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A Midterms Night's Dream

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“Who was it?” Dean asks, glancing up as Castiel re-enters their apartment (dorms were only really fun for the novelty; the second they agreed to stay living together they moved into a bona fide apartment with an open plan kitchen and longue and shit, he kinds of loves it). Cas is employing his usual tactic of using his trench coat to block the clear evidence of his walk of shame, but Dean knows him; knows he was wearing that shirt yesterday, that he only leaves it untucked after he’s just got laid and knows from the lines of Cas’ posture that Cas was with someone last night. He could probably guess the gender and the position too, at this point.

“Crowley.”

“Your sleazy group project partner?” Dean asks, raising an eyebrow, “I don’t even wanna know.”

“I wasn’t intending on telling you,” Cas retorts, slipping off the trench coat and leaving it on the back of their sofa, because Cas does that. He pretends it bothers him. “Have you had breakfast?”

“Yeah, dude, pancakes,” Dean says, nodding towards the kitchen, “I left you some mix. ‘less you ate with Crowley.” Castiel smiles a ‘as if’ smile, because staying for breakfast is not in the Winchester/Novak MO. One night stands and quick morning get aways are very much par for the course, to the point where they kind of have a reputation for it, which only makes it easier . “So, you call him Crowley in bed or what?”

“I thought you didn’t want to know,” Castiel says, stepping towards the kitchen. Dean follows him, because Castiel is no doubt more entertaining than the reality show he’s been watching, and because Cas left relatively early last night and Dean didn’t have any plans so he’s been bored and alone and waiting for Cas to come back for ages.

“Does the guy even have a first name?”

“Fergus,”

“Shit,” Dean grins, as Cas puts the frying pan back on the heat. It’s the same one he used for his forty five minutes ago, but Cas tends to be less anal right after he’s gotten laid, pun probably intended. “That’s worse than Crowley,”

“Indeed,” Castiel agrees, pouring the mix Dean made this morning into the pan.

“So, you call him Crowley or Fergus whilst he was sucking you off?”

“You’re very persistent in the mornings, Dean,” Cas says, flicking on the coffee maker (Castiel’s) before turning to face him. Dean had done that thing where he’d kind of misjudged the amount of space between them whilst Cas was looking away, and now they’re just a little bit too close in the kitchen. Cas never really objects, though, so he doesn’t bother taking a step back; they’ve been living together for years and the usual boundaries of personal space dissipated along the way. “At this point, I’ve dispensed with names altogether. It’s easier.”

“Preach,” Dean agrees, grinning, “Oh, man, I remember when you were such a prude –”

“ – I was not a prude, Dean.”

“And now you can’t even get the names straight of all your conquests. I’m so proud.”

“I didn’t conquer anyone,” Cas returns, turning his blue stare on Dean, “Neither was anyone persuaded, or talked into anything.”

“Yeah, I know, Cas,” Dean says, because Cas takes this kind of stuff seriously (giving high school kids lessons on consent seriously) and Dean totally didn’t mean it like that. Cas knows that, too. “You just issue up an open invitation to you bed and the queue starts forming, I get it.”

“It’s hardly an open invitation,” Cas says, turning to flip his pancake.

“Who’s off the invite list?” Dean grins, finishing off the business of making coffee and watching Cas finish up with breakfast. This domesticity crap is lot more awesome than Dean had initially expected, and every so often when he’s had too many beers he gets to thinking that he could be happy bickering with Cas over breakfast for the rest of his life. It’s their last year of college, though, and they’ve yet to talk about what happens after that, and that’s all kinds of terrifying. He wants their friendship and their flat cemented on a permanent basis, but he hasn’t asked instead Cas has different ideas about their future.

“Professors.”

“One time, dude, you ever gonna let it drop?”

“Anyone above the age of thirty five or below the age of eighteen.”

“Uhuh,”

“Prejudice or bigoted assholes,” Cas continues, opting to use Dean’s pancake plate instead of grabbing himself another (because, yeah, the guy is so much better at student living the morning after), and serving up his food. “Anyone drunk enough to perform karaoke. Anyone looking for revenge sex. Anyone imagining I’m someone else.”

“Man, it’s a shocker you managed to get laid at all,” Dean says, raising his eyebrows, “And how is Crowley not on the asshole list?”

“You,”

“Me,” Dean repeats, blinking at him. “I’m on your no invite list?”

“Yes,”

“Dude, I am so offended right now I’m not even joking. Crowley makes the cut, and I don’t?” Cas is ignoring him in favour of concentrating on his pancakes, but his deadpan is still ever present. “You slept with Balthazar for fucks sake. April? Man, you need to have a crazy clause or something, because she was seriously messed up.”

“Would you like me to sleep with you?” Cas asks, blinking at him over the cup of coffee Dean’s just pressed into his hands, and Dean stops short.

Cas’ hair is screaming that he was the one doing the sucking off, probably this morning, right before he left, but he still manages to look sort of adorable with his pancakes and his coffee, and… well, it’s not like Dean can exactly claim he’d never entertained the idea. He’d put it out of his mind, sure, but Cas sleeping around was partially a consequence of Dean’s misguided attempt at trying to hit on the guy, back when he only had an over exaggerated confidence and one roll in the hay with someone with a dick under his belt. He had no idea what he was doing.

“I have no idea how to answer that question,” Dean says, because he’s been silent for too long.

“These are very good pancakes,” Cas says, rolling his eyes, because he’s Dean’s saviour from awkward situations and because he probably doesn’t want to dwell on that avenue of conversation anyway. It’s just kinda weird. He’s probably been more open with Cas about his sex life than anyone else, because Cas is like… well, Cas is just as easy as he is, so he doesn’t get the judgement or the eye rolls; he preaches the philosophy of casual sex and one night stands same as Dean, and doesn’t act like Dean should be looking for a relationship he doesn’t want, or thinking about settling down when they haven’t even finished college yet. Charlie is pretty cool about it, but she can only really contribute on the women-side of conversation, and Cas has got both sides covered. Plus, Cas is his best friend… so whilst Cas and sex don’t exist in entirely separate boxes in his head, sex with Cas is kind of an alien concept. Apart from the whole first year they knew each other when it was all he could think about.

“Yeah, well, gotta make sure Crowley’s dick isn’t enough to entice you away from me,” Dean says, taking a sip of his coffee.

“I assure you your pancakes are much more pleasing to the palate,”

“Fuck, dude,” Dean splutters, “Don’t say shit like that when I have a mouthful of coffee. Or scratch that, a mouthful of anything.”

“Swallowing is the usual solution,”

“You’re so cocky when you’ve just got laid,” Dean shoots back, grinning, “And if you make a cock joke, I swear to god Cas –”

“ – you’ll make idle threats?” Cas suggests, looking at him innocently. So, of course, Dean can’t let him get away with it; he has his pride to uphold. He dips his finger into the remaining pancake mix and smears it over Cas’ upper lip, leaving a moustache of pancake mixture. Cas blinks at him. “You will regret that, Dean.”

“Yeah?” Dean asks, “More or less than you regret sleeping with April?”

“I find your preoccupation with throwing back regrettable romantic partners strange,” Cas says, “When you clearly have a more questionable selection under your belt.”

“How d’you figure that?”

“Bela Talbot,”

“But, man, she was hot.”

“You are incorrigible,” Cas says, setting down his coffee and his half empty pancake plate. Dean follows his progress around the kitchen, keeping an eye on the rest of the pancake mix, and grinning as a drip of pancake mix slips down over his lip. Cas’ tongue reaches out to catch it before it gets any further. Dean swallows.

“Dude, I made you pancakes,” Dean shrugs, “I’m awesome.”

“You’re very needy this morning,”

“I was bored without you, man,” Dean admits, “There was nothing on television.”

“So now I provide your entertainment?”

“Consider it a promotion from just payer of rent,” Dean leers, taking Cas’ distraction as an opportunity to dip his finger back in the pancake mix, and deposit it on his nose this time.

“Stop flirting with me, Dean.”

Dean chokes.

Castiel takes the opportunity to tip the rest of the bowl of pancake mixtures over his fucking head, till Dean’s stood there with pancake mix dripping down the back of his neck and over his shoulders, blinking at Cas like an idiot.

Cas laughs, a full bodied, throat back laugh, and it’s enough that Dean’s not even mad. Cas doesn’t laugh all that much. It takes coaxing and pushing and feeling out the right buttons to earn one of these laughs so, yeah, whatever. He’ll take the pancake mix.

“Oh you are so dead,” Dean says, grabbing a handful of Cas’ bedhead and then a bicep, to give him a better angle to wrestle him to the ground.

They wind up in a sticky, tangled mess on the floor, with Cas basically sitting on his chest (how Cas always wins their sparring match Dean doesn’t even know, but the guy’s plenty covered in pancake mixture so he’s taking it as a half win) and grinning at him.

“What a waste of pancakes,”

“Mm,” Cas says, using his finger to swipe a line of mixture off Dean’s neck, bringing it to his lips and fucking tasting it like he hadn’t just been eating the damn stuff five minutes ago. “Tastes good.”

“Now who’s flirting,” Dean says, pushing Cas off him so he can get up. “Man, you’re so cleaning this up.”

“You started it.”

“Don’t even start with me, Novak,” Dean says, “Last time I make you breakfast.”

“But Dean,” Cas says, all wide eyes and innocence, “How else will you guarantee I come back to you?”

“Shut up,” Dean says, but he’s half smiling, “We both know you have more fun with me.”

“Very true. I’m getting the first shower,” Cas says, stripping off his shirt in the middle of the kitchen like that’s a normal thing to do, generally, after a pancake mix fight. He has Cas’ question floating round in his head, and there’s probably no harm in looking.

He kinda gets treated to this view on a semi regular basis, being roomies and all, but Cas has been upping the running schedule later, and he looks good for it. A bit too good.

Stop flirting with me, Dean.

“I’m guessing that ain’t an invitation to join.”

“Unfortunately not, no,”

“You suck so bad,” Dean complains, pulling his own shirt off for good measure. It looks like they’re going to need to do some serious laundry, let alone a serious clean-up operation, but it’ll have been worth it for the look on Cas face and the easy happiness that comes with just hanging out with Cas.

“Actually, Dean, I suck excellently ” Cas says, and Dean rolls his eyes at his back and yells at him not to use too much hot water, and shoves both of their shirts into the washing machine.

A few minutes later the doorbell rings, and Dean opens the door to Crowley of all people. Cas, for all his talk about being tight lipped, gives Dean plenty of details about what he gets up to, and Dean can read the rest in his body language. So he knows that Cas doesn’t bestow the honour of oral sex on just anyone , so he at least must like the guy to be giving him head the morning after (If Dean’s calculations are correct)…. But he hadn’t really got the impression that he liked the guy enough to be offering up their address and getting house calls only an hour after he left. They don’t do that. At least, Cas has never once done that.

“Uh,” Dean manages.

“I’m after Castiel,” Crowley says, taking in Dean’s experience with a raise of the eyebrow. He is shirtless and covered in pancake mixture, so the staring isn’t exactly off-base, but that doesn’t mean he appreciates it.

“He’s in the shower,”

Crowley’s eyebrows raise further.

“He left his mobile at my apartment,” Crowley says, pulling Cas’ phone out of the top pocket of his suit (where does Cas even find these people?) and holding it out for Dean to take. Dean’s insides feel kind of icy right now, and he can’t really pin down why, but he pushes it down and takes the phone and mumbles a thanks. “I’ll leave you two to… whatever it is you’re doing,” Crowley says, quirking up a final eyebrow, before he disappears.

Dean goes to run a frustrated hand through his hair before he remembers about the pancake mix.

Son of a bitch.

*

“You made pizza?” Dean asks, stepping out of his bedroom to the scent of Cas’ homemade and fucking beautiful spicy chicken stuffed crust pizza, which Cas only tends to make when he’s in the dog house or it’s Dean’s birthday or the anniversary of Mary Winchester’s death or something. “Dude.”

“I’m apologising for the pancakes,”

“A better apology would have been cleaning the kitchen,” Dean says, but he doesn’t even mean it. Cas’ homemade pizza must have been a gift from God, because it’s that damn good. Cas could piss on a stack of his essay assignments and he wouldn’t care if the guy made pizza.

“I had an assignment,”

“Sure,” Dean scoffs, “You always have an assignment when it’s convenient, dude, I learnt that in Freshman year. But, whatever, pizza. You can buy me with pizza.”

“I will make a note of that,” Cas says, smiling up at him. He’s cutting up honest to god fresh tomatoes, which means he must have gone grocery shopping on the way back from his mad dash to the library (right after Dean mentioned mopping). Hopefully he picked up some more beer and toilet roll.

“So, uh,” Dean says, leaning on the tiny table they managed to squeeze into the corner of their kitchen and swallowing, “Did Crowley plug his number into your phone?”

“Yes,”

“You gonna call him?”

“Dean,” Cas says, rolling his eyes like Dean’s asking a dumb question. It’s true that ever since Dean accidentally challenged Cas to pick someone up, Cas has never once called someone back after a one night stand. He’s classier about it than Dean, course, because Cas has standards and morals and shit; he’s the type who makes the fact that it’s just casual sex explicitly clear from the off but gets left numbers anyway. Still, he’s waiting for the day that Cas decides he wants to have a relationship like the rest of the damn world, and leave Dean alone with his one night stands and his right hand. It’s gonna suck. “I don’t want to talk about Crowley. I want to re-watch Star Wars and eat pizza.”

“You gotta stop with the flirting,” Dean grins, grabbing a slice of mozzarella because he can, and because Cas gives him one of those unimpressed looks which is what makes it worth it in the first place. “I’m a delicate being, Cas, go easy on me.”

Apparently they talk about flirting now. That’s new.

“Shut up,” Cas says, but his voice is affectionate. “You’re not going out, are you?”

“Uh,” Dean says, because technically he has a date with this pretty cool chick from one of his classes, who’d rebuked him hitting on her before with a ‘buy me a dinner first’ which Dean had decided to take her up on. It doesn’t sound even half as tempting with the prospect of Star Wars, pizza and Cas, though. “I can reschedule.”

“Dean, you shouldn’t rearrange your plans just because I –”

“– nothing to do with you,” Dean says, opening the fridge to find, thank the lord, that Cas did buy beer whilst he was out. He grabs one and heads back to the sofa. “I’ve just got this major crush on Han.”

“If you had his number in your phone,” Cas says, “Would you call him?”

“Oh man, that’s tough,” Dean frowns, “Depends how good of a lay he was. I mean, probably? I’d have to think on it. I bet he wouldn’t make me pizza.”

“He might take you to a galaxy far, far away.”

“Dude, you’re so frigging dorky,” Dean beams, “I mean, seriously. It’s a good job you’re cute.”

“Says the LARPer,”

“I do it for the men in armour,” Dean says, even though they both know that isn’t true. LARPing is one of those things he feels like he shouldn’t be allowed to do, but also wishes he’d done back when he was in High School because it would probably have been a less toxic environment than football and listening to John Winchester.

“Pizza in fifteen,” Cas says, joining Dean on the sofa with his own beer, clinking their bottles together.

He bullies Cas into being the one to get up to put the DVD on with threats of explicit questions about Crowley’s dick just because, and then swings his legs up onto the spare section of the sofa so Cas can’t sit down. Cas sits on Dean’s knees to make a point, and the subsequent mock-fight results in half a beer being sloshed over the front of Dean’s jeans and Dean declaring “Stop trying to cuddle with me, Cas! I ain’t interested.”

“Assbutt,” Cas says, half breathless, as he presses play. “As you said, it’s a good job you’re cute,”

“Hey, I’m hot,” Dean objects, nudging the guy’s left elbow, “Don’t go selling me short. I’m smoking .” Cas turns one of his unamused stares in Dean’s direction and blinks at him, because this isn’t exactly in the usual boundaries of their friendship. “Come, on, admit it. I’m hotter than anyone you’ve banged in the past year.”

“Are you insinuating you’re more attractive than me?”

“You know what, Novak, I think I might,” Dean winks, “Whatcha gonna do about it?”

“Clearly, we need an independent adjudicator,”

“That’s right, Cas, talk dirty to me,”

“Crowley?” Cas suggests, standing up to go and check on the pizza. Is smells fucking divine and it would be a god damn travesty if it burnt and, also, they’ve missed the first ten minutes of Star Wars and he doesn’t even care. He’d never let someone talk through Star Wars before Cas, let alone start potentially dumb competitions about who’s more attractive than who. Especially when he’s pretty sure that Cas has got this one in the bag because, come on, Dean’s a pretty attractive guy, but Cas’ eyes are the kind of blue that should be illegal.

“Independent my ass,” Dean says, “Anna?”

“She’s my cousin,” Cas deadpans, because he’s probably still not quite over that time that Anna visited and Dean slept with her and, yeah, that doesn’t go down as one of his finest moments, exactly, and Charlie had given him hell about it… and, actually, that’s a great idea. Charlie.

“Charlie,” Dean says, “She’s like the personification of objective, given the likelihood of her sleeping with either of us is exactly zero. Get over here with the pizza, we’re sending her a pic.”

“Just in case she’s forgotten what we look like between now and yesterday?” Cas asks, deadpan as normal, but he sets the pizza down on the floor and lets Dean drag him into a fucking selfie (something he’s never going to let Sam hear about) before sending her the image.

Settle an argument, Bradbury. Who’s more attractive?

He gets two replies from Charlie when they’re both stuffed with Pizza, slightly buzzed on all the beers that Cas bought (probably why they’re always out) and nearly at the end of a New Hope. The first is a I’m so not getting in on this, Winchester. Although Castiel is dreamy… and then Why aren’t you sleeping together again?

Right now, with Cas frowning at the television like he hasn’t watched this film half a dozen times this semester alone, he can’t really remember the answer to the question.

*

Dean forgets he agreed to join Cas on one of his missions from God to teach high school students about sex and sexuality until Cas barges into his room at half nine (for some reason all of his classes are in the afternoon this semester, so he literally hasn’t experienced an AM before a PM for like a month) and demands he get up, stat, because they need to leave and Cas has made coffee.

It’s not that Dean doesn’t want to help Cas with his crusade, because it’s all about being sex-positive and teaching teenagers that it’s perfectly fucking normal and okay to be LGBTQ (and possibly more letters; he forgets) and he’s a hundred percent down with that, it’s just that Cas is much better at him than he is. Cas disputes this and throws him some line about how he wants Dean to come along because Dean is more ‘relatable’ (in particular to male jocks), but Dean’s pretty sure Cas is actually trying to teach him the same as the kids.

Dean’s always been pretty dumb about some of this stuff. It isn’t exactly all his fault, because there was John Winchester and the Texan view of masculinity and queerness not quite overlapping and, you know, his dad’s history in the marines and a bunch of crappy friends and a shitty football team… First session he went to he nearly chocked on the word bisexual when some greasy-baseball player asked him ‘what he was’ and then the guy had prompted him to give a rundown of the all the people he’d slept with in recent times (extensive), probably because he was trying to prove that he was gay in denial or something.

It’s not like he hasn’t had the thought like a thousand times himself already but, no, he checked. Definitely still into chicks.

Forty five minutes later he’s listening to Cas explaining the literal ins and outs of anal sex (it’s a new group of students, and apparently none of them have ever been told how it works before and they’re all baffled) and it’s far too early to be listening to Cas say words like ‘penis’ and ‘lubricant’ like he’s reading them out of a textbook. Cas can’t possible talk like that in bed, because it’s clinical and cold but also kinda adorable, in a why-is-my-best-friend-such-a-dork sort of way. He doesn’t think he’s heard anyone say the word ‘penetration’ in such a deep and serious voice before.

“Do we have to listen to this?” One of the girls asks, “It’s not like it’s relevant for us, right.”

“Lots of hetro couples have anal, lady,” Dean interjects, “And it’s no more relevant than standard sex ed is for gay and lesbian couples. Much better to have a little surplus information than not enough with this kind of shit. Now let the guy talk, okay?”

“Why would girls want to?” Someone else asks, and Dean runs a hand over his face and decides to let Cas handle this one. He tunes out of Cas’ explanation (probably for the sake of his sanity; Cas is sort of half explaining what it feels like to bottom, and a number of occasions he’s had anal with girls, and it’s messing with his head) just as Charlie slips in with, bless her, three more coffees.

Cas rounds off his explanation whilst Dean is practically inhaling his second coffee, and then invites them to ask more questions. This is supposed to be the key to the whole thing – giving kids the chance to ask questions they’re not usually permitted to voice – but it still always seems like a terrible idea when he waits for the questions to roll in.

“Are you guys together?” One of the sportsy type guys asks. He’s not got the usual distain Dean expects when his lips form the words, which is a nice surprise really, but it’s still enough to throw him for a minute.

“Me and Cas?” Dean blinks, “Uh, no, we’re roommates, dude.”

“But you’re both…”

“Bisexual,” Cas prompts.

“Just cause two people’s sexualities match up don’t mean they’re screwing,” Dean says, “Just like just cause your friend’s gay doesn’t mean he wants to screw you.”

“No, I know,” The guy says, flushing slightly, “You just seemed kinda together , I guess.”

“How you figure that?”

“Dean,” Cas says, in the drop-it voice.

“With the uh, defending his honour and the staring ,” The kid says. “No offence, or anything, it just… you act more like you’re boning each other more than my parents."

He’s thinking a little too much about the flirting discussion yesterday, and Charlie asking why they’re not sleeping together, and Cas waking him up with coffee and splitting the bills and the food and the chores (more or less evenly, anyway).

Dean gets the morning afters and the hanging out watching movies, and the meeting the parents and the shared Christmases (Cas’ family is kind of a pain in the ass, as well as being eons away from college; something that Cas most definitely planned, so the past few years Cas has just come home with him). Sam asks about Cas second in his phone calls and last year Cas’ brother actually asked Dean for advice about what to buy for his birthday (like Dean had ever bought him anything other than beer and a couple of skin mags… other than that time with the leather bound book that Cas had been salivating over, and an occasion where Dean paid for him to get his trench coat dry cleaned, because Cas was too tight to just go and do it himself…). And, combined, they have a reputation for having slept with most people on campus… but, well, they don’t do the relationship stuff.

They sort of do that together, he supposes, and it’s not like this is the first time Charlie or even some random stranger has suggested that they’re a couple. He’s only caught up on it because he has Cas in the back of mind asking “Would you like me to sleep with you?” and Dean not quite having an answer, because…. Well, it’s a little more frigging complicated than the physical, because obviously yeah, Cas is a damned attractive guy, but… there’s the other stuff to think about. A lot of other stuff.

“Right,” Dean says, meeting the kid's eyes rather than Castiel’s, “Well, we ain’t.”

He’s just not whether he’s disappointed about that or not, and if that isn’t the most fucked up realisation of the semester.

Chapter Text

Cas walks in on him and Pamela Barnes three days later.

Considering how much the pair of the sleep around it’s actually surprising that they haven’t walked in on each other more often; this is probably only the third or fourth time it’s happened in the three and a bit years of cohabitating, and it’s the first time that Cas has been doing the walking in. Usually it’s Dean barging in because he hasn’t listened to Cas telling him he was having someone over, or not read the text messages, or just forgot because somehow Cas’ promiscuity still takes him by surprise sometimes. No doubt because he has the image of prudish freshman Castiel seared into his brain for all eternity, which makes him kind of wistful and a little bit nostalgic, even though Cas’ personal sexual revolution was sort of the beginning of their friendship.

In this case, Dean kinda forgot to mention his intentions, so it still manages to be his fault even if he’s the one in the act.

They’re pretty much at the end point when Cas walks in, and Pamela is kinda (very) vocal in bed so it’s impressive that Cas didn’t hear before barging in, but he gets an eyeful of Pam on top and going to town and Dean makes the colossal mistake of catching Cas’ eye because, fuck, fuck, fuck, that wasn’t the cold shower it probably should have been.

“Kinda in the middle of something,” Dean manages, before, “Fuck, Jesus …” and he can’t drag away his gaze from Castiel’s shocked expression, and this is not strictly okay, but his body seems to be okay with it. He finally manages to come to his senses enough that he slams his eyes shut, and Pamela says something about how she the something he’s in the middle of, but Dean’s just focusing on the image of Bobby getting pedicures until he hears the door shut, because he can’t fucking come whilst looking his roommate turned best friend dead in the eye, because that is one line too far.

Cas isn’t going to approve about the Pamela Barnes situation, anyway, because she’s a TA and she’s the kind of woman who’s going to eat Dean alive. She’s a frigging hurricane of sexuality and, he doesn’t even know, badass-ary, and he’s so far out of his depth right now it’s hilarious.

He couldn’t quite tell you why he keeps his eyes shut.

*

Sex, on a fundamental level, is supposed to make you feel good.

That’s why Castiel goes into high schools and talks about being sex-positive and tells teenage girls that liking sex and having sex doesn’t make them a slut, because they’ve probably never been told that before. He also tells them that it’s okay to not want to have sex; that they’re allowed to be attracted to men and women or both; that porn is basically all lies…. all the shit that Dean wishes someone had mentioned to him back in high school, when he was freaking out about crushing on his male math teacher whilst he was dating Robin and tearing himself apart over what the hell that made him, other than some kind of scumbag.

It’s supposed to be all about the glowing morning afters and the relaxed, happy state and knowing that you’re not repulsive and shit, but every so often Dean fucks up and winds up just feeling plain shitty.

It was what happened with Bela, which is why Cas was so anti-Bela in the first place. In theory, the whole angry-sex with no strings attach gig sounded fucking A, but then Bela had this special quality where she made him feel worthless through sex. She’d insult him all the god damn time and leave as soon as the condom had been disposed of. Dean was never one for post-coital bonding… he doesn’t cuddle, period, but a frigging goodbye kiss or a brief conversation about how that was awesome, thanks, isn’t totally beyond the realms of what’s okay. Bela made him feel like his only worth was sex and like that was the only thing anyone could possibly want him for… like, he’d spent this whole time think he was an advocate of casual sex and not relationships because he wanted to make his life simple, but that he’d actually been covering up a deep rooted fear that no one would ever want to stay from the off. Bela saw right through him and turned her nose up at whatever it was she saw underneath, and the whole thing was crap and messy. Cas got the aftermath.

It’s not quite as bad after Pamela’s left, with a wink and a ‘see you in class, tiger’, but he still feels hollowed out and empty. It’s not even Pamela’s fault, particularly, because she’s actually a really cool woman, just one he probably wasn’t cut out to screw.

After a bit, he wonders back into the main room seeking out Cas, only in part to apologise for him walking in. They’re open enough about this kind of crap that Dean’s not entirely sure whether it’ll be awkward or not, but Cas has drilled enough flat-sharing etiquette into his head (not that Cas is an angel when it comes to co-habitation) that he knows it requires at least an apology. Really, though, that probably could have waited… he just, well, he doesn’t want to be alone.

Cas is sat at the tiny table in their kitchen with one of his books that isn’t even related to his course. Just shit that Cas reads for fun, because Cas is like that. Dean can’t stand the thought of picking up another book most of the time, but Cas reads like the apocalypse is imminent.

“Hey, sorry about that man,” Dean says, sitting down opposite and swiping Cas’ herbal tea, because he kind of wants one but is never going to admit it (something hot and not caffeinated sounds just about perfect, but he’s spent at least three years laying into Cas about his dumb tea). Dean’s shirtless and he hasn’t showered yet. There’s a circle of red crescent moons where Pamela dug her fingers into his arm. Cas should wrinkle his nose and tell Dean off for stealing his tea and for being disgusting and for fucking a TA and then crawling back to him afterwards, but he doesn’t. “Pam was helping me find my referencing material from the library and uh…”

“Decoding the dewey system led to fornicating in our apartment,” Cas says, meeting his gaze with a slight smile. The fact that Cas isn’t mad at him makes his shoulders dip with relief and suddenly he can breathe again, even if it makes room for a little more of the worthlessness to creep in. “Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Dean…”

“I’m fine, shut up,” Dean says, frowning.

“Do you want to get take out?” Cas asks, and Dean knows that’s an invitation to hang out and shoot the shit and maybe shoot things virtually on their third hand play station, even though he’s pretty sure Cas is supposed to be screwing Meg tonight (why, he doesn’t know, because Meg frigging sucks) instead of babying Dean because he punched above his weight and can’t handle life.

"Dude, don't. Come on, Cas..." Dean says, pressing a hand into his stomach and taking another sip of Cas’ tea, because it’s something to do with his hands. He’s dodging Cas’ gaze because he can’t deal with it, generally, but it’s more difficult to dodge the conversation.

"Don't what?"

"Be nice to me and shit," Dean mutters, "I'm not... I'm not worth the effort, so just..."

"Dean,"

"I'm an ass, man, I just took your tea and everything."

"You're ridiculous," Cas sighs, "By all means make me another cup of tea if it will make you feel better about yourself."

"I'm going back to bed." Dean says, shoulders slumping, because he thought he wanted to come out here and have Cas make him feel better, but he doesn’t feel like he deserves it. Cas calls out a ‘Dean’ after him but he ignores it, and face plants down on his bed. It still smells like sex and sweat and he should probably sort that out, but there's a voice in the back of his head sounding suspiciously like John Winchester asking him if he thinks Mary would be proud of his life right now. And Dean’s Mom loved him, sure, but it’s pretty difficult to love a serial-slut with substandard hygiene habits and bruises sucked into his neck by a frigging TA.

He has Sam turning his nose up at Dean's promiscuity and Dad asking whether he's met anyone, with this scorn that seems like he really doubts it, and Bobby rolling his eyes at Dean making some dumb decision, and sometimes it seems like Cas is the only one who actually likes him the way he is and he doesn't know why .

And even then sometimes he gets stuck on a memory of Charlie laughing about how sleeping around is the only thing Dean and Cas have in common, which might be true. Their lives have been too intertwined for too long a time for Dean to separate it out.

On some level he knows that they all love him, he just doesn’t really feel like a good person right now. He feels cheap and worthless and all the things that sex is supposed to not do, except, shockingly, hook ups aren’t always the answer.

Except for Cas, who never gets like this about sex.

“Dean,” Cas says, from the doorway, twenty minutes of wallowing later.

“There’s a Dr Sexy spin-off.”

“What?” Dean asks, because that’s so not the line he’s expecting.

“I believe it focuses around the life of one of the nurses. A nurse Handsome, perhaps,”

“Dude,” Dean complains, because Cas likes giving him hell over his Dr Sexy obsession, and it’s totally unfair. Cas watches stupid things all the time. He finds abstract theology in cartoons and laughs about the fruitfulness of chasing ambition when watching say yes to the dress. His TV habits are totally weirder than Dean’s.

“I would like to watch it with you,” Cas says, “Not in here,”

“If you’re gonna be picky about it, we fucked on the sofa too.” Dean says, but he drags his body into a more vertical position anyway. “You wanna watch a Dr Sexy spin off?”

“I illegally downloaded it onto my laptop. In my room, maybe.”

“Thought I wasn’t invited to your bed,”

“Dean,” Cas says, in that stop being a goddamn idiot before I smite you sort of way, and Dean’s pretty sure that a Dr Sexy spin-off has got to be six times more awful than Dr Sexy itself, and Dean’s not inclined to spit that kind of kindness back in the guy’s face.

“Yeah, okay,” Dean concedes, and he winds up sprawled on the covers with the hot line of Cas’ shoulders and leg pressed against his, watching what is quite possibly the worst program of all time. Dr Sexy doesn’t really hold up so well without Dr Sexy himself, as far as Dean’s concerned, and the guy only showed up briefly in the first episode. “So, assuming willingness, consent and enthusiasm… who’d you fuck?” Dean says, gesturing at the screen of Cas’ laptop.

Cas turns his staring to Dean instead of the laptop, because this is probably the most Dean-like thing he’s offered since Pam left. He is feeling a little better, he’s got to admit, and now he’s slightly embarrassed that he freaked in the first place. He can recall at least six times when Cas has told him that it’s a-okay to get like this sometimes (because, yeah, totally not the first time), but that doesn’t mean he feels any better about his occasional inability to function like a normal human being. He wouldn’t have ventured out of his wallowing for anyone but Cas, though, and Cas’ doing a pretty good job of filling up Dean’s hollowed out chest with dumb TV and a solid presence. Cas, at least, isn’t about to tell him to man up or grow a pair. Mostly because Cas dislikes the use of gendered insults and society’s constructs of masculinity, but also because he indulges Dean in his bullshit.

“The blonde nurse,”

“You got a thing for blonde dudes or something?”

“Not particularly,” Cas says, “I appreciated his efforts at helping the woman hide her lack of insurance.”

“Yeah, it’s sexy when people do that,” Dean returns, rolling his eyes, “You always pick the men first.”

“I supposed I’m more that way inclined,” Cas says, slowly, like he’s never really thought that much about it. Cas always acts like he’s got everything together, sexually, like one day he woke up and realised he swung both ways and just shrugged and continued brushing his teeth. Dean knows for a fact that isn’t true, but Dean’s wastes far too much head time trying to work out whether he likes men or women more and whether that matters and what kind of person that makes him, whilst Cas just gets on with it. “Seventy thirty, perhaps?”

“M’probably more the other way, I guess,” Dean says, “I dunno. Women are kind of easier. Ain’t as stellar with the fellas.”

“I know,” Cas says, smiling slightly, “You get flustered. It’s adorable.”

“Screw you,” Dean mutters, but there’s no heat to it. Cas has watched far too much of Dean overcompensating and trying too hard and never mocked him for it at the time, so he doesn’t really care if the guy wants to rib him now. It’s not like Dean isn’t a bitch to him half the time.

“Although not as much as you used to,” Cas concedes, “I liked old Dean.”

“What, nervous and overcompensating?” Dean asks, “Suppose it is better than slutty and wallowing. Still a cheap date.”

He gets a hand on his bicep and Cas frowning at him, up close and personal, and it’s so intense that Dean actually fucking shivers, which is not acceptable.

“Are you cold?” Cas frowns, pulling the covers over them and, great, now they’re in bed together. And how many other people in the world have been invited into Castiel Novak’s bed not for sex, but to watch a dumb TV show and talk about junk that doesn’t really matter? He’s pretty sure there’s about four, up to and including one of his brothers, the douchey-closet-ex boyfriend who broke his heart in high school, and the sweet ex-girlfriend Daphne who dumped him for still being hung up on it.

“You know I, uh,” Dean swallows, “I was totally trying to hit on you that time in Freshman year.”

He doesn’t really know why he’s bringing it up, except for the fact that since Cas accused him of flirting in the kitchen things have been a little off-kilter. This is the first time their friendship has felt normal in days. It’s Dean’s innate fucked-up-ness that’s put them back on safe ground, sure, but he figures it’s still an opportunity to feel out the edges of the answer to that question ( would you like me to sleep with you? ) and finally voice the fact that, couple of years ago, he’d have delivered a hundred percent yes.

He’s expecting the moment to be a bit more of a revelation. They’re best friends, so the fact that Dean had been wrangling for more sex to be involved at some point feels like it should be a big deal (and a bad moment to bring it up; given their currently both under the covers, just not in a sexy way). Instead, Cas just smiles slightly.

“When you asked me whether I ‘sleep with men, or something’ because you couldn’t comprehend why I hadn’t slept with anyone in the four months we’d been living together?” Cas asks, raising an eyebrow at him. “And then said it would ‘be cool’ if I did, because, I quote ‘I mean… me too, so…’ I thought you might have been, briefly.” Cas smiles, warm and lovely.

“You got that?” Dean asks, flushing slightly. Back then, they were technically talking sleeping with a guy once , and he hadn’t exactly handled the aftermath of that all that well. It took him a while to come to terms with the whole bisexual thing, and then men tended to turn him into an incoherent mess; case and point, his car-crash attempt at getting on his roommate.

“I was thrown off the scent when you accused me of having a dry spell and asked if I needed you to teach me some pickup lines,” Cas smiles and Dean presses a hand to his forehead because, damn, his younger self was so lame. So so lame. “And then you challenged me to prove my picking up abilities.”

“Man, you were supposed to use them on me,” Dean says, still cringing slightly, “Not drag me out to some bar and then go home with someone else. And then prove it to me again. Repeatedly.” Cas laughs. “I mean, shit, I had such a crush on you that whole year.”

“I was actually attempting to make you jealous,” Cas says, and he turns a little more into Dean’s space. They’re near enough cuddling now, only with less arm involvement, and it’s not even the first time; Cas doesn’t understand the usual notions of personal space and Dean spends most of his life trying to pretend he’s not a tactile person, lest someone accuse him of not getting enough hugs as a child (accurate). They fell into the habit when Dean was still trying to hit on him (and apparently Cas was trying to make him jealous), and it just never quite changed. Anyway, Dean’s not about to begrudge the casual body contact when there’s no one else around to judge, particularly when he’s still feeling kinda worthless and cheap. “I thought me translating your words into a pick up attempt was wishful thinking, and that you were actually just an ass. A few years later the situation became more transparent.”

“Damn,” Dean says, because apparently his crush was reciprocated. It’s in part weird to think about but probably makes perfect sense if he’s being properly honest with himself, but he’s not inclined to be on this occasion. It’s just… Dean doesn’t know what they’d be to each other if they’d acted on the thing between them back then. Probably nothing. An ex, maybe. “Man, I’ve never been so pumped about a failed strike out before. So frigging grateful we didn’t fuck.”

He knows how he used to be and how he felt (or at least, how he was going to feel a few months down the line), and he’d have fucked it up. He wouldn’t have been able to handle it. He hadn’t come out to John or Bobby at that point, and he’d have screwed the pooch and probably broken more than one heart and ruined everything. They certainly wouldn’t be still living together. They wouldn’t be best friends.

“Not sleeping with you was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” Dean says, slowly, because Cas is certainly the best friend Dean’s needed for frigging ever. He puts up with Dean’s crap and watches Dr Sexy Spin-offs instead of delivering snide told-you-sos (although he might get one at some point) and Dean’s not sure he’d have been able to find anyone else who’d sign up to live with him for another year, let alone the full four years of their college experience. Cas makes him pizza and let’s Dean play the same CDs over and over in the kitchen even though he doesn’t even really like classic rock. Cas nags him about getting his college work done and always leaves his damn trench coat on the back of the sofa, like he hasn’t got a perfectly functional coat hook in his bedroom.

Cas moves perceptively further away from him.

“We missed most of the episode,” Cas says, his voice tight as he skips it back to where they were before Dean distracted them both. He makes a point to stay slightly further away from him for a bit, in which Dean registers abstractly that that sentence probably came out slightly wrong and tries to work out a way to explain better, but twenty minutes he’s fallen asleep on Dean’s shoulder, and forty minutes later Dean’s asleep too.

*

They wake up spooning.

He’d like to call it consequence of being so used to strangers having in his bed that’s he’s like the human equivalent of memory foam, and just has a muscle memory for cuddling up to people in their sleep… but that’s not even true. He doesn’t cuddle and he certainly isn’t the damn little spoon on these occasions, ever.

Except Cas has his arms wrapped around his back and splayed over his stomach, and it would be totally not uncomfortable or weird (it’s vaguely reassuring, actually, which is well… he’s not going to think about it) if it wasn’t for the morning wood situation they both appear to having going on.

… And they’re right back to foreign friendship territory.

Cas mumbles sleepily and pulls Dean in tighter, and then wakes with a hitch of breath. The arms around him shift over to tense in a millisecond, which no doubt marks the moment Cas realises he’s pressing his erection into Dean’s ass. Capacity for friendship running aside, how awkward Cas feels right now is nothing short of hilarious.

“Move it or use it,” Dean mutters, lest they wind up both pretending to be asleep whilst they wait for the problem to recede, which isn’t seeming all that likely from Dean’s end; he has his favourite of Cas’ smiles burning in the forefront of his mind, with a background of ‘Would you like me to sleep with you?’ in a deep, sleep rough voice. Damn. “Your choice, dude, I’m fine with either.” “

You’re impossible,”

“And you’re hard,” Dean throws back, because he can and it’s hilarious. Cas moves his arms away and rolls onto his back. The lack of warmth is jarring, but most likely a good thing all things considered. They have a friendship to be thinking about. Probably.

“So are you,”

“Guess we have a bit of predicament,” Dean says, glancing in the direction of Cas’ crotch, but his line of sight is hindered by the covers. He’s not entirely sure how Cas got his intel on Dean’s current situation, because bedcovers are good at covering up most sins. Maybe he just threw out a lucky guess.

Cas catches him looking.

“Want me to give you a hand with that?” Dean leers, because he has to fill the moment with something, “Or a mouth. I have both available.”

“I suppose that would have the added benefit that you would no longer be able to talk,”

“You wound me, dude,” Dean grins, “Whenever you decide you wanna ride on the Winchester express, you just let me know. I’ll wrangle you a season ticket.”

“Where are you going?” Cas asks, because Dean is sitting up and detangling himself and heading for the exit. As much as the situation could be at least fifteen times more awkward than it actually is, he’s not sure they’re fully out of the woods (ha ha) yet. Anyway, Dean still hasn’t showered post-Pam, which is fully gross, and Cas’ room is weirdly hotter than his own and he hadn’t intended to fall asleep in his jeans, or in Cas’ bed.

He needs to get his head out of Cas’ bed, stat, and it’s not going to happen unless he actively makes it.

“To jerk off in the shower like a normal person,” Dean says, frowning, “Unless you’re taking me up on my offer, Novak?” Cas glares at him, petulant

. “That’s what I thought.” It’s worryingly difficult to get Cas’ expression out of his head.

Chapter Text

He’s halfway through re-reading the second page of his assigned reading for the fifteenth time (and still, it makes exactly zero sense) when his phone vibrates in his pocket. Dragging it out, he apparently has a Snapchat from Cas (not wholly unusual, as it was Cas and Charlie combined that finally nagged him into downloading the damn thing), which turns out to be five seconds of the dishes he promised he’d wash before he left for the library this morning, still on the sideboard. The caption reads ‘dick’ which is probably accurate, because they’ve been there for a few days and he knows how Cas feels about dirty dishes. Not favourably.

Glancing around to make sure no one is watching, he takes a picture of his jean glad crotch.

yeah, I do have one of those

Dean’s such an ass sometimes he doesn’t know why Cas puts up with him, but he has approximately no regrets as he sends the returns Snapchat and waits for Cas’ response. It’s much more entertaining than his assigned reading, anyway, and he’s been itching for anything to distract him for the last half an hour.

Really? Is his response, with another picture of the dirty dishes (zoomed in, this time). Difficult to tell under all those layers…

Jesus Christ. Cas needs a frigging warning light if he’s going to go around saying things like that… and since when do they do that, anyway? Last Dean checked, their candid exchanges about sex and innuendo tended to be more about themselves and other people rather than just them as individuals. Not so much anymore, apparently.

Technically, Dean probably started it… he did offer to get Cas off the other day, but only after Cas asked ‘would you like me to sleep with you?’ like that was an option they could consider. Yeah, it was supposed to be hypothetical and have a resounding no answer, but now Dean can’t get the damn idea out of his head. And now they’re pushing the boundaries of their friendship, like this isn’t some strange dangerous territory, and acting like it’s normal to bring up the fact that sometimes their interactions could be, by some criteria, occasionally be defined as flirting. Cas definitely started that, at any rate.

And why do they spend so much time sleeping with other people, anyway? Apart from the obvious.

Dirty pictures recommence after library hour

Dean sends with a picture of his textbook, after a few minutes of vaguely freaking out about how exactly to answer whilst pretending he wasn’t considering sending his flatmate a picture of dick in the middle of the library. Obviously, he’s not going to. That’s got to cross some kind of line, and not just library etiquette. There’s a difference between innuendo and casual offers of sexual favours over breakfast and actually sexting, and although he’s not quite sure what the difference is he knows it’s there.

He idly clicks on the new reply from Cas before freezing because, fuck, that –

Dean drops his phone onto the desk, then grabs it again. It’s too late, though, because the picture’s already disappeared.

And Castiel Novak may or may not have just sent him a picture of his dick. For one second.

Son of a bitch.

*

“Was it yours?” Dean asks, as Cas serves up their super noodles. Dean has, quite fairly he thinks, been silently obsessing over the Snapchat for six whole hours, and had been intending to ask the more pertinent question of why did you send me a photo of your dick before the ‘was it yours’ slipped out. It doesn’t make a difference whether it was or not, because Dean had wasted the precious second Cas had given him to view his dick by dropping his phone and freaking out, so it’s not like he’s any more enlightened about Cas’ junk than he had been before, but he’d still like to know. Probably.

“Why? Did you like it?”

Castiel’s nonchalance is about is inappropriate as the picture had been in the first place.

“Think I’d need a second viewing before I put down a deposit,” Dean says, in lieu of asking what are we doing, Cas? or should we maybe talk about this? because he is Dean Winchester, and Dean Winchester does not talk about things like this. Even if he is terrified and nervous, because he has no idea which direction it’s going in next.

They occasionally, sort of, almost sext now. Fine.

“You did the dishes.”

“What?” Dean asks, gaping at him.

“I achieved my aim,” Castiel says, casual as fuck, as he nods towards the kitchen counter. Yeah, Dean did his dishes, but he didn’t get any of his reading done and he’s been freaking since he left the library, sharpish, to get himself some coffee. With extra Irish.

“What do I get if I forget to vacuum?”

“I wasn’t aware you’d ever vacuumed,” Cas returns.

“Have you?”

“No,” Cas concedes, with a slight tilt of his head. “Did you get everything done at the library?”

“What do you think?” Dean grumbles, “Man, Professor Mosely is a hard ass. I’m pretty much totally fucked for this class.” And one second dick pics from Castiel hadn’t exactly helped anything. “Probably gonna head out to the library again in a bit. Why? You got something fun planned for us.”

“I was intending to go out,”

“Where?”

“Dean, you’re not coming,” Cas says, frowning at him. Dean does all right in college, better now that he has Bobby and Ellen topping up his budget (he’ll pay them back, and it was Bobby who insisted he went in the first place; his Dad hadn’t exactly been cheerleading the idea) but he wouldn’t be doing half as well if he didn’t have Cas to nag him. Sam’s over-the-phone nagging can only do so much long distance, so having Cas fulfil that role is pretty invaluable, even if he hates him for it right now.

The library smells of actual misery. Dean exceeded most people’s expectations by not actually dropping out of high school, so it’s not like anyone’s ever accused him of being a book person. He’s pretty sure his limbs might cease up in protest if he goes back to the library today.

“Didn’t realise you had monopoly on when I can and can’t come,” Dean complains, and takes another forkful of instant noodles. They really need to get some groceries and have some actual food, because this student living crap was only fun for about a week four years ago. “And I bet you’ll be coming.”

“I’m meeting Meg.”

“Ah, man, now I’m gonna be in some coffee shop at 3AM knowing that you’re having sex without me.”

“I usually have sex without you,”

“And whose fault is that?” Dean asks, because apparently they’re playing a game where Cas is allowed to send dick pics to make him do the washing up, so yeah, whatever, he can play dirty too. “Bet you could make me study harder, as well as doing the dishes, if you put your mind to it.”

“Maybe another time,”

“Tease,” Dean grumbles. Cas’ face twists into an expression of displeasure and he has a flashback of Cas trying to explain to a group of horny seventeen year old boys that a girl failing to put out does not make her a tease or frigid , any more than putting out made her a whore or a slut. “Man, don’t give me that look. One second, Cas. One .”

“Would you have preferred two?”

“More like seven,” He doesn’t know whether Castiel is actually going to take him up on that offer or whether he actually wants him too. “Or a live viewing.”

“Enjoy your reading,” Cas says, offering him a tight smile, before he takes his empty bowl and dumps it in the sink instead of washing it up, like the dirty hypocrite he is. Worse, now Dean feels like he’s crossed some line or other… which is completely unfair, because the guy could have given him a map before he let Dean stumble around and try to find their newly-drawn boundaries on his own. Maybe Dean’s usually better at feeling out social interactions than Cas is, but he’s totally out of depths right now.

“Meg sucks, FYI,” Dean calls after him, “Like, not even in a fun blow job way. She’s just a bitch.”

“Goodbye, Dean,” Cas says, and then his bedroom door shuts and Dean’s left to face his shitty noodles alone.

He probably shouldn’t have called her a bitch, because Cas frigging hates that word.

*

“So, is Cas out or something?” Sam asks, after Dean’s established that his baby brother is just fine, and asked him about Bobby and Ellen and Jo and not John Winchester, because he doesn’t even want to know (except for the part where he does).

“Huh? Yeah.” Dean says, drawing another circle in the margin of his notes and wedging the phone more securely to his ear. He’ll have to redo the notes later but he’s spent the whole day trying to work and not getting anywhere, and he’s running out of fucks to give. He needs Cas to come back and cheerlead his efforts with pizza and sarcasm. “Why?”

“Uh, you’ve kinda been lax on the whole calling thing lately.”

“Oh,” Dean says, gut twisting, “Man, I’m sorry, I just –”

“ – hey, it’s cool,” Sam says, “Don’t apologise, Dean. I haven’t really called either.” That’s true… and, technically, Dean is juggling his final year of college, his part time job (very part time at the moment, courtesy of Bobby and Ellen’s financial assistance), helping Cas out with his sex ed high school mission, getting laid at least twice a week and having time to sleep…. He’s pretty swamped. “So how is Cas?”

“Fine,” Dean half grunts, because hell if he knows what’s going on with Cas, “Same weird, nerdy dude. Sent me a picture of his dick today.”

He completely did not mean to blurt that down the phone to his little brother. He’d meant to force it to the back of his mind and maybe never talk about it or refer to it again, and not to think about the seven second picture he’d requested that had yet to materialise. Or about what Cas was probably doing with Meg Masters right now. He’d meant to stay in their shared kitchen and reads his fucking books and call his little brother and then get an early night but, no, he just came out and said it.

“TMI Dean,”

“You don’t think that’s a little…. Weird?” Dean asks, because it’s not the verbal bitchface he was expecting to hear. He’d been waiting for a little shock mixed in with the ‘you’re-so-vulgar-Dean-you-disgust-me.’

“Why?”

“You sent pictures of your genitals to your roommate recently?” Dean asks, incredulous.

“Wait,” Sam says, down the other end of the phone, “Are… are you and Cas not sleeping together?”

The pen slips out of Dean’s hands.

“What the fuck, Sam, no!”

“Oh,” Sam says, “Okay. Wow.”

The silence is a thick, crackling thing between them for a few long seconds until Sam coughs and jerks Dean back into the present. There’s a big difference in getting this kind of thing from Charlie and random high school kids and people he’s just screwed (‘so, spill it, are you and Novak hooking up?’ Like Dean would still be fucking around if he and Cas were sleeping together…), and hearing it from Sam. He damn near raised the kid and, until recently, Dean would have sworn blind on the fact that Sam knew him better than anybody. If even Sam doesn’t know why they’re not sleeping together then… well, it’s worth thinking about.

“You… Jesus,” Dean mutters, running a hand over his face, notes abandoned, “How long you been thinking this, Sammy?”

“Dean, chill,” Sam says, “And like, a few years dude.”

“A few years ?”

“We just assumed you hadn’t said anything because, well, it’s you, Dean. You’re not exactly open about this kind of stuff.”

“We?” Dean asks, throat constricting around the word.

“Er, yeah,” Sam says, “Bobby, Ellen, Jo… Dad, everyone. After the first time he came to us for Christmas. I kinda thought that’s why you, uh, came out. Because of Cas. You…. You’re really not sleeping together?”

Oh, fuck.

“No, Sam!” Dean hisses, “Cas is sleeping with Meg, and Crowley, and Hester and whoever the fuck ever, and I’m –”

“Wow, Cas gets around, huh?”

“Sam, that was a slow week,” Dean says, pressing a thumb into his forehead, “You don’t even… man, I’m so weirded out right now. Dad thinks I’m boning Cas? Guess that’s why he doesn’t like him, huh.”

“Dean,” Sam says, voice lower now, “Come on, he’s…”

“ – aw, man, you know I don’t wanna know,” Dean says, rolling his eyes, and putting a little bit too much pressure on his pen. He drops it, lest he causes any accidental damage. “Anyway, whatever, I’m supposed to be studying. Cas will kick my ass if he gets back from screwing Meg and I haven’t got anything done. So I better go.” It’s a damned excuse and they both probably know it. Cas isn’t going to be back till the morning and Dean’s buzzed on enough coffee that he’ll likely still be awake by then, blinking at his notes and trying to comprehend the fact that his whole damn family think he’s with Cas. Not even just fucking the guy, but something adjacent to a proper relationship.

They’ve way overestimated him, clearly. He hasn’t gotten close to something like monogamy since Lisa way back when, and that had been him over glorifying a weekend of fucking amazing fucking and trying to turn it into an actual relationship. Shockingly, a weekend of admittedly very bendy sex where basic details were exchanged (names, numbers, ages, a bit of flirting) wasn’t a very good basis for a legitimate relationship and the whole thing crumbled pretty soon after Dean worked that out. Now, it’s kind of hard to work out where and how he blurred the lines so badly, because there’s a Grand Canyon type gap between really good sex and actual feelings.

Then again, Dean’s never been an expert on that. It’s at least two parts why Dean freaked out about Aaron, his original gay thing, because thinking certain men were attractive was in a different ballpark to having just beyond crush level of feelings for a guy. He’d probably have handled it much better if they’d just slept together and Dean hadn’t spent a tortured month wanting to ask for his number and hating himself for it, but that’s the way it happened. He figured it out eventually, with the aid of his historic crush on Cas and many many one night-stands.

He’s not sure he’d know how to be in a relationship at this point. He hasn’t been interested enough in anyone for years.

“Dean,” Sam says, “You want to be with Cas, right?”

“What?” Dean asks, dumfounded again, because… wow. Calling his brother is clearly not good for his mental health, because there’s been far too much thrown in his face in the past few minutes. He doesn’t even know Sam’s intended scope of that question, because it’s inherently different to would you like me to sleep with you? and not necessarily in a good way.

“Well, if he’s sending you photos of his dick, seems like it might be on the cards,” Sam says, clearly beaming on the other end of the line, “See you, Dean.” And then he’s hung up and left Dean listening to the dial tone feeling ten times more bewildered than when he only had Cas’ dick to be thinking about.

His life officially sucks.

*

“Good morning, Dean,” Cas says, standing in the doorway to their kitchen, trench coat clad and clearly post-coital. Fuck Cas and his sex life. And fuck Meg. And also, fuck today, because apparently he fell asleep at the kitchen table on his pile of books and now his neck hurts like a motherfucker, and he’s still got two chapters to read and memorise before his lecture later.

He should have drank more coffee and less gin, but Sam’s phone call and subsequent period of unflattering self-reflection had made the alcohol necessary.

“Alright, Mr Optimism,” Dean grumbles, peeling himself off his book and stretching out a few more of his limbs. Everything hurts. He’s getting old. “Take it you had a good night.”

“Yes,” Cas says, stepping into the kitchen and heading for the coffee maker.

“Water doesn’t melt the witch, then? I’m shocked.”

“There was no water involved in our sexual intercourse,”

“Man, you can’t have that much sex and call it sexual intercourse . You’ve been teaching too much sex ed, I swear,” Dean mutters, voice still thick with sleep he’s not convinced he actually got. “S’that how you pick people up in bars? Hello there, I’m Castiel. Let’s have sexual intercourse.”

“Do you pick people up with the line ‘Let’s have sex’?” Cas asks, setting down a cup of extra strong coffee in front of him, thank fuck for Cas, before raising an eyebrow at him. “Perhaps that explains how infrequently you’ve been getting laid lately.”

“I get laid. All the time. In fact, I’m gonna make a booty call right now.”

“You’ve managed to print your notes on your forehead in your sleep,” Cas says, smiling slightly, “I’d suggest showering first.”

“And I suppose you’ve got wild and adventurous sexual intercourse scheduled in for this afternoon before class?” Dean grimaces, rubbing at his forehead. His hand comes away with a slight smudge of blue, so it’s likely that Cas is telling the truth.

“Meg wants to have a threesome.”

“This afternoon?”

“No,” Cas says, “Generally. I wanted your advice.”

“About threesomes?” Dean asks, feeling a headache pressing in at the back of his mind. He needs like a litre more coffee and another four hours sleep before he can possibly deal with this conversation, especially given… everything. “My advice for Meg Masters remains avoid at all costs.”

“You’ve had a threesome,”

“Uh, yeah,” Dean says, “Twice.” Both occasions were relatively close together and one was significantly less terrible than the other, but they’re still not his favourite memories as far as sexual endeavours are concerned. Mostly, it had led him to the final conclusion that, hedonistic as he is, he’s fairly simple when it comes to sex. It was the same period of time he discovered that most of the stuff that was sexy in porn is just awkward and uncomfortable in real life; at least, in a one night stand capacity. He’s good at sex, and he likes sex, but he’s disappointingly vanilla when it comes to anything but positions and locations.

Cas, though, is not. Cas has proven on multiple occasions that he has no shame, and Dean’s walked out of several conversations about various sexual experiences feeling out and out impressed and slightly emasculated. Not that he’d admit to that.

“You’d probably like it,” Dean concedes, after a few more sips of coffee, “Another girl or a guy?” Cas shrugs. “It kinda makes a difference, dude,” Dean says, rolling his eyes.

“Well, you have to find someone you’re both into. Meg like both?”

“Yes,” Cas says, and Dean has no idea why he’s helping with this.

“She thinking about anyone in particular?”

“You, actually,” Cas says, meeting his gaze without blinking. “It’s a pity you detest Meg so much.”

Dean stares at him.

“Thank you for your advice, Dean,” Cas, the little shit, says “I’ll think about it.”

And then he leaves Dean alone with his textbooks, his smudged notes printed on his forehead, the crook in his neck and a new image seared into his brain.

(That night he meets a guy called Benny at a bar, and he ends up going back to his place and they fuck on his sofa and then again in his bedroom. He gets back the next morning still kinda drunk and tells Cas, in far too much detail, about how he’s going to hook up with Benny again and actually bottom next time, which is kind of Dean Winchester rarity. As good as a distraction it was, one look at Cas’ face has him right back to the whole threesome disaster and Cas, with his pancakes and his coffee, asking Would you like me to sleep with you? Only now, he has Sam challenging him about his feelings too).

Chapter Text

Way back in freshman year, Dean had slept with some girl without a condom (he’s gonna say she was called Lydia), and Cas had flipped his shit. It’s the first time Cas had ever been properly been mad at him for something that, at the time, Dean didn’t really think was that big of a deal. He’d been subjected to a week of Cas storming around, power radiating out of his stiff stature, and ignoring every word Dean said until Cas had suddenly snapped out of it and dragged him to an sexual health clinic. He got a lecture about chlamydia and unplanned pregnancies from Cas in the waiting room, and less of a lecture from the woman who did the check. Cas did, however, get himself checked out too, because Castiel Novak is the king of being sexually responsible and all that jazz.

Dean was clean and the message about being a god damn idiot sunk in round about the time his ex-Lisa wound up pregnant six months later, but the annual trip to the sexual health clinic stuck.

“Let’s hope you’re clean, man,” Dean says, halfway through one of the plentiful leaflets about STIs available in the waiting room, nudging Cas’ shoulder, “It’ll take you at least a week to ring round all recent sexual partners. If you even kept their numbers.”

“I kept Crowley’s and Meg’s.”

“You have the worst taste,”

“I’ve been reliably informed I taste incredible,” Castiel deadpans, and Dean nearly chokes because he’s not expecting it. They get an odd look from a girl sitting in front of them, but she’s in the same building he is, so whatever.

“D’you keep up this annual gig if you were in a relationship?” Dean asks, because it’s crossed his mind on a number of occasions. He’s pretty sure he’d forget about the whole thing if he didn’t have Cas reminding him, but it sunk in at some point that sleeping around is all well and good if you’re responsible about it. He hasn’t slept with anyone without a condom since the girl who was probably called Lydia, which was years ago, even drunk out of his mind… and given he doubts the plausibility of him ending up in a relationship anytime soon, that’s probably not gonna change. “Like exclusive and shit.”

The thought of Cas in a relationship is a slightly bizarre one, but they’re not that far off finishing college and being grown-up (ish) graduates. They’re supposed to get jobs and maybe move someplace else and think vaguely about setting down or whatever.

“I suppose,”

“Isn’t that like… showing a lack of trust, or whatever? If you’re both tested and clean at the beginning.”

“Dean,” Cas frowns, then turns his stupidly blue eyes on him, “ He gave me chlamydia.” He is the euphemistic general term for Cas’ closeted-ex who broke his heart and trust and faith in humanity etc. etc. when Cas was a teenager. He is rarely discussed or elaborated on, and this is news to Dean. “Which, incidentally, is how I discovered he was cheating on me.”

“Man, I hate that guy,”

“Dean,”

“No, seriously, Cas. I dunno how anyone could fuck you like that.”

“And how would you fuck me, Dean?” Cas asks. The girl is definitely staring at them, now, and Dean’s face is flushing slightly. Although men in general don’t have the same ability to make him flustered, apparently Cas still does. Perfect.

Cas’ comment is in part because he’s trying to derail the conversation into something more comfortable, but instead they’ve wound up at the weird state where they acknowledge their banter as flirting (which Dean is like ninety percent sure is actually the moment when it started qualifying as flirting) and Cas sends one second dick pictures and doesn’t invite him to threesomes, but shoots out innuendo and asks Dean about hypothetical sex they’re (probably) not gonna have.

“Well, I sure as shit wouldn’t give you Chlamydia,” Dean says, like discussing hypothetical sex is a normal friendship conversation. And now he’s actually considering it. Well, that’s a damned lie. He’s been considering it a lot since Cas asked him whether it’s something he’d want in casual conversation. He’s played it out a multitude of different ways in his head, but he can’t exactly tell Cas that without dealing with an inevitable shit storm. “Probably face to face and slow.”

The words hang a little too heavy in the air between them; thick and too real for the level the question was pitched at. Dean swallows.

“Sounds lovely.”

“Screw you,” Dean says, “It’d be hot. You’d be begging and I’d be fucking you into the mattress. Lovely , my ass.”

“I’ll say,”

“Dude, seriously?” Dean asks, shaking his head at him, “That was lame,”

Cas is smiling though, one of those smiles that pull at the corners of Dean’s lips until he’s smiling too, and he’s grinning in a sexual health clinic because his best friend is a frigging dork with terrible ass pick-up lines, and he hasn’t got a damn clue what’s going on with them, but he’s so frigging happy that he’s not entirely sure he cares.

*

Dean disappears for five minutes to order food for their very late lunch and take a piss, but when he gets back Cas has rearranged his posture into sharp angles and is glaring at the menu like he’s trying to smite the damn thing out of existence.

“Dude,” Dean says, glancing at the menu for gendered slurs or overt evidence of homophobia, but it’s like a standard diner menu and they’ve been here enough that it’s probably Cas-safe, “Who spat in your coffee?” Cas raises a confused glance to his coffee. “No, I mean what happened, man?”

“Rockridge High dropped the program,”

Dean exhales and takes a seat.

It’s not the first time, or even the fifth time, that a semi local high school has a-okayed Castiel and his band of sex-positive do gooders to go into schools and talk about sex in a fit of well-meaning pique, only to backtrack when the parents started complaining. Dean tried damn hard to comprehend why parents wouldn’t want their kids to be taught about this shit by someone who knows what they’re talking about rather than from porn and dubious google searches, but he never got anywhere with it.

John Winchester probably wouldn’t have been on the ball enough to complain if Dean was being taught about anal sex, homosexuality, kinks and consent at school, and Dean sure as hell wouldn’t have told him about it, but he probably wouldn’t have championed the notion if he had known.

Not that there was anything like that at Dean’s school.

“How come?”

“Meg went last week,” News to Dean (he had a group project meeting so had to skip out, leaving Cas to beg around for a lift), but it’s at least one explanation as to why Cas would have bothered to keep her number. It’s the one he’s choosing to believe, anyway.

“And mentioned the fact that she is pansexual and poly-amorous, which apparently upset several parents.”

“Yeah, well,” Dean says, sucking in a breath, “That would do it.”

That earns him a glare.

“We often talk about our tendency towards one night stands, Dean, the only difference is that Meg is a woman .”

“Yeah that’s… I mean, yeah that’s probably part of it,” Dean says, “But, dude, the Rockridge guys struggle with bisexuality . They probably got home and googled pansexual or poly-amorous and scared the shit out of their parents.”

“So it’s Meg’s fault?” Cas asks, eyes narrowing at him.

“No, man,” Dean says, holding up a hands. “I just… forget it.”

Their singular biggest argument to date was back in sophomore year, when Dean had something inherently sexist and Cas had called him out on it… which in itself probably wouldn’t have been fine (Dean can be a dick at times, be he is able to recognise when he’s out of line and he had been at the time), had Cas not launched into a weed fuelled rant about Dean’s inner misogyny. Dean had snapped that if he was so frigging awful then why Cas wasn’t laying into him for every other thing he said. Cas’ answer had been the problem.

He’d said that he granted Dean certain allowances because between losing Mary Winchester age four and the subsequent years moving across the country, Dean had never actually met a woman until they settled in Texas when Dean was fifteen. Whilst Castiel understood that Dean’s understanding of women up until that point had been a mixture of television, porn and reflecting John Winchester’s ‘obsession’ with his late wife, he thought that at some point in the intermittent years he should have realised that women were people too. He’d been citing Ellen, Jo and Charlie as some of several billion reasons why Dean shouldn’t be such a dick before he realised that Dean was beyond pissed.

After three weeks of near silence, Cas trying to retract the ‘obsession’ comment over a dozen times and Dean damn nearly moving out, they’d reached a point where Dean could grudgingly admit that Cas probably had a point and almost definitely wouldn’t have said any of it if he hadn’t been high. They’d spent the next month or so with Cas trying to apologise intermittently and Dean watching his mouth and his attitude until it had eventually petered out (alongside Cas’ weed habit, which Dean was fucking thrilled about: Cas high was a weird oddity that felt like it should have been straight out of one of Dean’s barely repressed fantasies, but was actually just jarring and uncomfortable).

Still, every so often he gets the impression that Cas is calculating his comments and searching out the prejudice which is probably still there somewhere. It’s not like Dean is desperate to hold onto that kind of crap (it’s the same prejudice he nailed himself too when he was trying to figure out his own sexuality after all), but sometimes it’s hard to filter it out completely.

Cas’ expression softens slightly.

“Dean,” Cas says, and it’s an invitation to carry on talking.

“I just mean… man, if you tried talking to me about being poly-amorous six years ago I wouldn’t have understood jack shit,” Dean says. “You forget the most people don’t know what the hell pansexual even is, you’ve been at college too long. Just, take it slow. Maybe backtrack to the sexuality is a spectrum thing before you start throwing out new words of the week.”

“That sounds… possible.”

“Yeah, not just a pretty face, man,” Dean says, “I got years of being the slightly homophobic asshole under my belt.”

Cas doesn’t even crack a smile, just tilts his gaze upwards. His expression is stained with disapproval that Dean’s pretty sure is addressed at the self-deprecating nature of the comment, but must have been inspired by something before that. Something more than the generally shitiness of ignorance and prejudice because they deal with that all the time.

“What else?”

“My brother tried to call.”

Well, that more or less explains Cas’ stick-up-the-ass attitude. Collectively, Dean’s pretty sure Castiel’s family are the most offensive people that Dean’s ever met and, as a result, after any encounter Cas becomes extra sensitive to all the things that already piss him off.

“Which?” Dean asks. He’s met three of them and didn’t have graphic murder fantasies about one of them, and that’s because Gabriel has an endearing edge to his douchery that Dean thinks he actually likes. Plus, he met Gabriel last and had been pleasantly surprised just because he’d been expecting so much worse. “Urgh, whatever. Fuck Rockridge High and fuck your brothers.”

“I would prefer it if you did not fuck my brothers.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Dean says, clinking his coffee against Cas’ with a grin. “But, you know, Michael was giving me the eye last time he visited. Well his version of it, anyway.”

“Dean,”

“Like I was a hunk of sirloin steak he wanted to cut into. Or like a fancy suit he wanted to wear to the prom.”

“Your analogies are ridiculous,” Cas says, but he’s softened ever so slightly. Dean has a nasty habit of playing the clown a little bit too much when Cas is miserable or pissed off, then winding up irritated himself when he doesn’t quite manage to defrost the guy. He does a bit of good, sure, but sometimes Cas just needs to be left to be pissed or to be miserable or contemplative, and Dean doesn’t like that he can’t wave his magic wand and fix it, but that’s the way it is.

He’s sure that Cas feels the same in regards to his moods, so it’s at least tit for tat, even though he’s sure Cas is better at pulling him out of one of his funks than the reverse. “Let’s go bowling,” Dean says, on a whim. Cas blinks at him. “Come on, man, we haven’t done anything fun for ages. We can celebrate another year of sexual health and promiscuity.”

“We haven’t got the results back yet, Dean,”

“Just the promiscuity then,” Dean shoots back, “I’ll pay. My treat.”

“You owe me money anyway,” Cas says, but his expression isn’t as uptight as it was previously, so Dean’s going to take that as a win.

*

Dean can’t remember the last time he went bowling. Or, actually, did anything classified as fun that wasn’t go to a house party, or to a bar, or stay in and watch a film with Cas. Studentdom pretty much constricts their activities to things that are virtually free, or else only cost money because of alcohol, and it’s nice to get out of that rut and do something else.

Even if the whole place is full of after school traffic and they’re getting a few why-are-two-dudes-bowling-together-looks from barely pubescent teens, which they hadn’t had over lunch despite being in the building next door. Apparently, bowling is more date-ish than a post-STI check lunch. Whatever. He’s just hoping that none of these kids went to one of the high schools they’ve taught sex ed at, because he doesn’t need any more accusations of coupledom.

“You need any tips, you just let me know man,” Dean grins as Cas laces up his bowling shoes with an air of distinct concentration. Dean’s put their names into the machine as porn stars purely to see if Cas gets the joke because he’s a comedic genius, but Cas hasn’t looked at them yet.

“If this is a Dean Winchester courting ritual, I assure you a drink would have sufficed,” Cas says, standing up.

“I buy you drinks all the time,” Dean returns, “Hell, I stock your fridge.”

“Precisely my point,” Cas says, and in standing he’s suddenly at eye level and a little closer than expected. They wind up in one of their half staring contents as Dean refocuses on the words that just came out of Cas’ mouth, rather than said mouth itself, and then swallows because…. What? Cas is implying that Dean wouldn’t need to drag Cas out on a date first? Not that this is even a date, because it’s really not, it’s just two friends stroke roommates going bowling; perfectly frigging normal and not at all amorous, thank you very much. Just a whim.

That probably isn’t the point, but Dean lost track of the point and the boundaries and all the rest of it weeks ago.

“Why are these shoes necessary?” Cas asks, breaking their extended eye contact by glancing at his feet, probably because Dean’s thinking loud enough for the moment to become slightly awkward. “I highly doubt they are any more practical than my original footwear.”

“Who knows?”

“Is this customary?” Cas asks.

“Wait,” Dean says, pausing, “Dude, is this the first time you’ve been bowling?” Cas blinks at him and, damn, that’s a yes.

He forgets, generally, that Cas came to college as a barely-socialised pop culture deficient Sunday school type, same as he forgets that Cas still has faith in God and a bucket load of family issues most of the time. The Cas of now is a very different creature to the one Dean met, although just as awesome, and it’s easy to put him in the ‘normal human’ category and assume things like prior bowling knowledge.

“Well, I guess I’m Belladonna,” Dean says, sizing up bowling balls, “It’s pretty simple. Pick a ball, throw it, try and hit the pins.”

“I am not mentally deficient,” Cas says, a little edge creeping into his voice.

“We’ll see,” Dean grins.

He winds up with a split, seven pins, which is okay considering the last time he went bowling he was still pretending he was straight.

Cas gets a gutter ball.

“You want the barriers up?” Dean says, “Used to put those up for Sammy. When he was nine.”

“Shut up,” Cas spits back, “I think I need a heavier ball.”

“You like heavy balls?”

“I have never had the inclination or the equipment available to weigh any balls I have come into contact with,” Cas deadpans back, meeting Dean’s gaze straight on. It’s throwback to the days where Cas used to be a little more literal, and before they had a tennis match of innuendo always on the go, and it’s frigging awesome

If Dean had let him, Cas would have disappeared back into his bedroom the second they got back to their apartment. He’d probably have called his brother and spent the next few days glaring at walls and muttering about the patriarchy. Bowling was a brilliant idea. “In this case, the size of the hole might be a more limiting factor,” Cas continues, turning his gaze back to the bowling balls, expression tinted with a faux-naivety.

Dean’s pretty sure he’s incapable of making a fingering joke right now, and that watching someone try out bowling balls has never, ever, been remotely sexual before. Dean coughs and pulls himself away, forcing himself back into motion.

A spare, this time.

“This is gonna be too easy,” Dean grins, leaning back on one of the dumb seats they provide you and ignoring the vague smell of sweat, which has got to be something to do with the torture-devices that are bowling shoes, and something to do with this particular bowling alley being the dating-hub of choice for far too many teenagers. “Man, you’re just a baby in a trench coat right now, I swear. I’m feeling kinda sorry for you.”

Cas narrows his eyes at him, weighs up a final ball before apparently deciding that it meets requirements, before facing down the alley.

Dean can tell which brand of concentration the guys wearing from the back of his head, which is probably why he’s looking at his ass instead. Not that Cas’ ass is any less familiar to him than the back of his head but, well, Cas has a nice ass.

He misses the actual bowling, and only starts paying attention when Cas turns around looking incredibly self-satisfied. Dean glances up and, son of a bitch, the guy’s got a strike. His second attempt.

As much as Dean would like to delude himself into thinking that it’s a fluke, Cas is always either freakily good at picking things up or a lost cause. He took to poker in a matter of seconds but is still completely incapable of monopoly, or deciphering American Football, no matter how many times Dean has gone through it.

“I believe I’ve scored,”

“A strike,” Dean says, “How?”

“It’s all in the balls, Dean,” Cas says, very seriously. There’s at least sixteen different comebacks he could say but he settles on just grinning and shaking his head. “And whilst I generally do not watch lesbian porn, I don’t live under a rock.”

“Dude, I’m taking your bowling virginity right now. You bet your ass you live under a rock,” Dean says, “Bout the only kind of virginity you got left.”

“Given virginity is an archaic and virtually incoherent notion, you are very welcome to it,”

“Cheers, Cas.”

*

Parties have never really been their thing.

Sure, Dean attended his fair share back when he was a freshman and trying to be the person he thought he was probably supposed to be, and he didn’t exactly hate the experiences. Then alcohol got easier to obtain, and then was legal to obtain, and bars just fitted him better.

He grew up in dive bars and they make sense to him. Besides, you can sit alone at a bar without judgement, but the second you sit alone at a house party you’re a weirdo or a hermit, and the social pressure to interact usual far surpasses Dean’s desire to do so. House parties involve mingling and cheap alcohol and terrible music and, really, Dean’s always going to have that residual new-kid-at-school feeling in groups of unfamiliar people his age.

Cas’ dislike of parties stems in part from his own discomfort at large social gathering but, more to the point, Dean’s pretty sure that between them they’ve slept with most of their acquaintance-type friends, and their friend’s-friends, who usually make up ninety percent of the attendance at these parties. Whilst Dean agrees that the parade of ex-sexual partners isn’t exactly ideal, Cas can be… slightly colder, Dean supposes, than they might have expected of him. Cas can be deadpan charm, witty and inviting up until the point where he’s unyielding and moody, and people tend to think they know Cas just because they’ve slept with him, and they don’t.

So they don’t go to parties that often any more.

But…Charlie had been nagging him about this for ages. Dean’s been crap at being sociable lately and after missing their last three LARP events, he’d been sent quite a few colourful threats vis a vis party attendance. Cas, softened by his embarrassing (for Dean) bowling victory, had agreed to come with only little persuasion, so they’d wound up writing the day off in terms of work and heading to Charlie’s place instead.

Charlie had been thrilled and dragged him over to her sofa to update him about Moondor before he had a chance to speak. Three recounts of the last battle from three different foot soldiers later, and he caught his first glance of Cas since being abducted by the queen. Charlie is just about to explain the bigger picture of the situation, as the other guys are enthusiastic but don’t really have a clue about the plot or the strategy, and it’s a conversation he’s been wanting to have for ages…. Except, Cas is over by the door and chatting to a girl that reminds Dean a little bit of his conception of Daphne.

“ – we took some rough hits from the shadow orcs, but avoided any major causalities thanks to Uncle’s Pie’s potion stocks, but – ”

He is trying to listen, but watching Cas’ many variations of the same pulling routine has suddenly become weirdly magnetic. He keeps dragging his gaze back to Charlie, refocusing, before he’s drifted back to Cas without really noticing.

The girl’s brunette, pretty and has a touch of a good girl about her, but with the kind obvious backbone that makes Dean think she might actually be good for Cas. Better than then Megs and Crowleys of the world (maybe Dean’s being judgemental, but Cas could do with being a bit more frigging judgemental sometimes) and Dean reckons this might be one of those circumstances where Cas’ (and his own) reputation hasn’t proceeded him.

Cas hasn’t gone for his killer watt, slightly forced, smile on this occasion. He’s big blue eyes and interested frown. They’re probably talking about politics. The girl looks fascinated. Worse, Cas looks pretty damn interested too.

“Dean,” Charlie says, pulling him back to the conversation with a distinct raise of her eyebrows. She knows something’s up because she’s Charlie and Charlie’s damn good at getting Dean to talk, always has been, but he doesn’t want to talk about this right now. Or ever, actually, because he doesn’t have the right words. He doesn’t even know what he’s supposed to say.

So things are kinda weird with me and Cas. Turns out whole family thinks we’ve been together for years and, also, he asked me how we’d hypothetically screw earlier.

“I’m gonna get a beer,” Dean says, clearing his throat and pulling himself upwards.

At least the kitchen is a Cas free zone.

He pulls himself upwards before Charlie can ask one of the multitude of questions he doesn’t have an answer to, and is scoping out the best route to the other exit (the one Cas isn’t chatting up some girl next to), when a hand claps on his shoulder.

“Dean,”

“Benny,” Dean says, turning round and offering up a tight grin. He has twenty seconds of awkward last-time-I-saw-you-my-dick-was-in-your-ass before he gets over it, because he liked Benny. Before Dean drank half a bottle of bourbon at his place (partially before and partially after the fucking) they’d been bounding over marine-fathers. Course, they’d taken a detour away from Daddy issues and stuck on life on the road and not quite fitting in, but Benny’s the kind of guy he’d probably be friends with if they hadn’t screwed. Plus, Dean’s pretty sure they made a drunken agreement that if they happened to meet again, they were gonna switch.

Dean tends to be kind of… well, in most given opportunities, he doesn’t bottom. It’s not like he doesn’t enjoy it because that’s certainly not the case. Not at all. It’s just one of those things that’s tied up in his masculinity complex that he’s not quite moved past. Having dissected this with Cas on a number of occasions and he’s fully aware that it’s all irrational and really frigging stupid (there really isn’t anything less manly about bottoming than topping, and neither makes him more or less gay… and why should those things matter, anyway?), but knowing that doesn’t make it easier to move past. He hasn’t bottomed for about four months which is too long for his personal moving-past-issues quota anyway, and Benny has the kind of dick that makes him want it in his ass.

“Man, good to see you,” Dean says.

“Didn’t know you cared, brother,” Benny drawls.

“Cause that’s not disturbing,” Dean grins, “Charlie, Benny. Benny, Charlie. Aaannnd…. That’s Cas over by the door with the brunette chick.”

“Meeting the roomie,” Charlie says, raising they eyebrow, “Must be serious.”

“As a heart attack,” Dean shoots back, “You wanna a beer, Benny? Don’t listen to a word she says, man, it’s all lies. She’s trying to earn a pay cheque as a cock block.”

He’s back in under a minute with three beers feeling a little happier in his own skin. Who cares who Cas is talking to? Dean’s got his own damn life. They’ve been in each other’s pockets a lot lately and that’s probably part of the reason why he’s feeling so weird. Cas can go home with the brunet woman if it makes him happy, which it usually does, and Dean can maybe go back to Benny’s and be fucked, or not. Whatever. It’s all good.

“Cheers,” Dean grins, handing out the beers. “How’ve you been, Benny? Good week?”

“Was looking forward to hearing from you, Dean,”

“Message must have got lost in the post,” Dean throws back, “But hey, you’re here now, so…”

“Dean,” A familiar voice says, and Dean turns around to find Cas trench-coated up, woman from before gone. He looks put out again, which means all of Dean’s hard work from before has been shot to hell. “I want to go home.”

“Strike out failed? Fail the psycho test?”

“Hannah is perfectly sane,” Cas says, “I want to go home.”

Forget put out, he looks miserable. Shoulders slouched, mouth pinched into a frown, eyebrows drawn.

“I… yeah, okay,” Dean agrees because, damn, he can’t deny Cas shit when he looks like that. He does puppy eyes differently to Sam, yeah, but it has the same kind of effect. He doesn’t know where he’d dredge up the answer no from. “I’ll just…”

“Dean,” Benny says, “You wanna take my number? Send your next message in a more accurate direction. Believe we got unfinished business.”

“Knock yourself out,” Dean says, pulling his phone out of his jean’s pocket and handing it over. Obviously, he’s not really an exchanging-numbers type, but they do have unfinished business and, well, he can always just not text. No biggie. “Wanna wait in the car, Cas?”

“No, it’s fine,” Cas damn near spits, voice like thunder. Benny has raised eyebrows and a slightly amused expression and Cas’ earlier anger seems to have rerouted itself towards Benny, for reasons beyond Dean’s comprehension (except… he could make a wild guess, right? Or would that be completely off base? He’s supposed to be the one with green eyes, right?).

“Okaaay,” Dean says, glancing between them, “Well. Duty calls, apparently. Catch you laters, guys.”

Cas is silent as they wind their way back through the house.

“Thirty five minutes,” Dean mutters, as he throws open the front door of the car, “That’s got the quickest in an out of all time.” He’s expecting an innuendo of some kind, but he gets jack shit. Silence. Cas is glaring out the front windscreen like it’s done something to offend him. “What the hell, Cas?” Nothing. “You wanna tell me what the hell crawled up your ass? What your problem is?”

“There is no problem, Dean,” Cas snaps back, petulant.

“Fine, great. Everything’s dandy,” Dean mutters, hands clenched on the steering wheel. The silence keeps them company for the rest of the journey home, punctuated only by his semi-regular text tone, which turns out to be eight separate texts from Charlie, all about the clusterfuck that was this evening.

Dean what the fuck???

You spent twenty minutes watching Cas hit on Hannah like ur being forced to watch one of the new Star Trek movies

And then Cas came over because he saw you talking to Benny & heard you introduce him!!!!??

I swear that’s why he was pissed man like he looked like he was gonna rip Benny’s throat out.

Cas is kinda intimidating when he’s angry. Like, dude.

you best not be texting me cause you’re screwing in the back seat. Angry sex FTW!! Work out that UST!!

Seriously Dean we need to talk about his

Dean 4 reals. WTF.

Dean can’t help but wholeheartedly agree.

What the fuck.

Chapter Text

In Dean’s defence, when he’d risked journeying to the bathroom, Castiel had been neither seen nor heard for the whole morning.

He wouldn’t exactly call Cas a morning person as much as a person who was slightly better at mornings than Dean, so by the time noon had rolled around and he still hadn’t heard so much as a door opening, he figured that Cas had gone out. More specifically, Dean had internally written a novel length story in which Cas had gone out again last night and was currently talking about obscure literature and the varying translations of the bible with Hannah in some hipster coffee shop. Not fucking, because Dean was so used to Cas fucking other people that that was an old wound to pick at (if wound was the right word, Dean’s not really sure anymore), but the kind of stuff that Dean can’t offer him. Intellectual shit. Classiness.

After stewing in his self-created misery, he’d convinced himself that, whatever, who cares, and if Cas had gone gallivanting off with Hannah then he actually had a right to be pissed, because Cas had made Dean leave the party early and alone. A brief text to Charlie ( I don’t know what you’re talking about Bradbury ) and another few moments of wallowing, he forced himself up and to the shower.

Somewhere along the line he’d forgotten about the fact that Cas being out was just a fabrication rather than a fact, which lead to him forgoing the towel he’d left in the bathroom (which he knows has been there for an unsanitary length of time), and stepping out of the bathroom totally bare ass naked.

And then he sees Cas and remembers that, right, Cas isn’t actually watching an opera with Hannah or whatever. He's in the kitchen.

“– it has nothing to do with my adequacy as a brother, Gabriel, nor is the fact that you are, apparently, ‘my favourite.’ I refuse to lie to our mother just because you neglected to pick up the phone,” Cas is snapping down the phone, furiously stirring something in the kitchen, back to him. “Being more tolerable than Lucifer is hardly an achievement. It’s hardly something to boast about.”

It’s not far to Dean’s bedroom (hell, in their apartment it’s not exactly far to anywhere), and Cas seems pretty engaged in arguing with his brother; he’s probably got away with it. He doesn’t have to throw another spanner into the works via an awkward-naked encounter.

Except, then the bathroom door shuts behind him with a muffled thud. Cas turns around in slow motion, eyes widening perceptively, before he full on, unashamedly, checks Dean out. If Dean had just frigging moved instead of hanging around listening to Cas talk like a chump, Cas would probably have got a flash of Dean-coloured flesh. Maybe a semi-decent view of his ass. But, no, of course Cas would get the whole damn package in broad frigging daylight.

“Gabriel, I will call you back,” Cas says. To his immense credit, after the initial look down and up, Cas’ gaze settles back on Dean’s (flushing) face. Dean’s pretty sure that he wouldn’t have the self-control himself, but he’s frigging grateful. Naked has never felt so… naked before. It’s weird. “Is this a new marketing campaign?”

“I, uh, forgot my towel.”

“I see,”

“Guess that’s at least fifty percent of the problem right now,” Dean says, hand going up to the back of his neck before he remembers that that just accentuates his nakedness.

“I’m gonna go,” Dean says, pointing unnecessarily to his bedroom.

“Okay,” Cas agrees and, god damn him, he’s barely hiding a smirk. Cas is pretty good at hiding it, but then Dean knows him inside out at this point, and Cas isn’t uncomfortable at all. He’s just amused . It figures that the guy who sends one second dick pictures to his best friends isn’t wholly upset by the concept of nudity.

“Yeah,” Dean says, coughing, before he finally moves towards his bedroom.

He can feel Cas’ eyes on him even after he’s behind his bedroom door. He winds up sat, still naked, on his bed for another ten minutes trying to reset himself back into neutral. It’s actually semi-surprising that this hasn’t happened at some point over the course of their friendship, but other than this accidental foray into texting they’ve got nothing. Zero levels of nudity. And Cas is the one who’s generally shameless about that sort of thing, like he never got the memo about why nudity makes people feel awkward in the first place.

“Dean,” Cas calls from the other side of the door, loud enough that Dean jumps so much that he falls off his own bed. He really needs to get dressed and get slightly more dignified, because this is ridiculous.

“Shit, Cas, make a noise,”

“I… am,” Cas says, from the other side of the door.

Jesus fucking Christ.

“What do you want, man?” Dean asks, pressing his fingers into his forehead and sucking in a breath. This bullshit with Cas is giving him a headache and he’s ninety percent sure that he’s one more awkward-incident away from a complete mental breakdown.

“Do you want lunch? I’m making pasta.”

“No,”

“Are you… sure?” Cas asks, and Dean knows the exact expression that’s painted across his features, because he’s seen it a thousand times before. The reasoning behind it is dead on, though.

Dean’s alone in his bedroom, thoroughly naked, refusing food.

Apparently he’s already got to the complete mental breakdown stage.

*

“Opting for clothing this time?” Cas asks, when Dean eventually emerges from his room, frigging starving, after another forty minutes of hiding out and finally getting dressed.

“Opting to be less of a dick today?” Dean shoots back, but then he doesn’t really want another argument, so he continues on before Cas can pull out the moody act again.

“What does Gabe want?”

“An alibi,” Cas says, lips pursing slightly.

“Right,” Dean says, “What the hell was last night, dude?” Apparently he’s no good at leaving things the hell alone, even if the half of him that isn’t itching to know is warning him not to touch this with a ten foot barge pole. “So your family are annoying dicks and Rockridge High is a dumb school, and, what? Now you’re passing on hooking up and demanding to leave parties early?”

“It’s well within my rights to not have sex whenever I want,”

“Yeah,” Dean says, “It is. Sleep around, don’t sleep around, whatever. You know I don’t give a fuck who you fuck, Cas, just don’t….”

“You have a lot of opinions about my hook-ups for someone who doesn’t ‘give a fuck’.” Cas says, icily, pulling himself up to his full height and facing Dean dead on. Dean had already decided he was going to drop the subject and leave Cas to his breakdown or whatever this was, and he doesn’t know how his brain went from deciding that to pushing at the issue.

“You can talk after that stunt with Benny,”

“I apologise. When you invite him round for a romantic dinner and a movie I’ll be sure to make a better impression.”

“Cool is, jackass.”

“You’ve never wasted a single second being polite to someone I have fucked or am interested in fucking,” Cas says which, okay, yeah, the guy has a point. He generally dislikes most of the people Cas has been involved with, occasionally on principle but largely just because he hates Cas’ taste in people. Meg? Crowley? Balthazar?

“Don’t think I’m capable of being nice to that many people, man,” Dean says, even though he knows it’s a truly terrible idea and regrets it the second he’s opened his mouth. Cas’ eyes flash with anger, then he’s up in Dean’s face and glaring . “Cas, I didn’t mean that I – ”

“ – If Benny is upset about my lack of manners, do feel free to pass on my apologies the next time you text him.”

“I’m not gonna text him, man, come on –“

“ – my brother is calling,” Cas says, pulling his phone out of his pocket, “Excuse me. Hello, Lucifer,” Cas says, walking towards his bedroom and slamming the door behind him. It’s got to be some pretty heavy grade family drama for Cas to be getting calls from two members of his family on the same morning, and talking to Lucifer has only ever made Castiel more irritable.

Unless he wants to deal with Cas’ passive aggressive bullshit for the rest of the week, he’s gonna have to do some serious damage control; up to and including grocery shopping, bathroom cleaning and his patented homemade burgers.

In checking what they actually have in the fridge, he runs into the bowl of pasta Cas saved him for lunch, even though Dean practically yelled him away from the other side of the door.

Goddamn.

*

After a pathetic twenty minute stint in the library Dean comes to the unsalable conclusion that he’s not going to get anything done until he’s at least partially dealt with the Cas situation. He hates it when they’re not okay, particularly when it’s mostly his fault, because Cas has done so much good in Dean’s life it’s ridiculous.

He was messed up by anyone’s standards; daddy issues and serious co-dependency and Sammy issues and life-on-the-road issues, alongside the obvious sexuality and side-line masculinity issues. Dean hadn’t let anyone who didn’t come under the rough bracket of ‘family’ under his skin for about a decade when Cas showed up. First few months of college was superficial, surface friendships and Dean calling Sam obsessively because he couldn’t shake the ingrained feeling that he should be there, looking after Sammy, instead of doing something for himself for the first time in his life. He doesn’t know when exactly Castiel became Cas and became someone intrinsically important. Probably somewhere between the time that Cas could have mocked him for calling Sam and didn’t, and the time Cas listened to him talk about John Winchester with the perspective that a couple of months living away from him gave him… but, it happened. And now Cas just necessary.

Sure, he’s not the same person he was. His support network stretches a little further than Bobby and Sam. He’s a bit better at accepting help (he’s letting Bobby and Ellen send him some money for Christ’s sake). The damaging idolisation of John Winchester was shot to hell ages ago. He’s borderline okay, most of the time, but he needs Cas.

Can i call a do over for today?

Dean types out and sends, placing his phone screen-up on his textbook and forcing himself to glance back at the blank piece of paper which is supposed to be his notes.

He’s not expecting Cas to text back almost immediately.

Only if you still flash me in the retake

This is Cas, so it really shouldn’t be causing the whole pulse-quickening queasy excitement that he’s pretty sure he hasn’t felt since he was a teenager, but… well, it’s there. He’s chalking it up to just being thrilled that Cas doesn’t seem properly pissed at him.

you already got way longer than the 7 seconds you owe me. Injustice.

The wait is slightly longer this time, but still under a minute.

Would another second make you feel better?

Only if it’s live Dean types out and sends, before pausing and typing a message that’s a little more on point. But seriously man you okay? That’s the part I care about.

Cas leaves him hanging for long enough that Dean has to force himself into picking up a pen and writing down the title. That’s as far as he got with the whole reading business, but he’s not really sure he even gives a fuck. The likelihood of him ever getting this all done was slim anyway. He realised in the first week of the semester that this was the module that was going to bring all his averages down.

I’m fine, Dean.

Damn right. Dean sends, because it has a very slim chance of making Cas smile a bit, and because ‘I’m fine’ after five minutes is pretty much the least convincing thing Dean’s gotten all day. I’m making burgers for dinner .

Can we go out tonight?

Cas’ usual mechanism for dealing with things is sex, so the request isn’t really all that surprising, yet manages to surprise Dean anyway. Their quasi-flirting probably caused Dean to temporarily forget the part when they’re serial one-night standers and just friends , despite what everyone else in the world seems to think. It’s getting to a pretty serious state of cluster-fuck if Dean is almost forgetting that too, which is probably why it takes him such a long time to work out how to word the next message. He rewrites it three times, which is more than he did with his last three writing assignments, before he eventually bites the bullet and just sends it.

Anything you want

He has nothing to worry about. The text barely even says anything and, anyway, it can’t nearly be as appropriate as one second dick pictures and some of the filthy shit that comes out of Cas’ mouth sometimes. It’s fine.

Anything?

Dean types out a yeah before he turns off his phone and forces himself to concentrate on his work, mostly because his chest sort of hurts and he doesn’t want to deal with this right now.

*

Cas is completely intimidating.

Dean wouldn’t have put money on his new roommate being able to put the fear of God in him back when they first met, but Cas has this incredible ability to radiate displeasure and anger. Currently it’s more of a cocktail of irritation and frustration (not that Dean exactly blames his; he got the cliff notes of what’s happening vis a vis the Novaks, and with Cas still being pissed about Rockridge High and with Dean being an ass this morning and whatever it was that got to Cas last night… Dean would probably be pissed too), and it’s sabotaging his ability to pull.

The problem with Cas’ primary outlet being casual sex (since he ditched the weed and disapproves too much of Dean’s drinking to copy too much), is that Cas is at his least approachable when he’s stressed out. Dean’s been dealing with it for four years and he’s still not immune, so it takes a very special kind of stranger to see a pissed off Cas in a bar and think that it’s remotely a good idea to approach him, let alone sleep with him. As much as their combined reps for, well, being kinda slutty, usually makes them a target for others of a similar mind set, Cas’ social skills also take a hit when the guys’ really anxious.

Once, they got chucked out of a bar and banned for life because Cas accidentally made this poor girl cry about her father not loving her, or something. Dean had been laughing too hard to get the full story.

He’d left Cas go approach a group of girls alone about five minutes ago, because frankly Dean’s not really in the mood and he’s only out to supervise Cas, but if the expression on the blonde’s face is anything to go by he probably needed closer supervision on this particular misadventure.

He draws the line and going over there to help him out and orders them both another drink instead. If he had his way, they’d be marathon watching Game of Thrones and drinking whiskey out the bottle, but instead he’s pandering to Cas’ bad mood. It’s only going to end badly and Dean’s only going to wind up pissed off (and probably alone), but that’s not the point. Right now, Cas thinks this is what he needs.

“How’s it going, hot shot?” Dean asks, when Cas returns to his temporarily vacated seat looking homicidal. Dean wordlessly pushes the new beer in his direction.

"Between us we have slept with everyone acceptable on campus,” Cas says, taking up the second beer and clenching his fist around the neck of the bottle. He doesn’t catch Dean’s eye and he looks like he learnt how to sit from looking at a Victorian painting, but Dean’s pretty much used to it.

“Dude, that’s impossible,” Dean says, rolling his eyes, “What did you say to the nice lady? She looks kinda angry.”

“She doesn’t believe in bisexuality,” Cas says, heated, “And accused me of being in denial about my own sexual preference.”

“What did you do?” Dean asks, glancing over at the blonde. As much as she’s an idiot who should probably lose the ignorance and open her eyes a bit, he feels sorry for her because… talk about using a sledge hammer to crack nuts. Cas should not be allowed to try and teach people things when he’s in smite-mode, attractive as smite-mode is.

“I offered to give her the numbers of eleven men and nine women in my contact book who could vouch for my ability and excellency at bisexuality.”

“You kept that many numbers?” Dean asks, raising an eyebrow, “Really?”

“She then had the audacity to call me a slut.”

Dean sighs and presses a thumb to his forehead because, yeah, that’s not going to help with Castiel’s generally prissiness, nor is it going to help him laid. The two are pretty much reinforcing each other and Dean’s really not a good wingman to compensate (plus, Dean doesn’t think he has it in him; he doesn’t really want Cas to be sleeping around at this exact moment in time, even though he doesn’t know why that is). Cas just looks too angry. Kill-you-in-you-sleep, probably a serial killer type angry. The trench coat that Cas refuses to take off isn’t helping.

Personally, Dean’s always been an idiot and he’s always had a perchance for terrible decisions, so he’s pretty sure he’d approach Cas if he saw him looking like this in a bar. It’d probably be worth being killed in your sleep, too.

“You wanna go to gay bar?” Dean asks, “Lower chance of a repeat.”

“No,” Cas says, taking another passive aggressive sip of his drink. “I refuse to be driven out of an establishment because of one woman’s ignorance.”

Pretty much what Dean expected, but worth a shot.

“How’d she even know you were bi?” Dean sighs, because it’s certainly not something he throws out when chatting someone up in a bar. Not that he hides it or anything. Chances are most people around here already know , but people can be kind of funny about it. Dean’s lost track of the number of women who’ve assumed his gay just because, or have been turned completely off by some throwaway comment that alludes to him playing for both teams.

“I previously slept with her ex-boyfriend,” Cas seethes. Dean’s trying really hard not to laugh because it would happen on today of all days, but he doesn’t want to be in the firing line of Cas’ righteous anger. He’ll just stay here and appreciate the exact tilt of Cas’ angry frown from a slightly distance. “Who later came out as homosexual.”

“You were that good, huh?”

“Dean,” Cas complains, finally turning to meet his gaze, “Just because one individual –“

“– dude, are you forgetting I’m on your side?” Dean interjects, “And, yeah, the girl’s ignorant, but she’s most probably still bummed about her ex. Cas, she’d probably still hate you even if you were another woman. Forget about it.”

“I don’t understand why she still cares,” Cas says, grip on his beer loosening slightly, “He wasn’t a particularly memorable experience.”

“Maybe she liked him for the stimulating conversation,” Dean shrugs, running a finger over the top of his beer. “Looks like most of the girls here are her best buds though. You sure you don’t wanna head somewhere else?”

“No,” Cas said.

And that’s pretty much Cas' chances shot to hell.

Dean’s pretty much okay with that.

*

“Dunno what to tell you, man,” Dean says, nudging Cas with his arm as they walk back through their building and up to their apartment. Cas is still stiff posture and displeasure, but Dean has been trying damn hard all day, and now he’s done.

Cas will thank him one day for dragging him out of the bar earlier than he wished; when he’s de-sexually frustrated and less angry, generally, he’ll probable reassess and realise that Dean was doing them both a favour. He’s probably saved them both from being barred (not that that would have been fair; it clearly wasn’t Cas fault that the blonde girl decided to invite her boyfriend and his group of asshole mates to come join the party), and it’s one of the only decent places in reasonable walking distance.

“I mean, if the situation’s really desperate, I got a fully functioning dick.”

It’s meant to be another of those throw away marks that actually probably control gravity but that they’ve both been pretending are light and harmless anyway, but he’s pitched it all wrong. Cas isn’t in the mood.

He clears his throat to apologies for his dumb ass timing and his inability to make everything a-okay, but next thing Dean knows, he’s backed against a wall (a little forcefully, actually) with Cas so far into his personal space that he can feel the guys unsteady breathing.

“Don’t suggest things you have no intention of delivering,” Cas says, voice low and close even for their warped conceptions of personal space. He can feel the words vibrate through Castiel’s chest and heat up the slither of air between them, and Dean doesn’t really know what’s happening except that he’s not sure they could physically be closer if they tried.

“Oh, I’ll deliver. I’ll deliver all god damn night.”

Dean’s still aiming for light and airy because his brain hasn’t caught up with the situation, but he misses by several states anyway. His voice mangles the words even before Cas narrows his eyes at him.

Then Cas presses a hard, unyielding kiss to his lips and, yeah, apparently it is possible to be physically closer. And also, holy shit, Cas just kissed him. Like actually kissed him . With his lips.

"Really?” Cas demands.

He takes a few seconds to let the shock permeate through his skull and for his breathing to level out before he reacts. Holy crap.

“Yeah,” Dean says, pushing himself off the wall slightly because Cas isn’t giving him any room to manoeuvre. If they’ve crossed over into serious rather than joking around Dean doesn’t want to be late to the party just because he’s pinned against a wall, and if this is just an extended game of gay chicken Dean sure as hell ain’t losing. He has no intention of giving a moody Castiel the pleasure of backing down.

Dean grabs a handful of Cas’ trench coat and kisses him again. Cas didn’t really give him a chance to respond last time, which isn’t exactly fair play, but Dean’s not going to let that happen again.

He has a moment of huh that’s what Cas’ lips feel like , and then Cas’ hands are curling up in his hair, and he’s pushing into Dean’s personal space and curving a hand around his hip; and they’re stumbling back away from the wall and more into the corridor and Dean’s suddenly realising that they’re only just shy of completely fucking sober (they have a combined drink count of three beers). He’s pulling away slightly and muttering ‘Cas, Cas, Cas’ into the space whilst he tries to dig out his keys, then they’re shoved clumsily into the lock and the door opens.

Cas blinks at him like he’s expecting a rejection this side of the front door, but the hard line of tension in his shoulders has dissipated and Dean’s wracking his brain for the reason they shouldn’t do this and coming up with a blank and, anyway, now he knows the way Cas fucking clutches tight when necking Dean’s not entirely sure he could just put Cas back on the shelf and walk away. Not if Cas wants this because fuck does Dean want this. Cas.

“I’m cashing in my second viewing,” Dean mutters, and then Cas is all up in his personal space again, curving around him, lips pressed against his neck.

“I should be able to schedule longer than seven seconds,” Cas says, smarmy dick, as Dean kicks the front door shut and locks it with the hand that isn’t trying to get to the skin obscured by Cas’ shirt. Cas is pushy as fuck, and Dean’s backed against the front door before he’s realised that Cas is winning this bizarre territory war. Obviously, he can’t let Cas get away with that kind of move without a good fight, so he’s grinning and flipping their positions until Cas is backing him into their front room instead. It smacks of the same rhythm of all their interactions, with the familiar back and forth and it it’s… good. It’s really good… and Dean didn’t think it would be like this.

When he envisioned sex with Cas (which obviously he has done on multiple occasions before this moment) he hadn’t considered the possibility that Cas would still be throwing out lines, and that Dean would be laughing as Cas tried to chase his lips down for another kiss (looking half pissed but mostly just amused). His imaginings were just a being who looked a lot like Cas, stripped of everything that made him Cas but the odd intense gaze; it’s completely different to having the Cas who cooks him pizza and nags him about washing up undoing the buttons of Dean’s shirt like he’s wanted to strip him of it for years. Having Cas throwing out bad one liners and smiling at Dean’s jokes. It’s already in-fucking-credible and they’re still in the realms of PG-13 material, just because Dean hasn’t laughed whilst making out with someone for years.

It’s actually kind of revolutionary.

“Nine?” Dean quips back, until he’s up against the sofa (apparently Cas really wants him up against a solid surface; Dean’s surprisingly okay with it) and Cas is still pressing forward into personal space like Dean has any left to give up. He lets himself be pushed into leaning against the arm of the sofa even though Cas nags about that kind of shit all the time, as Cas steps into the space between his legs. It’s better than the front door, at any rate.

“Maybe even ten,” Cas says, serious as anything, as he goes for Dean’s belt. Dean watches his familiar hands on the buckle and, huh, this is an actual thing that is actually happening. It’s weird and not weird. A little surreal in part because it feels so normal. “You, however, have promised me ‘all god damn night.’”

“Anything for you man,” Dean grins, hands settling on Cas’ hips. He’s never had the opportunity to do so before. He’s not even sure he realised that he wanted to.

“Hmm,” Cas says. Another kiss. “You shouldn’t boast, Dean. I have very high expectations.”

“Oh, expect big things, Cas,”

“And you say my jokes are awful,” Cas says, but he’s smirking.

“You know how to shut me up, dude,” Dean grins, he’s fucking beaming, as Cas reconnects their lips again.

At the back of his mind he’s wondering whether all of Cas’ hook ups get treated to one of his wide, eye-crinkling smiles, but that’s a dilemma for another day.

Chapter Text

Waking up with an arm half slung around his roommate turned best friend (turned… something else? Maybe? Hell if Dean knows), butt naked and after a night of really frigging great sex doesn’t actually kick start the apocalypse. There’s no rain of fire. No plagues. His little brother is not banging on his door yelling ‘I told you not to sleep with your roommate’ (which had been Sam’s parting advice before Dean jumped ship and moved to college, although apparently Sam thought he’d been breaking that rule for ages). He’s not even freaking out.

Yet.

It’s surprisingly anti-climactic.

That is until Cas decides that Dean’s change in breathing means his probably awake, and suddenly Cas is looming over him with one of his usual post-sex smiles. Cas is all bedhead and bright blue eyes and, huh, Dean’s breath is hitching ever so slightly, because he’s seen Cas like this so many times, but he’s never been part of it before. Dean gets the morning afters, sure, but he doesn’t get Cas naked and sedate and smiling at him. It’s awesome.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas says, then he’s dipping forward to retrace the marks Cas suck or bit or whatever the hell else into his collar bone. And it’s not like Dean is going to complain because sex with Cas was amazing on some intense cosmic level; he’s not going to go all out and say it was the best sex he’s ever had, but it was definitely so far up the list that he’s probably in serious trouble.

Cas is dynamite in the sack, sure, but Dean’s pretty sure they’re just hella sexually compatible (he’s gotten the soundtrack to Cas fucking before and, Dean’s not one to brag, but either the walls between their bedrooms seriously muffle out some of the enthusiasm, or Cas was just enjoying it to a louder degree).

“Next time,” Cas says, hands running down over his sides and stopping at his ass, “I would like to fuck you.”

“Next time?” Dean asks, because as much as last night hadn’t been fuelled by alcohol (just sexual tension), they still hadn’t exactly talked about the fundamentals of what they were doing. He hadn’t gotten to the bit where he worked through whether there would be a next time, but… well, it seems Cas has ideas.

“Hmm,” Cas agrees, kissing his navel, hips, hands still curved around his ass (and Dean doesn’t exactly have the same level of intel about Cas, but this is certainly way more touchy feely than Dean tends to be on a morning after). “The time after this one.”

And, god damn, that’s Cas’ lips and teeth and tongue on his inner thigh, and Dean’s only just caught up on Cas’ intent. Apparently, Cas has a lot of ideas. It’s been a damn long time since he’s had morning-after sex. Hell, he rarely bothers to stay the night these days. He’d forgotten how fucking awesome it was to wake up next to someone who wasn’t quite done with you yet.

“Let me know whether my dick tastes better than my pancakes,” Dean says, because his estimated time of loss of coherency is about six seconds and he’d like Cas to know that he’s totally with the program. Cas likes consent to be as explicit as it can be without a formally written contract which, yeah, Dean totally gets and is more than happy to provide. Especially given the context.

Cas laughs, a rough deep thing that dislodges from his chest like it’s taken him by surprise.

“You might regret the number of times you’ve told me to blow you, Dean,” Cas says, thumb running along the crease of Dean’s thigh, looking up at him from his position between Dean’s legs like this isn’t some new aspect to their friendship. “Equally, the number of times you’ve told me to suck your dick.”

“Dude,” Dean says, “How many times have I gotta tell you it’s an expression?”

“Would you prefer if I didn’t?” Cas asks, and Dean’s rolling his eyes at the ceiling and shaking his head, because Cas is such a snarky little shit sometimes. A snarky little shit who’s probably going to be excellent at giving head, even though he doesn’t that often because of reasons that Dean can’t remember at precisely this second. He can think about it later, when Cas isn’t looking at him like that.

“Get on with it, man,”

Dean overestimated; it takes four seconds for him to loose coherency.

*

“You need a better alarm,” Dean says, eyes shut, as Cas slips out from under his arm for a second time. He forgot that Cas wound up with mostly early classes for this semester. And that college still even existed. And that they had other things to do then stay in Cas’ room and screw. “I don’t have to get up, right?”

“I would be very impressed if you managed to get up currently,”

Dean grabs a handful of Cas’ bicep to pull him back and kisses him, hard, just to make him stop talking. “Shut up,” Dean mutters into his lips, pinning the guy to the mattress because he fucking can. “Don’t be a dick.”

“I thought you liked my dick, Dean,” Cas says, hands curving up around Dean’s neck. Cas is grinning, still, and it’s making it hard to focus on the conversation.

“Yeah, sure, it’s lovely,” Dean says, before pulling himself away so Cas can actually get up and be a proper college student. He’d be pissed if Dean made him late for class, even in the name of more sex (although Cas is right; it’s not gonna happen any time soon). “M’ gonna go back to sleep.”

“But Dean,” Cas says, “How am I supposed to accurately rank your pancakes and your penis?”

“Repeat sampling,” Dean leers.

“You did promise me a season ticket,” Cas says, standing (still hella naked, for the record, and several rounds of fucking later it’s still difficult to keep his gaze in check; for some reason checking Cas out when they’re talking about breakfast seems a little sleazy, or like it might cross another line).

“Gotta take a few samples if you’re aiming for accuracy,” Dean says, shifting slightly to make himself more comfortable. His eyes are beginning to shut. He hasn’t woken up this early in ages. Realistically, he should set himself alarm lest he misses his PM lectures, because that’s really not acceptable.

“Perhaps I’ll make a pie chart,” Cas says, “I know how you like your pie,”

Dean’s laugh pulls him out of drowsiness and back into the present. Dean’s still chuckling when Cas raises an eyebrow and exits his bedroom because, damn, Cas is the best. And naked. Still very very naked.

He spends a few more seconds debating the issues before he drags his ass out of bed. Technically, he often makes Cas pancakes after the guy’s had a one night stand or casual sex with whoever, so it’s not completely out of the realms of normal for Dean to be up and making them breakfast. If he gets up now he can get some of his mountain-load of work done before lunchtime, which means he’ll have enough time to catch up with Doctor Sexy before his evening shift. And it makes more sense to get up if there’s a reason to get up, particularly being because Cas asked him for breakfast, so he doesn’t need to overthink it.

It doesn’t have to be loaded.

Just pancakes.

Preceded by sex.

Awesome.

*

“Dude,” Charlie says, as Dean zones out of their conversation for the fifth time in the past five minutes, “What’s with you today?” They already had the conversation about how Dean totally got laid last night (Charlie knows him too well, denying it would have been a car crash), and he doesn’t know why he lied about it being Cas, except that he’s pretty sure Charlie would have a lot to say about that. Particularly after he blew off all her questions about the party.

And, although conversation seems to point towards there being a repeat at some point in the future, Dean doesn’t really have a clue what’s going on. He’d thought that actual sex would be less confusing than dick pictures and flirting, but he’s pretty sure he was wrong about that.

“What?” Dean asks, glancing away from the road to catch her eye. “I’m driving you home. What more do you want from me, Bradbury?”

“A battle strategy and a cute girl’s number.”

“You’re the queen,” Dean says, “You don’t need me to get you numbers,”

“Preach,” Charlie says, “You sure you’re all good, Dean? This is putting like, thirty minutes onto your drive.”

“You want me to turn back around and ditch you outside of school?” Dean asks, grip tightening on the steering wheel.

“You avoiding going home, Winchester?” Charlie counters.

“No,”

“So Cas is still being a douchewad?”

“It’s family stuff,” Dean says. It’s better to grab a hold of Charlie’s assumption than go into the ins and outs of what’s really happening. Not least because the ins and outs are probably too much information for Charlie to handle. “You know what Cas is like with family stuff.”

Mostly, though, it’s the fact that three mutual orgasms and a lot of nudity later, and Dean is suddenly nervous . Nervous in a first-date-I-feel-sick kind of way. The kind of nervous Dean thought he’d grown out of eight years ago.

It’s completely irrational. He’s aware of that. Cas knows him to his bones. It wasn’t awkward last night, or this morning, and he has no reason to believe that it’s suddenly going to get awkward when he walks back into that apartment.

“You and him both,” Charlie agrees, and then she drops it. Thank fuck. “You’re coming next Wednesday, right?”

He’s not out of the woods yet. Charlie’s probably only leaving it because they’re practically on her street and she’s sure to pick up the conversation at a later point, but maybe later he won’t feel like he’ll throw up if he eats and will be able to stop overthinking every possible way the imminent conversation with Cas could go.

“Wednesday?”

“Dude, the end of campaign party.”

“Another party?” Dean grimaces, before rearranging his face at the sight of Charlie’s expression. Given they made it to the last one for a grand total of thirty five minutes, he can’t exactly pretended he’s overdosed on the socialising thing. “Yeah, fine.” Dean says, pulling in to the curb, “Get out of here before I change my mind.”

“I owe you for the lift, bro,”

“Let’s call it a freebie,” Dean rolls his eyes, but then Charlie’s out the car and he’s left alone in his shitty car with his thoughts.

And why does he have so many thoughts, again? Dean’s been trying to preach the gospel that sex isn’t that big of a deal for an age, and Cas has been right there with him. Casual sex is what they do. They have a rep for it. If anything, Dean should be doing the math and coming up with a success story.

The sex was awesome.

Mind blowing, let’s do this again immediately awesome. Especially this morning which, really, shouldn’t have been all that remarkable for what it was… except, fucking Castiel with his mouth and his morning after cockiness. It’s actually a little tragic that Cas reports not to give blow jobs that often, because it’s clearly one of those things that Cas is unfairly good at. Even if a part of Dean that he’s trying to suffocate is sort of pleased, which is irrational and unfair and not to be dwelled upon.

He’s still oddly nervous when he pulls up outside their apartment block fifteen minutes later. He gives himself the length of half a song to get a grip on himself, because the main problem here is that Dean overcompensates when he’s nervous. Cas has seen him, bumbling and awkward, on enough occasions (back when they first started living together, and Dean was still trying to get a handle on the whole sexuality thing), to be able to see right through it. Dean is going to walk back into their apartment, say something jerk-ish and awful, and Cas is going to narrow his eyes at him and think why did I sleep with this Neanderthal? quickly followed by why is he making this into a big deal? and then should I move out?

Oh, God, what has he done?

He should have demanded Charlie invite him in to play video games and get drunk, because Castiel is terrifying and hilarious and fucking beautiful, and he’s his roommate and his best friend and the second most important person in Dean’s life, and last night they fucked on the sofa. And then in Cas’ room because Dean’s room is a perpetual mess.

Like his life.

In the end, he settles on a muted “Hey.” Cas is sat at their tiny kitchen table bent over one of his books and a stack of precisely written notes, but he glances up and half smiles at Dean in the doorway.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas says, because Cas always says that, but he doesn’t glance back down at his notes like he usually does. Dean’s not sure what he’s supposed to read into that or even if he’s supposed to be reading into anything, so he settles on heading for the coffee.

“How was… uh, how was your day?” Dean asks. He’s aiming for normal-conversation that best friends have, generally, not post-fucking conversations, but Dean’s pretty sure he hasn’t asked Cas such a formal version of that question since the first month they met.

Cas is looking at him. Dean is actually flushing slightly. Goddamn.

“The beginning was excellent, although it went downhill from eleven onwards.”

Cas is throwing him a bone here, and it’s a fucking miracle. His gut is twisting slightly because of course Cas is helping him out, because Cas has had his back for years. They’ve got this.

“Really? How come?” Dean asks, turning to face Cas as the coffee maker does its thing. Cas has his amused-but-not-quite-smiling look on, and apparently they’re going to be flirting their way out of this rut. Fine by Dean. It’s slightly better than pretending that it never happened, with the added bonus that it might lead to more fucking.

“I got laid,” Cas deadpans.

“And how was that for you?” Dean asks, mock serious but mostly just smirking at him. He’s so relieved that they’re not awkwardly skirting around each other that he’d probably talk about anything, but he’s not above digging for compliments anyway. Besides, this is normal day after a one night stand talk, so there at least converging on one of their norms.

“Hmm,” Cas says, “Above average.”

“Fucking cheek,” Dean shoots back, “Average, my ass.”

“No, Dean, above average ,” Cas corrects, “And no one would ever accuse your ass of being average, I assure you.”

“I’m awesome,” Dean says, “In the top ten of best sex you’ve ever had, without a doubt. Quit selling me short.”

“You’re very confident,”

“That’s because I’m damn good,” Dean returns, “You want coffee?” Cas nods. “You’re just downplaying my amazing skill so I’ll prove it to you again. I see what you’re doing, Novak,” Dean says, as he pours the coffee. “And I’m not that easy.”

“How do you propose I talk you back into my bed, then?” Cas asks, standing up to pluck his coffee from the sideboard, settling in Dean’s personal space and turning the trademark blue stare at him.

“Flattery,”

“Top five,”

“That’s more like it,” Dean says, taking the coffee straight back of Cas’ hands (the guy hasn’t even had a sip yet, and Dean hasn’t either, but why would he have coffee if he could have Cas?) so he can get his hands on his hips again. Damn, but Cas is frigging cute with the smudge of ink on his neck and the curious frown. Dean’s always thought of him in terms of being hot, but Cas is god damn adorable as well. It’s really not fair, because he’s always been hopeless with cute guys, and especially hopeless when it comes to Cas. Damn.

“Dean,” Cas says, frown deepening, “This morning, when I said –”

“– that you wanted to fuck me?” Dean suggests, raising his eyebrows. “Yeah, I remember you mentioning something about that.”

“I am aware that you’ve often professed to discomfort about bottoming and,” Cas swallows, and Dean hasn’t seen him this uncomfortable in about forever, and it’s sort of fascinating. “I would not wish for you to think that….”

“Chill, dude,” Dean smiles, “It wasn’t exactly a written contract and, you know, you may have mentioned consent once or twice over the past couple of years. I know, Cas, its okay.”

“Well?”

“I…” Dean considers, digging his fingers deeper into Cas’ hips, pulling him closer, “Rain check on that, but…by my maths, I reckon I owe you for this morning.” He’s half expecting Cas to give him one of those lectures about expectations and how sex doesn’t work like that, but he just quirks his eyebrows up slightly instead. “So, you want me to suck your dick before or after dinner?”

“Are you making dinner?”

“I cooked breakfast,” Dean says, and Cas fucking pouts. “Dude, you’re the worst flatmate ever. Like, I don’t even remember the last time you cleaned. When you gonna cook me another pizza?”

“Blow me, Dean,” Cas bites back, in a half perfect imitation of Dean’s own comeback, and Dean’s still frigging chuckling as he undoes Cas’ slacks.

*

They’re like, six or seven orgasms into this thing, and they’ve literally just finished fucking on the sofa (“Dean, hurry up", “Slow and face to face, like I said Cas.”), when Dean realises he doesn’t have a damn clue what they’re supposed to do next.

After the first time (with a second thrown in there, sort of), they’d just crashed out in Cas’ bed and fallen asleep like normal people. Morning after, they’d had pancakes and Cas had disappeared to go do his degree or whatever. The time after Dean had suddenly re-remembered about his shift at work and wound up manically getting presentable whilst Cas cooked the quickest dinner he could think of. Then there was the second instance of them both staying in Cas’ room, and the quickie that didn’t work out so quick and wound up with Dean driving Cas into college four hours earlier than Dean needed to be there, so Cas wouldn’t be late.

Now, though, it’s Sunday afternoon and neither of them have anywhere to be, or rush off too, and given Dean didn’t crawl out of bed until half twelve, going back to sleep isn’t really an option either. Cas is sort of distractedly teasing out the knots in Dean’s back, and Dean’s not entirely sure whether the guy knows he’s doing it or not, but he’s slightly uncomfortable because he’s so comfortable.

They’re pretty gross in that post-sex way, and most of Dean’s weight is just on Cas, which really can’t be that comfy for Cas (the guy’s strong, yeah, but Dean is pretty heavy), and they will probably need to move at some point in the near future but… what then?

Normally, it’s pretty easy. Encounters of casual sex tend to end when the sex does, so after a period of recovery time you skip straight to the goodbye, or you sleep. Simple.

Cas isn’t going anywhere until Monday. They’re probably going to get a take away and watch a movie like they do most Sunday evenings, except before that there’s got to be some kind of transitory period where they stop being naked and on top of each other. Probably. It’s not a requirement so much as it’s highly recommended, because blending the hanging out and the sex would mean things.

Is he allowed to kiss Cas right now? Is he supposed to? Would it be weird because they’re not leading up to more sex?

“Well,” Cas says, breaking the silence. Their breathing evened out about a minute ago, but since then they’ve just been looking each other whilst Dean freaks the hell out, and Cas’ touch keep ghosting over Dean’s back like his fingers hadn’t been raking over Dean’s skin, hungry and desperate, only a few minutes ago. “My previous ascertain was correct; that was lovely.”

Dean snorts and instantly feels slightly better, although he doesn’t know what to do with his hands anymore. Still, Cas, who’s social skills aren’t exactly legendary, somehow always knows the right thing to say. It’s pretty miraculous, actually, and it’s probably the only reason Dean hasn’t royally fucked this whole thing up yet.

“Yeah, well, if the wind changes we’re gonna get stuck like this,” Cas tilts his head at him like he’s finally gone bat shit crazy, and Dean’s reminded that Cas’ family must have never used metaphors or idioms or common sayings, because Cas doesn’t get them. He’s the most literal person that Dean’s ever met. “It’s just, from a thing, forget it.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s just something dumb thing parents say,” Dean says, as Cas’ mouth twists in confusion. “Well, sort of. You know, don’t make that face, if the wind changes you might get stuck like that.”

“Why would it –?”

“It wouldn’t, okay? It’s just one of those lies your Mom tells you to make you behave,” Cas gets halfway to forming a word before Dean cuts him off. “Look, man, we’re butt naked and we’re frigging gross, and we are not talking about my Mom right now. Or about how literal you are.”

“Okay, Dean,” Cas says, “What are we going to talk about?”

Realistically, they should talk about this. Dean can remember at least four occasions when some teenager has asked for Cas’ own personal opinion about repeated casual sex with a person, and Cas’ answer has always been pretty similar; not a problem as long as both parties know the boundaries of the arrangement, both parties are honest about whether they’re sleeping with anyone else, and that everyone’s being safe.

They have one out of three, at least.

It’s only been like a week since they started this thing, and Dean hasn’t really had the time or the inclination to sleep with anyone else (Cas now holds most of the positions in his best-sex-ever hall of fame, and Cas is at home all the time, and Cas knows him and, well, he’s Cas ), but Cas must have done. Cas not hooking up for a whole week means it’s midterms or finals or the end of the world.

The boundary thing is a complete unknown to Dean, and that’s the cause of at least most of his stress headaches (which always seem to ebb away when Cas kisses him again), but he’s just not sure he can take Cas coolly delivering a list of terms and conditions. It sounds like the kind of thing that would break him.

“We really gotta talk?” Dean asks, throat tightening.

“No.”

“Actually, I’m gonna, uh, go do some work,” Dean says, except he’s still not sure about the protocol vis a vis kissing Cas.

He wants to, and he’s pretty sure he’s kissed the guy with it not relating directly to sex before (in post-coital situations), but he doesn’t trust himself not to fall into it and wind up necking on the sofa for hours. Anyway, a goodbye kiss is different to a shut up kiss. Making out without screwing is a whole different ball park. Hell, it’s a god damn different league.

Dean winds up hovering for a few seconds whilst Cas blinks at him with those fatal baby blues (they are unnatural), before he makes the most awkward get away of all time. Detangling himself from Cas is difficult enough, and he misses the warmth and touch almost immediately, but picking out his items of clothing with Cas staring at him is worse. He doesn’t really want to walk around their apartment naked because that seems pretty awkward right about now, so he pulls on his jeans with Cas still watching, in a bizarre reverse strip tease. It’s probably the same level of awkward. He leaves his t-shirt off.

He’d make a joke about it, except suddenly it’s not funny. Cas is naked and not smiling on the sofa, and Dean’s heading to his room because he doesn’t know how two best friends who are now also sleeping together differentiate between the bits of time when their fucking and the bits of time when they’re doing everything else. Short of leaving the room as he-who-sleeps-with-Cas and entering the room as he-who-pays-half-the-bills, Dean doesn’t know how you make the transition.

And, really, he’d like to have shifted their positions so Dean was more on the sofa and less on Castiel, switched on the television and watched crap shows for hours, with the pads of Cas’ fingertips continuing to trace up and down his spine. They wouldn’t have had to get dressed until they ordered food, and then jeans would be sufficient to pacify the delivery guy. They could have vegged out on the sofa, pressed up against each other, and dissecting all the shit TV until they wound up lazily fucking again.

Except, that’s not on the cards. If he pushes this too far Cas is going to retreat back into his headspace lightening quick, and Dean Winchester will wind up on the sexual regret list.

Dean face plants down on the centre of his bed and decides to dedicate the next hour and a half to his own personal pity party.

Chapter Text

As much as Cas is great a whole number of things (teaching sex ed to teenagers, cooking pizza, blow jobs etc.), sometimes he is a frigging terrible roommate.

Mostly, Dean’s irritation only flares up when there’s something else pissing him off. He can deal with Cas’ transparent deadline excuse every time something that might involve bleach or scrubbing comes up, and he can deal with Cas’ apparent inability to put his stupid trench coat in his room , or at least somewhere that isn’t the back of the sofa, because in return he gets Cas . Sure, he gives Dean hell every time he leaves dishes on the side for more than ten minutes whilst he leaves his crap everywhere, and Dean’s ninety percent sure he’s never cleaned the bathroom or the oven or the goddam floor , but generally having Cas around is worth it.

Cas cooks occasionally, they split the grocery buying just about equally, and he usually picks up the slack on the bill paying whilst Dean waits to get paid. He’s not the worst, by any means, but he’s no angel, either.

And right now, Cas is really fucking pissing him off.

Dean swears to God that Cas isn’t usually in their apartment this much. He’s everywhere. He’s taking up the whole kitchen table with his notes or he’s watching TV on the sofa, or he’s taking too long in the fucking shower. They live in each other’s pockets most of the time, yeah, but Cas is permanently in his personal space like he owns it, and even when he can’t take it anymore and he storms off to the library, or to Charlie’s, he can’t stop thinking about the guy.

Not even about the whole sex thing (although, that too). Dumb stuff. Running over in-jokes they’ve had for years. Conversations they had about their families when drunk or high (Cas) or just emotionally spent, and how easy they were. The expressions in Cas’ arsenal, and how some of them piss him off and some that just make him instantly happy. He spent a whole getaway drive to Charlie’s place grinning about the look of concentration Cas gets when he’s trying to understand how someone could possibly be that ignorant. Then he sat in front of Charlie’s road, furious with himself, because Jesus what’s wrong with him?

He needs some time to think and reassess, but he just can’t catch a break.

He gets home and Cas is usually already there, and then they either end up screwing (because Dean is the worst person alive) or they don’t, but either way he has at least six or seven hours of straight Cas time before he can reasonably go to bed. And, yeah, hanging out with Cas is one of the best parts of Dean’s life (and, actually, the sex probably is too at this point), and at times he lives and breathes for their familiar back and forth and marathon TV nights, but Cas is so far under his skin right now he’s scraping across every single one of Dean’s nerves. He hates himself for it because he’s fully aware that it’s probably not actually Castiel’s fault, of course it isn’t, because Dean is stressed out about at least sixteen other things and he’s projecting.

Plus, Dean’s being an asshole about it. He’s not sure whether he’s trying to pick a fight for the sake of it, or whether he is as angry as he’s been acting (periodically; he keeps swapping from being damn near jovial to being a bitch), but Cas is being unduly patient. Even more so than usual, and that’s only irritating him even further.

“Cas,” Dean demands, throwing the guys’ bedroom door open, “If you want to listen to your fucking whale music, or whatever hippy shit this is, there are these things called headphones.” Cas, clad in sweat pants and nothing else, looks up at him from where he’s sitting cross legged on his bed. “This better not be some of that weird yoga crap.”

“Hello Dean,” Cas says, calm and unflappable.

“Just, turn it the fuck down, all right.” Dean exhales, counting to ten and then twenty and then right the way to infinity. Dean has this assignment that he’s running horrifically behind on because he suddenly realised that the rent was nearly due and panic picked up shifts. It would have showed up on his radar sooner, but he’s spent the past week and a half screwing Cas, and the weeks before that caught in the possibility of screwing Cas. Not really Cas’ fault. It is his fault that he’s blasting out his god damn music unnecessarily loud, though, because Cas knows full well that Dean is skipping all his lectures to get this thing done before his deadline at midnight. It’s Cas’ fault that Dean asked him to please clean the kitchen, because it’s awful and gross and Dean doesn’t have the time, and Cas nodded along like Dean was being reasonable and then proceeded not to clean the god damn kitchen . Dean can easily blame him for being loud enough in the morning to wake up half the damn state. He could probably even blame him for giving him one of those smiles when Dean’s explicitly said, look, we have twenty minutes before I have to get back to work, to have Cas promise that he’ll be quick (Dean is entirely sure that Cas has never, ever been a quick lay and Dean just never learns).

So, whilst Dean can’t exactly yell at Cas for being the most glorious distraction Dean’s ever had, he can yell at him for everything else.

“I was attempting to drown out the sound of you swearing at your laptop.”

“Screw you, man,” Dean says, but he’s lost his heat. He’s no good at being mad at Cas too his face, especially when he’s so conflicted about the whole thing in the first place. He’d really like to mock Cas about his dumb taste in music and make another attempt at getting Cas’ musical education back on track, but he just doesn’t have time, and he’s too uptight anyway. He’d just wind up yelling about Led Zeppelin.

“I told you I could cover your portion of the rent,”

“I’m not a god damn charity.”

“It’s a loan.”

“Don’t you think you do enough Cas?” Dean snaps. Cas’ eyes narrow slightly and his shoulders slant into that I’m-not-going-to-speak-my-mind-but-I-want-to look which is one of the ones that pisses Dean off, because usually it means that he’s dealing with Castiel-high-and-mighty who’s letting Dean off one some small charge because Dean’s too much of an imbecile to know better. Whatever.

“Ask Bobby,”

“Too late, dude, I already worked the shifts. Now if you could turn off whatever this assault to the definition of music is, maybe I could get my fucking assignment done.”

“I thought you wanted me to turn it down,” Cas says, the picture of innocence and calm.

“Fuck this,” Dean snaps, “Fuck you, Cas.”

He doesn’t slam the door as much as he lets it shut forcibly, before he’s storming over to his room and shoving all his crap in his bag. He can’t be here right now. He’s going to say something he regrets that Cas is going to crucify him over later, and he just wants his work done so he can tell at least one portion of this cluster fuck to go screw itself.

“Where are you going?” Cas asks, following him into the main room.

“Library,” Dean grunts. He’s biting back six different variations of ways to pin his abrupt exit on Cas which is probably for the best, even though he can feel all the repressed barbs churning in his gut. “I’ll meet you at Charlie’s.”

“I’m not going,”

“You’re not… you’re not going,” Dean says, flat, “And you were gonna tell me this, when?”

“I had been intending to tell you when you were in a better mood,” Cas says, raising a challenging eyebrow. Dean’s always thought there’s a special place in hell reserved for people who bring up the fact that someone’s in a bad mood whilst they’re still in it, like Dean hasn’t noticed his desire to punch something. Sammy used to do it all the time, but it’s also the kind of passive aggressive bullshit that Cas would buy into. “As that seems unlikely…”

“Fine,” Dean says, because he refuses to take the bait (particularly when he’s like seven hours away from his deadline), “If I see your best buddy Hannah, I’ll be sure to pass on your regards.”

Cas’ gaze flashes. Dean’s not really sure why that would be the comment that finally hits the mark, but he gets approximately two seconds of intense blue anger before Cas whirls around and slams his bedroom door behind him.

“And clean the god damn kitchen!” Dean yells after him.

Cas cranks the volume of his crappy music up.

*

Cas texts him asking how his work’s going two and a half hours before his official deadline, and Dean’s too exhausted and spent to bother keeping up the pretence of anger. Anyway, this is all just surface anger. It’s the kind of stuff that Dean wouldn’t bother counting as an argument, really, because living with people is just hard, and apparently it’s harder if you’re sleeping with them and sort of conflicted about it too.

Who knew?

He replies with the truth (that he’s going to finish but he’s probably going to get a shitty mark) and he gets an apology for the loud (crap) music and the kitchen. Cas isn’t very good at apologising, generally, so it actually goes a long way to cut Dean’s irritation off at source. He at least feels vindicated enough that he also feels vaguely ashamed about being such a bitch.

Sorry I’ve been such a douchebag . Dean sends back, forty five minutes later, when self-regulation says he’s next allowed to use his phone. The deadline for online submission is technically midnight, but he’s been aiming to hand it in by eleven and then head straight to Charlie’s party as promised. It sucks that Cas won’t be there, but he could probably use some time socialising that doesn’t directly involve the guy, as that’s most of the problem at the moment.

You’re not nearly as irritating as you think you are Cas replies, when Dean’s one and a half sentences away from finishing. Although admittedly more frustrating .

Dean pauses to send sexually frustrating? ;) because he’s so nearly finished he can taste it. Then he types out one final sentence and, fucking yes, he’s actually done it. It’s going to be a long way off his best grade ever, but he doesn’t feel like it’s the worst. He won’t fail, at least, and that’s all he really cares about right now. He texts Cas a capitalized FINISHED!!!! and stretches out his aching hands. If he were a little more optimistic, he’d probably try and make a pact with himself that this kind of thing won’t happen again… but it will, undoubtedly, so there’s no point torturing himself over it.

Cas sends him a deadpan hallelujah and then reminds him to check it over. Cas, at least, cares about basic typos. Begrudgingly, he scrolls back up to the top of the word document and reads from the top, because Cas is usually right about this kind of thing.

*

Given that Cas’ texts dried up just after Dean said that he was chatting to Crowley and that the guy actually wasn’t as bad as he’s previously expected, Dean had sort of assumed that Cas has gone to bed. Anyway, after the (debatably reasonable) a-grade douchebag treatment Dean was handing out earlier, he hadn’t really been expecting Cas to show his face when Dean got in.

As it turns out, Cas is sprawled across most of the sofa with the television turned up to an obscenely high level, cradling a bottle of whiskey (specifically Dean’s whiskey, but he made a silent resolution at Charlie’s that he was going to stop being mad at the guy, so he won’t bring it up).

Also, he’s cleaned the kitchen.

Also, he’s watching frozen .

“How’s it going, Cas?” Dean asks, raising an eyebrow at the doorway. He feels lighter than he’s felt in days. It’s in part because he’s got enough money rolling in next week that he’ll be able to make the rent payment, and because he’s finally got the assignment done (albeit fairly badly), but he thinks it’s mostly just having an afternoon off from dealing with this stuff with Cas. He’s had a chance to shift back into neutral and reground himself.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas says. It’s his very-drunk voice, and Dean’s not sure whether he was expecting it or not. The whiskey was a fairly sure indication but… well, getting wasted off someone else whiskey whilst watching frozen is hardly expected for a fairly well-adjusted adult (student) male.

“Budge up, man,” Dean says, approaching the sofa with a vague feeling of trepidation, but nudging Cas over anyway. Cas makes a big show of moving but only manages to clear about three inches of space, so Dean sits on the arm of the sofa instead. He reckons Cas is too pissed to get prissy about damaging sofa-arms and, anyway, their sofa has got a lot worse treatment since they started sleeping together.

“I thought you disliked Frozen.”

“I don’t know what the hell kind of breakdown this is, but clearly it’s something,” Dean says, “And that’s my whiskey you’re knocking back so, yeah, you got company.”

“How was the party?” Cas asks, well slurs, looking up at him with eyes all blue and slightly unfocused.

“Kinda missed you,” Dean returns, because Cas isn’t going to remember this in the morning anyway, and it’s true. Drunk-Cas gives him a weak smile and actually shifts enough to give him some sitting room. The second he moves into it he has a Cas half sprawled across his lap but, whatever. Worst things have happened. “Pass me that,” Dean says, taking the whiskey bottle and taking a swig. It’s the nice stuff that Bobby bought him for Christmas and it’s far too nice to drink straight out the bottle, but Cas started the trend and it’s pointless not to uphold it now.

“Dean,” Cas says, blinking up at him, serious, “Do you want to build a snowman?”

Jesus.

“That some kind of euphemism?” Dean asks, putting the whiskey bottle down (out of Cas’ reach) and shifting into the space Cas gave up by basically lying on him. He then gets Cas trying to pull him into a more horizontal position than he’s currently in, and Dean relents mostly because it’s easier. He’s hoping it will shut him up, in part, but then again he never really needed much of an excuse to be close to Cas.

“What would the snowman elude to in this euphemism?” Cas asks, his lips seeming to find it more difficult to coordinate his usual deadpan delivery, but he makes a good attempt at it anyway. They’ve spent so much time drunk together it’s sort of ridiculous, but Dean’s still not over how frigging brilliant all of Cas’ mannerisms are when the sharp edges are blurred by alcohol. They could probably do this forever and it would still make Dean smile.

“Dunno,” Dean says, “Think you’re probably overthinking it, man.”

Cas hums in consideration, then he’s suddenly reaching out and cupping Dean’s jaw, just staring at him.

It’s one of those moments that Dean feels like he could probably be content to live in. Really, the moment has no right to be cutting this deep, because it’s just one of hundreds with a few slight variants; sure, Dean’s usually the one most likely to get drunk, but Cas isn’t exactly teetotal. He has a whole stockpile of memories where one or the other of them is drunk, watching some stupid program on TV on this very sofa. The physical closeness is probably more laden with intention and stuff now (probably, anyway, or that might have all just been better suppressed previously), but they’ve screwed on this sofa, and in both of their rooms, and sort of in the kitchen, all of which feels like it should be more intimate and more significant than this moment. He’s just… he’s just really happy right this second, and it’s sort of shocking.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas says, again. Beyond Dean’s peripheries there’s another criminally catchy song starting, and it’s probably about something that is worth a disparaging comment or seven, but in his line of vision there’s just Cas. “You haven’t shaved today,” Cas comments, running a thumb over the rough skin of his cheek.

“Haven’t showered, either, wanna call the personal grooming police?”

“I must have lost their number,”

“You probably blocked them after they rang you up about your chronic bedhead,” Dean shoots back, straining to ruffle the guys hair because any physical gesture he goes for right now is still going to be less weird than the prolonged face cradling.

His hand doesn’t leave Cas’ hair, though, and Dean doesn’t even have the whiskey excuse. So now they’re just sort of holding each other’s heads, which is weird by anyone’s standards (even if Cas doesn’t seem to have noticed), and it’s only marginally better when Dean drops his hand to the back of his neck. It’s still just… drawn out gestures and a little bit too much physical intimacy.

“If it were a euphemism,” Cas says, “Would you be interested in building a snowman?”

“Wow,” Dean says, raising an eyebrow, “Seriously, man, I have no idea how you ever got laid before me. Want me to teach you some of my lines?”

“Shut up,” Cas smiles, and kisses him. He tastes of whiskey and he’s sloppier than usual, but these are languid, lazy, not-really-going-anywhere-kisses anyway. Dean gets to run his thumb over the nape of Cas’ neck and trace out his curves through clothes and it’s nice, actually, in different way to their other sexual-run ins. Whilst he wouldn’t go as far as to say that there’s no heat behind it, there’s no urgency. No destination.

He’ll overthink all this later.

“We’re missing the movie,” Cas says, pulling away a few minutes later.

“God forbid,” Dean rolls his eyes, “Anyway, you started it.”

“Shush, Dean,” Cas says, settling against him, a warm, heavy weight. Dean buries his face in Cas’ vaguely whiskey scented shoulder, and tells himself its because he doesn’t want to watch the stupid movie.

“You good?” Dean asks, a few minutes later, because it’s not really normal for Cas to skip out on a party to clean the kitchen and get very drunk in front of a Disney film. He’s not sure whether he’s more concerned about the Disney or the cleaning, but either way Dean’s pretty sure it’s at least partially his fault. It usually is.

“I am good,” Cas affirms, “Are you… good?”

“I’m awesome,” Dean says, half-unconsciously pulling Cas a little closer, “Look, man, I’m sorry about all the anger management shit. Dunno why you put up with my crap.”

“It’s for your dick,” Cas says, intonation flat, but with a smile creeping up on the corners of his lips. Drunk-Cas is a lot looser and freer than normal, and it’s always been sort of awesome. “Preferably in my ass.”

“Alright, Shakespeare, enough with the poetry.”

“I could write poetry about your dick, Dean,” Cas says, and Dean really hopes he’s taking the piss, but he’s smirking into Cas’ shoulder anyway. “Would you like a haiku?”

“Think you’ll need something with more syllables.”

“This makes me very happy,”

“What? Illicitly drinking my whiskey or bad Disney movies?” Dean asks, suppressing the third option of ‘talking about my dick whilst snuggling on the sofa’ because he doesn’t really want to mention the fact that this is very much cuddle territory.

“I did clean the kitchen,”

“That’s your defence for nicking my alcohol? Dude, you need to reread the roommate manual,” Dean says, but he presses a kiss under Cas’ earlobe anyway, “Gold star for Castiel for cleaning.”

“I will wear it with pride,”

“Don’t lose it. You probably won’t get another.”

“Dean,” Cas says, “The movie.

“You’re fucking ridiculous,” Dean mutters into Cas’ skin. Cas has always been ridiculous. The kind of person Dean would have given shit to at high school back when he was screwed up and hurting (or at least, more so), because Cas just doesn’t seem to care about what people think. Well, he cares about what Dean thinks. Probably too much, frankly, but the wider general public’s opinion are just a point of irrelevance. And Dean’s always wanted to be like that but never quite got there, because he’s too caught up in how people see him and being a certain kind of person and never quite hitting the mark.

“Dean,” Cas says, when Dean’s near enough fallen asleep with his face still tucked into Cas’ shoulder, lulled into it by the steady rhythm of Cas’ breathing pressed up against him. “The movie has finished.”

“Shit happens,” Dean half sighs, unconsciously following Cas’ warmth as the guy turns around to face him.

“We should watch Enchanted next.”

“Over my dead body,” Dean says, pealing his eyelids open to get an eyeful of Cas, still drunk and uncoordinated, blinking up at him. “What the fuck even is Enchanted?”

“It’s very Meta,”

“That’s it,” Dean says, pulling himself upwards into a sitting position even though it means a certain lack of Cas pressed up against him, “You’re banned from hanging out with Charlie.”

Cas sits up too, swaying ever so slightly in the process.

“You ain’t the boss of me,” Cas says, voice so clearly mocking that Dean’s smiling at him without express permission from his brain.

“You’re such a dork,”

Cas surges forward then, curling one hand around the back of Dean’s neck to pull him into a kiss. This isn’t like the last though, which was mellow and in and of itself, this one has intent and bite and heat. Lots of intention. Cas is extra pushy when he’s drunk.

“Whoa, there Cas,” Dean says, pulling away and closing a hand over the guy’s shoulder to hold him away from him. “You’re drunk,” Dean tells Cas’ confused pout.

“And?”

“And I'm sober,” Dean says, “Consent 101, sweetheart."

“Then drink,” Cas implores, which is amusing enough that Dean’s smiling at Cas petulant expression. He’s always known that Cas is a needy fucker, but he really can’t wait to remind Cas of this at some point.

“Sorry, man, that’s not how it works. No big ideas, Novak, I’ve got an eye out for any wondering hands.”

Cas is sulky enough to insist that he can stand by himself, but obviously hasn’t done so for a good few hours. Evidentially, the guy overshot his ability to get to bed on his own by at least four measures of whiskey, so it’s a good job that Dean’s on hand to help out.

“Easy, tiger,” Dean mutters, steering Cas towards his room. He’s done this before but not for a while, and it’s weirder now Cas pulls off his t-shirt, unabashed, and Dean can see a faded mark he sucked into the guy’s collarbone a couple of days ago. Honestly, Dean should probably be accustomed to how Cas’ body looks by now, but it still always floors him for a moment. Cas looks damned good.

“I am sorry about drinking your whiskey,”

“No problem,” Dean says, “Jeans off, too, you’ll be more comfortable.”

“You’re just,” Cas pauses, using all his concentration to yank his jeans over his hips, “Trying to get me naked.”

“Sure,” Dean agrees, “You’re hot stuff. I’ll get you some water for when you wake up.”

“Stay,” Cas says, just as Dean’s turned to the door. Dean freezers because, shit, he’s not sure he can deal with this. Cas is patting the side of his bed, gesture exaggerated by drunkenness, and god but he really wants to. He was embarrassingly comfortable on the sofa before and the idea of having Cas, warm and breathing, next to him all night sounds frigging incredible…. But, he can’t, can he? Cas will be confused why he’s there in the morning, particularly if he remembers Dean turning down the sex, and…. Well, that comes with a whole bunch of other stuff.

There are lines. Probably.

“Quit giving me the bedroom eyes, Cas, I’m trying to think,”

“You are overthinking,” Cas says, “Get in my bed.”

“Cas, I… I can’t stay,” Dean says, frowning. Cas’ expression tilts into vulnerable disappointment for a good few seconds before he flips over into neutral. Dean’s seen him derail any open emotion to know full well that it’s just a façade, but he doesn’t know what real choice he has. Drunk and vulnerable Cas might want him in his bed, but sober Cas probably doesn’t. Not without them fucking first, and that’s not gonna happen.

“Fine,”

“Cas,” Dean mutters, but Cas has already laid down and forced his eyes shut. “Not trying to be an ass man, I just…” He gets nothing back, because apparently Cas is now pretending to be asleep, so Dean swallows back a fresh dose of self-loathing, gets Cas a glass of water and crawls back into his own bed.

He’s pretty sure doing the right thing isn’t supposed to make you feel quite this shitty.

Or lonely.

*

He wakes up to the sound of Cas vomiting.

Their bathroom is squashed between their two bedrooms, so there’s always been a degree of noise pollution (particularly that time Cas was high and thought it would be a great idea to try and have shower sex with Balthazar; not that Dean didn’t find it fucking amusing to hear them trying to work out the logistics, because he had, but they’d explicitly agreed that the bathroom and the kitchen were off-limits. And the main room, actually, but Dean’s always ignored that rule).

Sleep had been pretty fickle, anyway, as Dean spent half the night waking up and wanting to sneak into Cas’ bedroom without having the balls or the conviction to go through with it, so he doesn’t especially mind the intrusion into the vague nightmares.

“Cas,” Dean says, quietly, from the doorway of the bathroom.

“I will pay you back for the whiskey,” Cas says, voice rough and strained as he kneels in front of the toilet. He hasn’t thrown up for a few minutes, now, but he doesn’t sound great.

“That’s so far off what I was gonna say,”

“Go away, Dean,”

“Sure, now you want me to go away.” Dean says, stepping into the bathroom, glass of water clutched in his left hand. “Here.” Dean finishes, placing the glass of water next to Cas’ left knee.

“I am not ‘good’ right now.”

“Still healthy enough for air quotes, huh?” Dean says and then, despite part of him that’s screaming at him not to, lets one of his hands drift to Cas’ shoulder and rest there, running a thumb over his shoulder blade. “You’ll feel better for chucking up later, trust.”

“What times is it?”

“About six,”

Cas groans, leaning back into Dean’s touch. Dean figures that it at least means he’s allowed, at any rate, and lets his free hand push Cas’ hair back from his forehead too. Cas doesn’t forcibly push him away or demand to know what the hell Dean thinks he’s doing, so that’s always a bonus.

“I have a lecture in three hours.”

“Guess you’re skipping, dude,”

“I never skip,” Cas complains, closing his eyes.

“Cas, when you uh… before –”

“ – I don’t want to talk about this,” Cas cuts across him, “I want to curl up into a ball and die.”

“All right, Mr Melodramatic, let’s get your ass back to bed. Unless you’re gonna throw up again.”

“I don’t think so,” Cas says, and lets Dean help him to his feet and navigate him back towards his bedroom. Cas does look frigging awful, at least on the scale of Cas, and Dean’s not especially surprised. Getting drunk on straight whiskey has always been a god damn stupid idea.

“You got more water, and painkillers on the side,” Dean says, pulling the covers over him even though he’s pretty sure Cas could have managed it himself, “You need anything else?”

“A hangover cure,”

“You, uh…” Dean swallows and, Jesus, he can’t believe he’s even considering it, but he’s been up most of the night regretting his life decisions and the lack of sleep over the past week where he’s been stressing about money and work is probably catching up with him. “You want any company with that curling up and dying agenda?”

“No,” Cas says, and that answers that question.

“Right,” Dean says, throat tight, “Well good luck with the hangover.”

He doesn’t get back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Friday is a great day.

It's great when he wakes up to a text from Sam about whether coffee is a date, even though Dean doesn't really have an answer because he hasn't been on a date that wasn't knowingly foreplay for about four years, and he's pretty sure Sam wouldn't be asking if that was the case. Also, the whole casual sex thing doesn't really work for Sam. At least not right now. Maybe when he's in his twenties, as Dean wasn’t exactly preaching the gospel of one night stands when he was a teenager. Still, he gets to text Sam and ask him if he wants it to be a date, and imagine all the hilarious ways he can tease him about this.

He’s really missed Sammy.

It’s still great when he steps out into the main room to find that Cas isn’t hungover and grouchy anymore (and apparently isn’t mad at Dean, which Dean really thought he was and probably thought he deserved, although he’s not even sure why anymore), and that he is, for some unknown reason, wearing the fucking novelty Christmas jumper that Lucifer bought him as some sort of joke for his birthday.

Dean never understood why Cas kept the damn thing.

“The hell, dude?”

“I haven’t done any laundry,” Cas returns, glancing up at him. Cas looks ridiculous. Genuinely and a hundred percent ridiculous, and it’s brilliant. It’s the best goddamn thing. The kind of thing that makes his chest feel like its splitting open with affection, because three and a half years after moving in with Cas and the guy still manages to surprise him regularly.

“Solution for you, man,” Dean says, flicking on the coffee machine, “Do some laundry.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“Are you kidding?” Dean asks, “I mean, don’t get me wrong, man, I still would.”

“Would you?” Cas asks, glancing up from his notes (and why is Cas always working? It makes Dean feel like shit for being such a terrible student) and fixing Dean with an appraising gaze, dragging his gaze up his body. “Even if I kept the jumper on?”

“I could work with it,”

“Really?” Cas asks, deep voice soaked in amusement.

“Only cause I know what you look like underneath,” Dean says, not pulling a mug out the cupboard even though the coffee’s nearly done, because he knows Cas, and he reckons this has a high chance of going places, and probably really great places at that too. “But, yeah Cas, really.”

Cas looks down at his god awful jumper. It’s garnished with a snowman with reindeer ears, which barely even makes sense. Its carrot nose is damn near phallic and the whole thing is an angry shade of red. It’s aggressively festive, and it’s not like it’s even remotely near Christmas. It’s awful. It’s genuinely, genuinely awful. Dean thinks he might actually love it, in a way that’s somewhat akin to Stockholm syndrome.

“Dean,” Cas says, with one of those eye crinkling smiles, “Do you want to build a snowman?”

It’s a really fucking great Friday.

*

Dean’s still laughing when they stumble back into the main room, mostly redressed and near enough presentable; Cas has found a pair of jeans that are clean enough to be acceptable and Dean’s actually fully dressed, even if pretty haphazardly. Not as haphazard as Cas’ hair, of course, because Cas’ chronic bedhead is bad enough without Dean’s tendency to rake his fingers through it.

They’re technically running late (they’re going to one of the regular sessions at one of the high schools that hasn’t yet dropped them, but Charlie’s lift bailed so they have to go pick her up first), but Dean’s in too much of a good mood to let it bother him. A bunch of snot nosed high schoolers can wait, because he’s busy beaming at Castiel Novak for being so frigging awesome and ridiculous and dorky and just, so god damn unique that sometime Dean can’t actually breathe. Cas’ existence is an actual miracle and Dean’s not entirely sure why he gets Cas, but somehow he does.

“It’s not that funny,” Cas says, but he doesn’t even sound like he believes it. He’s just a bit better at holding back his amusement than Dean is, because Dean actually stumbled upon someone who’s actually less expressive about his emotions than Dean is. Still, Cas is amused. They’ve been on the same wavelength (at least about most things) that reading Castiel is fairly intrinsic now, especially with the sex factor covered in. Now, Dean covers all possible angles.

“Dude,” Dean protests, “You quoted frozen at me. During Sex.”

“I wasn’t expecting you to understand the reference,” Cas returns, lips titling upwards. There’s an accusation in there about how Dean claimed not to like the movie (he doesn’t, Sam’s a fan and the damn things escapable, anyway), but they’d half had that conversation back when they were still in the middle of the act before Cas rolled his eyes, rolled them over so he was on top and told him to get on with it or he would. Dean hasn’t laughed during sex since, well, probably since Lisa… and even then not to the same extent. Side splitting, damn near joyous laughter. It was awesome.

And that was way after they did away with the jumper.

(It was kinda scratchy and Dean wanted skin).

“You used the word impaled, mid fuck.”

“Well,” Cas says, shrugging slightly. Dean was still half hysterical when Cas took over the control, and had just about got himself together when Cas looked him dead in the eye and said ‘let it go Dean’, and then Dean just fucking lost it (in multiple sense, actually). He still can’t get Cas’ smirk out of his mind and, Jesus Christ, that’s never not going to be funny. Cas is a goddamn genius. He’s fucking perfect. “I still don’t have any clothes.”

“Lucky for you I’m a fully functioning adult,” Dean says, and disappears into his room to grab Cas a t-shirt. Problem is, it turns out Cas in his clothes is fulfilling some kind of kink because, god damn, he’s itching to take the t-shirt right back off him; it doesn’t fit right and it’s weird seeing Cas with a Star Wars slogan painted across his chest, but mostly it’s just strange because Dean’s so used the t-shirt stretched over his skin.

And how has he been so irritated at the guy for the majority of the past week?

Cas is amazing. He’s this amazing, nerdy, hilarious dude that’s just so frigging underappreciated by the rest of the world because, seriously, quoting frozen in the middle of sex just to fuck with him? Goddamn brilliant. He still has this barely supressed smirk and faux-innocence painted across his features that Dean just can’t get enough of, and probably never will, and the urge to just kiss the guy is so prevalent Dean can’t think about anything else.

He’s in such a good mood that he decides just to fuck it, whatever, damn the consequences, and just goes for it.

Cas is halfway through pulling his trench coat on when Dean reaches forward to kiss him again, first time out of the bedroom of the day. It’s a hundred percent unrelated to sex, but Cas doesn’t push him away or tell him to fuck off. He actually melts into it, shifting closer, and then Cas is twisting his fingers in Dean’s plaid shirt and looking at him.

“Dean,” Cas mutters, voice sounding more wrecked than it did during their frozen-themed-fucking, which is… huh. Worth thinking about at another point, most likely, because it stands to reason that they were kinda dicking around before which explains half of the issue… but, when did they stop that exactly? “We need to leave,”

“Dude, no,”

“Dude, yes,” Cas counters into the hair’s breadth gap between them and, holy fuck, there’s something happening right now that Dean can’t pin a name to. Something that’s more than the frank amusement at Cas parroting him again (all his words sound weird coming from Dean’s lips, especially weird in Dean’s t-shirt). There’s something different between just sex and the kind of free, messing around, joking kind of sex they just had. It’s just different. He doesn’t know how exactly to quantify that claim but…

That was the kind of sex you could only have with your best friend, really, not someone you barely knew and were never intending to know anyway. It’s like… like he knew that the reason why sex with Cas had quickly monopolised his list of best-evers was because of all the Cas-ness that was shoved into those encounters; the one liners and the familiar back and forth and Cas’ sheer intensity when added to sex was a damn near fatal. Dean just wasn’t expecting to be able to laugh as hard during in sex as they would watching a damn movie and it’s… well.

Different.

“Charlie is waiting for us,” Cas says, but he hasn’t moved away. He’s staring right back into Dean’s gaze and just looking at him, and Dean could really use a little more time to work this out. He would stumble into a moment like this when there’s a time limit.

“Don’t care about Charlie,”

He wants to do something dumb like run a thumb over Cas’ bottom lip, but he’s got a little sense left rattling round in his head not to. He’s taking a detour away from the traditional routes of casual sex, sure, but he can still back out of this and fob it off as nothing.

“Dean,” Cas implores, and Dean finally snaps out of it and takes a step backwards. Space. He swallows. He’s half expecting Cas to drag him into a conversation about boundaries, but Cas smiles at him like he’s pleased Dean’s now taken to cornering and kissing the guy in their kitchen. Huh. “I dislike being late.”

“I’d make it worth your while,” Dean says, because he feels a deep seated need to cheapen the moment, because they somehow strolled into some expensive style shit. Cas’ expression tilts, but not necessarily in a displeased way. It’s almost affectionate. “Anything you want, man.”

He hopes Cas doesn’t take him up on that, because there’s an unmentioned understanding that Cas very much wants to switch positions and Dean’s about as emotionally ready to bottom with Cas as he is to tell John Winchester to go fuck himself. As in, maybe after a couple of years of soul searching and sifting through issues but certainly not right now.

“I want to be on time,” Cas says, but he’s smiling at him again.

“You’re a pain in my ass, Novak,” Dean says, turning round to grab his leather jacket off the back of the chair and digging out his car keys. He still feels good. He feels awesome. He’s got a reply from Sam about his maybe-date and the image of Cas butt naked except for that novelty jumper to cherish for all of eternity, which tops off the beginning of the weekend nicely.

No assignments. Two more lectures this afternoon. Only one shift of work. Plenty of time to stay in with Cas all Sunday.

“Hmm,” Cas says, suddenly right behind him, pressed up against him, “Not yet. However, maybe one day.” And then the heat and the weights is gone, and Cas is smirking at him in the doorway to their apartment.

Well.

*

“What’s with the wardrobe swap?” Charlie asks, climbing into the backseat and raising an eyebrow at Cas’ attire. Obviously Charlie would pick up on that straight away, especially since Dean pretty much only owns a week and half’s worth of t-shirts.

“Cas is incapable of laundry or whatever,” Dean says, “Settle an argument, Bradbury. Which of us has the highest sex drive?”

“Dude, I’m so done being dragged into these arguments,” Charlie says, as Dean switches the radio back on and pulls out into the road. The drive to Charlie’s has been shockingly un-awkward considering the business with the kiss in the kitchen and the comedy sex, descending into another round of pointless one-upmanship and bickering. It’s just normal, like they always are.

“Come on, simple question,” Dean says, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel before glancing at Cas, and then Charlie, and back to Cas again. His hair’s settled into something resembling the norm, but it’s still strange to see him wearing Dean’s clothes, riding shotgun and meeting Dean’s gaze head on. “Highest sex drive. Me or Cas?”

“Eyes on the road, Winchester,” Charlie says, “And, okay, fine… Cas.”

“Told you,” Dean says, catching Cas’ eyes before forcefully dragging his eyes back towards the road, because apparently road safety is at least vaguely important.

“I disagree,” Cas frowns.

Cas doesn’t have a leg to stand on here and the guy probably knows it too. Ignoring the first few months of their first year, Cas hasn’t had a dry spell in years. Cas just generally has more sex than Dean, period, and Dean found it kinda emasculating and a bit of competition until he realised that it honest to god didn’t matter. Even in the context of their own relationship, since the addition of sex Cas is more likely to initiate things. Just the way it is.

“You should be proud, man, if it were anyone else I’d be taking this as a blow to my masculinity. I’m accepting my defeat gracefully.”

“Yeah, Dean’s like the poster boy for character development right now. Personally, I’m impressed.” Charlie says, from the back.

“I’m over it,” Dean says, glancing at Cas and drinking in the slightly put out expression, as if being accused of having a higher sex drive is a particularly bad thing. It’s not positive or negative so much as it just is, but then most of their conversations are pretty stupid that way. None of this stuff really matters.

“Well done, Dean, we’re all very proud.” Cas comments, dryly, “But I am not a nymphomaniac.”

“Debauchery suits you, dude, embrace it.”

“I am not debauched.”

“The innocence act is cute and all, but there’s something about the I just fucked my way out of Sunday school thing that does things to me,” Dean says, shooting him a grin, “You gotta bin the halo and own it, man. It’ll be sweet.”

“Would you prefer me to dye my hair black and get a lip piercing?”

“Punk Cas. I could get into that.” Dean says, rolling the image round in his brain. In actual fact, he thinks it would remind him a little too much of high-Cas, who should have been awesome but actually felt kinda off. Not like Dean would have actually cared if the guy stuck with the weed, but it just… he didn’t seem like his Cas. His mannerisms were off. He was preaching free love and smiling more, sure, but a certain Cas-ness got lost in the translation.

“I’m beginning to think I could you get into anything,” Cas says, but he’s smiling out the front window.

“Wow, okay,” Charlie says, raising hey eyebrows. Dean can practically hear her ‘the flirt is strong with these two’ so he catches her eye and shakes his head slightly, because he really doesn’t want the potential for awkward to filter into the car. Not that it would make Cas awkward, as Cas virtually has no concept of it, but because it has a high chance of drawing attention to things that Dean doesn’t really want to talk about. Charlie raises her eyebrow.

“If I’m getting a lip piercing,” Cas says, filling in the space of his and Charlie’s silent conversation (and no way is Dean getting away with not talking to Charlie about at least something of this stuff very soon). “I think you should have a Mohican.”

Dean laughs for the rest of the drive.

*

The problem with trying to create an open environment where high school students feel like they can ask anything they like about sex, sexuality and relationships is that they might actually ask anything. Dean’s more than happy with Cas explaining, for the hundred or so time, exactly how anal sex works, because that’s helpful and should probably be on the frigging curriculum. He’s okay with talking about bisexuality and loss of virginity and when it’s a good idea to have sex and when it definitely isn’t, but when it comes to dumb questions about specific relationships, he finds it hard to really care. Cas maintains that this is part of the package and already gave Dean a shut up, let Charlie handle this look, which he’d totally have objected to if it wasn’t for the glorious, wonderful thing that was this morning.

Between Cas suggesting screwing in a novelty Christmas jumper this morning, the kiss in the kitchen, and the continued messages from Sammy, it’s no wonder Charlie is teasing him about being uncharacteristically chirper. Dean chalked this up to the texts from Sam when Charlie asked, but Cas caught his eye and smiled at him like he knew full well that Dean’s good mood is as much to do with great sex and exchanging banter with Cas as it is about Sam having a date.

It’s probably healthier to have wider sources of happiness than Sam’s love life, particularly when Sam’s love life has been a pretty scant thing lately.

The question is this transparent thing about this girls ‘friend’ who’s sleeping with this guy that she kind of likes, but he’s only into her casually (whatever that even means) and her other friend is advising her to get out whilst she can. Charlie is best equipped to answer because Dean has no patience and Cas has no tact, whilst she actually has both, and she’s handling it with delicacy that Dean sort of admires but also doesn’t want to possess.

“I guess what I really want to know,” The girl says, “Is whether sex is like… because it’s less, like, invasive for guys. I mean, in terms of straight sex,” She corrects herself, glancing at Cas, because heteronormativity usually results in Cas getting on his soapbox and they already went through the ‘the definition of sex is not just a penis in a vagina’ thing fifteen minutes ago. “Whether guys find it easier to separate emotions from sex than women? People say that.”

“I don’t know that we’re the best examples to use here,” Dean puts in, gesturing between him and Cas. He intermittently feels bad that they’re doing a first class job of reinforcing the promiscuous gay (or bisexual) male stereotype, before he reminds himself that just because he semi-adheres to some dumb stereotype doesn’t mean that they’re any more real. Besides, it’s not his duty to upturn the whole system on his head by changing his behaviour, because that’s just backwards. He has the right to whatever kind of sex life he feels comfortable with.

“Yeah,” Charlie says, “Dean’s like, allergic to admitting he has feelings and Castiel is the most detached person from sex ever; casual sex is like in a completely different filing system to romance and emotions in Cas-land.”

Dean swallows and forces a look of amusement.

“But, how is it that clear cut?” The girl asks, frowning, “Like, sex is… intimate.”

“It’s easier to draw a line if you both have clear intentions from the beginning,” Cas pipes up which is all kinds of hypocritical but also pretty sound advice. Dean shoves his hands in his pocket and tries to act like this isn’t colossally awkward because, come on, the girl couldn’t have had any other problem? What happened to sexuality crises and I’m-sleeping-with-my-sister’s-‘straight’-boyfriend questions?

“Things get kinda messy when one side thinks you’re just screwing around and the other thinks there’s the potential for something else,” Charlie continues, “Everyone knows Cas hasn’t dated since he started college, so everyone’s on the same page. I don’t think that’s a gender thing so much as a failure in communication, or else you’d have some bizzaro consequences for none-hetro couples. Dean, what d’you think?”

Dean has spent the last thirty or forty seconds purposefully avoiding looking anywhere in Cas’ direction because… because shit. Shit.

“No idea. Allergic to feelings, like you said,” Dean says, throat thick. The girl who asked the question is looking at him like he’s some kind of asshole for not taking her question seriously, but that’s so not the problem here.

Dean takes everything back about her whining. It’s a pretty god damn pertinent question.

“Dean,” Charlie says, frowning.

Dean pulls out his phone and mutters a quick ‘my Dad’s calling me, be right back’ because he can’t think of any other excuse for leaving the room, which he needed to do at least five minutes ago. Before Charlie started going on about how god damn easy Cas finds separating emotion from sex, like Dean didn’t know that and hasn’t known it for forever. Charlie drawing out the fact of Cas’ rep for casual sex and not-relationships to pacify some teenage girl in over her head with a guy who’s not interested, not really, at least not in her specifically should not feel like being punched in the gut.

The girl’s friend is painfully right. She needs to get out whilst she can.

Everyone knows Cas hasn’t dated since he started college, so everyone’s on the same page.

Duh, obviously, Cas doesn’t do dating or relationships. Cas keeps his sexual encounters ephemeral, more so than Dean’s ever managed. He has hooks ups and one night stands and rarely sleeps with a particular person more than once or twice. Maybe Dean is special in that respect, because he’s got to be Castiel’s first regular sexual partner since his douchebag ex-boyfriend (maybe Balthazar too, but Dean never got a whole lot of intel about Balthazar), but that’s a matter of convenience. Dean is there in their apartment all the time and, anyway, the sex is too good to pass up.

Casual sex is like in a completely different filing system to romance and emotions in Cas-land.

Cas has never gotten mixed about the definition of sex and emotions in his life.

Dean isn’t like that.

Dean’s like, allergic to admitting he has feelings.

Maybe he’s not monogamous, or anything, and there’s been a fair few regrettable instance in his romantic and sexual histories… but that’s because Dean cares and he lets people get under his skin, if only for a few hours, and because…. Because he doesn’t separate sex from emotions. Not that he’s in love with everyone his fucked, because that would be stupid, but he still holds most of them with a certain fondness, values the experience and something intimate and awesome and a shared experience. He gets attached. It’s why he should have stayed the hell away from Bela and Pamela, and certainly a very long way away Cas, because… because this morning he kissed Cas in the kitchen just because Cas was smirking at him just so, and Dean just wanted to.

He’s so fucked.

He can track his sex-attachment issues back over his whole life. Lisa was probably the biggest screw up in that respect, but at least she’d kinda done the same thing, so at least Dean wasn’t on his own angling for something beyond a weekend of really great sex. And, goddamn, but that was just a weekend with a complete stranger. Most of the reason Dean sticks to one night stands and hooks up is because he can’t be trusted with people, and because of residue issues from up and leaving every time he set down new roots, and because Dean can fall for people hard if he doesn’t keep himself in check.

It was just so easy with Cas. So fucking easy to let himself be pulled into the innuendo and the flirting because, well, why not? Dean was still labouring under the misapprehension that he had all of his crap under control and that he was a functioning human rather than a screw up who can’t even screw his emotionally unavailable best friend turned roommate without falling for the guy. If he hadn’t already at that point. Probably, he was too far gone already to even notice the signpost for the final exit on this road to ruin, because, yeah, he’s self-aware enough to know this isn’t a brand spanking new thing. It’s been hanging around in his peripheries for a while. It wasn’t the sex, specifically, that pushed him over the edge: its Cas singing along (badly) to frozen, when he’s close enough that Dean can feel every breath of air, every slight vibration of his chest; it’s Cas nonchalantly discussing the taste of his pancakes and his dick in the same tone of voice he uses to talk about the weather; it’s Cas’ smug look of satisfaction when he persuades Dean to cook dinner through the medium of blowjobs.

It’s not that it’s just good sex , it’s that it’s the kind of sex that Dean thinks he could be quite happy to have forever.

Fuck.

Cas is the person most under his skin, anyway. Has been for years. He’s the only person Dean would rate in the same hemisphere of importance as looking after Sam. Cas has been the person Dean’s been frigging thrilled to come home to for years, just for TV marathons and student food and arguments over who’s going to clean the shower.

Dean should have nipped it in the bud when they were still throwing innuendo at each other like there were no consequences to their actions. He should have told Cas not to push the boundaries of their friendship. He should have just let it be instead of getting carried away with the nervous exciting possibility, and re-remembering things he’d sort of wanted years ago but squashed down along with a load of other bullshit.

Dean sinks down the side of the wall and sits on the floor of the corridor.

The revelation that he’s utterly screwed is bad enough without it taking place in a high school, and he knows that any minute now Cas is going to step out and stare at him until Dean offers some kind of explanation. He turns his phone over in his hand a few times and considers calling Sam… but then his brother warned him weeks ago.

You want to be with Cas, right?

Apparently.

“Dean?” A deep, familiar voice asks, and he glances up to see Cas’ familiar expression of concern. Charlie is there, too, which means the period’s actually finished and they’re probably good to go home.

And here Dean is, sat on the floor of a random High School corridor staring at his phone in the middle of a damned inconvenient revelation about his feelings.

“What did your dad want?” Charlie asks and, oh yeah, that was his excuse for leaving the room. “Hey, is Sam okay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean says, turning his phone over in his hands once before shoving it back in his pocket. “Everyone’s fine.” His voice sounds all wrong though, because of course if Dean’s enough of a screw up to ruin the best friendship he’s ever had then he’s enough of a screw up not to be able to deal with it when it comes to head. He doesn’t look at Cas. It’s easier to meet Charlie’s eyes and attempt a weak sort of smile.

“Dean,” Cas implores.

“Don’t wanna talk about it,” Dean grunts out, swallowing, and then Cas is offering him a hand up he can’t reasonably refuse. He gets Cas’ fingers pressing, reassuring and pointed, into his knuckles for his troubles, and then Dean makes the mistake of looking at the guy.

Course, Cas believes that this is related to a fictional phone conversation with John Winchester. It’s not entirely surprising, given Dean’s had not dissimilar reactions the last three times he’s spoken to his father on the phone (which, to be fair, certainly hasn’t been recently) and it’s a helpful excuse, even if it doesn’t necessarily make him feel better about himself.

Especially when Cas is all blue eyes and sympathetic understanding.

God damn.

“Let’s just… let’s just go,” Dean says, because Cas hasn’t let go of his hand yet and that would be fucking awkward with Charlie there even if Dean wasn’t have a complete emotional freak out, and because he needs to shut himself in his room and drink pretty much urgently. “The queen rides shotgun,” Dean says when they reach the car, forcing himself to ignore Cas’ utterly dejected expression in the backseat.

Dean takes it all back. It’s a frigging awful Friday.

(A couple of hours and three measures of whiskey later, Dean texts Benny and asks him if he’s free this evening. Beyond his door, his pretty sure Cas is making pizza from scratch. Dean fucking hates himself.)

Chapter Text

Dean may or may not be freaking the fuck out.

In a moment of Cas-related madness he’d tried to ring Sammy, but because the world hates him John Winchester picked up after Dean had already started talking. He hasn’t talked to his father since he left after the summer and wasn’t actually planning to until they had to sort out what they were doing for Christmas, and he’s not prepared for him to say ‘How are you, Dean?’ and drag him into a twenty minute conversation about how he’s doing in frigging college, like Dean gives a shit about his degree right now. It serves him right for using his Daddy issues as an excuse earlier, because of course karma is going to bite him in the ass and force him to deal with all of this bullshit in one day. At least he has extra padding for his lie now.

By the time John asks ‘how’s Cas?’ Dean’s a hundred percent done with everything about this stupid fucking Friday. Sam’s admission that their Dad thinks they’re in a relationship just goes to reinforce that Dean’s actually even more of a fuck up than his Dad realises; because he’s not in a relationship with Cas, he’s just pining.

Sam’s spent years accusing him of being emotionally unavailable, but Cas is frigging Spock in comparison. Dean hasn’t heard him express genuine romantic interested in anyone ever . Dean, at least, has got hung up on people sporadically, even if he’s always been to chicken to ever actually do anything about it. Half because he was at least partially aware that a relationship would wind up with him losing some of his time with Cas, and because, frankly, even the people who turned out to be kinda awesome just weren’t as interesting or as magnetic as Cas ever was, which is pretty sobering as realisations go. The other half is because Dean’s just not cut out for anything except casual, meaningless sex. He’s a screw up. He cannot handle his own capacity for feelings, which is why he’s hiding out in his bedroom in the first place.

“You really wanna talk about that, Dad?” Dean snaps, and then his gut’s churning with something uncomfortable that sends him straight back five years, because he categorically does not raise his voice to John Winchester. He’s slightly spurred on by the whiskey he drank when he first got in, even though he banned himself from consuming anymore alcohol after the reply from Benny (he is free; Dean doesn’t even know whether he was pleased or not about that).

He gets a “guess not” and then the conversation fizzles out into a lifeless, dead thing like it always has done since Dean threw out the bisexual card. Maybe John Winchester never yelled or tried to disown him or whatever the hell else Dean had been half-expecting, but they haven’t managed a normal conversation since then, and it’s bullshit. It’s bullshit because Dean spent his whole god damn life trying to please John Winchester, only to fuck it up by not being the exact kind of son John wanted.

And now he’s turning this thing with Cas into another opportunity to let himself wallow in all the rest of the crap he carries round with him, because that’s the kind of worthless, self-indulgent asshole Dean Winchester is.

Perfect.

He hadn’t even known Benny’s second name until Dean was searching for him in his phone, because Dean’s cheap and shitty like that. He’d scrolled past eight numbers of people he’d slept with scrolling down to get to ‘Lafitte’, which isn’t really that many considering Dean rarely actively deletes people’s numbers.

Still, he’s not like Cas. People don’t tend to bother. They don’t generally want to hear from him.

Everyone knows Cas hasn’t dated since he started college, so everyone’s on the same page.

Dean needs to pull himself out of this funk ASAP. If he keeps this up Cas is going to work out that this isn’t to do with his Dad at all, not really, go back over the conversation and realise what a fucking idiot Dean Winchester is.

Obviously, the sex would stop immediately. He probably wouldn’t make Dean move out, but try and force them to work through it. He’d give Dean time to try and get over it, except Dean’s not entirely sure where he’d even start with that. On some level, he knows a lot of people have done this unrequired-crap before and survived just fine, but also… this is Castiel. Eventually, Dean would the one to crumble and move out, and their friendship would be strained and awkward during the transition. Cas would move nearer to his family come the end of the year. They wouldn’t keep in touch. The rest of their friendship would drain away before either of them really ever noticed.

And it would suck.

So, new plan. Cas is not going to find out about Dean’s… feelings and crap. And Dean’s going to get over it, and they’ll get BFFL tattoos and live together, platonically, until Cas finds some nice, intelligent girl like Hannah or some suave smart guy like Balthazar. Dean will be best man at the wedding; he’ll make a speech and categorically not mention that time Cas sent him a one second picture of his dick, he’ll have cheap sex with someone’s relative and he’ll pretend to be happy about the whole thing.

Fine.

“I cooked pizza,” Cas says, when Dean eventually emerges from his room. He doesn’t feel any better. In fact, four hours of going over everything that’s happened in the past month (and skipping two of his lectures) has, shockingly, made him feel worse about the whole thing, but he’s supposed to be meeting Benny in thirty minutes. The whiskey was probably long enough ago that he’d be under the limit to drive, but he’s not planning on staying that way long.

Plus, the familiar smell of Cas’ pizza is making him feel sick. He doesn’t exactly deserve this sort of gesture from Cas when he’s lying to him and about to go get laid, even though Cas probably doesn’t care about the latter. Dean’s the one who’s not slept with anyone else since this whole thing began. Cas probably doesn’t give a crap.

“Going out,” Dean says, not catching his eye, “But, thanks man, I’ll have it later.”

Dean sets his phone down on the kitchen table as he takes his car keys out of the pocket of his leather jacket. He’s already subscribed to a night of making terrible fucking decisions, and he’s not letting driving drunk be one of them. He does leaves the lighter in his pocket, even though he hasn’t smoked for years.

“You’re going out,” Cas repeats, hovering to his left.

“Personal space, Cas,” Dean says, still not looking at him. He’s being a jackass, but the fact that Cas spends most of his time plastered against Dean’s side doesn’t help any. It’s going to make this whole getting-over business near enough impossible. Cas moves perceptively further away, at least, which makes it slightly easier to breathe.

“Do you… want company?”

“Nah, I’m alright,” Dean says, trying to keep his voice light, resolutely not looking at Cas to see his reaction, even though he wants to.

On the table, his phone vibrates. It’s a text from Benny, and now the guy’s name is plastered across his phone screen, and Dean knows full well that they’ve both seen it. Cas isn’t an idiot, either. He’ll have worked it out instantaneously.

For a split second, Dean hopes that Benny’s cancelling on him, or that Cas is going to flip his shit and yell at him, or otherwise do something which indicates that he doesn’t want Dean to do this. That Dean’s not the only one who’s backed himself into this awful corner. Maybe Dean’s not the only idiot in the room. The Cas who let him kiss him in the kitchen seemed like he might mind if Dean started sleeping with someone else, even if the Cas of the past few years would deadpan that it wasn’t any of his business who Dean was sleeping with.

Cas is utterly silent.

Dean snatches his phone back up off the table. Benny isn’t cancelling, just wants Dean to pick up some beer, and now he’s accidentally dangled this in Cas’ face he’ll need to come up with some kind of excuse for not going through with it, and he doesn’t have any. So that’s that.

“Later, Cas,” Dean says, voice strained. The whole atmosphere in the kitchen has descended into thick awkwardness, and he feels even more nauseous than he did before.

God, why is he even doing this again?

“Okay, Dean,” Cas says, meeting his eye. He doesn’t look upset or pissed. He’s doing that thing where he retreats into himself far enough that even Dean can’t get a read on what’s going on in his head. Cas is just stood there, okaying the latest in his line of crap decisions, with a whole load of nothing plastered across his face.

The lack of response is the exact motivation Dean needs to push himself out the front door.

*

It’s fairly late in the game when he realises he can’t go through with it.

Dean is naked, Benny is as good as, and there’s already lube involved in the proceedings.

He probably would have been okay if he were a little more drunk, but at least some of his bottoming issues are tied up with bad drunk decisions (and that asshole creep Alistair), so he’s only three beers short of being stone cold sober. That’s more than he’d drank the first time he slept with Cas, maybe, but it’s still not enough that anything about this feels like a good idea. He needs the confidence that a couple of Tequila shots would give him, or at least a little more drunk-logic going on upstairs, but instead he’s being shockingly reasonable about the whole thing.

He’d briefly entertained the thought of shoving the feeling down to the bottom of his gut and going ahead anyway, but it wouldn’t be fair on Benny to let him inadvertently wind up fucking someone who doesn’t really want to be fucked, and it’s not fair on himself, either. He has his choice of Cas’ speeches about consent and good reasons to have sex to choose from, but Dean would probably be able to work this out that this particular reason is a really fucking terrible one all by himself.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t frigging awkward though.

“Sorry,” Dean mutters, next to Benny on his bed but no longer touching in any way, because Benny is a reasonable person who backed off the second Dean managed to voice his mind change. Now, he’s staring up and Benny’s ceiling, marinating in the shitty realisation that he’s totally fucking gone on Cas now, and there’s nothing he can do about it. He probably was from the start.

“No hard feelings, brother,”

“You sure about that?” Dean asks, and he’d accompany the comment with a lewd nod towards the guys crotch if he wasn’t caught up on what a frigging idiot he is (because last he checked, Benny was definitely into this) and about much of a chump he feels. He’s pretty lucky that he picked Benny for his failed-demonstration that his feelings for Cas aren’t that big of a deal, because at least Benny is actually kind of a nice guy. He chuckles at Dean’s comment, anyway, before the mattress moves slightly.

“I’m gonna take a minute,” Benny says, heading to the bathroom.

Theoretically, Dean could do a runner. He figures that that’s in part the reason why Benny’s leaving him alone, but he also feels like he should attempt some kind of explanation. Besides, Cas knows he’s here (and why), and if goes home right now there’s going to be questions a little too adjacent to everything that’s already happened today. He can’t deal with explaining to Cas about his massive dose of feelings alongside a metaphorical instance of not being able to get it up (because, yeah, that wasn’t exactly the problem). Dean sits up and reaches for his clothes. The lube situation is kind of disconcerting, but he’s totally not sorting that out here, so he pulls his jeans on anyway.

“Shot in the dark,” Benny says, reappearing in the doorway of the bathroom with an eyebrow raised, “This got anything to do with that crazy roommate of yours?”

Dean’s sat on the edge of Benny’s bed, pulling on his shoes, but stops short at the question. He hadn’t got quite as far was what he was going to say when Benny reappeared (he’s mostly working on automatic, sifting through all the bullshit thoughts clogging up his brain), but… well, it’s not like the guy’s off-point.

“Yeah,” Dean concedes, “We, uh, we’re sleeping together. Recent thing. We weren’t… last time. It’s complicated.”

It’s not really that complicated. This whole thing should be achingly simple, but Dean fucked that right up before they even started.

“That kid’s ‘bout as charming as horse vomit, from what I can make out,” Benny says, but he looks amused, “Least he was when I was chatting to you. Now, I ain’t trying to get in the middle of something –”

“ – no, man, it’s…” Dean interrupts, because he doesn’t want Benny thinking he’s some kind of douchebag who’d cheat on his roommate turned best friend, or pull someone into the sort of situation where they’re likely to get punched, because that’s not what this is. At least, that’s not what this is from most angles of looking at it (and Cas is more likely to punch Dean than Benny if it was that kind of situation, anyway). “We’re not… exclusive and shit,” Dean settles on, even though the words taste wrong. Everything is wrong right now, so that’s not all that surprising. “We don’t really do that stuff.”

“Hate to break it to you, brother, but it looks like you do.”

And, son of a bitch, the guy’s actually right.

*

He winds up at Charlie’s place.

It’s a long ass walk, but it helps to clear his head (although not as much as the bottle of bourbon he bought at a liquor store on the way), and it’s better than going home by a long shot. He categorically cannot deal with Cas’ lack of wrath right now. He’s never wanted the guy to yell at him before, but he’d love that now. He’d love for Cas to call him up, as drunk as Dean is, and rip into him about being a cheating backstabbing jerk. Then Dean can explain that this is all just a massive understanding, they can talk it out and screw in the shower (they haven’t done that yet, although Cas suggested it once). Instead, Cas is at home doing his college work and not caring that Dean is theoretically fucking Benny.

Because he doesn’t care. Nothing. Just an ‘okay Dean’ and he’s left to merrily go on his way. He didn’t even get a passive aggressive comment or two, and Cas hands those out like sweets.

“Your majesty,” Dean says, when Charlie opens the door. He half mock bows and then immediately regrets the decision, because he was going for ‘merry’ rather than utterly wasted and miserable, and he missed. He missed.

“Dude,” Charlie blinks, before stepping aside and letting him step inside. “How drunk are you?”

“Well I can still walk, so... not as drunk as intended,” Dean says, slumping onto Charlie’s sofa and wondering about the plausibility of suffocating himself in it. Charlie would probably stop him, which is most of the reason why he walked here in the first place.

“Probably a dumb question,” Charlie says, “but… are you okay?”

“I’m awesome,” Dean returns, taking another swig of bourbon. “Fucking fantastic.”

Charlie’s eyes track the progress of the bottle to his lips, probably assessing whether or not she needs to remove it from his person. There was a brief period of time after some crap down with his family (his Dad took off on another of his vigilante missions and, because Dean wasn’t there and because Sam is less inclined to compromise his education by paying the bills and keeping house than Dean ever was, he moved in with Bobby; all of which was a few weeks after Dean did the whole coming out thing, leading Dean to mentally coalesce the issues) where Castiel and Charlie clubbed together to form a line of attack about his unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It’s not like Dean doesn’t think they might have had some sort of point, it’s just that he really didn’t need Charlie and Cas on his back on top of everything else (“we’re not ‘on your case’ Dean, we are simply concerned about your welfare because we are your friends. Which part of that sentiment are you finding difficult to understand?). Charlie’s concern is a throwback from that, and another helpful reminder about how much of a fuck up he is.

“Man, I hate your Dad sometimes,” Charlie say, “You were all rainbows and sunshine this morning.”

“Huh?” Dean asks.

“Your Dad. The phone call. The reason why you’re picking your liver in,” Charlie pauses to pluck the bottle out of his hand and give it a try, wrinkling up her nose, “really nasty bourbon?”

It’s not a bad ploy for confiscating the alcohol, he has to hand it to her.

“Oh, right,” Dean says, running a hand over his forehead, “That.”

Charlie frowns at him and moves the bottle out of his reach as he makes a grab for it. He probably is drunk enough that drinking anything further would be really stupid, but then Dean is the king of making stupid decisions, and, well, who cares? He’s already fucked up his life beyond usual parameters, so a hangover tomorrow will probably feel fitting. Vindicating. All he needs is to be locked outside in the rain and some depressing background music and he’s got this shit down.

“I’m telling Cas you’re here,”

“No!” Dean says, standing up sloppily, “Charlie, don’t.”

“What?”

“Just. Don’t text Cas.”

“Dean, you’re being super fucking weird, just FYI,” Charlie says, holding up her phone in surrender, “But, okay, I’m putting the phone down. Satisfied?”

“Yeah,” Dean says, sucking in a deep breath. “You just… you can’t tell Cas about this.”

Cas has to think that Dean doesn’t care about their thing. Cas has to think that Dean and Benny are screwing right now, because that’s at least better than Cas thinking that Dean’s in whatever with him. Feelings. Crushing. That thing. That unable to sleep with anyone else, can’t stop obsessing over, feeling slightly sick, let’s do this forever thing.

“Woah, hold up, Deano. Is this about Cas ?” Charlie asks, eyebrows knitting together. Dean sits down again and runs a hand over the back of his neck because… Charlie was going to work it out anyway, and he can’t deal with this crap alone right now. He can hear her backtracking and reassessing as Dean tries to level his thoughts, just a bit, so he can have this conversation with Charlie without screwing himself over too much. “I am way in the dark here, Dean, and I’m gonna need you fill in some of the blanks.”

Maybe talking is a good idea, but there’s a whole load of crap that he’s still not intending to voice out loud, because once the words are out there they’re real and he can’t take them back and pretend they’re not happening.

Dean grunts in assent but doesn’t offer anything else up.

“How about a fun Q&A?” Charlie asks, nudging his arm. “Keeping it simple, yes or no.”

“Only if I can pass on certain questions.”

“That’s not a yes or no answer, Dean,” Charlie says, because she’s trying to cheer him up even if he doesn’t really want to be cheered. It falls flat but Dean appreciates the effort. Charlie’s always been the walking on sunshine optimist type. “Okay, fine, not so much with the humour. So is this about our favourite angel dreamboat?”

“Not helping, Charlie.”

“So yes?”

“Yes, fine, yes. It’s about Cas.”

“See,” Charlie says, nudging him with her fist, “Talking about stuff is fun.”

“You know there’s a reason why you’re still in the dark, right Charlie?” Dean asks, resting back on the sofa and sucking in a deep breath. There’s a very high chance that this is going to be all shades of painful, but… well, Charlie was going to get all of this out of him eventually. Better whilst he’s drunk.

“Oh, mean, Winchester,” Charlie says, “Were you lying about the whole phone call from your practically absent emotionally unavailable father?”

“Yes,” Dean says, rolling his eyes.

“Dude,” Charlie complains, “You don’t lie to the queen.”

“Do I get my bourbon back?”

“Nope. Sorry sunshine,” Charlie returns, “So… you ran out of the class because of something to do with Cas. Okay, getting somewhere. Related to what we were talking about?”

“Yeah,”

“Assuming not about chlamydia because I mean, not that that wouldn’t suck, but it probably doesn’t warrant the whole drinking away your pain. Just antibiotics. What were we even talking about?”

“That’s not a yes or no question,” Dean throws back, head still tilted back on the sofa, gaze turned upwards. Not that Charlie’s ceiling is that interesting, or anything, it’s just helping him feel slightly less drunk to be anchored to a solid surface.

“I really hope you’re not sleeping with your brother’s girlfriend because, ew. For reals.”

“I’m sleeping with Cas, alright?” Dean snaps and then, at Charlie’s expression, “What? You were taking too long with this question and answer crap.”

“Not that,” Charlie says, rolling her eyes, “Your best friend, roommate, Mulder to your Scully, Cas?”

“Mulder and Scully ended up together,” Dean says, closing his eyes. It makes him feel drunker which is partially helpful, because everything feels a little less real. This conversation at least feels slightly distance from himself.

“Exactly,” Charlie says, “So sleeping with him… how?”

“You want a diagram? An erotic novel?”

“Heh. Regular slash isn’t really my thing,” Charlie says, “Not that you guys weren’t super cute this morning with the flirting and the clothes swap, because wow, Dean. Like seriously. That’s some a-grade shipping material right there.”

“Would it kill you for a little more surprise?” Dean asks, “Some expletives. A bit of shock. I don’t know, something.”

“Dude, I saw this coming like four years ago,” Charlie says, rolling his eyes, “And it’s not even my bad ass matchmaking instincts, everyone knows. You’re kind of obvious about it with the, you know, soulful staring and the intense UST.”

“I don’t even know what that means, Charlie.” Dean complains, leaning forward and resting his head in his hands instead. It’s not even like he can deny the fact that the whole world probably saw this coming before he did, what with the added bonus of their whole family thinking they’ve been in an actual relationship for years. Dean massages his skull. It would be really helpful if he could pull a whole load of thoughts straight out of his head and bury them somewhere.

“Unresolved sexual tension. Although, huh, I guess it’s now resolved. At least partially. So… why with the man pain? Still kinda lost.”

Dean makes an inaudible noise of discomfort which he hopes conveys ‘so it turns out I have these massive gay feelings for Cas which there’s no chance he reciprocates so now I have to live with him and not have him and probably continue sleeping with him but without all relevant strings attached’ but mostly just conveys the fact that he’s virtually incapable of talking about his feelings at this point.

“Dean?” Charlie asks, voice dipping down to something more serious. “Are you guys okay?”

“Kinda,” Dean says, and then the moment drags out, and Dean’s chest hurts, and this day just really sucks and he can’t deal with any of it. He can’t deal with Cas and his stupid fucking blue eyes and they’re lives being so intertwined that he’s never going to get a minute to work all this out. “I mean if okay is code for a massive fucking disaster.”

“Maybe we start from the beginning.”

“Maybe if you give me my alcohol back, Bradbury.”

“Dean…”

“I just came from Benny’s place,” Dean snaps, “I have lube in places that you probably don’t wanna know about and Cas? Cas is at home cooking homemade pizza and not giving a fuck.”

Charlie widens her eyes and passes him back the bottle.

*

Sam has called him four times and Dean’s too hungover to deal with it, which is a real first. The last time he ignored Sam for this length of time was when Sam was chewing him out about drinking too much or sleeping around too much and Dean was fed up and pissed off, and at least then he gave Sam a pre-warning.

His entire day thus far has consisted of feeling various degrees of shit. He wound up crashing on Charlie’s sofa after finishing the bourbon (after they were done with the talking thing Charlie put on his favourite batman and helped him with the drinking, so he didn’t quite consume the whole bottle himself, but it’s a close thing). The only good thing to say about his long trek home was that he didn’t throw up on the sidewalk, which he’d thought was a very real possibility for at least twenty minutes of it.

He’s pretty sure he threw up at Charlie’s last night.

He basically relocated from Charlie’s sofa to his bed, then to the shower and then, finally, to their own sofa. He still feels crap. The hangover is being egged on by his general self-loathing, and vice versa, to the point where they’re forming a reinforcing feedback loop of misery and self-pity.

Dean doesn’t even have a right to feel this bad. It’s his own fault anyway. Now he’s eating Cas’ warmed up homemade pizza in front of the first Star Wars movie that was actually in the right box (number two). It tastes like actual guilt. He’s never enjoyed Star Wars less. He has no idea how to make today any less crappy.

“Yes,” Cas is saying, presumably on the phone himself, as he steps out of his bedroom and into the main room (other than an awkward run in where Dean crawled in feeling like death just as Cas was having breakfast, Cas has been avoiding him. Probably giving him the personal space Dean goes on about so much).

“Dean, Sam wishes to speak to you.”

“Tell him I’m out,”

“Dean says he’s out,” Cas deadpans.

“Dude, you’re not really getting how this works,” Dean says, but Cas isn’t listening to him, but the tirade of Sam’s voice Dean can just about recognise from this distance. It’s a mark of how constantly available he is in regards to Sam that the guys calling his flatmate after six hours of not answering his phone. He’s pretty sure normal families give it a full day before they call for backup.

“Yes, I will put you on speaker,” Cas says, and then he’s deliberately poking at his phone like he barely understands how the device works. Cas and technology has always been a weird one. “You are now on speaker.”

“Dean, what the hell, man?” Sam’s voice demands, erupting from Cas’ phone. He’s not even entirely sure why Sam is pissed at him. As far as he can remember Dean hasn’t actually done something worthy of Sam’s righteous anger lately, but then Sam can always find some reason to be on Dean’s case. It’s a special talent he inherited from John Winchester. “I checked my phone log yesterday, and it said I had a twenty five minute long phone conversation with you which I definitely don’t remember. I asked Dad, and he went all none committal and told me to ‘ask my brother’ and then let’s slipped that you called me, that he picked up and that you guys actually talked.”

“And what, Sam?” Dean snaps, as Cas helpfully points the phone a little more in his direction, which only serves as a reminder for the awkward third party in this conversation. “Didn’t realise that was against the law. And who the hell checks their phone log?”

“He said you yelled at him.”

“Well that’s a fucking joke,” Dean says, then remembers about the whole stupid constructed lie about his Dad calling him, and how Cas is literally standing there holding the phone as Sam blows his alibi to shit. Dean takes the phone and takes it resolutely off speaker, pulling it to his ear. “I raised my voice slightly.”

“Dean, you haven’t spoken for months .”

“For a good reason,” Dean says, “Drop it, Sam. It was nothing. Just me telling him to stay out of my personal life.”

“Your personal life?” Sam questions.

“Which words are giving you trouble?”

“Why did you call me anyway?”

“Don’t remember,” Dean lies, and Sam knows it’s a lie. He can hear Sam draw in a breath like he’s about to switch over to puppy dog eyes and that too-precious-for-this-world tone of voice that never fails to piss Dean off. He can’t deal with Sam getting in Dean’s head and prising the whole sorry story out of him, especially when Cas is still stood waiting for his phone. Like he didn’t get the memo that Dean turned the phone off speaker for a reason. “Quit worrying about me and Dad, we’re fine. And stop harassing Cas. He’s not related to you so he doesn’t have to deal with this crap.”

“Ha ha,” Sam says, and then, “Something’s going on with you Dean, I can tell.”

“And?” Dean asks. He didn’t pick up his phone for a good reason.

“Fine, Dean,” Sam sighs, and Dean can hear the eye roll, “Just, call me when you’re in less of a mood.”

“Yeah, fine,” Dean says, “Bye, Sam,” and then he hangs up and passes that phone back to Cas, vaguely hoping that Cas hasn’t noticed the obvious, glaring hole in his big fat lie.

Cas doesn’t leave. He stands there, staring at Dean. No such luck then.

“Out with it, Cas.”

“Your father didn’t call yesterday.” Cas says. Full marks to Castiel Novak, sleuth extraordinaire and royal pain in Dean’s ass. Dean braces himself for the rest of it, because there’s no way this thing can end pretty. “You accidentally called him whilst trying to call your brother.” Cas continues, frowning at him. He’s working it out, of course he is, and Dean should have known that he couldn’t sustain a lie to Cas for longer than twenty four hours, because he’s so far in Dean’s personal crap that it’s a miracle he hasn’t suffocated yet. Dean’s halfway there himself. “You were upset about something else before you talked to your father.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dean says, standing up before Cas can pinpoint what exactly has spurred on Dean’s latest break down. His head spins slightly in the process, because this is the sort of hangover that lingers and hurts.

“Dean,” Cas says, on the brink of realisation, “If this –”

“ – gotta get ready for work, man,” Dean says, clapping him on the shoulder, “Good talk.”

*

Dean gets dragged out for drinks after work, despite his state of hungover, and winds up stumbling back over the threshold of their apartment four hours after the end of his shift. He’s about on a par with how drunk he was right before he got to Charlie’s, which is pretty damn drunk, and has already fully accepted the fact that he’s going to feel like ass tomorrow morning.

And he wants Cas.

Not in a sex way, particularly, but just to be near to Cas, because Cas makes things okay and he could really use a massive dose of okay right now. Everything sucks. He feels like someone’s been chewing out his insides and he’s utterly convinced that his liver actually hurts. He doesn’t remember why he agreed to more alcohol, except that it seems like that sort of dumb, vaguely self-destructive thing that Dean would do.

He pushes the door open to Cas’ bedroom and creeps over to the bed through the dark, sliding under the covers because, well, Cas invited him once. He’s slept in Cas’ bed before. If he gets kicked out on his ass it’s only sooner rather than later, so it doesn’t really matter. It’s worth it just in case Cas doesn’t make him leave, because he honestly doesn’t think he can deal with being alone right now.

“Dean?” Cas asks, voice bleary with sleep, as Dean pulls the warm weight that is Castiel nearer to himself, throwing an arm over him and pulling him close.

“Yeah,” Dean says, “Who else?”

“Currently, no one,” Cas returns, turning in the loop of Dean’s arm to blink at him. The confusion is probably quite apt, given Dean’s officially a dirty hypocrite and apparently super needy. Dean smiles at him even though it probably makes him look like a drunken idiot (which he is, actually, so at least that’s accurate) and tries to convey the fact that his insides hurt and the Cas makes it better by just being. That he just really needs Cas.

“Me too, Cas, me too.”

“You’re drunk,”

“You’re awesome,” Dean mutters, burrowing his face in Cas’ neck and inhaling that Cas-scent that resides there. The closeness is amazing. Cas is warm and familiar and wonderful. Dean doesn’t even care if this counts as cuddling, because he gets an armful of Cas and a faceful of the guy’s bedhead. All of his conceptions of being the kind of person who likes cuddling can fuck off, because this is perfect.

“You are a moronic assbut, Dean Winchester,” Cas says, but he threads their fingers together and lets Dean snuggle closer.

“You’re still wearing my t-shirt,”

“I still haven’t done any laundry,”

“I’ll do it for you tomorrow,” Dean says, “You want this moronic assbut to leave, Cas? Will if you want me to. Wanna stay, though, preferably forever.”

“I could be amendable to that,”

“Sounds good,” Dean says. He doesn’t kiss him in case that’s crossing some boundary, but also because the moment seems full and complete enough without shoving anything else in there, he just lets himself fall into the rhythm of Cas’ breathing, and lets it lull him into sleep.

*

When they wake up Dean’s so fucking embarrassed about his half memory of his drunken stupidity that he pretends he has no idea how he ended up in Cas’ bed. It’s only a half lie. Dean knows he stumbled into Cas’ room and probably said some dumb affectionate stuff, but Cas just frowns at him and fobs him off with a version of the truth stripped of Dean’s probable soul-bearing. Dean figures Cas just humoured him.

They have the kind of sex that is physically really god damn good, but feels clinical and meaningless compared to a couple of days ago, which just about sets a precedent for the next week.

Chapter Text

“Dude, this guy’s serve is faster than my car,” Dean says, eyes fixed on the television, open text book poised on his lap. He doesn’t actually care about tennis (or at least he didn’t before he was faced with a toss-up between doing work and channel surfing, and now he’s positively enthralled), but he’s spent the whole week feeling like a horrendous, unlovable fuck up and today’s the first day the dark mood has even remotely shifted. He’s not wasting feeling like a human being on college work, even if he’s beginning to slip behind again. “I know I’ve got a shitty car, but… seriously, man, that’s bad ass.”

“I’ve never understood your preoccupation with your car,” Cas says, hovering somewhere in the kitchen. Conversation has been stilted and sort of awkward, but probably not as much as it would have been if Dean hadn’t spent most of the week waiting out his bad mood. It stretched on like a bad hangover, lingering and making him regret just about every decision he’s ever made. He still regrets most of the past few months, but he’s settled on the conclusion that smashing his heart up on his own stupidity might be worth it just for the memory of Cas butt naked except for a Christmas jumper and a smirk, and he feels better for it.

“You’ve seen baby,”

“The Impala is a very attractive car,” Cas concedes, mostly because the first time Cas joined them for Christmas Dean made him stand outside and appreciate her with him until he was satisfied that the guy understood exactly how fucking sexy the Impala is; Cas probably wouldn’t dare rip into his baby when Dean’s clearly fragile, even if Dean probably won’t ever get her anymore. Not after the whole coming out thing. “But there is nothing wrong your current vehicle. It’s perfectly adequate.”

“That’s like telling a guy his dick’s adequate.”

“Your dick is adequate,”

“Kick a guy when he’s down, why don’t you,” Dean grumbles, flicking his textbook shut and dropping it on the floor. College can go screw itself and Dean has a great dick, so Cas can shut up. “Go ahead, tell me I’m a crap lay too. Hit me with a triple whammy. I can take it.”

“Dean,” Cas says, low and amused.

“Hey, I’m serious,”

“It was not my intention to ‘kick you whilst you’re down’, Dean,” Cas says, “I merely find the preoccupation with fast cars and penis size… confusing.”

Cas probably hasn’t even noticed out the implication about the size of his cock, there, but Dean certainly has. And, hey, why not top off a fantastic week of insecurities and wallowing with the his fuck buddy stroke best friend stroke object of unrequited feelings inadvertently implying he’s got a small dick? Not that it actually matters. Academically, he’s aware that it really doesn’t make a difference to anything whatsoever (and he has the experience to back that up, too), but whatever. It’s not exactly the upper he was searching for.

Anyway, he doesn’t. He’s seen enough cocks to make that claim, too.

“You’re really not helping your cause, Cas.”

“Your penis is fine.”

“Cas, for the love of all that is holy, stop talking about my dick. Jesus Christ.” Dean doesn’t exactly mean to raise his voice, but he can’t deal with this right now. Half of him wants to be pulled into the conversation and find it funny instead of painful, but it’s too difficult. Cas is inadvertently hitting at least seventeen nerves and, also, what the hell kind of guy missed the genitalia-size-defines-manhood lesson at school, anyway?

“You bought it up,” Cas says.

“Usually your job,” Dean comments. It’s almost habit by this point. It spurs an uncomfortable twist of self-loathing somewhere in his gut. He’s doing a really terrible job of getting over Cas. A really really terrible job. The guy rips into his car and his cock and Dean’s still smitten. It’s ridiculous.

“I apologise.”

“Can we just fucking forget it?”

Cas swallows back what would no doubt be a biting retort and nods. Dean’s not entirely sure whether Cas has remembered basic rules of bedroom etiquette (even if they’re in the main room and not currently anywhere in the vicinity of sex, it still counts) or if he’s decided the point isn’t worth dragging out. Either way, Dean’s just pleased that whole line of conversation has been dropped. Good riddance.

“What are we watching?” Cas asks, sitting down on the sofa next to him, but not quite close enough to touch. Obviously, because Dean’s a feeling-sick imbecile, his very skin is itching to move closer, feel the hot warmth of Cas leaning against him. He pulls himself further away instead, holding himself at arm’s length. He can definitely do this not getting further involved thing. It’ll be fine.

“Tennis,” Dean grunts.

“Who’s playing?”

“Dunno, man, just watching it ‘cause it’s better than this crap,” Dean says, nudging his textbook with his foot, “This guy’s got a bad ass serve though. Check that frigging swing, Cas, pow.” Cas is smiling at him. One of those rare, full blown smiles that makes it look like he could be a bona fide glowing angel like his namesake, if only you propped a halo on top and added wings. “What?” Dean asks, frowning at him.

“You’re just… enthused.”

“The staring is kinda creepy, Cas,” Dean says, shifting slightly, because he’s having a full on flashback to Charlie declaring that Cas is embarrassingly in love with him on Friday night, when Dean was drunkenly laughing about something that was particularly unfunny, which isn’t true. Even if Cas is smiling at him like he’s a wondrous being just for being enthusiastic about some nameless guy’s tennis serve right after Dean’s chewed him out for being a douchebag by accident. It’s not true. Cas likes him, sure, but Dean’s his best friend. That’s kind of a given.

“I apologise.”

“Quit apologising,” Dean snaps, “I don’t wanna hear about it.”

“What do you want?”

“Just… just shut up, man.”

“Dean, are you okay?” Cas’ lips tilt in worry.

“No, Cas, I’m not o-fucking-kay, but I don’t want to talk about it, so if you could just drop it that would be frigging marvellous.”

Cas is silent for a moment.

“I do not exist as a punching bag for you to snap at whenever you’re feeling irritable.” Cas snaps back, eyes narrowing at him. “If you are unable to conduct a civil conversation I suggest you continue to lock yourself in your bedroom and refuse to speak to me.”

“You know what? Blow me, Cas.”

“I would rather not if you continue to be insufferable.” Cas says, standing up, radiating displeasure. “I understand that you are upset , Dean, but I do not exist purely when it’s convenient for you.”

“Cas,”

“You are being an ass,” Cas says, punctuating every word so that they pierce right through the air, settling in Dean’s gut. He feels awful just about instantaneously. He has been a tetchy dick since they started this whole screwing around, at first because he was in major denial about the level of involved he was and then thanks to his awareness of just how deep he’s gotten. It’s not Cas’ fault that Dean is emotionally stunted and stupidly self-unaware, just as it’s not Cas’ fault that Dean’s gone and pissed all over their friendship by falling in whatever with him. Cas is just an innocent bystander to all of Dean’s internal crap, and presumably Cas doesn’t even know about half the stuff Dean’s sifting through, because the guy hasn’t taken a double step back or starting withholding sex yet. He has stopped making jokes during sex. They don’t laugh any more. It’s not as intrinsically fun as it was pre-Benny (not that Dean thinks that’s especially related, really, it’s just as good a maker as any). It’s pretty detached, almost lacklustre sex, but it’s still happening. Even though, really, Dean needs to get out before any of this gets any worse.

Cas stalks out and slams his bedroom door behind him.

Dean resists the urge to hit himself over the head with the remote control and picks up his textbook again, scowling.

This has got to be at least five of the reasons why Charlie’s wrong about Cas being in love with him, right here this afternoon, and Dean’s not inclined to run over the rest of the list for the thousandth time this week. He’ll be up all night. Again.

*

Dean types out four variations of the text message look, Cas, maybe we should stop fooling around because it’s really messing with my head before he deletes the whole thing and settles on sorry . He will have that conversation with Cas at some point in the near future, but the least he can do is conduct that conversation face to face. Cas is his best friend. He can casual-sex-dump him in person.

Cas is literally next door. He has no excuse not to just grow a backbone and deal with it right now. He barely has an excuse for sending his apology via text messages. Dean really is a cowardly ass when it comes to talking about things.

Deadline for talking to Cas? Dean texts Charlie instead. It’s the first time he’s text her since his quasi walk of shame from her house last Saturday morning, despite the numerous texts he’s received pestering him for updates and asking him, repeatedly, whether he’s sorted any of this cluster fuck out. She gave up around Tuesday, because Charlie’s always semi-respected his boundaries enough to let Dean stew. Same as how she hasn’t told Cas about where he stayed Friday night, even though she’s labelled it self-sabotage and told Dean to prepare for a massive dose of I told you so.

Dean’s okay with it. He’s pretty sure Charlie will never the chance.

A month ago? Charlie suggests, about a minute later, when Dean’s progressed from bookmarking academic papers he needs to read on his laptop to constructing a timetable detailing when he’s going to actually do the reading (that, realistically, he’s never going to follow).

We weren’t sleeping together then

Kind of my point, dude. Charlie replies and then Friday?

Two days’ time. He can deal with that. In two days’ time he’ll tell Cas that he can’t do this, not like this at least, because his head can’t take it. Let alone his fucking heart. He’ll walk out of the conversation feeling like he’s been gutted, but it’ll be easier in the long run.

Chances are, he loses Cas when the end of the academic year and the end of their degrees rolls around anyway.

Right now, though, he has an unresponded to apology and a righteously pissed off Castiel on his hands, and he’s not starting this whole communication-talking business whilst Cas is still mad at him. Cas in a bad mood is an intimidating thing and this is going to be difficult enough without throwing anything else at it. Dean opens Snapchat and takes a picture of his jean clad crotch for a second time in his life, this time adding the caption ‘sorry 4 being inadequate’ which Dean hopes will at least go some of the way to minimising Cas’ irritation, and hopefully make him smile. Just a bit. Sufficiently that Dean doesn’t actually have to spend the next few days creeping around the apartment to avoid getting the I-will-smite-you-glare channelled in his direction.

Twenty minutes of reading the first paragraph of this paper repeatedly (all the words make sense individually but Dean’s pretty sure the way they’re strung together is nonsensical), Cas pushes open the door to his bedroom. He doesn’t advance any further into the room. He just stands there with an unreadable expression, shoulders stiff and awkward like they always are when Cas doesn’t know quite what to say.

If Dean can’t even apologise for being pissy in person, how is he supposed to conduct an actual conversation about how much this has messed with his head?

“Cas, man, I’m sorry,” Dean says, “Just been feeling really shitty, and I…” He trails off as Cas takes a step into his room, letting the door shut behind him. “S’not your job to deal with this.”

“Would a hug help?”

“You know me, Cas, I’m all for that touchy feely crap,” Dean scoffs, but he wheels his office chair round so he’s facing Cas, anyway, because now Cas has mentioned it a hug sounds really frigging lovely. He probably deserves to be told to shut up or stop pretending he’s not needy and ever so slightly affection-starved, but Cas just steps forward and reaches out for him.

With Cas’ arms folded tight around him, it’s the best he’s felt all week.

Maybe that’s just another nail in the coffin of how pathetic he is, but maybe it’s not. He’s allowed to have feelings, just as Cas is allowed to not have particular feelings. They’re perfectly valid, if kind of awkwardly misplaced, but that’s not his fault necessarily.

Cas has an instinctive knowledge of exactly what Dean needs and how to work around his bad moods. He gets Dean’s jokes and he throws one liners right back. He makes deadpan comments about his dick in the kitchen. He barely understands sarcasm. They’ve lived together for years and Cas still likes spending time with him. He challenges Dean when he’s being a douchebag but forgives him anyway. It’s not that crazy, really. Throw in the fact that Cas is damn attractive and the unbelievable sex and it’s actually hard to find a reason why he wouldn’t be in love with him.

And there, he's admitted it, at least in the relatively safe confines of his own head. He's in love with Castiel.

Dean twists his fists into the back of Cas’ jacket and holds him there.

“Thanks, man,” Dean says, quietly, because it really does help. It’s just nice to have close Cas enough that Dean can feel his heart beating. Cas feels solid and it’s grounding and is pulling him a little bit further out the rabbit hole.

So what if Dean is in love with his best friend? It doesn’t make him a bad person. It probably just makes him a person.

Cas doesn’t let go until Dean pulls back, a socially unacceptable length of time later. Cas doesn’t care, though. He’s never cared about social conventions and how-to-be-a-proper-human like Dean has. He’s just sort of Cas, floating along, barely touched by all the outward pressures to be a certain way. Dean’s always admired that, even if it pisses him off sometimes.

“I, uh… might cook in a bit,” Dean says, clearing his throat slightly, “how do you feel about risotto?”

“Favourably,” Cas says, and then he pauses slightly, faltering. “Nothing about you is inadequate, Dean.”

Dean feels his gut twists slightly. Cas shouldn’t be allowed to throw crap like that out because the chances are he probably means it. Even when Dean’s been a pain in the ass to live with lately, between the dark moods and the snapping. Cas thinks Dean’s actually all right.

“Including my Snapchats?” Dean says, trying to bring conversation back onto the grounds of humour, rather than let Cas know that his chest really hurts and he really, really appreciates everything that Castiel right now. Goddamn, but Cas is the best.

“Up to and including your Snapchats, your car and your penis. Particularly your penis.” Cas says, serious enough that Dean snorts and shakes his head, but he’s smiling for the first time in days.

He actually feels quantifiably better.

He puts AC/DC on whilst he cooks both of them dinner, and is singing along to Back in Black when Castiel remerges from his bedroom and pretends to read his textbook in the kitchen. He’s actually just watching Dean cook and occasionally inserting the odd comment about how he doesn’t understand Dean’s love of classic rock, either, but Dean will probably forgive him for it.

Maybe everything isn’t exactly idea, but it could be a hell of a lot worse.

*

“Dean, you haven’t opened any of your post for over a week,” Cas says, the second Dean emerges from his bedroom on Thursday night. He’s actually got some work done for the first time this week, even if it meant sacrificing eating leftover risotto with Cas to eat it in his room with a textbook for company. Still, he hadn’t even realised his growing workload was adding to his stress levels before he sifted through some of it. He’ll catch up enough over the weekend that he’s no longer drowning it, although the chances of him ever actually getting ahead is minimal.

“Where is it?”

“On the coffee table,”

“We have a coffee table?” Dean asks, glancing towards their sofa and frowning, “Dude, the post goes next to the coffee machine.”

“It was in the way,”

“So,” Dean says, stepping further into the room, “What you’re really saying is you’ve been hiding my post?”

“It’s hardly hidden, Dean.”

“Where is this mythical coffee table, then?” Dean asks, glancing round the room. In his head they literally only have a sofa, a kitchen table and a television. He’s vaguely aware that their main room has an empty bookcase shoved in a corner that they store the take away menus on, but… coffee tables? Certainly never shown up on his radar. “Cause, gotta tell you man, I usually put my coffee on the floor.”

“Behind the television,”

“Right,” Dean says, “because that makes sense.”

“It was in the way,” Cas says again.

“How much stuff do we have that was ‘in your way’ and then never seen again?” Dean asks, wondering over to the TV to discover that, yes, they have a coffee table and, yes, it has a stack of post on it. “You do that with people who piss you off, too?”

“You’re still here, so evidentially not.”

“Hilarious, man,” Dean says, “You’re a real comedy genius. Assignment going okay?”

He picks up the stack of post and flops down onto the sofa, flicking through it idly. Mostly, he just gets the usual spam (he’s pretty sure Cas puts down his address whenever anywhere is giving out free shit in exchange for personal details, because Dean definitely did not give their address out to all of their local take outs, any of the charity shops, or several graduate recruitment firms) and bank statements. The utility bills generally go to Cas.

“Slowly,” Cas says, and Dean hums in response.

“What will twenty dollars buy me?” Dean asks, scanning through his bank statement feeling vaguely depressed. This statement is from just before Dean realised he didn’t have enough money to pay rent and panic picked up shifts, so he technically (hopefully) has a little more accumulated right now, but it’s still damn depressing sifting through how much money he squandered by accident. He needs a budget and enough time to do things the cheap way. And to buy less beer.

“Numerous condoms. Part of the utilities bill.”

“Yeah, shit, I need to pick a couple more shifts up,” Dean mutters, peeling open the next letter. It’s from the sexual health clinic, same letter he’s received for the past few years, except he’d completely forgotten he was expecting it. “When did we get these?”

“About a week ago,” Cas says.

“You didn’t mention it,” Dean says, stretching his neck to frown at him. Given Cas is the preacher of all things sexually responsible, and they’ve been kinda fucking, he’d have thought Cas would have pushed him to open his letter as soon as it arrived rather than letting it gather dust. “You good?”

“Yes,”

“Snap,” Dean says, dropping the letter onto the pile with the rest of his post. “Well, hey, maybe I’ll take a rain check on the numerous condoms, pay more of the utility bill.” Dean says, dropping the letter on top of his bank statement and pulling out his phone bill. He pauses, slightly, because he can feel Cas’ gaze on the back of his neck, solid and unwavering. “I was joking, Cas,”

“We’re both clean,”

“…or I could not be joking,” Dean says, swallowing, and glancing back up at Cas. The guy’s got the extra serious look he always gets when he’s deliberating something and he’s not quite sure whether he should speak or not. “Cas,” Dean says, pulling him out of his thought process and raising his eyebrows at him. It’s an invitation. It’s a I see where you’re going with this and I am intrigued sort of look.

“Dean,” Cas says, staring at him, “Has anyone ever fucked you without a condom?”

Dean blinks at him.

As propositions go, he’s had smoother lines used on him. Hell, he’s even had smoother lines from Cas, but aside from ‘do you want to build a snowman’ (seriously, how the fuck is this his life?), it’s the most appealing line he’s experience in a long time.

It shouldn’t be. He should be running the hell away from this because, well, he’s already screwed his head six a hundred ways about the whole Cas thing, and despite what Cas said on that first morning, they still haven’t switched positions. This isn’t going to help. Even without the suggested lack of condom.

And Jesus, where did that come from?

The test was technically done a few weeks ago. He hasn’t slept with anyone but Cas since then, but Cas must have done. He can’t think of who or when, but… he must have. And, anyway, as far as Cas is concerned, Dean slept with Benny like a few days ago. I mean, sure, they’re probably both good… but suggesting what Cas seems to be suggesting is a pretty un-Cas like thing to do. It’s borderline irresponsible.

And it sounds fucking awesome .

“No,” Dean says, and his mouth is dry. After accepting the whole bisexual thing, he still wasn’t comfortable bottoming for a significant length of time. He didn’t switch until he’d stopped being irresponsible and occasionally lax on the protection (a good thing, all things considered). He’s certainly never been in a relationship with a dude. Nothing that would call for a lapse in protection use. Until now, probably. “You, uh, recommending it?”

“Urgently,” Cas says, and then, “If that’s something you’re comfortable with.”

Charlie’s number one piece of advice had been do not let anything progress until after they’ve talked about stuff. Dean has given himself a personal deadline of tomorrow for the talking. He’s entirely sure that this kind of decision will help with neither of those objectives but… damn. Damn.

“Yeah,” Dean says, before he’s really finished thinking it through. There are some very good reasons why this isn’t the most sensible decision he’s ever made, up to and including the fact that Cas doesn’t know that this is probably the least causal sex Dean has ever had, the fact that his deadline for telling Cas that is tomorrow, and the fact that the whole switching thing probably won’t help with either of those things. On the other hand, Dean’s stumbled into a much better headspace than he’s been inhabiting the past few days, and if this is potentially the last time they’re ever going to sleep together… well, might as well go out in style. It would be kind of tragic if Dean let a couple of dumb internalised issues mean that he never got to experience Cas like that. And he’s curious. And turned on. “I mean… yeah. I could get comfy.”

Cas looks surprised.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, Cas, I think I am.”

“You think?

“You gonna get over here and fuck me or give me a lesson on semantics?” Dean asks, setting his pile of half opened post on the arm of the sofa and raising a challenging eyebrow at him.

“Semantics is an interesting discipline,” Cas says, smiling slightly. He closes his textbook deliberately and very, very, slowly, and now Dean’s watching him put the lid back on his fountain pen (Cas is a weird dude) as if it’s some kind of weird strip tease. Only Cas could pull that off. Dean’s never really had a thing for nerdy guys (or girls, actually) but he’s totally read to reconsider that.

“Don’t be an ass,”

“You’re being the ass tonight, Dean,” Cas says, and it’s such a fucking stupid line that Dean’s chucking. Cas is such a ridiculous human being. Dean’s not sure how he’s even real, sometimes, but he’s fucking grateful of it. “I hope there was nothing you were planning to accomplish tonight, Dean,” Cas says, finally ditching the books and heading in the direction of Dean and the sofa, eyes glinting the kind of blue that’s sort of magnetic. “I fully intend to take my time.”

*

When Castiel says he intends to take his time, he's going to take his god damn time.

Not that Dean objects, exactly, it's just that Cas just kissed him for an age before he even rid Dean of his shirt, and now they've finally done away with all clothes and relocated and Cas is still kissing him like this is the main event. He's a-okay with Cas mapping out every inch of him like he's preparing to make a fucking sculpture from memory later, but he really should not be so undone by however long of straight necking. He just shouldn't. Even if Cas is a genius who has him the most relaxed he's been, ever.

Dean’s supposed to be freaking out about the unrequited baggage and the fact that he's really cementing his doom (and the bottoming stuff), but he’s just super relaxed, thoughtless putty under Cas' hands. It's actually awesome.

"Cas," Dean sighs, into another kiss, "not that I'm complaining, but..."

"This sounds like the beginning of a complaint."

"Fine," Dean says, tilting Cas in with a hand on the back of his neck for another kiss because, well, Dean can join in too. "I'd like to file a request to your complaints department, Novak."

"The request?" Cas asks, rolling their hips together ever so slightly. It's about the closest thing to friction he's been allowed thus far, so he'll take it.

"That you get on with it and fucking fuck me," Dean says, and then Cas is grinning at him.

"Your request has been noted," Cas deadpans, then kisses him again. Dean may or may not groan and Cas smothers a laugh into Dean's neck, and Dean can definitely get used to that. Hell, if Cas really wants to spent the whole frigging night making out then Dean is game, actually, it's just that it's opening up a whole frightening possibility that Dean had previously considered and then immediately brushed over because he didn’t think he could afford to think about it.

You don't swap this much saliva with casual sex. You just don't.

There's no way that Cas can act even a little like this with his one night stands. He's pretty sure he's had the meaningless sex version of Cas for the past week, and it's notably different. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not like this, and not like it was before the whole Benny thing didn't actually go down. He can't think of any other way of connecting the two things and, with Cas this close and naked and smiling at him, he can't think of another explanation. Maybe it's just Dean confusing sex and emotions again, but it seems... glowingly plausible.

"Turn over, Dean," Cas says, deep and low in his ear, and frigging finally.

Maybe, just maybe, Dean's not alone in this.

He’d written off the possibility as a matter of saving himself from letting himself fall deeper into… into this, but, well, he’s kind of fucked anyway. And Dean is Castiel’s best friend too. Hell, Dean’s the closest friend Castiel’s ever had. From what he’s worked out from testimonies from Gabriel and Anna, and just the way that Cas is, Cas wasn’t friendless so much as he wasn’t close to anyone (except the bastard ex who screwed him over, and then Daphne in some ways), because he was a little bit strange and a little bit intimidating. Cas doesn’t really have that many close friends outside of Dean even now. Mostly they come as a pair for social gatherings, but Dean has Charlie and Victor and a couple of his class mates he sees outside of Cas.

It’s not crazy to think that Cas might have done the exact same thing.

"Let's get this show on the road," Dean mutters, complying. Cas' hands go for smothering over his back rather than to his ass, but Dean’s so comfortable he doesn't even care that apparently Cas isn't done yet. The guy can have whatever the hell he wants. Do whatever the hell he wants.

Maybe Cas is just being intensely considerate to Dean's general bottoming issues, but they already detangled a lot of that when Dean was still laid out under him on the coach nearly fully dressed. It comes down to his general perception of masculinity, that fuck up with Alistair that Cas already knew about and a tendency to come down hard and painfully post-fuck. Usually when he's alone. Cas had probably worked that all out himself before them sleeping together was even on the cards, but Dean didn't even particularly mind hashing it out when Cas was rewarding him with a thumb tracing his jaw, or a hand brushing over his shoulder blade. It was good, actually, in the way that talking to Cas about this sort of bullshit always seems to help for reasons Dean’s yet to work out.

Cas championed Dean's room for reasons that are likely related to all of that crap (they’ve mostly used Cas’ room, and it’s a little strange that they’re in Dean’s bed) and he'll probably have Cas stuck to him like a limpet for the whole of tomorrow, until he eventually decides Dean's not going to crash or freak out.

It's unnecessary though. Dean's never been more okay with anything in his life.

"Dean," Cas says, pressing his lips just under Dean’s earlobe. Currently he has most of Cas weight resting above him, with Cas' fingers tracing his spine. "How do you feel about rimming?"

Jesus Christ. Cas is going to kill him.

*

Dean definitely does not hate the fact that Cas curled up like a cat and fell asleep on his chest right after they were done fucking, even if it left Dean to do an awkward solo-clean up mission with limited movement available. Nothing new there, really, as Cas has always been sneakily good at getting out of any kind of clean up, whether it’s post-coital or post-pancake-mix fight or just a matter of cleaning the frigging bathroom.

It’s the juxtaposition of Cas as a slightly pushy and seriously intense fuck with Cas as the cuddler which Dean appreciates, really, because there’s so many shades of Castiel that it’s sort of fascinating to watch them all in play with each other. It makes sense to Dean just because he knows Cas, but to anyone else Cas is this weird enigma of sharp edges, awkwardness, humour and the chronic seriousness. But if Cas can be bad ass, strong and intimidating and still earnestly seek out physical contact and frigging snuggle then maybe that’s okay for Dean too.

He likes it a little less when Cas is still employing him as a pillow come the next morning, because he’d really love the freedom of movement again. The harsh light of morning is enough to have him questioning the avenues of thought he wondered into last night, and he’s not actually entirely sure that he’s wrong, and now he’s freaking out slightly. He wants to escape to the bathroom or to disappear to make coffee just to give himself a minute, but he’s also semi-aware that ditching out right now would probably classify as a dick move.

What if Cas does want this? Them? As an actual defined thing?

Hell, Dean’s still not sure he’s cut out for any of the relationship stuff, if that is, by some miracle, something that Cas would actually want. He’s never managed it before without screwing up big time. It’s not like Lisa or Robin or Amanda would give him any kind of decent character reference (he might get good in bed from Lisa, but that’s about it). He doesn’t really know where they’d start.

If any of that was on Cas’ radar. It’s a big if. Possible, though.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas says. Cas’ just-woke-up voice is a wondrous thing to behold. It’s rougher and rawer than his everyday equivalent, and it sounds like whiskey and cigarettes and sex personified.

It is, apparently, easier not to think too much when he’s kissing Cas good morning (apparently that’s a thing Dean does now; he’s such a fucking sap he still kind of hates himself, just a little bit, although the feelings not nearly as prevalent as it has been for the past week).

“Hey,” Dean returns, after pulling away.

“How are you?”

“Awesome,” Dean says, because it’s true. He’s no longer beating himself up over his feelings for Cas (much). There’s vague hope there, but even if there isn’t… he has a new winner in the best sex ever charts, and he’s never felt so right with himself post-bottoming ever. It’s good. He’s not remotely thinking about the assumptions people (namely John Winchester, his old school friends and his Mom, although that’s largely conjecture; her opinions on same sex attraction hadn’t exactly come up in conversation when Dean was four) might make about him, nor is he trying to extrapolate what the previous night means about his character. It doesn’t mean anything. It was just really good sex. Specifically, really good sex with Castiel, which obviously contributed vastly to the quality of the sex. “No idea why I put that off, man, that was…”

“Awesome,” Castiel suggests, lips twisted upwards. Dean doesn’t even care that he’s being mocked, because Cas just looks so amused doing it.

“Smart ass,” Dean mutters.

It’s Friday. His personal deadline for talking to Cas.

Naked in bed probably isn’t the right time.

"What’s the kinkiest sex you've ever had?" Dean asks, mainly to fill up the silence and shut his frigging brain up. He's over thinking. This morning feels different and he can't put his finger on why, same way last night was different to the rest of their sexual encounters (other than the obvious). He could probably pin it down to the fact that it's the first time he's allowed himself to acknowledge the big fat case of feelings he has about this, about Cas. All week he's been internally punishing himself for assuming he's allowed, which he gets is kinda dumb even if he hasn't shook the residue from that off just yet. A lot of his thought processes are kinda fucked in a lot of ways.

Although Cas might possibly have detangled all the bullshit he has tied up in bottoming last night. He wouldn't bet his life on it just yet, but it might be true. Cas has a special talent for curing Dean’s issues.

"I.... don't know." Cas says, blinking at him. It's a weird conversation topic for this time in the morning, and a hell of a jump at that, but it was the first question that came into his head.

“Sex talk, man, thought you loved this stuff,” Dean says, in an attempt at justification. His question would probably be considered more off base by anyone else, but Cas at least has a tendency to take Dean’s weirdness in his stride most of the time. Dean likes to think he exchanges the same courtesy and doesn’t question too much the brief forays into yoga (but, seriously, what the fuck) and the really pretentious stationary, but he’s not quite as good as it as Cas is. "What about that threesome with Meg?"

"It never transpired.”

“How come?”

Cas stares at him, blue gaze unwavering, for a few long seconds before answering. Their staring contests have always been pretty intense, but it’s taken up a gear by the fact that they’re both naked in Dean’s bed, and Cas is looking at him like he’s trying to read Dean’s thoughts right out of his head. Especially when he’s still half tucked under Dean’s arm, resting against his side.

And Dean didn’t really think it was that complicated a question.

“You were Meg’s first choice,” Cas finally says, half a minute later.

“And yours, right?” Dean grins, nudging him, “Waayy above Meg,”

“Yes, Dean,” Cas deadpans, with a sarcastic variant of his smile, “You are always my number one choice.”

“Well, sorry to have deprived you, dude, but Meg sets my evil senses tingling.”

“Not necessarily,”

“Huh?”

“You haven’t necessarily deprived me. I still have my number one choice.” Cas says, and Dean stares at him for a minute before he catches Cas’ drift…. And, no. That is something he definitely cannot handle. A frigging threesome with Cas would be a special kind of torture and not one he intends to subscribe to.

“Dude, I’m not sharing you for no one,”

Cas stiffens, pulls out of the loose hold of Dean’s arm, and sits up.

“Do you mean that?” Cas asks.

Fuck.

He means it, but he sure as hell didn't men to say it. It slipped out of his mouth before he had a chance to moderate himself, because he doesn’t generally moderate himself around Cas. It’s probably impressive that he hasn’t messed up before this point, because keeping stuff from Cas has never worked out so well from him.

Dean swallows.

His hearts beating double time, his throat is constructing and, holy shit, it’s crunch time. Cas is fixing him with one of those paralysing stares and Dean doesn’t have the right words, or any words actually, and he doesn’t know what to do. He’s left it too long to play it off as some kind of joke. He’s lost the opportunity to do whatever the feelings equivalent of calling a ‘no homo’ is. It’s too late.

So he bolts.

Dean’s in the kitchen before he’s registered that he’s still butt naked.

His knee jerk reaction is alcohol, but it’s whatever time in the morning and it’s not acceptable, not really, so he flicks the coffee machine on instead. Fingers splayed on the kitchen counter, he’s still trying to work out his way out. All he really did was buy himself a little time.

Any second now, Cas is going to follow him in here and demand that they talk, and Dean’s going to have to have something to say.

“Dean,” Cas says.

Time's up.

“You want coffee?”

“We need to talk,”

“All I need right now is coffee, man,” Dean counters, turning around to see that Cas at least paused for long enough to pull on his jeans. He looks even more stupid being completely bare ass naked with Cas semi-dressed, but he doubts Cas is going to let him out of his sight until they’ve talked.

"Dean, I need you to be straight with me."

Dean’s still busy retrieving a mug from the kitchen cupboard so that he doesn’t have to look at the guy. He’s vaguely hoping that some divine inspiration is going to come from somewhere, because he just doesn’t know what to say. Where’s he even supposed to start?

"Not straight, Cas, bi." Cas slams the cupboard door behind his head shut. "Hey, don't pull that aggressive shit with me, buddy."

“You will do me the courtesy of talking about this,”

“Will I?” Dean asks, folding his arms and turning back towards him. Cas’ anger deflates slightly, but his gaze stays sharp.

“Given your aversion to these conversations we have yet to discuss this,” Cas says, voice forcibly low and steady. Dean really wishes he wasn’t naked right now. He’s vulnerable enough already.

“I’m not the only one capable of starting a fucking conversation, dude.”

“Yes,” Cas agrees, “I had thought you understood, but given recent mixed signals –”

"Mixed signals," Dean repeats, the frustrating and the bubbling confusion snapping somewhere in his gut. Anything would have been better than being ambushed about this right now. "You wanna talk about mixed signals? What about telling me I'm on your no invite list then sending me a picture of your god damn dick?" Dean says, voice rising. "How about pretending that's a fucking normal thing to do and then, I don't know, trying to make me sleep in your bed then kicking me to the curb the next morning."

"I was hungover, Dean," Cas snaps, throwing his own irritation right back. Cas got angry first, but Dean’s right there with him now, because it’s really fucking rich of Cas to pin this on him. Cas started this shit. Maybe Dean didn’t exactly discourage it, but Cas was the one who started the goddamn flirting, and that frigging snapchat, and Cas kissed him. Cas challenged him. The guy hasn’t tried to talk to him about this beyond a couple of half-hearted attempts that he must have known Dean would shoot down, either. Cas has been holding a whole load of pertinent information ransom and that’s not Dean’s fault. It’s only half Dean’s fault that he went and fell in fucking love with him, and there’s a part of him that thinks Cas must have known that would happen. He doesn’t deserved being yelled at in the kitchen when he’s butt naked and freaking the hell out because he didn’t mean to let that slip.

Cas is supposed to know him back to front. He’s not suppose to pull this kind of crap.

"Then you pull some bullshit act with Benny at Charlie’s party one minute and the next -"

"- you told me not sleeping with me was the best thing that ever happened to you." Cas interrupts, throwing it into the space between them like some kind of weapon. Dean’s pissed because he feels like Cas should have know what he meant when he said that. That Dean’s an asshole who can’t handle feelings, and that not sacrificing his friendship with Cas due to his own stupidity was the best idea ever. On some level, Dean’s aware that he can’t really blame Cas for that, but goddamn the guy should have just known.

"Yeah," Dean agrees, "because I fucking knew this would happen, and you know what, Cas? Maybe I should have stood by that."

Cas is utterly silent for a good few seconds.

The slam of his bedroom door behind him certainly isn’t.

Chapter Text

It’s about an hour later when Cas emerges from his bedroom.

Dean’s staring at the blank screen of the television because turning it on seemed like it involves a whole lot more mind coordination than he has available at the moment, because his brain went deliciously blank about twenty seconds after Cas slammed back into his bedroom. He wandered into his room to get dressed near enough on auto-pilot, his coffee went cold at least twenty minutes ago but he’s still drinking it, and he is thinking absolutely nothing when Cas’ door reopens.

It doesn’t last.

Cas has a duffel bags on one shoulder and his laptop bag on the other and Dean’s not even surprised, not really. He probably wouldn’t have been able to feel out a worse thing to throw at Cas if he’d planned it. Cas is sex-positive and no regrets and sex for pleasure and only for pleasure, and Dean’s just spat a whole load of regret back in his face. He just flat out implied that he wishes they’d never slept together. He doesn’t even know if he means it.

He’s not surprised Cas has packed a god damn overnight bag.

“That’s one of my bags you know, Cas,” Dean says, nodding towards he duffle. His voice sounds flat. He probably should have turned the TV on, because now he looks like some kind of weirdo with his cold coffee staring at the blank screen. At least his brain was working enough that he actually got dressed.

“I think it’s best if I –”

“ – do whatever makes you happy, man,” Dean interrupts, snatching up the remote. He’s not going to look at him. He doesn’t particularly want to watch Cas walk out of their front door with his bags and his trench coat and that god damn blank expression, like this is easy.

“You make me happy, Dean.”

He turns around for that. It’s not the expressionless facade, either, Cas looks halfway to broken. Vulnerable in a way that Dean isn’t really used to (because he’s always thought Cas to be this unshakable, steadfast presence). Upset. And Dean would have thought it would help with his own bullshit emotions to know that Cas at least cares , but it just twists the knife deeper. Fuck but Dean is really ace at screwing things up and it’s not really a talent to boast about.

“You know I wish more than anyone that was actually true,” Dean smiles, a bitter humourless thing, and it’s probably the first time since they’ve started this that Dean’s been fully honest.

“Do not think to tell me what does and does not make me happy, Dean,” Cas says, and the bite’s back in his voice. The anger is too close to the emotions its masking, though, and it’s really uncomfortable to hear Cas being so frigging expressive. He thought he’d like it, but Cas is usually the one all stoic and controlled – except for the impassioned righteous anger, obviously – whilst Dean’s the one falling apart. Even when Cas is dealing with his own family crap, he does so with minimal fuss and more or less silent suffering. He gets moody and sullen and occasionally quite drunk, sure, but he doesn’t get like this. “It is not the right of you or your deflated self-worth to dictate that.”

“Sure don’t look happy right now, Cas,” Dean says. Cas blinks at him and doesn’t move. Dean can’t look away. It’s like watching some awful natural disaster. “Where… uh, where are you going?”

Judging by the amount of crap Cas has got in his bag, this is going to be a weekend thing max. Cas’ text books are still on the kitchen table from where he abandoned them to fuck Dean instead, and Cas is never away from the books for long. They’re not quite ate end-of-times level of fuck up, but then again even when Castiel told him he’d let him off being a misogynistic douchebag because of his dead Mom and he’s Dad’s so called obsession with her, no one packed any bags. They stewed in their own silence for a few days before Cas figured he’d left it long enough to apologise, and the atmosphere of the apartment was awkward and tense for weeks whilst Dean dodged the apologies and occasionally yelled, but Dean hadn’t ever gone ahead with shoving some clothes in a bag and crashing at Charlie’s place. He’d thought about it. It just felt too much like it meant something.

It definitely feels like it means something right now.

“Crowley’s.”

“Crowley,” Dean says, nodding slightly. He’s smiling even though there is absolutely nothing to warrant it, but his knee jerk defence mechanism is kicking in. “Well, that’s just peachy.”

“I thought Crowley had grown on you,” Cas says, voice a little more level now. Before it sounded as though it was on the verge of splitting in two, but they’re on safer ground; talking about Cas leaving with a few days’ worth of crap like he’s just about to run some meaningless errands. Cas is pulling himself back in and levelling out his emotions, and Dean’s not even sure if that’s a good thing anymore. He doesn’t know.

It takes Dean a few seconds to catch up to the fact that Cas is referring to Dean texting that Crowley wasn’t as awful as he thought when he was at Charlie’s party, but he doesn’t know how the hell Cas committed that to memory. Dean barely remembers the conversation himself, and he hadn’t been sipping from a bottle of whiskey at the time.

“Yeah, well, I was in a really crappy mood at the time. He’s more bearable when you’re feeling kinda murderous.”

“Dean –”

“– could probably do with some space too, man,” Dean says. His voice still sounds devoid of anything, except maybe a slight hint of trying too hard, but he supposes that’s better than a total fucking breakdown. There could be one on the cards if they drag this conversation out for much longer, though. “Just… come back, yeah?”

“Personal space?” Cas asks. He might be aiming for humour but it still sounds a bit tragic. Dean swallows.

“Yeah, personal space, Cas,” Dean smiles, but it sort of hurts, and then Cas is resolutely not smiling back, but just staring at him instead. There’s an apology on the tip of his tongue but he’s not even sure to what extent he should be apologising, or what he’s supposed to apologise for. The dumb ass comment or this whole fucking disaster? “In a bit,” Dean says, because Cas still isn’t moving. That jerks Cas out of his impromptu staring and then Cas is just leaving.

Fuck.

He thinks about going after him.

He doesn’t.

*

Dean’s still on the sofa, the TVs still turned off and his coffee is still cold. The only difference is that he’s now sat with his head in his hands and Cas is gone, way gone, and as much as he keeps telling himself that it’s not going to be for any real length of time… he cannot believe he finally pushed Cas far enough that he’s gonna spend the night on someone else’s sofa. Or their fucking bed. Probably the latter.

The doorbell rings and, for a few seconds, he honest to God thinks it’s going to be Cas at the door. That he’s going to be there with his trench coat and Dean’s duffle bag, head tilted slightly as he says ‘you don’t want to share me.’ Dean will nod like the dumb idiot he’s always been, then Cas will call him a moronic assbutt and kiss him until they’ve both forgotten about his explosive case of verbal diarrhoea. They’ll have romantic-style sex on the floor and not get carpet burn, because sex never goes wrong in faux-fantasies of things that just aren’t going to happen. Cas actually being at the door is about as likely as Charlie deciding she suddenly likes dick.

It’s going to take at least a few days before Cas calms down sufficiently to ask if Dean actually means it.

And, worse, Dean thinks he actually might have done, and then Cas won’t ever really forgive him. It’s a kick in the friendship teeth that Dean didn’t feel like he could just talk about this, for one, but add in the fact that Dean let Cas meander into this situation where Cas ‘had thought Dean understood’, whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean, and they’ve got one hell of a mess. Cas is probably going to feel like this miscommunication turns this into some sort of friendship-violation. Dean should have put a stop to things the second he had his great feelings revelation, because it’s not fair on Cas that he’s been unwittingly been having the kind of lopsided sex which means something different to the other person.

Maybe Dean’s not the only one with a mouth (Cas has one hell of a mouth, actually) so, yeah, Cas could have started that conversation too… but Dean’s the one with the side order of feelings he definitely didn’t ask for. And Dean’s the one who dropped the grenade on what probably would have been a really frigging great morning.

Maybe I should have stood by that .

It’s all well and good to cite some crappy line about how it’s better to have loved and lost or whatever other garbage romance novels have been trying to sell people for decades, but the point is he wouldn’t have lost Cas. At least not in the same way. Besides, he’d just be slightly more in denial about the ‘love’ aspect. It would still be there, just buried a little deeper. Dean’s always thought that denial was a pretty comfortable state of affairs, anyway, and the best sex in the world isn’t worth losing Cas. Not if those are the only two options.

He was happy before. He’d never thrown shitty half-truths at Castiel whilst naked in the goddamn kitchen. He’d never put that expression on Cas’ face. He’d never heard Cas’ voice crack like that.

It didn’t feel like he was missing anything. Not really. Not most of the time. Maybe sometimes, like the situation after Pam, his chest would sort of ache… because Dean can be really shitty and unlovable and cheap, and everyone thinks that, except Cas. Cas just thinks it’s okay for him to get down sometimes. He lets Dean watch bad daytime television spin offs in his bed, even when he reeks of sweat and deserved to be told to sort his life out. Even then, it didn’t feel like he was missing something as much as he just wanted to crawl closer to Cas. Just to be a bit nearer.

It’s Charlie at the door.

“Cas called. Super sketchy phone call. Said I should head over here with pie and a box set.” Charlie says, holding up a slice of convenience store pie and the first season of Game of Thrones. Charlie, smiling and wearing a dorky (but frigging awesome) t-shirt as always feels totally at odds with his mind-set, because Dean’s programmed onto slow and deliberating and emotionless wallowing. “Where is he?” She asks, glancing over his shoulder.

Fuck Cas.

Fuck Cas for not being mad enough to let Dean suffer on his own and beat himself up about this. Fuck Cas for probably still thinking about Dean’s bottoming issues and the whole potential to crash when he’s alone thing. Fuck Cas for still being thoughtful and still knowing him inside out, and still acting on that even when Dean doesn’t really deserve it right now.

Goddamn.

“He took off,” Dean says. His voice sounds lower and more deadened than usual, “With bags.” He doesn’t give Charlie a chance to say anything, just opens the door by continuing “You have pie.”

Charlie passes him the pie wordlessly as Dean steps back to let her enter their flat, locking the door behind him.

“Wanna talk about it?” Charlie asks.

Dean goes to get a fork.

“Not really, no,” Dean returns, pausing because, oh yeah, most of the undressing from last night occurred in their main room.

Dean snatches up the two t-shirts and Dean’s jeans from the foot of the sofa, shoving them both in the washing machine before coming back for the pie. He’s pretty sure he should be weeping over Cas’ t-shirts or getting blackout drunk right now, but he’s still mostly just empty. He’s fully planning on slowly and deliberately eating his pity pie until the iciness defrosts. Hopefully Charlie will still be here when the levee breaks.

“Is this sofa even sanitary?”

“We did not fuck on the sofa,” Dean says, voice flat, as Charlie sits down. “Last night.”

Charlie makes a face.

“As long as there’s no lingering boy juice.”

“Boy juice,” Dean repeats, tonelessly. If this were any other situation he’d find that hilarious in itself, and it would probably turn into an in joke, and probably an in joke that Cas would make ten times worse by bringing it up when he was sucking Dean off (if that’s even they something do anymore), but it’s not all that funny right now. It’s amusing in an abstract way. He’s consciously aware that he wants to file it away and appreciate it later.

Thankfully Charlie does not ask him how he is. She does, however, make a face and say “So Cas took off, huh? Where to?”

“Crowley’s,” Dean says, “He didn’t take his goddamn pencil case, so I’m assuming just for the weekend.”

“Dude, that sucks.”

“Yep,” Dean agrees, taking the DVD out of her hand and heading for the TV.

*

“I might go home,” Dean says, after one and a bit episode of Game of Thrones. He finished his pie a while back and he’s not really absorbing anything, just staring at the TV the same as he was doing when it was turned off. At least now the cogs are turning long enough that he’s felt out some kind of plan which doesn’t involve glaring at the TV until Cas comes back.

Plan A through to D all involved alcohol and possibly getting laid, but the Benny disaster is still pretty fresh, and Dean’s pretty sure he needs to think through the ‘you make me happy’ thing before he makes any kind of decision. Dean being a complete fucking a-hole aside, there’s still this chance that they might actually be reading from the same novel; not on the same page, exactly, but nearly. Dean’s either a chapter behind or Cas started reading the damn thing backwards, but they could get there.

After some space. And a conversation or seven.

“Home?” Charlie asks, glancing round the apartment looking confused, “Oh, like home home?”

“Well, Bobby’s,” Dean says. “It’s like… a six hour drive. Could head off after my lecture and be there just after dinner. Eat on the road. Head back on Monday.”

Charlie looks like she’s trying to figure out how that fits into Dean’s general habit of self-destructive behaviour but failing, because he’s actually thought this through and the reasoning is pretty sound; driving will help in the way that driving’s always seemed to help, he won’t be sitting alone in an empty apartment hating himself and he’ll get to see his family.

Back when he was growing up, whenever they stayed somewhere long enough for somewhere to sour, usually with Dean in trouble with school for skipping, Sam digging in his heals, and when Sam and John’s arguing reached its peak, they’d pack their bags and hit the road and just drive away from all the bullshit. The new start never stuck. They always wound up back in the same argument, because family crap doesn’t go away when you cross state lines, but the lullaby of the road has still always been soothing.

He can’t really afford the gas money, but to hell with it. He wants to see Sam and Bobby and Ellen and Jo (and not John Winchester, if he can help it).

“Want me to help you pack?” Charlie eventually asks, standing up and pausing the TV in one motion.

“I dunno, Bradbury, is that gonna involve another montage?”

“You know it,”

“Could you, uh, tell Cas…?”

Charlie raises her eyebrows at him in a way which clearly means tell him yourself, Winchester, which is probably fair enough.

He’s probably not going to, though.

*

He texts Bobby a cryptic don’t happen to have any hot dates this weekend, do you? from the road and gets a no, you idjit, what the hell you asking for? a few minutes later, but he doesn’t answer. Just shoves his phone in the glove box, pays for his diner burger and keeps driving.

*

The salvage yard is the same as ever.

It’s the only constant he’s had since Bobby came into picture when Dean was about seven, and there’s something settling about having somewhere to drive back to. There’s shame mixed in there too, because Dean’s technically an adult by almost all definitions of the word, and he’s driven over three hundred miles to see his pseudo-father because his roommate decided to crash somewhere else for a couple of nights. That’s pretty pathetic by most standards.

Obviously, he’s gonna drive across down to see Sam and probably his dad in a couple of hours, as they’ve been rooted nearby ever since Sam’s great escape to Bobby’s (from fucking Texas, which was all kinds of ridiculous; the thought of his at the time sixteen year old brother driving across state lines and no one knowing, with a forged signature keeping the school from calling John, and Dean being too distracted by college to keep him from finding out still gives him nightmares). He didn’t even known John had done a bunk again until Bobby called to tell him that Sam had enrolled himself in a school in Sioux falls and that John’s last known location was somewhere in Missouri but that he was otherwise missing in action.

Things were semi-resolved and John put down new roots in South Dakota. It probably seemed like an easier route after the shit storm. Bobby throwing around going to the authorities – Bobby Singer, the man who’s known by name and attitude to all authority figures in the area, and who’s been dubious of anyone in a position of power ever since he shot his abusive fuck off a father in the head (this he got when Bobby was drunk and pissed to the high heavens at John), threatening to call the CPS. The only reason he didn’t was thanks to Sam deciding he’d try and get himself emancipated and Dean throwing out that he should try and be Sam’s guardian, really. The whole thing was a damned mess, but it worked out for the vague good in the end, because things have been pretty quiet since then.

At least in terms of his family.

Sure, Dean would still rather crash at Bobby’s for an impromptu trip than with his Dad, but they all get on better that way. Things haven’t exactly been great for a couple of years now.

“Hey Bobby,” Dean says, smiling weakly as Bobby steps out of his house, frowning.

“Dean?” Bobby asks, and then he gets a hug and a gruff “Good to see you, boy,” before Sam is stepping outside, too.

“Dean?” Sam asks, “Why aren’t you at college?”

“Don’t worry, man, my books are in the trunk.”

They are, too, although the likelihood of him opening one of them is fairly minimal.

Sam rolls his eyes and Bobby nods them both inside, and Dean gets a beer before any more questions are poised. Really, it’s only been a couple of months since he was last sat in Bobby’s kitchen, but it feels like a lifetime. He’s crap at calling Bobby too. Worse even than he is at calling Sam.

“Not that we ain’t pleased to see you, Dean, but it’s a long drive for a damn coffee date.”

“What? A guy can’t drop in for a beer anymore?”

“It’s like… three hundred miles Dean.”

“Why are you here, anyway?” Dean asks, taking a swig at his beer and looking at Sam. His little brother still hasn’t stopped growing, which is terrifying, and Dean’s still kind of pissed about Sam taking over him in terms of height. He still very much looks like the gangling teenager, even if that’s only going to be true for a couple more years. “You come over straight from school?”

Bobby and Sam exchange a look, and Dean’s stomach drops.

He hasn’t really been thinking about Cas, because he got lost in the road and the feel of his crappy car underneath him, and thinking about mapping out the whole of America in the Impala. He was just relishing in driving away from that, so he forgot about the crap with Cas and the part where his idyllic view of ‘home’ never exactly matches up to how it actually is.

The first Christmas after starting college was a frigging nightmare. They’d settled on the salvage yard because it worked out the easiest, but he’d forgotten about how much the bickering between Sam and John irritated him and how god damn judgemental Sam was, and how his incessant desire to please his father led to him following orders and hating himself. Cas probably had a worse time than he did and after they spent the whole time messaging each other complaints, Dean went ahead and offered an eternal invited to the Winchester-Singer-Harvelle Christmas, and he hasn’t faced one without the guy since.

Everyone behaves themselves a little more when there’s a guest and, logistically, it kind of made sense.

“Dad took off again,” Dean says, reading it from the exchanged glances, “And you were gonna tell me, when exactly?”

“You seemed pretty stressed on the phone,” Sam says, glancing at Bobby for support.

“Right,” Dean nods, because that is almost definitely true, even though Dean doesn’t appreciate being kept out the loop. Probably, Sam didn’t want him to think that Dad took off because Dean snapped at him, but it’s taken him less than a minute to get to that conclusion, anyway, so it’s not like cutting off his information sources helped any. “Great.”

“Dean, you just drove all the way up here, so obviously I’m right.”

“Well, I aint got any food in,” Bobby says, and Dean fucking loves him for the diversion, “So don’t go expecting any home cooking.”

“From you, Bobby? Never,” Dean says, “So you were just gonna let my kid brother starve, huh?”

“We were heading to the Roadhouse,” Sam says and, daddy-issues aside, he definitely made the right decision driving home. The idea that he might have still been staring at the TV alone in his apartment, or else half way to fucked up in some bar, when he could have been heading to the Roadhouse with Bobby and Sam is just… goddamn, but he’s glad he has Sam and Bobby in his sights.

“You eat on the road, Dean, or you got room for some of Ellen’s pie?”

And, really, what kind of question is that?

*

It’s after they’ve eaten and his third beer when the Cas stuff begins to sink back in.

This is quite possibly the longest length of time they haven’t communicated since the summer (Cas tends to go kind of AWOL over the summer vacation, mostly because he gets drawn back into all the stuff with his family, then draws into himself), which is actually fairly embarrassing considering it’s been what…. nine or ten hours.

Normally it’s just the standard pick-up-some-beer, when-are-you-home and the dude-I’m-watching-star-treck-without-you-get-back-here-now, but it’s still a fairly steady stream of dialogue and messages and crap. The recent ones stretch from flirting to almost-sexting to apologies, with the odd reminder about toilet roll thrown in.

It’s just… the thought of Cas blowing off steam by fucking Crowley into the mattress makes Dean itch with irritation because…. Because surely if Dean makes Cas happy – which they guy claimed he did this very fucking morning – then he should be doing so. Preferably right now. Maybe with his tongue.

Obviously, he doesn’t know that’s what Cas is doing. He doesn’t know what Cas meant, exactly, by the happy comment, but he’s pretty sure it means something. He’s still pretty sure that he was onto something this morning, before he screwed the pooch, because it explains a hell of a lot of Castiel’s more confusing behaviour. Dean just wasn’t letting himself read ‘jealousy’ into the original crap with Benny, because that felt like extrapolating too far and getting to some pretty dangerous conclusions. He’d just feel so much better if he’d gotten a single goddamn text message. Just something dumb. Anything. He’d take that haiku about his dick at this point.

“Waiting for the hubbie to text, Dean?” Jo asks, raising an eyebrow at him across the table. He drops his phone back onto the table like it’s burnt him, but she’s already drawn attention to his descent into moping. Now Sam is sending him those big worried eyes and Bobby and Ellen are exchanging glances like they suspected this was Cas related because, obviously, Dean’s a transparent, dumb idiot.

Dean almost wishes he hadn’t nagged them both into sacking off their bar duties and joining their table.

“Back off, Jo,” Dean throws back, glancing downwards.

“So I’m right?”

“None of your damn business.”

“Sorry, kiddo,” Ellen interjects, that usual blend of fierce and maternal that’s never failed to make him nervous (Cas is actually bang on the mark about Ellen; she was basically the first real life woman he ever met, and she’s as formidable then as she is now), “You show up unannounced and your family’s gonna have a couple of questions about what’s up, that’s just how it works.”

“I told them that you’re… not,” Sam gestures in a way that Dean is pretty sure means ‘in a relationship’ or ‘sleeping together’ or some variation thereof, and… God, Dean’s not even sure he’s grateful. It’s pretty damn awkward that his whole family thought they were together for such a long time, but its worse that Sam then had to correct him. “….unless you are, now?”

Dean huffs a laugh at that. He has four sets of eyes on him and, yeah, if Sam showed up at his front door he’d have a fuck ton of questions, but that doesn’t make answering them any easier.

“Cas took off,” Dean says, eventually.

“What do you mean?” Sam asks, “Where?”

“Just… just to one his exes place,” Dean settles on. The word ‘ex’ is more than a little bit too strong, given Dean’s pretty sure Crowley and Cas fucked like… a maximum of twice (maybe more after this weekend), but he tends to censor reports of their sleeping around slightly. Not that they have any particular right to dictate how many people Dean, or Cas, choose to sleep with… it’s just easier. “Just for the weekend. It’s fine.” Dean says, because Sam is looking extra-worried now, but the words are sticking in his throat. “He just needed time to cool off. Might have pissed him off. Figured I’d shag ass up here instead of being alone.”

“You and Cas are always okay,” Sam says, “It’ll be okay.”

“Not so sure about that,” Dean says, taking another swig of his beer. “Pretty sure I fucked up big time. The Real Winchester special.”

“Don’t get me wrong, kid, it’s good to have you home,” Ellen says, “We worry.”

“And man, final year sucks,” Dean continues, mostly to draw attention away from the Cas business, because his chest feels kind of hollowed out. “Spend my whole god damn life hauled up in the library or picking up shifts to pay my coffee bill.”

Which accidentally leads onto another conversation turned argument about how John sort of forgot to send him money again, which Dean hadn’t really been intending on bringing up. He gets Ellen and Bobby both declaring that they're going to top his bank account and the rest of the evening free from his family picking at his love life, so it's not all bad.

*

He gets his first text from Cas the next morning, right after Bobby’s broke the news that John took his pickup rather than the Impala, and that’s she’s right there in the garage. The combination is probably the only thing that could possibly have touched has bad mood, because he fell into a funk part three after everyone else had gone to bed. He’s semi-hungover, but that’s a lot better than it would have been if he hadn’t made the drive.

Are you okay?

Of course, Cas just straight up asks. Forget eluding to the massive big hole in their friendship, or even any small talk, Cas skips straight to the point. He’s probably still mad. He’s not coming home. He just wants to know if Dean is okay.

Dean sends him a snapchat of the Impala and a am now .

The response is instantaneous.

You’re with your father?

He can hear the disapproving note in Cas’ voice because, yeah, Cas isn’t exactly John Winchester’s biggest fan. Likewise can be said of Dean’s opinion on basically all of Cas’ family (but mostly his Dad, who’s like a hundred times more absent and more shitty than his own; he swears Cas’ dislike is two parts projecting and one part overprotective best friend).

At Bobby’s Dean says, and gets an Okay back a few seconds later. Dean’s not even sure what he supposed to do with that, or why you’d even bother sending the word ‘okay’ but, whatever, it’s not like he’s actually provided any momentum for this conversation.

you okay? Dean sends, and it’s forty fucking minutes before he gets a Fine, Dean. which pisses him off even though he know it doesn’t have a right to. It’s such a dumb none answer. He wants Cas to spill his soul and tell him exactly what he’s meant by every single gesture and every single thing he’s said since this thing started.

Dean turns his phone off and shoves it in his pocket.

*

He pulls it out and text Cas again over lunch an hour later.

Man can we just forget I ever opened my damn mouth? I’m an idiot.

Cas replies within a minute.

Truthfully, I don’t think we can.

Yeah, I get that.

You sure you’re okay though, man? Dean types out, even though Cas hasn’t replied to his last message. He sends it even though it’s against his better judgement, and types out a I didn’t mean to – before he stops and deletes it. He doesn’t know what he didn’t mean and he certainly doesn’t know what Cas wants to think he didn’t mean.

Fuck.

Cas replies with I miss you and that really really doesn’t help. Dean sends a Yeah and a Are you coming home soon? in quick succession, just because he really does miss Cas. It’s been just over twenty four hours and Dean really, really misses the guy.

Are you, Dean?

Monday. Dean sends and then, because he doesn’t want Cas to think he’s drawing the trip out because of Cas (and is he? He doesn’t even know anymore) he adds a Making it worth the money.

Nothing.

Fucking nothing.

“Dean,” Sam says, as they’re supposed to be playing a game of after-lunch poker and Dean’s so busy glaring at his phone that he’s actually losing to Sam. “I thought you said he wanted space.”

“Shut up, Sam,” Dean says, sending a Sam and Bobby say hi before placing his phone face down on the table and pulling himself back into the game proceedings.

He doesn’t send the dude stop having sex with Crowley and talk to me text that he’d really like to send, because at least one of his brain cells are still functioning.

*

When he next checks his phone, Castiel has text him twice. I’m in the apartment now and then, half an hour later,It’s quiet without you. Sam is watching him reading his texts, so Dean’s aiming not to let it show how much his chest aches when Cas says that kind of crap.

Also, Cas came back already. It doesn’t really count because Dean isn’t even there, but… Dean’s willing to let it count for the purposes of this. And maybe they haven’t talked about the great big elephant in the room, but they are talking.

Could come back early if you want?

No, stay with your family. I’ll see you Monday.

Dean swallows. He doesn’t really know if that’s a rejection or not and it’s difficult to get a read on Cas’ expression from this many hundred miles away. He settles on diversion instead and sends a Dad isn’t here. He took off before he immediately regrets it. He doesn’t want to dump his crap on Cas when they’re still dealing with this because it feels like manipulation. Cas would forgive him anything if Dean needed him. Maybe it’s mutual, but it’s probably unhealthy for them to continue stowing their crap just because the hits keep on coming. He texts him again to compensate.

When I said ‘yeah’ that was Deanish for miss you too.

I know Dean.

*

He texts him again after dinner, even though Bobby is rolling his eyes and Sam is looking kind of put out, because Dean probably shouldn’t have driven all this way just to ignore them both in favour of his phone. He just… he wants to, though. He wants everything to be okay.

Sam is threatening to put frozen on. You’ve ruined that movie for me forever.

Let it go, Dean.

Asshat. He doesn’t know why I’m uncomfortable.

Explain it to him.

Imagine his face

Cas doesn't reply for a few minutes.

What are you doing tonight? Dean texts, and then, Invite Charlie over if you’re lonely.

He resolutely does not send anything that suggests he does not want Castiel to combat the quiet of their apartment with anyone who might even possibly be attracted to him, and definitely not by sleeping with anyone that isn’t Dean (and given that Dean ‘makes him happy’ and shit… couldn’t that be a reasonable request? Maybe).

Working on group project with Crowely.

That certainly sounds like a fucking euphemism.

Dean doesn’t quite throw his phone across the room, but he turns it resolutely off and watches the action flick they agreed on with Sam and Bobby. It’d be sort of nice, actually, if he wasn’t being treated to a technicolor vision of Cas fucking Crowley in their kitchen and not bothering to clean up afterwards, courtesy of his vivid imagination.

*

He manages to spend most of Sunday separate from his phone and instead focuses on the whole soul-searching business that this was kind of supposed to be about in the first place. He opens the hood of the Impala and checks that his baby is running as smooth as she possibly can (not that anyone is apparently driving he at the moment), whilst Sam perches in the garage and tells him about school.

I't’s cathartic until Sam redirects the conversation.

“So what it going on with you and Cas, then?” Sam says, voice slightly tentative but confident.

“I dunno anymore, Sammy,” Dean sighs, running a grease smeared hand over his forehead and instantly regretting it. “If you want the cliff notes, we’re kinda crap at talking about shit. And we’re sleeping together.”

He tags that on the end because Sam probably knew anyway. Hell, they’ve all probably reached the conclusion that they’re sleeping together all over again after the fine display of Dean moping.

“Well… maybe try talking about it then?”

“Easier said than done,” Dean says, thinking about them arguing in the kitchen, and Dean getting irritated at the guy for no reason (at least not one Dean told Cas about), and Cas drinking and watching Frozen and not ever telling Dean why.

It’s crap, actually, because Dean’s always known what’s going on with Cas. Neither of them exactly volunteer information up willingly, but when asked it always comes out easy enough. Cas doesn’t keep things from him. Or at least he didn’t.

All that they’ve really managed to achieve is to make the other confused and frustrated and unhappy and it’s the exact opposite of what they should be aiming at. Dean doesn’t make Cas happy right now. He just doesn’t. He just makes him pissed off and miserable.

“It’s like we kinda circumvented the friendship stuff, and now we’ve just got the benefits,” Dean says, and he doesn’t even know why he’s still talking, except that Sam can get him to open up sometimes. “And, don’t get me wrong man, there are benefits to the benefits but I just… we were better before.”

“Friendship stuff?” Sam asks, raising an eyebrow.

“You know what I mean, Sam,” Dean snaps, “What do you want me to do? Take Cas out to a movie and hold his fucking hand.”

“Dude,” Sam says, “It’s about whether you want to do that.”

“I ain’t holding no one’s hand,”

“You can deflect all you want, Dean,” Sam says, “You know that’s not the point.”

“I know that this ain’t got nothing to do with you,” Dean says, irritation bubbling up, “This shit isn’t as simple as you’re painting it.”

“I’m just saying that maybe it could be,” Sam says, holding up his hands, and Dean doesn’t know when Sam got all grown up and started having good advice, rather than balking whenever Dean mentioned sex (with either gender), but it’s frigging weird. Dean huffs back under the car even though he’s pretty much done inspecting every inch of the Impala, because he needs some time to process.

When he’s done, Sam has gone and Dean texts Cas. He deliberates over the wording and has his thumb hovering over the send button for over five minutes, but he still regrets sending it the second the message is in the ether.

Maybe we shouldn’t sleep together any more.

Cas answers near enough immediately.

If that’s what you want.

With the current intel he has available (although he’s gonna push for more, when things are more normal between them again; it’s too damn hard to start a conversation with Cas about this right now), and the range of choices laid out in front of him it kinda does seem like the right decision. He doesn’t want things to be awkward and crappy and strained, he just wants normality back. And maybe when things are okay they can talk about all the other crap.

Yeah I think it is.

He types out a second qualifying message of at least for now because, god, of course he wants to sleep with Cas really. Forever. All the fucking time.

He deletes it before he sends the message.

Then another horrifying thought occurs to him and he types out a Wait what do YOU want?? If he had an answer to that mystery, they’d probably be a lot better off.

Cas has replied before he has a chance to send it though.

Drive safe tomorrow.

Dean deletes the previous message and starts again.

Safe is my middle name.

Your middle name is Henry.

Cas is so fucking precious sometimes. It’s incredible how much it hurts.

Chapter Text

Dean spent most of the drive home giving himself a pep talk about how he’s been just-friends with Castiel for years, and they can certainly be just-friends now. They’re going to stop sleeping together for just long enough until Dean manages to actually say ‘so when you said I make you happy…. What’s that in Dean-ish?’ or for him to go completely fucking crazy and say ‘so it turns out I’m in love with you, who knew?’ and then they either revert to the plan where Cas completely rejects him and they descend into a period of awkwardness and Dean eventually moves out, or Cas will send him one of those eye crinkling smile and they’ll live happily ever after (except from when they’re arguing about the non-existent bathroom cleaning rota and Cas’ crappy music taste).

By the time he pulls into the car parking lot, he’s pretty damn confident that he’s got this. He’s particularly good at suppressing shit, has years of practice in fact, and Sam is right that him and Cas have always been roughly okay before. It’ll all be okay.

Except, when Dean unlocks the door to their apartment, the whole place smells amazing. It takes him a few seconds to pinpoint the exact scent because he just wasn’t expecting it, and then he hones in on Cas hovering awkwardly in the kitchen wearing an apron Charlie bought for Dean as a joke, making a mother fucking pie, looking slightly sheepish and slightly flushed and a hundred percent adorable.

Holy fuck.

“Shit,” Dean says, blinking. Cas doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t even shrug his shoulders or smile, just stands frozen with a wood spoon in his hand (and where the hell did he get that from? Dean’s pretty sure they don’t own one) and stares at him. “I mean, fuck….” Dean says, and he wants to call Cas a flirt, drop his bag, lick the pie filling of the damnable spoon, then either make out with Cas in the kitchen or eating the fucking pie off the guy’s chest. And neither of those things exactly coincide with their last text messages, or not sleeping together, and Dean’s pretty sure Cas would be well within his rights to tell Dean he’s giving mixed signals if he did any of those things.

But, holy shit, if Dean wasn’t already in love with the guy then this would be a tipping point. Surely this has got to be some kind of boundaries violation, because Cas shouldn’t be allowed to do nice crap like this for him and then expect Dean not to be in love with him. He shouldn’t be allowed to just… make Dean pie, especially after Dean’s being an asshole and they’re kind of still arguing, probably, and just… fuck. Fuck.

“Apple?” Dean asks, only his voice sounds strained and a lot higher pitched than he necessarily meant it to.

“Cherry.” Dean actually because, shit, Cas made him cherry pie. “Is that a problem?”

“Hell no,” Dean says, swallowing. He gestures vaguely towards the wooden spoon, and finally drops his bag. “Can I?”

“Of course,” Cas says, holding out the spoon. He looks ridiculous in the goddamn apron and with flour in his hair, but also kinda nervous and like he hasn’t slept well. Dean’s going to do himself a favour and assume that’s down to their argument and not because he’s been having hot sex with Crowley, because… apparently this is going to be a million times more difficult than Dean had realised, and he doesn’t need to throw in the jealousy thing too.

“Cas,” Dean says, and it’s supposed to be the start of a sentence about how Dean should be the one making pie (or the Cas equivalent) and trying to abstractly apologise, or maybe about how much he wants to kiss him, or just something. He doesn’t get any further, though, and in the end he cuts himself off by running a finger along the wooden spoon to taste the cherry pie filling.

Cas is watching him.

Does watching someone like cherry pie filling off their finger count as flirting or is this something that best friends do, just generally? They’ve always been fairly flexible about boundaries, so this whole just-friends thing is going to take some serious re-navigation.

Dean swallows.

“Is it palatable?”

“It’s good,” Dean answers. His voice has decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and is now excessively low, and Cas is staring at him, and he doesn’t really know where they go from this exact moment. Mutual orgasms seem pretty logical but… yeah. They’re not doing that. “Dude, you didn’t have to do this,”

“I am aware that I did not have an obligation to make pie,”

“Well, you shouldn’t have,”

“Why?”

“Cas, man, it’s an expression,” Dean says, because it’s easier than explaining that it makes his chest hurt and it’s physically difficult not to kiss the slight confusion of the guy’s lips, and this is complicated enough already without Cas being this frigging perfect. Some of the time.

“A thank you would have sufficed,”

Dean’s an asshole.

“Thanks, Cas.” Dean says, setting the spoon on the table and pulling Cas into a hug.

Hugs are allowed.

Friends hug all the time. Anyway, the movement had evidentially taken Cas by surprise, because for the first few seconds Cas is just awkwardly pinned to Dean’s chest, before he loosens an arm sufficiently to wrap it round Dean’s waist… so Dean counteracts the movement by curving his other arm round Cas’ back, because the one-armed-hug thing just wasn’t cutting it.

And that’s fine, right? Maybe it’s not exactly the personification of bro-hugging, and maybe Dean should let go rather than pull Cas closer and just hold him there but, well, it’s been a really crappy few days.

“Sorry, man,” Dean mutters into his neck.

“Likewise,” Cas says, and he’s close enough that Dean can feel the word vibrate through his chest. Maybe this is slightly beyond the usual boundaries of friendship, at least friendships between two dudes, but they’ve never been very good at that anyway. It’s fine.

Dean’s the one who eventually pulls back, because he’s all too conscious that they’ve overstepped how long hugs are supposed to last by about a minute, and as much as hugging doesn’t usually lead to fucking, it might lead to Dean moping about his feelings. And that’s practically guaranteed anyway.

“How was the drive?”

“Long,” Dean says, “Man, I really should have done some work this weekend. I’m all kinds of fucked now.”

“I’m surprised Sam didn’t force you to do any,” Cas says, “I’ll have to have words with him,”

“God, don’t,” Dean says, and then, fuck but he doesn’t know why, “hey, did I tell you that my whole family thought we were together together for the past couple of years?”

“You didn’t,” Cas says, “Although, I had surmised as much from your father’s dislike of me and the speech Ellen gave me about breaking your heart.”

“Dude, what the hell?” Dean asks, gaping at him, “You didn’t think to give me a heads up about this?”

“I assumed you knew,”

“Well, clearly, you need to work on this assumption habit,” Dean snaps. Cas visibly winces and frowns at him and, shit, Dean’s back to being a douchebag and he’s only been in the apartment for a couple of minutes. “Cas – ”

“ – I take it they no longer think this,”

“Dunno, actually,” Dean says, glancing down, “Sam set them straight a couple of weeks back but…”

“But?”

“What the hell did Ellen say, anyway?” Dean redirects, because he isn’t going to bring up the fact that he’s been moping and sitting around waiting for his phone to buzz, even if Cas probably knows that all of those things are true. There’s a difference between being a god damn sap and admitting you’re a god damn sap.

“Nothing I wasn’t already aware of,” Cas says, looking down at his half-made pie, “Mostly, it was an attempt to warn me about your commitment issues, your daddy issues and your tendency to run away from problems.”

“Great,” Dean says. The word tastes sour. Fucking great that Ellen’s been handing his best friend a helpful list of all of Dean’s flaws to use and abuse and, better yet, Cas agrees with her. Not like all of the above things aren’t true, but he just didn’t exactly need them thrown into his face right now. “Well, can’t say Gabriel’s ever been forthcoming about anything but your colossal stick up the ass syndrome, although Anna sure had a lot to say. After I slept with her.”

He didn’t actually realise he was capable of being that petty until the words have already tumbled out of his mouth, and Castiel looks pretty surprised them by too. He blinks at him for a few moments before he’s really processed them and even then he looks more surprised than upset.

“Dean – ”

“– I’m gonna go do some work,” Dean says, dragging his bags back to his bedroom and shutting out as much of the baking pie-crust smell as he can.


That’s why he’s doing this, anyway, because apparently he’s the kind of shitty human being who can’t sleep with Cas whilst treating him with an ounce of the respect he deserves. Instead, he’s just being plain mean . He’s irritable and nasty and liable to lash out, and he doesn’t want to be that guy.

An hour later, Cas brings him a slice of piping hot pie and a tub of ice cream.

He doesn’t say a word.
*


Dean knows full well that Cas’ silent-pie delivery was a first class example of Cas’ passive aggression, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work exactly like Cas probably wanted it to.

He spends a good few minutes staring at his pie feeling like the worst person on the planet, before he picks up his fork and then promptly changes his mind.

Next thing he knows, he’s burst through Castiel’s bedroom door and is framed in the doorway. Cas hasn’t properly unpacked, but that isn’t particularly pertinent information at the current moment, and he needs to start talking before he loses his momentum.

“I’m being a fucking dick because I don’t know what the hell is going on in my head, which is why I figured it would help to cut the sex,” Dean says, fast, “But you made me pie and I’m still being an asshole. I don’t even know why you came back, Cas, I’m not worth this shit.”

Cas was reading some book or other on his bed before Dean barged in, and he looks up slowly. He was probably expecting him to at least eat the pie before he came storming in and half-yelling about his feelings, particularly given how committed he’s been to avoiding talking for his whole life.

“Dean,” Cas says.

“No, I’m serious, man. I don’t even know where that crap came from earlier, but it was nowhere good. Drove like six hundred miles to get my shit together, and apparently I’m still just as fucked up.”

“This is not entirely your fault, Dean,”

“The hell it isn’t,” Dean says, “I’ve been a moody bitch for weeks.”

“I will concede that today hasn’t been your finest hour,” Cas says, tilting his head slightly and shutting his book shut, “But I am aware of the exact location of all your buttons. I know where to press.”

That’s half the problem, actually, because they know each other well enough that they can seek out pressure points on instinct. Dean’s been acting like a kicked puppy because he’s hurting, and Cas has probably been doing the same, to the point where they’re both taking it out on each other… and they’re really good at it. Dean’s a bona fide expert in pissing Cas off, and Cas is pretty well versed in the practice of irritating Dean too.

Dean probably inadvertently messed up with the whole ‘together together’ which, yeah, Dean can see how that’s a pretty sensitive issues right about now. Cas retaliated by information dumping. Dean snapped about him assuming things. So Castiel dragged out all of his issues. He’d have known Dean was going to bite back, even if they’re both surprised by how vicious that got.

“We gotta talk about this,” Dean says, kneading his fingers into his forehead. He wanted a bit more time before this happened. He figured they’d be able to sham being functional for at least a couple of days but, no, he’s been back for twenty minutes and they’re already half-way to loggerheads.

“Yes,”

“Damn,” Dean says, taking a step further into Cas’ bedroom, and then another, till he’s close enough to sit down on Cas’ bed. He’s not conducting this whole conversation standing, even if the bed isn’t exactly an ideal location. “Well, hey, we’ve done a great job so far. What else could go wrong?”

“That seems an illogical place to start,”

“Don’t get sassy with me, Cas,” Dean says, but he feels slightly better.

“What are the intended objectives of this conversation?” Cas asks, lips curving upwards slightly. Dean exhales and settles a little more on the guy’s bed, because it might not even be that bad if Cas just keeps being Cas .

“This how you run your group project meetings?” Dean asks, relaxing a little more onto the bed.

“Generally,”

“Can’t imagine that’s much of a turn on,” Dean says, catching himself before he makes a comment about Crowley.

“I’m sure I could bring you round to the idea,”

“That’s half the problem, man,” Dean says, glancing sideways to catch Cas’ eye. He doesn’t exactly mean the flirting, although there is that. “You know me too fucking well. Scares that crap out of me. That’s like deep rooted people commitment issues right there. Bonus ten points if you hit a daddy issue. Jackpot if you somehow bring it back to my dead Mom. Man, I bet I could link this to your religious crisis if I pulled out some of that Dr Phil shit that Sam’s being trying to suffocate me with.”

“Dean, your distorted view of yourself very irritating,” Cas says, sighing, “And much more of a problem than any of the above.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll add it to the list,” Dean says, deciding to fuck the protocol and half lying down next to Cas, because he feels weird sitting up when Cas is only just propped up by his pillows.

“Don’t,” Cas says, and then, “Despite what I said on Friday, I was aware there a problem. I was wilfully ignoring your discomfort because…”

Cas frowns.

“Yeah?” Dean prompts, chest twisting. “This cryptic crap and the half conversations are stressing me the hell out.”

“We can continue with not talking at all if you prefer,” Cas says lightly, “Although that seems inadvisable.” Dean’s pretty sure Charlie would actually kill him if he picked that option, as tempting as it is. It’s just… all of this is so big, and they’ve left it at least three weeks too late and now it’s difficult to know where to start. “I should not have ambushed you on Friday morning.”

“Yeah, well, I slipped up,” Cas raises an eyebrow and Dean exhales deeply because, yeah, it’s probably Dean’s job to start being honest given he’s being the resident jackass. “I meant what I said, Cas.”

Dude, I’m not sharing you for no one.

Cas’ eyes are stupidly blue and serious. It kind of feels like Cas is trying to excavate his brain and extrapolate what that even means, because it’s the clearest he’s been since they’ve started this thing and it still barely makes sense. He gets there, though, and then the corners of his lips are tilting up slightly… and that’s nearly enough to floor him completely because, holy shit, Cas is happy about Dean accidentally spouting stuff about vague exclusivity. Or at least he isn’t angry about it.

“It’s just… I’m pretty sure I meant all of it.”

Maybe I should have stood by that.

“That you don’t want to share me and that you should have stood by the fact that not sleeping me was the best thing that ever happened to you?” Cas asks, trace of a smile gone in under a second flat, shoulders visibly tensing in irritation.

“I just… I mean, that’s a pretty strong way of putting it,”

“But you do wish we’d never slept together?”

“No,” Dean says, “Maybe. Fuck, Cas, I’m just saying that maybe this whole thing was an apocalyptically bad idea, okay? I’ve got no right to want this kind of stuff from you.”

“And if I gave you the right?” Cas asks, eyebrow arched upwards. Dean’s chest is hammering because, crap, he’d been dead on the money before. Cas does want this. He wants it.

Cas looks unflappable, staring at Dean with his gaze challenging and his lips drawn into a straight line.

“I don’t see how the hell you can say that I make you happy,” Dean says, even though it feels like he’s peeling the skin off his chest, and leaving his goddamn heart exposed to the cool air of Cas’ bedroom, “Dude, I already fucked this up in at least six ways. Saying crap I don’t even mean and not talking and Benny and just… man, I’m a mess, Cas, and I’m really bad at this. I’d take public nudity over having to hash this out with my best friend and just…”

“Dean,” Cas says, and then leaves it at that. Cas is close enough that he can feel his body heat, but it still seems far away where there’s still all this crap floating between him. Dean shuts his eyes and just breathes for a minute.

“I can’t do this right now,” Dean says, and he hates himself for it a little bit, but it’s also completely true. His heads a mess and he’s acting like a fucking prick and Cas really doesn’t deserve to put up with an extra layer of Dean’s bullshit. “Rain check?”

“Fine,” Cas says.

It’s not, but it’s slightly better than before.

*

“Sam,” Dean sighs, pressing his ballpoint into his pad of paper, pressing the phone into his ear, “Ignoring the fact that it’s none of your damn business, any sex that Cas and I hypothetical have would not be gay sex, because neither of us are gay. If you’re referring specifically to anal sex then call a spade a spade, Sammy, and anyway why the fuck would you ask about a specific sex act?”

“Dean,”

“No, serious point, Sam,” Dean says, even though he’s mostly going into this because he wants to divert from the conversation Sam wants to have about what he’s doing about the whole Cas situation, because telling Sam he basically put Cas on hold for an indeterminate length of time probably wouldn’t go down well. “You know how many people would have to be involved for sex to be bisexual sex? And, you know, lesbian sex works out as only hetro foreplay, so suddenly lesbians can’t have sex. It’s not gay sex, it’s not hetro sex, it’s just sex. So no, Sam, I am not having gay sex with my best friend, because there is no such thing.”

“Hello Dean,” Cas says, appearing in the kitchen, expression nearly stoic and unmoved, like he hadn’t just walked into Dean talking about sleeping with him to his brother.

“Heeyy Cas,” Dean says, flushing slightly. He’d been half way through a stack of practice exam papers before Sam called, which is incidentally the only reason he bothered answering the phone; he knew full well that Sam was going to talk about this crap, because Dean gave him far too much information for him to leave well alone.

And now Sam is laughing at him down the phone.

“And you can shut it, Sam,” Dean adds, because his brother is an ass, and Cas can probably hear him laughing.

“I’ll leave you to your awkward co habitation,” Sam says, hanging up, and then Dean has to face Cas, which only makes his face heat up more. He was probably less embarrassed when Cas accidentally saw him naked that time, and he was certainly never blushing this much any time they were screwing. Even though Cas and dirty talk is this weird phenomena that Dean would probably never get over in a million years, even if they were still currently sleeping together.

“You talk to your brother about our sexual activities,”

“Dude,” Dean says, “No.”

“Sam knows we have slept together,” Castiel rephrases. He’s probably trying to read into what that exactly means, because Dean isn’t exactly forthcoming with this kind of information (the fact that Sam managed to believe he was in a relationship with Cas for such a long time probably goes to show how often Dean gave him a romantic updates, although that’s in part because he knew Sam would look down on the string of one night stands and casual sex).

“Uh, yeah,” Dean says, because Cas knows when he’s lying anyway. “Got grilled when I showed up last weekend.”

Cas nods slowly.

“He has probably informed Bobby,” Cas says mildly, which is actually almost definitely true now Dean thinks about it. Sam probably relayed most of their conversation back to him over Sunday dinner, whilst Bobby rolled his eyes and they both labelled the whole disaster a typical Dean, or whatever. “Which means Ellen is probably aware.” Yeah, Bobby’s a total fucking gossip even if he tries to hide it.

“Fuck,” Dean says, dropping his pen to massage a circle into his forehead, “Man, I hadn’t thought of that. Least Jo hasn’t found out yet, or she’d have text me.”

“Well, it’s nearly at the end of the grapevine at least,” Cas says, “Unless you thought to inform anyone else.”

It’s a strange way of phrasing the obvious question, and Dean’s not entirely sure why that hasn’t occurred to him to ask it before this point. Dean talks to Charlie and Sam and people about things, but Cas doesn’t really do that. He’s more tight-lipped that Dean, which means he’s got to have been even more locked up in his own head about this than Dean has. Maybe Charlie arrived to the party late, but she still got invited in.

Cas might have talked to Gabriel, Dean supposes, but it seems pretty unlikely.

God, no wonder Cas was kind of an ass.

“Charlie,” Dean says, “Though she kinda prized it out of me.”

Stretch of the truth, there, but Dean’s not about to bring Benny into this. As much as he thinks saying ‘oh and Benny guessed after I bailed on him mid-way through some sexual activity, as you like to call it’ would be an interesting conversation topic, it’s not really one he wishes to have. Not when things are a sort of awkward non-awkward limbo where they’ll be treating each other normally till Dean remembers that they’re not really okay at the minute, then make things awkward by missing the usual social cues.

“Cas, are you okay?” Dean asks, because now his embarrassment is lifting slightly Cas looks… off. He has that kicked-puppy thing about him which Dean’s always found equal parts endearing and frustrating, depending on what mood he’s in at the time. Currently, it causes an odd twist of the gut and a flashback to you make me happy which, once again, clearly is not true.

“I…yes,” Cas says, but it’s not all the convincing, and he seems to realise that too. “I screwed up a test.”

“Cas level screw up, Dean level of screw up, or, like, shows over forget about getting a degree screw up?” Cas makes a face like he doesn’t want to inadvertently agree to the fact that Cas level of messing up an assignment and then Dean level are different ballgames, but that he largely means the former, but he doesn’t want to pander to Dean’s self-worth issues. Well. “Wanna go get a burger? There’s no food in. Unless you’re interested in that sad looking carrot.”

Cas nods his ascent, and that’s how they wind up on a not-date in their fairly regular diner, with Dean practically inhaling his burger and Cas staring miserably at his. Cas has always been more invested in academics than Dean, but then Cas has always been the more intelligent one, so college related breakdowns have been few and far between. He finds it easier than Dean does, generally, but he also works damn hard.

Still, it means that Cas cares. Cas cares too much. Then again, that’s always been the guy’s problem with just about everything.

“S’it gonna affect your GPA?”

“Alone, no, but… my grades have been slipping across the board.”

“So you’re having a mid-term crisis,” Dean says, taking one of Cas’ fries, because whilst he’s not utterly heartless Cas’ food is going cold and this is their regular burger joint for a good reason. “You’ve got like three years of top grades to prop you up Cas, you gotta let it go. Frozen reference unintended. Everyone fucks up a test once or twice.”

“Is that what you do?” Cas asks, misery still fairly prominent, to the point where Dean’s not going to point out that Cas has abstractly pointed out that Dean has definitely fucked up a test or two in his time. It’s a bit like when Cas made that comment about his dick; the guy just doesn’t think about the wider implications, and Dean’s too damn sensitive for his own good.

“No, dude, I mope on you and beat myself up over it, but then I’m not exactly a role model, am I?” Cas looks like he’s considering this. “Cas, I’m not. So, moving on. Why do you reckon you messed up?”

“I have been… distracted,” Cas settles on.

“By?”

Cas gives him a look.

Oh.

“Dean,” Cas says, because Dean had a burger halfway to his mouth when the penny dropped, and now he’s aborted the eating mission and is instead just staring back, burger held adrift between them. “This isn’t your fault.”

He feels pretty damn stupid with his burger suspended mid-air and settles on placing it down.

“Yeah, well, not exactly blame free,” Dean says. Obviously, he’s not been the only person freaking out about this. He’d realised that when he’d taken a step back for long enough to register some of Cas’ weird behaviour around the flat and, given the actual conversation they had the other day, it turns out that Cas is at least vaguely interested in them. This is pretty damn scary territory for both of them, even if Dean’s turned on an amber light. At least for now. “Cas,” Dean says, swallowing, “Man, do me a favour and talk to someone about all this. I know I’m your go to guy but…. Obviously, this is kind of complicated.”

“Complicated,” Cas repeats.

“Dude,” Dean says, frowning, “I don’t care if you’re the most well-adjusted guy on the planet which, let’s face it Cas, neither of us are exactly poster boys for stable, fucking your best friend is damned confusing, especially if your bestie happens to be a major douchebag about it.”

“I don’t think you’re being a ‘major douchebag.’”

“Cas,”

“A captain douchebag, perhaps.”

“You’re a dork,” Dean says, but he’s grinning, “Jesus, you’re such a dork. It’s a good job you’re cute.”

“You are dorkier than me, Dean Winchester,” Cas says, and there kicked-puppy expression has gone, at least a little bit, and he’s nearly smiling.

“Says who?”

“Charlie,” Cas says, “Probably.”

“Yeah, right, like she’d side against her hand maiden and top strategist.”

“You’re somewhat proving my point, Dean.”

“Screw you, man,” Dean says, gesturing with one of Cas’ French fries to prove his point, because no way is Dean dorkier than Castiel Novak. Cas reads books and makes Disney references during sex. Dean just LARPS and, you know, has a deep undeniable love for all the Sci-Fi and fantasy classics. They’re not comparable.

“Careful,” Cas says, picking up his burger, “Or I will have to promote you to a general douchebag.”

“Accurate, I guess,” Dean says.

“I do understand,” Cas says, and suddenly the conversation is back to the serious, only it doesn’t feel as suffocating as it did a few days ago. It feels okay. “And I’m glad we’re being more honest with each other.”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, softer. “Dude, if you don’t hurry up and eat your damn burger then I’m going to have to take the responsibility out of your hands.”

“You want my burger?”

“Were Bert and Ernie gay?” Cas frowns at him like he’s genuinely perplexed by that statement, which is probably fair enough actually, because Sam never bought into the particular conspiracy theory either. “Yeah, Cas, I want your burger.”

Cas rolls his eyes and tears his mostly untouched burger in half, handing the larger half over.

“Cas, you’re awesome,” Dean says, through a mouthful of his own burger. “You want dessert?”

“No,”

“Man, can always count on you to be a cheap date,”

“I wasn’t aware that you were paying,” Cas says, with no indication that maybe Dean shouldn’t let shit like that fall out of his mouth when they’re still in a tentative just-friends phase, which Dean finds particularly difficult to adhere to whenever Cas has just woken up or looks particularly grumpy. Or if he wonders around shirtless, which Dean is entirely sure he never did prior to this whole disaster. Or if Cas does anything particularly hilarious or Cas-like, in which case most of Dean’s concentration is spent on reigning himself in and trying not to look like he’s reigning himself in.

“Call it a goodwill gesture,”

“You did eat half of my food,”

“Hey, you gave it up willingly, lieutenant douchebag.”
“Is this a thing now?” Cas asks, lips tilted slightly in amusement. Dean swallows another bite of Cas’ burger and grins. Everything is falling back into its old, easy rhythm and it’s just nice . He’s not double guessing himself or trying to dissect Cas’ feeling from every slightly eyebrow movement, he’s just hanging out with Cas. It’s good.

“If by a thing you mean an in-joke, then you bet your ass it is.”

“Is my ass a particularly valuable asset?”

“Let’s not go there,” Dean says, complete with lewd grin, because he’d had have done that before they were sleeping together and it would be a different kind of strange not to do that now.

“I hope you realise that if I were your cheap date,” Cas says, expression mild, “the only variation on this entire experience would be your entitlement to ‘go there’.”

Dean stops eating.

Shit.

“Cas,” Dean manages to say, only it sounds like a choked, broken thing. Cas’ shoulders slump back into his previous angles of despair, and he looks really fucking miserable, and despite all his protests to the contrary Dean really is the head of the whole douchebag army for making Cas look like that.

“I apologise. That was in appropriate,” Cas says, looking down at his empty plate, “I’m finding navigating this difficult.”

“You and me both,” Dean says, reaching out for Cas’ arm to force him to meet his eyes again, “We’ll work this out, you hear me? I’m counting on it.”
“What, precisely, does I can’t do this right now mean?”

“Dude, I’ll let you know as soon as I know,” Dean says, and he almost doesn’t notice his thumb brushing over the skin of Cas’ arm on automatic, because the gesture just comes so naturally he’s barely aware of it; he just knows that Cas looks miserable and vulnerable and he doesn’t like it. He’s hyperaware of finally giving into the urge to touch Cas’ skin, though.

He doesn’t pull back

“You are being unreasonable.”

“I know,”

“And are then proceeding to beat yourself up about being unreasonable,”

“Sounds like me, yeah,” Dean says, semi-conscious of the fact that they’re in their regular diner, and Dean is still near enough sitting in Cas’ lap so they can have this conversation with a degree of privacy. Dean’s still fondling Cas’ arm, and given Dean’s about to pay the bill there’s only about one leg to stand on with the whole not-a-date-argument. “I don’t… man, I’m not trying to mess you around, okay? You can head for the emergency exits whenever the hell you want.”

Cas pulls himself back of their stupidly close quarters, frowning.

“I would appreciated if you stopped pointing out escape routes,” Cas says, “I am very aware of their whereabouts.”

“Fine,” Dean says, swallowing.

Well. They’re getting there.

Chapter Text

On Tuesday Cas delivers him a slice of warmed up pie topless, acting so damn casual about it that it takes Dean a good few minutes to work out that’s not normal behaviour, not even a little bit, and even after an hour dissecting it he still doesn’t know what the fuck that means. Sure, Cas has never exactly been prudish about showing skin, but that doesn’t mean he just generally wonders around topless for no reason… especially not as things are kind of tentatively weird at the moment. Personally, Dean’s at least aiming to stay as far away from any potential boundaries as he can, even if that’s easier said than done. He’s certainly not wondering around half fucking naked.

After he’s eaten his pie (and it’s heartbreakingly good too, which is uncalled for and unfair because, Jesus, what is Dean even supposed to do with that?) he emerges from his room intending to ask Cas what the deal is, but they just wind up watching Star Trek with a take-out instead.

*

Wednesday, Cas either makes six half-references to sex over a conversation about breakfast, or else he’s just really damn oblivious before he’s had coffee. The whole thing takes place with Cas, still kind of grumpy from being woken up by his alarm, sleep ruffled with a major case of morning voice.

Dean has a very cold shower.

*

Dean notices that Cas has taken to wearing the section of his wardrobe usually reserved for trying to strike out on Thursday, and he spends a crushing ten minutes thinking that maybe Cas is putting the whole screwing thing utterly behind him and is going to go sleep with Meg or whatever (not that the line of thought really makes any sense, because he’s still pretty sure that Dean’s the only one who accidentally cut out the sleeping around whilst they were sort-of-involved, so Cas wouldn’t be going back to anything), before he reverts to thinking that the whole thing is just in his head.

Maybe Cas is just being normal and dressing normally and Dean’s just extrapolating from none existent data because he’s hyper-aware of every little thing Cas does at the moment.

He hides in his room for most of the evening and ignores four separate texts from Sam.

*

Friday, Cas seems to be blessedly acting more normal and ignoring him in favour of some book Dean’s pretty sure is fiction, but he’s a little cold about it. He actually seems more off with him than he did back when Dean was being a complete dick and, if this whole not sleeping together thing was meant to help him work out what was going on it certainly hasn’t worked. Dean thinks it’s entirely possible that he’s actually more confused about fucking everything, particularly whatever it is that Cas wants or whatever he’s trying to achieve, than back when Cas was quoting Disney movies during sex. It’s marginally more confusing than dick pictures and innuendos. Worse than Cas inviting him to his bed than kicking him out.

Dean’s ninety percent sure he’s completely lost the frigging plot, if there ever was one in the first place.

*

“Dude, I told you to quit reading if you wanted to shower,” Dean complains, rapping on the guy’s bedroom door, “Victor is gonna be here in five and I swear I’ll leave you here if you’re still brushing your damn hair.”

He’d been nagging Cas to get in the damn shower if he was gonna shower for about half an hour, which apparently wasn’t actually helpful because listening to Dean was making the process of reading ‘significantly longer’ before he’d finally finished the damn book, fifteen minutes before their lift was due to arrive which probably would have been fine if Cas wasn’t such a water hog because, seriously, what does he even do in the shower for that length of time? Dean’s like, eighty percent sure that he really wants to know, but that’s a problem for another time.

Cas throws open the door, hair wet and with his shirt half buttoned. Damn.

“I do not own a hairbrush,”

Cas always looks good, but there’s something extra endearing about the petulant experience, the wet hair and the fact that the half of his shirt he managed to button up was done badly. It doesn’t hurt that half of Cas’ chest is exposed and he’s wearing his best jeans, but then Cas seems to have been wearing all of his nicest clothes lately.

“Figures,” Dean says, “Cas, how have you fucked up a shirt this badly?”

“You were rushing me.”

“Man, if that was having any effect you’d be good to go right now,” Dean says, stepping forward to undo the rest of the buttons and redo it properly. He doesn’t really think about how intimate the action is until he’s close enough that he can feel Cas’ breathing, and then he’s itchingly close to an expanse of Cas’ bare skin that he’d at least like to run has hands over, but preferably his lips. Dean swallows. This is probably a boundary violation, but then Cas hasn’t complained about any of those over the past few days. “Was the book good at least?” Dean asks, to fill up a little of the silence, because it’s just too comfortable to just exist in the easy quiet between them, but the words wind up sounding like they have a lot more weight than they were supposed to.

“Yes,” Cas answers, “You’d like it,”

“Yeah? Any explosions or cowboys,” Dean asks as he fixes Cas’ collar, because the poor shirt must have been a victim of Cas’ attempt at ironing because the whole thing is a damn mess, and not at all because he’s buying himself more time being this damn close. Nope.

He can feel Cas’ body heat through his fucking shirt though, and it’s intoxicating.

“It was a psychological thriller,”

“Sounds thrilling,”

“There were also several murders,” Cas says, staring at him without blinking.

“Cut the spoilers, Cas, I might read this thing,” Dean says, “Anything that makes you that cranky when you’re interrupted is probably worth my time. You got your wallet.”

“Yes, Dean, I’m not incompetent,”

“Dude, did you see that shirt?” Dean asks, finally stepping back and reaching for his phone because yeah, shit, he’s already missed a call from Victor. He hates relying on lifts for precisely this reason, but Charlie had demanded that they both get royally pissed, and Cas had actually championed the idea. It’s Garth’s twenty first (how the guy is even out of his teens, Dean doesn’t know) and he’s having some kind of fucking disco that apparently they can’t get out of, and it probably will be slightly more bearable if they’re both drunk. “Showtime.”

On the other hand, getting drunk with Cas when Cas looks this good and acting this weird when he’s not allowed to do or say anything about it sounds like a god awful idea, and he’s entirely sure that at least something’s going to go wrong… but then Dean deserves awards for drinking at times when he probably shouldn’t.

It’ll be fine.

*

Dean walks through the door of their reserved space and nearly walks straight back out, because there are goddamn rainbow balloons and birthday cake and the four beers Dean had whilst nagging Cas about reading is not enough alcohol to deal with this crap.

“Dean,” Cas says, with a hand on Dean’s back.

“Cas,” Dean says, almost pleading, “he has party poppers.”

“There’s vodka,”

“How much vodka?” Dean asks, as Cas applies enough pressure on his back to make him start walking again, even though Victor looks equally unimpressed and, also, there’s only a few other people there and they’re already quite late. Garth grows on you but Dean’s still not sure if it’s in the way the taste of wine grows on you, or the way mould grows on the crap in the back of the fridge that you’ve been meaning to eat for weeks.

“Sufficient vodka,” Cas says, “Garth is our friend.”

“Is he?” Dean mutters, because then the guy is heading over, with his thumbs up and a lopsided grin. And he has a fucking puppet and Dean doesn’t even want to know why.

“Deaaan! How’s it hanging, bro?”

“Are you drunk?”

“Dude, I just drank a whole beer. Of course I’m drunk.”

“Cas,” Dean says, quiet. Cas must hear the desperation in his voice, because he nods and then disappears towards the bar, returning minutes later with shots, by which point Garth has put a paper hat on his head and moved on to the next victim. “I’ve been Garthed.” Dean deadpans, still processing what the ever loving fuck just happened.

“In which case,” Cas says, pressing the shot in his hand, “I suggest it is time to be Tequilaed.”

“You are my favourite fucking person,” Dean says, taking the shot and knocking it back neat. Cas honest to God flushes slightly, which might actually be first, and Dean takes an awkward half step back because they wound up standing too close by accident. And, damn, of course Dean meant the above (Sam doesn’t really count, because Sam is his brother, and significantly more annoying than Cas most of the time), but it wasn’t supposed to be an inflammatory comment. It was just true.

“I wasn’t aware you were that fond of Tequila,”

“I mean, I’m not, Cas,” Dean says, and he’s about to try and express the fact that Cas is just essential to his whole damn life right now, and he’s only going through this dumb charade of pretending not to be in love with him because he need to make sure he stays in his life. “I just…”

“You actually came, dude?” Charlie says, bursting straight into their conversation, beer in hand. Dean swallows back everything he was going to say to Cas and offers him a slight smile, letting himself be pulled over to socialise with people who are more his friends than Cas’, but who he’d throw over in an instant to just hang out with Cas some more. Cas is following him like an awkward shadow right up until the point where he isn’t, because he’s been dragged into a conversation a guy who might be in some of his classes, but Dean’s suddenly achingly aware of how much he relies on Cas just to be there . He’s less than a couple of feet away right now, and Dean’s not needy enough that that’s a problem, but they’re a semester and a bit away from the end of college… and then what?

“Dean,” Charlie says, pointed, so Dean chases his thoughts away with another shot and focuses on socialising and crap.

*

By the time he’s lost count of the number of Tequila shots he’s knocked back, he’s kind of drunk. At some point Charlie rounded up the troops and dragged people to the dance floor, with Dean steadfastly refusing and Cas reading the look he sent him and hanging back with Dean. They commandered a table a while back and now Dean’s wound up watching Cas watch the god forsaken people who were coerced into discoing.

He hasn’t been this drunk in a while, at least not in a carefree nice kind of way, rather than a let’s-block-out-feelings way, and it feels good. He feels a damn sight more free than he has in weeks, which is probably why he finally puts together a couple of vague points from the past week and says, out loud, to fucking Cas, “You’ve been doing it on purpose.”

Cas stares at him. He’s on the other side of a few tequila shots too, so he’s nonchalant stare doesn’t work as well as it usually does. He looks all innocent with his blank stare, but it’s too forced and Dean knows that he’s on to something.

“The toplesness and the clothes and the fucking pie. You’re trying to change my mind about this.”

Cas doesn’t say anything.

“Dude, you’ve been trying to seduce me,” Dean says, and he’s beaming because… fuck, it was one thing having Cas abstractly suggest that he wanted something more solid than what they had ( what if I gave you the right ) and it’s another thing to have Cas actively trying to pursue him and make him change his mind and it's… man, he wouldn’t have thought Cas would even have cared. He’d have thought that Cas would have just accepted his initial opinion and moved the fuck on, but instead Cas has actually be trying to persuade him otherwise. Cas has never tried to talk anyone into sleeping with him ever, as far as Dean knows, he just… you know, offers up a invitation to his bed to particular people and sees if they take him on it. Take it or leave it.

Dean is totally fucking pumped that Cas has actually like… pursuing him.

“You’re laughing at me,” Cas says, and he sounds half affronted and half just hurt, and it’s then that Dean takes a step back to consider how this probably appears. Maybe he’s the one with the classic confidence issues but that doesn’t mean Cas is immune to crises of belief (In fact he’s proved himself otherwise) and, yeah, now Dean looks like the asshole that’s laughing at Cas’ feelings.

Cas has feelings about him. For him. He almost said as much before, but not like this and it’s… wow.

“Just at the idea that you have to make an effort with me,” Dean says, leaning forward without really meaning too, the rough edges of his thoughts smoothed by tequila shots, “Cas, you don’t even know how unnecessary that is, man.”

It would be incredibly easy to say Cas, I’m totally fucking in love with you. Whether or not you make me pie or wear your nice jeans around the apartment but he’s not going to.

“Clearly,” Cas says, voice rough and deep same as ever, “It is, given that my ‘efforts’ haven’t worked.”

“I’d have eaten that damn pie off any part of you you’d let me, Cas,” Dean says, “I find you refilling your douchey fountain pen kind of erotic at this point, man. Thursday, I spent the whole fucking day thinking about you telling the coffee machine it was an abomination.”

“It wasn’t working, Dean. There was no coffee.”

“You turn it off and on, Cas, same as any appliance with an on button,” Dean says, rolling his eyes, “And you got your damn coffee.”

“Eventually,”

“I drove to frigging Starbucks.”

“Yes,” Cas says, blinking at him, “You did.”

“Point is, you don’t need to parade around wet and half naked for me to be attracted to you, man, so if that’s your end game just… keep trying to smite our kitchen appliances and you’re golden.”

“Are you aiming to be…. unattracted to me?” Cas asks, and the question is so off base that it throws Dean for a few minutes before he realises with a jolt that he’s not, he’s really not. Any efforts at getting over the Cas thing where abandoned weeks ago when he realised it was more or less a lost cause.

“Uh, no,” Dean says, grabbing a mostly empty beer that was Charlie’s before she abandoned it, and taking a swig. “Should I? I mean…” Dean trails off, because Cas has purportedly been trying to passively change his mind, and he has no idea what that means on top of everything else.

“You do not want to sleep together,” Cas says, “You in some sense wish we’d never slept together. You are attracted to me admonishing kitchen appliances. I am your ‘favourite fucking person’ and you are pleased that I want you to be attracted to me,” Cas says, his familiar pinched expression, loosened by alcohol, that Dean’s used to seeing directed at particularly illogical teenagers or his family, “I don’t understand.”

“Well, when you put it like that….”

“Dean,”

“Cas,” Dean says, forehead creasing, “We don’t do this, okay? We sleep around and come home to each other and I… Cas, what if it didn’t work ? What If I’m too much of a screw up or both of us are too crap at communicating and we wind up screwing this whole thing sideways? I don’t even know if we’re even talking about the same thing anymore, goddamn it. This isn’t some one sided deal, you don’t make a lick of sense to me right now either.”

Cas stares at him. Dean drains the bottle of beer to have something to do with his hands.

“Cas, you were the one thing that made sense to me for years.”

“You’re scared,”

“Cliff notes version, yeah. You want another drink?”

“And now you’re uncomfortable and trying to change the topic of conversation.”

“Bingo,” Dean says, smiling just a little, because at least Cas hasn’t run off or started yelling at him, “I’m thinking whiskey.”

“We make sense to me, Dean,” Cas says, meeting his gaze head on and holy fuck before, “I would like whiskey.”

Dean nods and swallows and holy shit , and then he’s staring, and nodding again, and then still staring before he drags himself into motion and heads towards the bar, chest hammering.

There’s not much misinterpreting that. Sure, there’s still a little room to if you make the effort, but Dean doesn’t particularly feel inclined too, because…. Cas probably wants a relationship with all the goddamn strings attached. All of them.

We make sense to me .

He croaks out his order at the bar and mercifully gets saved by Charlie, who’s appearing to buy more beer and probably to try and talk him into dancing to Walking On Sunshine, which is never ever going to happen, but halts as his expression.

“Woah, Winchester, you need me to call the ghost busters?”

“What?”

“Don’t go all Cas on me, Dean, I’m implying you look kinda spooked,”

“Right,” Dean says, and then, “I think Cas wants to date.”

“Duh, dude,” Charlie says, glancing back at Cas, “Is this my I told you so cue or are you still being oblivious and dumb.” Dean grimaces at her. “Oh come on, Dean, you guys are like…” She’s actually pretty drunk, which is a pretty rare occurrence because Charlie has a liver of steel, “Man, can’t you guys just love each other? Just drop the l bomb mid drunken sex and live happily ever after.”

“We’ve never slept together drunk,”

“Seriously?” Charlie asks, “Huh.”

“You heard Cas talk about consent?” Dean asks, running a finger over the edge of his glass. “Given we didn’t do the whole talking thing, seemed like it’d be running kind of close to the wire.”

“No, that’s a good policy,”

“If we talked about it enough to make it an actual policy, we’d have talked enough that it probably wouldn’t be a problem.”

“Well, hey, at least you’re working on the self-awareness thing,” Charlie says, “It’s gonna work out, Deano.”

“Chalk this up to the whiskey, but you know I might actually be beginning to believe it,” Dean says, picking up the two whiskeys, and glancing back to Cas. He’s staring at the dance floor with an entirely appropriate expression of confusion, as far as Dean’s concerned, and it sparks another wave of affection for the guy. Damn, but Cas is the best. He’s not a huge fan of the weird twisty feeling he gets in his chest whenever he looks at him these days, like he wants to crawl into Cas’ personal space and live there, but at least he’s stopped beating himself up about it.

You make me happy, Dean .

“Well shit,”

“I’ll drink to that,” Dean says, clinking glasses with her and actually smiling …. At least until she tries to blackmail him into dancing via the medium of LARP, which is so far from the realm of okay that it’s ridiculous.

*

Dean left for two minutes to piss, and Charlie somehow got to Cas. She probably thought that Dean would follow Cas onto the dance floor (and he looks genuinely ridiculous, right now, as Charlie tries to teach this dance to some song Dean vaguely remembers happening but doesn’t actually know, which apparently has a set dance that everyone but them picked up as children), but even drunk as he is he knows that’s not something he actually wants to do.

“Winchester,” Victor says, appearing with a coke and a grim expression, “It’s been a while.”

It’s mostly an in-joke they’ve had for a couple of years, but it’s also kind of true. Between all the stuff with Cas, picking up shifts and college, it had probably been a good few weeks since Dean had last caught up with the guy, other than the lift here and the texts arranging it. They tend to move in slightly different circles, even if Garth is a bizarre mutual friend, which is a shame because Dean likes the guy. For a straight, stereotypically masculine guy, he’s never once said anything that could be contrived as offensive or intolerant. That shouldn’t be a surprise, exactly, it’s just that Dean spent most of his teen years with homophobic versions of Victor, and it still surprises when he makes references to being bisexual and no one raises their eyes, starts treating him differently or out and out punches him in the face.

“Henriksen,” Dean throws back, “How’s sobriety?” Victor frowns at his coke. “Sorry about the short straw, man,” Dean says, then he gets pulled into the conversation that every single final year student seems to be having about jobs and living situations and paying off student loans. Turns out Victor wants to join the FBI and actually has a plan about what do with is life, while Dean throws around a bunch of vague plans that he’s mostly discarded but hasn’t replaced yet. He accidentally tells Victor that he wants to stay living with Cas, preferably staying in Lawrence, even though he has no idea whether Cas is even planning to stay within the state lines.

“You good to head off some point soon, Dean?” Victor asks. It’s not exactly late yet, but then Dean can’t imagine how awful this experience would be without the aid of alcohol, and he’s not exactly desperate to stay.

“Yeah, I’ll round up Cas,” Dean says, standing up.

Cas is doing the fucking Macarena, and it throws him so completely for a minute that he just stares at him. Castiel is such a dork and Dean is so stupidly in love with him, that Cas drunkenly doing the Macarena is right up there with his favourite memories, and that’s so ridiculous and unexpected and just…

“Are you joining us for the Macarena, Dean?” Cas asks, smirking slightly, as Dean approaches. He seems to be aware about how unlikely Dean joining in actually is, but he nevertheless doesn’t stop with the whole Macarena thing.

“In your dreams, Cas,”

“You are not generally doing the Macarena in my subconscious,”

“Yeah? What am I doing?” Dean asks, because he’s slightly drunk and Cas is doing the fucking Macarena, and Cas thinks they make sense, and Dean makes Cas happy, and they might just actually work at some point. Dean has to side step because everyone’s swapped sides and he’s suddenly in the way of a row of arms, but Cas stays facing him, lips titling upwards.

“In my dreams?” Cas asks, “Doing the dishes immediately after you’ve finished eating.”

“Asshat,”

“Naked.”

Dean exhales and smiles slightly and then Cas re-starts the goddamn Macarena, facing the wrong direction and at completely the wrong point, practically challenging him with his drunk-half smile. Dean goes to stop him, and Cas stumbles slightly and winds up steadying himself using Dean’s hips, then they’re just staring at each other whilst a whole bunch of their weirdo friends are doing the Macarena around them. If they were currently a thing, Dean would definitely kiss him right now, but they’re not. They’re still basically just a potential.

“Uh, Victor wants to head off before he turns into a pumpkin,”

“If that’s a reference to Cinderella, I don’t think –”

“Shush, Cas,” Dean interrupts, pressing a finger to his lips before he realises that’s probably a bad idea. “Let’s just go, yeah,”

“Okay, Dean.”

He gets a raised eyebrow from Victor who probably witnessed the whole damn thing and as a result the return drive is nearly silent and awkward, as if Victor somehow figured he was interrupting some moment and Dean not being sure whether he was or not. Cas is just drunk and contently silent, but Dean’s overthinking again already.

He really wishes he could quit overthinking this and just go with it , but he’s scared of it all going wrong and he’s scared of it all going right too, and maybe he’s beginning to believe that it will all work out but he’s not sure if it’s going to work out right now because he’s too much of a fuck up.

“I can’t believe you know the Macarena,” Dean says, after Victor’s dropped them off and they’re heading up to their apartment, “Mr I-don’t-understand-that-reference. And, more to the point man, I can’t believe you engaged in the god damn Macarena.”

“Now come on,” Cas deadpans, turning to face him, “What was I supposed to do? He was out of town and his two friends were so fine.”

“I don’t even know how to process the words that just came out of your mouth,” Dean says. He’s smiling even though he really doesn’t think the comment deserves that level of response, because he’s just astounded. “That’s Frozen references mid-sex level of what the hell, man. I’m ashamed to know you.”

“I don’t believe you,” Cas says, tilting his head in Dean’s direction. They’re suddenly outside the front door but neither of them are reaching for their keys because they’re too busy looking at each other.

“You were right about one thing, though,” Dean says, “getting drunk was an A plus idea. Actually had a pretty good time.”

“Despite disengagement in the Macarena?”

“Had other interests,” Dean says, and they’re once again doing the standing too close thing, and it’s easier than anything to drop a hand to Cas’ hip, “Fuck, Cas.”

“I think that would be a bad idea,” Cas says, without moving backwards. Cas is warm and solid and would probably taste like whiskey.

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, “Terrible idea. But…”

“I have no intention of taking a drunken conversation as overriding your previous retraction of consent, Dean,” Cas says, voice low and deep, “But, if you still want this tomorrow…”

“I always want you, Cas,” Dean says, swaying forward slightly and pressing their foreheads together, “Scouts honour.”

“You were never a scout,” Cas says.

“Would have been if it meant you’d fuck me again,”

“Perhaps tomorrow,”

“Rain check?” Dean asks, stepping backwards with a great effort, dipping a hand into his pocket to drag out his keys. He’s pretty sure he used up the last of sobriety in that last relationship-type conversation with Cas, and now he’s just out and out drunk. He’s aware that Cas is right on some level. Probably.

“Goodnight, Dean,” Cas says, and they both stumble to bed.

Separately.

Chapter Text

Dean rings Sam in the morning.

His head’s throbbing and he can’t face food yet, but everything’s slowly slipping into place and it’s allowing him to remember the part where his Dad’s done another bunk and he hasn’t even talked to Sam about it properly yet. No wonder Sam is texting him damn near incessantly, because Dean showed up in the middle of a relationship crisis to find out that Sam’s back living with Bobby and John Winchester is somewhere that isn’t Sioux Falls. He doesn’t even know if anyone knows where.

As it turns out, it probably wasn’t anything to do with Dean snapping at him down the phone (although Dean’s pretty sure that must have contributed), but another lead on one of his god damn vigilante missions. He was last heard from Flagstaff, Arizona, which suggests he’s gonna be gone for the long haul. He’d given Sam less than twenty four hours’ notice, but that’s a damn sight better than then note they got last time. Sam’s pissed off but maintains that he doesn’t care, and Bobby’s probably going to give him a piece of his mind whenever he returns.

“I don’t know, Dean, it’s just the same old crap. Honestly, I’m bored of it.”

“He thinks he’s doing the right thing, Sammy,” Dean says, wandering into the kitchen because he really needs coffee. That and the fact that he’s beginning to feel like the four walls of his bedroom are closing in on him and he knows that Cas is probably outside, which will probably help.

“How is ditching out on your family the right thing?”

“I thought you didn’t care about Dad anymore,” Dean deadpans, switching on the coffee machine. Cas is clogging up the kitchen table with his books, but Dean can feel his gaze on his back when he mentions his father. “Anyway, man, you don’t wanna hear me trying to justify Dad to you.”

“It pisses me off when you try and sweep everything he’s done under the rug, like it’s all okay just because he’s our Dad.”

“Yeah, I know, Sammy,” Dean says, “So I’m not going to, all right?”

“Are you all right?” Sam asks.

“Yeah,” Dean says, turning back around to face Cas, swallowing. “Like you said, the disappearing act is getting old.”

“Wow,” Sam says, “Preserving the moment.”

“Preserve your face,”

“Dean that doesn’t even make sense,”

“Shut up,” Dean says, “Don’t you have homework or something to be doing?”

“Yes, actually,” Sam says, and Dean can just imagine the accompanying bitchface. Cas is openly watching him, pen suspended above the notes he’s supposed to be writing. “And you should be studying too.”

“Right,” Dean says, “Well I’ll just get back to that. Later, bitch.”

“Your father still hasn’t returned to Sioux Falls?” Cas asks, as Dean pours them both coffee. Cas already has half a cup but Dean’s working on the assumption that it’s probably cold and, anyway, too much coffee isn’t really a problem.

“Last seen in Arizona,” Dean says, “You had breakfast? Want pancakes?”

“There are no eggs. Or milk.” Cas says, which at least explains why Cas is drinking his coffee black. “I might have finished the last of the bread.”

“You might have done,” Dean repeats, raising an eyebrow. “Like you might have put the toaster on the hob.”

“That was two years ago,”

“So you’re admitting it?”

“I admitted it as soon as I was sober, Dean,” Cas throws back, but the straight line of his frown is a little softer than normal, which Dean’s taking as a mark of amusement. Or affection, possibly.

“To sum up,” Dean says, “There’s no food.”

“There is the questionable apple that Charlie left here several weeks ago,” Cas says, “And we have rice.”

“Great,” Dean says, grimacing at his black coffee. “I’ll make a list.”

“A shopping list?” Cas asks, smiling slightly.

“Wanna save the mocking for when you haven’t just eaten my breakfast?” Dean asks, sitting down opposite him and tearing a sheet of paper out of his had to piss him off, because Cas is pretty anal about his stationary. He pauses shortly after scribbling ‘bacon’ because his brain is suddenly stuck on last night. Not so much the we make sense to me, Dean or even the perhaps tomorrow (because obviously he’s already dissected all of that within an inch of its life), but the conversation he had with Victor about the future.

“What’s your plan after we’ve graduated?” Dean asks, “I mean, not jobs and stuff but… where you gonna live?”

Cas’ gaze is absurdly blue.

“Here,”

“Don’t you wanna… I dunno, move closer to Gabriel or your family or something?” Dean asks, and the grooves of confusion on Cas’ forehead deepen slightly. “I know you guys aren’t exactly the Bradys but…”

“You are aware that I see my family as little as possible?”

“Yeah, but…”

“In this fantasy where I suddenly decide I want to associate with Gabriel more regularly, where do you go?” Cas asks, straightening his posture and fixing him with his best don’t-bullshit-me-Winchester look, which means Dean hasn’t really got a choice other than coughing up the whole thing. Even if that reveals how much thought Dean’s actually put into this.

“Well,” Dean swallows, “Figured if you left I’d move back in with Dad and Sam. Or follow Sam to college, I guess, not that he’d want me cramping his style. Nothing here worth hanging around for if you’ve gone.”

“Dean,” Cas says, voice gentler this time, “I consider it my duty as your best friend to ensure that you never cohabitate with John Winchester again. If you do choose to move closer to Sam, I intend to come with you.”

Dean sort of nods because he doesn’t know what he could possible say to that. Cas isn’t leaving him. More to the point, Cas is prepared to fucking follow him which is… well, damn near incomprehensible, especially when they’re still on the cusp of something here. It’s loaded with a whole load of feelings and intent.

“Anything else you wanna eat this week?” Dean asks, voice thick, as he nudges the list over to Cas’ side of the table. He fetches his jacket from the back of the sofa and the whole time he’s just thinking Cas wants to stay and his chest is really not dealing with the news with grace or dignity. Shit. Cas wants to stay with him. With him with him.

“No,” Cas says, handing the list back to him as Dean grabs his car keys. “Dean, about last night…”

“Yeah,” Dean returns, swallowing. Cas looks like he was expecting Dean to redirect the conversation and stall for a little longer, but Cas just aired out the fact that he wants to follow Dean following Sam if that’s what Dean wants and Dean can frigging well deal with an uncomfortable conversation for that. Hell, he can deal with a lot worse. He’ll take the end of the god damn world a hundred times over if it means Cas will actually stay .

He’s about to say that he’s still kinda freaked out by the whole thing, but that given all indications pointing to this being something they both want and the fact that friendship isn’t exactly a smooth ride for them right now anyway, maybe they should just go for it. The words are a pressure building on his tongue that he’s just about to give into… and then the doorbell rings.

“Huh,” Dean says, crossing the room to head for the front door, throwing it open and stopping short because it’s Crowley at the front door. Fergus fucking Crowley.

“Squirrel,” Crowley says, “What a pleasant surprise.” Dean gapes at him slightly. “I realise I’m early, but that’s no excuse to not letting me through the door.”

“Right,” Dean says, stepping aside, “Well. I’ll just, uh, go get the groceries then.”

“Castiel,” Crowley says, nodding in Cas’ direction and, yeah, Dean doesn’t have a damn clue what’s going on right now but he definitely doesn’t like it.

“Dean –”

“– Later, Cas.”

He ignores his phone and spends as long as possible in Walmart, even though he’s acutely aware that he’s overthinking and most likely freaking out needlessly. Yes, Cas has almost definitely slept with Crowley before and, yes, Cas stayed with him with him that time and probably (maybe?) slept with him again then, but it doesn’t mean anything about right this moment . Anyway, given they’re still on the wrong side of the whole conversation about what they’re actually doing, Cas might be within his rights to sleep with him if he wants. Dean’s not quite sure because he doesn’t do this shit, ever, and there a whole bunch of rules he’s pretty sure no one ever taught him.

Honestly, if Cas thinks they make sense, or whatever, the idea of Cas sleeping with anyone else after they started sleeping together doesn’t exactly thrill him, but then Cas is still working under the assumption that he slept with Benny and he hasn’t bought that up, so who even knows. Who the fuck even knows what’s going on.

Cas has text him. Hell, Dean’s pretty sure Cas text him the second he left to go get food, because the text is indication enough that Cas knows exactly where his head’s at. It’s basically Cas just reminding Dean that he’s group project is in next week, and given he and Crowley are the only two people in the group who actually turned up to meetings after the second week, they’re trying to get it finished before Monday. The subtext is a clear and we are definitely not sleeping together, Dean , but then Dean knew that really. Cas isn’t an asshole.

The jealousy thing just took him surprise.

It’s fine, dude, hope it’s going okay. Bought steak for dinner.

Cas texts him back Let’s hope that’s not a misteak and Dean stares at his phone for a good minute in disbelief, because Cas is such a dork and Dean’s so impossibly attached to his dorkiness that it’s difficult to get his head round it sometimes. Caring this much about anyone that isn’t Sam is terrifying, if not exactly new. He’s just allowing himself to indulge in it these days.

When he gets back, Castiel and Crowley are still in cahoots over their stupid group project and Cas looks so purposefully put together and unruffled that Dean almost laughs. It helps that Dean gets an earful of Crowley and Cas attempting to verbally destroy each other whilst he’s unpacking the groceries, and it’s pretty clear that mutual respect aside they near enough hate each other.

“This isn’t going to work.”

“Got news for you kitten, I don’t care. You can shove your introduction alternations up your jacksy.”

“Let me know if you need to hide a body,” Dean nods to Cas, after he’s shoved the groceries in the fridge, and heads to his room and to futile attempts at getting some work done.

They don’t exactly talk about it after Crowley’s left, but they sit closer together on the sofa and stare each other even more often than normal, and it’s actually kind of nice.

*

“Dean, this is a party . You assured me it was a ‘gathering’ and that the difference between a party and a gathering was the quantity of participants.” Castiel says, trench coat clad shoulders tense behind him. “There are significant number of people here.”

He’s right. Charlie assured him there’d be ten or twelve people here, tops, which is how he’d pitched this to Cas anyway (that and the fact that their invading each other’s space in the kitchen and occasionally smiling at each other for no reason but never quite talking about it, so he was kinda easier to persuade that normal). There’s at least fifteen people in this room alone and he can’t see Charlie or her roommates anywhere.

“Yeah,” Dean says, frowning at the number of people squashed into Charlie’s sitting room, and clapping a hand on the guy’s shoulder, just because. “We got screwed, man. At least the quality of participants just sky rocketed.”

“We didn’t bring any beer.”

“I can find you a beer if you wanna beer,” Dean says, raising an eyebrow.

“How?” Cas asks, in the sort of way that indicates he’s almost definitely humouring him. All their interactions are tinted with something at the moment, and Cas knows damn well Dean can just find Charlie and guilt trip her into giving them beer. That’s not the point. This is fucking chivalry and flirting and more fun than it really should be, given how well they know each other.

“I’m batman.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Cas says, but he follows Dean through the living room anyway, frowning when Dean swipes a single beer from a mostly abandoned six pack and presents it to him. “I need a bottle opener.”

“You want my life or my soul whilst you’re at it?” Dean complains, “Guess they’ll be one in the kitchen.” He’s still glancing at Cas to drink in his bemused expression, when he takes another step and walks straight into fucking Benny , which might possibly be one of the most embarrassing moments of his whole frigging life (up there with the actual disaster with Benny); he’d mostly blocked out the whole memory of being too emotionally fucked to be actually fucked, and the god damn awful get away afterwards, but now it’s all rushing back. Worse, Benny knows the whole thing was because of Cas, who’s right behind him and who only has half the story, and is quite possible pissed.

He’s had plenty awkward encounters after seeing people beyond the morning after (the student population is big, but not quite big enough), but at least those were after generally mutually satisfying experiences were both people’s expectations were met. Not after he’s frigging ran out half way through and then started blurting some sob story about sleeping with his roommate.

“Easy, brother,”

“I find the implications of incest in that comment vaguely uncomfortable,” Cas says, the humour from his voice all but evaporated, “Excuse me,” he continues, and then he’s pushing in front of them and into the kitchen, leaving Dean flushed and embarrassed and alone. Except for Benny.

“Gotta hand it to you Dean,” Benny says, watching Cas skulk off with a look of amusement, “He’s kinda feisty.”

Dean does not want to have this conversation, but he’s also not about to immediately run after Cas to apologise for walking into someone completely innocently (even though Cas basically did the same with Crowley and, shit, Dean really thought they were sensible enough about this not to be irrational dicks about all the masses they’ve slept with between them; if they keep this up they’ll be having jealousy related freak outs every five minutes). Besides, he actually likes Benny. Under different circumstances they’d probably be friends.

“Yeah, well, you should see him when I don’t do the dishes.” Dean returns, sincerely wishing he’d stolen himself a beer too, or had at least had enough to time to acquire one honestly from Charlie. He could use a drink or seven.

“So you ain’t talked to him about it,” Benny says, “Should get on that, Dean.”

“We’re working on it,”

“I’d work on it a tad faster, lest he sets fire to someone with that death glare,” Benny says, clapping him on the arm before continuing walking wherever he was going before Dean walked into him.

He should probably follow Cas right about now, but there’s a flash of red hair near the other door and he has at least sixteen bones to pick with Charlie Bradbury, which will inevitably be easier than talking to Cas about how they’re supposed to be preaching the gospel of one night stands and sex for pleasure and who cares about promiscuity or personal sex-histories, whilst never wanting Cas in the same room as Crowley ever again. God, he’s an idiot and a hypocrite to boot, and it’s not like he needed any other less than stellar qualities to add to his CV.

“Heads up would have been nice Bradbury,” Dean hisses, cornering Charlie by the door. She hands him a beer, at least, and he’ll probably have forgiven her by the time he’s finished it.

“Yeah,” Charlie says, “But you’d never have come if I’d been strictly honest about the party thing, and –”

“ – not about that,” Dean says, waving it away. “Benny, Charlie. Here.”

“What’s the big deal?” Charlie says, feigning innocence. “So you did the horizontal tango? Dude, I’d be way restricting my invite list if I crossed off everyone everyone’s slept with. I’d have to toss a coin to work out whether to invite you or Cas, for starters.”

“Let’s be honest about this,” Dean says, leaning against the doorframe, “You’d invite me. I’m adorable.”

“Dean,”

“Anyway, that’s way off point, Bradbury, and you know it,” Dean says, “It’s fucking embarrassing, all right?”

Charlie grimaces an expression of sympathy in his direction, tucking a lock of red hair behind her ear. It is embarrassing and it’s sending him back to a few weeks ago where he was still beating himself up over his feelings for Cas, even though he’s more than allowed to have them at this point. He doesn’t want to be there anymore. He wants to be well adjusted and happy and all that junk.

“At least Cas didn’t kill him?”

“Not yet,” Dean mutters, running a hand over his neck. He should have followed Cas straight away and just explained, because it probably would have been easier. Now he’s going to go through the stupid façade of pretending he doesn’t care that Cas is somewhere in the kitchen thinking things that aren’t even true for an allotted period of time, before he goes to find him and acts like everything is just fine. He’s still the same Dean Winchester who’s too fucking worried about what the world thinks about him, what people like his Dad would think of him, that he lets it get in the way of his actual life. It’s bullshit and he knows it.

“Wait, you still haven’t mentioned the part when you didn’t sleep with Benny to Cas?” Charlie asks, eyes widening.

“I did.”

“Yeah, but, before,” Charlie says, waving this away and dragging him half out into the front corridor, which is at least slightly quieter. “Dude, this how Ross and Rachel broke up for the better part of a decade. And at least one of them actually had sex, instead of just half pretending that they did because they’re embarrassed that they didn’t, or whatever.”

“Charlie,” Dean exhales, “I’m glad I didn’t sleep with him, okay? But calling time when you’re butt naked and emotionally fucked up isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.”

“Yeah, I got that from all the drinking,” Charlie says, frowning. “You guys are gonna sort this out at some point this decade right?”

“Yeah,” Dean says, swallowing.

“Pinky promise?” Charlie asks, and Dean rolls his eyes and stretches out his little finger for Charlie to shake. The crap he does for his super dorky friends.

“You got a bottle opener somewhere?”

“Here,” A voice says, right behind his fucking shoulder, and of course it’s Cas because Cas does crap like that. Charlie is near enough beaming at him because she’s an interfering idiot, and there’s a high chance that Cas heard at least some of that conversation.

Dean turns around slowly.

“Thanks,” he deadpans, taking the bottle opener with a raise of an eyebrow.

“You didn’t sleep with Benny,”

“So we eavesdrop on each other’s conversations now?” Dean asks.

“I was getting you a beer and Charlie indicated that I should listen in,” Cas says, which probably explains the weird eye gesture Dean had been chalking up to a Charlie-quirk at least. “Dean.”

“That’s my cue to skedaddle,” Charlie says, plucking the bottle opener out of his hands, and Cas’ beer out of his, before stepping round them to head back to the party. Cas is back to stoic seriousness and Dean’s probably not going to be able to get out of this conversation, but then he’s not even really sure that he wants to get out of the conversation. He pulls Cas properly out into the corridor.

“No, I didn’t,” Dean concedes, “At least, not… after,” Dean continues, gesturing vaguely in a way which he’s pretty sure Cas will understand to mean post-us. With the ‘us’ being a fairly flexible and undefined term.

Dean’s pretty sure Cas already worked out that Dean was having a freak out about them , in the flexible and undefined sense, so it’s not much of a leap to work out what happened.

"Didn't you think this was pertinent information to share with the class?" Cas asks, expression open and impossible. It wasn’t that simple, though, because Dean was still freaking out and convinced that Cas wouldn’t care and, more to the point, would care more that Dean thought he might care…. Which brings them right back to the bucket load of Dean’s issues and whether he’s even capable of thinking past them. Fuck.

"Um, Cas, at the time I was pretty sure you didn't care who I slept with." Dean goes with, because it’s easier than saying that he wanted Cas to care but, more urgently at the time, didn’t want Cas to think Dean cared.

"Let me be very clear," Cas says, reading right through his eyes and into his brain with his stupidly steady glare, because of course Cas understands when given all the information. Obviously. "I care very much who you sleep with."

"Oh," Dean says, swallowing, "well... I haven't. With anyone. Since..."

He doesn’t gesture this time. Just stops talking.

"Likewise," Cas says, and it feels like he’s been winded because… obviously. Obviously. Cas was pissing him off because he was around all the time because he wasn’t out hooking up with people. He was just there in their apartment, and Dean reasoned it away because he’s an idiot with low self-esteem.

"Hey look at that," Dean says, aiming for light hearted even though this is fucking revolutionary news, "we're monogamous."

"And currently abstinent,” Cas says, voice a challenge, eyes shining with something that might be amusement but could possibly be something else. It’s something good, though, Dean can recognise that.

"That doesn't sound very much like us," Dean says, letting Cas loop his fingers in Dean’s belt hook and pull him forward slightly. He’s wanted closeness for an age. "Man, at this rate we'll have to hand in our sex education badges cause we'll have forgotten how to do the do."

"Dean, I very much doubt that is possible,”

Cas is actually smiling now, which is nice.

You make me happy, Dean .

"I... yeah."

"Dean, I would like to check the rain.” Cas says, deep and gorgeous and then, more unsure. “Unless you have changed your mind."

"Dude, I'm in love you with you. That kinda takes longer to pass than your average dodgy burrito.”

He thinks Cas’ palpable shock is to do with the burrito comment for a good few seconds before he realises and, yeah, he hadn’t really meant to throw that one out there. Not even a little bit.

"You assbut Dean Winchester." Cas says, eyes wide.

"Shit."

"I refuse to allow you to continue self-sabotaging yourself when the only way in which you have screwed this up is by convincing yourself you are screwed up. How dare you allow me to facilitate your mission of proving your unworthiness by giving me incomplete information?"

Castiel doesn’t let go of his belt hooks.

"Cas. I was totally gonna sleep with him. I intended to."

"Because you had convinced yourself that I was sleeping around even though there was no evidence to suggest that, because you continue to refuse to accept the possibility that I love you, because you are Dean Winchester and you decide whether or not you are worthy of people's affection then force them to fit in with that hypothesis. Whilst I would not complain about your tendency to hold most of your previous partners at arm’s length – ”

“ – dude like you can talk – ” Dean interjects because, really.

“ – and then use that as proof that you are unlovable. Through the likes of Bela.” Cas is building up steam, and Dean’s pretty sure that they’re in this for the long haul if he lets him carry on without interrupting. The subject of Dean’s idiocy can last him a damn long time when he wants it to.

“ – Cas, Cas. Cas. Chill. I didn't mean not to keep you updated. Okay? But you getting all smitey at me is kinda proving my point,” He reaches out for Cas’ arm with the hand which isn’t still holding his beer, and with Cas’ fingers still looped around his belt hoops their position is insanely… intimate.

“I am not angry at you Dean.”

“You sound kinda angry,” Dean hedges, running a thumb over Cas arm because he wants to and because he can, and just in case it knocks some of the edge of Cas’ irritation.

“Dean,” Cas says, eyes flashing. “You love me.”

Well. Way to beat around the fucking bush.

“Looks like,” Dean says, even though his throat feels like sand paper and they’re in entirely too public a place to be having this conversation. Admittedly, they’re the only other people in the front corridor, but that’s just a matter of luck. This is the pathway to the toilet and the route to the front door, and anyone could walk in any moment. And, yeah, he loves Cas, but he doesn’t need the whole god damn world to know it just right now. He’s not even sure he wants Cas to know right now, except…

…you continue to refuse to accept the possibility that I love you….

Shit.

“In which case I refuse to allow your faulty reasoning to prevent your happiness.”

“You refuse, huh?”

“It is illogical and tiresome to continue ignoring the fact that we are basically in a relationship. If you have any reason why we shouldn't be together –”

“Declare it now or forever hold your peace?” Dean suggests, and he's grinning slightly. “Dude. We just... fuck Cas, can you stop lecturing me for long enough to process the love declarations? That'd be awesome.”

“Oh,” Cas says, mouth settling into quiet surprise and Dean’s pretty sure that Cas let that one slipped past his filters too, but…. Castiel loves him. He fucking loves him. It makes it even better that Cas said it by accident, actually, because it’s honest and dumb and it totally fits this whole disaster.

Cas doesn’t think that maybe they should just give it a go because they make sense and they’re best friends and Dean’s kind of attractive, or because it’s convenient or because Dean’s an ace lay. Cas actually loves him.

“Yeah, oh. Dude. Shit,”

“Fuck,” Cas agrees.

“Man you should not be allowed to swear,” Dean grins, and he feels so light it's actually semi embarrassing and, God, Cas loves him. Jesus fuck.

“Why the fuck not?” Cas asks, punctuating the question as pointedly as possible, so that Dean winds up accidentally-on-purpose watching the way his lips form each word. Dean kisses him rather than answering, because he should have done that ages ago. Years ago, probably.

It’s awkward with the beer in his hand but it’s also fucking aces, because Cas is running a thumb over the sharp line of Dean’s jaw, and because Cas loves him and hasn’t slept with anyone but him, either, and everything is so goddamn perfect he’s not quite sure how to processes it. Things this good don't generally happen to screw ups like Dean, but it's happening right now . As misguided Castiel probably is, he also actually honest to God loves him.

“Ah, crap,” Dean says, pulling away to rest their foreheads together, “Charlie’s gonna hit me with an I told you so fucking hard.”

“We could avoid her forever,” Cas returns, voice lower than usual, lips pulled upwards into one of those frigging precious eye crinkling smiles. “Particularly if we left now.”

“Yeah,” Dean grins, “Let’s get me a happy ending with this happy ending.”

Cas rolls his eyes and tells Dean he’s an moronic asshat, but the goddam hypocrite tries to jump his bones in the parking lot outside their apartment (‘it’s been a few weeks, Cas, you can make it inside without getting us arrested for indecency’). They screw on the sofa and Dean may or may not mutter more sentimental things that he necessarily meant to, but Cas just smirks and at one point corrects his frigging grammar, because he’s a weird nerdy dude like that. Afterwards, Cas curls into his side and turns on the television like this is something they always do, and they wind up watching half a season of this weird reality TV show about being stranded on a tropical island whilst totally butt naked by accident. Then he gets a 'if you've had long enough to process the love declarations, I would like to resume lecturing' and then Cas starts on about Dean was supposed to buy washing up liquid last week which turns into an out and out debate about cleaning rotas, still naked and quasi-cuddling.

It’s totally fucking normal.

Chapter Text

"Who was it?" Dean asks, as Cas renters their apartment, trench coat clad and looking exhausted. He was kind of expecting him back a couple of hours ago, given the guy had his final final (and crashed at one of his friends who actually lives on campus last night, so that Dean didn't have to drive him in at seven because Cas is a mental person who likes to spend the hours before exams cramming in the library even though he's probably a level of prepared that Dean's never been for an exam, ever) and has genuinely spent most of the last fortnight with his face plastered in a text book. Dean finished a few days ago and has spent the intermittent time packing both of their shit for Christmas and waiting for Cas to be done so they can hang out. His exam finished a good few hours ago, now, and he refused Dean's offer of a lift home ages ago.

"Hilarious, Dean." Cas intones, mouth a flat line of displeasure.

"Just reliving old times," Dean grins, "You hungry?"

"I already ate."

"Oh," Dean says, throat constricting slightly. It's stupid. Cas is tired and probably just wants to face plant on a vaguely comfortable surface, but Dean's been kinda excited about them both actually being free since right after he woke up from his post-finals power nap. He wanted to cook him something nice for dinner and hang out in front of a movie. And probably fuck lazily on the sofa or in the shower, or something.

This thing is still pretty new. Finals kicked in before they really had a chance to sink into it.

"I'm going to sleep."

"How early were you up?"

"Five." Cas says, and Dean winces. He woke up the first time at ten to text Cas a good luck and to Snapchat him the other side of his bed ('what you're coming home to ;)') and then slept until just after half twelve, nearly missing his slot at offering a lift. He hasn't quite done sweet FA since then, but near enough. In his defence, finals were a bitch and he’d been putting in hours at the library or hunched over his textbooks, and he figures he earned being lazy for a few days.

"Go okay?"

"I told you earlier that it was fine, Dean."

"Okay," Dean says, holding his hands up. "You wanna bite my neck off as well as my head?"

"I'm tired."

"Okay, sleep, whatever."

"Dean.”

"I'm serious. Take a nap. I'll finish up packing,” Cas looks like he’s intending to argue the point (the one where Cas is being a reasonable person and Dean’s being kind of clingy), before deciding that sleep is more urgent goal and lugging his overnight bag towards his bedroom.

It shouldn’t feel like as much of a rejection as it does, but he winds up moodily cracking open a beer and putting on another load of washing (apparently neither of them did any when they were revising) and once again going through their food cupboard, even though he knows there’s nothing that’s fresh or otherwise has mould growing potential anywhere in sight.

Great.

He’s pretty sure things are going pretty good, Cas wise, but then he doesn’t really have any benchmark to measure it against. Certainly, his relationships with Lisa and Robin aren’t really comparable, because they meant a fat load of nothing compared to Cas.

He’s been keeping his assortment of issues mostly in check, even if it sometimes feels like he’s sharing a bed with Cas and the crushing weight of his minimal self-worth, but it’s just that he’s barely seen the guy for a fortnight, and now his chest feels weird and he wants to crawl into his personal space and live there. He let Cas drag him out to a Carol service on Sunday night (because religion and God is still important to Cas on some level, which apparently particularly transfers over to Christmas big-time), but Dean spent most of the time being overly conscious about being close to Cas too overtly, lest someone asked them to leave. Sure, Dean doesn’t believe for one second that Cas would take him to a place that was really homophobic, and he certainly wouldn’t be associated with a church that was, but there’s assholes everywhere. So that didn’t really count as seeing Cas, as far as Dean’s concerned. The rest of the week has been a blur of revision and exams and frantically Christmas shopping because, yeah, that’s a thing he’s still required to do even when he has a crap load of other things to be dealing with.

It’s pretty damn pathetic to be this cut up about not getting to see your boyfriend for a fortnight. Especially when in reality they live together. Maybe most nights they’ve been sleeping separately because their routines are totally out of whack, but he does get a glimpse of Cas over breakfast or when he’s scoffing down the food Dean cooked before returning back to his room to study.

Goddamn it.

He’s on his second beer, staring listlessly at the sink and wondering whether he should clean it again when Cas remerges. Less than an hour.
He doesn’t hear him approach, just feels the sudden warmth of Cas pressed into his back, hands snaking around his waist: the movement feels so fucking ordinary already, even though the length of time they actually had friendship boundaries vastly eclipses their relationship, for which all intents and purposes is actually still quite new, and Dean has no idea how he wound up as a person that someone would actually want to touch and press up against in the kitchen and junk, and he definitely didn't think he'd be the kind of person who leant back into the touch and suddenly felt like he could fucking breathe again.

"I can hear your distress signals from my bedroom, Dean." Cas says, that variation of his voice that only Dean gets, which would sound too intimate in front of other people (Cas used in front of Charlie once and Dean had to up the colloquial unseriousness of his tone to compensate because, seriously).

"Sorry, man, just being stupid."

"Your feelings are valid, if in this instance unfounded. Don't apologise for them."

"Being a dick,"

"I was wrapping Christmas presents."

Christmas presents. Right. The only discourse they had on the subject was Dean texting Cas at some point last week asking him if they were doing presents and Cas sending him another picture of his dick, this time with a hand drawn bow around it and the caption don't be a humbug . Dean had chocked on his coffee but just about managed to screen shot the damn thing. He considered making it his phone background just for the shits and giggles, but decided against it. It's been the Impala for a damn long time that changing it to something Cas related seems like a hell of a commitment.

"Yeah but," Dean says, "Point remains, man." He turns in the space that Cas' arms has lent him, wrapping his arms around his back and holding him there. "Not unreasonable to want some damn space some of the time. Just... man, I'm glad we live together. I know there's that whole don't bang your roomie rule, but you were always too cute for that, and I just... you and your finals and then tomorrow we're driving up to Sioux Falls. Cas, I ain't getting you alone again till new year’s. Not properly anyway. And I've been getting used to it."

"I think that's customary."

"Yeah but this isn't really new, is it? It's just family issues manifesting I guess, but..."

"But you wanted to spend time together and I wanted to be alone and it made you feel shitty. You’re over complicating, Dean. Don’t.”

“Hmmm,” Dean says, because it’s really easier said than done, and he doesn’t exactly have a good track record for over complicating things. They’re still pretty much hugging and its easing away the beginnings of his panic, and Cas actually likes that Dean is the kind of guy who could really use physical affection sometimes. “Sleep if you wanna sleep, Cas. I’ll survive.”

Cas rolls his eyes and drags Dean over to the sofa, and it’s totally a-okay by Dean that he’s now officially Cas’ pillow and, well, maybe it’s not exactly food and a movie, but it definitely works.

“Oh, I have another Christmas card for you to sign somewhere,” Dean says, brushing a hand over his back. “For my Dad.”

Cas sits up slightly.

“Will he be in South Dakota for Christmas?”

“No idea,” Dean shrugs, “Got him a present for if he shows up before March, if not I’ll sweet talk Bobby into re-wrapping it up in birthday paper. Or he can burn it. Don’t make a difference to me.”

Cas curls one of his hands around the back of Dean neck.

“You got any more washing?”

“Shush, Dean,” Cas says, closing his eyes. “I’m sleeping.”

He artfully detangles himself about thirty minutes after Cas has fallen asleep, because as kinda nice it is, it’s not actually that interesting to watch Cas sleep, and there’s still far too much packing and cleaning to do before tomorrow.

They should have left it at least another few days before making the drive.
*


“Why are we taking carrots to Sioux Falls?” Cas asks, appearing behind him, still bleary with sleep.

“For the reindeer,” Dean deadpans, “You feeling better, sleeping beauty?”

“Dean,”

“I ain’t chucking them,” Dean says, standing up, “And we’re not coming home to a crap load of rotten anything.”

“We’re supposed to be at Christmas Dinner in thirty minutes,”

“Oh, shit,” Dean says, because at some point he’d completely forgotten about the college-Christmas that he’s had everyone from Charlie to Garth nagging him about, because they booked out over half the restaurant and they’ll be facing some really pissed off wait staff if no one shows up. “I’m like, at least two beers over the limit.”

“I am able to drive,”

“Says you,” Dean frowns, mentally recalculating and hoping that this time he’s the other side of legal, because they’ve been roommates for a damn long time now and Cas has never once been allowed behind the wheel.

...Nope. He’s still drunk too much between the packing and the moping about being an idiot.

“I have a driving licence,”

“So do a lot of assholes who clog up the roads,” Dean says, grimacing. Charlie did promise Christmas presents and threaten him with using him as bait in the next campaign Dean actually joins in, guaranteeing almost certain LARP death. “I… fine. But you owe me at least a blow job, and if we both die you can ring up my Dad and tell him why you crashed the car he bought me.”

“Deal,” Cas smiles.

“If you’re only sleeping with me for my car I’m gonna be pissed,” Dean says, grabbing his jacket and reluctantly handing over the car keys.

“There are better reasons to sleep with you,” Cas says, which accidentally winds up with them making out against the back of the sofa and Dean nearly cashing in his blow job, except Cas has still yet to grasp them meaning of ‘we have ten minutes, tops, dude, so hurry the fuck up’ so Dean calls time and herds Cas into his room to sort his crap out, because he doesn’t trust Charlie’s temper if they turn up late and looking kinda post-coital. She puts up with enough of their crap as it is.

“This makes me so uncomfortable,” Dean complains, as Cas falls into the driver’s seat, changed into something less rumpled and not covered in ink. “Distract me.”

“Dean,” Cas says, “I am a perfectly adequate driver.”

“Adequate,” Dean repeats, “A word you once used to describe my car. And my dick, actually. Perfect.”

“I’m regularly in the driver’s seat in regards to your dick.”

“All right, Romeo, let’s just get on with it,” Dean says, hoping to hell that Cas knows better than to ask him where reverse is, because if they do Dean will be forced to either take over or make them wait out the beers. “Bobby will be turning in his armchair.”

“Actually,” Cas says, as they pull out of the parking lot (and there’s no casualties yet, so Cas is exceeding his expectations). “Bobby wished for me to talk you into splitting the driving to Sioux Falls tomorrow. Neither of us were very hopeful.”

“Why? Wait, since when have you been chatting to Bobby?”

“He wanted to consult me about your Christmas present,” Cas says, smiling slightly and staring fixedly on the road, not glancing at Dean, the little shit.

“My Christmas present?” Dean repeats, “Dude, do you know what it is?”

“Dean, I’m not going to tell you,”

“Oh come on,” Dean says, “Don’t mention it if you’re not going to give up the goods, you tease.”

“He wanted me to have practice driving your car,”

“So it’s something to do with my car?” Dean asks, leaning forwards in his seat to get a better read on Cas’ expression, who’s doing an excellent job at pretending not to notice Dean craning his neck.

“I refuse to comment further,” Cas says.

“Do you now?”

“My lips are sealed.”

“I can get your lips to do whatever the fuck I want, Novak, and we both know it,” Dean grins, “Am I gonna like it?”

“You are going to be impossible,” Cas smiles, actually smiles, with his fingers clasped on the steering wheel. He’s not actually a bad driver, actually. He’s too deliberate and careful but that’s probably at least partially because it’s been such a long time since he’s driven anywhere. Then again, Cas has a chronic case of taking a lot of things a lot more seriously than they necessarily need to, so maybe it’s just standard.

“Cas, come on,”

“No,”

“I’ll be less annoying if you tell me now,”

“I sincerely doubt it,” Cas says, and suddenly they’re actually there and they both made the journey without dying horribly, and Cas is smirking a see in his direction but, whatever, his doubts were well founded.

“I’ll tell you what Sam got you for Christmas,” Dean tries, falling into step in his side.

“I don’t want to know,”

“Well, then, I won’t tell you what Sam got you for Christmas.”

Cas rolls his eyes at him but stays silent, and then they’re in the restaurant and being pulled over to the half restaurant that they’re supposed to be occupying. They’re not quite the last people here, but it’s a close run thing.

“So, it’s something to do with my car,” Dean says, after they’ve gone round and done their hellos and inevitably wound up sat next to each other (with Meg sat practically opposite them, which isn’t exactly ideal, but apparently you get less choice when you’re late). “And you driving my car. And I’m gonna like it. And Bobby wanted your advice….” Then it clicks. “ Shit,” Dean says, eyes wide. “ I…. really?”

Cas nods at him, smiling, all blue eyes and beautiful and fuck does Dean love him.

“You talked Bobby into giving me Baby?” Dean asks, and his voice comes out slightly hoarse because holy shit . He’s getting his mother fucking car for Christmas. He gets Baby.

“I merely assured him I was sure you’d be able to find the money for fuel.”

“Fuck,” Dean says, then leans forward to kiss the guy, hard.

They haven’t really done much of the public stuff just because, well, it’s not really them and for the most part they’ve been too busy with finals and work to be socialising, anyway. So only a handful of people at the current table know that they’re doing the relationship thing, but Dean really doesn’t care. Dean’s getting the Impala for Christmas and Cas helped so, whatever, Dean needs to kiss him. It’s fundamental and imperative and entirely necessary, and if anyone has a problem with it they can shove it up their ass.

The kiss turns sappy rather than explicit, so by the time he pulls back he’s inadvertently cupping Cas’ jaw and has half the damn table staring at them.

“Dudes, are you together ?” Garth asks, looking possibly as happy about that fact as Dean was initially, which is actually quite frightening all things considered.

“Well, they slept with everyone else, they probably ran out of options,” Meg says, sipping on her martini like the demon woman she’s always been.

“You’re just jealous cause I’m the only one who stuck,” Dean throws back. Cas will no doubt get prissy if he really gets into that bullshit with Meg, which would probably be quite fair, but… come on, it’s not like he can just say nothing.

“Congratulations,” Meg says dryly, but she offers Cas a smile when she thinks Dean isn’t looking, so maybe she’s not as bad as all that.

Garth, however, jams a celebratory Christmas cracker hat on his head, and is therefore public enemy number one.

“I’ve been Garthed again,” Dean mutters to Cas, who kisses the disgruntled expression off his face and orders them both beer.

*

“So, I stripped my bed already,” Dean says, throwing his jacket on the back of the sofa with Cas’ trench coat (Cas still won’t put the damn thing in his room, or hang it up like it belongs, so Dean figures that if you can’t beat them you should just join them).

“Presumptuous,” Cas comments.

“Yeah, well, I figured it’s gonna take a significant period of exploration before I find your mute button,” Dean says, and when Cas frowns at him like he’s been on the crazy juice, rolls his eyes and continues. “My bedroom at Bobby’s is right next to Sam’s, dude, and you’re shit at being quiet.”

“Where do you propose to find my mute button?” Cas asks, which Dean’s definitely taking as an invitation to step forwards, let his hands find their familiar spot on Cas’ hips and press his lips to the crook of his neck.

“Definitely not here,” Dean mutters into the skin, just because it’s the exact spot that usual results in Cas scrabbling for more skin, or balling up his hands in whatever clothing Dean’s still wearing. “Or here.” Under his ear, this time. “Or… anywhere I can currently get to. Optimistic about under here though.” Dean grins, tugging at the bottom of Cas’ T-shirt.

“This is ridiculous,” Cas says, but allows Dean to pull his t-shirt over his head all the same.

“So’s your face,” Dean grins, “You’re killing the magic, Cas.”

“The magic is in my pants,” Cas deadpans back.

“I can look under there too, it’s cool, I don’t mind.”

“Dean,” Cas complains, but he’s smiling as Dean leans in to kiss him again, “You are louder than me.”

“Not a chance, buddy,” Dean grins, “And I’m gonna prove it.”

“I think it would be inappropriate to ask Charlie to be an independent adjudicator in this instance.”

“Unnecessary,” Dean says, kissing Cas again, savouring it because from tomorrow he’s going to conscious of Bobby and Sam and his whole family and what they think of his behaviour, and how he’s kinda pathetically in love with Cas, and how they’re a pair of fucking saps. It’s okay that Cas knows that. Actually, it’s pretty damn great that Cas knows that, but the rest of the world knowing that is a whole different ballgame. “I’ll make you so loud you’ll burst your own goddamn eardrums, then you’ll have to concede.”

“Presumptuous and cocky.”

“I’m not gonna make a cock joke, even though you’re setting one up for me.”

“Shut up, Dean,” Cas says, pulling him in for another kiss, thumb running across his jaw with the other hand pressed against his chest. Dean’s pretty sure sex with Cas could never be boring, even if they’re still doing the do when they’re eighty and their joints have started creaking, because they laugh and joke and dick around like they do the rest of the time. Each exchange has the same familiar back and forth and it’s so frigging good.

“Maybe that’s your challenge,” Dean says, just far enough away from Cas’ lips that he can talk. “I’ll make you scream, you shut me up.”

Cas answers by crushing their lips together again, which Dean decides to take as game fucking on.

(Post-coital conversation later concludes that, in this instance, they both won).

*

“Dean,” Cas complains, “Sleeping is hard.”

They’re not actually very good at sharing a bed together, because Cas gets sporadic insomnia and they’re both on such different schedules, but tonight Dean can’t really sleep either so at least Cas’ complaint hasn’t woken him up.

“Yeah, well, so is my dick,” Dean returns, eyes still shut. He doesn't know why he's not expecting Cas' hand down his boxers in response, because this is Cas after all. He's also not used to touches that are adjacent to sexual whilst not actually being, so it's kind of weird, actually, to have Cas' hands in his god damn underwear to prove a point and just to touch him, without there really being an end in sight. "You know that was a joke, Cas, we had sex like an hour ago you nymphomaniac."

“It was two hours ago.”

“Didn’t realise I was fucking the accuracy police, sorry.”

“I have felt every single second crawl by.”

“Are you warming your hands up on my junk?” Dean asks, “That’s a new level of weird, Cas.”

“I can’t sleep,”

“Yeah,” Dean breathes, “I know.” Cas hands drift from his dick to running over his thighs, which is possibly more normal behaviour but then Dean’s not entirely sure. “You want me to go sleep on the sofa?”

Cas’ pained silence is his answer, about which point Dean realises that this is actually bothering Cas. Right. Dean had half forgotten that Cas gets seriously hung up on some of the classic-relationship stuff sometimes, even though Dean’s tried to tell him a dozen times that they’re never going to fit into other people’s ideals of a relationship because they’re just them. They’re Cas and Dean and that’s just how they’re always going to be. It’s how they make sense.

“Cas,” Dean says into the dark, “You know that thing you told me to stop doing earlier?”

“Over complicating things?”

“Yeah,” Dean says, “Right back at you, dude.”

“Most couples are able to share a bed, Dean,” Cas says, and Dean shuffles round in bed to face him, even though he was really quite comfortable before. Cas looks miserable and unsure and is grappling around to resume the touch that Dean accidentally broke.

“Yeah, well, most couples also do all sorts of dumb shit,” Dean counters, “Like Valentines’ Day. You can’t sleep because you had a nap earlier and because your room’s damn cold, it’s nothing to do with some fatal flaw in our relationship. Now, I can go sleep on the sofa, or I can put some sheets on my bed, or I can stay here, and none of those things will mean anything, capisce?”

“Yes,” Cas nods, “I capisce.”

“So?”

“Stay,”

“All right then,” Dean says, shifting slightly closer to Cas before closing his eyes again. Cas tosses and turns for another half an hour, but eventually settles against Dean’s side and they must both fall asleep at some point, because they’re still in the same position the following morning when Cas blearily looks at his phone and informs him they’ve slept through four alarms and they're late setting off to Sioux Falls.

*

“Assuming willingness, enthusiasm and consent… who, in this Diner, would you fuck?”

“You,” Cas says, looking up at him over his burger. He’d probably love Cas even if the guy didn’t have a perchance for greasy diner food, to the point where he’s probably enjoying the on-the-road pit stop as much as Dean is, but it doesn’t hurt any.

“I’m off the table,” Dean says, waving this away.

“I’ve never had you on a table.”

“That we can rectify,” Dean grins, taking another bite and rolling back his shoulders. His back and arms aren’t thanking him for the three and a half hours behind the wheel but, whatever, the drive’s got to be done. “Not at Bobby’s, though. That tables pretty damn rickety and I ain’t going to Sioux Falls General with splinters where the sun don’t shine.”

“And that’s the only reason,”

“I mean, Bobby’s kitchen ain’t that unsanitary. He’s no stepford wife, but he cleans every so often.”

“Dean,”

“Might disturb Sam and Bobby a bit,” Dean concedes, as Cas rolls his eyes and finishes the rest of his burger in one bite. He’s wiping his hands on the napkin when Dean nods towards the room at large, which earns him another eye roll.

“The man who looks very disappointed about his coffee,”

“Called it,” Dean grins, through the last mouthful of his own burger. “You’re getting predictable, man. I know your type.”

“Apparently, it eats with it’s mouth open.”

“Don’t make me chew in your face, Cas.” Dean throws back, swallowing, “Ready to hit the road again?” Cas nods his ascent and follows Dean towards the door. Dean makes a point to catch the coffee guy’s eye because he’s an ass, and because Cas puts a hand on the centre of his back and half pushes, half guides him out the diner as a result.

“I’m driving,” Cas says, as they near the car.

“Are you now?” Dean asks, pulling the keys out of his pocket and dangling them just out of Cas’ reach.

“I think that last person you tried this move on was significantly shorter, Dean,” Cas says and, yeah, he might have a point about that one, but Cas exceeds expectations and crowds him against the car rather than just reaching out and grabbing them. Then he has Cas kissing him in the parking lot and it should be uncomfortable public (because they’re not in their nice cushy college bubble now, where most of the people they associate with aren’t homophobic a-holes and the ones who are usually aware enough of Cas and Dean’s existence that they probably wouldn’t do anything beyond averting their eyes and muttering an insult or whatever). He doesn’t actually care, though, because if other people are allowed to kiss wherever they want then so are they.

He also doesn’t really care when Cas uses his distraction to prize the keys out of his hands. He cares a little more when Cas puts on some semi-local radio station that’s blaring out Christmas songs, but he set himself up for that one.

“How are we playing this?” Dean asks, watching as Cas rolls back his shoulders at the wheel, laser sharp focus on the road. “With my family?”

He hasn’t exactly mentioned it to any of them yet. Not that he’s been keeping it a secret, or anything, it’s just it’s a bit awkward to formally declare that you’re exclusively sleeping with the guy your whole family thought you were exclusively sleeping with anyway. He figured they’d just picked up on stuff, but then that might have been an overestimation; not all that much has changed since they upgraded their friendship, really, and probably not all that much that you could pick up over the phone.

“Dean, I very much doubt they will be surprised.”

“Well, no,” Dean concedes, “but they’re gonna wanna know how Harry met Sally.” He gets a blank glance in his direction from Cas, very much a I don’t understand that reference moment. “They’re going to want the hooking up story.”

“I could go into explicit detail about how much I enjoy going down on you and I’m sure they will stop pressing for details.”

“I… yeah, probably,” Dean agrees, “Don’t do that, Cas.”

“It will be fine, Dean,” Cas says with enough conviction that Dean actually believes him.

He stays silent for a few miles and vaguely regrets the shotgun shuts his cakehole rule or, more to the point, letting Cas wheedle the keys out of his hands. Cas needs a music taste transplant.

“And your Christmas present is kind of shitty.”

“All I want for Christmas is you,” Cas says, serious as fucking anything, right up until the point where Dean, horrified, meets his eyes, when his smirk betrays him. Dean’s taking his Mariah-Carey-quoting-boyfriend home for Christmas to hang out with his family, God knows why, and the whole thing is so bizarre and hilarious that he ends up smiling. In response to a quote from the most annoying Christmas song of all time.

“You’ve had me for like the past three Christmases, dude.”

“Not carnally.”

“You want me, carnally, for Christmas.”

“Yes,” Cas agrees, “And I’m sure, had Mariah Carey met you, that’s what she’d have wanted too.”

“You get that every other day anyway,” Dean throws back, because he’s not touching the Mariah Carey comment with a barge pole, even if the reminder that Cas thinks he’s aces isn’t exactly unwelcome. “You want me wrapped up in Christmas paper, too?”

“Too difficult to unwrap,” Cas says, gaze still purposefully fixed on the road, “I will accept a Christmas jumper and a background of the Frozen soundtrack.”

“God I love you,” Dean says, because it’s true and it just hit him all over again. Cas is fucking perfect with his too careful driving, and the sneaking glances at him, and the mocking Mariah Carey quotes and the innuendo and his skin in this light. He’s just a stunning person. He should be impossible.

And, anyway, pulling out I loves yous is damned hard even if Cas already knows. It still feels too raw and too honest and too much most of the time, but this second it just feels right.

Cas beams all the way to South Dakota.

*

Dean wonders into Bobby’s front room with a coffee that Cas didn’t ask for but definitely wants, pressing it into his hands before falling into his usual seat. Cas wordlessly acknowledges the gesture with a slight smile, and Dean’s suddenly aware that Sam is watching them far too closely.

“So, yeah, I was wondering if you could look over my applications?” Sam is asking, with barely concealed excitement. The kid has probably been suppressing the urge to ask Cas about this for months.

“Of course,” Cas says, taking a sip of his coffee, “Although, you realise Dean and I attend the same college perhaps –”

Sam flushes slightly.

“– quit defending my honour, Cas, we both know you’re better with the words.”

He does appreciate it though. Sam has always been the smart one out of the pair of them, and Cas has always been higher up the academic scale, but that doesn’t mean Dean’s a total airhead. He’s doing the college thing. He’s doing all right at the college thing.

“I’d like you to look too, Dean,”

“And now you’ve landed me with extra work,” Dean says to Cas, before turning to Sam, “Sure, dude, whenever you want.”

“You split the driving, boy?” Bobby asks, arriving with Sam’s coffee, two glasses and a bottle of scotch.

“Yep.”

“I was allowed to drive for just under an hour,” Cas puts in which, as far as Dean’s concerned, is a total dick move. They’ve only been in the house for fifteen minutes and Cas is already turning against him. Both Sam and Bobby are watching their interactions like hawks and Dean doesn’t quite feel as uncomfortable as he thought he was, but that doesn’t mean he needs Cas throwing him to the lions.

Bobby raises an ornery eyebrow at him.

“You’re a pain in my ass, Novak,”

“Perhaps tomorrow,” Cas says, dragging his gaze purposefully up Dean’s body, just in case anyone didn’t get the memo about what Cas was alluding too.

Dean throws a cushion at him.

“Jackass.”

“Should I have put Cas’ bags in your room, then?” Sam asks.

“Yes,” Cas says, before Dean has a chance to say anything. Dean just rolls his eyes at the pair of them and takes the Scotch that Bobby’s offering him. It’s Christmas and it seems pretty damn likely that Cas and Sam are going to join forces to be as annoying as possible. And Bobby usually has good scotch.

Bobby himself seems almost entirely nonplussed by the whole conversation, mutters something which Dean’s pretty sure contains the word ‘idjit’ before disappearing from the room with the rest of the bottle of scotch.

“Ellen and Jo owe me ten dollars,” Sam grins, digging out his cell phone from his pockets. Dean rolls his eyes again. Stupid goddamn family.

“Careful, Dean,” Cas continues, mildly, “If the wind changes your face might stick that way.”

Smarmy dick throwing things Dean inadvertently taught him back in his face. If they were in their own apartment or if Sam wasn’t here, he’d get over there and make the guy shut up. Kiss the self-satisfied expression off his face.

“And that’s your problem, buddy.”

Bobby returns, just a singular glass of scotch in his hand this time, and reluctantly hands Sam ten dollars.

“You too, Bobby?” Dean grumbles.

Bobby shrugs.

*

Cas gets him a Frozen DVD and the boxset of the Dr Sexy spinoff for Christmas and no one else quite understands why Dean gets stuck in a limbo between exasperation, amusement and affection, but Dean thinks that might be exactly how he likes it. Cas goads him into kissing him under the fucking mistletoe and makes a total of six thinly veiled sex jokes over Christmas Dinner. Dean makes him agree to a pointless drive around town just so they can make out in the impala.

There must have been a good reason why they weren’t doing this for the past three or so years, but Dean can’t really remember it.