“Check this out.” Sam turns the laptop toward Cas, who blinks at it curiously. “The ESO’s got some incredible photos. They just uploaded a series of open clusters, and some of them are mind-blowing.”
Dean snorts from the bed, the remote control pointed at the TV like a weapon. Fifty channels, plus free HBO, and nothing’s on? How is that even possible? “You wanna show him mind-blowing? Look in my bookmarks under ‘pole dancing championship’.”
There is a moment of silence, tense enough that even Dean manages to tear his eyes away from what must be Telemundo. They’re speaking Spanish and just broke out into a dance routine. This is why the American media sucks.
“Cas? Dude, you okay?”
“This image,” Cas says quietly, eyes clouded with weariness and a thousand sleepless nights. Adapting to the routines of humanity hasn’t been kind to him. “It’s —”
“It’s…” Sam cranes his neck and squints at the monitor. “The Pleiades. Probably the most recognizable cluster there is.”
“Why do you even know that? No, seriously, how does that shit affect our lives at all?”
“Shut the hell up, Dean.”
Cas stares at the screen, eyes soft, lashes dipping with what can only be pain. He reaches out to touch — something Sam’s yelled at him for doing countless times — and gently places his fingertips upon it, treating it like the most precious gift he’s ever received. And it might be. The Winchesters have never been much for gift-giving, which is a shitty life to introduce Cas into. Normal people get gifts all the time. The last thing Dean gave him was a stick of gum.
Dean rolls out of bed and pads over, resting an arm carelessly over the back of Cas’s shoulders. “Say again?”
“Sandalphon, my old general,” Cas says, tilting his head. “This is… She was a brilliant tactician. She led the first battalion against Lucifer during the First War.”
Sam exhales softly. “What happened?”
“She… decided that Lucifer’s way was right. She Fell.”
An awkward silence stretches between them, an eternity before Sam clicks on the next picture. Cas expels a breath like it physically hurts him to hold it in.
They go through maybe forty pictures of open clusters, which Dean still really doesn’t understand, Cas naming each of them as a brother or sister — “Penemue, Amaros, Arkas, Kochab…” — before they come to an image that is, admittedly, breathtaking. Dean lets out a low whistle and nudges Cas’s neck with his arm, fingers brushing the worn fabric of Dean’s old ACDC shirt, a bit too big over Cas’s thin shoulders.
“That one fucking rocks,” he says, and nudges Cas again. “Who’s that?”
Cas sucks in a shuddering breath and leans to rest his head on Dean’s stomach, fingers reaching out once more for the monitor.