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The Last Moonlight Serenade

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“Dean, I’m trusting you with this now. Don’t let me down.”

“No, sir, I won’t.”

John’s hand on his shoulder was more a shackle than a benediction. “You watch over your brother. I’ll send back what I can.”

Dean looked out over the skeletal acres of their farm, knowing better than to let his doubt creep through. The place wasn’t much, but it was all they had. A lot to hold together with fifteen-and-a-half-year-old hands.

“How long is it gonna be?”

John climbed into the passenger seat of the idling truck and rested an elbow out the open window. The man behind the wheel was a stranger and didn’t look at Dean. “Long as it takes.”

Dean ducked his head.

“You better get back in before Sam wakes up. I don’t want any scenes.”

“Yes, sir.” He turned away from the truck, jamming his hands in the pockets of his denim overalls. He stopped to watch the truck start down the long dirt drive out to the road.

“Dean? Where’s dad going?”

Shit. Sam was squinting the early-morning light, his hair was sticking up all over.

“He’s going to find some work, Sammy. It’s just gonna be you and me for a while.”

“What?” Sam tripped down the steps, passing Dean. “Wait! Dad!”

Sam started to run, and Dean leapt after him and caught his arm. Sam was eleven and all elbows, usually no match for him, but the kid was desperate and yanked his arm away, tearing off after the truck on his dirty feet.


No way John didn’t hear that shriek, but the truck kept right on going. Sam finally gave up and stood there in the cloud of dust, pulling at his hair.

The truck took the turn and headed west. John didn’t wave and neither did Dean.

Maybe he would have, if he had known he’d spend the rest of his life waiting for him to come back.



1944, Almost ‘45

The water along Waikiki was so warm Dean could barely feel the spot along his calves where it ended and the balmy nighttime air began. He wavered a little on his feet. His khaki trousers were hiked up around his knees, but not quite high enough to keep the hem from getting soaked.

“All right, Old Man. That’s it for me tonight.” No answer, but he felt that somewhere in the blackness above, Bobby was rolling his eyes fondly down upon him. “Have a good one. Say ‘hello’ to Karen. And uh, don’t worry about your boat. I’ll take care of her.” He shook his head, fighting off the now-familiar tightness in his throat. “But hey, if you got a minute, help me out up there. Okay? I know you probably got better things to do than perch on my shoulder all day, but this is a big one, Bobby. I could use a hand.” Nothing but the surf in reply. “Just please don’t let me fuck this up.”

The bottle of Jack in his hand was just about empty. He raised it in a salute toward the east, all the way to Leyte Gulf where Bobby had made his big exit, and chucked it as far out as it could go, staggering a little. The bottle splashed down with a thunk and disappeared amid the broken white moonlight on the water. His left trouser leg finally gave up the ghost and slumped down into the surf.

He held a hand up in farewell and turned back to the hotel, grabbing his shoes and socks from the water’s edge. As he trudged his trousers pulled at his calf where the saltwater sealed the fabric to his skin. On the deserted patio, he dropped into a chair to let the sand dry off his feet before he headed up.

The noise from the party inside the Royal Hawaiian flew out past him onto the ocean, Moonlight Serenade mixing with shouts and raucous laughter.

He’d only just heard the news about Glenn Miller. It had been all over the papers on Christmas Day. Missing in action, they said, a no-show for the first big concert in a Paris that wasn’t Hitler’s anymore. Dean knew better than to expect any miracles, but if that guy didn’t turn up, he’d feel it. All that magic, shot to hell. Another casualty, along with all the great songs he’d never write.

He leaned an elbow on the table and had to catch himself when it slid off the edge at a slight miscalculation of perpendicular. He was, in fact, a little drunk. A beer-and-tequila haze had settled over the whole place and the world was gauzy. It looked nice that way, like a Garbo close-up.

He was letting himself coast on that thought, trying to think as little as possible, when the sudden clink of glass came out of the darkness behind him. He jumped so sharply his cap went askew.

He turned to see a guy sitting there in there in the dark, not even ten feet off, slouched in a patio chair.

“Jesus.” Dean laughed and ran a hand down his face. “You scared the living shit out of me.”

The guy just watched him, tilting his head. He had a pea coat on over his officers’ khakis, even though it wasn’t remotely chilly. “Sorry.”

Fuck. You’d have to smoke a pack a day from age six to end up with a voice like that.

“How long you been sitting there?”

The guy tapped the ash off a cigarette and poured himself another before answering, “A while.”

“Little creepy, lurking in the dark.”

“I was trying to remember a poem I used to know,” he sighed, enunciating just a little too carefully to be fully sober.

“Well, I’d help you out but I know a grand total of jack shit about poetry. Just that one about the lady from Nantucket.”

The guy smiled into his Scotch. “Hm, not the one. Thanks.” He set his glass down and brandished the bottle. “Want some?” The label said it was the good stuff. The really good stuff.

At Dean’s shrug the guy kicked a chair back from beneath the table. Dean pulled himself up, grabbed a cleanish-looking glass off another table and took the offered seat. He held the glass out for a modest fill, eying his enigmatic new drinking buddy. The honey-colored light from the tiki torches did a lot of favors for people, but those good looks were the real thing.

He jutted his chin toward the insignia on the guy’s chest. “You know your fish are, uh, upside down there.”

“Are they?” He didn’t even look. “Little rascals.”

Dean grinned and shrugged in a clumsy, not-trying-to-be-a-dick-but-just-saying way. “Dean Winchester, off the Colt. How about you?”

For some reason his introduction prompted a snort of laughter.

“What?” He scowled, outside of an inside joke.

“The Colt?”

“That a problem?”



“Just blows my cover story out of the water, is all.” He swung wide, blue eyes up to meet Dean’s. “Sorry, is that an inappropriate turn of phrase around submariners?”

Eyes narrowed in suspicion, Dean leaned in and lifted the lapel of the guy’s coat. The bar pinned to his chest read in big, bold letters, LA FITTE. “Funny, I know a La Fitte. Benny. Good guy. Happens to be the Executive Officer on my very own boat.”

“Well, that’s quite a coincidence.” The guy wasn’t even pretending to hide his mirth. “Maybe we’re related.”

“Yeah, that shirt’s a little big for you, buddy.” Dean sat back. “All right, spill it. How are you wearing my XO’s uniform? And please, for the love of God, don’t tell me that guy is running around here naked, because that is just about the last way I want to ring in the New Year.”

He held up his hands. “No foul play, I promise. I just did him a favor.” He tugged the collar of the shirt. “This was reciprocity.”

“Do I even want to know?”

“Apparently, a flight jacket can do favors for a man in certain quarters of this city. I happen to own one. He made an offer.”

Dean shook his head and laughed. “Yeah, sounds like the kind of shit-for-brains plan Benny would come up with. Nice of you to help him out.”

“Share and share alike, my mother told me.”

“I just hope you get your jacket back. Cleaned.” Dean folded his hands across his stomach and crossed his legs. “So. A flyboy, huh? Bomber?”

“Fighter. Forty-fifth.”

Dean nodded. His interest really didn’t need any more piquing, but there it went. Better watch himself. “What, they don’t they treat you guys nice enough, you gotta come horn in on the submariners?”

The guy shrugged and pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes from his pocket, placing one in his mouth. He jutted his chin at the rosy stucco of the hotel. “I heard good things about the Pink Lady here. All true, by the way.” He held out the pack. “Want one?”


“They came with the coat.”

Dean chuckled. “Man, I am gonna give Benny so much shit for this stunt.”

“But if he hadn’t thought of it we never would have met, and we’re having a nice conversation here, aren’t we?”

They watched each other, and Dean’s heartbeat tread a little harder in his chest. It had been a long time. Too long. And he could use something. By the looks of him, maybe this guy could, too.

It was a careful dance. It always started like this, on that rare occasion when the more clandestine piece of himself sensed a tremor of connection. Deciphering messages in looks, choosing to understand or feign ignorance, to accept or allow the opportunity to dissolve. If he were honest with himself, this was what he liked about it. The secret, the risk, the ephemeral nature of the whole thing.

A waiter materialized to bus the tables, and they quieted. As the empty glasses were cleared from their table Dean attempted an apologetic smile for the mess. Had to be a shitty job, he thought, always cleaning up after somebody else’s last night of the world.

Once they were alone again, he exhaled a plume of smoke and gave his new pilot friend a look he hoped was pretty clear in intent. “So you gonna give me your name?”

“Castiel. Castiel Novak.”


The guy waved the curiosity off with a lazy flick of his fingers. “The Angel of Thursday. Long story. Just Novak is fine.”

Dean made a face and blew smoke over his shoulder. “I ain’t calling you by your last name, Cas.”

It was Cas’s turn to look thoughtful as he stared into his drink. “Where are you from, Dean?”


“Career Navy?”

He nodded. “Enlisted back in ‘30, the minute I turned eighteen.”

“And here you are, a submarine commander.”

Dean shrugged it off. “That was chance and timing more than anything else. Friend of mine got me in on his crew early, while the getting was good. I’d stand a snowball’s chance in hell next to the crop they got today.”

“I doubt that’s true.”

Yeah, it really was, but no point shooting himself in the foot here. “How about you? Where you from?”

“A number of places.” Cas shrugged. “I moved a lot.”

“Humor me.”

He sighed and bobbed his head as he ticked off each one. “New York, Alexandria, London, Chicago—for a very short while, India, Indiana...”

Dean leaned forward. “Wait, did you say India? As in the country? Are you shitting me?”

“For a year, when I was about thirteen.”

He cataloged what he knew about India but didn’t come up with a lot—exotic food, girls in saris, Brits in khaki. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who’s been to India. What’s it like?”

“Hot. Politically screwed. Frankly, I preferred Indiana, though I did lose my virginity at Purdue so I may be biased.”

Dean laughed out loud. “So you’re a Boilermaker?”

“A what?”

“A Purdue man.”

“Oh. The athletic team. No. My father did some work there. I didn’t attend.”

“You’ve got college boy written all over you, though. Where’d you go?”


“Oxford.” He whistled. “Fancy-schmancy. My résumé is not stacking up here.”

Cas gave him an inscrutable smile. “Who’s waiting for you back in Kansas, Dean Winchester?”

“Nobody.” Dean swallowed. God, the look on that face. If this didn’t pan out he was going to need one hell of a cold shower. “It’s just me and my brother now, and he’s off in Europe.”

“Older or younger?”

“Younger, by four years. Old enough to be heading up a platoon now, but you know how it is. I pretty much raised that kid, so he’s gonna be my pesky kid brother ‘til the day I die.”

“Must be difficult, having him off on the other side of the world.”

“To be honest, I’m glad he’s over there. The fucked-up shit that goes on on these little piece-of-crap islands? Closest thing to hell I can imagine. I don’t want Sam in that.” He shifted and crossed his legs. Sam wasn’t what he wanted to be talking about here. “So how about you? Who’s waiting?”

“No one.” He met Dean’s eye, and fuck if there wasn’t an invitation in that look. Addressed and engraved.

So here it was. Cas was calling his hand. Got to grab the brass ring sometime.

“You headed over to Hickam tonight, or what?”

Cas smirked at his drink. “Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just sleep out here on the beach.”

“Nah, don’t do that. It could rain.” It was very obviously not going to rain. “I’ve got a double, you know, if you want.”

Cas flicked some ash onto the patio and gave Dean a careful, sidelong look. “You’re sure you don’t mind the company.”

“I don’t mind.”

Inside the Royal Hawaiian, the countdown was starting. A hundred voices charged with the electric hope that this year, at long last, was going to be a good one. Let them hope, Dean figured. He was past all that. He set his sights on things in reach now, like this good-looking stranger across the table.

Cas leaned in, resting his elbows on the table, and dropped his voice. “You’re being coy, quite understandably, but this is where I like to make sure about things. Are you inviting me because you’re interested in sex?”

Dean’s eyes shot open wide and he looked around. They were blessedly alone, the crowd inside giving everything they had to cheer in 1945.

He tried to look more comfortable with the frankness than he felt. He nodded. “Yeah… yeah, that’s why I’m asking.”

“Oh, thank God. Where’s your room?”

Dean grinned and pointed a thumb toward the north wing. “Fourth floor, end of the hall.”

Cas downed his drink and stood, grabbing the bottle. “See you there, Commander.”

For a second Dean just watched him striding toward the hotel without so much as a backward glance to make sure Dean was following.

Hello, 1945.


Dean was awoken by the morning sun. The drapes swelled with the breeze off of the ocean, letting in flashes of white light and beach air. He considered belatedly that the window was open and noise might carry some distance from the bed. Good thing the rest of the place had been roaring drunk all night, probably still was, and nobody would have been listening too close.

Beside him, Cas still slept, his back turned, arm stretched toward the door.

It had been a memorable night. Cas was as good as advertised, uninhibited and hungry, experienced and demanding. Bratty, even. And Dean had liked it. Nah, he’d fucking loved it. The guy had fascinated and overwhelmed him, even pissed him off. But at the end of it, it was pure heaven. Every minute. He had needed a little of that.

Sitting up, he looked at the mussed, dark head on the pillow and the spread of naked shoulders that he had licked and lightly bitten. He knew the taste of that skin. He’d take it with him. For once, he felt the rare regret that the war kept these engagements limited.

It didn’t take long to get showered and uniformed. He was pulling on his socks when Cas turned over and blinked. His expression was blank and it stayed that way when his eyes fell on Dean.

“It’s 0800,” Dean explained. “I’ve got some meetings, but you can stick around for a little while if you want. I don’t know when they get up here to clean the room.”

Cas looked back at the ceiling, arms splayed out palms-up on the sheets beside him. He didn’t say a word.

Dean pulled on a dress shoe. “So I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’d be okay with it if you wanted to track me down again sometime. I mean, more than okay with it.”

Cas’s gaze shifted, but he didn’t look at Dean.

Dean finished with this shoes and dropped his foot to the floor, but sat watching Cas stare for a moment. “You uh, you okay in there, buddy?”

He got a nod, and finally some direct eye contact.

“Yes. Thank you, Dean. This was very nice.”

Dean put on his best affronted face. “Hey. It was a lot better than ‘very nice.’ Don’t talk about it like it was a damn tea party.”

“That’s true.” He blew out a breath. “I don’t know if anybody’s ever told you this, but your dick is, for all intents and purposes, perfect.”

“Well…” He grinned. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Dean felt a little surge of affection for the weird, sexy guy in his bed. “So? You want to get together again?”

Cas’s gaze wandered back to the ceiling. “I’m not sure we should.”

“Why’s that?”

“They’re putting me back on combat duty soon.”

“And I’m pulling out for another patrol in a couple of days. So that’s forty-eight hours, at least.”

Cas didn’t reply and Dean frowned, trying to reconcile the wan figure in the bed with the stick of dynamite who had blown him into a million pieces the night before.

“What? What’s the matter?”

Cas met his eye. “It’s hard enough to go back. I guess I’d rather not make it any harder.”

Dean moved to sit beside him and ran a hand through his hair, messing it up a little more. It looked good like that, wild. “Well, don’t think about it as something you’re gonna leave behind. Think about making some good memories to take along. When’s the next time you get leave?”

“A year, maybe. Possibly never. I don’t know. They can’t spare pilots, unless we’re cracking.”

Dean took that in. “You look like you’re in one piece.”

Cas picked at loose thread on the hem of the sheet. “I always was. And then one day I forgot how to land my plane.” He smiled humorlessly. “Earned myself a free vacation.”

“Jesus. So how are you still here?”

“A friend was around to snap me out of it.”

“Good friend.”

“Yeah. And once we were on the ground, he beat the living shit out of me. So then we both got leave. Buy-one, get-one.”

Not for the first time, Dean said a silent thank-you to whoever had fought the good fight to guarantee submariners their two weeks between patrols. He’d have lost it a long time ago otherwise. “You guys are still spread pretty thin out there, huh?”

Cas shrugged. “Until Hitler goes down, Europe has dibs on personnel.”

Dean tapped his fingers on his knee. “Listen. I can’t do much about Hitler, but things have been a little bit of a shitshow for me, too lately.” He rested a hand on Cas’s hip and caressed the peak of the bone with his thumb. “I know there’s an expiration date here, but I could use a nice memory or two. Or six or eight, depending on your schedule.”

Cas actually laughed. The blue in his eyes was deep. He regarded Dean, tilting his head on the pillow. “You’re a difficult man to refuse.”

“I command eighty guys stuffed in a steel barrel. Charm helps.”

“It’s effective.” Cas ran a thumb along Dean’s knuckles with a look that said he might want to start something.

Dean forced himself to settle down and pulled the hand back to scratch his neck. “All right, I wish I could stick around and flirt a while longer, but I’ve gotta go.”

“Mm. If you must.” Cas stretched languidly, his skin tanned and golden against the bedsheets. “Really, Dean. This was good.”

“Hey. More where that came from.” He leaned down and kissed him, slowly and deeply, even though Cas’ mouth was still fuzzy. “You think about it. But not too much. I’ll track you down later.”

Cas grabbed Dean’s shirt as he pulled back, holding him there. “I’ll be at Hickam.”

“Okay then.” He accepted one more kiss, victorious, and for some reason kissed Cas’s forehead before he got up to leave, grinning like an idiot. “Until later.”


The Colt might have been the property of the United States Navy, but she was Dean’s baby. Bobby had brought Dean onto his crew as a lieutenant back in ‘42, when she wasn’t much more than a hollow keel in a Groton dry dock. He’d seen her come together, take her sea trials, get fitted out from the torpedo tubes down to the coffee maker. He’d seen her patched up time and again—even done some of the patching himself. Except for a few patrols when Bobby had forced him to go get some rounding-out and serve under somebody else’s command, he had spent the entire war with his eyes glues to her periscope. He knew her better than he knew his own hands.

And that meant nobody so much as changed a light bulb on the Colt without his knowledge. He was pretty sure the relief crew at Pearl Harbor dreaded the moment she put in because they knew they were going to have goddamn Winchester barking at them and hovering over their shoulders for the next two weeks straight. One of the charms of shore leave.

He’d been told in no uncertain terms that he was supposed to be on leave once the boat pulled into Pearl and was not to actually join the relief crew in the work. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t supervise. Closely.

“Bullshit, they told me I had a new deck gun coming last time,” he told some hapless mechanic’s mate on the submarine base. “You’re not putting me off again.”

“We refurbished—”

“That thing has been soaking in saltwater for years. It’s done. Get me a new gun. And that prop better be spinning like a goddamn pinwheel because this is the second patrol now it’s picked up a squeak. They don’t call it the Silent Service for shits and giggles, pal. Make it silent.”

When he turned to stride away Benny stuck by his side, hands in his pockets, doing a pretty good job of concealing what had to be one mother of a hangover.

“How you feeling there, buddy?”

“I am feeling pretty good that I did not vomit on that man’s shoes,” Benny drawled.

“‘Atta boy, celebrate the small victories.” Dean slapped his shoulder, making him wince. “Heard it was a good night. You show her your plane, or just regale her with tales of your harrowing dogfights over Japan?”

Benny managed a chastised chuckle. “Brother, you really do see everything.”

“Eyes in the back of my goddamn head.” Dean pulled up and faced him. “Just happened to run into a pilot wearing your Dolphins last night. Had a nice chat. You still got that jacket?”

“Yeah, I was gonna bring it over later. Why?”

“Don’t bother, I can take it. I’ve got some business out that way. You go hit the sack.”

“You know, you are not half the bastard as everybody says you are.”

“Aw, shucks.”

And that was how Dean ended up with a decent pretense for lurking around Hickam Army Airfield late that afternoon.

He was ready with his Navy credentials and a vague story about a meeting with Novak, but apparently Cas had given somebody a heads-up because they waved him in without much fuss and pointed him in the right direction. Once inside he kept a stern look on his face and nobody paid him much attention. He hovered a little distance from a few guys in khaki standing along a chain link fence and scanned the tarmac for a familiar shape.

He saw Cas before Cas saw him, which meant he had a good minute to watch him stalk around and bark instructions at some mechanic. A man after Dean’s own heart. Cas was back in his own khaki uniform, dark aviator sunglasses on his face. That sight alone was going to get Dean through the next three months in his cramped cabin on the Colt.

Dean knew the second Cas caught sight of him because he pulled off about the sexiest double-take Dean had ever seen, head snapping up like he had locked on target. Beneath the sunglasses his mouth pulled into a little grin. The victim he’d been chastising forgotten, he sauntered up to the fence.

Cas stood with his hands on his hips. “That looks like it belongs to me.”

Dean held up the arm over which the jacket was draped. “Wanted to make sure it got back to its rightful owner.” He dropped his voice. “Might have to put it on you, though. See if it fits.”

“Prince Charming.”

“You want to come out here and do the glass slipper thing?”

“I’ve got a better idea.” Cas reached into his pocket. “Got anything to write on?”

“Sure.” Dean reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of stationery from the Royal Hawaiian, folded and already scribbled full of names and numbers. He handed it through the fence.

Cas paused with a pen over the paper. “That’s a lot of room numbers.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “My crew.”

“Well, I wouldn’t blame them for trying.” His face turned surreptitiously in the direction of Dean’s belt buckle before returning to his task, leaving Dean with a pleased blush. Cas handed the paper back through the fence. “Wait for me there. I’ll show up as soon as I can.”

Cas took a few steps backward, smiling at the corner of his mouth, and a second later he was back to giving some grease monkey hell like Dean had never interrupted. Dean watched for a minute, because that was just pretty damn hot.

Once he tore himself away he headed straight to the address Cas had given him, finding the place without too much trouble. It turned out to be a little Craftsman cottage, painted soft yellow and perched atop a stone retaining wall along a narrow road. It was set back a little from the street, hidden behind behind a couple of plumeria.

Dean sat down on the porch and looked to his right, out over rooftops and down to the ocean, where Diamond Head rose up over Waikiki. The wind was warm and floral against his face, with a tang of the ocean. It really was a beautiful town, Honolulu. It would be nice to see it someday without the war and the martial law and the scars of Jap bombs.

It wasn’t a bad way to spend the half-hour or so before Cas arrived. A Jeep pulled up and Cas jumped over the door as the guy behind the wheel called a flip goodbye before hitting the gas again. He took the steps two at a time but slowed as he drew near.

He pulled off his sunglasses, squinting a little in the evening light. “Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas.”

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” He pulled a key from his pocket.

“No problem. Glad you could take the time.”

“Come on in.” The house Cas led him into was neat and cozy, if a little… aged.

“You, uh, rent?”

“Borrowed, sort of.” He looked over the room. “Furnished.”

“Yeah, I didn’t see you as the English Rose type.” He nodded to a davenport that looked like The Secret Garden had thrown up all over it. “So... your jacket.” He held it in his hands for a moment and ran his thumbs over it. Good leather, if a little worse for wear, and real silk lining. He’d had a little time to examine it as he’d waited. On the shoulder were the insignia of Cas’s squadron and the wing it was assigned to, the 15th. On the back someone had painted wings and a halo, with a line of Latin beneath. “Prosequor Alis,” he read carefully, and gave Cas an inquisitive look.

Cas stepped close. “The motto of the Fifteenth. ‘I pursue with wings.’”

Dean flipped the coat to show the painted wings and halo and raised an eyebrow.

“On account of my name. I didn’t do it.”

“Angel in a fighter plane, huh?”

“I suppose it fits the work.”

“Funny, I don’t remember any of my mom’s porcelain figurines sitting in P-51s.”

“Read the Bible, Dean. Angels are warriors of God.”

Dean met his eye, and the weight of that look was intense. There was a lot he would’ve liked to have asked about what Cas did, what the war looked like from the air, but he sensed it was best to steer clear.

He handed the jacket over, pressing the back of his hand against Cas’s stomach with the gesture. “Well, I give you boys a lot of credit. Must take a lot of guts, letting the ground get away from you like that.”

“Says the man stationed to a submersible tomb.”


Cas looked at him for a second like Dean was a present he wasn’t quite sure how to unwrap. Then he tossed his coat over a rose-swathed wingback chair and went to the sideboard. “Want a drink?”

“What do you have?”

“Pretty much everything.”

“Got any Jack?”

“No, but I have good whiskey.”

“Well, la-de-da. I’ll take that.”

As Cas pulled out a tumbler he spoke over his shoulder. “Personally, I’d much rather be up in a plane than down where you operate. At least I can control my fate.” He glanced up. “I’ve hit a couple of Japanese submarines in shallow water. The way they sit there, can’t fight back...” He shook his head. “Not for me.” He shrugged. “Plus, I’m a little claustrophobic, so there’s that.” He handed Dean a glass.

“Well, I’m afraid of heights.”

“Then we’re quite a pair, aren’t we?”

Dean clinked Cas’s glass against his own. “To meeting in the middle.”

Cas stood there, eyes fixed on Dean. He downed whatever was in his glass and took Dean’s away again.

“I wasn’t finished with that.”

“It’s ten years old. It’ll wait a little longer.”

Then Cas was in his arms and Dean tasted the clash of gin and whiskey. Hands were on his belt buckle, somehow simultaneously undoing his fly and pulling his shirt out of his waistband. He realized he was a step behind and leapt to catch up, racing Cas to get his hands on skin.

“Don’t rip the buttons.” Cas hissed. “I just finished fixing Benny’s shirt.”

“Who invented those fucking things, anyway?” He worked them open as deftly as he could manage, which wasn’t very deftly at all. He might’ve lost a couple.

Finally he was pulling Cas’s shirt off, and the undershirt was over his head, pushing his dark hair all out of whack. He held his hands up as Cas did the same to him.

Cas got his hands into Dean’s pants first, and Dean gasped and stilled at the grip on his cock. Cas stood close, kissing his shoulder as he stroked him, left arm wrapped around the small of Dean’s back.

He groaned. “Okay, I’m gonna ruin these pants pretty quick like this.” He pushed Cas back against sedate damask wallpaper and pressed against him, kissing him deep. “Must be a bed around here somewhere.”

“Through there,” Cas gasped, nodding toward a doorway.

They made their way in that general direction, shedding whatever clothing they still wore on the way.

The bed was made with military precision. Cas fumbled one hand out to pull down the spread before twisting Dean around and down onto the covers.

“Wait,” he pressed a finger to Dean’s mouth and disappeared for a moment, and Dean barely had time to flail in the direction he’d gone before Cas was back, something in his hands. Oh, some kind of lube. Good idea.

Cas straddled him and went for Dean’s neck. Somehow, Dean managed to open the canister under the onslaught.

He flipped Cas over onto his back on the bed, feeling him out with fingers that he hoped weren’t cold with whatever ointment that was. He kissed him hard as he fucked him with his fingers.

But Cas was impatient, writhing against him. “Just do it,” he gasped after a minute. “Do it.”

Dean groaned, barely able to think beyond the feel of hot skin on his. He nodded, commanding himself to go slowly. Cas locked him in his legs, and Dean guided himself carefully inside, agonizingly slow.

“Oh, that’s good.” Cas took a shaky breath. “Dean, that’s good.”

God, he wanted to be close. He touched Cas as much as he could, leaning over his body and squeezing him with desperate fingers. He closed his eyes, but that cut him off. He opened them again and found himself meeting a direct blue gaze. Inside Cas, he swelled.

He ran a hand down Cas’s chest, down to his cock, and shook his head in wonder. “You are so fucking beautiful.” He began to move. Cas grabbed for the slats of the headboard and arched his neck backward with a groan. Just the sight of his Adam’s apple bobbing under his skin was almost more than Dean could take. He moved faster, working himself into a rhythm.

He tried to make it last even as his body drove him to speed up. He fisted Cas’s erection and pumped in time with his thrusts, barely able to maintain the coordination.

Cas cried out. “Oh, God, I’m not going to last long.”

Dean shook his head desperately. ‘S’okay, me neither.”

He grabbed Cas’s shoulder with his free hand to better leverage his body and sped up, eliciting a groan from Cas.

The sound of that voice. Just the sound drove him crazy. He pressed on, rhythm quickening.

“Dean—” Cas growled. “Wait.”

“Wha—” he breathed, barely comprehending. Cas twisted under him, shifting his leg to the side. Somehow, he had flipped himself without losing Dean. “What, you—”

“Shut up, just go… like this.” He pulled Dean’s arms close around him and held the headboard. Dean didn’t need to be told twice. He clutched Cas, one hand tight on his hip to steady him, and thrust in.

Cas jerked himself off and groaned, the sound very close to Dean’s ear.

“Ugh, Cas, I’m gonna—” Before he could finish the sentence he spasmed and spilled himself into Cas, driving himself all the way in.

Practically crushed against the wall and leaning on the headboard, Cas gasped at the force of the trusts. Dean pressed himself close, maintaining trembling strength to keep himself upright and moving until Cas was coming, too, groans deep and rough.

Once it subsided, Dean let himself slip out and collapsed forward, kissing the back of Cas’s neck. He pulled him down to lay the wrong way across the bed, his arms and legs weak. Cas wrapped himself around Dean, pulling him tight despite the uncomfortable heat.

Dean snaked his arms under Cas’s body and held him. He kissed his sweaty neck, breathing in the smell of Cas’s skin and the clean-laundry scent of his sheets. “You’re something else, you know that?”

Cas chuckled in his ear. “You, too.”

Dean pulled himself up onto his elbows and looked down into Cas’s face. He had a strange, gut-deep feeling like he knew him well, even though in truth Cas wasn’t much less a stranger now than he had been the night before. Maybe they were similar kinds of men, or it was just something the war had done to them—carved the same edges into each of them so they fit together.

Whatever it was, it pulled him like a magnet. He smiled a little as he took in every detail of his face, trying to pin down that strange familiarity, and ran a hand through his misbehaving hair.

Cas turned his head into the caress. “You were right about this. Glad you talked me around.”

“Happy to do it.”

“Thanks for bringing my jacket back.”

“I’ve still gotta see that on you.”

Cas touched his chest with one finger. “Too bad you don’t have your whites. We could play dress-up.”

“I can bring them over tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? Who said I was free?”

Dean grinned and kissed him. “Now who’s being coy?”

“Fine, tomorrow.”

“Good. So. Important question.”


“You got anything to eat around here?”

Cas nodded, looking at Dean a little distantly.

Dean kissed him. “Base to Cas.”

Cas smiled. “Sorry. Food, you said? How’s burgers?”

“He offers me red meat. Cas, can you get any sexier?”

Cas grinned and bucked gently against him. “All right, get off of me and I’ll go get you fed.” As he pushed himself up onto his elbows he reached around and grabbed Dean’s ass. “You’re gonna need your strength.”

“Sexier. Unbelievable.”


They spent the rest of the night half-dressed, lazing around the house and eating.

As they did the dishes, Dean learned that the house belonged to friends of Cas’s family who used to visit Honolulu often for some kind of business with the military. They didn’t travel anymore, so Cas was able to arrange to stay there during a rotation through Hickam on his way back out to the Marianas. The owners were happy to have someone keeping the place lived-in. They had even offered to sell it to him for a pretty fair price.

“You didn’t take them up on it? Man, if I had a shot at a place like this I’d be all over it.”

“I don’t even know how long I’ll be in the Service, let alone where I’ll be when all this is over. I haven’t really given it much thought.”

“Yeah, I get that.” Dean nodded, towel slowing as he dried a plate.

Cas gave him a fleeting look.

“I suppose Hawaii is a little far from home, anyway. Where are your people?”

Cas shrugged. “I don’t have much family left. Just an older brother and we’re not close.”

Dean understood that that kind of thing happened in some families, rifts that left blood less than strangers, but he didn’t really understand it. Not that it was his place to judge. “Your parents are, uh…”

“Passed away.”


“It’s been a few years.”

"That doesn’t mean anything. My mom died when I was a kid and I still think about her all the time.”

Cas let the thread of conversation whither in an unperturbed silence.

Dean didn’t push it. He reached around him and picked up a cast iron skillet. He whistled. “This baby needs a seasoning. I guess you don’t cook much?”

Cas shook his head and rooted around in the suds for silverware. “Just enough to feed myself. I usually eat at the base.”

“When you’ve got your own kitchen here? That’s a shame.”

“I’d think so, too, if I had you in it to do the actual cooking. As it is, I’m safer in the chow line.”

“Ah, you could cook. Just takes practice. I had to take all that on when I was a kid. I didn’t know a damn thing, but I learned as I went.”

Cas glanced at him. “So you weren’t kidding last night, about raising your brother.”

“Yeah, for a long time it was just me and him, before the farm went belly up and I enlisted. Then I put him up with some friends, just until he went off to college. Did I tell you that? He’s a college boy, too. Penn State. Smart kid.” He shrugged. “Not smart enough to stay out of the war, but you can’t win ‘em all, I guess.”

“You didn’t want him to join up?”

“Of course not. He was supposed to go to fuckin’ law school. We had it all lined up, I even had the money set aside. But after Pearl I couldn’t keep him away from the damn recruiters. He was hell-bent. Hey, you ever check the pilot light on this oven?”

Cas blinked. “For what?”

Dean opened the metal door and ducked into the oven to search out the little blue flame. “I don’t trust gas. I grew up with wood and when wood’s out, it’s out. No invisible fumes filling up your house and blowing you to hell while you sleep.”

“Oh. Well, I haven’t checked it for that, no.” A pause. “So, your father—”

“Went to find work, try to make some cash.”

“Ah. How long was he gone?”

Dean kept his face carefully neutral and shut the oven door. “Seventeen years and counting.”

Cas glanced at him. “Ah,” he said again.

“He’s out there somewhere. Can’t say I left him much to come back to.”

Cas dropped the last of the silverware onto the rack and Dean took up the towel to catch up on drying. “So you did all that on your own—managed the farm, took care of your brother?”

“Remember that part about it all going belly-up.”

“Still, that’s… You were just a kid.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s terrible.” He paused in drying a couple of forks and rested his hand on the countertop. “We come from pretty different places here, so maybe I should explain that he wasn’t the only guy who had to take off. Lots of people did. But I handled it. Sam and I got through.”

“I didn’t mean—”

“Just leave it, okay? Not a good subject.”

Cas pulled the plug from the sink. He shook his head and smiled at Dean. “You’re full of shit, you know that?”

An old, familiar monologue screeched to a halt in Dean’s head. “What?”

“You think your résumé doesn’t stack up?” He took the towel from Dean and dried his hands. “When I was seventeen I couldn’t even return a library book on time.”

Dean scoffed. “You went to Oxford.”

“Because my father wrote a check with the right number of zeros on it. Believe me, I was grossly undeserving. I only went to make him happy.”

“Come on,” Dean scowled, unwilling to be patronized.

“Dean, I’m complimenting you. You don’t have to be offended. From where I stand, you deserve some kind of medal.” Cas hooked a finger in the waistband of Dean’s shorts and tugged him closer. “Or at the very least, a really, really good blowjob.”

Dean ran a hand over his eyes. It was such a reflex, going on the defensive. “Sorry. It’s just, people have always been pretty down on my dad. I don’t want you thinking he was some kind of asshole.” Why the fuck it mattered what Cas thought, this guy he had known for less than twenty-four hours, Dean didn’t consider too closely.

“Well, I’ll give him this, he raised one hell of a son.”

Dean felt his face heat up. He eyed the door. He felt an instinctive need to flee, but he didn’t want to leave, not really. “Yeah, whatever you say. My turn to change the subject, okay?”

Cas watched him, his hands resting on the edge of the sink behind him. Dean could practically see him weighing his curiosity against his own reticence. He took a breath and gave in. “Fair enough.”

“So what do you want to do? You got some cards or something? Want to play poker?”

“For money?”

“For whatever you want.”

“Hm.” Cas tilted in his head in that thoughtful way he had, like he was reading something written across Dean that nobody else could see. “I have something to show you.”

He disappeared into the living room, returning before Dean could follow. He had a small book in hand.


“What’s that?”

“Who’s that. Remember last night, I was trying to recall a poem?”

“We’re gonna do poetry now? Farm boy, remember?”

Cas smiled as he flipped through pages. “Don’t worry, it’s short. And it’s not in English.”

Dean snorted. “Oh. Great. Even better.”

“Here it is. Inclinado en las tardes.”

He had been planning to toss out some smartass remark about poetry, but even hearing those few words twist their way off of Cas’s tongue, he only got as far as, “Spanish.”

“Spanish.” Cas affirmed, amused. “Ready?”

Dean swallowed. “Sure. Fire away.”

Cas began to read.

“Inclinado en las tardes tiro mis tristes redes
a tus ojos oceánicos
Allí se estira y arde en la más alta hoguera
mi soledad que da vueltas los brazos como un náufrago.”

He looked up from the book then and recited straight to Dean, by heart.

“Hago rojas señales sobre tus hojos ausentes
que olean como el mar a la orilla de un faro.”

Cas closed the book absently and set it aside.

“Sólo guardas tinieblas, hembra distante y mía,
de tu mirada emerge a veces la costa del espanto.”

He wrapped his arms around Dean’s neck.

“Inclinado en las tardes echo mis tristes redes
a ese mar que sacude tus ojos oceánicos.”

Dean pulled him in tight and kissed him, hushing him for a moment.

Cas barely pulled his lips away enough to speak, murmuring intently like Dean was understanding every word, and maybe he was, or close enough.

“Los pájaros nocturnos picotean las primeras estrellas
que centellean como mi alma cuando te amo.”

Dean brought his hands up, held Cas’s face in his hands.

Cas whispered, “That’s all I remember.”

They found themselves gazing at one another, neither of them flinching or breaking, not even for a second. Dean marveled that they could do this, just stare straight at each other, like it was some kind of normal activity that people did with other people in place of talking.

Then Cas pushed gently against him and walked him backward, until Dean’s back bumped against an outdated wall calendar of illustrated Bible verses. He grasped Dean’s wrists and lifted them, holding them against the striped wallpaper over Dean’s head and knocking down a clock with a black cat on it. He pressed into him, letting him feel the hard lines of his body.

“So. Poetry,” Dean said.

Cas nodded and claimed his mouth. Oh, man, that tongue. No more talking, not in any language.


That night, Cas had a nightmare. Dean woke up disoriented, thinking someone else was in the room with them, but it was Cas calling something unintelligible in the dark. He struggled in the sheets, drenched in sweat, until Dean shook him awake. He blinked in the moonlight, wide-eyed and still until he got his bearings. Then without a word, he rolled out of bed and went into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

Dean gave him a couple of minutes before he followed and knocked softly. When no response came, he turned the knob.

Cas sat on the lid of the toilet, head in his hands. An open pill bottle sat on the edge of the sink beside him.

Dean picked it up and read the label. Pentobarbital. Goofballs. The Marines handed out this kind of thing like penny candy, trying to prop men up so they’d hold it together long enough for the final push in the tropical heat. But guys needed a little smoothing out in every branch of service, apparently.

He put the bottle back in the medicine cabinet and rested a steady hand on the back of Cas’s neck. “That’s not gonna help. Come on. Come back to bed.”

Cas allowed himself to be led back and dressed in a dry T-shirt, pliant but closed off. When they lay back down, Dean pulled him close to his body and held him, the way Cas always seemed to want him to, even if the air was too warm and still. Cas didn’t wake again, and they never said another word about it.


Dean woke up next to Cas for the second morning in a row, this time with his arm wrapped around his waist. He shifted and Cas opened groggy eyes as he moved.

“Morning,” Dean said, looking blearily at the clock. Five minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off.

“You drooled on me.” Cas looked seriously up at him, wiping his neck, tone incongruous with eyes still puffy with sleep and typically mussed hair.

“So much for romance.”

“Guess we’re left with the sex.” Cas rolled over onto him, going straight for his ear. He was already half-hard.

“Ugh. Don’t do this to me. I don’t have time.”

“You’re the captain, right? They can’t start without you.”

“If I’m late, I don’t get to give them hell when they are.”

“It’s the captain’s prerogative to be arbitrary.” Cas thrust against him as his mouth progressed down his neck, and Dean’s stupid fucking body responded enthusiastically to the call.

He groaned. “Cas!”

“Fine,” Cas sighed, and rolled himself off. When he stood, his boxers were prominently tented. “Tomorrow you better set the alarm for earlier.” He stalked off toward the bathroom.

Dean almost reminded him that he was leaving tomorrow, but he shut his mouth.

So, one more day. Then he was back in it.

He took a deep breath and listened to Cas brush his teeth. It dawned on him that he understood what Cas had meant about making it harder to go back. Somehow, all this had started to seem normal. But really, it was just a reprieve, a wayside. No getting comfortable. There was plenty more war to go.

Dean dragged himself up and went to the kitchen to get the percolator going. He grabbed the paper off the porch and unfolded it on the counter, scanning the headlines for news about the European front. Shit was still hitting the fan in Belgium. He didn’t know where Sam was anymore. Could be anywhere. Could be right in the middle of that.

The air was beginning to smell like coffee when Cas came up behind him, adding the scent of soap to the mix. He wrapped his arms around Dean’s waist and rested his cheek on his shoulder.

Dean covered his hands with one of his. “What do you want to do tonight? Should we go out somewhere?”


“You know when you’re shipping out yet?”

“The ninth.”

“Well, at least now you know where to pick up a submariner for a few days of fun. Maybe I can get you a guest pass into the Royal Hawaiian.”

Cas smiled against his shoulder and shook his head. “Thanks, but I think I’m spoiled for all sailors now. Better quit while I’m ahead.”

“Guess you’ll just have to sit here and pine.” He turned around to face him and ran his hands down Cas’s arms, grabbing his wrists lightly. “What’s your day like? Want to come down to the Colt for a tour? Should be lots going on.”

“I wish I could. Things are hectic.”

Dean hid his disappointment. He understood, no need to make things difficult. “What time should I meet you back here?”

“I’ll probably be late. Let’s say 1900.”

“Okay then. Nineteen hundred. Coffee?”

Cas nodded, and they got on with their morning.


It was closer to 2100 by the time the Jeep pulled up and let Cas off. Dean had sat there on the porch as the sun went down, his bags stacked beside him, frustration building as the wait went from minutes to hours.

But as Cas trudged up the steps, defeat in the lines of his shoulders, the scowl melted off Dean’s face and the indignant monologue he had prepared slipped away.

“I’m sorry.” Cas got his key out, shaking his head. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey. It’s okay. You made it.” Dean followed him in. The place was dark.

“You must be hungry.” Cas disappeared into the kitchen. He was pulling cans out of the cupboard by the light of a fluorescent lamp above the stove when Dean caught up with him. “Is something simple okay? I’m low on supplies, didn’t have time to stop.”

“Sure, that’s fine.”

Cas set a can of tomato sauce on the counter. “I couldn’t get away. I’m sorry.”

“I know. You can stop apologizing. You would’ve been here if you could’ve been.”

“Wasted time.” He said softly, more to himself than Dean.

“Hey.” Dean flicked on the overhead light. “So what? We’re here now and we’ve got a whole night ahead of us, so knock it off with the moping and we’ll make the most of it. You got some music here somewhere?”

“There’s a record player in the other room,” Cas replied in a monotone. “But I don’t know if there’s anything worth playing.”

“I’m on it.” Dean moved through the house, closing curtains and flipping on every light he could find. Morale qualified as a perfectly justifiable use of excessive electricity, he figured. The record player was in the corner of the living room and a cupboard beneath it held a bunch of albums. The selection was looking a little sparse until Dean flipped almost to the end of the stack.

Bingo. Hello, Glenn. Everybody had Glenn.

In the kitchen, Cas was putting noodles in a pot to boil when the first notes emanated from the living room. He looked up and smiled to see Dean behind him, silently holding out a hand.

Moonlight Serenade. No refusing.

They danced right there in the kitchen, slow and close. They moved well together, no surprise. Despite his terrible posture, Cas turned out to be pretty light on his feet, responding to Dean’s lead like he’d been doing it that way all his life. If it hadn’t been for the formica table in the middle of the room, Dean might’ve spun him around a little, tried a few moves.

“You got poetry,” he whispered in Cas’s ear. “I got Glenn.”

Cas pulled him in tight, and after a minute they didn’t dance so much as rock in place, clutching each other.

“Dean, remember that thing you said back at the hotel, about this having an expiration date?”

“Yeah. I was full of shit, wasn’t I?”

“I wasn’t going to put it like that.”

“But that’s what you meant.”




“I don’t know, Cas, I don’t have any grand plan to offer here.”

They were both silent for a while, calculating months and likelihoods in their heads. Nothing came out too promising.

“I guess we keep in touch?” Cas said. “Unless you can come up with a reason to stow a claustrophobic pilot aboard a submarine.”

“Nothing comes to mind. I’d put you in the galley but you’d probably give us food poisoning.”

“That’s wise. Sure you’re afraid of heights? I’ve got a little leg room in my Mustang. Wouldn’t mind a lap-warmer.”

“You’d mind when I start screaming my brains out.”

“No, you see, you’d be too busy with fellatio.”

Dean snorted. “Okay. So we write. See how things go.” Dean squeezed him gently. “Meet up if we can. Whatever people say, I don’t see any sign that this thing is wrapping up anytime soon. So you never know. We’ll just play it by ear.”

“Play it by ear,” Cas said with a sigh. “I guess it’ll be something to look forward to.” He didn’t sound satisfied, but it wasn’t like they had a ton of options. “Look at me, promising letters to my sweetheart at sea.”

“Sweetheart, eh? That’s pretty serious.”

“Sounds better than two-night stand.”

“Here’s to night three, whenever we get around to it.”

Cas thought for a moment, then looked up with very serious eyes. “Dean, you know what this means.”


“We’re going to need some code words for sex acts.”


Dean did wake Cas up early the next morning, and they made love one last time before Dean showered and put on his dress whites, which Cas nearly peeled off of him again. Eventually, he managed to disentangle himself from one pretty damn handsy fighter pilot and get himself together. He swung his seabag over his shoulder and stood over the bed, where Cas had laid himself out unfairly naked and beautiful, like it wasn’t hard enough to walk out the door already.

Dean cupped Cas’s cheek, running a thumb along his cheekbone. This wasn’t going to be a big production. “Give ‘em hell out there.”

Cas smiled a cocky smile and grabbed his hand, pulling Dean down for one last kiss. “You, too.”

Dean turned away but paused in the doorway. “And get your ass back home in one piece.”

Cas’s smile faded. He nodded.

Dean watched him, getting one last, long look in. Then he winked and took off, and that was it—until whenever.

Outside, he tossed his duffel into the back of his Jeep on the way to the driver’s seat. Maybe it was asking too much of statistics that he and Cas would ever see each other again.

It was easy to say you’ll write, do the “maybe someday” routine, then blame the war and kick the can down the road until it’s too far out of sight to remember. Hell, he’d done it himself after countless shore leaves in as many ports. But this one had a different ring to it. Even if he’d heard himself saying all the same words, they had sounded different in his ears. They had come from a different place.

He paused. It stood to reason that Cas had probably heard them before.

But Cas would know he’d meant it. Even if he’d kept it light, it was because neither of them needed to get bogged down in something heavy. Cas could read him. He'd get it.

Dean sat in the driver’s seat with his hands on the wheel and looked back at the house.

Okay, two more minutes wouldn’t hurt the war effort any.

He knocked.

Cas answered in a sheet and a half-grin. “I know it was good, Dean, but that’s no reason to go AWOL.”

“Look—” Dean drew himself up. “What I said, all those things—I just want to make sure you know what I mean.”

Cas looked bemused. “I thought I did. Now I’m less sure.”

“Well, I meant it. About everything. It’s not just words.”

Cas stilled. The smile faded away.

Dean tugged gently at the sheet. “There’s gonna be a next time. This isn’t it for us.” He met Cas’s gaze. “I just needed you to hear that before I go. Okay?”

“Okay, Dean.”

He nodded. Cas had heard him. “Okay. Good. So… I’ll see you.”

He turned to go, but his arm was yanked back and then his breath was gone as his mouth was covered, hot and wet. A noise came up from his throat and he took a staggering step into the house, another, until Cas’s back landed against something solid enough to hold up to the force of Dean’s body on his.

Dean didn’t go easy on him. He put everything into that kiss—hands, tongue, hips, hot and rushing breath. Nobody was ever going to kiss this man so well. He couldn’t say it but he needed Cas to feel it—to know in his bones that nothing else would live up to this.

He broke it off, finally, feeling the time of day tug at him. “Okay, I’ve—” He cleared his throat when his voice didn’t kick in. “I’ve got to go.”

Cas swallowed. “Yeah, okay.”

Dean felt a little pride in how dazed he looked. He ran the pad of his thumb over the cleft of Cas’s chin. “See you on the other side.”

Cas smiled and let him leave, holding his hand until their fingers were pulled apart by distance.

He wasn’t used to thinking like this, considering the possibility of later. Again. After. It was sort of a rule he had set for himself. Well, he’d broken it now, shattered it into a thousand pieces. That made him nervous, like he’d jinxed it just by acknowledging he wanted it. He wasn’t the kind of guy who got things he wanted, especially not things that were hard to get.

He put the Jeep into gear, forcing his eyes forward and his thoughts to shift toward his command. Get this done, make it through, and maybe something would still be there. Maybe not. He didn’t have to think too much about it. He didn’t have to set his heart on anything. It was just a possibility. Possibility couldn’t be a bad thing.

As he drove down the hill and away from that yellow house, he found himself eager to put out to sea like he hadn’t been since he was a cadet, definitely not since he’d stepped into Bobby’s shoes as commander. Because the sooner they got this thing wrapped up, the sooner… well, the sooner he could consider something else. There didn’t need to be anything more to it than that.

By late afternoon the crew had gone through the usual rigamarole—official photos and send-offs from the brass and all the rest of the BS, which a seasoned bunch of guys like this didn’t find particularly rousing. But they were on their best behavior for him, making sure everything went without a hitch as he took them out for the first time as their skipper. The gentle handling wouldn’t last, he knew. But the gesture was nice. It meant something.

By six, they were shipshape and ready to go.

Dean let Benny take her out, preferring to stand on the bridge and watch the shore disappear, a cigarette in hand.

Just as they got underway, a Jeep pulled up along the docks. Dean grinned as a familiar form in khaki stepped out. Cas took off his sunglasses, and they were still close enough that Dean could make out his smile and shrug. Cas shoved one hand into his pocket and raised the other in a brief farewell.

Dean saluted in reply, the cigarette still lodged between his fingers.

Cas crossed his arms and leaned back against the hood of the Jeep. They stayed like that for a long time, until they were lost to each other in the haze of dusk on the water.