“What kind of misconduct?”
“It wasn’t misconduct. I had…health issues and decided myself to turn in my badge. It was necessary I try something a little less fast-paced.”
“And if I call your old boss, that’s what he’ll tell me?”
“Yes, she will. I can call her myself if you really are that concerned with my nonexistent record.”
“No, no, that won’t be necessary. I think that’s all I have for you, Milton. I’ll be in touch.”
“Thank you for your time, sir.”
Castiel picks up his coat and leaves the office. He takes his time through the building, stopping every so often to look at a painting more closely. When he gets outside, the sun is starting to set, and he remembers to check his phone.
As he’s reading a text from his sister, he nearly gets run over by a biker. A man shouts at him to look out, and he steps out of the way just in time as the biker swerves and apologizes.
“Dude, that was close,” a voice from his right says. It’s the same voice that told him to look out.
He turns to see a gaudy orange food truck and a man in a brown flannel leaning over the counter. The guy’s got an impressed look on his face, and Castiel briefly wonders what that face would look like with a proper smile on it.
“You all right?” the man asks.
“Hmm? Oh, um, yes. Yes, I am all right.”
The man laughs a little, and Cas can’t help but smile in response. “You new around here?”
“I just applied for a job at the museum, so yes, I suppose I am new although I live nine blocks away.” Cas naturally gravitates toward the food truck until he’s standing close enough to see freckles on the man’s nose.
“Well good luck on the job. You want a burrito? It’s on me, since you’re new and all. And almost just got barreled over by a biker.”
“A burrito would be excellent. Do you farm?”
“Uh, my brother does. I just sell the stuff. But yeah, everything’s homegrown.” He adds bitterly, “No meat, though.”
“I take it that was your brother’s decision?”
The man hands Cas a burrito. “Yeah. We don’t have the manpower for it anyway. And it’s not like I’m the one eating the food, so whatever works I guess.”
“This is delicious,” Cas says truthfully around a mouthful of burrito. “And I love meat.”
That pulls another laugh out of the man. “I’m Dean, by the way.”
Cas nearly chokes on his burrito. “You can call me Cas.”
“All right, Cas it is.”
They stare at each other for a minute then, both of them unsure how to proceed. Cas eventually just says, “It was nice to meet you, Dean. Thank you for the burrito.”
“Yeah, no problem, man. Hey, hopefully you’ll get that job.”
“Yes, well, if I’m back here in a week then you’ll know.”
“I’ll be rooting for you.”
Dean winks, fucking winks at him, and Cas awkwardly shuffles away, nearly running into another biker.
Cas knows he probably won’t get the job. He’s not Night at the Museum material, and he knows everywhere he applies he’s going to be badgered over the fact that he switched from homicide to security virtually overnight. Yeah, it looks bad. It looks like he killed a guy and got fired. But that’s not what happened.
He doesn’t like talking about it. It’s been a year, and there’s still a phantom pain in his chest. People ask him sometimes, but he’s managed to cut out most of the people in his life who made too big of a deal out of it. And he hides it well now.
Jody told him he could come back to work whenever he wanted to, whenever he was ready. He’s been working homicide, training his partners to move up in the ranks while he stays put, closing more cases than any other detective in Atlanta consistently for the past decade. It’s somewhat expected for him to get special treatment, but after the…he just didn’t have the motivation to go back. It felt too much like a life he lost, a life he no longer wanted.
So he talked to Jody, and she got him a few security guard interviews set up. He’s so far overqualified that nobody wants to hire him. Surely a guy who was catching bad guys every day on the streets of a crime-ridden city doesn’t just become a security guard without doing something horrible first, right?
Two days later, the sound of his phone ringing wakes Cas up. He answers it without looking at who it is because the only person who calls him this early is his sister.
“Who the hell is Anna?”
“Oh, um, Mr. Crowley—hello. I’m—”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m calling to tell you that you got the job, Milton. Mills gave you a glowing recommendation that swayed my opinion. Can you start tonight? Nine o’clock?”
It’s so unexpected that Cas forgets to respond until Crowley asks if he’s still there. “Um, yes, I can start—I can start tonight, yes.”
“Good. Come early. The guy who does the shift before you can show you what to do and whatever. I suggest you sleep all day today if this is your first graveyard shift. Usually I’d like to have you come in from midnight to 8, but for your first time it’s a little different.”
“Yes, I understand. I’ll be there. Thank you, sir.”
“Please. Call me Crowley. Don’t be late, Milton.”
The guy hangs up before Cas can respond.
He got the job. He got the job at the museum with the artwork he loves and the cute food truck guy nearby. Well, the food truck guy probably won’t be there that late, but eventually Cas will get other shifts, too. And then he can eat more burritos and try to get food truck guy to smile with his teeth.
Cas’ first day of work is slow and monotonous and exactly what he needs right now. He does his rounds three more times than necessary because he can’t just sit at a desk and stare at screens all night long, but other than that he does exactly what the guy training him told him to do. There are no other people in the museum after midnight, and the morning shift doesn’t show up until after Cas has left.
As he’s walking home at 5:15 a.m., he realizes this is probably not the safest thing to do. The sun hasn’t come up yet over the buildings, and even though he’s in a “rural” section of Atlanta, he worked on the police force long enough to know he shouldn’t walk in the dark by himself anywhere in the entire United States, really.
He’s passing through the park where Dean’s food truck was the other day when he hears a light rustling in the trees that startles him a little. It just sounds like a small animal, though, so he decides not to worry about it.
The sound happens again a minute later. Cas looks around, sees the leaves move at the third rustle, and then he shrugs and keeps on walking. It happens like that a couple more times before he hears the flutter of wings and sees wide, yellow eyes staring at him from a bush. It flies off before Cas can see what kind of bird it is.
Shame. He loves birds.
“What do you want from me?"
“It’s the middle of the afternoon, Cas. Why do you sound like I just woke you up?”
“Because you did. I got the job at the museum. Night shift.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Cas sits up in bed and rubs his eyes as he turns and plants his feet on the floor. “I would’ve called you eventually, Anna.”
“How has it been so far?”
“I’ve only worked one shift. It was slow. Quiet. Exactly what I need.”
There’s a pause, and then Anna says, “That’s good, Cas. And, um, you’re feeling OK?”
“Yes. I’m doing fine, I promise.” Cas looks over at his alarm clock and sees that it’s 4 p.m. That means he slept for 10 hours. “If you want to call at this time regularly, I’ll usually be awake.”
“All right, I’ll keep that in mind. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah. Bye, Anna.”
Cas loves his sister, but she’s a little overprotective to say the least. Especially since the incident, she’s been babying him a lot more than before. He doesn’t have it in him to tell her to back off.
It’s a slow morning—afternoon—getting up and finding things to fill the space between waking up and going to work. A lot of days Cas doesn’t really have the energy to get out of bed, even if the only place he’s going is to his couch. At first it was just because he was recovering, but now he thinks it’s probably something else. If he’s depressed, well, it’s not bad enough to do anything about it yet. He’ll figure it out one day at a time just like he does with everything else. And he’s certainly not going to tell his sister about it.
As he’s brushing his teeth, he gets an idea and starts hurrying before he changes his mind. Within the next 20 minutes, he’s leaving his apartment and heading down toward the park.
The food truck is right there where Cas remembers, but there’s a line today. He stands patiently behind a short black woman and is surprised to see a different man up at the counter. Surprised and disappointed, if he’s being honest.
“Hey, Missouri,” the man says kindly to the woman in front of Cas.
“Hi, Sam. The usual. I have some bad news for you.”
The man, Sam, starts preparing Missouri’s burrito and asks, “Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“This man behind me is disappointed to see you.”
Cas chokes on air but doesn’t say anything. Sam looks at him apologetically.
“He was hoping your brother would be here,” Missouri continues.
That pulls a laugh out of Sam. “You don’t have to be a psychic to know stuff like that. Everybody knows Dean’s the better salesman.”
Interesting. If Cas were to say something like that about Anna, there would be bitter jealousy in his words. But with Sam it’s just honest pride.
“Yes, well, be nice to him anyway. It was good to see you, Sam,” Missouri finishes as she takes her burrito and gives Cas a knowing look before walking away.
Cas steps up to the counter and says, “So you’re Dean’s brother. The farmer?”
Sam smiles wide. “Yeah. Sorry about Missouri. She’s a psychic. What’ll you have?”
“Plain, please. No guac. My apologies, but she’s not wrong. Your brother is very kind.”
“Well lucky for you, I’m even kinder.”
“Where is Dean today?”
Sam clears his throat awkwardly before saying, “Uh, he takes a day off once or twice a week. That’ll be 5 dollars.”
Cas hands Sam a bill, thanks him and tells him it was nice to meet him.
“Yeah, you too, man. Hopefully next time you come by Dean will be here,” he says with a knowing wink.
His face heats up with embarrassment, and he doesn’t say anything else before he goes to find a bench to eat his burrito alone. He ends up sitting there for an hour just watching people and birds as they pass by. The sun is setting when Sam sits down next to him and hands him a cup of water.
“Closed for today?” Cas asks without looking over at him.
“Yeah, I think so. We pretty much close whenever we feel like it. What are you up to?”
“Relaxing before I have to go to work.”
Sam looks skeptically at his watch. “Where do you work, dude?”
Cas points up the hill. “Museum. Night security.”
“Does everything come alive when the museum is closed?”
“Like I haven’t heard that one before.” OK, so he just started the job, but he’s bound to hear it every time he tells someone what he’s doing.
Sam laughs and apologizes. “What’s your name, by the way?”
“I’m Sam. But I think you already knew that.”
They sit in silence until it’s completely dark and a bat flies overhead. There’s a rustling in the trees straight across from them, and Cas barely looks in time to see an owl fly off.
“Well, I better go. Need to take the truck home or else Dean will kill me. I’ll see you around, Castiel,” Sam says as he stands.
“Yes. Um, I’ll see you.”
Starting his shift at midnight and ending at 8 a.m. is better. There are people there when he arrives and when he’s leaving, so he’s not totally alone the entire time. It’s also easier to go home and force himself to only sleep for eight hours instead of all day long. The real kicker, though, is that Dean sometimes sets the food truck up as early as 8:30.
“You got the job!” Dean had announced the first time he saw Cas walking home from work.
Cas was surprised to see him, but not unpleasantly so. “I did, yes.” He stopped awkwardly in the middle of the pathway about 10 feet away from Dean.
Dean came around the side of the truck and pulled the overhang up with little effort. Cas was not exactly subtle watching the lithe muscles of Dean’s back move under his t-shirt. Real muscles. The practical ones that imply a lifetime of manual labor, muscles that aren't "cut" enough to appear in magazines but are strong enough to bend metal. “Well that’s good, right?” Dean asked as he turned and walked over to Cas.
He stood closer than Cas expected, and he had his arms crossed over his chest and was looking down at him like he really cared. Cas could hold his own, sure, and he definitely wasn’t one to get intimidated, but his heart was still beating out of his chest. “Yes. It’s good. I met your brother the other day.”
“I heard. Sorry he’s not as great as I am.”
Cas couldn’t tell if Sam had told Dean what had happened, but he swallowed and looked up at Dean with wide eyes and that probably gave everything away anyway.
But Dean just laughed and slapped Cas on the shoulder, and Cas wanted to hear that laugh all the time.
Routine, structure, consistency—these are things Cas’ doctor has told him time and again that he needs in his life. A month into his job at the museum, he’s beginning to understand why.
Instead of lying around feeling sorry for himself like he’s prone to do, Cas has been enjoying his job and eating at the food truck twice or three times a week and sitting in the park. He talks to Dean or Sam depending on who’s selling the burritos, and he talks to his sister on the phone every so often.
He stops and talks with Dean when he’s heading home in the mornings, and when he’s walking to work at night he’s usually never alone.
There are apparently owls living in this park, and one of them follows him rather loudly for several blocks most nights. At first he thought it was just that the owls were curious and unaccustomed to having people in their park at this time, but then he realized it was always the same owl. With big yellow eyes and tawny brown feathers. He’s come to think of that owl fondly.
He’s walking home on a Friday morning when Dean runs up behind him calling his name.
“Oh. Hello, Dean. I didn’t see you at the truck, so—”
“Yeah, I was behind it, sorry. Um, you working this weekend?”
“Great, um, would you like to…do you want to come see our farm?”
Cas’ face lights up at the offer, and he almost forgets to actually answer until he notices the worry on Dean’s face. “Yes. Yes, I would like that very much, Dean.”
Dean breaks into a huge grin. “Awesome, dude.” He digs his phone out of his pocket and continues, “Hey, um, what’s your phone number? I can’t believe I’ve never asked you.”
It’s so casual that Cas wonders why the idea of this conversation has kept him up several nights—or rather, mornings. He’s wanted to give his phone number to Dean since the day he met him, but it always freaked him out to even think about it.
And now here he is, Dean’s phone in his hand, and he’s not even shaking as he hits the buttons.
“Your last name’s Milton?” Dean asks as he takes his phone back and looks at the new contact.
“Cool. Mine’s Winchester.”
“It’s nice to properly meet you, Dean Winchester.”
“You too, Castiel Milton.”
The farm is absolutely breathtaking. Fields of open grass lined with trees lead up to the Winchesters’ property, a small cedar cabin with a stone chimney surrounded on three sides by gardens and trees. There are even patches of flowers, too, as if the vegetables growing up around them are a little too practical and need some aesthetic balance.
Castiel could really get used to this place. Not that he should or anything.
Three dogs and two cats nearly barrel over Cas as he gets out of his car in the gravel driveway. Dean’s standing on the front porch waving at him like an idiot.
“Don’t worry, they’re harmless!” he calls, but Cas doesn’t really need the reassurance. The animals are already licking him and jumping on him like they couldn’t be happier to see him.
“How early do you have to leave to get to the park in the morning every day?” Cas asks as he and the animals join Dean on the porch.
Dean laughs and waves him off. “You get used to it after a while. But yeah, I leave around 7 usually. Come on, let me show you around.”
Cas follows Dean into the house, and as expected it’s cozy and rustic and smells like freshly cut wood and old leather. There are several large, lived-in sofas covered in plaid blankets in the living room, and there are pictures of Sam and Dean and others all around the fireplace. The kitchen is well kept, and Cas can tell they make more than just burritos here.
Perhaps the most surprising thing, however, is the small barn owl sleeping on a makeshift perch near the staircase. It strangely reminds Cas of the one that follows him home sometimes.
“You have an owl,” Cas states dumbly.
Dean doesn’t even bother looking over as he works in the kitchen. “Yeah, not sure how that happened really. She just likes sleeping in here for some reason, so we keep a window open for her. Trust me, she’s more like a resident here than a pet.”
“I can’t believe there are people like you and Sam in Atlanta of all places.”
“Yeah, well, we’ve been pretty much everywhere. Seemed like just as good a place as any to settle down. Hope you like roast, ‘cause that’s what we’re eating.”
“That sounds great. Where is Sam by the way?”
Dean stops moving in the kitchen and his shoulders slump a little. But then he composes himself and turns to face Cas, his cheeks red. “He’s—uh, not here. Wanted to give us some…privacy.”
Oh. Cas hadn’t realized that this was a…date? This was a date.
“Cas? You, uh, OK with that?” Dean asks gruffly.
Cas smiles and nods and tries not to overthink this.
A date. Yeah, sure, he swore off dating a few years ago and much prefers a random hook-up or a consistent strictly sexual partner, but he thinks this might be sort-of-all-right territory with Dean.
“Beer?” Dean asks from the kitchen, and Cas is pulled out his own head.
“PBR. Sam’s a bleeding heart hippie liberal.”
Cas laughs and takes the PBR from Dean. “Do you just go along with whatever your brother wants?”
Dean shrugs like he’s never really thought about it before. “I guess, yeah.”
What a strange family Cas has walked his way into.
Cas nominally helps Dean with the food just so he can stay by his side, and when it’s ready they move to the small table right outside the kitchen.
It’s more intimate than Cas is used to as Dean stares at him from across the table, the light low enough in the house to be considered a romantic ambience and the silence between them too comfortable.
“You always been a security guard, Cas?”
“No, this is new. I used to work homicide.”
Dean’s eyes go wide, but he keeps on eating. “You didn’t snap and kill a guy and get fired, did you?”
“It’s unbelievable how often I get that question. Do I come across as the type of person that would do that?”
“Sorry,” Dean says sheepishly. “You know, it’s just usually something bad happens…”
“Yes, I know. I had health complications.”
“Had? So you’re OK now?”
Cas smiles warmly. Nobody ever actually asks him that. “Yes, I believe I am.”
Conversation flows easier than Cas expected, and Dean is both brash and gentle simultaneously, weaving between humor and awkwardness with little finesse but enough passion to make up for it. Cas is full and content by the time Dean pulls an apple pie out of the oven, but his stomach still makes room for two pieces.
Almost the second Cas sets his fork down, Dean’s pulling him out of the house into the backyard, and Cas is confused until Dean leads him to a porch swing and tells him to look up at the sky.
They swing in silence for several minutes, staring up at the smattering of stars in quiet disbelief. Dean had shut all the lights off, and there’s no other electricity around here for miles. There are so many stars that it’s like a blanket of white light over an invisible background, only a handful of them actually distinguishable from the others.
“Is this what the sky looks like all the time?” Cas whispers after several minutes.
“Yeah. Think of the time it takes for that light to reach our eyes. It’s like looking into the past.”
Cas takes his eyes off the sky briefly to give Dean an “I call bullshit” look.
Dean turns and frowns. “What?”
“That was very cheesy.”
Cas leans forward and plants his lips on Dean’s. He pulls back just as Dean’s mouth is conforming to his. “My apologies.”
“Don’t, um—no, it was…”
“This is a date, is it not?”
Dean throws his arm around the back of the swing. “Yeah, Cas.”
When Dean asks if he wants to stay over, it takes every bit of self-control Cas has to say no. He likes Dean, and that’s dangerous. Caution is necessary, and even the kiss felt like pushing it.
But Cas is nothing if not a liar, and as he’s getting into his car he yanks Dean down for a proper kiss this time, and they end up shirtless, making out, rutting against each other like teenagers on the hood of his old Volkswagen until Dean comes in his pants and Cas laughs so hard he gets soft.
Dean drops his head onto Cas’ chest, and Cas scratches a hand through his hair and stares at the sky again. “I was trying not to be so easy for once,” he admits.
Dean raises his head to give Cas a skeptical look. “For once?”
“You could say I’m a bit of a ‘slut.’ But I like you for things other than sex, so I wanted to prove that.”
“Noted. So are you going to come inside and spend the night or what?”
“I really should go.”
Five minutes later, Cas is shoving Dean against the far wall of his bedroom, pulling his jeans down and grabbing his quads to wrap his legs around his waist so he can kiss him while pinning him to the wall.
Dean might be big, but Cas is strong, and Dean falls apart like a dandelion under his touch. Just as Cas’ legs are about to give out from holding Dean’s entire weight against the wall, Dean breaks the kiss and begs to suck Cas’ cock.
Their positions switch seamlessly, and within minutes Cas is shaking and pushed up against the wall, Dean’s mouth warm and perfect around his shaft. He asks Dean if he can fuck his mouth, and Dean gives a thumbs up—a fucking thumbs up—and latches his hands onto Cas’ thighs and tilts his head to prepare himself.
Three thrusts and Cas is spilling into Dean’s mouth. Dean’s apparently a spitter and disappears into the bathroom before they proceed.
Not really knowing exactly how this whole "spending the night" thing works, Cas crawls under the covers, and when Dean comes back he accuses, “Not planning on returning the favor?”
“What? You came in your pants earlier. Suck it up and come over here.”
A shiver seems to run through Dean as he enthusiastically joins Cas under the covers and curls against his side. In his post-orgasmic haze, Cas lets this happen without getting irritated by it. He’s also maybe just a little turned on at the fact that Dean is so very…pliant in bed.
“You’re such a prude, Cas,” Dean teases against his chest.
“Were you anticipating having sex with me tonight?”
Dean laughs, and Cas can feel it reverberate through his own body. “Apparently I didn’t even make it clear that this was a date, so no.”
“I’m terrible at dating.”
“Yeah, well, join the club. We can be terrible together.”
“When is Sam coming back?”
“Probably late tonight. I told him to stay out as long as possible. He’ll be happy to see you in the morning. If you’re staying, that is.” Dean pushes himself closer against Cas and squeezes his chest. There's the sound of a dog padding around down the hall, and the owl hoots and flies off its perch.
Cas drops an arm around Dean’s back and pulls him even closer. “Don’t really have a choice, do I?”
“Pretty sure I know what you’re picking,” Dean responds with a yawn.
“Good night, Dean.”
Sam is there in the morning, and he nonchalantly continues drinking his coffee and checking his email when Cas and Dean walk in the kitchen together.
“Good morning, Sam,” Cas greets casually, pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“Oh, Cas. Didn’t realize you were here,” Sam answers sarcastically.
“When did you get back last night?” Dean asks as he pulls a mug out of the cabinet for himself.
“Around the time Cas was shouting your name. Sounds like you’re pretty good at giving head, dude.”
Cas nearly spits his coffee, but Dean just throws a packet of sugar at Sam’s head. “We didn’t hear you come in."
“Obviously. I just hung out with the dogs outside for a while. Not a big deal.”
“Well, I am truly sorry, Sam. I promise the next time I will be much—”
“Next time?” Dean interjects, and Cas can’t tell if he sounds excited or panicked.
“I, um—yes? If that’s all right with you.”
Dean grins and leans over to give Cas an open-mouthed, coffee breath kiss. “Hell yeah.”
It’s not until Cas is driving home that he realizes he had been completely naked in front of Dean. And Dean hadn’t said a word.
There’s a nervous twitch in Cas’ hands as he’s leaving work Monday morning. It’s ridiculous, really. So he had sex with Dean. And then texted him all day when he got home. There’s no logical reason why he should be nervous all of the sudden.
But Dean’s not even at the food truck when Cas passes by, so he keeps right on walking and tries not to feel disappointed.
“Hey! You! Get back here!”
Instead of turning to trace his way back to the food truck, Cas just walks backwards several paces until Dean is standing right in front of him with his arms akimbo.
“What, no good morning kiss?” Dean asks, offended.
A dark possessiveness rises in Cas’ chest, and in a swift motion he shoves Dean back against the front of the truck and looks up curiously into his eyes. “Is that how it’s going to be now?” he whispers into Dean’s neck.
Dean shivers and blinks a few times. “You’re not very subtle, are you?”
Cas smiles and kisses Dean gently. “Are you going to be here this afternoon? I was planning on stopping by around the time you close, see what recreational uses this ugly orange contraption is capable of.”
Dean swallows thickly. “Uh, yeah. Is 5 good?”
“Perfect. See you then,” he finishes with a kiss to Dean’s nose.
He smirks the whole walk home thinking about how quickly he managed to wrap Dean around his finger. It’s a new record for him.
“Quit—dude, you got to stop—thrusting—so—oh god—Cas—”
“You’re rocking the truck! People are going to—”
“Notice? Interrupt us? That’d be something.”
“You fucking—oh shit—Cas—”
There are birds chirping outside his window. He never noticed before. Probably because he’s usually falling asleep right now instead of waking up.
“Morning, sleepyhead. Coffee?”
He rolls over in bed and halfheartedly throws a pillow at Dean. “Time is it?”
“Around 8,” Dean says as he sits on the edge of the bed and sets a mug of coffee on the nightstand. “I figured we could go out to the farm, hang out with Sam today.”
“You mean work?”
“Hey, you’re the one who said it, not me.” Dean leans down and plants a sloppy kiss on Cas’ forehead.
“C’mon, you need a shower. I told Sammy we’d be there by noon.”
There’s the sound of birds flapping their way out of the trees as Dean leaves the room.
The drive to the farm is relaxing even though it’s hot in the Impala. Cas keeps his hand at the base of Dean’s neck for most of the ride, scratching softly at the hair there. Dean nearly purrs at the touch and grabs Cas’ knee whenever he stops moving his hand.
They’ve only been “together” for three weeks now. Cas uses that term loosely because it terrifies him to think of himself and another person as some sort of combined unit. Even if that person is Dean Winchester, beautiful food truck guy with the owl eyes and unexpected shyness in bed.
“I have the night off tomorrow,” Cas says as they pass the last road sign out of the city.
“I know. Sam’s running the truck. Why do you think we’re going out here?”
“To spend the day with Sam, like you said.”
Dean gives him a skeptical look, and Cas understands that he’s missed one of his social cues. “We’re staying the night? I didn’t bring anything with me.”
“We can stay two nights if you want. Get your sleep schedule readjusted tomorrow. Enough of your stuff’s here anyway.”
Dean’s right of course. Cas has everything he needs at the farm from being too lazy to pack an overnight bag. The place just seems so permanent, so concrete compared to Cas’ apartment. He tries not to dwell too much on the thought that it feels like home.
Cas knows absolutely nothing about farming, but Sam’s a good teacher. He’s exhausted and sweaty and covered head to foot in dirt by the time he kicks his boots off on the front porch and falls into a rocking chair.
“I did not realize how literal I was being when I said we’d be working,” Cas huffs as Dean sits in the chair across from him and takes one foot between his hands and presses his fingers hard into the sore skin.
“I’ll make it up to you tonight,” he promises.
“Food or sex?”
“At the same time?”
Dean stops the foot massage and cocks an eyebrow at Cas. “Too messy,” he says seriously.
Cas laughs, and it’s easy and warm and everything is perfect.
Dinner sits heavy in his stomach while they watch late night talk shows on the couch, Sam passed out in the recliner and Dean pressed up against Cas’ side. It’s not really a question so much as an invitation when Dean starts nosing at his neck and pawing at his shirt.
“Food’s not digested yet,” Cas whispers.
He gets a whimper in response and laughs at how childish Dean is.
“I told you I didn’t need that pie. I can hardly move.”
Dean rolls his eyes and moves off the couch and over to the kitchen. Cas turns to ask him where the hell he thinks he’s going, but then Dean explains that if he’s not getting laid tonight then he might as well eat the rest of the pie.
It’s petty to be jealous of food, and with anybody else it would be downright silly, but with Dean it’s becoming a natural part of their relationship that Cas has to compete with grease and sugar.
So he heaves his body off the couch and all but carries Dean back to his bedroom.
Dean stops him once the door is shut behind them, and while Cas is asking what he’s doing, Dean lifts his t-shirt over his head in one quick movement.
Cas thinks about explaining but decides that Dean would probably tell him to shut up anyway.
So instead he just stands there shirtless with the door at his back, watching Dean’s eyes as they trace a pattern over Cas’ chest.
Dean tentatively reaches forward and runs his hands gently, reverently, up Cas’ full stomach and onto his chest. When he gets to the scar, he looks into Cas’ eyes for permission, and Cas nods.
It’s like nothing he’s ever felt before, having loving fingers outline his scar and press into it like it’s something special. And when Dean replaces fingers with tongue, Cas gasps and finds purchase in his hair.
They don’t have sex that night. Dean lays Cas out on his bed and maps his entire body with hands and mouth until Cas is panting and breathing Dean’s name every few seconds. When he’s done, they kiss for a long time—hours, maybe—and Cas doesn’t mind it at all.
The moment Dean collapses onto Cas’ chest presumably to fall asleep, Cas says, “Cancer.”
“I had to pay out of pocket. For the mastectomy. I was denied medical coverage because I have a penis.”
Dean laughs, and Cas is glad. “That’s why you don’t work homicide anymore?”
“I needed to slow down.” Cas cards a hand through Dean’s hair. Dean hums.
“But you’re better now, right?”
It takes him a beat to answer. “Yes, I am.”
He’s 37 years old and it’s the first time in his life he feels like he’s telling the truth when he says that.
“Dean, would you like to, um—”
“Hmm? Oh. Oh. I guess—yeah, I thought you might be a vers.”
“It’s OK if you don’t want to.”
“No! I mean, I can. Just—give me some time, all right? I’m not…”
“A vers, yeah, I know. It’s OK.”
It really is OK. Cas has always preferred topping anyway.
He doesn’t adjust his sleep pattern. Work Tuesday night is a bitch. Dean closes the truck Wednesday morning, walks with Cas back home and wraps him up in his arms and coaxes him to sleep for the day.
He has four missed calls from Anna.
“You haven’t responded to me in the past two days. Are you all right?”
She sounds like she’s trying to hide how pissed she is. “Yeah.”
“When are you going to invite me up to meet Dean? And Sam?”
“Soon. Look, Anna, I know—”
“No, you don’t have to explain. I get it. Just—take care of yourself, OK, Castiel?”
He’s on anti-depressants now. Last week he had to lie and say he had a stomach bug so he wouldn’t have to go into work. He hasn’t seen Dean all week. He has to remind himself that he has to eat in order to survive.
This is new (well, really—old) territory for him, and he’s just trying to adjust. It’s not that anything particularly bad happened or even that he’s sad—it just all the sudden became difficult to exist.
He just is. And even that takes too much effort.
He wonders how anybody ever glorifies this.
The owl still follows him to work at night. The thing has even started to show up right outside of Cas’ apartment building, like it’s waiting to come pick him up. It should be strange, but instead it’s comforting. Reminds him of the owl that sleeps at Sam and Dean’s.
He stops at the food truck one morning after a week of avoiding Dean. Dean had caught on after day two and didn’t even look Cas’ way when he passed.
But now Cas is standing in front of him lamely with his hands in his pockets, unsure of what to say or do. What he wants is to lead Dean into the truck and fuck him until a tire pops, but that’s not what this is. Dean isn’t some sex toy.
“Can we talk?” Cas asks gruffly.
Dean nods and motions for him to follow him into the truck.
It’s a cramped space, but it’s familiar and warm.
“I’m depressed,” Cas blabs.
“It’s not you.”
“It happens sometimes. This is…the worst it’s been. I’m not—I don’t take medication regularly, but probably eventually I’ll have to. It could get worse and just never go away and then I’ll probably get a slew of other illnesses because that’s just what hap—”
Dean shuts him up by wrapping him in his arms and placing a strong hand on the back of his head to steady him. “I’ve got you, Cas. You’re OK.”
“I’m sorry I’m broken.”
He feels Dean’s laughter move through his chest. “Join the club, buddy.”
Dean is unwavering, solid, a sure foundation.
Castiel keeps expecting him to bail, to decide he’s had enough and break up with him—or at the very least get angry at him for being inconsistent, yell at him for being sick.
But Dean is bedrock.
Cas realizes it one morning at the farm. The owl is perched in the house sound asleep, and Cas gets right up close to it and stares at it while he drinks his first cup of coffee. During his second cup, he heads out the back door and sees Dean out in the field chopping lumber.
Cas barks a laugh and then immediately covers his mouth. It’s ridiculous. A gorgeous man hauling an ax over his head, his wife beater clinging to his skin, sweat glistening on his biceps, with a beautiful landscape in the background. Straight out of a romance novel, this bullshit.
There’s something poetic about the cliché, though. Here Cas is, undeserving and not nearly qualified enough to love Dean Winchester properly, and there Dean is. Chopping wood like it's normal, looking like the hero who always gets the girl.
Cas steps into the grass barefoot and whistles as loudly as he can.
Dean immediately drops the ax and turns, a grin stretching across his face when he spots Cas. “Like what you see?” he yells.
“Take your shirt off and then I’ll decide!”
Surprisingly, Dean actually obeys, and Cas stares in rapture at the smooth muscles of his back working and straining to swing the ax. After a few minutes, Cas whistles again to get Dean to stop, and then he yells at him to come back to the house.
They don’t make it into the house. Cas bends Dean over the railing of the back porch and fucks him with a mug of coffee still in his hand.
Romance novel bullshit.
The owl stops flying with Cas to work.
“I don’t love right,” Cas admits quietly in between the sheets of his bed one morning after work. A morning where he asked Dean to close the truck and come stay with him.
“I’m not sure I’m following.” Dean runs a thumb along Cas’ cheek, pulls his ear a little.
“I think I love you, Dean. Is it too soon to say that?”
There’s nothing but concern lining Dean’s features. “No.”
“But I don’t—it’s not like how other people love.”
“How do you mean?”
Cas sighs and turns over on his back so he doesn’t have to look at Dean anymore. “I don’t ‘fall in love’ I guess. I just sort of…I either love you or I don’t and that’s it.”
There’s a long pause. “So, you love me like in the same way you might love your sister or something?”
“Yes. Actually, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, I am clearly sexually attracted to you and not my sister, but the emotions are more or less the same.”
“Huh.” Dean flips onto his back so they’re both looking up at the ceiling like idiots. “Do you care that I’m head-over-heels, starry-eyed, slack-jawed in love with you?”
It makes his heart sink to hear it. He’d be selfish to accept something he can’t return, but this is Dean. Dean is the exception. “I only wish I could feel the same.”
The owl returns sporadically, every few days. It’s comforting. Castiel feels like naming it, but he doesn’t even know if it’s male or female.
Anna finally comes to visit, and they all stay in Sam and Dean’s cabin for three days. It’s nice and normal and everybody gets along, and Cas is absolutely not used to this. Anna is particularly sweet to Dean, and it catches Cas off guard. It’s a sweetness she rarely exhibits around him, and a strange ping of jealousy burns low in his stomach. He loves his sister. He also loves Dean.
With a line of kisses down Cas’ shoulder in bed that night, Dean asks if he’ll consider moving in with him.
“You could quit your job. We make enough money. And you’re good on the farm with Sammy.”
“I like working security.”
“Just consider it? Please?”
When Castiel thinks about his life, he sees it in a series of vignettes with one defining feature for each tableau.
A few of the more noteworthy moments can be summed up in a couple words or less.
Broken leg in college.
Cancer at 36.
But there’s something about the last one that just begs for more. It begs to be told, to be explained, and above all it begs to have a giant red asterisk next to it.
It’s been a Bad Week (term coined by Dean). Bad Weeks imply that Castiel is distant, lethargic, doesn’t want to get out of bed or move or do anything. When he goes to work, he feels isolated. He wants to be left alone, but then he feels lonely. He wants to be doing something at work instead of just sitting around and staring at paintings, but then even the thought of exerting effort is taxing. He’s learning to work through the Bad Weeks, and they are happening less and less frequently these days, but this particular one is just draining. He asked Dean to be patient (he always is) and to give him some space (he always does). It’s only Wednesday.
He lives on the first floor of his apartment building, which means there’s a nice little porch out back (nothing compared to the porches at the farm, but a porch nonetheless) and a small crop of grass where he keeps azaleas.
As he’s leaving for work Thursday night, there’s a sudden crash from the back porch. Cas’ hand ghosts at his hip for a gun that hasn’t been there in years. His heart pounds in his ears. He feels naked without a weapon.
But halfway through his tentative walk to the back he relaxes and changes his fear to concern.
There’s a naked man in his azaleas. That naked man is Dean.
“Um,” is all Cas manages to say. It’s a Bad Week.
Dean scrambles to his feet and superfluously cups his hands around his crotch. “I can explain this.”
Cas crosses his arms and leans against the doorframe. “I’m going to be late for work.”
“I crashed into your window trying to fly here. Lost control of my wings.”
There’s a guy they keep on call for emergencies. Cas calls him and asks if he can cover his shift tonight.
The big red asterisk next to Dean currently points to “possibly insane.”
“Slow down. Please.” Cas nurses a cup of tea in his hands, readjusts his feet under the chair.
Dean sits on a stool on the opposite side of the kitchen and shakes his leg nervously. He’s still naked, but he’s got a blanket wrapped around himself. “I’m a, um, I’m a therianthrope. I prefer the term animagus but Sam’s always up my ass about it because I’m not a wizard, so—”
“Right. Um, I shapeshift into an owl whenever I want to. That’s what I’m getting at here.”
Cas stares at Dean for an uncomfortable amount of time.
“This is usually where I get broken up with,” Dean says defensively. “Not that I’ve even told that many people.”
“So you’re an owl. You’re the owl that’s been flying with me to work.”
Dean scrubs a hand down his face and then drops it to his bare knee. “Yeah.”
“The owl in your house…?”
“She’s just an owl. I can’t even communicate with her when I shift.”
There’s another long pause. “I’m sorry, I’m still not entirely sure I’m not hallucinating this.” Cas moves to the coffee pot mostly so he doesn’t have to look at Dean and partly because this is exhausting.
“I’m still me,” Dean says in the smallest voice Cas has ever heard out of him.
Coffee grounds spill out of the filter. “I know. This is just—Dean, you’re telling me you’re an animal. It’s a confession with a lot of implications besides what it means for me and you, do you understand?”
“I’m not sure—”
“How the fuck is shapeshifting a real thing that fucking exists, Dean?”
Cas stares at the man sitting in front of him, and Dean stares past him like he’s searching for an answer.
“It just, um, it runs in people’s families. We’re still trying to…trace it back to Native American roots or maybe Egyptian, but most likely Native American because our family’s been here a really long time and—”
“What does Sam turn into?” He’s taunting Dean now. He doesn’t buy any of this bullshit.
“Sam’s a cyanthrope. Turns into a Great Dane. Like, a really huge Great Dane.”
All right, this has to be a fucking joke.
“Why the fuck are you doing this, Dean?”
“What the fuck do you even mean by that?” It’s the first time in their six months of dating that Dean loses it. “You think I asked for this? You think it’s fucking easy dealing with the fact that I’m a goddamn owl? For god’s sake, Cas, do you need me to demonstrate for you that this isn’t some horrible joke? That this is my life and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it?”
“Yes. Absolutely I need you to fucking demonstrate, Dean, because not for a second do I believe that—”
It happens all at once. There’s a very small sound like the pop that occurs when an oxygen tank is turned on, and suddenly Dean has disappeared and there is an owl sitting in his place, the blanket pooling around its feet. It ruffles its feathers and pokes its beak into its left wing before turning back to stare at Cas.
It looks angry.
Cas throws his mug of coffee into the sink. It breaks. He grabs his jacket and heads out the door. He’ll call work on his way and tell them it turns out he can come in tonight.
*Shapeshifting is real.
The owl starts flying with Cas to work every night again.
It shows up on his back porch in the mornings, too. It always looks exhausted like it sat there all night and just really needs to sleep like right now.
One morning, Cas offers his forearm. The owl begrudgingly steps onto it and turns its beak in the air condescendingly as Cas walks to his bedroom. When he wakes up that afternoon, there’s an owl asleep on his nightstand.
It’s…strangely more enjoyable than Dean’s human body curled up next to him.
Cas doesn’t see Dean—the actual, real Dean—for several weeks.
“We need to talk.”
The owl opens its eyes.
“I miss you. Human you. I like owl you, though. This is the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had.”
The owl hoots.
Cas drops his head into his hands and laughs for several seconds. “Can you please just quit being mad at me and change back now? I get it. You’re a fucking owl sometimes. I believe you now, and it’s fine. Now, if you don’t mind, I would prefer if you switched back because I would really like to put your cock down my—”
He had almost forgotten the contours of Dean’s body, the wide expanse of nearly hairless skin, smooth and unbelievably soft until he moves and the muscles ripple underneath Cas’ fingertips. The jut of his too-wide hip, the bow of his legs—he kisses the freckles on his knuckles, runs the pad of his thumb over his crow’s feet (owl’s feet?).
“I’m sorry you have to carry this burden,” Dean whispers into Cas’ skin before pressing their lips together.
“You didn’t sign up to date an animagus.”
“You didn’t sign up to date a depressed aromantic ex-cancer patient.”
Dean props his chin on his fist. Cas is already starting to see the similarities between Dean and the owl. “Aromantic?”
“Oh, right. Um, I found the term on the Internet a few weeks ago. It means I don’t—I’m not romantically attracted to anyone.”
Dean raises an eyebrow. “That what you meant by you’re not in love with me?”
“I think so.”
“Does that mean I can say fuck it to the rose petals and candlelight dinners?”
“Dean, your idea of a date is letting me fuck you in the back of the food truck between customers.”
“Hey, that’s a high-end food truck. And I always give you free burritos after.”
Cas strokes Dean’s cheek and smiles up at him stupidly.
“I just really like you, Dean Winchester.”
“Take your pants off.”
“There’s no lube here, dude—dude—”
“Don’t touch yourself.”
Cas’ favorite thing about giving rim jobs is that untouched, his partner can last nearly an hour. Dean makes it 57 minutes.
“So. Great Dane?”
Sam laughs and runs a hand through his hair self-consciously. “Beats being a werewolf.”
“I’d like to see it sometime. How big are you?”
“Ten pounds heavier than my human weight.”
Cas whistles. “But you weigh…?”
“Two-thirty. I know, it’s scary. But hey, at least I don’t stalk my boyfriend when he’s walking to work every night.”
As if on cue, Dean walks in, drops his duffel bag on the floor and smacks Sam in the back of the head. “Cas, was this all your stuff?”
“Yes, thank you, Dean.”
“I’m just going to take it to our room. My room. My—yeah.”
Sam makes a yikes face at Cas, but Cas just shrugs in response. He’s here on the farm often enough that it was an honest mistake.
“Have you and Sam always lived together?”
“No. He went to college. We bought the farm together a few years back and said we would build separate houses on it, but…just didn’t seem practical. I know, I’m 34 and I live with my kid brother. I don’t even know why you’re still with me.”
“Dean, please. That’s very low on the list of things that would make me break up with you.”
Dean hits Cas in the face with a pillow. “Move in with me.”
Cas tries to distract Dean with a bite to his neck, a hand digging into his thigh.
“Seriously, dude. I want you to think about it.”
“We’ll build a house. Another cabin like this one.”
They fight more, now that everything’s out in the open. Sometimes Dean will get so frustrated in the middle of an argument that poof he turns into an owl mid-sentence. Sometimes it makes Cas laugh so much that he forgets what they were fighting about. Other times they have a staring competition that Dean inevitably always wins because, well, owl.
Nearly nine months into dating, Dean figures out that Cas uses sex to avoid intimacy.
“Look at me, Cas. I’m fucking exhausted. All we’ve done in the past week is fuck. I can’t even sit down I’m so goddamn sore. I know what you’re doing.”
“What, Dean? Tell me what it is I’m doing.”
“You don’t want to move in with me! And you’re scared because I’m in love with you, and you think I won’t notice that you don’t feel the same way just as long as you’re fucking me. Admit it.”
“I told you this would be an issue eventually.”
“You’re the one making it an issue, Castiel! You think I give a damn that you don’t love me the same way I love you? I mean, I know I’m 90 percent shit, Cas, but that’s not one of my problems.”
"Are we really arguing about which one of us is less worthy of the other's love?"
There's a long beat before Dean turns and leaves. It’s the first argument that doesn’t end in sex or transformation.
It’s strange. Unchartered territory, really.
Making hints to a significant other that they should turn into an animal for a little bit, trying to be subtle about the fact that you miss an owl, that sometimes it’s nice having no pressure to show any physical affection, sometimes the company is needed but the loud mouth and roaming hands are not…
“Oh my god. I’m competing with myself,” Dean says one morning after Cas’ not-so-subtle hint that he would like to sleep without another body in his bed today. Cuddling is just such an effort sometimes.
“It’s not—Dean, come on. Let’s think of this as an advantage.”
“An advantage? My boyfriend likes the feathered version of me more, and that’s somehow an advantage? What are you smiling at?”
“You never say boyfriend.”
Dean rolls his eyes and suddenly there’s an owl on Cas’ arm.
It’s been 11 months. Cas hasn’t had a Bad Week in a very long time. It’s been months since he ran his fingers over his scar in phantom pain. It’s been even longer since he’s felt sorry for himself.
He doesn’t attribute this change to the man lying next to him so much as he does to the owl from the park. It’s easy to drown himself in sex or the worship of Dean’s body or the sound of his gruff voice. The sure foundation that is Dean Winchester is such an easy trap to fall into.
What’s not easy is to stare into the yellow eyes of a barn owl and face everything about himself alone. And yet, that’s where he makes the most progress.
Broken leg in college.
Cancer at 36.
*Shapeshifting is real.
“The patch of grass past the cornfield. Could be about 2,000 square feet, right?”
The bed shifts and creaks as realization dawns on Dean. “You mean it?”
Moving in with Dean.