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Dignus Amore

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"Please. I've worked here for fourteen years."

This was one part of many that Castiel hated about his job. He disliked the soul-sucking monotony of a nine-to-five, spent in his dismal, windowless corner office with yellowed tube lighting. He didn't care for the small talk at the copier ("Did you see the game last night?" they all seemed to ask, no matter the season, no matter the day of the week, which Castiel had always managed to miss.) Even more so, he hated the way he was seen as the Novak's less charismatic son, the one stuck down in Human Resources because he lacked the skills his brothers had. Gabriel was charming, Michael ambitious, and Lucifer ruthless.

But Castiel? He was the black sheep of his notable family. They could handle his freakish level of intelligence; Gabriel, after all, had profited more than once off of Castiel's ability to forgo "gut feelings" and deduce gambling choices by logic, often calling Castiel before he placed horse bets at the racetrack one town over. If Castiel had simply been bright and nothing more, he'd likely share the top floor of this wretched building with his three brothers and their parents, ruling over the city like a royal family in a gilded tower.

"I'm sorry," Castiel replied softly, shuffling around his desk for a pen and paper. "As of now, you are no longer employed at Novak Pharmaceutical Company."

His family was right. He was intelligent.

"What will I do?" Anna’s lip trembled. "I don't have any savings, nothing."

He was also, however, something far less forgivable.

"Here," Castiel said, and he scribbled something down on a pad. "This is my cell number. Go right now and file for unemployment. Have them call me, and only me. Do you understand?"

"I can't get unemployment if I'm fired."

"I'm aware," Castiel said with the barest hint of a smile. "That is why the head of HR will need to explain you've been laid off, not fired. There just wasn't enough work in the advertising department right now...no fault of your own, of course."

Anna stared down at the paper in her hands.

"But your family-"

"Does not need to know," Castiel finished for her. "Go, Anna. If you hurry, you can get to the unemployment office before lunch."

Anna rose from her seat and grabbed her purse, heading for the door hastily. She glanced back before she left, smiling at Castiel.

"You're a good guy," she said, closing his door behind her.

Castiel was good. And to his family, that made him weak.

*

Castiel spent the rest of his workday filing meaningless paperwork for the company. The paperwork was droll and not typically part of an HR manager's job, but his family insisted that anything crucial for running the company's finances be reviewed only by Castiel.

"Are you busy?" a voice asked carelessly at his door, and Castiel raised his tired eyes to the menacing figure of his brother.

Lucifer Novak had a reputation to uphold. Most people would've balked at being named after Satan himself; he relished it. Lucifer was the company's go-to man for deal making, because what Lucifer wanted, he received. And as he was now, leering at Castiel from the doorway like a villain in a monster movie, he looked nearly predatory.

"I'm just finishing up," Castiel replied. "Is there a problem?"

"A little birdie told me that Anna managed to get unemployment."

Castiel's silence filled the room and Lucifer stepped inside, taking a seat across from him at the desk.

"Now, baby brother. How did she do that?"

"She has been here for over a decade, Lucifer. She helped our company become what it is today-"

"And she fucked up an important ad campaign. Didn't do her research. We ended up running a commercial similar to our biggest rivals...do you know how that made us look? Pathetic!" Lucifer slammed his hand down on the desk and Castiel flinched. "But she comes in here, bats those pretty eyes at you, and you let her have unemployment? That little whore is going to live off the system! She'll be rewarded for her uselessness."

"She-she couldn't have known. Those ads were released at the same time-"

"What did she do to you to get unemployment, huh? She suck you off under the table?"

"N-no!" Castiel sputtered.

Lucifer leaned forward and put his elbows on the table, studying Castiel over his clasped hands.

A grin broke across his face.

"You could've asked her for one. A blowjob. I know she'd have done it. But you wouldn't do that, would you?" Lucifer sat back, anger evaporated, and smirked at his brother. "Saint Castiel, our savior. Do you even know what time it is?"

Castiel did. He didn't say a word.

"It's almost nine, brother. You're in the office, working, at nine o'clock on a Friday night. Again."

"So are you," he answered, and immediately closed his mouth. Talking back to Lucifer had never ended well as a child, and Castiel had no desire to see if his brother's strength had continued into adulthood.

"Ah, but I'm not working," Lucifer replied with a smile. It didn't reach his eyes. "I'm here to see Eve."

"The receptionist."

"That's her," Lucifer winked. "And we're going to do a little kink exploring. You know, the fantasy of fucking the boss."

Castiel couldn't hide the look of disgust on his face fast enough and Lucifer rolled his eyes.

"You need to let loose too, brother. You follow every rule and you'll end up like Michael. So fucking boring. Just you and your finger paintings, all alone in your apartment. Look, I've got something for you," Lucifer dug around in his pocket and pulled out a small business card before handing it to Castiel. It was blank except for an address, roughly four blocks from his own apartment. "Go there. Take your pick of any whore you want, and tell Al I'm paying."

Castiel blanched and tried to shove the card back.

"A prostitute? I can't-"

"Castiel," Lucifer stopped him, a cold look back in his eyes. "I'm doing this as your brother. You remind me too much of Michael, and Michael is a dick. Go break the rules for once. I'll call Al and check in later. If I find out you didn't go, I'll have to let Mother and Father know about Anna. We don't want her to lose her unemployment, do we?"

Castiel sighed and took the card back, and Lucifer stood with a clap of his hands.

"Perfect! Have fun. Oh, and don't forget to lock the main doors on your way out. I want to make sure Eve gets the full experience."

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Dean groaned and slapped at his phone when it went off. He'd been out until nearly four a.m. with his latest client, and had barely had enough energy to stagger back to his tiny apartment and shower before collapsing into the bed. Sleep, eat, shower, work, shower, repeat. Seven days a week, three hundred fucking sixty five days a year, for just over a year now. Only three hundred and fifty four days to go. Almost a full year ahead of violence and shame, loathing-

Dean kicked the blanket off and sat up, then headed to the bathroom. He wouldn't let his thoughts go down that road. He was over halfway done, and that was reason enough to keep going. The main reason, of course, was Sam, but he'd take anything at this point. He was lucky he hadn't succumbed to the drugs that most of his coworkers had; then again, he didn't have the predilection to them that the others did.

Morning showers (or afternoon, in his case) were always the most time consuming. Alistair required all of his employees to be thoroughly clean before they came in for their shifts. Dean took care to wash every inch of skin that could possibly be touched, then some areas that were a little more invasive. When he had first started working for Alistair, he had blanched at the very idea of using the douching nozzle in his tiny shower. Now, it was second nature for Dean to wash himself without a thought. Once the shower was complete, he gave himself a quick shave and set about to choosing his clothes from the box by his mattress. It was Friday, which meant he'd be in the Cube, so Dean chose carefully. His jeans clung to his body just so, and a simple black t-shirt highlighted his muscled arms. It should be enough to get attention from someone.

The kitchen was his next stop, and Dean heated up some leftover soup while his phone pumped music into the room. The apartment itself was an utter disaster. Alistair owned his workers and the building; he didn't have to provide anything but the most basic amenities. Dean had a bathroom (the most luxurious room in his apartment, because he couldn't make money if he was filthy, and Alistair knew it), a tiny kitchen with one pot, a dorm-style refrigerator, a beaten microwave, and a hot plate for cooking, and a living room that doubled as a bedroom, with a bare mattress thrown on the floor and a wool blanket left over from what Dean could only assume was World War II. He hadn't known what to expect when he first came to live in Alistair's building, but he knew it would be about the same as he had left. Dean gave up a dirty, rundown apartment and a meaningless job to come here. He had nothing to leave behind. Sam, though. Sam had a bright future and a dream of big things, and Dean would've fought through hell to make sure he could take his brother's place.

The microwave dinged and Dean jumped and pulled his meal out to eat with a sigh.

Only three hundred and fifty four more days.

Chapter Text

Castiel swallowed and stared up at the brick building in front of him. He passed by the alley that led to the front door every day on his way to work, yet had never even noticed it. But he supposed that was the point. Someone running an illicit business would need someplace unassuming. He steeled himself, nerves beginning to get the best of him. He didn't want to be here. He could be in his apartment, working on his latest piece in the relative quiet, but Lucifer had made it quite clear that he would only allow Anna's unemployment to go unchecked if he came here. Castiel tried to reason with himself. He didn't have to do anything. He could simply buy (and how he hated himself for thinking that way) a prostitute's time and tell them to go away.

Yes, he reasoned. That will do.

The wooden front door was outdated and worn, the words A&C Associates in fading black lettering on the surface. Castiel pushed open the door, and was met immediately by a plain reception area that would've looked at home in a doctor's office. A woman sat at an enclosed desk in the front, picking at her nails in boredom, and smirked when Castiel walked up.

"Well, hello," she dragged her gaze up Castiel's body. "How can I help you?"

Castiel opened his mouth to reply, and realized he had no idea how to ask for what he needed.

"Um," he began. "My-my brother sent me here. He gave me a card?"

Castiel hastily dug it out of his pocket and handed to the woman, who seemed unimpressed.

"Yeah? This brother got a name?"

"Lucifer Novak."

The woman's eyebrows rose slightly and she smirked.

"And which Novak brother might you be?"

"Castiel," he replied, and instantly wished he could take it back; he knew this operation was immoral and here he was, associating his name with it!

"And what package are you interested in this evening?"

"There's more than one option?"

"Oh, honey," the woman smiled her devilish grin up at him again. "Anything you want, we can make it happen."

"I-I don't know. I thought I would just purchase someone's time for the night-"

"A whole night package, then. Do you want to have us choose someone, or would you prefer to enter the Cube yourself and pick?"

Castiel didn't much care for the thought of shopping for a person like they were a cut of meat, but he couldn't imagine himself going home with just any random person either. He needed to control at least some aspect of this situation.

"I'll decide for myself, thank you," Castiel answered, and the woman jotted everything down on a piece of paper, which she handed to Castiel.

"And of course, how will you be paying?"

"My brother will pay for...this."

"Excellent. Now, Mr. Novak, I'll buzz you in. Go through the double doors and hand your paper to the man in the suit. He'll let you into the Cube. When you decide which person you like, let him know."

Castiel grimaced slightly, but nodded.

"Thank you for all of your help...um-"

"Meg," the woman leered. "And in case you're wondering, I am definitely available to buy for the night."

Castiel mumbled an affirmative and blushed, heading for the door. He heard Meg laugh as a buzzer sounded, and he opened the door. The hallway behind it was decorated much the same way as the room had been, and Castiel was thrown by its tasteful decorations and cream colored walls. The man standing at the end of the short hall held out his hand, and Castiel gave him the paper. His eyes flew over it, and he stepped to the side, opening the door up for Castiel without a word.

Castiel meant to thank him as well, but the words hung in his throat when he stepped through the door into muted lighting. The walls of the massive room were made entirely of closet-sized, plexiglass cubicles. Inside every cubicle was a person, and Castiel froze on the spot to gape at them. Men and women alike filled the cubes, of every body type and race, ranging from barely legal to gray-haired. Some were dancing to the music playing softly in the room, swaying their bodies in various states of undress, licking their lips and winking at him. Others openly masturbated, calling out profanities while Castiel quickly averted his eyes.

One woman sauntered up to the wall of her cube and rapped lightly, beckoning Castiel over. She was beautiful, there was no doubt. Dark hair flowed down her back and large brown eyes twinkled brightly. She was clad in a skintight black dress and lethal heels, but beneath it all she looked far too skinny, and her smile never reached her eyes. Castiel approached her nervously, and she leaned against the wall to speak into pencil-sized holes so he could hear her.

"What are you looking for tonight?" she purred. "Check my list, baby. I do it all."

Castiel hadn't even noticed the tags hanging off each cubicle. He glanced at hers curiously, noticing it was like a checklist. Items such as "hardcore BDSM (switch)" were listed, and the woman was truthful in saying that everything on the list had a tiny red checkmark beside it.

"Take me home?" she dropped to her knees and licked a wet path up the glass obscenely.

Castiel stumbled back, but more than one occupant had started to yell to him. They became more vocal, some of them even pawing at their walls, and Castiel was reminded horribly of the time Lucifer had made him watch zombie movies as a kid. He backed up into a corner to gather his thoughts, and a chuckle made him whip around.

A man stood inside this corner cubicle, a man of such overwhelmingly handsome features that Castiel's mind was struck blank. He didn't act like the others; there was no desperation, no moaning or wanton begging. This man leaned casually against the side of his cube in jeans and a t-shirt, looking for all the world like this was a normal circumstance to find oneself in. He smiled at Castiel.

"You are really not used to this kind of thing, huh?" the man inside the cube asked. "Did your friends put you up to this?"

"N-no," Castiel replied. "My brother."

"Sounds like a dick move," the man shrugged, and furrowed his brow when another catcall made Castiel inch closer to his cube. "Hey, if you don't want to do this, you don't have to. Your brother can't force you to do anything."

He could, and Castiel knew it. Lucifer could take away Anna's unemployment, of course, but there was so much more. He could tell his parents of Castiel's weakness. He could have him cut out of the company. Castiel had been saving money since he started working there, but that wasn't the point. He could have Castiel cut out of his own family. Weakness didn't look good in an affluent family like the Novaks, and Castiel had no one else.

"My brother is not the kindest of men," Castiel said more to the floor than the man in front of him.

"So?" he countered. "Come on, man. No offense, but you seem like the kind of guy who'd have a hell of a lot more fun at a bookstore than a whorehouse."

"You're not wrong," Castiel smiled tentatively. "I actually considered stopping at The First Page on the way over here."

"They stay open late on Fridays," the man answered. "Friggin' hipsters, I swear. They get those indie bands in and serve fancy coffee instead of beer. Who does that?"

"The coffee is quite good."

"Then go," the man emphasized. "So you piss off your brother by being more into books than women. Big fuckin' deal. What do you have to lose?"

Everything, Castiel wanted to say.

"Then you're coming with me."

"Do what now?" the man looked at Castiel like he'd just asked him to fly. "You're buying a prostitute to go get crappy coffee?"

Castiel curled his nose.

"No," he said. "I'm compensating you for your time to listen to music."

"Yeah, sure. However you get your rocks off. I ain't talking you out of a few hours' pay."

"Excellent. Please excuse me," Castiel said, and made his way back out the door, much to the dismay of the rest of the people in the room, who scoffed and went back to talking amongst themselves when they realized they wouldn't be chosen.

"Did you find one you like?" the guard asked.

"Yes. The man with the jeans and black shirt, please."

"Good choice," the guard replied, as though they were discussing fine wine and not human beings. "He's among our most popular."

The guard produced a clipboard, and handed it off to Castiel.

"This is just the basic agreement. We know your family, and they've never been a problem," he said, and pointed out places for Cas to pay attention. "If you decide to fuck without a condom, which is stupid, any results are on you. No lasting marks on our property, no permanent damage either, even though Winchester has a loud mouth on him and you're gonna be tempted to knock him around."

Bile rose in Castiel’s throat at the thought, though he nodded along.

"Head up to Meg. I'll bring 'em on out."

Moments later, Castiel was standing in front of a disappointed looking Meg and waiting for the imposing guard to come back. The door opened and the man emerged, bowlegged and sauntering, the guard behind him.

"-back by three tomorrow."

"Yeah, yeah, Cole. This ain't my first rodeo. I still remember yours though."

The guard, Cole, reddened and the man beside him sent him a wink, then turned his gaze on Castiel.

"You ready? Pretentious coffee is calling my name."

He led the way out the door, and Castiel stumbled along behind him.

"And what would that be? Your name, I mean."

"Dean," the man, Dean, raised an eyebrow. "You didn't ask them who I was?"

"It didn't seem appropriate to ask strangers about something you could easily tell me yourself," Castiel replied. "You have the same right to privacy as anyone else."

"Not everyone sees whores as having privacy- uh..."

"Castiel," Castiel stuck his hand out, and Dean shook it as they walked.

"Weird name for a weird dude," Dean replied, then added, stuttering, "Not that you're weird! You're just not what I was expecting."

Castiel turned left at the end of the road and paused by the entrance to the bookstore.

"Is that a bad thing? If you're uncomfortable, we can do something else."

"No!" Dean said quickly. "Shit man, this is super vanilla compared to my normal nights. I just meant you're different than my regular clients."

"And that's a...good thing?"

Dean smiled crookedly.

"I'd take indie crap over the other options any day," he said, then held the door open for Cas. "After you."

Chapter Text

The First Page was crowded for the night, and Castiel considered him and Dean lucky to have gotten a seat at a small table in the middle of the coffee shop. It was the ideal place for an impromptu concert, honestly. Before the current owner bought it, the shop had been a small local theater. The new owner lined the walls with enormous bookshelves, threw in a cash register and an area to make overpriced coffee, replaced the rows of chairs with small tables, and was an instant cult hit.

They ordered plain coffees from the extensive list, then settled back to watch the crew members change set ups between performers on stage. Well, Dean watched the crew. Castiel watched Dean. He was still processing the thought that he paid a prostitute. Whatever happened to paying them and telling them to leave, he asked himself.

"Alright!" a woman's voice rang out from the stage, and Cas startled, looking up to see an excited redhead woman holding a mic. "Thank again to Olan and his mad harmonica skills! And thank you to everyone who came out to open mic night! We've got a few more scheduled performers, then we're going to open the floor up to anyone who wants to show their talent!"

Dean nudged Castiel's leg under the table and smirked.

"Too bad they don't serve alcohol. I bet if I got a few drinks in you, you'd be serenading everyone."

"Possibly," Cas replied. "In college, I unwittingly became the campus Guitar Hero champion while inebriated. I've been told it was the performance I gave, not the skill I exhibited."

Dean laughed and Castiel bit his lip. Dean's grin only got wider when he saw the next performer on stage. It was a young woman in overalls, hair tied up with a piece of denim, standing next to a harp.

"Holy shit. She looks like an extra from that Come on Eileen video from the 80s."

A woman at the table in front of them turned around to glare at Dean.

"She is a classically trained harpist who decided to use her skills in a more avant garde manner," the woman said with a sneer.

"What the hell does that-"

All at once, the woman on stage began to play the harp, and while the music was lovely, it was overshadowed slightly by the words she shrieked into the microphone.

"Ponies! Mermaids and doooOOOOooves. Blind mice and men! OF Mice and Men! Whimsy, whiMSY, or is it truth?"

"Tell me you're seeing this," Dean shouted to Castiel over the din. "Tell me these people didn't spike my fancy coffee."

The noise continued for a minute or so until the woman ended on one last scream of "annihilation!"

The audience cheered and Dean turned a bewildered look at Castiel.

"Dude, just go up and make porn sounds into the mic. You'll beat her by a mile. What the fuck was that supposed to be?"

The woman in front turned back around and flipped Dean the bird, then started whispering to the people around her and pointing back at him. He shrugged, then downed the rest of his coffee.

"I know I said this was vanilla compared to my other things, but it's starting to creep up on the list. Unless you like it. Crap, do you like this stuff?"

"Of course," Castiel said, taking a sip of coffee. "This is my night off, or I'd be down there preparing my banjo."

Dean looked momentarily horrified until Castiel's smile gave him away.

"Did you just make a joke? You do have a sense of humor!"

Once again, the redheaded woman at the front began to speak, introducing the next act. Castiel paid more attention to Dean than the performers, and his running commentary on the people who took the stage.

Dean had just finished comparing the latest talent (a group of scraggly men in tuxedo jackets and cowboy hats) to "an off brand version of The Bachelorette" when a man approached them.

"I've had several complaints about you two," he said firmly. "I'm afraid you'll have to leave."

"We-we didn't do anything-," Castiel began, but the man held up his hand.

"You apparently called Amanda an 'Olive Oyl wannabe' and compared Hudson to 'that one ugly pug from Milo and Otis'."

"To be fair, man, the impersonation industry is booming and they could have a future," Dean piped up, and the man pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration.

"Just get out."

Castiel barely contained his laughter until they were back on the street, and once he started laughing, Dean joined in and made it worse, until they were barely a block away from the coffee shop and hardly able to stand.

"I-impersonation? Really Dean?" Castiel wiped at his eyes and Dean shrugged happily.

"Tell me I'm wrong, Cas. Just try and deny it."

"Cas?"

"Look, we just got kicked out of a shitty hipster coffee shop together. I think the time for formalities is over."

"You're probably correct."

They fell into a companionable silence and Castiel looked around the city streets. It was still early for partiers, and lots of people seemed to be taking advantage of the comfortable weather, unseasonably warm for late autumn. Dean bumped Castiel's arm and smiled.

"So, what now?"

"Sorry?"

"I mean, what do you want to do?" Dean asked. "You paid for the whole night. I'm yours until 8 am tomorrow morning."

"Oh," Castiel replied. "Well...I hadn't planned on doing anything else this evening. You're welcome to go back home."

That had been the plan all along, after all. Castiel would go and do as his brother had asked, and then send the other person home. Coffee hadn't even originally been in the plan. But he didn't really want the evening to be over with yet. For the first time in months, he was enjoying being out of his apartment. Dean was funny and easy to talk to, and Castiel didn't realize how much he had missed that.

"Are you sure?" Dean worried his bottom lip. "I'm not trying to guilt you or anything, but if I try and come back before our paid time is up, they won't let me in."

"That isn't fair," Castiel frowned.

"It's supposed to 'discourage the whores from taking the money and running'," Dean used finger quotes and rolled his eyes. "It's not like we got a union, man."

"How will they know if you just go home?"

Dean narrowed his eyes at Castiel as though trying to determine if he were lying.

"You seriously don't know what kind of business Alistair runs, do you? That building is my home. I have a room upstairs. I mean, it's not really mine. I ain't even got any pictures on the walls, but at least it has a bed. Anyway, the security people know our appointments and stand at the entrance. If we try and get back in early, they won't let us in."

"But don't your clients generally pay upfront? Your boss will still get his money."

"All of 'em do, except big name people. It doesn't matter. Alistair sees it as not fulfilling our obligations, and says it makes his business look bad."

Castiel furrowed his brow. Prostitution and brothels were legal in the city. Alistair technically wasn't doing anything wrong; as long as the workers had enough down hours in between shifts and followed all legal outlines, there was nothing that could be done.

"You can come to my apartment then," Castiel offered. He only intended to paint anyway.

"You don't even know me and you're going to let me come over? You'd be the first to die in a horror movie, Cas."

"Are you going to kill me?"

"...No?"

"Then it's fine. I live near here."

"Come on, man, I don't want to force you into this. I can just go sit at a diner-"

"Sit at a diner?" Castiel checked his watch. "For eight hours? Absolutely not."

Dean bit his lip, clearly weighing his choices.

"Alright. Lead the way."

dean_page_divider

Dean didn't know what to expect from Castiel, and that was throwing him off. They had been to get coffee, just as he had said he wanted to do, and then the man was simply going to let him go home? Did he have no concept of how much it cost to buy him for an entire night? If he did, he didn't care, and Dean fell into step beside him on the way to the apartment.

"It's pretty obvious you're new at this," Dean said, and Castiel squinted at him in a way he found damn adorable.

"How so?"

"I could be conning you right now," he said with a shrug. "Get to your place, steal everything you got."

"You could be," Castiel agreed. "But you're not. We've only spent a small bit of time together, Dean. But I can tell that you're not the type of man to purposefully hurt another."

And what the hell do you say to something like that? Dean flushed pink to the tips of his ears and stammered for something to say. He was saved the trouble by Castiel.

"Here we are."

Castiel's apartment building was an older one compared to the newer, more luxurious buildings surrounding it since the neighborhood had seen an explosion of young people. It was still clean, though. Dean followed Castiel to a small elevator that required a card being swiped to move, and stepped on with him, riding it all the way to the top floor. When it reached the very top, the doors opened to reveal a short hallway with a plain wooden door at the end and emergency exit stairs to the left, outfitted with the same key card technology the elevator had. Being able to afford your own place came with serious security perks.

"You live in the penthouse?" Dean asked.

"Don't be too excited," Castiel replied when he opened the wooden door. "It isn't terribly fancy, but it is mine. Make yourself at home."

The penthouse was dated, but it was far from simple. A tidy kitchen with light pine cabinets sat off to the side, and Castiel made his way there.

"Would you like a drink?" he asked, and Dean nodded, eyes drawn to the other side of the room.

A vast portion of the wall was made up entirely of windows, overlooking the city laid out below them. It looked almost peaceful from up here, glittering and shiny in a way that it never quite accomplished during the hazy daytime hours. But the picturesque view wasn't Dean's main interest. The wall bordering the window contained an enormous canvas, clearly a take on the city below, but to describe it as such was a massive understatement.

It depicted the skyline at night. However, Instead of the harsh, straight lines of skyscrapers and industrialization, the artist had instead used swaths of color. Midnight blues and metallic silvers swirled together on the canvas, creating swells of buildings topped with moonlight. Golds tinged with bright white danced along the painted road and illuminated stylized blobs that Dean recognized as cars. The colors slowly faded to pitch black at the very top of the canvas, interspersed by smudges of purple and white to make stars.

"I didn't think we needed more coffee," Castiel said beside Dean, and handed him a cup of water. "But hydration is important after the amount of caffeine we just had."

"Thanks," Dean took the cup and nodded toward the painting. "That's awesome. Where did you get it?"

"I painted it," Castiel shrugged.

"Seriously? You painted that?"

"Yes. I'm a painter in my spare time."

"Dude," Dean shook his head disbelievingly. "That ain't something you do in your spare time. You could sell that for, like, $3000 easy."

Castiel's cheeks turned pink.

"You think so?"

"I know it. I mean, I don't know crap about art, but I'd be willing to pay for something like that. You know...someday."

"Follow me, Dean."

Castiel turned and headed down a hallway. Doors flanked either side. Castiel took the one on the right, flicking the lights on to reveal a large room walled entirely on one side with windows, and lined with painter's paper and canvases on every available surface. Dean followed him inside in awe, and sat his cup down on the floor to eliminate any risk of spilling it and upsetting the beauty in front of him.

Stylized, painted versions of the city seemed to be Castiel's specialty, but the space contained charcoal sketches of parks, a few color pencil portraits, and even a highly detailed close up of a brick wall and wooden front door.

"They're...wow. Why the hell don't you do this as your job?" Dean asked.

"I considered it. I even attended college, as I told you before. I dropped out my senior year."

"Why?"

Castiel shrugged again, though this time his brow furrowed.

"My family needed me."

"Yeah," Dean said after a moment. "I understand that."

"Pick one."

"No, man, I can't do that. I can't pay you for it."

"I'm not worried about that. You said you don't have anything in the room at Alistair's. Maybe one of these will make your room feel like it belongs to you."

A smile slowly grew across Dean's face.

"Really?"

At Castiel's nod, Dean's grin only widened. He immediately chose a smaller version of the large painting in Castiel's living room, about the size of a wall calendar.

"I like this one," Dean held it carefully, and pointed out the cars for Castiel. "See that black car there? I had one just like it before...well, before."

"It's yours then."

"Thanks, Cas," Dean bit his lip and held the painting close, his awed staring only broken by a jaw cracking yawn.

"Let me set up the spare bedroom, then maybe we can watch a movie if you're not too tired."

He led the way back out, scooping up Dean's cup to carry with his own.

"The spare room?" Dean asked, following him down the hall. "So you were serious about just getting coffee and sending me back? You don't want sex?"

"Of course," Castiel frowned. "Dean, you are funny and charming, and quite good looking. However, you are unable to give consent no matter what I think of you, and I would never violate someone in such a way."

"Uh, Cas? Pretty much all I do is say yes. It comes with the job."

"The inability to say no is not consent," Castiel replied. "Go and make yourself comfortable on the couch. I'll be there in a moment and we can watch something."

Then, seemingly uncaring that he had just said the kindest words Dean had heard in months, Castiel opened the door closest to them and stepped inside without any hesitation.

Chapter Text

Castiel made quick work of fixing up the spare room. He really only needed to change the linens and freshen the room up. It had been far too long since he'd had company of any kind, let alone sexual, and the musty smell of the sheets on the spare bed reminded him of it. He replaced them with clean ones in the room's closet, as well as a mixed fabric quilt. The nights were getting cold now, and he wanted to make sure Dean was warm.

He hadn't known that Alistair made his employees live in his building. It was certainly large enough to hold apartments upstairs, but judging by the number of escorts he had seen downstairs when he found Dean, the rooms must be miniscule. And sparsely decorated, given Dean's earlier admission. Castiel couldn't imagine having to live every day in someone else's space, and his mind ran away with the terrible possibilities of what Dean's room could contain. Would it be terribly unsanitary? Was he provided basic amenities? It was steadily creeping toward winter; did he have heat? He could ask Dean, but that seemed rather rude.

Castiel made his way back out to the living area and found Dean lounging on the couch with the remote already in hand. He was flicking through the channels lazily, and smiled warmly at Castiel when he came back into the room.

"You didn't have to do that. I could have slept on the couch."

"Your comfort is important," Castiel said simply, then sat beside Dean on his couch. "Have you found anything?"

"I caught the last few minutes of Doctor Sexy, but I'm so far behind it didn't make sense anyway. The last season I watched was eight."

"Yes, they're on ten now."

"You watch Doctor Sexy?" Dean asked.

"I've got season nine on DVD. We could watch some of it if you'd like," Castiel went to grab the box set at Dean's nod and set it up to play. "I'm afraid I can only watch one episode. I have to work tomorrow."

"On a Saturday?"

"Yes. I go over the company's important paperwork on Saturdays." The DVD began to play in the background but neither really paid it much attention.

"Wow, man. Are you the company's attorney or something?"

Castiel gave a small laugh. "No, I'm the head of human resources. My family owns Novak Pharmaceuticals and they are exceptionally untrusting people. They insist that I look over the records to make sure all of their information is in order."

"At least they trust you though, right?"

"I'm not so sure how much of it is trust in me as it is distrust in anyone else."

"You don't get to be a global company by screwing around," Castiel raised his eyebrows in surprise and Dean rushed on. "Oh, come on. Everyone with a tv knows who Novak Pharmaceutical Company is. You all run those ads with the grandma and puppies."

It was true. NPC ran ads nationwide, but their most famous one aired during the Superbowl. Each year it was the same ad (though Castiel often wondered with as much as it cost to run an ad during the Super Bowl why they didn't do a new one. "Don't mess with perfection," his older brothers would say). The ad featured an old woman, hobbled over with age, tending to puppies. They whimpered and licked at her to get her attention, but she shooed them away while a voiceover talked about how much she had always wanted a dog as a little girl, but now she was too arthritic to enjoy them. The commercial then changed to upbeat music and bright, sterile rooms, showing the woman receiving a drug at a new NPC clinical trial. She was then shown playing in the yard with the dogs, the voiceover thanking NPC for making her part of their trial and changing her life, then urging others to look for drug trials near them. It was cringe worthy to be sure, but there was no doubt NPC was known for its medical trials. Nearly every major drug in the past decade had been developed and tested by the company, and Lucifer himself was placed at the head of the clinical trials department due to the vast number of people who signed up to take part.

"I bet you all get a lot of people to sign up for drug trials through that thing," Dean's voice had lost some of its ease. "You pay them to do those, draw in the kids wanting to make a quick buck."

"I don’t handle the drug trials," Castiel replied. "Dean? Are you okay? You seem agitated."

"Are you a Novak, Cas?"

"Yes? Is that a problem?"

Dean scrubbed a hand down his face and laughed bitterly.

"You want to know why I'm a whore? Why I live in a shitty room and scrub strangers' jizz off my body every morning? Because your company hired my brother to do a drug trial and got him fucking addicted to pain pills! Then he goes and racks up some kind of debt to Alistair's goons, and the next thing I know, they're knocking on the door looking for him. Say he needs to pay back what he owes."

"Dean..."

"No, Cas. They expected my brother, a kid with this big, bright future, to come be some prostitute for the next two years to pay off his debt. But at least he was off drugs by then. I'd used all my savings to get him into rehab, and he started applying for grad school. Got into damn near all of 'em, too. The day they came by, he was downtown getting his vaccination record for the school. I told them he was gone, and they threatened to track him down. He barely made it through undergrad. It was a miracle he got into grad school at all."

"So you volunteered to take his place," Castiel supplied quietly.

"Yeah. Two years of me living in a crap room and being a whore, and Sammy gets to live his life, become some bigshot lawyer. I wasn't going anywhere, what did it matter?"

"Because you matter."

"You don't know me," Dean said, resigned.

"I don't have to. Everyone matters, Dean. Everyone has a chance to make something of their life, and no one person's life should be valued at more than another's."

"Thanks," Dean mumbled. "I'm sorry. It’s not like you’re the one heading up these drug trials, huh? Besides, you paid for a good night, not to hear my sob story."

"I paid for time, not for you. For the record, I will gladly listen to any story you have to tell, even after tonight."

"Yeah?" Dean raised his eyebrows at that. "You plannin' on buying me- my time- for more coffee in the future?"

"Possibly. Or we could exchange phone numbers in case you ever want to talk. Do you have a phone?"

Castiel tried to phrase the question as the least condescending as he could.

"All of us have phones. Alistair wanted a way to track us when we're working. Clients don't have the number, though. It's only meant for contact between Alistair and us."

"Oh. Well, I understand."

"Give me your number, Cas. Write it down and I'll keep it here, look." Dean pulled an old iPhone from his pocket and popped off the decorative case. "As long as I don't save your number in my phone, no one will ever know."

Castiel scribbled his number down on a piece of scrap paper and Dean folded it up, placing it inside the case and closing it.

"How can he legally do this to you?" Castiel asked in the near silence that followed, and Dean shrugged.

"Brothels are legal. Technically, we're all working for him, we just don't get paid in anything but housing and food, even if it’s the smallest amount he can get by with. And he wouldn't be the one to hurt us...the drug dealers would be. His hands are clean. So it's better to just shut up and do your time."

"And you? How much time have you done?"

"It's been over a year," Dean replied. "I'm over halfway there."

"And your brother?" Castiel asked hesitantly.

"Doing great. I convinced those idiots to let me start my time after Sam went back to school, and we email back and forth. I keep making up excuses for him not to come visit over breaks. If I'm lucky, he'll never know I did this."

Doctor Sexy's end theme played, and Dean played with a thread on the couch.

"You know, I don't fit in well with my family," Castiel admitted, catching Dean's attention. "With few exceptions, they are cruel and cold, and I would have advanced much further in the company if I acted that way as well. I was only at your establishment tonight because of my brother, as I said. He fired a longtime worker of ours for no good reason. I helped her receive unemployment by twisting the truth, and he threatened to expose us both if I didn't 'let loose'."

"Jesus," Dean breathed. "What a colossal dickhead."

"I must agree with you there."

"For the record, I'm glad you're not an asshole. And if they don't like that, screw 'em."

"You are a good man, Dean," Castiel said softly, and Dean's ears turned pink.

"That's me. Dean Winchester, resident martyr and all around badass."

"False bravado isn't a good look on anyone."

"Says who?" Dean said, finally smiling again

Castiel pretended to consider him thoughtfully.

"Alright," he said. "You manage to make it work."

Dean let out a deep laugh and Castiel dropped his head shyly. He really liked making Dean happy. He caught sight of the time and sighed.

"Unfortunately, I do have to go to bed. You're welcome to stay up as long as you like. I have to get up around seven to get ready for work, and I'll wake you up as well. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, Cas. Sounds perfect," Dean paused, biting his lip. "And...and thanks. You know. For letting me stay, and stuff."

Castiel wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around the man beside him and comfort him with the tightest hug he could muster. But he didn't. Dean lived day to day with people invading his personal space and touching him in ways he hadn't approved of. Castiel would never make that mistake if he could help it. Instead, he stood and stretched, his back popping with an audible sound, and kept his hands firmly to himself.

"You don't need to thank me for basic decency. And if you ever have another night where you need a place to stay until you can go back to your apartment, you are always welcome here."

Castiel risked a glance at Dean, and found him staring up at him with awe in his beautiful eyes. He had a strong will, but decided it was best to remove himself from the situation before he ruined his budding friendship. He headed toward his bedroom, calling back quietly over his shoulder.

"Goodnight, Dean."

dean_page_divider

Holy shit. Holy shit. Dean couldn't do much but stare after Castiel's retreating figure, mumbling out a quiet goodnight of his own. Did Cas not realize how incredible the things were that he was telling him? Or had Dean been in his world so long that the moment a person treated him like an equal, he turned into a hormonal teen with a crush? He sat back on the couch, shaking his head and unpacking his thoughts. He didn’t meet people like Castiel in his line of work. People in general were assholes, a fact that he had gotten used to by now, but Castiel was different.

Cas had bought him, a prostitute, to go get coffee. Not only that, but he'd only done it to help someone else. He wouldn't sleep with Dean, he gave him a painting for his room, he even gave him a safe place to stay when he needed it, with no care at all for why he would need it in the first place. Dean could hardly believe such a person existed, let alone wanted to be his friend. A friend. It had been years since Dean had had someone he could call a friend. It was a depression fact, but true all the same, and he felt himself go a little giddy at the thought of it. He would have to do something to make it up to Cas.

*

He set his alarm to go off at 6:30 the next morning and was up making a homemade breakfast of pancakes and sausage when Castiel stumbled into the room, sleepy and bleary eyed, with the clear crease of a pillowcase on his cheek.

Dean wanted to hug him.

"Morning, sunshine!" he said instead, gesturing at the table. "I thought a rebellious HR manager like yourself could use a hot breakfast before he fought the man."

"You can cook?"

"Taste it for yourself and you decide."

Castiel pulled a chair out and sat down at the table in front of an enormous plate filled to the brim with food. Dean watched him take a bite of the pancakes. Castiel's face lit up and he immediately took another larger bite. Dean felt like he'd hung the moon.

cas_page_divider

Paperwork wasn't fun. It was tedious and dull and Castiel could think of a million things he'd rather be doing than sitting at work on a crisp autumn day and staring at endless reports. He could be painting, or running, or sitting on his couch watching reruns of Doctor Sexy with Dean. He perked up at the thought. Maybe after work he could go see if Dean was working again and they could marathon the episodes he had missed. Castiel still hated the idea of buying him as a person, but he justified it by thinking that at least with him, Dean was safe. He knew all the horror stories of prostitutes being hurt or killed on the job. Crime shows were littered with them.

A knock on his office door startled him out of his worries, and he jerked his head up to see Eve standing there, files in hand.

"Did I scare you?"

"No, sorry. My mind was wandering. Is everything alright?"

Eve technically worked for Lucifer. She had climbed the corporate ladder for as long as Castiel had worked there, but Castiel's family didn't see women as capable of earning high level positions. It was archaic, and also rather ridiculous, given that Castiel's mother was one of the top members of the company itself. Eve had begun work at Novak Pharmaceutical Company as a front door receptionist, answering phones and such. Over time, she had become more trusted and more experienced, leading to Lucifer to ask for her personally when his department was created.

"Yes, but I have a favor to ask. I've looked over this partnership statement ten times and I'm still finding a discrepancy in their numbers. I don't know where it is, and it's driving me crazy."

Castiel frowned.

"I normally look over all our monetary partnerships. Is this one new?"

"We've had it for years, but since it's under Lucifer's department, he just has me check the numbers and tell him if they're right."

"I don't know if I can get to it today," Castiel motioned at the enormous stacks of papers in front of him. "When does it need to be finished?"

"Before next Friday at the latest. That's when I give Lucifer the report."

"I'll get to it by then," Castiel assured her.

"Yo, Eve! Lookin' good!" another voice chimed in, and Castiel's brother Gabriel waltzed into the room.

Gabriel Novak was short, blunt, and practically oozed charisma. His habit of bringing snacks to the employees, coupled with his eccentric and often wildly inappropriate humor, made him much-loved in the office. He was known as the brother who didn't take himself too seriously, the one his family put up with because his personality sealed multi-million dollar deals regularly.

"That's sexual harassment, Mr. Novak," she said with a smirk. "What would your brother say?"

"He always has been jealous of my marvelous good looks," Gabriel reasoned. "And my enormous-"

"That's my cue to leave," Eve deposited the file on Castiel's desk and headed out of the room. "Thank you, Castiel!"

"You're ridiculous," Castiel smiled, and his brother shrugged.

"You've got to have a sense of humor around here. This place is soul-sucking," Gabriel perched on the edge of Castiel's desk and unwrapped a candy bar slowly. "Probably why I'm going to quit."

"You're what?" Castiel stared at his brother, wide eyed.

None of them quit. None of them ever went against their parents' wishes, because this company was all they had. Their mom and dad had made sure of it; the boys had been groomed with the best finishing schools in the country. They were brought up learning about mergers and deals instead of watching cartoons. With the exception of Castiel, all of the Novak sons had attended college and earned degrees hand picked by their parents to represent well-rounded individuals in their company.

"I've done my time here," Gabriel ate the candy bar in a matter of bites and swallowed, licking the residue from his fingers. "Don't act so surprised. You were the first rebel. It doesn't mean you're the only one."

"Have you told our parents? What will you even do?"

"I'm not going anywhere yet. I have things to set up first. And you are the only person I've told, and will tell," Gabriel leaned over and stared at Castiel. "You could leave too."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Oh, come on Cassie!" Gabriel shook his head and stood up. "I know you don't want to be here. I know you went to school to be a painter and dear old mom and dad lost their collective shit. They threatened to cut you out of our family and you came running back like an obedient dog. But you can't tell me that little taste of freedom wasn't awesome."

"I have work to do, Gabriel," Castiel said icily. "You need to leave."

"Alright," Gabriel lifted his hands and backed out of the room. "Just think about it. You deserve to be happy."

With that, he closed the door and Castiel was left to himself. Gabriel wasn't wrong. Castiel's time in college had been the best of his life. He was finally with people who understood his love of art. He could stay up and discuss Van Gogh's life with his roommate who wouldn't tire of the conversation, who actually knew about the subject too. He could develop his skills and create art he didn't have to hide under his bed to keep it a secret. College was where he discovered his passion could be a career, and where he was allowed to explore it without any shame.

It hadn't lasted long enough. Castiel planned to graduate with his degree in Art History and use all the money he had saved his entire life to buy an upscale studio overlooking a massive city, where he could paint and create without any concerns. He never knew how his parents discovered he had changed his major, but his mother showed up at the dorm room one day, cold and indifferent to the pieces hanging around the room, demanding he give up this futureless endeavor and return home at once to a job that would actually make money.

He had fought her, at first. He didn't want to give up the piece of his life he had carved out for himself here, but she softly cut his will down as she always had.

"Can you imagine the PR disaster?" his mother's words had cut like knives. "When all our partners find out about our little faggy son and his 'art'? We'd have to cut you out of our lives to maintain our reputation."

"I'll still have Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer," Castiel had been grasping at straws. "You can't take them away from me."

"And what do you think they would choose? A career they've worked for throughout their lives, or you?"

Castiel's pen snapped in two in his hand, and he let out a harsh breath. Things were different now. Back then, Castiel had been young and idealistic. He believed that the love he had for his art would be enough to sustain him, that pay didn't matter nearly as much as happiness. But that wasn't how the world worked; he had to have an income to get by. He could work for this company and still paint. He was still making his own choices. Castiel sighed and grabbed the next file.

Chapter Text

Castiel wasn't expecting Dean to text him the day after he'd stayed the night, but he was pleasantly surprised. Castiel was home for the day, having only worked until noon before calling it quits, when his cell phone pinged.

[Received 5:03 pm] Hey Cas it's me.

[Received 5:03 pm] Dean

Castiel smiled down at his phone.

[Sent 5:04 pm] Hello Dean.

[Received 5:06 pm] Are you always so formal?

[Sent 5:07 pm] I like to make a good impression.

[Received 5:08 pm] Dude you couldn't make a better one even if you were the pope.

[Received 5:09 pm] Which you should be. He gets a sweet ride. You should google Popemobile.

Castiel snorted and texted back immediately, not stopping until Dean had his first client of the night. Dean went silent for an hour or so, during which time Castiel was a nervous wreck, until he finally got a ping on his phone.

[Received 11:18 pm] That one had an obsession with cat ears and I wish I was kidding.

[Sent 11:19 pm] Are you allowed to tell me this? Isn't there client confidentiality?

[Received 11:21 pm] Haha no. You're gonna hear about all the weird shit I have to see.

The second day went much the same way. Castiel woke up to texts from Dean, and they spoke throughout the day, jumping from topic to topic and never running out of things to say to one another. Castiel found Dean to be as charming over the phone as he was in person, and once again, he found himself debating whether it was worth the moral questionability to buy Dean's time again.

[Received 8:09 pm] I will never look at bananas the same again.

[Sent 8:11 pm] Is there a word for a banana kink?

[Received 8:12 pm] A /fruit/ kink. She had a pear too.

[Sent 8:13 pm] I couldn't do your job. I'm allergic to bananas.

[Received 8:15 pm] That's the only hangup? The sex isn't the problem, it's the fruit they use?

[Sent 8:16 pm] I've had sex before, Dean.

[Received 8:17 pm] You rebel.

Later that night, as Castiel settled into bed, finishing his and Dean's latest discussion about the merits of crunchy over creamy peanut butter, he realized he was happier than he had been since college.

Monday

Castiel collapsed onto his couch after work, utterly exhausted. His office had been particularly busy that day, culminating in a visit from a business products representative that Gabriel had gleefully showed to Castiel's office, beaming at Castiel like he hadn't just ruined his afternoon. Miss Rosen's monthly visits to peddle various useless objects for the business were dreaded by everyone in the office, and people avoided her at all costs. That meant that she was shuffled from office to office until, without fail, Castiel was the only one left to see her. Gabriel, of course, found it hilarious.

This month, she had been selling a seminar for the workforce entitled "Hug it Out: Meeting Your Hug Quota with Your Colleagues".

"That looks promising," Gabriel has said, sprawled in a chair and eyes glinting mischievously. "Tell us all about it!"

Castiel had glared at his brother just as Miss Rosen launched into her marketing speech; Gabriel may look for every excuse to put off work, but Castiel had too much to do as it was. But Castiel was polite and he nodded along, albeit reluctantly, as Becky Rosen spoke for close to an hour.

His day had been taxing, which is why he planted himself firmly on his couch with some Thai takeout and didn't plan on moving. He was going to watch Doctor Sexy and relax. Of course, Doctor Sexy made him think of Dean, and his hand twitched toward his phone. He shouldn't. He and Dean had spoken every day since the man had spent the night, and maybe Dean wanted some time to himself. But Castiel did enjoy speaking to him, and Dean probably hadn't seen the episode...

The show had hardly begun when he texted Dean.

[Sent 8:26 pm] Have you seen the episode of Doctor Sexy where he does emergency surgery on Nurse Piccolo's cat?

Barely a minute passed before Castiel's phone buzzed.

[Received 8:27 pm] Dude NO WAY. I gotta work the street tonight, tell me about it?

Castiel smiled and gave Dean a play by play of the episode as it happened, the half-eaten Thai food forgotten on the table.

Tuesday

The office was quiet on Tuesday. Castiel actually managed to get quite a bit of work done on several files, which should've been a warning sign. The clock has just passed two when there was a soft knock on Castiel's door.

"Come in!" he called, and the door opened to reveal a young, handsome man carrying a cardboard box.

"Package for Mr. Castiel Novak," he stated, and Castiel motioned to sit it on his desk.

"Yes, that's me. Thank you."

The man sat the box down and lifted an old 90s style boombox out of it, placing it on the table and pressing play.

"Here's your package," the man growled.

"Wha-"

The man ripped his pull-away clothes off with a flourish and began gyrating to the thumping music. Castiel sat, frozen in shock, as the stripper walked around to grab the side of his chair and roll him out to the middle of the floor. Castiel gave a squeak and grasped the sides of his chair, looking resolutely anywhere except the barely-concealed penis flopping in front of his face. He caught sight of Gabriel at the door, bent double with laughter, and his face turned impossibly redder. Finally, agonizingly, the song ended and the muscular dancer slid off of Castiel's lap with a wink. He stepped into his pants, the silence billowing around him in the music's absence. Gabriel still stood at the doorway, wheezing, and Castiel struggled to find something to say.

"Um. Thank you," he said to the stripper, and Gabriel's knees gave out at that; they buckled and he hit the ground positively writhing in glee as the dancer took his leave.

"Gabriel!" Castiel shouted, his face still burning.

"Oh-oh, god," Gabriel managed to get up and held his sides. "You th-thanked him! I-I can't-"

Castiel heaved himself to his feet and shoved Gabriel out of the room, slamming the door behind him. He paced the small space, too irritated and embarrassed to work, and barely registered picking up his phone, only knowing he wanted to talk to someone.

Dean answered on the second ring.

"Heya, Cas. Everything okay?"

"My brother is an idiot," Castiel seethed. "A pranking, immature...assbutt."

"Whoa, language!" Dean's smile was audible on the line. "What did he do? Move your stapler?"

"He hired a stripper who brought me his 'package'."

"Wow. Did you say 'no thanks'?"

"Um," Castiel's ears turned pink at the edges. "I waited for him to be done, and then I may have...thanked him."

There was a choked laugh and a watery, sputtered cough on the other end of the line.

"Holy shit!" Dean snorted when he could speak again. "I was drinking coffee, man!"

And despite the teasing Castiel endured while Dean cleaned up his supposedly soaked shirt, he couldn't help but feel the tension drain away.

Wednesday

[Received 1:45 pm] Gabriel is groveling today. I'm quite enjoying it.

Dean grinned at his phone. Cas and his brother seemed to be close, despite the practical jokes, and he was glad this one prank hadn't damaged anything between them.

[Sent 1:47 pm] He needs 2 be after that.

[Received 1:52 pm] It isn't the worst thing he's done, but I may be playing it up to get him to buy me dinner.

[Sent 1:55 pm] oh yeah? Make it a good one.

[Received 1:58 pm] Burgers from Dave's downtown, with waffle fries.

Dean's stomach growled. He was on the street on Wednesdays, which meant a quick dollar burger if he was lucky, and a can of soup at home if he wasn't.

[Sent 2:01 pm] Eat an extra big one for me, k?

Dean didn't hear back from Castiel right away, and he pocketed his phone to get ready. Working the street meant less safety and less control, but Alistair refused to allow his workers to carry any type of protection. He argued that carrying a knife was asking to have it used on you, and would extend the hours of those he caught. It wasn't worth the trouble, and Dean simply hoped his sheer size would be enough to scare away any would be dangers. Unfortunately, most of the other workers didn't have that luxury, and it was only by luck that nothing happened to them.

His phone dinged with a text a bit later, right after he checked in with Cole and headed to his assigned area of the city.

[Received 5:47 pm] What street are you on today?

[Sent 5:49 pm] Dulaney. You gonna buy me Cas? ;)

[Received 5:50 pm] Do you want me to?

Did he ever. A night with Cas meant safety, but beyond that, it meant time with someone he considered a friend. And, a tiny voice niggled at the back of his mind, if Cas wanted to take advantage of some of his "services", that wouldn't be a bad thing either. He didn't even try to deny that he found his friend ridiculously attractive. But friends didn't pay for friends to visit, and they certainly didn't pay to sleep with them.

[Sent 5:52 pm] Nah. Save your money for whatever nerdy shit you're into.

[Received 5:55 pm] As you wish. Are you working alone?

[Sent 5:58 pm] Yeah, til like 9 when Ruby and Abbi get here.

[Received 6:01 pm] Okay.

Dean put his phone away when a car pulled up. It was an older man who wanted a quick blowjob in the backseat of his car. Dean gave it to him, and twenty minutes later was back to pick up another john who wanted to rut against his clothed ass until he came. A few more clients later and he hit a lull.

A weathered truck pulled up, and Dean lifted his head to give a cocky smirk. He broke into a real smile when he saw Cas roll the window down and beckon him over.

"Hi," he said when he was at the window, resolutely ignoring how his voice had gone breathy like a teen with a crush.

"Hello, Dean," Cas smiled back at him and reached to grab a large paper bag. "I thought you may be hungry."

"You brought me dinner?" Dean asked anxiously, opening the bag and letting the smell hit him full in the face.

"There are extra burgers in there for your friends as well. I was going to have Gabriel get them fries, but they taste horrible cold."

"This is great. Thanks, man," Dean grinned at Cas, who smiled back just as widely until a car honked nearby, causing Dean to step back.

"I'd go with you to eat, but, uh, I can't leave. Without pay, you know."

"Oh, of course," Cas stammered. "I'll let you get back to work."

Dean reached out and grabbed Cas' sleeve.

"Thank you for this. Really."

"It's nothing, Dean," Cas put the car in drive and Dean regretfully withdrew his hand. "Stay safe out here."

"Yeah," Dean replied, and with a small wave, Cas was off.

Dean clutched the warm bag to his chest and watched him go, wishing he was in the truck with him.

Thursday

When Castiel arrived home from work on Thursday, he very nearly stepped on a styrofoam plate. Curious, he picked it up and brought it in the house with him. He opened it to find a plate of gooey chocolate chip cookies, and a note tucked away beside them.

Picked these up at the bakery today. I figured you could use something sweet after that burger. The girls loved theirs too by the way.

At this point, something had been written and scribbled through several times, leaving space only for a tiny section at the bottom.

Thanks for everything,
Dean

Castiel ate half the cookies in one sitting and texted Dean to let him know how delicious they were. When he went to bed that night, he carefully set the note on his bedside table.

Friday

Dean was tempted to text Cas and see if he wanted coffee again. Friday nights in the Cube were better than spending them on the street, but his job felt particularly dreadful tonight. Business had been steady, though they weren't the typical people who went for Dean. There had been a group of frat brothers, jeering the prostitutes and ribbing one another before taking off with Ruby. A middle-aged woman came in and went home with Cain, and a skeevy looking man bought Krissy, an 18 year old with a wild streak a mile long.

Two hours into his shift, and Dean was bored.

[Sent 8:19 pm] No awesome strangers have offered to take me to coffee yet ;)

[Received 8:20 pm] I could come back if you wanted.

There was the offer again, and just as before, Dean couldn't take it.

[Sent 8:22 pm] Just keep me entertained and I'll be good.

Cas had proceeded to do just that, texting Dean cat pictures and memes he found. It looked like it was going to be a fun night until the doors of the Cube opened and a pair of men walked in. Dean knew them, and he slid his phone into his pocket even as it pinged with a new text.

Gordon Walker and his friend made a beeline for Dean, who leaned against the side of his container with a grin.

"Hey, Gordon. What are you looking for tonight?"

"You know what we want," Gordon slid a greasy finger down the wall, leaving a trail in its wake. "You're gonna choke on my cock while Devin fucks you."

In all honesty, Dean was going to pretend that Gordon's unimpressive length was too much too take while his friend made dying cow sounds and pistoned into Dean for ten minutes before coming, just like every time before. Dean knew the routine, and he knew this game. Usually, he'd be flirting hard with the pair of them right now, but he wasn't motivated. He thought of Cas and his awkwardness in the Cube, of his kindness and generosity, and he found he didn't much care if Gordon believed he wanted him right then or not. They wanted Dean, and that was enough to make the sale.

"I'll be waiting," Dean shrugged, and Gordon narrowed his eyes before turning away to get Cole.

Dean checked his phone while he waited. Cas had sent a few more memes, and when it became apparent to him that Dean couldn't answer, he had sent a motivational poster of a cat hanging from a rope, with the caption "Hang in there!" underneath. Dean snorted.

Later, as he was sore and put back to work, he glanced at the picture again. All he had to do was hang on.

Saturday

Saturdays used to be enjoyable to Castiel. He would take his coffee at the table while reading news articles on his phone, then spend the day catching up on household chores and perhaps ordering a pizza for dinner. Now, though, he was anxious. Without work, he didn't have anything to distract himself from his thoughts.

Dean had texted him back a winky face the night before and he hadn't heard anything since. The silence made him uneasy. He knew the stories about prostitutes going missing and the dangers of the job. He couldn't help but worry that Dean would become some statistic. At barely ten past eight, he had had enough of the fear.

[Sent 8:10 am] Do you have any time to yourself today?

There. It was a simple question, requiring an answer but not making it seem as though Castiel was concerned. The moment his phone chimed, Castiel let out a breath of relief.

[Received 8:11 am] Yeah a bit. They aren't expecting me back til later.

[Sent 8:14 am] I was considering going to breakfast at Biggerson's. Would you like to come with me?

[Received 8:16 am] I can meet you there in 15.

Castiel’s heart soared as butterflies rose in his stomach, and he rushed to get dressed and be out the door. It was a chilly morning, and as a last thought, he grabbed his tan trenchcoat off the rack by the door and headed into the icy air. By the time he reached Biggerson's, his nose was pink with cold and he kept having to sniffle. The blast of heat through the opening door was heaven enough, and the smell of pancakes only made it better. Castiel spotted Dean at a corner booth and smiled, crossing to see him.

"Not gonna lie, I kind of pegged you for a brunch man," Dean ribbed Castiel as he took a seat.

"Because I'm a boring corporate worker?" Castiel teased back.

"No, dude," Dean rolled his eyes kindly. "Because you looked like an angry kitten when you had to get up early for work the other day."

"I enjoy sleep, Dean. There is no shame in that."

"Then why'd you want to come get breakfast?"

Castiel shrugged.

"I wanted to see you."

Dean turned a brilliant shade of pink around his freckles, and Castiel smiled, pleased with himself.

"The pancakes smell wonderful."

"Get whatever you want. Breakfast is on me," Dean shook his head when Castiel tried to protest. "No way. You bought me a burger. You're, like, halfway to marriage material already."

Castiel chuckled.

"Just halfway? What do I have to do to be fully qualified?"

"Pie, dude. Burgers are awesome, but pie is where it's at. I'd drop my pants for pie."

A woman walking by looked at the pair of them, scandalized, and Castiel laughed out loud. Their waiter approached then and they ordered their meals, still smiling at one another.

"There's never a dull moment around you," Castiel mused, and Dean raised an eyebrow.

"Aren't you used to that? It sounds like your brother gives you hell."

"Gabriel has always done that," Castiel said with a wave of his hand. "But we're quite close. Growing up in the type of family that we did, silliness was looked down upon. I'm the youngest, and Gabriel did his best to make sure I was allowed to be a child, generally by being one himself."

The waiter arrived with their coffees and Castiel thanked him before continuing to speak.

"He took care of me too," Castiel gave a small chuckle. "Once when I was a teenager, Michael made fun of me for being gay. Gabriel filled his shampoo bottle with silver glitter. The kids at school called him Disco Ball for months."

Dean snorted.

"Sounds like he deserved that one. One time, Sammy and I were at a playground. I was maybe eight, and we were playing with some action figures. This huge kid pushed him down for no reason, and I jumped on him and beat the crap out of him with my GI Joe."

Their waiter brought out two large plates of pancakes, and Dean and Castiel tucked in.

"You'd love Sam," Dean said around a mouthful. "He's a genius, just like you. He's this giant hippie with a love of salads and farmer's markets."

"Farmer's markets are an excellent idea, Dean," Castiel furrowed his brow. "I go to the local one nearly every weekend."

"Ugh. Pretentious hipsters in fancy sweaters? No thanks."

"You called my coffee pretentious too, you know. And you found it quite good."

"What do you even get at a market this time of year?" Dean diverted.

"Oh, lots of things. Honey, crafts. There's one at the park tomorrow, actually. You should come with me."

Castiel reached for the syrup at the same time as Dean, and their fingers brushed lightly. Dean motioned for Castiel to go ahead.

"Yeah, Cas. I'll go."

Sunday

Dean straightened his shirt and tried to hastily flatten his hair. He and Castiel had arranged to meet at this spot, and Dean glanced around nervously for him. Was this a date? It felt like a date. But Cas wouldn't ask him out, would he? Sure, the guy was weird (and adorable, his brain helpfully supplied), but there had to be a limit to the strangeness. No one asked a prostitute on an honest-to-God date.

Dean tugged at his shirt again. He hadn't slept well the past few days. He was cutting into his sleep time by meeting Castiel outside of work hours, and try as he might, he couldn't find it in himself to care. He liked Cas, dammit. Dean didn't have enough good in his life as it was.

Just as Dean made to pull at his shirt for the third time, he spotted Cas' mop of unruly hair over the crowd and headed toward him. He stuck his hand up and waved, and Castiel immediately headed his way. He looked good; he wore a fitted pair of jeans and a sweater that would look atrocious on anyone else, with stripes of yellow and a deep red.

"Good morning," he greeted Dean. "Have you been waiting long?"

"Nah, about ten minutes," Dean replied, conveniently leaving out how it had felt like much longer. "I haven't had a chance to explore."

"You're in a for a treat, then," Castiel's eye twinkled. "I'll show you my favorite booths, if that's alright with you."

"Lead the way. You're the one who knows where everything is."

Castiel looked at the booths thoughtfully before leading Dean toward the right. Dean examined the different booths as they went; there was one dedicated to pumpkins, which they passed with hardly a glance. Beside it was one featuring a large man with a silver apron and straw hat selling enormous bags of sugary kettle corn, whose aroma caused Dean's mouth to water.

Castiel seemed to be headed for the corner booth, which was covered in mason jars of every size, all filled with a golden brown paste of some kind. A bearded man lounged in a camping chair, whittling away at a piece of wood and smiled when he saw them approach.

"My favorite customer!" he said in a deep Southern accent. "Haven't seen you round here in a week or two. You needin' to stock up?"

"I am getting low, yes," Castiel replied. "Benny, this is Dean. Dean, meet Benny, and his apple butter."

"Hey," Dean said, and Benny gave a friendly nod of his head. "Apple butter, huh? Never had it."

"Yeah, it's more of a southern thing," Benny shrugged. "It's like a community event. We all get together, drink a bit, and stir this til it comes together all nice and sticky like. I moved up here 'bout four years ago, and found out that people like it just the same. Except now I gotta get together with my officer buddies and make it instead of with granny. She may be old, but she'd still drink 'em under the table, I bet. Here, take one o' my sample jars."

"You just give it away?" Dean asked, taking the small jar.

"Darlin', you taste it and you'll be hooked. If it was any more addictive, I'd have to arrest people for makin' it."

Dean snorted and Castiel forked over eight dollars for his own enormous jar, placing it in a canvas bag he'd brought along. Benny waved them off good naturedly, shaking Dean's hand and making him promise to come back. He assured him he would; whether he liked the apple butter or not, Benny's presence had a way of setting him at ease and he could imagine them being friends one day, when he was out of the business and could be friends with a police officer without any worry. Just because his job was legal didn't mean that officers went along with it willingly. Dean had seen lots of other workers get arrested for bogus charges, and he didn't want to be put in an awkward position.

"The other stand I enjoy is on the opposite side," Castiel looked apologetic.

"It's fine," Dean replied. "Is it more food?"

"They sell honey," Castiel admitted. "Among other things."

The crowd was beginning to show up as the sun rose properly and heated up the weather. The market's path was becoming crowded, and Dean and Castiel had to move in closer together when a large family walked beside them. The back of their hands brushed, and Dean was struck with sudden bravery. He wove his hand around Castiel's and interlaced their fingers, hoping he wasn't reading the situation wrong. Castiel dropped his head and squeezed his hand gently, and Dean's heart soared.

They walked the dirt path to the other end of the market in companionable silence, and only released their hold on one another to try on (and eventually buy) warm alpaca wool hats at Castiel's next favorite booth.

Dean was exhausted in the Cube that night, and it was totally worth it.

Monday

Today sucked. There was no other word to describe it. Castiel hadn't been able to get together, so Dean was able to catch up on sleep after coming home from his client's motel the night before, but it hadn't been pleasant. His client had been a personal friend of Alistair's named Dick Roman, known for his rough behavior and demeaning way of treating prostitutes. Dean was purchased for the night, and taken out to a lavish dinner of tiny, fancy proportions. The entire time he was there, Dick had made snide comments about the importance of education to prevent a life on the streets, how he had fought his way up from nothing, the typical elitist bullshit. The night culminated in Dick wanting to do a bdsm scene, which resulted in Dean being called every name he could come up with while being spanked with a paddle, then fucked while being told he was useless. Dick wasn't big on aftercare or cuddling, and Dean was given a blanket to sleep on next to Dick's bed on the hard floor.

He crashed hard, as he expected he would, and though he understood sub drop and knew that what he felt wasn't necessarily how he really felt, he still hated it. He tried to sleep and ended up tossing and turning until he finally gave up and burned his lunch. His shower seemed to irritate his skin more than wash it, and by the time he was ready for work, Dean was just done with the day. When he saw his first client of the night, he groaned inwardly.

Brady James was a closeted homophobe with a fiance and large inheritance, and he always purchased Dean for the night. He'd have sex with him in an incredibly lackluster way, then tell him he was disgusting for enjoying it and throw him out to spend the rest of the evening at the diner. Alistair didn't care that Brady kicked Dean out. If he tried to come back early, he'd get his ass handed to him, so he just stuck it out at the diner every time it happened.

Tonight followed the same pattern. Brady took Dean to a hotel, talked a big game, then lasted a total of five minutes. It would be comedic, really, if it wasn't so damaging afterward.

"Thank fuck I'm marrying a woman," Brady launched into his typical behavior as soon as they were both clothed again. "I can't imagine having to come home to someone like you every day. God, what's wrong with you that you like taking cock?"

Dean didn't point out that Brady was the one who paid for him. Instead, he sat in silence on the edge of the bed.

"I mean, you're just a warm hole to me. I'm not gay. Any guy could get off feeling something tight around his dick. But you actually like this shit. I can't believe I fucked you...you could have anything. Disgusting whore. Get out. I don't want to even look at you."

Dean rose automatically and grabbed his jacket. It wasn't unexpected, but after the night before, he suddenly couldn't stand himself. The thought of sitting in a diner for hours, ordering coffee so as not to get kicked out, eyes scanning the room for anyone who'd rat him out to Alistair...it sounded unbearable. He quietly closed the door behind him, leaving Brady inside to work through whatever he did to rationalize his sexuality, and took his phone out to call Cas.

"Dean?" Castiel answered quickly. "Is everything alright?"

"Sorry. I know it's late. Just, uh, you said I could come over if I needed a place-"

"Of course."

Dean arrived at Castiel's apartment soon after, hunched over and defeated. He gave the man a half smile when the door opened, and Castiel let him inside.

"Would you like something to drink? Or eat?"

"Just some water," Dean sat down on the couch and waited for Castiel to come back.

"You look like you've had a rough night," Castiel handed Dean the glass and took a seat beside him and repeated his question from earlier. "Is everything alright?"

"Been a rough couple of days," Dean shrugged, eyes down. “Bad clients."

Castiel pursed his lips but didn't press the subject. Instead, he stared at Dean in a way that made him understand how scientific specimens felt. Castiel had a way of looking at Dean like he could tell his life story from the lines on his face.

"I mean, it's not like they said anything that isn't true," Dean broke the silence.

"And what did they say?" Castiel's voice had dropped dangerously low.

"I'm worthless," Dean admitted breathlessly. "A cock whore, a slut. It's who I am."

"No," Castiel said angrily, eyes flashing. "Look at me. You are none of those things. You are a result of a terrible situation, and those people know nothing of who you really are. They only have access to your body, not to you."

Castiel took a steadying breath and sat back on the couch, his eyes closed and fists clenched. With each breath, his hands loosened slightly, until he regained his composure.

"I wish you could see yourself how I see you," Cas admitted quietly, opening his eyes but avoiding looking at Dean.

Dean wanted to ask how Castiel saw him, the impression he made on this beautiful, kind man whose opinion mattered more than any client he had ever had combined. He wanted to reach out and touch him, to let himself believe he was worthy of doing so. Instead, he took a long drink of his water and sat back himself.

"Me too."

When Castiel went to bed soon after, Dean wished he could crawl in beside him and pretend he was allowed to have this.

Tuesday

Breakfast the following morning started out awkwardly. Castiel shuffled in wearing his typical matching pajamas and disheveled hair, while Dean cooked up some quick omelets. Dean mumbled out "good morning", and Castiel paused beside him in his hunt to find a coffee mug.

"I want to apologize," Castiel said, his sleep-addled voice doing strange things to Dean's body. "I was out of line."

Dean lifted his eyebrows.

"You consider that out of line? Dude, I deal with more inappropriate things in ten minutes at work."

"But you were uncomfortable."

Castiel tilted his head and squinted his eyes, like Dean was a puzzle he was trying to figure out. With a night of relaxation and sleep under his belt, and his sub drop abated, Dean was able to fully appreciate it.

"Yeah, because I was dropping from a shitty client and then had another crap one on top of that."

"Dropping?"

"Uh, yeah. It's when a client wants to do some BDSM shit, and doesn't take care of me after it. It happens pretty often."

"Yet you feel better now?"

"Definitely," Dean smiled. "I got some sleep, and got to hang out with you. That makes it better."

Castiel bit his lip shyly.

"You're welcome back here anytime, as I've said. In fact, I have something for you.”

He handed Dean a plastic card, the size of a hotel room keycard, plain white with a strip of black up the side.

“It’s a guest elevator access card. Now you can come by whenever and come straight up here without having to call first to be let in downstairs.”

Dean stared down at the card in his hand. Castiel was giving him something he hadn’t had in a long time. He was giving him friendship and comfort, of course, but above that, he was giving him safety without judgement.

"I’ll keep it in my wallet."

"Excellent. Unfortunately, I have meetings scheduled until late this evening, so I won't be able to meet up with you today. Maybe we can do something together this weekend?"

"I'd love that," Dean checked his phone and groaned. "But I have to go. Text you later?"

"Please. I'll be exceptionally bored if you don't."

cas_page_divider

Castiel was sitting down at his eight p.m. meeting with his family when Dean texted him.

[Received 7:50 pm] oh my god I'm so allergic to cats.

[Sent 7:51 pm] Please tell me you don't have a client who is into bestiality.

[Received 7:53 pm] DUDE NO. Just. No. This woman took me back to her place, and now my eyes are swelled.

Castiel's phone buzzed soon after with a picture message. He opened it to find Dean's face, pouting miserably at the camera, with his left eye looking puffy and bloodshot. He chuckled and sent him a text back.

[Sent 7:55 pm] Take some allergy meds, and rinse the eye out with water when you have a chance.

[Received 7:56 pm] Thanks, Doc. 10/10 advice.

Castiel took a quick picture of himself, his stern look somewhat diminished by the laughter in his eyes, and sent it to Dean.

[Sent 7:58 pm] The doctor knows best, Mr. Winchester.

[Received 7:58 pm] yeah?? should I come in for a full checkup, Doctor Novak??

A wave of bravery surged inside Castiel, and he decided to press his luck.

[Sent 7:59 pm] Perhaps I'll even wear cowboy boots.

[Received 8:00 pm] oh, sexy ;)

It was a stupid flirtation, but Castiel laughed. Unfortunately, Gabriel chose that exact moment to sit down next to him.

"Who're you texting?" he asked, peering exaggeratedly at Castiel's phone, which he immediately put away.

"A friend of mine."

"Oh? A friendly friend, or a sex friend?"

"The second one isn't a real thing, Gabriel."

"My dear brother, you have no idea."

Soon after, Michael started up the meeting, and Castiel was left to stare into space and imagine he was home in his studio instead of stuck at work.

dean_page_divider

Dean hunched in on himself against the cold. His job was miserable enough as it was, but add in an inability to get warm and it became nearly intolerable. Alistair made all of his workers take their turns on various street corners, and Wednesdays happened to be one of Dean's nights. The street was undoubtedly more dangerous; people looking to buy hookers in the Cube had to come in and go through Meg and the guard first. They were recorded on camera, and were almost always repeat customers who were known personally to Alistair. People who picked up hookers on the street could be anyone, with any motive, and it made Dean uneasy.

He shot off a quick text to Castiel.

[Sent 11:15 pm] Why the hell is it so cold in fuckin fall??

[Received 11:17 pm] I am not explaining seasons to you, Dean.

The reply made Dean snort, and he pocketed the phone. Castiel maintained his dry sense of humor and quick wit even through text. Just over a week of friendship, and Dean already looked forward to every ping on his phone.

[Received 11:20 pm] Be careful tonight. Stay warm. Text me when you get home?

Dean grinned. "Home" was still a shitty room at Alistair's of course, but Castiel's painting made it a little more bearable. At least now he had something to look at when he couldn't sleep. And even more than that, he had someone who cared if he was safe.

A car pulled slowly up to the curb, and Dean put on his work face. He was the only man on this street tonight, and the driver quickly motioned him over, much to the disappointment of the girls he was sharing the shift with. Dean immediately took note of the car. It was a new BMW, painted a sleek gray, and the man inside wore an expensive suit. This was clearly someone who had a lot of money.

"How much?" the man asked, and Dean leaned against the window frame.

"A hundred for a handjob, one fifty for a blowjob. Two hundred to fuck me for an hour, six hundred for the whole night."

"That's too much for a whore. I could get someone for cheaper at a bar."

"Baby, you haven't been with me yet."

The man considered Dean. He was paunchy and balding, but still strong. It was hard to tell sitting down, but Dean thought the man would be at least two inches taller than he was and outweighed him by seventy pounds easy. Worry began to twinge in his chest, and he half hoped the man would refuse.

"Get in."

***


Dean nodded and crossed over to get in the car. As soon as he was in, the driver pulled away. It was a short ride to a mid-grade hotel, the kind of chain hotel with one in every town and three in big cities. The client parked his car and led Dean in the back entrance, taking the elevator to the presidential suite at the top. Dean thought of his elevator trip with Castiel, and of his kind eyes and words, so different from the man who stared straight ahead beside him. Once the elevator doors opened, the client led the way to the only door on half of the hotel, and swiped his card to open it. As soon as the door closed behind him, he locked it. Warning bells began to sound in Dean's brain.

"Okay so, you can pay me then we can talk about what you want-"

The man grabbed Dean and shoved him against the wall, crowding against Dean's back and speaking hotly into his ear.

"You don't make the rules, whore. You do exactly what I say, and maybe you only get a few bruises."

Dean swallowed, and nodded. The man grabbed his arm and shoved him further into the room, hard enough to cause Dean to stumble. He looked around, trying to get a layout in his mind. The room was enormous. Couches formed an L behind him, and a massive bed stood on a platform to the right. The bathroom must be through the additional door. The only exit was behind the client, who was glaring at him.

"Take your clothes off. Now."

Dean immediately began to undress, and the other man did as well, though he never took his eyes off Dean or moved further away from the exit. Shit, Dean thought. He's done this before.

"Turn around!" the man barked as soon as they were both naked.

Dean hesitated. He didn't like the idea of turning his back to someone like this, but he took too long to act. In an instant, the man had crossed the room and backhanded Dean across the face, hard. He blinked, stunned, and was spun around.

He used his tie to bind Dean's hands together tightly, then turned him back around to face him, his erection brushing Dean's thigh as he did so. The man slid a hand into Dean's hair and jerked his head up to meet his eyes.

"On your knees, slut," he growled, then forced Dean down onto the ground.

Dean barely had time to register the sharp pain in his knees before his jaw was being wrenched open and his client shoved his erection into his mouth. He shoved deep into Dean's throat, using his hair as leverage to pump harder and faster. The hard flesh pounded against the back of his throat, making him gag and choke. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks as he struggled to take in breaths when he could. It wasn’t enough, and he found himself getting lightheaded. He needed air. In a fit of desperation, he bared his teeth.

The man roared and pulled back, grasping Dean's hair again and pulling him harshly to his feet.

"You think you're smart?" he balled his fist up and punched Dean in the stomach and ribs. "Don't act like you can't take it. It's all you're good for."

His fist connected with Dean's jaw and stars burst before his eyes. He was vaguely aware of being shoved toward the bed, and grunted when he was pushed down on his back, squishing his hands uncomfortably beneath his body.

"I bet you're already loose for me, aren't you? Fucking whore."

Dean liked to loosen himself up before shifts, but this was his first client of the night and he wasn't nearly loose enough to do anything beyond taking a few fingers. He shook his head, but the man ignored him in favor of sliding on a lubricated condom and shoving a finger in Dean's ass.

"Good enough."

"No," Dean's voice cracked. "No, it'll hurt, please."

The client groaned at that and gripped his dick in his hand, leaning over Dean and balancing on one hand.

"I love it when they beg," he whispered, and he lined himself up with Dean's hole.

He shoved forward and Dean cried out. It felt simultaneously like he was being ripped in two and impaled with a branding iron. He kicked his legs desperately, hoping to dislodge the man on top of him, but it only seemed to spur him on. He pressed in again, harder this time, until he sunk all the way into Dean's body.

"Get off! Get off me!" Dean shouted, and the man pressed a large hand down on Dean's throat.

"Shut up and take it," the client squeezed his hand, causing Dean to choke. "I know you want it."

He released his hand and Dean sucked in a breath. The man sat up and grasped Dean's legs, fucking into him with fervor. Dean noticed a familiar and unwanted heaviness from his body. His own cock was beginning to grow from the position, the other man's erection pounding into his prostate relentlessly. Dean was filled with disgust and horror at his own reaction. No! He didn’t want to get off like this! What kind of person was he?

"I knew you loved it," the man took Dean's cock in his hand and began to stroke it. "Every whore wants to be fucked this good. That's all you are, isn't it? You're just a hole to fuck."

He thrust harder, and tears welled in Dean's eyes. The pain was indescribable, like being ripped open from the inside. Dean thought he could feel the skin tearing, an idea only confirmed when his client’s strokes became slicker. The pain was never ending, like sandpaper being pressed in and dragged out of his body, but the strokes on his cock were too much. He came in the man's hand, spilling down onto his stomach. The man moaned above him and stilled, filling the condom. He pulled out and took the condom off, then upended it over Dean's body, causing the contents to pour across Dean's stomach. He rubbed it in with a feral grin, then tossed the condom in the trash and pulled Dean up to a sitting position to untie his arms.

"You're right, your ass was worth it. Maybe I'll come and buy you again," he snarled, and Dean's stomach turned.

"Here," he said moments later, shoving Dean's clothes and a wad of cash at him. "Get the hell out."

Dean stumbled to the door and ran for the stairs, not caring that he was naked. He didn't stop until he was inside the stairwell, breathing heavily and leaning against the door to stop it opening, and shakily pulled on his clothes. Everything on him hurt, from his swelling jaw to his ass, which was sticky with what he assumed was blood. He knew he was expected to go back to the street after this, and he started shaking at the thought. Where could he go? He was barred from his room until morning. A door slammed somewhere, and Dean started running.

Chapter Text

Castiel was jarred abruptly from his sleep by a loud bang. He sat up, disoriented, and glanced at the clock. It was just after midnight. He shook his head and tried to clear his thoughts, still sleep drunk. Maybe a mouse had gotten into the pantry and knocked something over. The thought was quickly banished when the banging started again, more insistent this time, and Castiel recognized it as someone knocking on his door.

That caught his attention and he scrambled out of bed; the only person who had a key card to get on his elevator at all was Dean. He unlocked his door and turned the knob, only to have it push in against him with Dean falling through from the other side.

"Dean!" Castiel fell to the ground beside him.

"Cas...shouldn't have come. Didn't-didn't know where else-"

"What happened? Is that blood?"

Dean flinched and Castiel quieted instantly. Whatever had happened, Dean needed him to be steady and calm right now. Still, the sight of his beaten friend was unnerving, and the first thing Castiel did was close and lock his door.

"I need to get you cleaned up. Should I take you to the hospital?"

Dean frantically shook his head.

"No! Alistair will come. He'll make me go back out. Don't make me go!" Dean shouted, curling in on himself and gripping one hand into the carpet hard enough to rip fingernails, as though anyone wishing to make him move would have to peel his hand out of the fabric.

"Shh, Dean. I won't make you go anywhere, except to the bathroom. Can you stand?"

He stood and offered him a hand, but it took a moment for Dean to react. He heaved a breath and got to his feet gingerly. Castiel bit his lip to keep from making any sounds. Dean's clothes were haphazardly thrown on; his shirt was backward and his jeans undone. One side of his face was bruised and swelling, and he kept one arm curved protectively around his stomach.

"Can I touch you?"

"Yes," Dean told him, and Castiel wrapped an arm around his waist carefully to help him to the bathroom.

It was a slow process. Dean didn't make any sounds of pain, but Castiel could hear his breath catch when he stepped. He only let go of him when they reached the bathroom and he needed to run Dean's bath. Dean leaned heavily against the sink until the water was filling the tub.

"Do you mind if I stay? I think you may need help, and I really don't feel comfortable leaving you alone right now."

"Please," Dean began to peel his clothes off. "Don't leave."

Castiel nodded and checked the temperature of the water for something to do. It took Dean a considerable amount of time to disrobe, and he held out a steady hand when he was done to silently ask for help into the tub. Castiel averted his eyes and helped him settle down into the water. Dean grunted in pain for the first time when he sat down, and the water turned pink around him. Castiel handed him a washcloth quietly, and Dean began to scrub himself clean, beginning with his stomach and chest. Semen was dried to the skin there, clinging to the light hairs that decorated Dean's body.

bathtub_scene

"I told him no."

Dean stared at the wall, twisting the filthy washcloth in his hands.

"He paid for me. I went with him willingly. He beat me and he-he forced me to have sex. I told you, Cas. It doesn't matter if I say no. Whores only get to say yes."

Dean hurled the washcloth against the wall and curled his hands into fists, hard enough for his knuckles to turn white. The exertion seemed to hurt his injuries and he curled in on himself with a slight whimper.

"Please," Castiel said quietly. "Please don't call yourself that."

Dean scoffed.

"It's all I am."

"Not to me," Castiel reminded him, and hesitantly laid his hand on Dean's shoulder; when the man didn't throw him off or recoil, Castiel let it stay. "You are selfless and brave, Dean. You are intelligent and funny and so much more than your job."

Dean sniffed, but shifted away until Castiel's arm was forced off. He grabbed the sides of the tub and heaved himself up and out with a pained expression, reaching for the towel.

"Yeah, well, my job is out there waiting for me, so thanks for the bath, but-"

"You're in no condition to work."

Dean wrapped the towel around his waist with a wince and rolled his eyes.

"I'm sure Alistair is going to care that I had a rough client. He expects me to work, and I'm going to work."

"Dean-"

"What, Cas?" Dean spun around to look at him, his eyes desperate and terrified, despite the resolution in his tone. "What else can I do? If I fuck this up, if I don't do exactly what he says, then he goes and ruins Sam's life. Again. I have to work tonight, and tomorrow, and every night for the next year, and I'm going to do it!"

He made to storm past Castiel, and after everything he knew his friend had been through in the past few hours, Castiel made no move to physically touch him. But Dean was in no condition to work right now, and judging by the nauseating sight of the bloody water, he wouldn't be for weeks. There was no way Dean would stay away for that long, but if Castiel could help him through the worst of it...

"How much do you charge for an entire day?"

Dean stopped in the doorway and turned around, anger flashing in his eyes.

"It's not like that!" Castiel hastily added. "You're hurt, Dean. You and I both know you can't perform your professional duties for some time. If Alistair will not allow you time off, then at least let him think I'm your client. You could stay until Friday, give your body some time to heal."

Dean ran his hand through his hair and immediately dropped his hand, face contorted in pain from the tenderness in his scalp.

"It's too much. I can't ask you to do that."

"You're not asking me to do anything. I'm offering my friend help."

"I'll text Alistair and ask how much it would be," Dean said after a long pause. "But if it's too much-"

"-as defined by me," Castiel added, and the tiniest hint of a smile passed Dean's lips.

"As defined by you," he amended. "Then I leave. No questions asked."

"Deal," Castiel agreed. "I'll get you some clean clothes and meet you in the spare room, unless you need help getting there."

"I can handle it," Dean replied, only a slight edge to his voice. "I'll text Alistair."

Castiel agreed and made his way to his own room to find Dean the most comfortable pair of pajamas he owned. He had no plans on being outpriced. While forcing Castiel to come home from college early had been against his wishes, it had allowed Castiel to continue growing his savings account. He had purchased a cheaper penthouse than he had planned on, with the extra money going to his bank account, and working for his family's business paid quite well. He may have despised his job, but Castiel was well-off financially.

He found Dean in the spare bedroom, the towel still draped around his waist, and the phone hanging limply in his hand.

"It's five thousand," he said with preamble. "I would've tried to talk him down, but then he'd know something was up. I know it's too much."

"It's fine," Castiel said, and he meant it. He had no experience with this sort of thing, but movies had led him to believe it would've been much more. "Here."

He handed Dean the pajamas, and Dean took them with a soft smile.

"Bees?"

"They're my favorite."

"You never planned on me leaving, did you?"

"Dean, it didn't matter what number he gave. I couldn't have lived with myself if I didn't ask you to stay."

"Ask me?"

"You have the final say," Castiel reminded him. "Whether or not you stay is entirely up to you, though I must admit, I have a preference."

"Yeah," Dean rubbed his thumbs over the soft material of the pajamas. "I do too. Let me get dressed and I'll call Alistair."

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Castiel left Dean on his own, albeit reluctantly, while he returned the call to Alistair. It wasn't going to be a pleasant call, Dean was sure of it. Alistair didn't treat him badly overall; his demeanor was more off-putting than his outright behavior, but that didn't mean they were friends, or even had a boss and employee relationship. Dean was an investment for Alistair, worth nothing more than a used car. His usefulness was his only asset, and once that was worn out, he could be replaced with a newer model.

Dean perched lightly on the edge of the bed. Everything seemed to ache and twinge, and though the bleeding around his ass had subsided, he knew his body must be a disaster. He'd have time to heal up some if Alistair agreed to let Castiel buy him for a few days, but it wasn't going to be long enough to repair the damage done. He had seen another worker get a tear there before and it took a month to heal properly. Of course, she had been able to take anal sex off her list and still work. Dean's big selling point was anal sex; closeted homophobes paid him to have sex then went home to their wives. How would he work? How could he keep Alistair from finding out? Raw panic began to set in, and Dean took several long, deep breaths to calm himself down. He had no choice. He'd stay with Castiel and take the worst of it off, and just grit his teeth and take it when he went back to work.

His fingers hovered over the call button on his phone and he mentally shook himself, then pushed it.

"Dean," the nasally voice picked up before the first ring was over. "I was beginning to think your client had second thoughts."

"No, he wants to go ahead. I'm just calling to set up the payment and all that."

"Who said I'm going to let you do it?" Alistair's voice sounded teasing, though Dean recognized the undercurrent of power. "You make me a lot of money on the street."

"This is guaranteed money, though. You know some nights I make less."

"Maybe you know this man. Maybe he's going to help you run away, hm?"

"You know I wouldn't do that," Dean tried his best to sound confident. "You and I made a deal. Two years."

"Yes. We wouldn't want dear little Sam to have his past catch up to him, would we?"

Anger flooded Dean's senses and he clenched the phone tighter in his hand, wishing more than anything that it was Alistair's neck. He tensed hard enough to cause his bruised body to ache, and forced his voice to be calm and emotionless.

"No. I wouldn't do anything to screw that up."

Alistair hummed thoughtfully over the line and Dean's heart raced. If he had to go back out there tonight, if he had to work like this...

"Very well," Alistair finally said, sending waves of relief through Dean strong enough to cause him to be lightheaded. "I'll send you the account information. This client of yours must send me the money immediately. I'll text you when it comes through, then you're his until eight a.m. Saturday. If I'm not notified that it's on its way in ten minutes or less, I will come find you and take you back out on the street myself. And Dean?"

"Yes sir?"

"Don't fuck with me, or I'll slit that pretty throat."

Alistair ended the call before Dean could respond, and his phone soon pinged with the account information. There was a soft knock at the door, and Castiel slowly creaked it open, a glass of water and small bottle of pain relievers in his hands.

"Is your call over?"

"Yeah. Here's the info."

"I'll do it immediately."

Castiel handed the medicine to Dean, who swallowed it down thankfully, then took Dean's phone as well as his own to complete the transaction. He worked silently and squinted at the screen. Dean absentmindedly wondered if Castiel wore glasses, and felt the tension in his chest lighten at the thought of Castiel hard at work in his PR department, glasses falling down off the end of his nose. Dean thought he'd look cute. He'd probably push them back up with his fingers, or take them off and wipe them on some terrible sweater vest, and call for his assistant to put in an order for contacts-

"Done."

Dean realized he'd been staring and he jumped slightly, taking the phone back that Castiel offered. Less than five seconds later, a text message came across.

He owns you now.

He showed the message to Castiel, who frowned.

"I'd rather think of it as compensating you for your time."

"I know, Cas. You're a regular Richard Gere."

"I...don't know who that is."

Dean chuckled and clutched his side. He was beat up pretty bad. Castiel pursed his lips, but thankfully didn't ask any questions. Instead, he stretched and eyed the bed.

"It's getting late, and I have to work tomorrow. You can take another dose in six hours. Are you comfortable sleeping in the room alone? I can get my blow up mattress and put it in the floor beside you."

"No way, man. You have to work, and all I'm going to do is sleep. You've done enough for me."

"Not at all," Castiel stood and moved toward the door. "Any decent person would do the same. If you need me, please wake me up. Goodnight, Dean."

He left the door open a sliver, like a parent would a frightened child in the dark, and padded quietly down the hall to his own room, turning lights off as he went. Dean climbed into the soft, clean bed and rustled around. If he had been less sore he would've rolled around in the thick blankets and taken in the feel of them. As it was, he felt lucky to be in a real bed.

But he couldn't help thinking, as he nodded off in a medicinal haze, that Castiel had no idea of just how incredible he really was.

*

Dean didn't wake until late the next afternoon, bolting upright in confusion about where he was, only to have the aches in his body magnified to near unbearable levels that reminded him of the night before. He downed some more medication, then noticed it was after lunch time. He edged out of the spare room and made his way to the kitchen. The house was quiet. Castiel had clearly left for work already. It made something in him bustle with pride to have Castiel trust him alone in his home. But his stomach gave a rumble and all thoughts not food related were quickly pushed aside.

Dean opened the fridge and was surprised to find it was well-stocked. He made himself a simple sandwich, careful not to make a mess, and settled down in front of the tv. He had forgotten just how terrible daytime television truly was. After clicking through multiple soap operas and game shows, Dean gave up and turned the tv off. He didn't know what to do with himself. Time alone with no night on the streets looming ahead? It was an alien feeling. Tuesdays meant standing on the street corner at night, and if this were a typical Tuesday, he'd still be asleep on his lumpy mattress until his alarm would go off and remind him to take a shower and prepare for another night of hell.

He owed Castiel. The guy barely knew him beyond an admittedly fun night of coffee and a few days worth of nearly constant communication. Castiel seemed lonely, and Dean didn't have any friends either, so it wasn't like he was complaining when he suddenly had someone to text between clients. It still didn't justify Castiel spending that much money on him, nor letting him live with him for the next few days. Dean needed to do something to show his appreciation. He glanced around the living room, orderly but not exactly neat, and decided the pain pills had set in enough to do what he wanted to do.

He set about to cleaning the house, leaving the television running in the background for some noise to keep him company. He felt off, odd. His body still ached even through the medication, but Dean pushed it aside. He had just begun to clean the living room coffee table when the middle of a news report caught his attention.

“...study determined that rape statistics in the city could be woefully underreported. One expert said that many men in particular do not report a rape-”

Dean shut the television off, his heart racing. Memories of his assault came flooding back. The sounds the man made, the smell of sweat in the air, the gut-wrenching pain-

Dean slammed his hand down on the coffee table and clenched his fist in the cleaning cloth. No. What was done was done, and thinking about it wasn’t going to change that fact. He pushed himself up and started cleaning, forcing his mind to focus on the task at hand.

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Castiel groaned at the enormous pile of papers still left on his desk. It was nearing the end of the month, and financial paperwork from his family tended to flood in around this time, but it was already almost six and he had someone who needed him at home. Castiel knew he was owed some time off, and with only a second's hesitation, he grabbed the papers and shoved them into his bag, with full intentions of calling in the next two days to work. He could do all of this from home anyway, while still keeping an eye on his friend. He grabbed his messenger bag and slung it over his shoulder, making his way to the exit.

"I see my plan worked," Lucifer grinned at him smugly when he stepped into the elevator. "You're leaving practically on time. Are you going back to get someone else?"

"No!" Castiel answered sharply, then lowered his voice at the dangerous look in Lucifer's eyes. "No. I'm just going home."

"Good. I'm glad you're taking time to yourself. Your first visit was on me, but if you want to get your dick wet again, you're paying for it."

Castiel was never happier to get off an elevator in his life. It wasn't a long walk to his apartment, and though it was chilly, it wasn't unpleasant, and he felt his posture relax. He hadn't slept much the night before, of course. How could someone hurt another human being so terribly?

He barely noticed taking the elevator to his apartment or opening the door, but there was no mistaking the smell when he entered his apartment, or the sounds coming from his kitchen. The entire apartment smelled of tomatoes and garlic bread, and Castiel inhaled deeply on his way to the kitchen. He also noted that his apartment was much cleaner than he had left it that morning. Dust didn't cling to corners, books had been shelved, and the carpet had been freshly vacuumed. He found Dean standing in the kitchen, stirring a pot of something that smelled delicious on the stove, still wearing his pajamas.

"Dean?"

The other man threw a smile over his shoulder.

"I thought you'd want something homemade when you got home from work," he explained. "And my spaghetti? It could bring on world peace. Just sayin'."

He stretched above the stove to reach for a cabinet and gave a tiny wince of pain. Castiel wouldn't even have noticed it if he hadn't been looking for any type of reaction. Dean had cleaned his apartment and cooked, and Castiel didn't understand how he was even standing.

"Here," he bustled forward to help, and reached the plates for Dean. "I'll set the table."

"I can do it."

"I'm certain you could, but you don't have to."

Castiel set them both a place at the table and poured drinks, then grabbed a cushion off the couch to set on Dean's seat. The hard wooden chairs would be too uncomfortable for his healing body. All the while, Dean chatted with Castiel about his day, asking about work. He never once brought up the reason he was there, all through dinner or even after, when he tried to insist on cleaning up.

"Let me," Castiel took the plates from Dean's hands and motioned toward the living room with his elbow. "Turn on Doctor Sexy?"

"I can clean up," Dean replied.

"You've done more than enough today, Dean."

"And it's not enough."

"It's more than needed," Castiel frowned. "Why are you doing this? You're a guest here, not my servant."

"You bought me," Dean replied. "You spent thousands of dollars on me, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to make that up to you."

"I don't need you to," Castiel said, tilting his head and studying Dean before setting the dishes down. "I did this because I want you to feel better. You owe me nothing."

Dean sighed and hobbled to the living room, sitting down on a couch with a relieved sound.

"I don't know how to do this," he admitted, his voice wavering and eyes not meeting Castiel's even when the other man sat on the couch as well. "I'm not used to people just wanting to do stuff for me, you know? I mean, most of the time, shit all the time, people only want me around for what I can do for them."

"I just want you to get better," Castiel replied. "I want to be able to see you here and know you're safe for at least a few days. That's all I need."

"Thanks, Cas," Dean mumbled, fiddling with the remote.. "That means a lot. Want to watch some Doctor Sexy with me?"

Castiel wished he'd talk to him about what happened, but he pushed that aside and smiled at Dean.

"Yes."

*

"No way! Pink Floyd is a classic band, Cas. Classic. Everyone knows who they are."

"I'm not arguing with that. All I said was that any band can be improved with Freddie Mercury as a lead singer."

It was getting to be late in the evening again. Dean seemed desperate to maintain a sense of normalcy. One episode of Doctor Sexy had turned into two, which featured a clip of an obscure film from the 80s, which had led to a conversation of all things classic that had been going on for hours. So far, Dean had learned he and Castiel shared opinions on movies ("Caddyshack was comedic gold," Dean had said, and Castiel had readily agreed) and many top actors ("Dude, you know who Sylvester Stallone is and not Richard Gere? How is that even possible?"). They differed widely when it came to musical tastes. Castiel appreciated the classics, but Dean was mesmerized by them.

"Brick in the Wall was one of the best albums ever made," Dean argued, and Castiel shrugged noncommittally.

"It's okay. Queen had many more hits though, which is especially telling because their style was much more experimental."

"Seriously? Pink Floyd basically wrote the book on experimental."

"Bohemian Rhapsody," Castiel started ticking off fingers. "Bicycle. The list goes on and on. Not to mention that Freddie Mercury was one of the first openly gay men in the industry."

Dean started to protest, but his argument was broken up by a large, jaw-cracking yawn.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize how late it had gotten," Castiel glanced at his watch.

"This is the beginning of my work day, Cas. You need to go to bed though. You're the one with the super-impressive grown up job."

He elbowed Castiel to show he was teasing, and Castiel noticed that throughout the course of the evening, they had gotten closer to one another.

"Not until Friday. I'm calling in."

"Oh, scandalous," Dean joked. "You've probably never missed a day of work in your life. I bet you were the kid who always got perfect attendance."

"I refuse to dignify that with an answer," Castiel folded his arms and sat back.

"That's a total yes," Dean winked, and Castiel flushed. "But yeah, I can't go to bed yet. I have to keep my schedule for when I go back to work."

"I'm afraid I need to do the same. Do you want to take a shower?"

"That's a little forward, don't you think?" Dean smiled, and Castiel stammered.

"No! Oh, no, I meant-um. Do you want to take your shower first? Not together."

Dean laughed, a carefree and easy sound that Castiel wished he could hear more of, and waved his hand.

"Nah, you go ahead. I'll take one later or something."

Castiel nodded his agreement and headed for his bathroom. It was one of the main reasons he'd decided to purchase this home. He knew he wanted a penthouse that overlooked the city, but his sudden exit from college had dented his savings plan. He had plenty saved from working as a teenager and during his college years, but it wasn't enough to buy one of the top tier penthouses in the city. Instead, he had looked for something in his price range, which meant a great deal of outdated bathrooms. When Castiel had walked into the place he now called home and seen a clean, modernized bathroom, he had been sold.

The water felt incredible on his aching muscles, tense from bending over a desk all day. He lathered and washed his hair, then squirted some ginger body wash onto a loofa to clean his body. The rough texture felt good, and he let his mind wander.

It had been surprising to come home to a home cooked meal and company, but he certainly wasn't complaining. Between work and his somewhat rusty people skills, Castiel hadn't had anyone stay over in his apartment in over a year, and even then it hadn't been terribly domestic. Dean had carved a place in Castiel's life faster than anyone in the past, and he was happy to have the other man in his home. It didn't hurt that Dean was incredibly handsome as well. Castiel thought of Dean's eyes, how they would brighten when he talked about a subject he loved, and how his large hands would gesture to make a point. He wondered if they were soft or rough, about how they would feel sliding down Castiel's chest and stomach.

Castiel slid the loofa down his body, mimicking the images in his head. His cock was beginning to harden and he continued the movement downward, lightly caressing his shaft with the roughness of the loofa. He gasped and his eyes shot open. He wasn't even aware that he had closed them. No, this was wrong. Dean trusted him and was in a vulnerable position. He was a friend, and Castiel should respect him, even in his own thoughts. His brain understood all of this, but his dick didn't agree. Castiel sighed and hung up his loofa, then switched the shower water to icy cold. Every pore of his body screamed, yet it worked.

He made his way back to the living room after he had dressed in his pajamas, only to see Dean frowning down at his phone.

"Is everything alright?"

"Yeah," Dean answered. "Alistair just texted me to check in. Paranoid bastard."

Dean's hand tightened on the phone, and Castiel very nearly blushed. He tore his eyes away and swallowed.

"I'm going to bed. If you need anything, please let me know."

"Get some sleep, Cas. I'll be alright."

"Goodnight, Dean."

Castiel walked swiftly to his room, his face still burning, and climbed into his bed. He plugged his phone up to charge and sent a quick text to Gabriel.

[Sent 11:08 pm] I'll be out of the office until Friday. I have some personal matters to attend to.

[Received 11:09 pm] ohhhhhh? who is he?

Castiel just groaned and turned off the light.

Chapter Text

Castiel enjoyed waking up early. The morning sun came through his bedroom window, making even the coldest of winter days feel warm and bright. There was something peaceful about being up early in the morning and sitting in his living room with a cup of tea, watching the city bustle below him. Typically, he'd enjoy it just long enough to finish his morning cup of tea before heading off to work himself, but today he was going to let himself take the time to soak it all in. The sun glinted reds and pinks off the skyscrapers around him, and Castiel's fingers itched to grab his paints and capture them all on a canvas. He was halfway out of his seat to do just that when he remembered the paperwork in his bag. That was more important, and he sighed. It needed to be done.

Several hours and several partnership deals later, and Castiel's head was swimming with numbers and calculations. He had gone over the company's monthly expense report with two of their largest partners, meaning massive packets of numbers to be checked and rechecked, and signed for accuracy. Luckily, both had been free of errors, or he would've spent even longer deciphering them.

"Anybody ever tell you that you work too much?" Dean's voice caused Castiel to jump.

"Idle hands, and all that," Castiel replied, voice rough from disuse. "How are you feeling?"

Dean's jaw was going to be heavily bruised for awhile, but he was standing straighter today and even smiled as he patted his bruised stomach gently.

"Better than yesterday. Sitting down on anything hard still sucks though," he avoided Castiel's eyes at the statement and pressed on. "But I think I'm going to make it."

He came over and sat gingerly next to Castiel on the couch.

"That looks terrible," he gestured at the papers, and Castiel chuckled.

"It's not. I'm just going over information from our partners for the month. My family only trusts me to look at the finances, so I review them and determine if everyone is upholding their end of the deal. It's nothing but math."

"So terrible, like I said," Dean laughed when Castiel's stomach gave an almighty grumble. "Looks like math makes you hungry. Have you eaten?"

"I didn't even think about it."

"I can cook breakfast. Or lunch. Whatever," Dean offered.

"I can cook, Dean."

Dean sighed.

"Just-just let me do this for you," he implored. "I don't want to be useless here."

"You're not useless," Castiel began, but Dean pursed his lips. "Alright. You cook us lunch, as long as you agree that I get to take care of dinner tonight."

"Deal!"

Dean stood and made his way to the kitchen, stopping only to do a small victory dance at getting to cook, and Castiel snorted before diving back into his work. It wasn't until Dean called him in for lunch that Castiel realized he'd been smiling throughout checking the numbers.

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Dean took care of cleaning up lunch while Castiel went back to his work. He liked doing this for Cas. He liked cooking for him and watching the pleased looks the other man made when he tasted Dean's food, and he liked being able to have conversations with someone else.

After lunch, Dean headed back to the living room and perused Castiel's bookshelves. He recognized a few titles there, and picked one at random to read while his friend worked. Dean made it well into the book before Castiel gave a sigh and sat back, turning his head to get the crick out of his neck.

"I believe I'm done for the day," he announced.

"At five?" Dean crossed his arms, though the mock stern look was diminished by his teasing smile. "You slacker."

"Hmm," Castiel mused. "I believe I've earned it. I only have a few more partnerships to go over, and they can be done tomorrow. As for now, I believe I promised you dinner."

"Oh yeah?" Dean prodded. "What are you going to cook, Chef Novak?"

"Believe me when I say you wouldn't want to try my cooking. I once tried to cook risotto for my brother Gabriel. He used it as glue in his office for a week."

Dean laughed and Castiel looked proud of himself.

"Would you feel comfortable going out to dinner?"

Dean paused. His face was heavily bruised, which would likely cause some stares out in public. He didn't mind it for himself very much, but he didn't want Castiel to be the center of attention as well, even though a night out with the man sounded perfect.

"People will stare," he mumbled half-heartedly.

"Let them," Castiel replied. "You are not at fault for what happened to you, Dean. That blame rests solely on the monster who did it."

"Then...yeah," Dean said quietly, then more surely. "Yeah, Cas. Let's go get some dinner."

"I believe a change of clothes may be in order," Castiel looked down at his plaid pajamas. "I can be ready in less than ten minutes."

"Give me five," Dean retorted with a grin.

"Are you challenging me to a contest?"

"That depends," Dean quirked a brow. "Are you ready to lose?"

"You'll have to wear my clothes," Castiel replied. "I already know where everything in my room is, as well as what I want to wear."

"Then I guess you have nothing to lose."

Castiel regarded Dean for a moment, then bolted for his bedroom.

"Cheater!" Dean yelled out, getting to the room as fast as he could. He heard Castiel let out a laugh ahead of him.

Dean found Castiel at his closet, digging through it rapidly. He elbowed him out of the way with a sound he would firmly deny was a giggle, looking for his own outfit to wear.

"Hannah Montana? Really, Cas?" he surveyed an aggressively purple shirt with disdain, but Castiel just rolled his eyes.

"I needed workout clothes, and Goodwill had it on sale."

"For a reason, man. For a reason."

Dean managed to grab a relatively normal looking outfit out of Castiel's closet at the same time as the other man, and they both looked at each other for a moment before Castiel yelled out, "I call the bathroom!"

"Dude!" Dean tried to stop him, but he wasn't quick enough and Castiel locked the door behind him.

Dean grumbled and got back to the spare room, taking off his pajamas and getting dressed as quickly as his injuries would allow. He was thankful that Castiel had left him some clean boxers in the room that morning, though his ears burned at the thought of Castiel coming into the room to place them on the chair beside his bed while he was asleep. What if he'd been snoring? Or drooling?

He didn't have time to waste on that thought, though. He pulled his clothes on quickly and ran a hand through his hair to give it some semblance of style, then headed back to the living room as quickly as he could.

"Yes!" he shouted when he got there. "I am victorious! Number one! Number one!"

"You took your time," Castiel appeared from the kitchen, fully dressed and holding a cup of water.

"Are you Criss Angel or something?" Dean shook his head. "How'd you do that?"

"A magician never reveals his tricks," Castiel smiled and grabbed his car keys. "Come on. I know an excellent place to go."

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"This is your car?" Dean stared at the blue beauty in front of him. "Holy shit."

Castiel unlocked the door and slid in to unlock Dean's as well. It wasn't exactly a high end classic car, but Castiel loved it all the same. Whenever he or one of his siblings received their driver's license, their father would buy them a car. Castiel's brothers had all asked for sports cars, but a week before earning his license, Castiel's neighbor had put up his 1969 Chevy Camaro for sale, and that's what he'd asked for. It had been rusting in some places and in desperate need of a paint job, but from the moment he first drove it, Castiel loved it.

"Thank you," Castiel replied. "I'm not a classic car man, but I've had this one since I was sixteen."

"You've taken good care of it," Dean remarked when Castiel put the car into reverse and backed out of his space. "I've got a classic car too. Well, it's Sam's now, but it's always going to be my baby."

They talked cars and adolescent driving mistakes until they reached the diner Castiel had planned out.

"It isn't fancy," Castiel bit his lip. "But it has an open seating plan, a booth by the emergency exit that no one ever sits in, and very cushioned seats."

Castiel had planned all of this for him, to keep Dean comfortable. Dean dropped his head and smiled shyly.

"It's great. Thanks, Cas."

Castiel spared him any further embarrassment by giving a simple nod, then turning the car off and getting out. He stood close to Dean as he made his way to the restaurant, never offering his help vocally but making it clear that he would give it if needed. Dean's nerves spiked when they walked through the door, but no one even gave them a second glance. Sure enough, the booth by the emergency exit was empty, and the pair took their seats across from one another. It all felt so incredibly normal, which made Dean realize how far removed he'd become from the world in the past year. Sam's addiction had been polarizing enough on its own, but working for Alistair had removed any semblance of normalcy from his life completely.

"I highly recommend the cheeseburger," Castiel said from over his menu.

"Yeah," Dean replied distractedly. "I love burgers."

Castiel glanced up with a furrowed brow, but Dean was saved any questioning by a cheerful waitress in a crisp white button down, who smiled politely at them.

"Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'll be taking care of you this evening. Are you all ready to order, or should we just start with drinks?"

Castiel and Dean ordered cheeseburgers and fries with sodas to drink and Sarah jotted it down swiftly before heading back to place their orders. Dean noticed her eyes had lingered on his bruised face, but no more than to be expected. Maybe he was making too much of his injuries.

"I apologize for not being a terribly fun host today," Castiel said. "The end of the month is always a rough time at the company."

"Aren't they pissed that you took time off then?" Dean asked.

"Possibly," Castiel admitted. "I called in via text to my brother. He undoubtedly gave them a terrible reason for my being out."

Dean snorted.

"That's what brothers are for, Cas. You know, one time when Sammy was little, I convinced him that only aliens have belly buttons? He said he was from Mars for two months."

And just like that, conversation started. Dean never ran out of things to talk about with Castiel; they swapped stories on their brothers all throughout dinner and well past the time they should've left, until the waitress laid their check on their table as a subtle hint to order something else or clear out. Castiel settled the tab, then he and Dean headed back out to his car. The autumn sun was already beginning to set, casting a red hue onto the buildings around them, and it reminded Dean of Castiel's paintings.

"I get why you use so much color in your art now," he remarked, and Castiel smiled softly.

"The city has a different light depending when you look at it. Early mornings and evenings it could be on fire," he considered something. "Are you too tired for a drive?"

"In this car? No way. I used to go on road trips in mine for fun. I drove to Tampa once because I heard of a good diner."

"This will be much shorter," Castiel replied, and he pulled the car out of his space and onto the road.

"You ever been on a road trip, Cas?" Dean asked, Castiel shook his head.

"No. My parents didn't believe in taking time off work to go on vacations. The first time I left the city was to attend college."

"Holy crap, really? We went on road trips all the time as kids. I mean, we didn't go to Disney or anything, but Dad would take us to museums and stuff."

"Were your parents divorced?" Castiel asked, then winced inwardly; that wasn't a polite question. "I apologize. I shouldn't pry."

"Nah, it's okay. My mom died when I was four. Complications after having Sam, they said."

"I'm so sorry."

"It's been a long time. I miss her, but we had Dad. He wasn't all that great for a while after Mom died. He pulled himself together in the end, though. Had a heart attack a few years back. Too many diner burgers, probably," Dean nudged Castiel, a clear indication that he didn't mind the questions at all.

The car turned off the main city streets and onto a curving road that wound up a hill. Traffic was sparse here, and Dean pulled down the sun visor to keep the light from his eyes.

"What about you? How come you ended up working for your family's company instead of being some bigshot artist?"

"They needed me, as I said before," Castiel sighed. "I didn't want to, but Mother arrived at my college and...convinced me I needed to return."

"Yeah, that wasn't an ominous pause at all," Dean quipped. "What happened?"

"She called me a disgrace, along with some slurs I won't repeat, and threatened to cut me off from my brothers if I didn't return at once."

"Jesus!" Dean shook his head in disbelief. "Hasn't she ever seen your stuff? One look at that and she should know you're awesome."

"I don't think it would matter," Castiel replied, though the tips of his ears turned pink at the compliment.

"You know, I've got some contacts with shady people, doing what I do," Dean offered. "I could get her car egged. Maybe even towed. I got friends in low places."

"Did you just quote Garth Brooks at me?"

"How the hell do you know who Garth Brooks is and not Richard Gere? You've got some serious gaps in your pop culture references, Cas," Dean laughed, loud and easy, and it made Castiel's heart soar.

They rounded a small curve on top of a hill, and Castiel pulled off to an overlook with a solitary, rundown picnic table resting beside the metal guard rail. The car shut off with a shudder, and Castiel climbed out, Dean following. Castiel took off his jacket and draped it over one side of the wooden bench to give Dean something comfortable to st on. They sat down on the same side of the picnic table, their backs to it, looking out at the view. The city lay below them, stretching out in a sea of metal, and the sun dipped partly behind the horizon to cast long shadows and beautiful colors.

"This is what inspired me to become an artist," Castiel spoke softly, though up where they were, the words were clear. "I'd had a spectacularly horrible day and I drove up here, just to get away from everyone else. I saw this, and immediately went home to capture it on canvas. I had always dabbled in art, particularly painting. One look at this, though, and I knew my passion lay outside of a pharmaceutical company."

"Why stay there then? Why don't you quit and do something that makes you happy?"

Castiel sighed.

"I have been groomed to work in the business my entire life. Everyone I know, except you, is somehow affiliated with it. My family may not approve of my lifestyle, but they are still my family, and it isn't as though every moment with them has been terrible. My parents love me, and they treated me well growing up."

"Just because they were decent to you doesn't mean you owe them. Kids don't owe their parents for taking care of them, Cas. That's what any parent should do."

"Logically, I understand that. I still can't bring myself to disappoint them."

Dean fell silent. He wasn't exactly the poster child for parental loyalty; his own father had several shortcomings, and Dean didn't let go of his hero worship for his dad until after his death. It had taken years to admit that “not as bad as he could’ve been” isn’t the same thing as “good”. This was different, though. Castiel was a grown man who shouldn't be punished for having dreams.

"If they're disappointed because you're not a cookie cutout of them, that's not your fault. They should love you for who you are, not what they can make you be."

"Thank you, Dean," Castiel answered quietly, and the pair fell into a comfortable silence.

The sun had fully set by now, and Dean watched the city twinkling below him. He understood Castiel's paintings; while he had expected the city to be a dark blob dotted with white lights, it was more than that. Neon signs beamed merrily in a multitude of colors, old streetlamps not yet replaced with LED bulbs glowed like yellow orbs, and cars weaving along the roads looked like tiny fireflies.

"I've been trying to capture this in all of my paintings," Castiel wore a tiny smile and stared out across the landscape. "I can get the colors and shapes, but I can never manage to capture the feeling I get when I'm up here."

"Yeah, this is something special, alright. It shouldn't be this peaceful. Aren't big cities supposed to be loud and dirty?"

"Perhaps you just can't see it from this far away," Castiel suggested. "Maybe everything has flaws when you look close enough to pick it apart. It's only when you can step back and see its entirety that you realize how beautiful it is."

watching_the_city

Castiel glanced at him, and Dean felt like his eyes were looking into his soul. He was struck with the sudden urge to lean forward and kiss this odd, kind, wonderful man who had blown his life out of the water in no time at all. And that was dangerous. Dean had a year left on his time with Alistair, another year of working the streets and being chosen at the Cube, of twice daily showers and scrubbing himself until he was pink to get all traces of semen off his body. Even if he took out all of that, there was still the matter of being damaged goods. Another man had held him down and forced him to have sex, and Dean had orgasmed. He must have enjoyed it then, right? He had gotten off to a stranger fucking him by force. What kind of person could do that? He was dirt, lower than dirt, and Castiel deserved so much better.

"Are you cold?" Castiel asked, and Dean realized he was shivering.

"A little."

"Come on, we can go back home. I do need to be up early to finish my work, after all. And you need rest."

Dean stood and followed Castiel back to his car, and they drove back to his apartment with the heat blowing on them and the radio on. Castiel mouthed along occasionally with the words of the songs, forgetting them often, which only endeared him more to Dean and furthered his assumption that he shouldn't get too much closer. Castiel deserved happiness. But damn him, Dean couldn't help himself, especially when a Pink Floyd song came on the radio and Castiel turned a cheeky grin at him, mouthing along with the words, then reminding Dean during a guitar riff of how much better Queen was.

Dean was beginning to feel the ache in his body on the elevator ride back upstairs. He fidgeted uncomfortably, and once inside, he excused himself to take a pain pill and lay down for a bit, convincing himself it was just to take the edge off. He didn't realize he'd fallen asleep until he awoke in the middle of the night to someone humming down the hall.

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Dean had seemed to be in a great deal of pain when they arrived home, and Castiel didn't think too much of it when the other man had disappeared off to his room. He knew he shouldn't have pushed him as hard as he did, but Castiel enjoyed seeing Dean relaxing and enjoying himself. He didn't think too deeply about why he enjoyed seeing Dean be fed and cared for, because that was one line he couldn't cross. Instead, Castiel made his way to the room that housed his current art projects. Most were variations on the cityscape, and it was one of those that he chose to continue. Castiel cracked open one of the windows in the room and let the sounds of the city below filter inside, then turned off his big overhead light in favor of a smaller bright one to illuminate his workspace.

This painting was a view from the area where he had taken Dean tonight. Just as always, the physical attributes of the portrait were accurate, but the feeling of the piece was wrong. It felt cold and beautiful, like a prized necklace in a glass case for viewing. People could appreciate the beauty, but not the emotion, the serenity of the moment. Castiel fingered the brush in his hands thoughtfully, then began searching for his paints.

Soon, a black and silver line twisted across the lower part of the painting. Behind it, looking out at the skyline, Castiel painted two swirls of color. He frowned when he stepped back to look at it; something still wasn't quite right. He picked up his brush again and looped the swirls toward one another until they connected, blue and green fading together to create a new color between them. He hummed as he worked, adding flecks of gold and silver to the mix the colors made, until the beauty of the city was no longer the focus of the painting.

He paused to check his progress, and a shocked sound behind him made him jump. He turned and found Dean, sleep-rumpled and warm, looking past Castiel at the painting itself.

"Dean," he made a half aborted attempt to conceal the work. "Did I wake you?"

"Is that us?"

Dean walked slowly to the painting and stared at it in awe.

"It was missing something," Castiel answered.

"You see me like this?" he indicated the green swirl in the spot where he had sat hours earlier. "It's...bright."

"Of course," Castiel moved next to him. "I chose green because you seem so full of life. And your eyes too, I suppose."

"You been lookin' at my eyes, Cas?" Dean's joke fell flat, because Castiel simply nodded.

"Yes."

Dean's gaze dropped to Castiel's lips. Castiel wanted nothing more than to close the distance between them, and had even begun to lean towards Dean slowly, when he closed his eyes with a grimace.

"I can't," he said, so close to Dean that he could nearly feel his breath on his lips, and he pulled away and opened his eyes. "It's not right, Dean. I can't."

"O-oh," Dean swallowed. "Yeah, I get it."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Dean shrugged, not meeting his eyes. "I know what I am."

"No, this isn't about your profession," Castiel ran a hand through his messy hair, catching bits of paint in the dark strands. "You are technically 'on the clock' right now. I meant what I said. I would never take advantage of that, and since you cannot give consent, I'll have to restrain myself, particularly since I want more than physical closeness with you."

"Are you serious?" Dean huffed a small, humorless laugh. "I’m worthless. That’s why you shouldn’t want me. No one wants to date a whore."

"I wish you wouldn't call yourself that," Castiel reminded him. "I don't care what your job is. I just want you."

"You say that now, when we're in your house. What about when I go back out on the street? You still going to want me when I've been with five guys in one night?"

"Yes," Castiel answered honestly. “Yes, I would still want you.”

“And what about if I get off on rape, huh?” Dean spat out, and though he sounded angry, Castiel recognized the hurt, the confusion. “What then? Because that’s what I am, Cas. He held me down and fucking raped me, and I came. I fucking got off from someone raping me. I mean, what kind of monster am I?”

“You are no monster,” Castiel made no move to approach Dean, though he ached to. “Please, look at me. Your body had a natural reaction despite your circumstances, not because of them.”

“That doesn’t make it alright.”

“No, it doesn’t. Nothing about what happened to you is alright. You were dehumanized in the most terrible way imaginable because of circumstances outside of your control. You are no monster, Dean.”

“I’m no angel, either.”

“The world is rarely so black and white,” Castiel took a step closer to Dean now. “If someone is forced at gunpoint to rob a bank for someone else, would you blame him instead of the person holding the gun?”

“Well...no.”

“Then why hold yourself to standards higher than which you judge the rest of the world? You were forced to live a nightmare. It doesn’t define you. Your kindness, your humor, your choices. Those are what define you.”

Castiel took a breath, meeting Dean’s eyes with sincerity.

“And you are...extraordinary.”

"Cas," Dean's hands ghosted up Castiel's arms to his shoulders. "I really want to kiss you right now."

"Only if you want to. Not because you have to-"

Castiel's words were cut off when Dean's mouth collided into his. He rested his hands on Dean's waist and marvelled at the warmth seeping through his clothes, and sighed against his lips. Dean licked at the seam of them, and Castiel opened for him immediately, tasting the sweetness of Dean on his tongue and groaning. He kissed Dean until he was lightheaded from the rush of it, and pulled back to rest their foreheads together.

"We-we need to wait to do this," Castiel adamantly said. "Please. Until after the time I purchased runs out. When I have you, I want it to be freely given, with no doubt."

"Going to kill me," Dean teased, and pressed a light kiss to Castiel's nose.

"It's for the best," Castiel answered, even though the entirety of his body was screaming for more of Dean's intoxicating taste.

Dean understood. He wasn’t ready to do more, and didn’t think he would be in the foreseeable future. Yet if there was one thing Dean understood, it was how to fake it til you make it. He squeezed Castiel's shoulders and smiled.

"Then I should go to sleep, because you're the biggest temptation I've ever seen," he winked. "One more kiss before bed?"

Castiel smiled and brought a hand to cup Dean's cheek, then dipped his head to meet his lips again. He didn't linger, instead giving Dean a soft, chaste kiss before pulling away slowly.

"Goodnight, Dean," Castiel nearly whispered in the space between them, and Dean swallowed audibly.

"'Night, Cas."

Chapter Text

Dean awoke midmorning to the smell of bacon, and struggled for a moment to remember why he was so happy. Oh, yeah. Castiel had kissed him last night and made him see friggin' stars. He didn't even care that his sleep schedule was royally screwed. Castiel wanted him, and that would make getting up every day a little easier. He stretched widely in the bed, cursing the pop in his joints, then made his way to the living room.

"Good morning," Castiel called over his shoulder. "I'll have breakfast done in a moment, if you wouldn't mind setting the table.

Castiel had clearly been working. Files and papers were strewn about, and Dean shuffled them together to clear off a space. He glanced down at them as he did, and a name stuck out amongst the paperwork.

A&C Associates

He picked up the file curiously. Surely this must be a coincidence; Castiel's family must have a partnership with another organization that shared the name on Alistair's door. He flipped it open. Most of the paperwork was a series of numbers and dates, including dates listed as trials, but names seemed to fill one column. Among them, Dean noticed Ruby C.

His blood ran cold.

Castiel's family was making money off of Alistair's escorts.

"How do you want your eggs?" Castiel asked, and rage poured from Dean like an inferno.

"You fucking psychopath!" he roared, and Castiel spun around. "You just wanted to check in on your investment, huh? No wonder you didn't care to spend five grand, it's coming back to you anyway!"

"Dean," Cas raised his hands, placating the other man. "What are you talking about?"

"Your fucking partnership with Alistair!" Dean threw the file at Castiel's feet, and he picked it up, confused.

"This is the file a coworker gave me to look over for my brother," he replied, looking it over. "I hadn't even opened it yet."

"Bullshit," Dean spat.

"Dean, look at me," Castiel implored, and Dean begrudgingly brought his eyes up to meet Castiel's. "I don't know what this is about, but I promise you, I'll figure it out immediately."

Castiel's stare was open, pleading, and Dean nodded haltingly. His anger still flared hot inside, but he fought it down to a reasonable flame. Castiel had never lied to him, nor given him a reason not to trust him.

"Give me five minutes to figure out the basics of this paperwork," he asked Dean. "You can even cook if you'd like, though I must admit I'm not hungry any longer."

Dean clicked the stove off roughly and stood behind Castiel at the table, arms folded across his body tightly and his lips pursed together. Castiel shuffled through the papers quietly. At one point, he frowned and brought up his calendar on his phone, seemingly to compare dates. He then switched to scanning through names, confusion etched on his face.

"Dean, do you recognize these names?"

He handed the sheet over to Dean, who scanned through them, nodding.

"Yeah. Ruby was the one who freaked you out the night we got coffee. And Kevin is on here too. I know most of them," he squinted at a name in particular. "But that doesn't make sense. There's more escorts than there are names here."

"That's what I thought as well. And look," Castiel pointed to Dean's name on the list, which had a small f marked beside of it. "I noticed that, and I looked through the paperwork. Apparently, those marked with the f are finishing their final month with Alistair. This is last month's report, which means Alistair is only claiming you're working for him for one year, not two."

"Why?"

"I have my suspicions. Do you mind if I ask my brother to come over? Gabriel. He's the only one I trust to tell me the truth."

"Isn't he at work?"

"Not if he can help it."

It was the attempt at dry humor coupled with the desperation in Castiel’s eyes that solidified it for Dean; Castiel truly hadn’t known about this.

"Yeah. I trust you, Cas. And I'm sorry for losing it like that. I just didn't know what to think."

"Understandable," Castiel replied, then placed his hand on Dean's. "I promise you, I’ve been so busy at work that I hadn’t even glanced at this file yet. I'm going to figure this out. If it means what I think it means, it could be good news for you."

"What do you think it means?"

He squeezed Dean's hand.

"That you won't have to work for Alistair ever again."

Castiel dialed his brother's number with one hand, never letting go of Dean with the other.

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Castiel looked composed on the outside while he waited for his brother's arrival. True to form, Gabriel had been "on break" at the local strip bar ("Who the hell opens a strip bar on a Thursday morning?" Dean had asked, and Castiel had replied, "I don't know, but if there is one, you can guarantee Gabriel will find it.") and he said he'd arrive shortly.

Underneath his composure, Castiel was a ball of nerves. He had an inkling about what this meant, and while he hoped he was right for Dean's sake, he was afraid of what it could mean for his family. A bell sounded, and Castiel nearly ran to the elevator call button.

"It's me, baby bro."

"I'll buzz you up."

Castiel pressed the button that would allow the elevator to come to his floor, and was waiting for Gabriel at his front door.

"Wow, no pissy come back to being called baby bro? What about Cassie?"

"I believe we have a problem," Castiel let him in the apartment. "I believe our family is doing something illegal."

Gabriel raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, juicy gossip? Do tell," he made his way to the living room and saw Dean sitting on the couch in his pajamas. "Or we can talk about him. Especially if he's single."

Dean sputtered, and Castiel rolled his eyes, sitting next to Dean and indicating his brother should have a seat as well. Gabriel looked between the two of them with glee, but didn't say anything else.

"Did you know we're partners with a company called A&C Associates?" Castiel asked.

"You called me here to talk about a business deal?" Gabriel scoffed.

"No. They're a brothel, and I believe they're paying us off. Look."

Gabriel sat forward on the edge of his seat, much more interested, and scanned through the file Castiel had handed over. His face went through the same emotions Castiel's had, and he looked up at Castiel.

"How did you even get this? Lucifer's in charge of the drug trials."

"Eve gave it to me. She couldn't find the mathematical error. Gabriel, did you really not know about this?"

"Hand on my stack of Playboys, bro," Gabriel replied. "I'm getting ready to leave that shithole anyway, why would I lie?"

"Eve wanted this report back today. She gives it to Lucifer at the end of the month. If this means what I think..."

"Then we need to give it to him ourselves, preferably with a wire. Good thing I have one in the car," Gabriel mused, and Dean openly stared at him. “Can you get him to talk?”

"Yes, I believe so."

"You all want to fill me in?" Dean finally interrupted, and Castiel smothered a smile at the look of confusion on his face.

"Cassie and I used to work together to get all kinds of secrets out of our brothers. We need to treat this the same way." Gabriel grinned. “They always would tell you more, baby bro.”

“That’s because no one with any sense would trust you, Gabriel.”

“Ouch. You wound me,” Gabriel placed a hand over his heart and Castiel gave one of his barely-there smiles.

"Gabriel and I will need to go to the office. Dean, will you be okay to stay by yourself? I'm not sure how long this will take."

"I can tag along," Dean offered, but Castiel shook his head.

"I'd rather you stay here. If all goes as I think it will, it could be several hours, and I don't want to push your comfort level," Castiel said, and Dean noticed Gabriel's curious look between them.

Dean considered that; he didn't know what the plan would entail, but his body was exceptionally sore after moving around so much the day before, and he didn't see a reason to push it even further if Castiel truly didn't need his help.

"Okay," he acquiesced finally. "But call me if you need me."

Castiel nodded and stood, and motioned for his brother to follow him. All three walked to the door, where Castiel slipped on his shoes and grabbed his jacket. He let Gabriel out first, then leaned in to kiss Dean gently on the lips.

"You only belong to yourself," he reminded Dean in a soft voice against his lips. "But I hope that if this all works out, you share yourself with me."

With that, he slipped out the door, file under his arm, ready to put their plan into action.

*

"Oh, hello Castiel!" Eve called when he strode into her office.

"Heard her loud and clear, baby bro," Gabriel's tinny voice teased Castiel over the earpiece he wore. "We're golden."

"Hello," Castiel replied. "Is Lucifer in? I have an important matter to discuss."

"He has a conference call in twenty minutes," Eve looked at her calendar. "Does that give you enough time?"

"Yes, thank you," Castiel responded. If all went well, it would take far less than that.

"I'll buzz you in."

Eve let Castiel into Lucifer's office, and Castiel sturdied himself for the discussion ahead. Now was not the time to be intimidated by his brother. Dean needed him to keep calm and get the truth out of Lucifer. He just needed to determine exactly how much his brother knew about the file in his hand.

"-Yes, thank you again. We'll be in touch," Lucifer was finishing a phone call, and Castiel waited patiently by his desk until it was done. "Castiel. To what do I owe this impromptu visit?"

Castiel tossed the file onto Lucifer's desk with a soft thud. Lucifer only glanced at it before looking back at Castiel.

"Am I supposed to know what this is?"

"Don't pretend you're not in on this," Castiel's voice wasn't weak or timid, and it seemed to surprise Lucifer, whose eyes widened the tiniest fraction before being pulled back to a neutral look.

"I don't know what you're talking about. I've never even heard of this...A&C Associates," Lucifer exaggerated reading the name on the file.

"That is a lie," Castiel replied testily. "You sent me there last week. You even gave me a business card."

"Castiel, be reasonable. So I sent you to a brothel. That doesn't mean what you think-"

"What I think," Castiel interrupted loudly, and Lucifer' face truly did show surprise at that, "is that A&C has been paying you under the table to interfere with drug trials. I have a money trail that leads to you, and a copy of this file so that you cannot deny it. Now, you are going to tell me what you have done to tamper with the drug trials, and why A&C has any interest in them."

"Am I?" Lucifer had lost any sense of calm now; he glared down at Castiel, who refused to look away. "And why would I do that?"

"Because Alistair has been playing you," Castiel responded. "And because I have enough information to put you in jail for a very long time for money laundering."

Lucifer narrowed his eyes and considered Castiel over the desk between them.

"If I give you the information, you won't go to the police?"

"I won't say a word," Castiel affirmed. "I want to shut down Alistair's operation."

There was a tense moment of silence before Lucifer finally began to speak.

"Fine. Several years ago, Alistair's associate Fergus Crowley reached out to me about making a deal. He had an idea about creating a brothel, but he wanted people he didn't have to pay. He determined the best group would be drug users indebted to their seller. He would offer them a way to pay off their debt: work at the brothel for a year, then their debt would be forgiven. However, he and Alistair didn't have enough addicts to fill the brothel like they wanted. That's where I came in."

Castiel's stomach tightened. He knew his brother wasn't a pleasant man, but this went beyond what he had expected.

"I would provide the addicts and receive half of their monthly pay. I switched the medications at the drug trials for addictive medications. It's quite easy, really. When you're the boss, they'll let you into the room without hesitation. I simply emptied their bottles and replaced them with identical, addictive pills. I would supply the names to Alistair's dealers, and then they'd swoop in and make the connection. We only did a handful at first, until Crowley died a few years ago. Then Alistair was quick to up the numbers. He's one of the biggest dealers in the city, even though he has underlings that do all the work."

"He's cheating you," Castiel spat, disgusted. "He forces them to sign two year deals, not one."

"I'll deal with him later."

"I believe the police were already on their way," Castiel said coldly. "Gabriel, it's time."

At once, the door behind Castiel swung open to reveal Gabriel and two uniformed police officers. Lucifer let out a roar of outrage, and the officers immediately pulled out their stun guns.

"On the ground!" the one nearest to him shouted, and Lucifer, eyeing the weapons cautiously, complied.

"You're under arrest for money laundering and felony drug trafficking. You have the right to remain silent," one of the officers read Lucifer his Miranda rights and pulled him roughly to his feet.

"Oh, and Lucifer? I quit," Gabriel told him proudly. "You'll tell Mom and Dad, right? Maybe on your one phone call from jail?"

"Idiots!" Lucifer hurled at them while being dragged from the room; Castiel could see spectators lining the hallway outside already. "This will destroy Novak Pharmaceuticals! You've just ended everything we've worked for!"

"Blah, blah," Gabriel waved at Lucifer as he was led away. "That didn't take long at all. I could head back to the strip club."

"We probably did just destroy the company," Castiel said. "All of those people, out of work. What will they do?"

Gabriel shrugged.

"Probably sue and make a shit ton of money off our parents. Until then, they've got you to help them get unemployment."

"I don't think so. I'll work until they get what they need, then I'll be quitting."

“I told you, you’re the original rebel."

Castiel snorted and checked his watch.

"I'm going home and telling Dean he never has to go back to Alistair's again."

"Just keep it down. I've already had one brother arrested today. I don't need another one getting a police visit for a noise violation."

Castiel grinned and headed for the door.

"Call me and let me know if the police need anything else from us," he paused. "And Gabriel...thanks."

"Anytime, baby bro. Unless I finally convince Kali to come home with me. Then you're on your own."

Castiel just laughed and walked out the door. He passed workers that stared at him and whispered to one another, past a few journalists who had somehow already arrived at the front of the building and were being held back my security, and ignored all of their questions. All he wanted right now was to give Dean the good news, then maybe take him out on a real date. He couldn't stop smiling; he was finally going to pursue his dream of painting, and better yet, he had someone waiting at home for him who, if Castiel could help it, would never have to leave again. It was ridiculous to be feeling as happy as he was in the wake of his brother's arrest and nearly guaranteed business failure, but it only solidified Castiel's thoughts that he was doing the right thing.

He was within view of his building when it happened.

"Cas!" Dean's panicked voice rang out across the short space between them, and Castiel's head snapped up at the sound.

A tall, thin man had bound Dean's hands and shoved him toward a car out front. He paused long enough to sneer in Castiel's direction, then pushed Dean inside through the open door, slamming it behind him and hurriedly climbing in the driver's seat.

Was it Alistair? It had to have been. No, no, the cops were supposed to have arrested him! As if one cue, a cop car swung around the corner, lights blazing, as Alistair's car pulled away. Castiel ran at the officer's car like a madman, waving his arms, and the officer rolled down his window. He was momentarily surprised to see Benny there, but his shock was overridden by his complete terror.

"He took him!" Castiel shrieked. "The car, he took Dean, Alistair!"

Benny must've had some idea of what he was saying, because he nodded and gestured quickly.

"Get in, tell me what the car looked like."

Castiel didn't even hesitate. He ran to the other side of the car and climbed in.

"Go! North on Coleman, silver Honda Civic, go!"

Benny sped off, already calling it in on his radio and requesting backup. They spied the car up ahead and Castiel yelled again, pointing. The Honda sped up, careening down the city streets with pedestrians leaping out of the way, alerted to the danger by the officer's sirens.

Another car soon joined in the chase, and Castiel's heart thudded wildly in his chest. He could occasionally see Dean's head through the back windshield and in Castiel's mind, he imagined Dean staring hopelessly at him while Castiel was unable to help. They sped through to a more open part of the city, and Alistair gunned it.

"Officer Lafitte to Officer Fitzgerald, I've got a one oh seven here," Benny recited.

"On it," the responding voice said, and Officer Lafitte began to ease off.

"What are you doing?" Castiel asked. "Keep going!"

"You're a civilian, Castiel. I'm not going to risk it. Officer Fitzgerald can lead this chase."

Before Castiel could plead his case, Alistair's car ran over the edge of a roundabout. It swerved right and left, tires squealing, before he completely lost control. The car flew to the right and slammed into a tree with a terrible sound of smashing metal.

"Dean!" Castiel yelled loud enough to cause pain to rip through his vocal chords.

Officer Lafitte was yelling for an ambulance into his radio, cars were slamming on brakes around them, and Alistair could very well be armed in the totaled car, but Castiel wrenched himself from the car and ran as fast as he could toward the wreckage in front of him, even with Benny shouting behind him. His hopes plummeted at the sight of the car. The entire front end was smashed inward and smoking heavily. Airbags had deployed and filled the area with the smell of powder and lingering dust, and it was much too quiet. Castiel mindlessly noted a limp body in the front seat and paid it no attention.

"Dean!"

Castiel attempted to pull the driver's side back door open but it wouldn't budge. He frantically rushed to the other side and heaved, and the door popped open with a crunch. Dean was stretched out in the backseat, hands still bound, his face dripping blood and his body contorted oddly. He spat red onto the floorboard and took a shuddering breath.

"Cas," he breathed, the smallest hint of a smile crossing his features.

Then he dropped into unconsciousness, and Castiel screamed for help.

Chapter Text

Castiel paced back and forth at the hospital. He had insisted upon riding in the ambulance with Dean, but the last he had seen of him had been Dean taken away by nurses in scrubs, shouting numbers and stats that didn't make any sense to Castiel. Someone had directed him to an empty waiting room, and he paced restlessly, replaying the accident over and over in his mind. Benny came and took a statement, which Castiel mumbled through, head jerking up every time he heard footsteps in the hallway. He explained that Lucifer had tipped Alistair off when he saw Castiel come in with the file, that Alistair had utilized the tracking device on Dean's phone to pinpoint his location and coax him out. Benny didn't understand why he had come downstairs at all, but it didn't matter to Castiel. All he wanted was news from the doctor.

He didn't even flinch when Benny told him Alistair had died on impact. He did let some of the tension drop from his shoulders when the kind officer wished him the best and promised him a free quart of apple butter at his next trip to the market.

Benny left soon after, saying he had to get back to work, and Castiel continued pacing until finally a dark-haired doctor came into the room.

"Are you Castiel Novak?" he asked, and Castiel nodded fervently.

"Is he okay?"

"He woke up not long ago," the doctor answered kindly, and Castiel sagged in relief. "He's going to be in pain for quite some time. Most of the blood came from a badly broken nose, but he also fractured his collarbone and two ribs, and sustained a concussion."

"Can I see him?"

"Of course."

Castiel followed the doctor to a brightly lit hospital room. Dean was propped up on the pillows, heavily bandaged and weary, but alive. It was the most beautiful sight Castiel had ever seen.

"Dean," he spoke softly and sank into a chair beside the bed, aware of how he'd been screaming the man's name not even two hours earlier.

"Heya, Cas," Dean replied, reaching out his hand to grasp the other man's.

"Your vitals all look excellent, Mr. Winchester," the doctor said. "I'd like to keep you overnight for observation, but I don't foresee any issues. You will need to stay awake, however. Concussions that result in unconsciousness are nothing to scoff at. If everything goes well, we'll release you tomorrow."

"Thanks, doc."

"If you need anything, press the call button. You can't have more medication for several hours, though there are measures we can take to make you comfortable."

With a nod, the doctor took his leave, and Castiel raised Dean's knuckles to his lips to brush a kiss across them.

"I knew it was stupid to go downstairs," Dean said without preamble. "That son of a bitch tracked my phone. He buzzed up to your room, said if I didn't come down he had someone ready to find Sam. I couldn't let that happen."

"It's okay, Dean. I'm just so happy you're alright."

"What happened? Why was he upset? Did it have something to do with your brother?"

"Yes," Castiel answered him. "Alistair and my brother were working together to create addicts and profit off their addiction. Alistair would work them for a year and give half the money to Lucifer, who switched out the pills at our drug trials. Alistair was keeping the escorts on for longer without telling Lucifer, and keeping the money to himself. If he hadn't made a careless mathematical error, we would never have known."

"Is Alistair at this hospital too?" Dean's eyes widened fearfully, and Castiel kissed his knuckles again.

"He was killed in the crash."

"I don't care," Dean said, shaking his head slightly and looking at Castiel with a pathetic stare. "Shit, I'm just as bad as he is. Someone is dead and I don't care."

"He gave you no reason to. Listen to me: Alistair was cruel. He stole a year of your life and would've been happy to take more if it meant making a profit. He threatened you and dozens of others. You are not a bad person for feeling nothing, because nothing is exactly what he felt for you."

"I, however, owe you a sincere apology," Castiel continued. "My family's company caused your brother's addiction and everything that happened to you because of it."

"That wasn't your fault," Dean replied sternly. "You stopped it the moment you knew it was happening. Your company wasn't at fault here, just your brother."

"I suppose it isn't 'my company' anymore either," Castiel said with a wry grin. "I’m going to quit. I'm going to do what I can to help our employees, and then I'm done."

"So I'll be bangin' an artist. Nice," Dean winked, then added, "if you want to stick with me. I mean, as of now I'm a homeless, unemployed, devastatingly handsome hospital patient, so I don't have much to offer."

"You're certainly unemployed and handsome, though I'm not sure about homeless. You're welcome to stay with me, indefinitely."

"Maybe eventually, on one condition" Dean's happy smile belied the seriousness of the statement. "You have to share yourself with me too."

Castiel laughed and leaned over the bed, kissing Dean lightly on the lips.

"And more of that. Definitely more of that." Dean added.

"As much as you want," Castiel agreed, and immediately moved closer to start on his promise.

Four Months Later

Dean sipped on a flute of champagne and fiddled absentmindedly at the collar of his dress shirt. It was pleasantly cool inside, compared to the warmth of incoming summer outside, and the crowd mingled about the room studying the artwork hanging from the walls. Dean caught snippets of what they were saying (“The colors are extravagant!” “This piece feels particularly melancholy.” “You can see a change in the artist over the course of these pieces...look at the light!”) and while he had picked up on some of the nuances of artist-speak over time, he didn’t pay it much attention. Cas’ art was gorgeous to him, and that was all that mattered.

Dean’s gaze slid over the room, unconsciously searching it, before he realized what he was doing and shook himself out of it with a slight movement of his head. Months of therapy had helped that particular habit, but it was still there, and likely would remain. His rapist had never been caught. Sometimes things weren’t wrapped up nicely with a neat bow at the end, his therapist had reminded him gently at a previous meeting, and Dean agreed. It wasn’t as though he was in a bad place anymore; Dr. Barnes had taught him methods of dealing with the aftermath of his assault and former occupation.

It had been a struggle at first. Dean moved into a halfway house after he was released from the hospital, despite Castiel’s offer of his spare room. He had appreciated it, but after so long of being under the control of another person, Dean needed his space and freedom. He was always nervous, as was expected, and disliked loud crowds or heavily populated areas. It had been a shock to Dean as well, who thought he had handled his time as a sex worker with limited damage to himself, and his disgust with his perceived weakness dominated many of his first sessions with his doctor. Over time, he gradually came to accept that his fears didn’t make him less of a survivor. In fact, the way that he was only falling apart when it was safe to do so was a survival mechanism in itself.

Castiel had given him the space or comfort he needed. When he lashed out at Cas after a particularly rough therapy session, shouting that he didn’t need to be rescued, the man had backed off with a quiet request to call him when he was ready. Dean took a week to mull it over, and called him with a peace offering of pizza. When Dean suffered a massive panic attack with flashbacks of his assault and wound up at Castiel’s door, Cas made him coffee and held him while he cried.

Cas had come to some of Dean’s therapy sessions as well at Dr. Barnes’ request. She helped them to see that while their relationship was positive, Dean didn’t need to look to Castiel as his cure-all, and Castiel didn’t shouldn’t look at Dean like a responsibility. She worked with Dean until he understood that he was the one responsible for his freedom. Castiel may have provided a boost, and the breakthrough in the legal sense, but Dean’s choices and actions were ultimately his own.

And the difficulties hadn’t been one sided. Castiel had his own struggles to contend with while Dean was recovering. Novak Pharmaceuticals was hit with a slew of lawsuits from Lucifer’s actions, including several from family members of deceased addicts, which were still making their way through the legal system and would likely close the company’s doors for good. Castiel didn’t seem too concerned about the fate of his family’s empire. Rather, he helped as many people as he could with letters of recommendation, unemployment benefits, and business connections, then he quit, standing in his mother’s office with Gabriel grinning widely beside him. Naomi had raged at both of them until she was red in the face, shouting obscenities and insults. When it was over, Castiel and Gabriel had been disowned, and Castiel told Dean that he didn’t much care. His family hadn’t felt like a family in years. It didn’t stop Castiel from crying on Dean’s shoulder.

Yes, it had been a slow process. Dean eventually did move in with Castiel, and got a job as a mechanic downtown. Castiel started painting full time and really began to make money at it when patrons of Gabriel’s bakery saw his art hanging on the walls. Gabriel referred them to Castiel, who had soon made a name for himself in the community, which led to the exhibition of his work at this gallery, and a fancy party to go along with it.

Dean finally spotted Castiel making his way back toward him through the room, his suit hugging his body in all the right ways. His face, while still glowing with happiness at the exhibition, was beginning to show signs of tiredness after several hours of the event, but something in his eyes softened when he looked at Dean, just like they always did. Like Dean was special. Like he was loved.

“Sorry that took so long,” Castiel handed Dean a plate filled with fancy, tiny food and nibbled on a cocktail sausage from his own plate. “I think we should get burgers after this. Perhaps I should’ve had this catered with dinner instead.”

“I love you.”

Dean hadn’t meant to say it yet. Love confessions were supposed to be done over romantic, private moments, not surrounded by strangers. It wasn’t as though Castiel didn’t know Dean loved him; surely he could read it in all the ways Dean silently said those three words. This, though. This was the first time Dean had openly admitted to it. He swallowed, waiting anxiously for his response. It felt like Castiel stared at him for an eternity before complete happiness bloomed across his face.

“I love you too.”

Dean huffed out a watery laugh and leaned in to kiss Castiel gently, using his free hand to cup the man’s face. He rubbed his thumb over Castiel’s cheekbone softly, catching on his bottom lip and grinning when Castiel kissed it softly. It caused an unexpected spark to flare in Dean’s stomach, and suddenly there were far too many people around.

“Cas...take me home. I’m ready.”

“You’re ready?” Castiel questioned, then his eyes grew big at Dean’s shy smile. “Oh. Are you sure?”

Was he? Dean hadn’t had sex since the night of his assault. He and Cas had kissed since then, but neither had ever pressed it past that point. Castiel, out of fear of hurting Dean either physically or emotionally, and Dean, out of worry. He was worried it would feel like everyone else, like any other john on the street. But now, looking at Castiel, the man who enabled him to save himself, his doubts were gone.

“Yeah. Please, take me home, Cas.”

Castiel nodded and tossed their plates in the trash, then took Dean by the hand and searched out his brother. He told Gabriel they were leaving (with only a light bit of jabbing from the shorter man) and left him to handle the last bit of the event, including any final sales that could be made. Then they walked outside into the warm twilight and walked the two blocks home, hands entwined the entire time, sharing side glances and laughing with each other, just enjoying the pleasant tension. They shared slow, easy kisses in the elevator on the way up, nearly tripping out of it when the door opened behind them.

Castiel pushed the door open to their apartment and didn’t bother with lights. Instead, he closed the door with a quiet snick and gave Dean plenty of space.

“Are you absolutely positive this is what you want?”

Dean took a step toward him and wrapped Castiel up in his arms, placing kiss after kiss against his neck and jawline. He ghosted his hands down his chest and lifted his shirt to run his fingers against Castiel’s soft skin.

“I trust you.”

“If it gets to be too much,” Castiel visibly shuddered when Dean’s hands traveled further up his shirt to thumb across his nipples. “If you want to stop at all, tell me. I swear to you, I’ll stop.”

“I know you will,” Dean answered him, then took in a sharp breath when Castiel finally grasped Dean’s hips in his strong hands. “Please.”

Castiel kissed Dean’s temple and led him to their bedroom in the dark. They toed out of their shoes and socks, and Castiel tugged Dean’s tie loose, then set to work unbuttoning his dress shirt. He kissed each expanse of skin as it was revealed, kneeling on the floor at the final button to press a lingering kiss against Dean’s stomach, and carefully unbuckled Dean’s belt. Castiel shrugged out of his own jacket and began to work on the buttons when Dean pulled him up and guided him toward the bed. He undressed Castiel now, his hands working down each button and sliding his dress pants off, heart pumping madly at the sight of the swell in Castiel’s boxers. Castiel helped Dean out of his own pants as well, then stood at the foot of the bed to slide his underwear down and off his legs. Dean stared at him in the dim room, lit only by the streetlamps outside, unabashed want etched on his face. Castiel pulled Dean’s boxers off and to the floor, then lowered himself over the man, blanketing his body with his own. Dean gasped at the contact between their naked bodies and his arms came up to wrap around Castiel, who kissed him gently.

“Tell me if it’s too much,” Castiel whispered against Dean’s neck, then began to kiss his way down Dean’s body, like he was worshipping every freckle, every mark.

He swirled his tongue around Dean’s nipples, causing him to buck up, then worked down, down, until he was mouthing at the base of Dean’s erection. Castiel flicked his tongue across the sensitive head, and then Dean’s erection was encased in warm, silky heat. He dropped his head back, one hand coming to rest lightly in Castiel’s dark hair.

“Cas,” he moaned, and Castiel hummed around him, causing his toes to curl. “So good. Mmm.”

Castiel bobbed his head and sucked, and Dean’s hand tightened in his hair. It had been months since he’d had any interest in sex and it showed. He was already close, just from Castiel’s mouth.

“I-I don’t wanna come yet,” he pulled Castiel’s hair gently, and the man came off of him with a wet slurp. “Not yet.”

“We can take our time,” Castiel assured him. “I can open myself up for you.”

“No,” Dean pulled Castiel up to hover over him again. “I want you inside me.”

Castiel made a wanton sound at that.

“Are you-”

“Cas, if you ask me if I’m sure again, I’m going to wipe my come on your pillowcase.”

Castiel snorted and Dean grinned.

“Alright. Lay back.”

Dean knew Castiel kept lube in his side drawer, even if they hadn’t used it yet, and he wasn’t surprised to see the man lean over and fumble for it now. He was, however, surprised that he didn’t also grab a condom.

“Your tests all came back clean. As did mine…”

Dean had never barebacked. It was foolish to do it as a sex worker, and Dean had never had a partner he’d trusted enough to do that with even before his time in the trade. But this was Castiel, and Dean wanted that closeness more than he could say.

“Yeah,” he breathed. “I need you.”

Dean lay back on the bed and Castiel followed, laying out beside him and opening the bottle with a click. Instead of immediately coating his fingers, he leaned in and kissed Dean gently, nibbling softly at his bottom lip and licking it until Dean opened his mouth and let him in. Castiel kissed like he was dying of thirst and Dean was the sweetest well water. Dean slid his hand between them and took Castiel in his hand, causing the man to gasp into his mouth. He jerked Castiel’s dick slowly, squeezing on each upward pass, until Cas was breathing roughly between them. Castiel grabbed Dean’s leg and wrapped it around over his slim hips, then lubed up his fingers. Slowly, and without breaking the newest kiss between them, he pressed into Dean’s warm body.

Dean moaned against his mouth and spread his legs wider, hitching his leg further up Castiel’s hip, and his movements on Castiel’s dick faltered. Castiel soon added a second finger and pressed further, deeper, until he brushed past Dean’s prostate and electricity danced up his spine.

“There,” Dean breathed.

Castiel touched him again, drawing out a deep moan and causing Dean to jerk his hips, and repeated himself until Dean was a moaning, blissed out mess. He added fingers and twisted and stretched, never more than Dean could handle, until he seemed content that Dean was ready. He gave Dean a gentle push onto his back, then situated himself between his legs, lifting one over either of his shoulders.

“Want you so bad,” Dean stroked his own cock briefly, afraid to do more in case it sent him over the edge.

“You’re beautiful,” Castiel breathed, and he slicked himself up before tossing the bottle of lube to the side.

Dean felt the blunt pressure as Castiel began to press into him. His body soon gave way and they both moaned as Castiel began to sink deeper. He worked his hips slowly, inching in and pulling out so as not to be too much too soon, and Dean’s hands scrambled at the blankets below him. Finally, blissfully, Castiel managed to fully sheath himself inside Dean.

Any worries Dean had about this being the same as every other person he’d slept with flooded out of his mind. At its base, of course, this was the same action as he’d done with countless other people, but there was something else this time. Something more. Dean was connected to Castiel in a way he’d never been with another person before, and tears very nearly sprang to his eyes.

“You feel...oh, Dean,” Castiel let his eyes fall closed.

Dean gave a tiny sound and rolled his hips, silently willing Castiel to continue. Castiel pulled out and pressed back in harder this time, his hands clenching on the sheets beside Dean’s head, and he picked up the pace. Dean moaned and brought his hands up to Castiel’s arms, needing to touch him in every way possible. He lifted his head as best as he could in his doubled up position, wanting a kiss, and Castiel obliged. They were moving quicker now, too caught up in one another to care about drawing out the moment. Dean slid a hand between their bodies to stroke his own cock, his head dropping back on the pillow.

“Not-not gonna last,” he warned.

“No,” Castiel shook his head. “You feel too good. I- ah! I’m close already.”

Castiel rolled his hips against Dean, the angle perfect for hitting his prostate. Each thrust of Castiel’s dick brought Dean closer to his own ledge, and their heaving breaths caused the air between them to grow hot and thick. Dean urged Castiel on with little whimpers and moans, getting louder the closer he got to coming.

“Come in me,” Dean begged. “ Give it to me.”

“Dean! I’m coming! Ah!”

Castiel thrust into Dean’s body and stilled, his own body going taut as he came deep inside. It was that knowledge, knowing that Castiel had just filled him up with come, that pushed Dean over the edge. He came with a shout of Castiel’s name, hand flying over his cock. His vision tunneled and his back arched, burying Castiel even further inside. He rode the pleasure until he was oversensitive, and let his legs fall from Castiel’s shoulders with a thud.

“Holy shit,” Dean panted, finding Castiel’s eyes in the dark. “That was...holy shit.”

Castiel chuckled.

“I’m inclined to agree with you.”

He slid out of Dean’s body slowly, the both of them shuddering with sensitivity, and grabbed a shirt off the floor to give them a quick cleanup. When it was done, he lay out on the bed beside Dean, turned toward one another, and hands still hesitant to leave each other alone. Dean curled in closer, until his head was tucked up under Castiel’s chin, and let himself be held. Castiel tossed a blanket over their bare legs, now entwined together, and stroked his hand up and down Dean’s back.

Dean began to get drowsy, safe and warm as he was in Castiel’s embrace, and he could hear Castiel’s breathing beginning to even out as well. He cuddled closer still, smiling into Castiel’s chest.

“I love you,” Castiel said, voice starting to grow thick with sleep.

“I love you too,” Dean answered him, and it must have settled something in him, because soon Dean could hear Castiel’s soft snores.

There were still issues to be faced. Sam would be visiting for summer vacation and Dean would have to talk to him about his ordeal. He would still have therapy and would face issues that arose from it. Recovery was sometimes a journey instead of a destination, after all. But Dean loved and was loved in return. That, Dean thought as he closed his eyes and began to doze off, that made all the difference in the world.