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Benny’s turn at watch and Dean’s supposed to be sleeping, but he can’t sleep. He twitches and shifts, his eyes open and dart and stare up into the treetops, and Cas watches from a few feet away, concerned. Dean’s the only one of them who needs to sleep. Cas likes to, and he hasn’t been able to for a long time, not when he was alone and had to watch out every moment to keep from being impaled on a leviathan’s fangs. Benny doesn’t sleep so much as stares into space and disconnects from everything.
But Dean needs it, and for whatever reason sleep’s not coming to him. A cold, helpless feeling settles into Cas’s heart as he watches. Sleep is a simple, voluntary action for him. For humans, it can be harder, especially when they see the kind of things in their dreams that Cas knows Dean does. He’s peeked before.
He tries to remember what has calmed Dean to sleep before. He starts in Dean’s childhood, hears the strains of “Hey Jude” in a distant melody. It would be too intrusive to sing that, it would remind Dean too much of things lost too long ago. But maybe. Maybe something similar.
He starts to hum, a soft, tuneless thing on a low note that barely ever changes, and the strange thing is that the process calms him, too — he finds his muscles relaxing, finds his breaths slowing to the rhythm of the not-quite-a-song, and the dangers and pains of Purgatory fall away into the background. It’s all accompaniment to the soft tones that are carried on each exhalation. His chest rumbles with it, and he feels centered, in tune with his breathing. Alive, but calm. The noise carries through his skull, vibrates in his ears, and he can’t hear the faraway howls and screams the way he used to. He’s the center of his own universe, his breath and his own voice a singular focus. It’s a new experience.
He stops, takes a breath, and notices for the first time that Dean’s pushed himself closer. He’s lying on his side, facing Cas, face turned upward and attentive even though his eyes are closed.
“I’m sorry,” Cas says, “am I bothering you?”
Dean’s eyelashes flutter briefly. He shakes his head. “Go on,” he says. “S’nice.”
Cas turns onto his side, faces Dean, and continues to hum. He doesn’t know what song this is he’s singing, if it’s a song at all, but it’s nice, and it adjusts itself to the hitch and flow of Dean’s breathing, pauses and continues as Dean’s chest halts in its rise and fall. Cas couldn’t verbalize the connection if he tried, but he knows it’s there. He’s humming Dean to sleep. Somehow.
He has an urge to move his hand, to press it to Dean’s forehead, and when his fingers move despite himself he pauses, unsure. The song falters, and Dean’s eyes open. “Cas?”
Cas takes a breath. He’s let Dean down by stopping, by hesitating, and he doesn’t want to do that again. So, deliberately, holding Dean’s gaze, he starts to hum again, and a moment later he takes another leap of faith and lifts his hand to Dean’s hairline, pausing there and then stroking backward to the base of his scalp.
He’s scared Dean will tense up, say “what the hell,” but he doesn’t. He closes his eyes.
Another stroke, another few notes, and Dean’s whole body is calming now, relaxing into the touch and the sound. His face, too… his lips hang slightly open, and Cas stares at them, draws himself closer to Dean so they brush at feet and knees and shoulders. Keeps singing, keeps stroking, his arm bent over Dean’s body — at first suspended, then relaxing so his elbow rests on Dean’s back just beneath his shoulder. A low hum, his hand sliding back against Dean’s sweat-damp hair, Dean’s exhalations buffeting soft air against Cas’s face. All in a rhythm, all together. Every inch just a little closer.
He hums the next note a bare millimeter from Dean’s mouth, and Dean’s lips tilt up to catch it.
Languid, soft, warm — lips on lips, as natural as breathing. Cas has no problem continuing to hum. This is part of the rhythm, this kiss, part of this slow ritual of relaxation they’re sharing. It’s not passionate, it’s not new, though it’s the first one they’ve ever shared. It’s just another way for them to be close. It works.
Cas takes a breath, hums more, and presses his lips to Dean’s a little more firmly. Dean responds, lips closing around Castiel’s lower lip, sliding there. A little more pressure, a little more wetness. But still quiet and relaxed. Now instead of stroke, breathe, hum, the rhythm is stroke, breathe, hum, kiss. If it’s burning up Cas’s heart with the possibilities, that’s just because he isn’t falling asleep. Dean is. And that’s what’s important.
The kisses stop, just as they started — naturally — and Cas’s voice breaks off the humming a moment later. Dean’s on the cusp of sleep now, his breaths even and slow, and when Cas pauses in his stroking of Dean’s hair, Dean doesn’t respond. Cas drops his hand to the ground, closes his own eyes, and lets himself drift off. Wrapped around Dean, with the memory of a melody hanging in the air, he doesn’t even need to worry about what happens when he goes. He’s never felt so safe in his life.