When Castiel had recovered from the surprise confrontation with the overly-emotional Dean, he staggered up the staircase and into their bedroom, pulling open a drawer to one of the dressers, and removing a box. He hauled it over to the side of the bed and sat cross-legged on the floor. He opened the lid carefully, and began lying the contents gently on the floor beside him. The pressed carnations from their button holes, the table placeholders, the small booklet from the service, all of them were treated with the utmost care until he reached the thick ivory covered book at the bottom. This he balanced across his knees and began to look through slowly.
Dean looked so handsome, in all the pictures. He was clean-shaven, his hair waxed into shape, and the colour of his bowtie seemed to make his eyes pop, although that may have been due to the photographer’s skill. Still, when Castiel scrutinised the pictures, there was nothing but sheer happiness on Dean’s face. He was smiling in every picture, his eyes nearly always trained on Castiel.
So he had been happy during their wedding, at least. He seemed very much in love, just like Castiel was. It made even less sense then, for Dean to be so upset.
Two arms encircled his neck, as a leg slid either side of his body, and Dean was leaning down on him, sitting on the bed.
‘I was freezing my ass off out there,’ he murmured, kissing Castiel’s cheek.
‘Sorry.’ Castiel felt even more confused. This seemed like the Dean he was married to … so what had just happened?
‘It’s okay. What made you stop and look through the wedding pictures?’
So Castiel explained, as best as he could, about the agitated version of Dean who had burst through the door and blurted a lot of confusing information. And his Dean listened patiently, stroking one of his arms as Castiel talked.
‘Honey, maybe you need to lay down,’ Dean’s voice was soothing. ‘I’m the only Dean.’
It was just like his Dean, to dismiss the idea of doppelgängers. It was up there with aliens, fairies and ghosts on a list of things Dean couldn’t accept even the notion of. But Castiel knew the truth, he knew that the other Dean had been there, had begged him for things that made no sense, had kissed him so passionately, almost violently, and turned him on so much that he had almost followed him out of the house. That kiss alone had confirmed how very real that Dean was.
In comparison, his Dean’s kisses, though pleasant, had none of the fire that the other Dean seemed full of. He would wonder if they had lost that in the years of their marriage, but he didn’t think they’d ever had that heat between them. He closed the photograph album slowly, and began placing everything back in the box with care, before turning around between Dean’s legs, sitting up and pressing kisses onto Dean’s face.
‘Hey, hey, okay,’ Dean laughed, grabbing hold of Castiel’s shoulders, and pushing him away slightly. ‘Come on, Cas. Where’s all this coming from?’
‘I love you!’ Castiel suddenly felt like this was vital information. Dean had to know how strong their love was, surely?
‘I love you too-‘ Dean was cut off from saying anything else by Castiel pushing for another kiss, deeper and more urgent. Instead of kissing him back, of being anything like the Dean who had offset Castiel’s entire world, Dean stopped reacting entirely. Castiel eventually pulled away, feeling suddenly ashamed of himself, but not quite sure why. Was it wrong to want that heat again?
‘What’s really going on, Castiel? You’re acting like we’re in porn or something.’
Castiel thought that was actually a great way to describe the kiss they’d shared. Or at least, him and the other Dean. He suddenly felt like he couldn’t share that thought, too worried that his Dean would think he had cheated as well. Did it count as cheating, when they were both Dean?
‘Baby, you should really lay down. I’m getting worried. Come on, I’ll help you.’
Castiel didn’t resist as Dean stood him up, stripped him of his clothes, and helped him into the bed. Instead, he kept thinking about the other Dean, and his intensity, his desperation. Castiel wanted to know more about this Dean, about what led him to be in such a state, how he had managed to come into Castiel’s life and why he had thought that he was his Cas.
Maybe there were parallel worlds? And in each one was a Dean and a Castiel at various points in their relationships. It made Castiel ache for the Dean that had found his way to him. He obviously wasn’t having a great time with his Castiel, and this Castiel felt awful for him. He should have made more of an effort to find out what had happened, worked out some way to help him instead of standing there, too stunned and confused to have been any assistance.
His Dean was pulling the bed covers up, tucking them under his chin, and sitting beside him, stroking his hair.
‘Aren’t you going to get in bed with me?’ Castiel asked bashfully. Dean shook his head.
‘No. How can I take care of you if I’m in there too?’
Castiel smiled weakly, as Dean bent down to bestow a small kiss on his temple, before leaving the room. He rolled over in the giant bed, thinking again of the other Dean. Castiel couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something going on with that Dean that concerned him specifically. Did that Dean think his Cas was here? Is that why he’d balked at the idea of their marriage? After all, that Dean didn’t seem happy with the break up he’d gone through with his Castiel, it must have stung even more to walk into their happy home.
His Dean came back in the room with another tray of food, though Castiel didn’t feel hungry. He didn’t feel like staying trussed up in bed, either. He loved his Dean, but he couldn’t be stuck in the house for much longer. When had he last left their home? Maybe the other Dean had been on to something when he talked about leaving through the front door.
‘Okay, baby, I got you some chicken broth.’
‘Thanks, Dean, but I don’t want any. How about we go for a walk? Down by the river where you proposed.’
Dean sat beside him on the bed again.
‘What’s gotten into you? One moment, we’re planning outdoor sex, and the next you’re talking about my twin and trying to kiss me like some slut. And now you want to go walking for the first time in months?’
The words stung, and Castiel tried to convince himself that Dean didn’t mean it, even as in the back of his mind, he began to wonder whether the other Dean would react the same way. And then Castiel felt as though he was cheating, even though he was sure that the other Dean would never talk to him like that. The other Dean was vehement in the way he talked, but he was straight talking. He had lost his Cas, but he was still respectful.
Castiel hated himself for putting his marriage under the microscope in this way. He wanted to wish the other Dean’s visit away, but he couldn’t shake the memory however much he wanted to. It was as though his brain was trying to tell him something important about the visit, something he needed to engage with and take action on.
‘You’re right. Of course you are, sweetie. I just have to sleep it off a little. Maybe I’m coming down with something.’
‘Want me to stay around?’
‘No, it’s okay. If you have anything to do, it’s fine. I’ll be fine.’
‘Okay. I need to head into work for a couple of hours.’ He made to get up from the bed.
‘Dean?’ Castiel sounded extra pathetic. ‘Maybe when you get back, we could talk about adopting or something?’
‘You really are coming down with a bug.’
‘Or getting a puppy or a kitten? Something?’
‘We’ll talk about it, Cas. Maybe we’ll get a guinea pig.’
Dean left the room, and Cas gripped his head. Why did guinea pig resonate in his head so much? That seemed more important than kids or a pet cat. It was annoying how details like that seemed to stand out so much when he couldn’t really remember his own wedding day without Dean’s prompts, just like it was annoying how much the other Dean had lodged himself into Castiel’s mind.
Castiel waited until he heard Dean leave for work before he climbed out of bed again, slipping on a shirt and a pair of pants, and heading back down the stairs to stand in the entrance hall, and stare at the front door. He leaned against his doorframe again, replaying the entire conversation, trying to make some sense of it.
Other Dean had let him speak first, had let him talk of their life together. Like he was sounding Castiel out for information. How had Castiel not realised at the time? His Dean wouldn’t do that, but it seemed to come so easily to Other Dean. It felt like it made sense, from Other Dean.
And at least Other Dean had mentioned Sam. Castiel was relieved at least one relationship in Other Dean’s life still seemed steady. He wondered if they were just as close as they were in the real world, where Castiel saw his brother-in-law at least once a week, usually with Becky and the girls in tow. Although, Castiel couldn’t figure out who the other person Dean had mentioned was. He had said; “Sam and Charlie” and Castiel hoped that Charlie wasn’t Sam’s girlfriend in their dimension. He was very fond of Becky.
What else had Other Dean said? That he was being selfish, and he had to face the consequences of his actions. As far as Castiel could tell, Other Castiel had hurt Dean, and that’s what he needed to face. Castiel tried not to let it bother him, but it was so hard, because he was taking it to heart. How could they even begin to hurt each other? Dean had mentioned cheating, but that was completely beyond Castiel’s imagination. Maybe Other Dean and Other Cas had some major misunderstanding, and Other Dean only thought Castiel had cheated?
Everything else was really repetitive, with Other Dean’s constant pleas for him to walk out of the front door. At the time it had merely been confusing, but now that Castiel was reflecting, it seemed to be a verbalisation of Other Dean’s desperation. It seemed like he really thought there was some merit in walking out of the front door, some major solution, as though Castiel was his, the one that belonged in the parallel universe with him.
Other Dean had certainly kissed him as though they belonged together. That kiss still made Castiel’s entire body tingle, and sent a jolt deep down into his stomach. That kiss was something else altogether. Castiel’s knees felt weak just thinking about it. If Dean had just come in and kissed him like that, and suggested leaving the house, Castiel would have gone, no hesitation.
Was Castiel seriously contemplating walking out on his marriage for the man who looked like his husband and kissed like a demon? He turned his gaze unwillingly from the front door to look at the wedding picture he’d been staring at only hours before, at the Dean he knew. His Dean. The happy-go-lucky guy, the one who liked his life organised and obvious. The guy who could cook and make jokes and be almost puppy-like in his craving for attention. The man he loved. It was normal for marriages to become routine, Castiel knew that, and Dean had joked that they’d always been routine, so there was nothing to change. At least their marriage did have a little spark, they experimented in the bedroom a decent amount. It was too much to ask that Dean made him weak at the knees in the same way, wasn’t it?
He was so confused. He wanted the other Dean to come back, so they could talk more and reach a mutual understanding, the way he and his Dean could do so easily. He hadn’t tried enough for the other Dean, the one who clearly needed him. Or if not him, the Castiel who was meant to be with him. But there was no way of getting him back, not without following instructions and leaving by the front door. Castiel assumed that was still in play, that there wasn’t a time limit on when he could follow Other Dean.
But he wouldn’t be leaving his Dean high and dry. He couldn’t. How could he just walk out on his husband? He walked through the house until he reached their tiny study, where he pulled a sheet of paper out of a drawer and took a pen from the desk, scribbling out a hastily-worded explanation of what he was trying to do. He promised to be back as soon as he was able, and that he loved Dean more than life itself, and that was why he was going away for a few days. He left the note on the counter in the kitchen, and doubled back into the dining room for the photograph of the two of them he loved the most, of them on the fallen tree. He wanted to keep something with his Dean close beside him as he tried to find and help Other Dean. He tucked it into his pants pocket, and headed back out to the hallway of the house, breathing slowly and deliberately as he crossed the threshold and grabbed the knob. And then he held his breath, and twisted his hand, forcing the door open before closing his eyes and stepping forward, out of the house.
There was a beeping in the room, faint but steady. A pressure on his finger, and something uncomfortable along his arm. He blinked his eyes open to a nondescript ceiling, and looked around the room groggily.
The walls were olive green, and the furniture looked like cheap plywood covered in veneer. There was a wall display of bowie knives, and a few photographs pinned just above the desk. To Castiel’s left, beside the bed, was a monitor showing two green lines, and a small stand with a bag attached, and a line feeding into his arm, to the uncomfortable site. The beeping sound seemed to be coming from the monitor, which was connected to the peg on his finger. He pulled it off, and the beeping turned onto one continuous note, louder than before. He reached over and fumbled for a button to stop the noise, before pulling the bag line out and yelling in pain. His yell seemed to have reached someone, because he could hear footsteps approaching quickly. He placed his other hand over his left arm, trying to stop the pain, noticing the blood that seeped from under his fingers.
‘Castiel? Castiel!’ Becky came flying into the room, hugging the ex-angel before looking down at his arm. ‘Did you rip the IV line out?’
Castiel wasn’t sure what she was asking, but the sting in his arm was awful, and if it meant that she could help him in some way to stop the ache and the blood flow, he would do pretty much anything. He nodded.
‘Okay, well, you’re applying pressure, that’s good. The first aid kit’s in the kitchen, we’ll get you cleaned up in there. Dean’s in there, eating breakfast.’
At the mention of Dean, Castiel’s stomach swooped. He could remember everything from the dream, and almost everything that had happened before it.
‘Is Dean … will he … is he mad at me?’ Castiel didn’t really want the answer, knowing that any answer would be a yes hidden by niceness. It was Becky he was asking, after all.
‘He’s been worried sick about you. He was talking about how he was going to save you if you die. So he’ll probably be a jerk when he sees you because he can’t admit to that. That’s what Sam thinks anyway. Just ride it out.’
Castiel nodded, feeling nauseated and dizzy.
‘It’s okay. We’ve got to stick together, right?’
Becky smiled, and Castiel felt slightly better.
‘You know, it’s so weird, I was going to the bathroom to freshen up because Dean was being so morbid about you not waking up, and then I heard a yell and came in here and … I’m so glad I was the one to come find you.’ She helped Castiel stand up, and led him through the bunker towards the first aid kit, and Dean. ‘You’re not mad that I found you awake, are you? I know you’d prefer it if it was Dean-‘
‘It’s fine, Becky. I’m glad they weren’t on a case.’
‘Yeah well, Dean’s not really been on the ball since they found you in the siren’s lair. Oh, wait,’ She pressed a finger to her lips, as they got closer to the kitchen, and could hear Sam and Dean talking about, of all things, real estate. And then she was raising her voice slightly, just around the corner from the kitchen. ‘Guys? Better cook some more food.’
She squeezed Castiel’s elbow gently and led him into the kitchen. He was glad that she was in the lead, because he wouldn’t be able to move without her assistance, too scared of Dean’s reaction. He shuffled forward, avoiding Sam and Charlie’s eyes, and scanning the room for Dean, who had his back to them as he stood by the stove. Castiel looked away quickly, and tried to focus instead on Becky patching up the wound in his arm. He needed a little time before dealing with Dean.