He spent such a long time not saying it. Years. He spent a longer time not thinking it. Lifetimes. And while he walked with his teeth clenched and spoke with his chest bolted up, the little black embers in his gut kept the words warm.
He imagined that they would have to come out eventually. You spend too much time burying something and eventually it just digs out the other side. Dean figured one day the words would tumble free without him noticing, like loose change from a ripped pocket. And he and Cas would be somewhere stupid: buying toilet paper, or waiting for Sam to get out of the fucking shower already, or sitting in line at a drive thru. Dean figured his big idiot mouth would tear open in a moment of frustration and all the secrets of his heart would come spilling out.
He hoped so, anyway.
After the first thousand silences, Dean started keeping the words in his pocket. He found the perfect shape for them, and every morning he moved them into a clean pair of jeans and spent all day with their tiny weight against his thigh. And since Cas did laundry like it was his hobby (he loved the smell of warm cotton), Dean just kept moving the words to new pockets and waited for the day he forgot to take them out so that Cas could find them clinking around with the socks and the underwear in the dryer. They were such small words after all. So easily lost.
It only served to make Dean more careful. The words never found their way to forgotten.
And after everything, after months and midnights, he never did say them. He never got the chance.
There was The Fight. A night of cold threats and broken beer bottles. Cas throwing his hands in the air and stalking out the door. Dean sitting in the kitchen with his arms crossed tight over his chest while Sam stood stunned in the hallway. And Dean couldn’t fucking believe that they’d all been to Hell and Heaven and Purgatory and back again and this was still going to end like some trashy, tragic romance novel.
He almost threw the words away that night. He spent an hour in the bathroom, feeling vicious and unforgiving, trying to convince himself that it was okay to flush something this important down the toilet. Literally.
But he was so used to holding on to them. When he was finished with fuming and cursing and giving his graying hair dirty looks in the mirror, he realized it would be stupid to do anything but die with them unsaid. It would be a goddamn waste to throw them away now, even if Cas didn’t want them anymore. So Dean kept them. And went to bed.
Cas came back when the sun rose. He woke Dean up by sitting on the edge of the bed, pale and red-eyed and exhausted. Dean was still fully dressed. He pushed himself up onto his forearms and shoved away the confusion of his dreams while Cas looked down at him, silent and heartbroken.
Dean swallowed and dug the words out of his pocket. Except they weren’t the same words he’d been keeping for so long. They’d aged, and tarnished. And all they meant now was: I’m sorry.
Cas took them out of Dean’s palm with shaking fingers. He held them up to the window to study their dull glint. There were tears in his eyes.
Cas didn’t smile, and Dean could tell from the turn of his neck and the tension in his arms that he was still angry. But after a long, drawn in breath, Cas slipped the words onto his ring finger.
Maybe they could still be enough.
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- itisneverlupus said: Oh wow…there was so much flailing when I got to the end. Beautiful! <3
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