Proud of You
It was over. They won.
It took a while for the idea to settle down on them. They knew their chances were slim, very slim, so they had all made up with the fact that they wouldn’t come back from that one final battle. The famous blaze of glory they all knew would be their end.
But they won. Their job was done, mostly.
They celebrated, they had to. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to celebrate a win without the anguish of having lost someone in the battle, no bittersweet laughs, no toasts in name of the fallen, just them. All four of them, alive and well, save for a few wounds that wouldn’t leave more than a scar and a reminder of that day.
The first to go to bed was Jack, the poor kid had the heaviest weight on his shoulders since before he was even born and he was tired, very tired. He had waved to them with a soft “good night” before leaving the room.
An hour or so later Sam got up and yawned, stretching his whole body in the process. He piled up all the empty pizza boxes from the map table into his arms and patted Dean in the shoulder on his way out.
Dean and Cas stayed for longer, sitting in comfortable silence, like they were used to. Talking about unimportant things and sipping whiskey from their glasses from time to time.
After a couple of hours had passed Dean got up.
“I’ll pick this up and then go to bed” he said, starting to clean up the table.
“Let me help you” said Cas, also getting up and picking up some of the beer bottles that were left from dinner.
They walked down to the kitchen, where Cas threw out the empty bottles while Dean cleaned a couple of glasses.
It wasn’t long until they finished and Dean started to walk to the door, Cas was expecting the usual pat on the shoulder as a “goodnight” but was extremely surprised when Dean pulled him into a hug.
He leaned into him with a soft smile on his face.
“I’m proud of you.” Dean whispered tightening his grip on the angel.
The words caught Cas off guard. He took a second to process them before shutting down his eyes strongly, because they started to burn a little with tears threatening to fall down, and reciprocating the tightness of the embrace.
They stayed like that for a few minutes, which is longer than they’ve ever hugged, until Dean finally let go.
But instead of completely stepping aside from him he cupped one side of Cas’ face with his hand and stared at him with both intensity and softness, searching for the angel’s attention.
“I’m so proud of you Cas,” he repeated a little louder this time “you’re the strongest person I know… you’ve been through hell over and over and you’re still standing strong. You’ve always been there for us, for me, and I could never thank you enough for all that you’ve done, all that you gave up, just to help me. I know I haven’t been always the easiest person to be around, hell,” he chuckled “I know I’m almost never an easy person to be around but I’m very glad you never gave up on me… on us.”
Cas felt like he was melting, he didn’t know how much he needed to hear all those things until they actually came out of Dean’s mouth. He grabbed dean’s wrist, the hunter’s hand still cupping his face.
“Us?” Castiel asked, unsure of who Dean was referring to.
Their little game of extending their confessions to others out of fear of being rejected had run long enough. Sometimes they even wondered if the emphasis on the singular pronouns was really there to be analysed or if they were simply wishing the other felt that way about them.
“Yes, dumbass, us. You and me.” Dean answered with a soft smile on his face.
Cas could feel that something about the hunter had changed, and he was right. He seemed freer. He assumed it must’ve been the relief of finally taking down Chuck and the reassurance they were given that the world they love would never be in apocalyptic danger again. He knew Dean wanted to retire, he deserved it but he would’ve never allowed himself to ignore the call of duty, or what he believed was his main priority: save everyone else but himself.
He even started acting more relaxed, his actions, his words, all reflections of everything he kept deep inside himself in order to keep himself cold and ready for everything and anything. But that was pass them now, he got to relax now, he was finally safe.
“I’m proud of you too, Dean” Cas said after a few seconds “and thank you for teaching me how to… be human. You showed me what was worth fighting for and you helped me break out of heaven’s… stupid rules, more than once. You gave me a new purpose; one I was happy to serve and thanks to that I got to experience life and the world like I’ve never had before and I wouldn’t change that for anything. The things we’ve shared truly are the best part of my life.”
The angel took a small pause, which Dean took as an opportunity to caress Cas’ cheek with his thumb.
“And I’m so sorry that you got caught in the middle of every heavenly plan. It was unfair of us, of Chuck, to put the responsibility of saving The World on your shoulders”
Dean opened his mouth to say something but Cas quickly continued.
“Let me finish, please. You never deserved that, neither did Sam but now it’s over and you get to be free, Dean. You don’t have to save everyone anymore, it’s time for you to focus on you because we both know you never did and now you have no excuses”
Dean was taken aback by Cas’ words. He knew his unhealthy coping mechanisms and mental health were common knowledge but he never expected Cas to break the invisible deal to not talk about it and confront him. He never imagined that one of the biggest concerns Castiel had was his wellbeing.
“I love you, Cas" was all he could answer.
The words actually escaped from his mouth; his brain too tired to stop them. He surprised himself and he surprised Cas who was looking at him wide eyed.
But he felt so much lighter than he had in years, this big secret he kept holding onto felt too heavy and now that he had finally let it go, he felt like he could fully breathe again.
“I was always too scared to say it” Dean continued letting out a painful chuckle. “I was too afraid of accepting it and terrified that you’d reject me. But I want to let myself be happy for once.”
Cas moved his hand from dean’s wrist to his hand, pressing it against his face and leaning into it with a smile.
“I love you too, Dean. I always have” he confessed.
Dean smiled at the words and brought his other hand to Cas’ face, fully cupping it. Cas leaned his head towards Dean’s, making their foreheads touch. They stayed like that for a moment, absorbing the sense of safety and calm they gave each other, something that could only be accurately described as home.
Eventually, Dean leaned a little bit more in to let his lips meet Cas’, who quickly reciprocated.
Although it being something new for them, it felt familiar, like they were always supposed to end up there or like maybe even they already lived this, in another life, on another universe.
“I’ve waited too damn long to do that” said dean when they separated.
“Yeah well,” answered Cas with a smile “you better get used to this”
The sound of an alarm interrupted them. It was Sam’s marking what should be the beginning of his annoyingly active morning routine.
The reminder of the passage of time made Dean remember how tired he actually was and so, he let out a yawn.
“You should sleep” Cas said, freeing himself from Dean’s hands in order to encourage him to go.
“Yeah…” Dean answered, moving towards the door once again.
He stopped at the threshold and turned back to Cas.
“Are you coming?” he asked, offering his hand.
Cas took it.