his head, in his eyes, in his mouth, in his tongue, in his windpipe, and put poisonous water in his belly,” she screamed.

“Shut up,” Dean screamed back, yanked Cas away, and Sam moved behind them as if to act as another shield. She screamed after them, now in Enochian, and Cas hunched himself up and Dean just ran him down to the motel room and in, grabbing at their gear. Sam came too. They took everything to the impala, threw it in, pushed Cas in, then they drove off and left the woman screaming after them in the parking lot.

“That incantation,” Sam started, but he was interrupted.

“Meaningless without the proper ritual,” Cas said quietly. “Dean, how is your arm?”

“It can wait until we are out of town a bit,” Dean said, glancing in the rearview. “Let's just put some miles between here and us.”

Eventually they pulled over to stop in a truck rest area on the highway. Dean and Sam sat under a buzzing fluorescent bulb at a concrete picnic table so Sam could check his wound. Cas sat in the car, wishing there were knots in his head and eyes and mouth. When Sam and Dean came back to the car, Dean slid into the back seat beside Cas and Sam got in the front.

“We'll just sleep here tonight,” Dean told him. Cas just nodded, then laid his hand on Dean's arm near the bandage Sam had dressed it with.

“For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield,” Dean whispered to him.

“I love Psalms,” Cas said brokenly, eyes wet. “I don't think it means that the righteous man is supposed to be my shield.”

“I know,” Dean said, pressing a kiss to his temple. “But that's what I want it to mean.” Then Dean put his arm around Cas and settled back into the corner of seat and door, pulling Cas to lie against his side. His hand found its way into Cas' hair.

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