Hard neon lights, soft-edged darkness. A smile, small and shy, then wide and brilliant, eyes a brighter blue than he's ever seen before. Tiger, flower, bird. Laugh. Lips moving, and they shape his name, silently.
Dean doesn't wake up so much as slowly become aware he's no longer dreaming, broad white expanse of the ceiling swimming into view as his eyes drift open. There's a long moment where he's caught between the two states, empty-headed and aimless.
A soft, almost ticklish sensation draws him out of it, into his own body that's stiff from sleep and pleasantly achy, into warm sheets and a heavy weight pushing him deep into the mattress. Someone breathes out against his skin, again, and Dean tips his head down to meet the sleepy, slit-eyed stare of the man draped over him.
“… it’s Castiel, right?” he says after a moment, chin on his chest. “From accounting?”
Castiel gazes calmly back. “Yes. Assistant Controller of Finance, at your service,” he murmurs, head resting heavy and immobile on Dean’s sternum. He looks more than half-asleep still, with his slow blinks and the wide, honest yawn he hides behind a hand. But he smiles drowsily into the curve of Dean’s ribs, raises that hand to slide careful fingertips along Dean’s jaw.
“Good morning, Dean,” he murmurs, and lifts Dean’s chin as he shifts up to press a firm, open-mouthed kiss to Dean’s slack lips. Surprised into kissing back, hand moving of its own accord to tangle in Castiel’s hair, Dean can almost taste the gold light streaming in the windows, clinging to their lips and pooling on the bed’s jumble of sheets and skin like something sweet and thick and sticky.
Castiel’s head falls again, body falling around Dean's with easy intimacy as his eyes slide closed. His hand drops to rest over Dean’s heart, and Dean frowns down at it, at Castiel, more than a little bewildered.
It should be awkward as hell. Dean's waiting for it, bracing himself for the inevitable moment when they give each other queasy smiles and pull apart, disentangling their arms and legs and, for the unlucky bastard whose room this isn’t, tugging on stained and wrinkled clothes and making the furtive, hopefully unnoticed trip back to their own suite. Last company conference that bastard had been Dean, and Bela hadn’t been at all shy in kicking him out as soon as the sun rose.
Castiel nuzzles into him, and when Dean thoughtlessly burrows his fingers deeper in his hair the man lets out a pleased, purr-like groan and arches into the touch like a big cat.
This… Dean’s not sure what this is. But it isn’t awkward.
At a loss, he looks towards the windows, thick hotel curtains flung open to the punishing Las Vegas sun. It's shining high and bright above the neon and glass stretches of the city, leaving them in stark silhouette against the desert hills. The light sends a twinge through his head, the beginnings of a hangover headache threatening.
"When was the flight back again?" he asks the quiet room.
"We’ve missed it," Castiel assures him. He uncurls his body in a long, leisurely stretch, relaxing into a sprawl all along Dean's. There's nothing between them but warm skin and a little sweat, and Castiel lifts his eyes to Dean's and runs his tongue along the pink swell of his lower lip, suggestively.
Dean grins and urges him up into another kiss, and it's just as sweet and unhurried as the first, like they have all the time in the world to enjoy themselves. He feels a stab of regret he doesn't remember more of the previous night— with how eagerly Castiel moves with him, how his hands splay familiarly at his waist, drag down to grip his hips and set them rocking lazily against each other, Dean knows it must have been good.
The sheets slide down Castiel's back to the curve of his ass, and Dean's attention is momentarily arrested by riotous color. “You have tattoos,” he says, intrigued. Though the word ‘tattoos’ doesn’t seem quite enough to describe the vivid, strangely organic tangle of animals, feathers and flowers that flows down Castiel's back and twines restlessly over his shoulders, winding around his arms. The tallest branches of one tree crest just over the nape of his neck, naked and thorny, almost abstract in their stark black lines.
Castiel hums agreement against his jaw, mouthing at the soft skin just under his ear. “Yes.”
“They’re beautiful,” Dean says honestly, tracing the fluid lines that move between them with a light fingertip. Tiger, flower, bird. “Not very accountant-y.”
“Assistant Controller of Finance," Castiel corrects, mouth moving along Dean's throat. "And I was a rebellious child.”
"Mm, yeah," Dean says, tipping his head back. "I bet you were."
It's a few minutes later, Castiel's teeth digging into the slight mound of flesh just under Dean's navel, Dean grabbing a handful of sheets and the pillow under his head as he arches because damn, he did not know that was a turn-on, when he sees it.
It's a slim, smooth band, gold or gold-plated, snug at the base of the third finger on his left hand. Dean stares at it, because he doesn't remember buying any new jewelry and besides, the rest of his rings are silver—
"Cas," he pants, urgently.
"Hmm?" Castiel sucks at his mouthful and Dean's legs draw in tight against his sides.
"Christ, stop, stop for a second. Give me your hand," Dean says, fumbling for it.
Castiel looks up, a confused squint on his face as Dean grabs his left hand and holds it up to the light.
"Ah," he says.
"Holy shit," Dean says weakly, because there's a ring there too, his ring, tarnished silver thick and a little loose on Castiel's finger.
"Interesting," Castiel comments.
"Interesting? Interesting?" Dean holds his hand up to Castiel's, spreading his fingers wide. "What the hell happened last night?"
"We each appear to have gotten married to someone," Castiel says, and his voice is solemn but there's the suspicion of a smile lurking around his eyes, turned up to Dean's with an almost mischievous expression.
"No shit, Sherlock," Dean says, collapsing back into the pillows. He rubs a hand over his face. "Oh my God. Married in Vegas. Who does that?"
"Apparently, we do," Castiel says, and he sounds almost smug about it.
"Dude," Dean says, pained, "you didn't put roofies in my drink so you could have your wicked accountant way with me, did you?"
"Of course not." Castiel's face is a little more genuinely serious now as he props himself up on an elbow, a faint furrow creasing his forehead. Guy has eyes like a poet's grab-bag of metaphors, like skies and oceans and cornflowers. "I wouldn't."
"Then what happened?"
Castiel's head tilts, and he stares at Dean with a strange, almost worried look in his eyes. "Dean, you don't remember?"
"I remember... the bar downstairs. And beer," Dean says with finality. "Lots and lots of beer."
"... oh." Castiel's eyes drop away from his.
"There might have strippers?”
"I see," the man says quietly, and turns to sit up.
Dean catches his arm. "Wait," he says, "how did we even decide to—?"
"You were very persuasive," Castiel says, pulling gently but firmly out of Dean's grip. "And I was intoxicated as well."
He slips off the bed, and Dean rolls onto his side to watch him walk towards a suitcase lying open on top of the desk, ink moving over his muscles like water. From the small of his back, the tiger snarls at Dean.
"We should get cleaned up," the man says, pulling jeans and a tee shirt out. "And start looking for alternate flights."
Dean reaches over and grabs the hotel alarm clock on the nightstand, bringing it up to his face and squinting until the numbers come into focus. "Shit."
"I'll be quick," Castiel promises, and disappears into the bathroom.
Dean slowly sets the clock aside, staring at the closed door. "I didn't mean…" he says to the room, to the warm sunlight and the messy sheets and his cock, still lying thick and expectant against his thigh.
"I didn’t mean it like that," he says. "Damn it."
He lies back across the mattress, arm thrown over his eyes as he sighs. After a moment, he lifts his hand to look at the ring again. It really is a cheap piece of shit, already nicked on one side, and he reaches up and twists it uncertainly around his finger.
He should get up, get back to his own hotel room. It'll be check-out time soon, and he has work tomorrow— if he doesn't catch a flight soon, he'll touch down in Boston just a couple of hours before he has to be at the office, and that always sucks.
Castiel-from-accounting and he will sort this out. This is Las Vegas, for crying out loud, there's bound to be a quick and easy way to annul marriages. Hell, the front desk probably has pamphlets. He should just leave the ring here and go.
Nodding to himself, Dean tugs at the ring, gets it up to his first knuckle… and stops, thumb stroking over the minutely grooved surface of the edge.
The shower door opens outward and Castiel turns to face Dean, blinking under the spray.
"I figure, why waste water when we can share," he says offhandedly, and backs Castiel up against the tiles with a leer and a deep kiss, filthy as he can make it, hands coming up to frame Castiel's face as he swallows the man’s surprised moan.
"Why indeed," Castiel says dazedly when they separate, and lets out a startled, delighted laugh when Dean ducks his head and bites teasingly at the wet skin of his shoulder, roses winding through the feathers of the wing that's inked there.
They miss checkout. They nearly miss dinner, and even then it’s only when his stomach gives an angry, inopportune growl that Dean realizes how late it’s gotten.
“It’s nearly six, shut up,” he protests breathlessly as Castiel muffles his laughter in the damp skin at the crook of Dean's thigh. “And don’t stop, c’mon, Cas—”
They’re downstairs twenty minutes later, and the girls at the concierge desk give them knowing smiles. The one taking their keycards says, “Can I call the newlyweds a cab?”
“I think we need some dinner first,” Dean says, and while she lists places within walking distance Castiel wanders over from where he’s been examining a potted palm and leans into Dean, warm in the artificial chill of the hotel lobby. Dean tries not to enjoy the way he fits against his side, and to resist the urge to sneak an arm around his waist and pull him closer. When he fails on both counts, it’s easy enough to rationalize— they just spent the entire day in bed; who wouldn’t be a little clingy?
Normally, Dean. But when the girl gives him a coy smirk and says, “And the hotel has a honeymoon supper special, if you’re interested,” he squeezes Cas a little tighter and tells her that they are.
There’s a dim corner and candlelight, steak and lobster and champagne, and Castiel sitting on the same side of the table so he can feed Dean small forkfuls off his plate. Dean’s head feels like it’s full of the same bubbly sweetness that fills their glasses and it crowds out everything else, the worries and the knowledge that this is a temporary indulgence. Just until they get back home and can file the papers.
And if he’s only going to be married for a few days, why not champagne? Why not kiss Castiel over tiramisu and coffee, why not hold hands in the taxi to the airport, why not make a point of announcing that his husband has a bag to check and flashing his cheap ring at the sour-faced airline employee?
The flight they’ve switched to is a redeye, and their seats are next to each other in one of the furthest-back rows. Castiel lays his hand over Dean’s white-knuckled grip on the armrest and doesn’t say anything, even as the plane shakes its way airborn and Dean struggles not to hyperventilate most of the way into the stratosphere.
“Sorry,” he mutters when they’ve leveled out, but Castiel doesn’t respond; somehow, through the noise of the engines and Dean’s almost-panic attack, he’s managed to fall asleep, head dropping to rest on Dean’s shoulder. The flight attendant brings a blanket without being asked and Dean tucks it around him, smiling when it provokes a grumble and more determined burrowing into Dean’s neck.
The woman in the aisle seat looks like she’s watching a Hallmark commercial live, and when he accidentally catches her eye Dean ducks his head in embarrassment, turning to the window and the far-off constellations of highways and cities below. It’s just a blanket, he wants to tell her. Jesus.
They stagger into the deathly-quiet terminal at three in the morning Boston time, Dean gritty-eyed and surly, Castiel with a sleepy scowl and dragging feet as he plods after Dean into the main body of the airport.
"I'll walk you to your car," Dean says, looking over his shoulder.
"I took the bus," Castiel mumbles. “You can walk me to the depot, if you like.”
“Or I could drive you home,” Dean offers. “You look like you’d fall asleep and end up in Tallahassee.”
“New York,” Castiel admits. “And only the once.”
Dean chuckles, tugging him along by their still-tangled fingers. “Yeah, I’m driving you. This way.”
Castiel tries to crawl into the backseat of the Impala with their luggage, eyes barely open, and Dean reels him back with a handful of ass-ugly trenchcoat. “Whoa there, sleepyhead. I’m going to need directions.”
“C’mon, Cas,” he coaxes, pulling him towards the front seat. “You can sleep soon, I promise. Address first.”
The street name Castiel yawns out isn’t one Dean recognizes, but then he says, “Salem Turnpike,” and that at least Dean can follow.
They head north on empty city streets and pass out of Boston, neat rows of suburbia rolling past the open windows. Then forest. Then more suburbs.
“Castiel? We got a turnoff anytime soon?”
“Mmhm,” Castiel says, head on the door. The breeze they make as they cruise down the road is ruffling his hair into new and interesting shapes. Dean wants to smooth it with his fingers.
“At least take a look,” Dean says, tapping his knee instead. “We’re almost in Salem.”
“’S past Salem.”
“How far past?”
Castiel’s eyes blink open at that. “… Manchester Bay?” he says, contrite.
Dean rolls to a stop at a red light, staring at him. “That’s quite the commute.”
“I’m sorry,” Castiel says, yawning again. “I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s fine,” Dean says, shaking his head. “Not like I was going to get much sleep as it is.”
“You should stay over,” Castiel says determinedly. “I can lend you a shirt.”
Dean imagines it, and snorts. “Not sure that will work.”
“I’ll iron one you have, then. You’ll get to sleep, at least for a few hours,” Castiel says. “I’ll make breakfast.”
“You had me at sleep,” Dean says, because a reasonably-cushioned flat surface is rapidly becoming the only thing he wants from life. “No need for the hard sell.”
“Excellent,” Castiel says, settling back, “as I haven’t gone grocery shopping in three weeks and I doubt there’s anything edible in the entire house.”
It surprises a sputter of laughter from him and Castiel smiles, quick and furtive, as if that was what he’d been aiming for.
It’s twenty more minutes of easy silence before Castiel touches his arm and says, “There, on the right,” and Dean turns the car onto a narrow private drive, trees and underbrush crowding in close to the asphalt. Massive oaks and chestnut trees arch over the road on both sides, creating a tunnel of green his headlights can’t penetrate.
“Another right," Castiel says, and Dean obediently follows the curve of the road as it rises.
"Hey," Dean says, struck by a sudden thought. "Are we anywhere near the—?"
They break out of the trees for a scant second and the ocean is suddenly there, crashing against the base of the rocky cliff the road runs parallel to. The moon gleams above the dark water, gilding the tips of the waves as they crest.
"Whoa," Dean says as the trees swallow them again.
"There," Castiel points. "Turn there."
Dean slows, searching the shoulder for a curb. "Where?"
"Here." Castiel leans into him craning to look out the driver's-side window. "Right here, turn—"
The gravel drive is almost invisible, undergrowth choking out the stones, and Dean turns the Impala onto what looks more like a goat track than anything his baby should be setting wheels to. “Are you sure?”
Castiel gives him a patient look. “Yes, Dean. I’m sure.”
The gravel winds its way through the trees, and Dean follows it, creeping along through the tall grass until suddenly, he sees it.
"Cas— you live here?"
Castiel frowns at him. "Yes?"
Dean stares out the windshield. "Jesus fucking Christ."
His first impression is big, followed by huge and then fucking enormous. Once, in bygone days, the house might have been the summer home of some Rockefeller-type tycoon, a robber baron who'd made big money in steel or timber and had bags of it to throw away on palatial 'cottages' on the cliffs above the beach. They dot the coast north and south of Boston, as common as shells and seagulls.
Now it sprawls through overgrown gardens, stone stained and cedar-plank siding gone patchy and weathered to a soft silver-grey, the white paint on the trim faded and flaking. He can see that it sits right at the edge of the treeline and hill, dark rock, sand and seagrass sloping all the way down to the beach below.
Two wings of the house and a crumbling gate flank a paved courtyard, and Dean rolls through the rusted wrought-iron to come to a stop in the center of the flagstones, still staring.
"Cas… this place must be worth millions."
Castiel shrugs, pulling off his seatbelt. "It might be. I inherited it."
But Castiel's already out of the car, and Dean shakes his head and follows him, turning off the engine and opening his door.
The headlines turn off but if anything, the night seems brighter. Dean follows Castiel to the broad stone steps leading to the front door, a small gust across the courtyard bringing the salty tang of the sea and the sound of the waves. Castiel fits his key into the lock, shoves the door open with his shoulder and reaches back for Dean's hand before stepping into the darkness.
When he shuts the door behind him, Dean can’t see more than vague shapes in the gloom, but Castiel squeezes his fingers and leads him unerringly around indistinct shapes that might be boxes and might be furniture, pulling him deeper and deeper into the house.
“I could sleep on the couch,” Dean offers, even as Castiel draws him past rooms, through doorways and down a long hallway to stairs that coil like a nautilus shell.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Castiel says, and he pushes open the doors at the top to reveal a two-story room, ceiling soaring to a point and the walls all finely-paned window. A giant unmade bed sits on the floor in the middle of it, and moonlight gives the sheets the lustre of a pearl. Castiel sheds clothes as he goes, and he’s down to dark briefs and socks when he crawls onto the mattress, pulling the sheets up with him.
Dean slowly toes off his shoes. “I’ll just— climb in there with you then?”
“Dean,” Castiel says crossly. There's something unworldly, otherworldly about him, about the way he looks at Dean while the moonlight pours over his shoulders.
“Alright already.” Dean draws off his shirt and leaves it and his pants draped over a chair, and Castiel reaches up and tugs him into the mess of pillows and blankets. He shifts and wriggles in the sheets until they’re both cozily ensconced in the center.
“I feel like I’m in a giant bird’s nest,” Dean tells the top of his head. The moon outside looks like it’s melting down the thick warped glass. "Or a bear’s den."
“Mmhm," Castiel sighs. "Go to sleep."
"Sleep." Castiel's fingers find his mouth, trace out his lips a moment before Castiel's mouth finds his again, a kiss that's brief and somehow chastising.
Dean mutters, "Yes, dear," and sleeps.