Castiel had seen suffering—what else was there for an angel to see over the brutal span of human history? Wars, catastrophe, pandemic—but always from a distance, disinterested, removed.
It was different to be—close. Castiel could think of no better word for his understanding with Dean since War had brought things to a head between the Winchesters. Angel and hunter—they traveled together, fought together—and Castiel stayed through the night, even if only one of them slept.
And so when Dean muttered a ragged "sorry," the word muffled under another savage nose swipe, and pulled them off the highway into a Motel 6, Castiel didn't even consider leaving him to his congested misery.
"Sorry," Dean said again, rummaging through his duffel bag for something, "Fucking cold. Just gonna try and—a—aa—" he was interrupted by something halfway between a sneeze and a bark of pain. Castiel silently handed him a tissue from the pocket stash he'd been maintaining since Colorado. "Thanks . Just gonna try and sleep it off. Ah--" He waved the bottle of finally-located bottle of Nyquil triumphantly at the angel.
Dean was nothing if not resolute in his endeavors; he dosed himself with medicine, bundled himself in an extra layer of sweats, and burrowed into the thin motel blankets, snoring determinedly.
Castiel removed his shoes and coat, as he'd learned to do, turned off the lights, and laid himself gingerly on the bed alongside Dean, careful not to disturb his fragile rest.
The angel didn't sleep, but he drifted, thinking of other things. And so, when the covers jerked under him, Dean wrestling his way towards freedom, Castiel was startled, pulled back from far-off worlds.
Dean was coughing—no, not coughing exactly, more like sputtering, almost gagging, trying to clear accumulated muck out of his airways. Finally, he sneezed wetly. "Cas—"
"Mmm—" Castiel fumbled for the stack of Kleenex on the bedside table, "here—"
Dean's palm was warm when Castiel pressed them into his waiting hand, and without thinking the angel wrapped his fingers around the hunter's wrist. The pulse beat light and rapid under hot skin.
"Dean," he said, "your fever—you should—"
"Yeah—" More thick hacking.
"Kit—on the sink—"
These half-phrases, Castiel thought as he got up to search for the Tylenol, were so peculiarly human. Angels rarely used words with one another, and when they did, their sentences were full, complete. Not these staccato bursts of intimacy in the dark.
Dean took the pills, some water, used five or six tissues to capacity, and tunneled back under the blankets.
But occasionally the most valiant efforts go for naught. As Castiel watched, helpless, Dean first tossed off the covers, then his sweatshirt, then the t-shirt underneath, and lay bare-chested, breathing—almost panting-- through his mouth.
"Don't," the angel murmured, pained, "you'll get chilled—"
"Just—" Dean flung himself irritably onto his stomach, "hot—and my back—fucking shoulders—" He bit off further complaints, snuffling into the pillow.
"Oh—" It hurt, Castiel couldn't deny that it hurt, to hear the pain in Dean's voice. He shifted so that he could lean over Dean, ran his fingers tentatively over the broad, hard lines of his back. He liked touch, Castiel had come to know that of Dean.
And sure enough, Dean sighed under his hands—a better sound, calmer. Castiel pressed more confidently into the heated flesh, smoothing the tense muscles in his shoulders, caressing the sharp, wingless jut of his shoulder blades, the elegant curve of his deltoids. Dean moaned a little as Castiel worked the heel of his palm into the hollow of his lower back.
The darkness, Castiel thought, made Dean's fever seem some banked fire, encased in a wall of flesh, smoldering unseen. Castiel imagined working his hands through those embers, gently snuffing out the sparks.
He wished he really could, vanquish illness with a touch. But that was beyond him now. Indeed, if it had ever been within his reach, he didn't know. In all those years of watching humanity, he had never felt the need to try.
And of course, it didn't work like that now. Soon enough, Dean coughed roughly into the pillow, twisted around again, searching for air.
"Sorry—" he gasped, "I just—"
"I know. Breathe."
Castiel got up again, wet a washcloth in the sink. There was surely more than one way to put out a fire.
Dean seemed too exhausted to protest as Castiel soothed the cloth over his forehead, paused a little at the tender places at the corners of his jaw, behind his ears, before running it over the planes of his chest, under his arms.
So passive was he under the angel's ministrations that Castiel was genuinely surprised when Dean clumsily grabbed his hand, stopped the movement.
He was sure that the hunter would tell him to back off now, stop fussing. That was the way Dean was. But Dean didn't say anything. Instead, he took the cloth away, and slowly, but firmly, guided Castiel's hand lower, until it cupped Dean's sex, half-hard and hotter even than the rest of his body, through his boxers.
"Dean—" Castiel protested, "we shouldn't—not now—" But he could feel the heat start to build in his own veins, fire crawling up his own skin--
In answer, Dean threw one arm over his face, and sneezed harshly into his elbow. With his other hand, he curled Castiel's fingers more firmly around the length of his cock.
Between the warmth emanating from Dean's body below him, and the branding grip of his hand, Castiel felt like he'd plunged into some alien atmosphere, some hotter planet than their own. It knocked him off-balance slightly, made him over-eager, and in his excitement, he squeezed too hard.
Dean made a pained sound, and Castiel loosened up quick. "Sorry," he whispered, self-conscious, "sorry."
"Shut up, Cas. Just—" Something about Dean's wrecked voice drove the words into Castiel's flesh like burrs, leaving tiny pricks of desire across his throat, his groin. And so when Dean tugged him over to straddle his hips, pulled weakly at his trousers, Castiel followed his lead, freed them both from their clothing, set as controlled a rhythm as he could, even though the friction of Dean's cock against his own threatened to send him hurtling over the edge.
Having set things in motion to his satisfaction, Dean lay back against the sheets with a sigh. Castiel couldn't see his face in the darkness, just the outline of his body, boneless and lax. It wasn't Dean's usual way when they did this—he was an active lover, vocal. But Castiel found, to his surprise, that the trust inherent in the posture, the surrender, only fueled his own need. He stroked more confidently along their joined lengths, found with his other hand the sensitive spot between cock and balls, heard their rapid breathing fall into sync.
The fever seemed to have robbed Dean of some of his stamina as well. A hitch in breath, a sharp buck of the hips, and he climaxed with a thick, guttural growl of satisfaction. The familiar smell in the dark room, the slick wetness between his fingers as he eased Dean through the aftershocks, released the last of Castiel's restraint, and he came too, striping Dean's belly beneath him.
He traced a finger through it idly as the waves of pleasure receded, wondering, as he always did, if all humans felt this—this secret wonder, this secret joy.
There was sweat now too, along Dean's torso, gathering in the dips of his pelvic bone. Probably a good thing, Castiel thought, maybe the fever breaking. He untangled himself carefully, retrieved a whole stack of towels from the bathroom, a roll of toilet paper.
Dean was already shivering lightly when he got back, and Castiel cleaned them both off as quickly as he could, found Dean some dry clothes, rescued the far-flung blankets from the floor. Dean devoted himself to the toilet paper, blowing into sheet after sheet of it, a weird symphony of snorts and snuffles. Eventually he started making another sound, more burble-y, that had Castiel worried.
"Dean--?" he asked.
But it turned out to be laughter. "I'll say one thing for you, Cas," Dean's amusement cut through layers of congestion, "you sure do know how to clear a guy's sinuses." And he landed the rough head rub and hair muss that the angel had long ago learned to understand as a kiss.