Dean wasn’t sure where to go, to be perfectly honest.  Cas hadn’t spoken since they left Nora’s, just staring blankly out the window as the scenery flew by, hands folded across his lap.  It was weird, the little differences, the way Cas held himself.  Less stiff, leant back, chin rested against his shoulder.  If he still had wings Dean imagined them folding around his body.  Tucking himself away from a world he was trying to convince himself he was ready to face.

Dean’s eyes flickered down to Cas’ hands again.  He had long fingers, one’s he’d thought about lacing with his own calloused and thick ones.  Dean thought a lot about Cas’ hands, once this weird epicenter of all the angel’s power.  Now they just lay flat, benign, bleeding.  Shit, Cas was still bleeding.

“How’s the hand, buddy?” Dean asked, voice a little thick as he stared at the road ahead of him.  There was a small, gravel parking lot not far off, surrounded by a thin copse of trees and a fence that cut a path into an open field.  A nature walk, most likely.

“It’s nothing,” Cas answered. 

Dean watched his attempt to close his fist out of the corner of his eye, and the little pained grimace he gave in response.  Stubborn as fuckin’ always.  Dean pulled into the empty lot, parking his baby near the edge where they’d be mostly shielded from view if anyone happened to drive by.  Cas looked up and Dean felt an easy grin pulling at the edges of his lips before he rolled his eyes, reaching over Cas to grab a small med kit from the glove box.

Cas was silent as Dean rifled through it; some antiseptic, cotton balls, and gauze.  Placing the supplies on top of his lap, Dean reached out a hand toward his friend and cleared his throat.  Cas stared down at it for a second without moving, and Dean gave him a half smile and an arched eyebrow in response.

“C’mon, let me clean it up.  It’ll get infected,” Dean said.  Cas frowned but responded immediately, violently blue eyes still caught with Dean’s own.  For the fucking life of him he couldn’t look away.  Dean swallowed as Cas laid his right hand in Dean’s, bloody palm up, knuckles rubbing warmth into his skin. 

Cas had to lean into him for Dean to get the position he needed to work on Cas’ wound, his right arm pulled across his chest and into Dean’s lap.  Dean’s skin prickled when he felt Cas’s steady breath against his neck.  He cursed inwardly and bit back a small shudder before he got to work. 

Dean tried to ignore the small twitches of Cas’ fingers against his palm, cleaning the cuts carefully, more thoroughly than he would have with himself, or even Sam.  He worked with purpose, hyper aware of the way Cas kept moving incrementally closer to him, chin almost pressed against his shoulder.

“Maybe Ephraim was right.  That by choosing to live as a human, I have already given up,” Cas said softly, pressing his forehead against Dean’s shoulder.  It was a weirdly human gesture that made Dean’s stomach tighten, hiding his face in admitting something he was probably ashamed of.  “I just desire… purpose.  I found that here.  I am still finding it here, more and more by the day.”  Dean didn’t speak, wiping the remains of the dried blood from Cas’ palm and dropping the dirty cotton back onto his lap.  He smiled as he stared at Cas’ hand, a mess of shallow cuts.  He couldn’t stop himself from running a thumb over them, almost reverently.  Cas might have shivered at that, pressing his face harder against the lax muscle of Dean’s shoulder.

“Being human ain’t easy, Cas.  It’s downright brutal at times.  To live a normal life.  To find… I dunno… purpose, like you said, in something.  In yourself.  Hell, I’ve never managed it.”  Dean tried to look over at Cas, but all he got was a mess of short, dark hair.  He pressed his nose into it gently before he stopped himself, turning back toward the supplies in his lap and Cas’s hand.  He reached for the gauze.  “Is your wrist okay?  Can you move it?” 

Cas nodded, turning his head so he rested on his cheek instead of his forehead, hair brushing against Dean’s neck.  “I think it’s okay.”  Dean rolled Cas’ wrist in a wide circle, just to make sure the wrist didn’t need to be set.  Cas didn’t flinch, and that was enough.  “I have never felt quite so small as I do now, but it’s okay.”  Cas took a small breath.  “I think it’s… okay.  In the store, with Nora, being small doesn’t… it doesn’t feel quite that way.  It may seem unimportant to you, but I make a difference.”  Dean wrapped the wound silently, tying off the gauze around his thumb, fingers tracing the knot once it was completed.   “Not to the whole of humanity, or every angel fallen from heaven, but to a few.  To her.”

Dean felt himself smiling again, a soft smile.  A sad smile.  To me, he thought.  He bit back words he wished he had the courage to say, that Cas was… was beyond important to him.  That Dean didn’t want to be without him, whatever he decided, whoever he decided to… be with.  Whatever made him happy.  He just wanted him to be nearby, and to be safe. 

Dean let himself tip his head to the side, cheek resting on Cas’ head.  He breathed him in, trying to ignore the way he still ghosted his fingertips along the lines between Cas’ knuckes.  Cas didn’t stop him, and so he took what he could.  The scent of him, the feel of his skin.  The weight of him just being there with him, right then.  This small space they’d stolen together.

Minutes passed before Dean finally spoke.  “I’m proud of you, Castiel.”  The words were quiet, and he didn’t get a response, just the soft, even breathing of the man against his shoulder.  Dean smiled warmly and turned his face to bury his lips in Cas’ hair, a small, desperate, simple kiss.  He felt his eyes burn at the contact, a swell of something in his chest that expanded, pressed against his lungs.  Made him feel like he would never breathe again.  And then, just as quickly, it was over.

He let his weight fall against Castiel, then.  The angel, the man who had breathed life back into his lungs.  Something he had continued doing every single day after.  Maybe one day he would tell him.  “Sleep well, Cas,” he said, shoulder to shoulder, hands still pressed together.  He let his eyes drift shut, to sleep beside him.  

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