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A Secret Chord

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They're a couple of hours out from Bedford, and from the corner of Dean's eye, Sam still doesn't look too happy for a guy who's just had a wild night with a hottie, no strings attached.. The siren mojo's behind them as far as Dean's concerned; they've been through worse. But Sam keeps giving him this look, like he wants to say something. Dean's grateful that every time Sam just winds up sighing and looking out the window instead, maybe thinking about demons and the apocalypse. Dean keeps his focus on the road ahead: featureless and Midwestern, nothing around but corn. He's got the pit's torments on his soul and the fiends of hell on his heels and the host of heaven peering over his shoulder non-fucking-stop, and the last thing he wants is to think about anything. Sam's probably wondered from the get-go what Castiel must think of all that. Dean doesn't give a shit.

*

The first time it happened was a night Sam said he'd slept in the Impala because Dean was snoring loud enough to drown out Spinal Tap. That probably meant Dean had made too much noise in one of the nightmares that he absolutely was not going to go all Dr. Phil about no matter how big a pain in the ass Sam wanted to be about it. Or it meant that Sam was off with Ruby, which wasn't any better.

Dean still said “Sam?” as he was pulled from the nightmare, because Sam had woken him up a few times before Dean got through to him to stop it. But even as he said it he had the hint of the old fear and trembling he got in an angel's presence, another thing he'd never admit, and Castiel said, “No, Dean.”

Dean sat up. “Sam in trouble?”

“No.”

He rubbed his eyes. “So why are you here?” Castiel looked away the way he did when he didn't want to answer a question. “Look, I just want to sleep,” Dean said.

“I know.”

“And you want to, what, tell me a bedtime story?”

Castiel looked away again; maybe baby-sitting humans was beneath his dignity, or giving Dean actual information was against some angelic rule. “You're not sleeping, Dean.”

“I was until you got here.”

“That isn't what I mean.” There was a long moment. “You still don't trust me.” 

“Well, all the cryptograms you talk in don't inspire much trust.”

“I said before that you're worth being saved,” Castiel said. “If we're going to win this war, you have to start believing.”

“Yeah? So who else is worth being saved?”

“I wasn't sent to tutor you in theology.”

“I figured out that much, at least.”

There was another little silence. “Close your eyes, Dean,” Castiel said eventually, and for whatever reason, Dean obeyed. He heard a rustling that could have sounded like blankets.

*

Eventually Sam gives him a longer-than-usual look and starts to say something, but he only winds up closing his mouth again. “You catching flies or something?” Dean asks. “Or just stretching your chin?”

“Stretching my chin,” Sam mutters, looking out the window again. Maybe he's doing some girly shit like looking for wildflowers, although it's the middle of fucking winter. Who knows.

Dean puts that out of mind as best he can and focuses on the pain unfolding through his back and legs. He's spent too long sitting in the car at one go. If he wants to put Nick Monroe and Dr. Roberts behind him by nightfall he's got to push on; no time for a stretch break or a rest for his baby, as much as they're both itching for it. She's the love of his life, the one girl who will always have his heart, but he's got to face it: couples need some time apart to thrive. She needs to rest, let her pistons cool and her fuel settle, and Dean needs to get fresh air in his lungs and work his muscles, run on his own motion instead of coasting on hers. 

He'd never complain out loud, least of all to Sammy, but all the long trips maybe aren't the best thing for his mind or his body. Focusing on that set of problems tends to beat the alternative these days, though. He's been more conscious of his body since... since he's been back, he decides; there are reasons for it that he doesn't care to think through. Dean Winchester, barnyard ox: he's all about eating, fighting, and fucking, nothing else. No time to get his panties in a knot over an ethereal soul or anything, and he's aiming to keep it that way. 

*

That was what he'd been trying to do the next time it happened. It was mid-afternoon and another cheap motel; Dean had collapsed, dressed, on the bed, but the sleep hadn't lasted even though it probably wasn't the first time he'd had that particular dream. Or maybe it was just another memory coming back for an encore: Heat that he thought would burn away what felt like his flesh but that didn't until Alistair turned up to finish the job, day after day. The way every tool hell could dream up felt to his man-shaped soul, and in his hands. The rack, always.

Castiel appeared without warning, hand up and palm outward. Instinct had Dean on his feet in seconds, but he didn't know what to do next. He felt like a deer in the headlights as Cas advanced, and Dean understood that there wasn't going to be any asking about anything this time. He felt as if Castiel were looking down to fix him in his gaze, lowering his hand onto Dean's shoulder.

One of the first things that had struck Dean about Castiel was the way he wore someone else's body. A devout man, he prayed for this. The body was what Dean associated with him, how his mind envisioned Castiel. He was apparently at ease residing in it – being alive in it, even; when he wasn't not doing his whole angel-of-the-Lord routine the fit seemed completely natural, or at least not what came to Dean's mind as inhuman. That despite the fact that Castiel, as embodied, did not eat, crap, wash, or rest. As far as Dean could tell, he sustained his unchanging vessel mostly by reflex. He blinked, he breathed, and sometimes, starting with that afternoon, he took Dean to bed.

Castiel kissed his face, his eyes, and Dean didn't question it. He had the clear, quarantined thought that a man had never pushed him onto his back like this. Now it was different.

Castiel was on top of him, and there was something behind the body, something beyond it. This wasn't a human being.
Dean remembered the figment of his own body when the physical thing was inert and rotting. The soul-shadow was more real than his body itself had ever been. He remembered other people's screams, how they didn't hurt him and how much easier that was... he remembered earning his place there.

There was no way for Dean to think he was dreaming Cas' cradling his head in his hands and kissing his neck. His mind lagged, disconnected and unsurprised. Castiel's fingertips were warm, strong, not much like a woman's. Not much like a man's. Cas lifted Dean's tee-shirt – grey blue and once thick cotton, now a little threadworn. Clean and crisp-soft because Sam had washed it and palm-smoothed it, folded it with his own hands. Dean had just thrown his clothes on the floor because he was tired, tired of everything, and Sam for once hadn't said anything, just sorted them out and laundered them and Dean loved his brother so fucking much, like being cut in half 

Castiel stroked Dean's side. “Right now he's safe.”

“Now what, you can read minds?”

“No.” That isn't how it works. Castiel pulled him closer and kissed his mouth, and it was a man's rough jaw that Dean felt and a man's body up against his and he was pressed under something that he could never, ever imagine was a man.

It wasn't wine or honey or fire; devouring and being devoured at the same time. He stopped thinking and felt hands, brimming with an otherworldly energy and strong, on his arms and his chest. He raised his own hands to Castiel's shoulders, squeezed, felt a surge of – something, bright enough to blind; it made him afraid. “Are you gonna – ” He felt every muscle in his body tighten but he still said, “Sam said the first ones fell because – ” He imagined punishment and angels being thrown into hell; he remembered knives. 

Castiel clasped their hands together, looked Dean in the eye. “This... this is not forbidden.”

It felt like little tongues of flame speaking from within him; Dean gasped for air like he'd come up from a storm-wracked ocean. His own fingertips roved over warm flesh humming with something great and terrible. A man's body and no man; Castiel, everywhere. Dean's own body coiled tight; light, but not his eyes perceiving it. Spiraling in on itself over a flame, tighter and tighter, and then.

Light. Galaxies. The beginning of everything.

He was too spent, later, to actually get up and put on his clothes. He lay on the bed as his skin cooled. 

He didn't know offhand how much time passed before he was with it enough to care about anything. Eventually, though, his brain kicked into gear again, which he wasn't thrilled about. Everything felt out of place, and he went ahead and let the discomfort piss him off. 

He looked at Castiel, who seemed completely calm. He was just sitting on the edge of bed and staring into space in that infuriating way of his. Christ, he was sitting up straight. “Hey, Cas, that vessel of yours. You think he'd be okay with what you just did?”

“His reward is in heaven,” Castiel said, as if that answered the question.

*

“You doing okay, Dean?”

Dean flits his eyes to Sam. “Yeah. Why?”

“You just look like you zoned out for a minute.”

“I'm not letting you drive, Sam.”

“Well, you'd better pull over if you need to.”

“I won't need to.”

“Famous last words... Look, at least get off at that exit and get some caffeine.”

“Okay, I'll let you win that one.”

It's a warm day for this time of year, and Sam stays outside to make a call. He closes his phone as Dean comes out with the drinks. “Who were you talking to?” Dean asks.

“Bobby.”

“What'd you want to ask him?”

“Where babies come from. What'd you get me to drink?”

“Diet Coke. They were out of Bratz Princess cups.”

“Damn, and all I needed was the last one in the set... You're just having coffee?”

“Yeah, their fries are subpar,” Dean says, and does another mental exercise in avoiding real thought.

Once, he was just back from a long swim in another crappy motel pool. He'd taken to swimming hard, pounding the water like a demon and relishing the pain from it, blunt or sharp. He came back to the room to find that Sam, bless his heart, had gotten him a half-decent takeout hamburger, still warm. By the looks of it Sam had stuck with a salad. Dean remembered the time he'd spent a few weeks on them himself, while he was having a fling with a hot vegetarian – he wouldn't have copped to the fact like a wuss, but reading her animal brochures had helped. Now he picked up his burger and thought of the brutal photographs of big-eyed cows and grinned to himself for a couple of bites. Then, in an instant, he realized how he was thinking and wanted to puke.

He threw the meat into an outside trash can, using more force than was necessary to toss it and then to brush his teeth. It was pretty useless – he was starving; an order of fries had his name on it, and so did whatever Sam hadn't finished – but he rinsed his mouth like the world depended on it and turned on the shower as hot and hard as it would go. The water pressure wasn't exactly world-class, and the disgust he'd felt blossomed into rage. With no warning he was furious at that, furious at himself for losing control over it, and he punched the tiles and winced at the pain branching from his hand.

The water cut off, and what normally would have been frustration fueled his anger. The reception desk was about to get an outraged call from him; fuck their good graces. He pulled the bar loose as he grabbed a towel, damn near pushed the knob through the wall when he opened the door – to find Castiel on Sam's bed, sitting there. “Jesus Christ, Cas. What thefuck are you doing here?”

“We need to talk, Dean.”

“Yeah? This time for one of your no-Q-and-A sessions?”

“No.”

Another pulse of rage. “Right now I just want to beat the shit out of something.”

“I know.”

Dean tackled him then, wrestling him to the floor. Castiel didn't unleash his full strength, but he was strong, and Dean didn't hold back. “Since you know so much, how come you never fucking tell us anything?” Castiel rolled Dean under him, and Dean rolled him back. “If the end of the world's coming, what are you doing to help?”

Castiel pushed Dean off him then, a small vessel blazing with might. Dean was against the wall. The anger was Castiel's now, transforming the human face and bearing down with a physical strength. “Do you think we raised you from the pit for nothing? Or have you forgotten what I said?”

“You raised me because the prophecy said you would.”

“Be quiet.” This time it was the wrath of heaven in his voice, and it had everything in Dean screaming I'm gonna die.. “Do you think it was easy for us to do, or done lightly? Do you think my Father is unable to fulfill his word by whatever way he wills?”

“No – ” But Dean couldn't speak beyond that. His heart in his throat, and for only the second or third time in his life his body was overtaken by the surge of fear that reduced him to nothing, a jumble of nerves and hormones: frozen, wanting to flee, the terror-born erection of a man about to die. Castiel didn't need to be rough, to threaten: he was all power, nothing else. And Dean had the sick, giddy feeling of a wave coming down unseen, being pulled in and under and carried out, pushed back to start again. He couldn't put a word to the way Castiel was looking at him. Dean had always been one vain son of a bitch and he wondered what he looked like to an angel, to an angel, and he might find out one day if he didn't die, if wrath and glory didn't rain down and wash him away.

His mind spun out of control then. He felt the rush of grace, sweeping away the fencing of what he felt and saw and understood. 

He thought he saw: Castiel feeling his way over his body, kissing him. Kneeling. The way he'd said My kind were told to kneel before you long ago and he'd meant something different. Dean might have laughed, but this... Castiel: clothed, unclothed. Dean thought he saw light, unearthly, around his head. He thought, somehow, that he saw wings.

Afterwards Dean lay on his back. Arms spread, legs apart, dazed. Castiel was speaking to him, maybe; Dean couldn't make out the words.

*

Sam falls asleep once they're on the road again. He doesn't ordinarily, but Dean figures a night of being Dr. Cara's naughty patient has tired him out. The woman looked like she had some stamina. Still, he worries that Sam's just resting up to let Ruby get him a drink and make friends with his dick. Two-timing a demon probably doesn't count as cheating even in Sam's saintly little book. Banging a human doesn't seem too bad in Castiel's.

There was one time Dean really could've killed him, fresh out of a dream and his mind right in the middle of hell. He was exactly as he had been there, a Molotov cocktail of terrified and more. It was burning in him, about to blow.

Castiel's grip could have broken his arms, would have, probably, if Cas had wanted it to. He had Dean pinned to the bed: small body, just sinew, but a strength beyond its weight. And there was the warmth: not unnatural, but out of the ordinary. The terror that was holding Dean flagged, falling away like it was attached to a parachute. Castiel just held him until it was mostly gone, and then without easing his grip he started kissing Dean, hard.

Dean surged to meet him, made it into a tangle of limbs and bodies alive with power and need. Castiel was there in the night, silent, and Dean had to get swept under by his kiss, had to feel the flex of lithe muscle in the body that Castiel almost made his own, had to let his fingers slip over skin dewy with a hint of perspiration. Cas let Dean flip himself on top, let Dean kiss his throat and grab the scant curve of his ass like there was no tomorrow, and hell, maybe there wasn't. The sound of Dean's gasping was harsh in his own ears, and Cas looked like he was feeling it all, every damned thing, but placid as always, and somehow gorgeous. The asymmetry of it hit Dean then and for some reason he was lit up, grinding his blood-stiff cock against a waiting erection he didn't think would ever feel familiar.

He lost it completely, tangling their legs up and thrusting between Cas' thighs like crazy, kissing hard enough to leave marks. He felt like he was rising out of his own body, out of the world, and his last shred of reason shattered when he came, and fuck, he was flying for all he knew, every nerve exploding. He couldn't have said how he got from that point, coming in a blur of skin and heat and bedsheets, to the next thing he was conscious of, which was that he was lying on his stomach and Castiel was thrusting into him, and he heard himself caterwauling ohgodohjesusohFUCK

It had happened before and Dean never quite knew what was going on for more than half of the equation. A small vessel and a restrained tempo didn't blunt the power: Dean knew he was getting fucked through the mattress himself, but Cas was too intense to place. That bothered him, sometimes, but right now he didn't care, just wanted to feel: a body, Castiel, moving on top of him and filling him up and then sending him over the edge a second time, shattered, screaming at the top of his lungs. Arms bracing him, legs bracing him, and Dean gripped Cas with enough force to crush as he turned.

He saw the room when he did, before he could start coming down. “Oh, fuck, Sam – ”

“He won't wake until morning,” Castiel said.

“I forgot about him,” Dean whispered. He said it again and heard his voice break, fought the urge to curl in. “When I was in hell I forgot Sammy.”

“Do you think I didn't know that?”

“No... Christ, I don't even remember when it happened.”

“If you tell him that,” Cas said, “he'll forgive you the minute you speak.”

“I can't tell him.”

“One day you might have to tell him.” Castiel lifts Dean chin to look at him. “How much longer will you pretend he's a child?”

Once Dean would have gotten mad at that. Even now he wanted to call Cas on it, yell at him. But he swallowed the impulse and the anger in time, just spent a minute with his eyes squeezed. 

He gripped Castiel's shoulder and thought about the end of days.