You Have To Deal With This
Dean kisses Cas in the bathroom, pulling away while it's still a relief and not yet a temptation. Cas goes back to bed and Dean ducks downstairs to move the duffle.
He spends the next thee hours looking for it with the lights off, running up to check on Sam every fifteen minutes, only to find the fucking thing in the panic room.
Except for a note.
In weirdly curly script, on thick, old fashioned paper.
Wait and See.
Dean goes back to bed, where Sam is muttering and kicking and manages to soothe him without waking him, but lies awake for hours himself.
What the fuck are they still supposed to be waiting for?
Dean takes another day off work, but Cas convinces him that he should keep on top of his PTO for emergencies, that he can watch over Sam, and that if anything happens he'll call.
Dean's boss, Hugh, calls him in to his office the first day he's back. Dean's a little panicked about it. He's going to need money and time off and all of these things, and while he can get money, it's been a while and there are complications now. Major complications.
But it's actually a good thing. Or it's presented to him like it's a good thing. His boss tells him that he's a great body shop guy, and a dependable mechanic, but in order for him to move up from wrench turning and make some real money, he needs an automotive degree. They can't let him take a car apart without the right licensing, and they want to keep him around.
They want him to go to school, and depending on his grades their willing to pay for most of it.
"Oh…" Dean manages.
Hugh waits for him to say something else, and then laughs. "Don't worry, son. I can tell by the way your car runs that you know the basics inside and out. The computer crap gets more complicated, but you've got the right kind of mind to figure it out. You'll be fine."
"It's just… school was a while ago. And things are a little… complicated at home right now."
Hugh nods. "With your… roommate?"
Dean wonders if he imagined the pause or not. He can't tell. He shakes his head. "No. Cas is practically a new man. But there are a few family things and-"
"Dean, there are always reasons not to do something. And I don't know you're situation down to the brass tacks, but I'm the oldest brother of five kids, we didn't have a father, and my mother was too sick to keep work. I understand sacrificing for others, and I understand that you can't do it forever."
Dean fiddles uncomfortably with his coffee cup.
"And I also understand taking a job because you need it, and not wanting to get stuck there. You're obviously a bright guy. If this isn't the right opportunity for you, let us know. If you decide you want to go this route, tell us that too, we'll get you enrolled. You've got a job here either way.
Dean nods, shakes Hugh's hand and goes back to work.
Dean feels constantly on edge for the next week. He makes the mistake of bringing up the auto mechanic school thing at dinner and now everyone is on his case about it.
He keeps finding things from the duffle spread around the house like they'd never been packed away and it gives him a nasty jolt every time. Knives are integrated into Bobby's organization system. On hooks that didn't used to exist. Clothes he never unpacked are washed and folded and in his drawers. The fake ID's turn up in a shoebox, in his closet, lined up in alphabetical order.
Sam sleeps for most of the first couple of days that he's home. He still has trouble eating real food without getting sick. Cas and Chelsea are exploring a whole range of mushy food. Sam fakes enthusiasm. Once he starts being awake for longer stretches he puppy eyes Cas into taking him to the hotel to use the little gym.
Which would have been fine if Sam hadn't started pushing too hard. Cas calls Dean at work with his carefully soothing on to tell him that Sam fell off the treadmill, and it totally fine, except that he hit his head on the arm. He's not concussed, but it's a pretty livid bruise.
Chelsea suggests something a little safer- water aerobics. Sam's less than enthusiastic. Cas tries to help by taking him walking in the park.
Attempts to get a hold of Gabriel haven't been fruitful. It's more annoying for prayers to go unanswered when you're starting to expect at least a quick note.
Thomas finds them an "off the books" doctor in Henderson, Minnesota, which is just long enough of a drive for a shitty motel to be a possibility. Dean's actually looking forward to that. Even though it won't be the same to nuke Sam some soup and be asleep by eight.
Sam sleeps almost the entire way there, other than stopping to throw up by the side of the road a couple times and finally cave and pick up some Dramamine.
The verdict is exactly what Dean expected. Atrophied. Malnurished. Vitamin D deficiency. Nothing a few squares, a little sunshine and some exercise won't eventually fix. The news depresses Sam. Sure he's fine, but getting back to what he was would take for freaking ever.
Sam doesn't want to stay in a motel. He wants to go home. Dean drives.
Dean doesn't ask why it's important to Sam to be fighting fit. He doesn't want to think about the possibility that Sam may want to get back out there, but there's plenty of time before they have to have that fight.
And Dean's stressed out enough as it is. On top of taking care of Sam things with Cas aren't great.
Sam moves himself to one of the empty bedrooms as soon as he figures out that Chelsea doesn't live in the house too. Cas comes back to Dean's room and Dean has to ask him if maybe they can just sleep separately and tone down a few… little things like the hand holding and the lack of personal space while Sam… reacclimatizes. Dean just doesn't want to throw anything else at Sam right now.
Cas agrees, but Dean can tell he's upset, and can't blame him. But Sam's… not really well enough for Dean to be willing to risk putting this on his plate as well. He's still having hallucinations.
The big hallucinations aren't really that bad. Sam will jump at nothing, close his eyes for a couple seconds and go back to what he was doing, sometimes looking up at something that isn't there and en trying to ignore it.
It's the smaller things that hurt to watch. One afternoon Sam spent ten minutes at the kitchen table reading a newspaper that wasn't there and flipped out when he tried to turn the page.
Cas doesn't fight with him about it. He accepts Dean's request with a simple "If that's what you think is best."
But then he cuts Dean out. Not so much that Sam would notice anything is different. Cas is perfectly polite when everyone is around. But when Chelsea's not around and Sam is asleep- the times Dean was hoping to sit with Cas and be able to feel a little bit better, Cas basically ignores him. Not maliciously, just… as though they are only roommates and are only in the same room, not in the room together.
So now Dean is trying to deal with all of the messes crumbling in over him without the only non-alcoholic source of comfort and relief he's ever had.
Which is why he goes and buys a bottle of whiskey to keep in the trunk, and a couple of mini bottles to refill from it.
About a week after the doctor visit, a week and a half after Sam was delivered back to them and about three days after Dean starts drinking again, Chelsea corners him. She stops by in the afternoon and – surprisingly gently- informs him that she knows about him and Cas.
"And basically, if you need to talk about it- I'm here." She sets down the farm fresh beef she's brought with her as a preemptive peace offering.
"There's nothing to talk about," Dean tells her.
"Okay. Fine. We don't have to eat ice cream and braid each other's hair, but I'm here all the time and I know that there's stuff going on."
"Nothing is going on with me and Cas," Dean declares, choosing to ignore that fact that he knows she figured it out on her own, and he's sure that if she hadn't Cas still would have gone to her first.
"Look me in the eye and tell me that you've never kissed Castiel," she says.
Dean steps further into her personal space. "I've never kissed Castiel." He says it with the unwavering confidence of the born liar.
Chelsea actually stamps her foot. "Okay. Fine. You do have to talk about it. I know what's happening and you have to deal with this."
"Nope," Dean replies, tossing the beef in the freezer.
"Dean you have too much going on to bottle everything up. You're going to do something that you regret," she insists.
"You're not my damn mother, Chelsea!" Dean tells her, louder than he meant to. Sam's asleep upstairs.
"I found your duffle, Dean!" she counters.
He grabs her arm way too hard and backs her into the counter so fast that she knocks something over. Dean realizes what he's doing when the crash settles.
Chelsea juts her chin up and in a slightly wobbly voice asks, "Do you feel like a man now?"
It's like being slapped.
He lets go and steps back, running his face over his hands and counting up about how many shots he's had today. He's not drunk. He's only been drinking to take the edge off, just like he used to back when he actually Hunted. Even at the worst of the Hell nightmares he never got wasted enough that he wasn't on top of taking down monsters or couldn't drive. He never drank to a point where he was putting Sam in danger.
But he did maybe over do it just a little today.
Chelsea crosses her arms and clears her throat. "So… the bottling. That's going well then?"
"I'm sorry," Dean says. "Did I hurt you?"
"I'll live. But now you owe me. Talk to me." She leans back against the cupboard and looks at him expectantly. There had been a slight lick of fear to her when Dean had shoved her. He'd seen it. But it really was gone now. He shouldn't allow himself to feel better because of that.
"I can't deal with this right now, Chelsea. There's everything with Sam-"
"-Which we're all helping with," she cut him off.
"Covering my ass at work and this fucking school thing-"
"Which we will all help you with."
"The fucking Wait and See problem-"
"Which theoretically should work itself out if we wait and s-"
"Chelsea- I can't."
"Dean." She steps forward and wraps her hand around his wrist, an echo of what he'd just done, but gentle. "You have to talk about this. Okay? I love you, you know that I love you- but you're too emotionally stunted to deal with your life right now. You need help. You're working full time, you're devoting all of your energy to your recovering brother. You're being asked to make this big commitment at work, your working through an addiction," –Dean carefully doesn't let his face move at that– "and on top of all of that you are dealing with this huge relationship thing that, honey- you are just not equipped to deal with."
Her words echo weirdly in his head. It's nice that she's not coddling him. But he still… can't.
Chelsea huffs when he doesn't reply. "Fine. I get it. I don't want to make it worse. We don't have to talk about how scared you are of Sam finding out that Cas is usually the one sleeping in your room, or how terrified you are of letting Cas touch your wiener-"
"-But we're going to talk about the bag if I have to strap you into the bed in the panic room. Also- you're going to explain why the bed has straps on it, unless it has anything to do with Bobby."
Dean's about to keep resisting before he realizes that his only coping methods are violence and alcoholism. He already started drinking, and he just hurt someone he considers family. He's clearly not coping. And it is just Chelsea.
He looks up at her, then looks away. She moves toward the coffee pot and grabs the carafe. "It's too late now, I'm making coffee."
"I would have come back," Dean says quietly. It's easier with Chelsea's back to him. She probably did that on purpose.
"I know that, Dean," she says.
"I'm not… I'm not this guy. House. Job. School. Rela… relationship," – yeah, he wouldn't have been able to say that without a little whiskey in him – "I'm… I'm a killer. I'm a Hunter. I've been on the road since I was four. I've been on the frontlines since I was thirteen."
"You can't possibly be arguing that you're a monster who can't take care of people," Chelsea scoffs. "Not even you are that unaware."
"I've been living in my car for my entire adult life. Not including 40 years in Hell."
Chelsea starts unnecessarily tidying the kitchen.
"I panicked. It was too much. It was way too much. I needed some air. I wanted… I wanted to go home, I guess. Get in the Impala, go gank a ghost. Knock on some psychic's doors, ask about Sam. Collapse in some shitty flophouse. Regroup. Then come back."
Chelsea sets a cup of coffee in front of him and kisses his cheek. "Alright. You almost sound like you believe yourself. What about how you're running away now?"
"Mhmm. You ran away to Sam. You can't leave the house while he needs you, but you can move him into your room and drive off with him and use him as a reason not to let this whole Cas thing get out of hand. But you can't hide behind him forever. He's already getting better and he's not going to let you use him like this. You're going to have to deal with what Cas means to you pretty soon here."
"I thought we didn't have to talk about that."
"I lied." Chelsea shrugs and sits down across from him.
"He is so pissed at me."
Chelsea sips from her own mug. "Yes. He really is."
"You're pissed at me too."
"I'm… resigned at you."
"Fine. I'm a little pissed. Asking Cas to pretend nothing's going on was a dick move. But Dean, I'm not telling you that you're completely wrong. I can see letting Sam get used to being back before dropping a bombshell on him, though I have to tell you I don't think he'll care. And no one is expecting you to wake up and be fine with this. This is a big deal under the best of circumstances and we don't have to pretend that you don't have baggage. And Cas gets all of that. But he's not a saint."
Dean snorts. Chelsea rolls her eyes. "You know what I mean. He's full on teenage crush, first love head over heels for you. He only logistically understands why you're afraid of this. You should be having this conversation with him, not with me, and you have no idea how good he is for you. Take it from the only third party observer you have."
Dean thinks about an afternoon without Cas, but with a loaded gun in the nightstand and a sudden Easter card en route to it. He thinks about a bottle of whiskey he didn't need as badly with Cas still talking to him.
"I know," he admits, mostly into his coffee cup.
"You're both being really stupid about this. You don't let anyone in like you let Cas in. He's the only person you care about as much as you care about Sam and the gay thing freaks you out, but not nearly enough for it to stop you from sleeping with him-"
"I didn't sleep with-"
"Fine, so pick your term. I thought you'd prefer "sleep with" to "be intimate with"."
Dean winces at the Lifetime movie terminology.
"See?" Chelsea scoffs. "You need to spend sometime with him. You've been brushing him off since Sam got back."
"No. I haven't," Dean bites back. "He's been acting like I don't exist."
"I know that, and I'm not saying he's right either, but I am saying that he's a year old and you're in your thirties and maybe you should suck it up and take the highroad here."
"I can't deal with this if everyone knows. I can't deal with all of this and Sam knowing."
"I can get Sam out of the house."
"Sam needs a hair cut. I made him an appointment for 5:00. Cas should be home from cleaning at the hotel by quarter till. When Sam gets up you'll be engrossed in checking out your school stuff, he won't want to give you an excuse to blow it off. Conveniently, I'll be around to give him a ride."
"How long can a hair cut take?"
"Trust me," Chelsea insists.
Dean settle petulantly back into his chair. "I couldn't have just fucking fallen for you, could I?"
Chelsea sighs melodramatically. "I say the same thing to myself whenever I come over right after you've gotten out of the shower."
Dean can't help but smile at that.
"Don't tell Sam."
"Of course not."
"Sometimes you lie."
"Not about this."
"So what do I do with Cas while you're babysitting Sam?"
"Dean- I'm helping, but I'm not holding your hand and wiping your nose. Figure it out."
"Fine. I just have to get him to talk to me."
Chelsea opens her mouth, as though she's going to suggest something, then must decide against it. "So… back to my original concern- straps on the panic room bed?"