Actions

Work Header

Waves

Chapter Text

The first thing he noticed were the sweaters. He’d had to make a detour through the art campus to get to practice on time and the flocks of art major hipsters scattered across the quad all seemed to be staring him down.

 

         He glanced quickly from side to side, careful not to touch any of them (A slight touch would make him fail a drug test). That’s when he saw him. He was leaning against a tree, impossibly tight black pants hugging his narrow hips, a baggy sweater hanging off his torso. It was black with a neon green wolf and made Dean cringe. A messy shag of almost black hair framed his face, bringing out the blue of his eyes. Dean could see them even from twenty feet away, shining. From the easy, effortless way he interacted with the painfully-aware-of-their-hipsterism dicks around him–– the obviously timed laughter, the way he curled his pale fingers as he gesticulated; the others clung to him like dust on a sill and Dean swallowed, feeling him drift across the sunlit quad towards the man as well–– he could tell he got laid a lot. Like, the same level as him a lot. Except his lays probably all had badly dyed hair and tattoos. And from the way he leaned towards some beaky-nosed guy in a rooster sweater, a lot of them probably had penises. How could he not get laid a lot with a mouth like that? The only part of him that wasn’t absurdly skinny. The back of his neck prickled warmly and what could Dean say, the guy was hot.

 

         Since when did he think guys were hot?

 

         Since they wore too tight pants and ugly sweaters, he supposed. The guy smirked directly at Dean, having obviously noticed his staring, rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, turning his head away from him. Shaking himself into motion, Dean continued hurrying to practice, knowing he was already late. Fuck, he hated the art college, with its faggy indie population and permanent haze of weed smoke.

 

***

 

         The bleachers were full today as they milled around the field. It made him feel like a goldfish. He seemed to be in a stupor and he had decided to blame his trip through the art college’s campus as he was tackled into the foul-smelling grass for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.

         The whistle blew, shrill in Dean’s ears. It made him want to punch something. Everything today made him want to punch something, especially the smug face of Sweater Guy. The team piled off him and their footsteps retreated, reverberating up from the ground. He laid there awhile, soaking in his thoughts and the damp, earthy smell of the trampled field. When the sweat had dried on his skin and his pulse had returned to normal, he pulled himself to his feet.

 

         “Slippin’, Winchester!” a voice teased.

 

         Dean watched Jo cross the field towards him. His smile at seeing his best friend froze on his lips as he saw a familiar figure sitting in the bleachers. It was Sweater Guy, brow slightly furrowed as he stared across the field, leaning back cavalierly, elbows resting on the bench above him. Now it was Dean’s turn to smirk. Who was the staring one now? Sweater guy sat up abruptly at Dean’s change in expression, knees sliding closed and hands jerking into his lap. He rolled his eyes irritably, a gesture Dean was coming to recognize as regular (since when had he seen him enough times to recognize anything he did as regular?). He got up and sauntered off. Dean had to give the guy some credit, he sure knew how to stay cool even when his big, gay crush was showing. This wasn’t the first time Dean had had to deal with guys coming onto him though. He knew how to deal with them. He’d lead them on a bit, have some fun laughing with his teammates behind their back, before making it absolutely clear he was straight. In public. He wanted to see that cool, impassive face fall, that hideous sweater unravel.

 

***

 

         After that day it seemed like Sweater Guy was always around, and always in a sweater and tight pants. He didn’t have much of an ass but Dean still found himself looking and seriously what the fuck? He seemed to wear a different sweater every day, always with some bizarre pattern mildly offensive in its tackiness.

 

         The day he wore a pastel yellow sweater with an easter bunny and eggs on it was too much.

 

         The day he wore a purple one with toadstools and cats on it Dean realized it wasn’t a once in awhile thing.

 

         The day he wore a dark blue sweater with a yellow moon, white stars, and the black silhouette of a cityscape and cat on it and his eyes were sinfully blue was the day Dean finally said something to him.

 

         He was sitting in the student lounge studying for his mechanical engineering test, regularly glancing at Sweater Guy reading in a chair, sometimes meeting a smirk that said, I see you looking and sometimes giving a smirk of his own when he looked up to find focused blue eyes looking in his direction. When they held each other’s gazes for longer than a fraction of a second he said, “Your big, gay, crush is showing.”

 

         “Excuse me?” The voice dripped with disdain and Dean grimaced.

 

         “I said your giant mental hard on for me is showing.”

 

         “Are you talking to me?” It curled inwards on the last word, low and rough.

 

         “Yeah, who do you think I’m talking to, queer-o? Definitely not anyone who seems remotely straight. And that would be everyone with the exception of, oh, you.”

 

         He made a noise of disgust, rolling his eyes. “First of all, I am not a homosexual, I am pansexual, secondly––”

 

         “Pansexual?”

 

         “It means I am not attracted to someone based on their gender, I’m attracted to them for their personality, the traits that make them appealing as a human being, not just as something to stick my penis into. Which leads me to my next point: that you are the farthest thing I would ever be attracted to, because whatever shred of personality or thought you have buried in your beer-soaked brain isn’t even your own, just a conglomeration of stereotypes perpetuated by your Midwestern upbringing and the mass media images around you.”

 

         Dean decided to let the insult go in favor of returning one. “So basically it’s a way to say you’re bi without sounding like a slut.”

 

         “Bisexuality implies a foremost physical attraction. If I were bisexual I suppose you could say that yes, I could have a ‘mental hard-on’ for you, as your facial measurements appear to correspond closely to those of the Golden Number, but unfortunately for you, I am attracted primarily to intellect, of which you, I’m afraid, have very little. Now, as fond as I am of redundancy and repeating myself to you with different phrasing, I am late for a blow job with a very intellectually and physically attractive poetry major so I may, or may not, see you later.” Without even waiting for a response from a gape-jawed Dean, he left, and Dean hated the fact that he probably wasn’t lying about the blowjob.

 

         Jo entered just as Sweater Guy left, and slid into the seat across from a still dazed Dean.

 

         “Yo, dimbo, what’s up? Knocked around one too many times on the football field?”

 

         “Hmm? Oh, no, I’m fine. Just been studying for awhile, y’know?” Dean stretched, leaning back in his chair. “Hey, who’s that dickbag who just left?”

 

         “The guy in the sweater?” Jo asked, pulling Dean’s slice of pie across the table towards her.

 

         “Yeah, him.”

 

         “I dunno. He looks like he’s from the art school––”

 

         “He is.”

 

         Jo raised an eyebrow at him as she took a bite of pie. “I’ll find out.”

 

         Dean smiled at her. “Thanks for asking for a bite of my bi––pie.”

 

         “What did you say?”

 

         “Pie. I said Pie, Jo.” Dean snatched the plate back, shoveled the last few bites into his mouth, gathered his things and quickly left the lounge.

 

***

 

         Jo sat down on the locker room bench as Dean was pulling on a t-shirt.

 

         “Castiel Collins.”

 

         “Jesus, Jo, what are you doing in here?”

 

         “I’m giving you the dirt you asked me to dig up. And it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”

 

         Dean shrugged. She was right, and it wasn’t worth arguing with her. He slid his feet into his boots and began tying them. “So...”

 

         “Castiel Collins. Double majoring in comparative literature and music theory. Minoring in theology. Plays guitar and likes to start bands that always do pretty well in the university scene, but never go anywhere, usually because he sleeps with everyone in the band and doesn’t tell them, and when it comes out...well, you get the picture. On that note, he sleeps with almost anything that moves, provided it gets enough of his obscure references. The only thing he likes more than poetry and drugs is humiliating people he deems inferior, a category which you, my poor man, fit perfectly. He loves sweaters.”

 

         “So basically he’s a pretentious, slutty, genius.”

 

         “Yes.”

 

         “Great.”

 

         “Great?”

 

         “Sure.”

 

         Dean got up, closed his locker, and Jo followed after.

 

***

 

         The sun was barely up and his fingers were almost blue. Broken plumbing in the campus Starbucks was the last thing Dean needed. He’d woken up an hour early to give him time to study for his mechanical engineering test, and had been relying on a huge, steaming thermos of coffee to warm him up to the morning. Instead he found a dark and very closed Starbucks. Gritting his teeth and kicking at the frost stuck to the sidewalk so it shattered, he made his way to the student parking lot. He’d need to drive into town to Sacrilege Coffee, an unbearable place with way too long lines, high prices, and skinny, bearded baristas. They had about a thousand different types of coffee, one size, and patched up armchairs and sofas they definitely found at a flea market and definitely did not wash after purchasing.

 

         He was pissed off the entire drive and the entire wait on line, until he was handed his coffee and noticed a familiar pair of stick legs protruding from a baggy sweater with a shaggy dark-haired head on top. He quickly handed over a five, mumbling at the barista to put the change in the tip jar, and approached Castiel, heart picking up pace as he turned around. He had no idea why he was so excited to see the dick, but he smiled and said, “Hey, I’m Dean. Dean Winchester.”

 

         Castiel glowered at Dean for a moment before saying, “Castiel Collins.” His voice was rigid and disinterested.

 

         “Not for nothing, Cas, but the last person who looked at me like that, I got laid.”

 

         “It’s Castiel,” he said, glancing at a small table that had recently been vacated, but making no move to go.

 

         “I know.”

 

         “Then why are you introducing yourself to me.”

 

         “Thought you should know the name of the object of your creepy affections.”

 

         Castiel snorted and turned away, dodging between the cramped tables with ease to claim the empty one he’d eyed earlier. Dean hastily poured cream into his coffee, emptying a packet of sugar and stirring as he followed after him. He sat down at an available one person table next to Castiel and watched him sip his coffee and read––Dean craned his neck to see the title–– My Family and Other Animals.

 

         “What are you reading?” he asked. He wasn’t one for reading, but he found himself genuinely curious.

 

         “Nothing you would know. What are you drinking?”

 

         “Coffee.”

 

         “That looks like melted dog shit.”

 

         Dean made a face at his suddenly unappetizing coffee. “It looks like coffee. What does yours look like?”

 

         Castiel turned his mug towards Dean, black coffee sloshing on the sides. “Real coffee.”

 

         “That’s not real coffee, Cas, that’s tar.”

 

         “I drink my coffee black, pure, none of that milk and sugar bullshit. And it’s Castiel.”

 

         “Do you like your coffee like you like your men?”

 

         “Again, Losechester, pansexual. Physical characteristics, especially race, have no influence on my preference for a sexual partner.”

 

         “Losechester?” Dean smiled.

 

         Cas blushed slightly, as if just realizing his nickname. If he hadn’t been so goddamn pale, Dean wouldn’t have noticed his reaction in the first place. “You’re not the only one who can use a nickname.”

 

         “That wasn’t a nickname. That was an insult.”

 

         “Just like the fact that you drink your coffee with cream and sugar.”

 

         “Whatever, Cas.” Dean got up to go, chugging the rest of his coffee and slinging his bag over his shoulder.

 

         As he left the cafe, he glanced back at the table, standing in the doorway for a moment as he watched Cas turn a page, take a sip of coffee, and lick his lips, which still looked ridiculously dry. Dean wondered if they felt dry. Cas looked up suddenly, meeting Dean’s eyes. He paused for a moment, lips open slightly as if hovering in a smirk, before he smiled at Dean. Dean winked at him and now Cas rolled his eyes, returning to his book.

 

         Dean may or may not have called Jo on the way to class and asked her to google the book Cas was reading at the cafe.

 

         “Since when did you read, Winchester?” she’d laughed.

 

         “Since never, Joanna Beth. Just wondering what it was.”

 

         “Dude, this book is ridiculous. It’s the memoir of some naturalist named Gerald Durrell who lived in Greece and did lots of weird shit as a kid. Pretty random. Who the hell do you know who would be reading this?”

 

         Dean didn’t answer, turning into the parking lot and getting out of the car.

 

         “Is it Castiel?”

 

         “What if it is?”

 

         “He’s the only person you’ve ever crossed paths with who’s enough of a fucking hipster to read this.”

 

         Dean still didn’t answer, striding down the frost-covered paths towards his class’s building. The ground crunched beneath him and he focused on the sound.

 

         “Dean, are you...do you have a crush on him?”

 

         Dean knew she wasn’t teasing because she’d called him by his first name.

 

         “No,” he said gruffly.

 

         “Okay.”

 

         Dean cursed himself silently. Jo never said Okay unless she was playing the sympathetic best friend card.

 

         “Seriously, Jo, I don’t. I was just wondering.”

 

         “Okay.”

 

         A pause, and Dean entered the building.

 

         “I’ll see you later, Dean. Chinese at my place.”

 

         “K Jo. Bye.” Dean hung up and entered class.

 

         Two seconds later, his phone rang. “Yes, Jo?”

 

         “Party tomorrow. We’re going.”

 

         “Uh...”    

     

             “Chuck and Pam too.”

     

             “Where?”

     

             “I dunno, off campus somewhere. Later, Winchester.”

     

             She hung up and Dean rolled his eyes. He counted down five... four... three... two... one... before the third, and usually final, call back.

     

             “Jo.”

     

             “Don’t have any crazy gay sex before I see you. We need to have some quality girl talk before then.”

     

             “Why would I––I’m not––”

     

             But Jo had already hung up.

     

    ***

     

             Dean was talking to a big-eyed girl with red hair as he crossed the quad. It looked like he was just about to seal the deal when she turned and yelled, “Hey! You!” Dean followed her gaze to find Castiel, sitting beneath a tree with a guitar on his lap. He was looking up into the branches dazedly, chewing on the end of a pen when she––Anna, Dean was pretty sure her name was–– had called him, and he started suddenly, looking for the speaker. Anna moved towards him and he smiled as he noticed her. Dean swallowed because God that was just...

     

             Anna reached Castiel and was sitting down next to him, but it looked like he wasn’t listening at all. He was fixated on Dean and Dean had no idea how he should respond. Both a flirty grin or condescending smirk seemed out of place. He didn’t need to make the decision though, because a half smile spread across Castiel’s lips and he nodded slightly in Dean’s direction. Dean took this as a queue to come over, since Castiel was obviously far too cool to wave or call out his name. Obviously. Fucking hipster.

     

             He sat down next to Anna, careful to close just enough distance between them that Castiel got that his presence had interrupted some serious flirting. He would’ve tried for an arm over the shoulders or a kiss but that was definitely pushing it. Castiel’s eyes darted briefly to the narrow space, but he said nothing, meeting Dean’s eyes evenly.

     

             “Hello, Dean.”

     

             “Cas.”

     

             Anna snorted.

     

             “What?” Castiel snapped.

     

             “He called you Cas. I’ve never heard anyone call you Cas before. You cherish your name’s obscurity far too much to have it sullied by abbreviation.”

     

             Dean stared at Castiel as he reddened. Anna noticed the flush and her eyes crinkled in a smile, mouth parting in a little o.

     

             “Sorry, Castiel, I’ll see you later.” She got up quickly, kissing him on the top of his head and ruffling his hair affectionately before walking away, glancing over her shoulder at them several times, smiling knowingly.

     

             “I-uh-I...”

     

             “So what’s the obscure origin of this name of yours.”

     

             “Hm?” Castiel looked up from jotting a few notes in the journal next to him. Dean noticed it was lined in music bars.

     

             “Castiel. Your name.”

     

             “Oh, that.”

     

             “Yeah, that. You almost sound as ditzy as Anna over there.”

     

             “Anna is extremely intelligent.”

     

             “Yes, but she’s also a complete airhead when she’s not discussing the liminality between trans-Mesopotamian origin stories.”

     

             “I’m surprised you managed to string so many words together.” Castiel’s fingers silently shifted over several strings. The edge of his sweater had ridden up against the side of his guitar and a thin strip of stomach was revealed. His hipbone protruded and Dean once again thought that that would hurt to fuck.

     

             “Dean?”

     

             Dean’s eyes shot up from Castiel’s showing skin and met his smirk. He’d caught him looking. Dean looked away, but not before he found his eyes, which showed none of the smug condescension they usually held when it was Castiel’s turn to catch Dean staring.

     

             “Yeah, Cas?”

     

             “My name. It’s the name of an angel. An angel of Thursday.”

     

             “I see. I was born on a Thursday.” Dean froze as soon as the words left his mouth, and from the heat in his face he had probably never been a more impressive shade of red. “Well, you obviously cherish it’s obscurity, so I’ll make sure not to call you Cas anymore,” he coughed, wishing for his words to wash away.

     

             Castiel peered at him intently, head tilted to the side, eyes intense and focused, indiscernible. He opened his mouth, closed it, and then said, “I don’t mind.”

     

             “What?”

     

             “I don’t mind your calling me Cas.”

     

             “You don’t? It lowers your pretentiosity meter quite a deal.”

     

             “Pretentiousness.”

     

             “Hm?”

     

             “It’s pretentiousness.”

     

             “There you go, Cas, already redeeming yourself.”

     

             Cas grinned broadly at him.

     

             “Okay, point made Winchester, now go away so I can finish this song.”

     

             “Is it about the ocean?”

     

             “No, God, everyone writes songs about the ocean.”

     

             “That’s the point,” Dean laughed as he got to his feet. “Hey, Cas?”

     

             Cas smiled. “Yeah?”

     

             “Are you going to that party on  Friday? The one off campus?”

     

             “Why?” Cas smirked. “You asking me to be your date?”

     

             Dean flushed. “No. I like my dates female, and I’m taking Anna. I was just wondering.”

     

             “Oh. K.” Cas looked down, focusing intently on one of his guitar strings.

     

             Why did Dean suddenly feel so guilty and awkward? “Okay, well, I guess I’ll see you there then, or around or yeah...”

     

             Cas nodded, not looking up. And Dean left, feeling bad and incredibly irritated that he’d ever asked Anna out in the first place.

     

    ***

     

             The clack of keys stopped as Dean glanced at the Google window just beneath his Word Doc. He resumed typing his essay for a few minutes before stopping again. He took a deep breath that echoed loudly in his empty room and ran a hand through his hair. Pulling Google to the front, he glanced around suspiciously, as if someone were watching him, and googled “Hipster music shit.” Naturally, it took him several more tries before he found a music blog that wasn’t a “hipster” hate blog. He pulled the douchiest sounding names from the pages of reviews and recommendations and opened up iTunes and Pandora. Some of it wasn’t too bad, like the Vampire Weekend and Hoosiers, but most of it sounded like someone took an acid trip, put it into sound form, and then compressed it in a bottle and sold it. The rest was so acoustic it hurt. After a few hours, Dean jotted down a short list of bands he could bear, and even a few he liked, and returned to his essay, wondering if Cas listened to any of them, or if his tastes were so obscure the bands didn’t even end up on music blogs.

     

             Music was spilling out onto the sidewalk in streaks of blue and purple light that snuck out the door, around the bodies twisting as they danced. Three people Dean recognized as the type of people Cas would be friends with were outside smoking and he, Jo, Pam, and Chuck skirted around them and into the house.

     

             At once it was all noise and colored lights and tight hot bodies and a mist of beer, sweat, and pot filling the air. Jo squeezed his arm so he knew he hadn’t lost her and Pam grinned at him, teeth flashing and said, “So where’s this little boy toy of yours?”

     

             “He’s not my boy toy!” Dean yelled back over the music. The hall opened up into a dining room-turned-dancefloor; the tables had been pushed back against the wall to host a variety of alcoholic beverages and a sound system squatted beneath them, the glow of an iPod’s screen discernible in the dark. Dean turned to see Pam already chatting up some well-defined guy who couldn’t stop staring at her amply showing breasts, and Chuck had wandered off, probably to find where the weed was. Jo was right behind him though and they began to dance, Dean pushing himself to get into the indie music’s beat. From the first five seconds it had become very clear that the residents of the house were part of the art school. His phone buzzed and he vaguely noticed Anna’s name: R U here yet? He closed the text and put his phone back in his pocket, smiling at Jo.

     

             “Who was that?” she pressed her mouth against Dean’s ear so he could hear her.

     

             “No one,” he yelled back. “Just Sam, I’ll call him back tomorrow.”

     

             She looked at him doubtfully but said nothing, pulling Dean further onto the dance floor.

     

             Dean heard a whoop as a new group entered and he looked to the door to see Cas, in tight purple jeans and ––Oh God, no sweater–– a thin gray t-shirt that hung off his lanky frame in a gripping way so that Dean could see the curve of his back and the shape of his chest. If he’d been hot in the hideous sweaters, Dean had no idea how to describe him now. His eyes were wide and dark and bits of hair were already sticking to his forehead and neck from the warmth of the room. His grin flashed in the blacklight as people approached to say “hi” and clap him on the back. As he and his flocking friends pushed their way into the center of the room and began dancing, in a painfully self-aware, attention-to-skinniness, jerky way, Cas noticed Dean. A slight smile crept onto his face, but one of his friends, peroxide blonde and heart-shaped face, nudged him, laughing, and Cas looked away, pressing an open, sucking kiss below her ear.

     

             Dean felt Jo nudge him and looked away quickly, painfully aware of how loud and hot and cramped it was, and how his jeans were tighter than the ones he normally wore. No judging. He moved them away from Cas’s group, glancing at him as he did so, and found Cas raking his gaze along Dean, and suddenly the room seemed too big and too small all at once. Too many people were between him and Cas, dancing between them because really, they were supposed to be dancing with each other, and there was nowhere near enough space for the two of them or just him because the way Cas was looking at him pushed the fact that he was a dick and a person with a dick so far out of Dean’s mind that he was elbowing everyone out of the way to get to the kitchen where only a few stragglers sipped beers mildly or grabbed a new one from a cooler.

     

             He’d gone for vodka instead and was downing shots trying to numb the sting of claustrophobia and jealous self-consciousness, when he heard a huff of breath behind him. He whirled around and had to slam his hand down on the counter to keep from dropping the glass.

     

             “Cas. Personal space.”

     

             Cas looked away from Dean awkwardly and took a step back.

     

             “Hi,” he said sheepishly, looking around the kitchen as if he didn’t know what to do with himself.

     

             Dean smiled, recognizing the song drifting in from the other room. He could do this. “This is Vampire Weekend, right? They’re pretty good, don’t you think?” Or maybe it was just the alcohol getting to him.

     

             Cas snorted. “Sure, if you’re into mainstream stuff like that. They’re such sellouts.”

     

             “Did you seriously just call something too mainstream?”

     

             Cas’s eyes met Dean’s, darted quickly to his mouth, and then were off and away. Dean gulped.

     

             “Maybe.” There was a smile in his voice and a tinge in his cheeks.

     

             “God, you’re such a fucking hipster.”

     

             “Does it turn you on?” Cas smirked.

     

             “You wish,” Dean replied. He knew this was his chance but this close to Cas in a kitchen where no one would notice or care or even talk if he pulled him the last few inches and kissed him and stuck his hand down his pants, he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to give Cas the satisfaction of being the one who turned Dean Winchester gay. The one who got away, because he could already tell that despite all of his fancy talk about personalities and intellectual attraction, he was just a slut, and there was nothing except sex that would make him stay. “Later, Cas. This party might be all art students, but the girls are still hot, and I haven’t gotten laid in awhile.”

     

             “Just girls?” From the way Cas’s eyes sparked in the garish lighting, he was still pushing it.

     

             “Bite me, Collins.”

     

             “Nice cardigan, Losechester.”

     

             “It’s a sweater jacket,” Dean snapped back over his shoulder, glad Cas couldn’t see him blushing because really, it was a cardigan, and Dean had worn it and too tight jeans to impress Cas, because he was the reason he went and he was also, coincidentally, the reason Dean wanted to get out of there as fast as possible.

     

             After the stifling closeness in the kitchen, the anonymous throng of bodies in the dining room was a welcome. Dean found Jo easily and she gave him one sympathetic if slightly reproachful I-know-what-you’re-up-to once over before pulling him towards her to dance again. Pam and Chuck rejoined them at some point–– a stumbling guy in a tweed jacket hanging onto Pam, Chuck’s eyes red and bleary. Dean and Jo laughed at both of them for respective reasons and Dean couldn’t help but close his eyes and smile, focusing on his here-ness, with them, his friends. He was having fun with people who made him happy, nothing else and no one else.

     

             His eyes snapped open as a hand snaked around his waist and a warmth covered his back. The grind of sharp hipbones against his own, the press of a nose and cheek against his jaw and along his neck and–– the scrape of stubble. Dean whirled around and Cas was so close he could see the blue of his eyes even in the dark and he was pretty sure breathing would count as kissing. So he decided not to breathe.

     

             The smirk was just underneath the surface of Cas’s eyes but he only said, “Let’s get out of here, Dean.”

     

             Dean nodded and Cas twined their fingers together and led him out of the party. Dean searched for his friends as they left, but they were dancing across the room–– rather, Jo was dancing, Chuck was doing his own thing, and Pam was falling over while trying to give her new accessory a hand-job through his jeans–– no one noticed his absence, and Dean didn’t really care if they did.

     

             Dean grabbed a bottle of vodka on the way out and chugged it the entire time Cas was driving down dark college town roads, lips tight when Dean sagged against him, slurring incoherently. Dean didn’t really want to be drunk for this, whatever this turned out to be, but really, he had no other choice, because drunk him’s actions were predictable, but sober him’s actions, especially around Cas, were something he was beginning to distrust.

     

             The sound of waves, soft in the daytime, turned into a roar in the dark as Cas parked. He got out of the car while Dean fumbled with his seatbelt, opening the passenger side door and helping Dean out. He didn’t let go of Dean’s hand and Dean began to pull away, but before it was too late, when only the tips of their fingers were connected, he tangled their fingers and pulled Cas’s palm flat against his own again. Cas’s thumb lightly stroked Dean’s wrist and he pulled him out of the parking lot and onto the beach itself, stumbling over the uneven sand, laughter building with the struggle of walking, tearing out of suddenly raw lungs and into the massive, all-encompassing buffets of wind.

     

             They picked up pace, running, as the ground grew wet and tight beneath their feet, more solid. Their feet met the surf and then their knees and their thighs, until they were waist-deep in the ocean, shaking and shuddering and sober, both hands clasped. The waves rocked them and Cas stumbled, falling against Dean, whose sturdier build was less affected. He lingered there, arms tangled with Dean’s, before shifting his head and without any trouble at all, pressing their mouths together. It was salty and coarse and Dean could do nothing but gasp as Cas explored his mouth quickly before moving down to his neck, sucking a quick mark, and then Dean was pushing him off, falling backwards into the water, wanting to cry for the first time since middle school.

     

             “What the fuck are you doing you fucking faggot?”

     

             Cas’s mouth opened but he said nothing, shivering in the water, t-shirt sticking to his narrow frame, hair plastered against his head. He looked lost and uncertain and liable to wash away. Let him wash away, Dean thought. Fall apart into the ocean where his big, blue eyes would merge with the Big Blue and Dean would never have to worry about any of this tightness in his chest, scrabbling at his ribs like a bird in a cage, ever again. “Was that your plan? Get me drunk and take me out here where you could have your way with me and no one would notice? Wouldn’t have to ruin your reputation by sleeping with some mainstream jock?”

     

             “Dean, I––”

     

             “Well, it’s not gonna work on me, Castiel, because I see you for what you are, a slut, a big, faggy, slut who just wants to add straight Dean Winchester to his long list of fucking accomplishments. And you know what? Maybe I’m the pansexual one, Castiel, and maybe you’re the bi one, you fa––” And then Dean supposed he wasn’t actually as sober as he felt because the world swam and the white crests of the waves, bright in the dark, turned into the frothy manes of lions and he was falling and filling with water and Cas was pulling him up and then...it was dark.

    Chapter Text

    When Dean woke up he was sure he’d died or the world had ended or both because everything was slanted, blurred, and smelled like ocean. He licked his lips and grimaced at the salty taste mixed with something he couldn’t put his finger on, but altogether less unpleasant, and sat up. His room swam around him and he fumbled for the water bottle he kept on his bedside table, chugging it down. It centered him a bit and he breathed deeply. God, he was hungover. He shifted uncomfortably. He was still in his clothes from last night. He must have been really drunk to not remember going to bed. Rubbing his face on his shirt he froze. It didn’t smell like him. Underneath the smell of seawater he could distinguish a crisp smell like summer apples, accompanied with faint traces of pot. A flash of grins and smiles and smirks, all between full, chapped lips, bombarded him. He stretched the fabric out in front of him and looked down. the disapproving glower of a green, upside down wolf stared up at him.

     

             He was wearing Cas’s sweater.

     

             Why the fuck was he wearing Cas’s sweater?

     

             What had happened last night? The last thing he remembered was talking to Cas in the kitchen and then...nothing.

     

             Dean splashed his face and put on deodorant, running out of his room and into the Impala. He’d come back later and recuperate (he could easily miss Lit), but he needed to see Cas. Now. The Starbucks was open, sign glowing cheerfully as he drove by, but Dean continued on to Sacrilege.

     

             While he waited for his coffee, Dean scanned the disarrayed tables until he found Cas beside an impressively healthy-looking potted tree. He was focused intently on his book, a pair of oversized glasses balancing on the tip of his nose. Dean couldn’t suppress his smile as Cas took a sip of his coffee, not looking up, and a bit dribbled over his lips and down his front in his absentmindedness. He licked it away and Dean quickly turned at the barista’s impatient call.

     

             “Oh, sorry,” he took his coffee and crossed the room, sliding into the chair opposite Cas.

     

             “Mornin’ Cas.”

     

             “It’s Castiel,” he replied mildly, without looking up.

     

             “Jeez, sorry, Castiel. Someone’s a bit touchy today.”

     

             “I’m busy and don’t have time for you. I’d like my sweater back if you don’t mind. It’s my favorite. Besides, people might get the wrong idea if they see you wearing it. The great, heterosexual Dean Winchester wouldn’t want anyone to think he was, what shall we say, a faggot.”

     

             Dean blinked at Cas. Sure, the guy was as pretentious as they came, but it had seemed like they were past the snarkiness, although he didn’t want to explore what that implied. And this was just plain rude, none of his usual condescending pretentiousness. He felt a faint sting in his chest as Cas’s tone registered. “What’s got into you?” he asked, tugging the sweater off and dropping it onto the table before Cas.

     

             Cas stared at him for a moment, head tilted slightly to the side and brow furrowed. “You don’t...” He righted his head and shook himself, looking downwards. “It’s not of import.”

     

             Dean was suddenly flooded with panic. He’d been really drunk; had he done something?

     

             “Shit, Cas, did I do anything to you last night? I’m really sorry if I did, I got drunk and, God, I’m a terrible drunk, I’m––”

     

             “Nothing happened. You passed out and I took you back to your dorm and you were shivering in the car so I gave you my sweater. Sorry if I’m snappy I’m just a bit...hungover.” He looked away, and Dean’s chest prickled as he got the feeling that Cas was lying. He wasn’t going to push it. If Cas didn’t want to talk about it well...he’d get Jo to find out.

     

             “It’s okay, dude. You look pretty good for someone who’s hungover. Hey, is that milk I see in your coffee? Is it possibly accompanied with sugar?” He smiled cheekily, praying for Cas to smile back.

     

             Cas did smile back, although it looked like he was fighting it, so it came out as more of a grimace. “Yes, I decided to give idiots’ coffee a try. I actually find it quite enjoyable. I see yours is black.”

     

             “I needed the caffeine.” Dean didn’t exactly want to disclose that his vile black coffee was half his rush to talk to Cas and half his desire to prove himself cool to Cas.

     

             Cas smiled full-on this time, nodding smugly. “I see, Losechester. Quite fascinating how you chose to ingest caffeine in the same manner I usually do.”

     

             Dean blushed, but Cas’s relentless smile pushed away the irritation at the too-close-for-comfort comment.

     

             Dean grinned the whole way back to the dorm, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel even though no music was playing because his head might implode otherwise. An elation had filled him like a fog, thick and sweet. Something had happened, obviously, and as much as he felt bad–– he didn’t really want to know, if he was being honest ––but it looked like Cas had gotten over it, at least enough to make him feel inferior and get off on it.

     

    ---

     

             He decided not to go to his English Lit class and instead called Jo and got her to bring him a sandwich, some pie, and some pity for his hangover headache.

     

             “Don’t get tuna in my bed,” Dean mumbled around a bite of sandwich.

     

             “Don’t worry, I won’t,” Jo replied, picking a glob of tuna out of the sheets and sticking it into her mouth.

     

             “I’m not even going to tell you what’s in my bed.”

     

             “I don’t care and I don’t want to know.”

     

             “Fine by me. Hey, Jo, what happened at the party?”

     

             Jo turned the TV, which had been playing in the background, off, and looked at Dean, her expression flitting between serious and teasing. “You don’t remember?”

     

             Dean shook his head, swallowing and setting his sandwich down.

     

             Jo laughed softly. Dean turned the TV back on.

     

             “Well I can’t help you Dean. We got distracted and when we turned around you were gone. I saw you leaving with Cas, though.”

     

             Something shot through Dean and down to his stomach and he looked past Jo at the TV.

     

             “Dean, did anything...did you guys...?”

     

             “I don’t know, okay.”

     

             “Dean, I––”

     

             “I’m really not in the mood, Jo. Can you leave?”

     

             “Dean––”

     

             “My head hurts like a bitch, okay; I want to take a nap.”

     

             Jo got up, looked at him thoughtfully, grabbed her bag and left. “I’ll see you later, Winchester.”

     

             Dean didn’t even turn the TV off as the door closed behind her. He nestled into the sheets and quickly fell asleep.

     

             He was running and running and the world was tilting and all he could hear was laughing and the rush of waves like breathing and heartbeats and his body was cold and shaking and bombarded as if by thunder but his hand was so warm and he looked and found bright eyes and a smile in the darkness; it was all stuttering breath like candles and his laughter was extinguished as he...Cas...he kissed him and it was all rough and salt clashing with soft and then everything tilted again and he was screaming but it sounded like everything was underwater and maybe it was because it was all so dark only the waves were bright and all he could hear was their crash and his voice yelling “You faggot, you faggot” and Cas standing there so small and pale and waxen in the moonlight, ready to be washed away and then he was, disappearing into the surf and still he was yelling, “You faggot”––

     

             Dean barely had time to lean over the edge of the bed before he vomited, panting and uneasy; his insides knotted and raw as if something was inside him, tearing him up.

     

             No wonder Cas had acted the way he had; everything from last night was rushing back.

     

             He stumbled into the bathroom, splashing cold water on his face and rinsing his mouth out.

     

             He needed to find Cas.

     

             He was already in the Impala when he wondered when finding Cas had become a regular thing.

     

    ---

     

             Dean hurried through the halls of the art college’s dorms, trying not to run or bump into the students loitering around in open doorways. They snickered as he pushed passed, asking where Cas’s room was, rolling their eyes beneath pierced brows, lips curling back in knowing sneers. Nothing had happened and he was already considered the pitiful aftermath of one of Cas’s (numerous) one night stands.

     

             Dean finally bumped into a ginger guy with a mustache that might have been stylish a hundred years ago, who smiled sympathetically when Dean asked where Cas lived. He pointed at a door a few feet down and scooted back as Dean raced to it. He opened the door as he knocked and froze in the doorway when six faces turned to him. He felt a flush of embarrassment creep up his neck and into his cheeks.

     

             “Cas,” was all he managed to say.

     

             Cas turned towards him, eyes wide and face blank. The girls sitting around him all laughed nervously and a hookah in the center of the circle spilled smoke, forgotten.

     

             “We need to talk,” Dean added, lamely.

     

             “I really don’t think so. Believe it or not, Dean, I was just about to copulate before you barged in here so rudely.”

     

             “I’m sorry, okay, Cas. I’m not fucking around. We need to talk. It’s about the party.”

     

             Cas’s stiff expression fell for a moment, before he quickly gathered it up and pieced it back together. Dean wondered who could’ve made Cas that broken, and all he wanted to do was make it better.

     

             “Okay. Hold on, girls.” Cas got to his feet and followed Dean into the hall. He was wearing a sweater that was a hideous collage of international flags. His socks were mismatched, one striped and one polka dotted. His eyes were scrunched up slightly and Dean hoped he wasn’t too high to remember this. Luckily, the only people in the hall that Dean could see were a small group right at the corner. He took a breath.

     

             “Cas, I’m sorry. I remember what––”

     

             “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Cas interrupted, looking at the wall behind Dean. “You got extremely drunk and your friends were too intoxicated to help you so I did.”

     

             “I remember the beach and––and the kiss.”

     

             “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Cas’s voice wavered and he focused more intently on the wall.

     

             “I called you a...a...faggot. I’m sorry, Cas. That was really fucked up of me. And I don’t really...care...if you are...y’know?”

     

             Cas’s casual smirk he usually wore in public slung itself across his lips and he turned to Dean, tilting his head. “Listen, Dean, I understand that you really want to get into my pants and will even try to turn it around on me to get lucky, and that you were incredibly drunk last night and have no idea what happened or what you’re talking about, but remember, I’m attracted to personality and intellect, meaning you’re the last person I would make out with.”

     

             Rage filled the space behind Dean’s eyes. Here he was, trying to do the right thing, and Cas was being a dick, as always. Who had he been kidding. “You know you don’t have to be a pretentious dick all the time.”

     

             That broken look was back and Dean’s anger fell away, replaced with a cool, blue-tinged vulnerability. “Maybe I do.”

     

             Dean knew this was his chance, in this dingy hall where anyone could see him. He felt Cas’s hand on his upper arm, but couldn’t seem to move or speak. He looked at Cas evenly for a moment, and found the question there. He already had an answer, and he had never been more ready to give it, and that was terrifying, so he did the only thing that didn’t scare him. He turned and left, not even needing to look over his shoulder to know that Cas was standing there, drooping behind him, waiting for him to turn around, because he wasn’t the chasing after type.

    Chapter Text

    Dean was half-doing homework and half-watching a spider crawl across his ceiling when Jo came over and let herself in with the key she’d made for herself. She took one glance at him and grabbed the electric kettle from his desk and went into the bathroom. He heard the sound of the sink and leaned back in his bed, sighing. There was no way he’d get around this now. A niggling part of him wanted to talk about it to Jo, though, just so things could be about Cas, all about Cas, without having to deal with those eyes or that mouth or any fucking sweaters.

     

             “Why the long face, Dean-o?” Jo asked as she emerged from the bathroom and turned on the water heater. “Class isn’t the same without you.”

     

             “I only missed one day.”

     

             “Yeah, but if your sulk stays turned on this high, I predict a long absence.”

     

             “I’m not sulking.”

     

             “Then what are you doing?” Jo rummaged through her bag and tossed a to-go container onto Dean’s stomach, followed by a fork.

     

             Dean sat up and found a disheveled slice of rhubarb pie. He busily began eating rather than answering Jo, because that was a simpler answer. He looked up after a moment to find Jo standing with her arms crossed, staring at him. It was disconcerting and he looked away, only to find her the exact same when he looked back.

     

             “I’m eating pie.”

     

             She raised an eyebrow and said nothing, shifting her weight.

     

             “He kissed me.” Dean looked at his hands and heard Jo’s sharp intake of breath. He waited for her to say anything, but she didn’t. He glanced at her. Her lips were pursed, and he knew she wanted to. He thanked her silently for not. “And I called him a faggot. And now he hates me. I mean, he always hated me, cos I’m so ‘mainstream,’ but now he won’t even talk to me hates me.”

     

             Dean’s throat closed and he looked up at the ceiling, searching for the spider. He couldn’t find it. Why was he being such a girl about this? He’d fucked things up with plenty of people.

     

             Jo remained silent and he wished desperately for her to talk, to call him stupid, distract from the true meaning of what he was saying. Instead, she sat down beside him and rested her head on his shoulder, giving his arm a squeeze.

     

             “It must suck that when you finally want someone for more than sex, they’re a guy, not to mention a pretentious dick.”

     

             “I don’t want him,” Dean grumbled, turning away and burrowing into his bed, pulling his pie towards him, “in any way.”

     

             Jo patted his back and got up, pulling two packets of ramen from her bag and bowls from Dean’s dish-drawer in his bureau. She grabbed the pitcher and began making them soup. Dean snatched the remote from his bedside table and turned on the TV. He didn’t even bother to change the channel to something he liked. He just wanted something to occupy himself.

     

             Jo returned to the bed, balancing the two bowls, and sat down next to him. After Dean sat up and took his bowl, she assumed control of the remote, flicking to a Dr. Sexy rerun marathon.

     

             “Seriously Jo, not this pile of shit.”

     

             “You know you like it, Winchester.”

     

             Dean grunted and began eating his soup, saying nothing. His mind began to wander as Jo yammered on about the love triangle featured in this episode. He really should call Anna back; apologize for ditching-slash-standing-her-up at the party. He should take her out and around and back to his room and forget all about Cas.

     

             “You know, I always wanted a gay best friend, Winchester,” Jo joked as a forced sex scene began in a hospital janitor closet.

     

             Dean’s gaze snapped from his soup to focus on her sharply. “I’m not gay.”

     

             “Cas has a penis.”

     

             “I don’t like Cas.”

     

             She watched him for a long moment.

     

             “Dean, why is it so hard for you to just let yourself...feel things?”

     

             “There’s nothing to feel.”

     

             “Dean.”

     

             “What am I supposed to do, Jo? Stop being me? Look at my Dad, think about Sam–– Football, Jo! Could I play football if I was anything but me? All of this is resting on my football, my entire degree is riding on keeping my scholarship. I’m not going to risk it all to sneak around for some dick who wants me for sex.”

     

             “Go on, watch your show.”

     

             Jo turned it off and grabbed their bowls, taking them into the bathroom to rinse them out.

     

             “There was something else I didn’t tell you, Dean,” she said from the bathroom.

     

             Dean said nothing, interested, but nervous at what Jo would say.

     

             “Obviously I couldn’t dig up much from pre-college, but there was some stuff in his Freshman year. Cas has always been...active, but in Freshman year he was with this guy, some straight asshole who wanted to play around. He fell for him. Hard. Talked about him nonstop, wrote songs for him. The guy wasn’t serious, though. He slept around behind Cas’s back, made fun of him, lots of quality stuff. Everyone knew about it except Cas and at a gig for the band he was in at the time, well, he found him fucking some girl in the bathroom and ... you get the story. Dean, if Cas kissed you, when he knew you were...straight...and weren’t begging for sex or anything, Dean, this isn’t going to go away.”

     

             Dean got up and left before she was out of the bathroom, sliding on his jacket and grabbing his keys from his desk.

     

    ---

     

             The muffled squeak of leather seats and the rumble of the Impala’s engine was all he needed as he left the campus, following the main road all the way out of town, to where the freeway stretched for miles through fields and forests, just green and gold, alternating on either side of the black stripe of the road. Sometimes cows or horses would watch him passively from the side as he passed by. Sometimes he’d speed by a barn or a house with a blow up pool out front. No people, just him and road. That was all he needed.

     

             He remembered when he was still at home and his Dad would start yelling and Mom would start crying and he and Sam would just get in the car and drive, coming back late when he knew Dad would be upstairs, asleep, and Mom would be in the living room, watching infomercials. He’d kiss her on the cheek and take Sam upstairs to get ready for bed. Sam. God, he missed the kid. He could picture his knowing bitchface if he was in the seat beside him. He wouldn’t let this go any easier than Jo. He’d probably be tougher. Sam. He really should call him, they hadn’t talked for months; Sam busy with his college apps and Dean busy with well...nothing, really, but everything.

     

             When Jo called he was already on the way back to the college so he picked up. He didn’t say anything, just let her talk.

     

             “How do you know you’re not gay if you’ve never tried.”

     

             “Fuck you, that’s how I know.”

     

             He hung up, far too exhausted to come up with any sort of reply, smart-ass or serious.

     

    ---

     

             Dean rolled over in bed, the phone pressing between his ear and the pillow.

     

             “What was that, Sammy?”

     

             “I miss talking to you. I’m glad you called. Things aren’t the same without you here.”

     

             Dean took that to mean Dad was being a dick, but instead he said, “God, you’re such a girl.”

     

             He could feel Sam’s bitchface through the phone and couldn’t help but smile.

     

             “See any colleges you like?”

     

             “Yeah...uh...Stanford. But you know...money, and...stuff...”

     

             “You’ll get a scholarship.” Dean’s chest warmed with pride for his little brother.

     

             “I don’t know, Dean. A lot of kids apply there. A lot of kids who need scholarships and are smarter and cooler and funnier than I am.”

     

             “You’re great, squirt. If Stanford can’t see it then you’re too good for them. You’ll get a full ride, just watch.”

     

             Sam huffed. “Thanks, Dean. How’ve you been?”

     

             Dean groaned. “Fine.”

     

             “You never say fine unless you’re not.”

     

             “Stop being Jo. I’m fine, really.”

     

             “Dean, let’s talk about this.”

     

             “There’s nothing to talk about. I fucked things up again, okay? I’m fine.”

     

             “Dean––”

     

             There was noise on the other end, a muffled noise as Sam covered the phone with his hand, and the sound of voices. Then Sam’s voice again, clear. “Dad wants to talk to you.”

     

             Dean began to protest, but Sam had already passed the phone over.

     

             “Hey, Dean.”

     

             “Dad.” He felt comforted at the sound of his Dad’s voice after Sam’s.

     

             “How are you, son?”

     

             “I’m...I’m okay, Dad.”

     

             “Are you coming home for Thanksgiving?”

     

             “I don’t know.”

     

             “Why aren’t you?”

     

             “I never said I wasn’t. I said I didn’t know.”

     

             “Do you have some girl up there in Maryland?”

     

             “No. I––No. There’s no one.”

     

             With the question posed so bluntly, Dean became aware of the fact he’d never be able to tell his father about Cas, even if things did change.

     

             His Mom’s voice clicked onto the line.

     

             “Dean, you should bring her with you. We’d love to meet her.”

     

             Just like his Mom to know when Dean was lying.

     

             “Mary––”

     

             “Mom, there’s no one, I just have a lot of work to do and don’t know if I can afford to make the trip.”

     

             “I miss you, sweetie.”

     

             “Mary, the boy can make his own decisions.”

     

             Dean couldn’t help but feel a rush of gratitude towards his father, even if he usually wanted to punch the guy in the face.

     

             “Okay, but think about it. And if you are staying back because you have someone special, they really are welcome here with us.”

     

             Dean nodded, knowing that they couldn’t see the gesture.

     

             “Okay, Mom. Love you. Bye, Dad.”

     

             “Goodbye, Son.”

     

             “Bye, Dean.”

     

             Dean dropped the phone beside him, burying into his bed again.

     

             His phone buzzed–– Sam calling him back. He turned off the ring and closed his eyes. He should probably go to practice today. His phone buzzed and he read Sam’s text: What’s her name?

     

             Dean hesitated for a moment before replying. Cas.

     

             Short for Cassandra or Cassie or something like that?

     

             Something like that.

     

             Does she like you too?

     

             It’s complicated.

     

             I bet she does. You’re awesome, Dean.

     

             Dean smiled. He had to give his brother some credit; he sure knew how to cheer him up.

     

             Thanks, Sammy.

     

             You should ask her out.

     

             I don’t think it’s that simple.

     

             Why not?

     

             You can’t always just ask people out.

     

             Why can’t you?

     

             There’s lots of reasons.

     

             Is you being a pussy one of them?

     

             Fuck you, bitch.

     

             Jerk.

     

             A few minutes passed, Dean lying on his back, phone on his chest, fiddling with the hem of his t-shirt.

     

             If you can’t ask her out, kiss her.

     

             Cas beat me to it.

     

             She does like you!

     

             Eh.

     

             You wouldn’t still be replying if you didn’t like her.

     

             Dean stopped replying and turned the TV on, catching the beginning of an episode of Top Gear.

     

             Liking someone is the simplest thing, Dean. You like her and she likes you. It doesn’t matter how complicated everything else is, that’s simple.

     

             Dean thought of a lot of mocking responses, but said nothing, turning his phone off and getting out of bed to prepare for practice.

     

             He enjoyed it more than he thought he would. He anticipated a day of bad starts and angry finishes, missing catches and ruining plays as he changed into his uniform, but instead he immersed himself in the game, all thought bleeding into the grass, making it grow. His reflexes were taut and his teammates clapped him on the back at break. He didn’t think he’d ever played better, and his grin was wide beneath his helmet. But when he stopped, panting, to gulp down water, he looked at the bleachers, found them empty, and a weight sank into his chest, that something was missing.

     

             Pam came for the second half of practice, catcalling and cheering from the stands. The guys nudged each other appreciatively and Dean rolled his eyes. He knew better than to say anything, though–– this was exactly what Pam wanted.

     

             After he showered and changed back into his jeans and wrinkled t-shirt, hoisting his gym bag over his shoulder, he went back out to the field. Pam was still sitting on the bleachers, dark shades on despite the setting sun, and he wondered how she wasn’t shivering in her tank top.

     

             “Hey, Dean!” she called, and Dean rose an arm in a weary wave.

     

             She jogged down the stairs and across the field, meeting him halfway.

     

             “I’ve been sent by one Joanna Beth saying you’ve got your pout on, and need someone to cheer you up.”

     

             “Does this cheering up involve beer?”

     

             “Yes. I have some back at my dorm.”

     

             “Are you sure this isn’t some master plan to get me into bed?”

     

             “Winchester, if I wanted to get you into my bed, I would have done so a long time ago.”

     

             Dean didn’t doubt it, and walked with her to the Impala. She lit a cigarette as they began to drive, flicking the ash out the window.

     

             “You shouldn’t smoke.”

     

             “Not everyone needs good lungs, football player.”

     

             “Yeah but we all need some. You’ll get lung cancer.”

     

             She dropped the cigarette and put her feet on the dash. “I know how I’m going to die, Dean, and it won’t be in a hospital bed.”

     

             “Are you saying you’re psychic?”

     

             “I don’t know, maybe a little. All I know is that I’ll be gone with a bang, and everyone will remember me.”

     

             “I’m sure they will, Pam, there’s not a one like you.”

     

             “I know there isn’t.”

     

             “How modest of you.”

     

             “Just honest.”

     

             She glanced at Dean and then closed her eyes.

     

             “They won’t forget you, either, Winchester. You got that big heart, but you’ll be forgotten if you don’t find someone to share it with.”

     

             Dean turned the radio on and let the familiar sounds of Zeppelin fill the car. Pam laughed along with his lip-syncing and he wondered if she was psychic, because he knew Jo wouldn’t tell her anything unless Dean wanted it all over campus by the next day.

     

    ---

     

             Dean had been sleeping badly. All his dreams were waves and cold-wet and big blue. Soft hands and lips pulling him from the deep and when he turned to look they threw him back again.

     

             He woke with a start, nauseous.

     

    ---

     

             The cold slipped under his collar and cuffs and he hunched his shoulders against it, picking up his pace. Slowly, the cold eased itself into a comfortable position in his bones and Dean stopped shivering. He looked around, the still buildings, trees, and flowerbeds silvered in the moonlight. A faint spattering of stars dotted the dark sky and he stared at them a moment, trying to count, but always failing because of airplanes. He kept walking, following a path, making no conscious turns, just meandering.

     

             He came to a statue of an angel, wings and arms outstretched in the moonlight. Fingerprints and irregularities were visible on its surface, intentional, a divine being wrought by human hands. Dean sat down on a bench and admired the dark form. It seemed to draw light into it, devouring it.

     

             “Nice night for a walk, isn’t it?”

     

             Dean started and looked to his left. A pair of familiar blue eyes flashed in the darkness, neither angry nor happy to see him. He couldn’t believed he hadn’t noticed him sitting there.

     

             “There won’t be many more like it before winter sets in.”

     

             “No, there won’t be.”

     

             He was wearing a trench coat as an additional protection from the brisk chill, but the thick folds of a sweater could be seen between the lapels.

     

             “I’ve never seen this statue before,” Dean mused. “It’s...interesting.”

     

             He heard the rustle of fabric as Cas shifted–– closer, he noticed.

     

             “Yes, I enjoy observing it. The contrast makes me wonder.”

     

             “Contrast?”

     

             “Yes.”

     

             “You mean how it’s an angel but is made in such a human way, with all those imperfections and stuff?”

     

             Cas’s eyes crinkled in a sort of half-smile. “You could have done without the ‘and stuff,’ but yes, Dean. Well put.”

     

             “Surprised?”

     

             “Maybe a little.”

     

             Dean turned away from the angel to find Castiel much closer, no more than six inches. They glanced away and back at the same time.

     

             “It’s late, you should be asleep. Isn’t there a game this––”

     

             Cas was silenced as Dean kissed him. No big works, just quick and soft and then over.

     

             Cas stared at him, eyes clouded. “That’s not fair of you.”

     

             “How isn’t it?”

     

             “You can’t do that, Dean.”

     

             “Why not, Cas?” Dean intended to sound mocking, but realized how harsh it sounded when Cas’s expression turned inwards, saddening. “I didn’t...”

     

             “You think I’m a joke.”

     

             “Not as much as you think I am,” Dean laughed. “With my football and my mediocre grades and––”

     

             Now it was his turn to be silenced, as Cas placed his hands on either side of Dean’s face and kissed him, in a loose and open manner ill-fitting for the scene, but perfectly befitting of Cas’s languid nature.

     

             Cas pulled back and looked at him for a long moment, steady in every way Dean wasn’t. “Now tell me, Dean, do you really believe that?”

     

             Dean tried to pull him in for another kiss, because he felt protected in the dark, and it was so much simpler than talking, but Cas scooted away, getting to his feet and walking down the path. Dean rose as well, but didn’t move after him, sitting back down on the bench when he disappeared around the corner. He returned his attention to the angel, tracing its outline with his eyes, rubbing his lips together, afraid to lick them for fear of wiping away all traces of Castiel. He got up, rubbing his hands on his thighs and sticking them into his pockets. He approached the statue, circling it before looking at the plaque on the front. Angel of Thursday, by Balthazar Roche. “My name. It’s the name of an angel. An angel of Thursday.”

     

             Dean stepped away and walked back to the dorm. He knew he didn’t even need to ask Jo to figure out who the artist was. Who else would make a statue named after Cas besides the infamous ex. Dean wanted to push it over, watch its limbs snap off. Cas had been there, missing the guy he used to love, and that was the only reason he’d kissed Dean in the first place. He was convenient. Easy to hate and easy to make fall. Perfect bait for a bigheaded slut.

     

    ---

     

             Dean sat in front of the electric fireplace, skimming the paper and drinking his coffee. The faux-cozy feel of Starbucks was a welcome return after the grungy down-to-earthness of Sacrilege.

     

             “Any interesting news?”

     

             “What are you doing here?”

     

             “I think the more pressing question is why are you reading a paper?”

     

             “I’m not illiterate, you know.”

     

             Cas sat down in the armchair next to him, posture remaining rigid even in the plush chair. He was wearing a green sweater with a pair of bizarre, white hippo-rodent hybrid creatures hugging on it.

     

             “What the fuck are you wearing?”

     

             “A sweater.”

     

             “Yeah, I know. You wear them every day. But what the fuck are those things on it?”

     

             “They are moomins”

     

             “Moo-whats?”

     

             “They are a creature from a popular Finnish comic strip, called Moomins.”

     

             “Oh, God. Hey, Cas, why are you even here? This is a Starbucks.”

     

             Cas blinked slowly at Dean, as if his patience were greatly tried. Then, slowly and deliberately, as if it were a perfectly normal and acceptable thing to do, leaned over the armrests of the chair and over Dean’s lap, jerked Dean’s arms up so the paper was in front of them, and kissed him. Dean had no idea when this had become a commonplace occurrence, but he hardly minded. His arms and the paper fell into his lap as Cas pulled back, slouching into the chair, the cushions devouring his skinny form.

     

             “Don’t ask stupid questions,” he huffed, taking Dean’s coffee from him and sipping it pensively.

     

             Dean raised his eyebrows at Cas, who took another sip of his coffee, staring him down pointedly. He handed it back to Dean, getting to his feet and stretching.

     

             “There’s another party this weekend,” he said.

     

             Dean looked up. Cas fidgeted.

     

             “Yeah?” Dean was fighting to suppress a smile.

     

             “Are you going?”

     

             “No idea it was happening.” Dean took a sip of his coffee nonchalantly, biting his lip. He wanted to hear the words from Cas’s mouth.

     

             “Well, now you do.”

     

             “Yes, I do.”

     

             “You should go.”

     

             “Should I?” Dean quirked a smile at Cas, who scowled.

     

             “For crying out loud, Dean, stop being such an assbutt! I’m trying to ask you to attend a party I am also coincidentally attending with the intentions of sexual interaction.” Cas rushed out the words and stared at Dean, wide-eyed and slightly out of breath. Dean didn’t think it was possible, but his hair seemed to have become more disheveled in the process. He wanted Cas even more upended, possibly in a dark corner, possibly in his bed. And Dean wondered when his mind had started letting him think these things, or how, in the last twelve hours, between seeing Cas on the bench and now, they had entered a formal period of flirting. The bench. The statue. Dean looked away from Cas, focusing on the floor next to his shoes. Right. But... ‘sexual interaction,’ as Cas put it. He looked at Cas, whose mouth was slightly parted, staring at Dean, waiting.

     

             “I’m not an assbutt, I’m adorable,” Dean smirked at Cas, who glowered at him, grabbed his coffee, and stormed out, stupid sweater and all.

     

    ---

     

             Cas texted Dean the info for the party and as Dean saved the unfamiliar number into his phone he wondered how Cas had even got his number in the first place. The message launched the beginning of a constant exchange of observations, questions, and snarky comments about the other’s social choices throughout the rest of the week. When he told Jo about the party and then proceeded to stop mid sentence to type a response to some message Cas sent him complaining about non free-range eggs (he was at the grocery store) and a comment about the library’s lack of Keats, he looked back up to see her smiling widely, lips tight as if she was trying to fight it, and got a sneaking suspicion in his gut. He was too thankful for it to get mad at her for interfering in something he was still trying to believe did not have enough existence to interfere in.

     

    ---

     

             He tapped his foot impatiently the whole week and when he practically ran from the locker room to the Impala on Saturday his team mates laughed and hollered after him, asking who the lucky girl was.

     

             When he began driving, the last few minutes caught up with him and his hands began shaking. He squeezed the steering wheel until they turned white. His teammates. He’d forgotten the past weeks, that he had a social life outside of Jo and expectations on him that did not include Cas. Did not include being gay. Here he was, running to get ready for–– who was he kidding–– a date, which, from Cas’s vague, provocative texts all week, could end very well for his penis and very badly for, well, everything else. He was hours away from what Jo had been referring teasingly to all week as “meeting his destiny,” but he hadn’t even stopped to think what it would mean for everything besides him and Cas.

     

             He pulled into his parking space outside his dorm, breath short and uneven. After a few minutes, his pulse calmed, and he forced himself to release the steering wheel, turn off the ignition, and go to his room to get ready.

     

             He fussed an inane amount before heading out to pick up Jo. Tried on all of his jeans and even a pair of slacks. Tried on shirts and sweaters and button ups and his bed was strewn with them. Cas really was turning him gay. He gelled his hair up more than usual and washed it out saying Cas wouldn’t want to run his fingers through that and that he wouldn’t even get close enough to Cas to have him do that if he was wearing something as stupid as he was now. So he changed. And gelled his hair the normal amount and was just about to start all over again when his phone rang. It was Jo and he picked up and shit, he was thirty minutes late if his clock was anything to go by.

     

             “Sorry, Jo, coming now.”

     

             “I’m sure you look fine, Dean. Stop fussing.”

     

             “I wasn’t––”

     

             “Cas is going to rip off your clothes and fuck up your hair anyway so just get your ass over here.”

     

             “He’s not––”

     

             Jo had already hung up so Dean sighed, pocketed a few condoms (although he was sure Cas wasn’t lacking), and left.

     

             “I can’t do this.”

     

             “Are you fucking with me, Winchester?” Jo snapped. They could feel the reverberation of the bass from across the street and Dean was licking his lips, ashen-faced, staring grimly at the entrance from inside the Impala. Jo gripped his arm tightly. “Dean Winchester, I swear on my brother’s scholarship at MIT that we are going in there and you are getting it up the ass tonight.”

     

             “Not helping, Jo. At all.”

     

             “That is like...what you’re going for, right?”

     

             “...But you didn’t have to...”

     

             “Oh. Gotcha. Sorry. Still freaking out about Cas’s whole having a penis, thing. Sorry he isn’t as effeminate as you used to say he was. Then you could pretend until––”

     

             Dean got out of the Impala, slamming the door, unable to listen to Jo anymore. She followed after him, laughing and apologizing insincerely. He froze up again at the entrance to the party and Jo grabbed him by the elbow and steered him inside. Pam and Chuck met them shortly, already plenty hammered. Pam leered at Dean, wiggling her eyebrows, and Chuck slurred, “Pam kips sayin’ yer gay, buh thas ridiclus. Lookit you, Dean, stray as th’ come.”

     

             Dean smiled nervously and Pam and Jo elbowed Chuck sharply in the gut at the same time. He keeled over, moaning dramatically, and they pushed him into a corner. They proceeded through the house and out into the yard, where the music and dancing were.

     

             Jo pulled at Dean’s arms, egging him to dance. He finally began to move until the crowd shifted and revealed Cas, dancing awkwardly in a surprisingly tame, blue and white snowflake sweater. He was doing his leg-jerky, narrow-hip swaying dance Dean had once found unbearably pretentious until it became endearing, and his head kept snapping around, eyes searching through the people. He turned in Dean’s direction and Dean ducked behind Jo.

     

             “What are you doing, Dean?”

     

             “Dancing behind you.”

     

             “Are you hiding?”

     

             “No. I am altering my position so that Cas doesn’t see me.”

     

             “The whole point you’re here is so that Cas can see you––”

     

             “But I look stupid.”

     

             “––and fuck you.”

     

             “Fuck you.”

     

             “Fuck who?”

     

             Dean spun around. Cas was standing behind him, face caught between a smile caught between sheepish and smug.

     

             Jo elbowed him sharply, jolting him back into action, and when Dean turned she flashed him a smile and a thumbs up before turning to disappear into the crowd. He grabbed her by the wrist and whispered, “Where are you going?”

     

             “To get a drink,” she hissed back. “Stop worrying, you’re starting to act like Sam.”

     

             “It’s easy enough for you to stay calm. I’m the one who might get laid.”

     

             And he did.

     

             Jo smirked and pulled away from Dean. He let her go, turning to face Cas, who rubbed the back of his neck, glancing away from Dean and back again. Dean approached, hanging his flirting date smile on his face. “Just some pretentious dick I know,” he replied to Cas. This was just like every other date or whatever this was. Nothing to worry about. Jo was right, absolutely, and then Cas’s eyes met his, his face still unexpressive. Dean was less than a foot away now and a smile suddenly bloomed across Cas’s face, startling Dean.

     

             “Let’s not make this awkward,” he said, closing the last few inches and beginning to dance. Dean felt the shift of his muscles against him and tried to look everywhere else, but his gaze kept returning to Cas. He moved closer, and closer, wrapping his arms around Dean’s waist with practiced ease, and all Dean could do was gulp and dart his eyes away.

     

             They didn’t last long at the party. Within fifteen minutes they were pressed up in a dark space beneath the stairs, Dean’s hands warm beneath Cas’s sweater as he more panted against his mouth rather than kissed him, one leg pressed between Cas’s. He pushed Dean off and gasped, “My place. Now,” before grabbing his hand and pulling him out into the hall. Dean followed in a daze and wondered if his boner was showing. Cas’s definitely was, but he doubted anyone cared or noticed.

     

             As they left he heard Jo and Pam yell “Use protection, you two!” with Chuck slurring “What’re you talkin’ ‘bout? Dean’s not fuckin’ the hipster!? Nooo!” after them. Dean at any other time would have frozen or punched his friends, but he was far too intent on Cas’s narrow form ahead of him to pay them any attention.

     

             Dean could barely keep his eyes on the road or his hands on the wheel and Cas kept alternating between whispering directions in Dean’s ear and sucking on his earlobe so that Dean nearly crashed the Impala a dozen times even though Cas’s dorm was only a ten minute drive.

     

             Cas pulled Dean forcefully down the hall as Dean tried to grab him and pull him into a kiss, and only when the door was shut and locked behind them did Cas turn and wrap his arms around Dean’s neck, fingers burying in the hair at the base of his head, his other hand working on undoing Dean’s pants.

     

             They stumbled the few feet to the bed, clothes falling from their bodies like leaves in autumn. Cas pulled a big down comforter up over them as they kicked their way beneath the sheets, mumbling “It’s cold,” before pulling Dean close and flush and bare against him. At the feeling of skin against skin, sticking and slick, Dean tried to turn away, but Cas held him there. “It’s okay,” he murmured, hooking a leg around Dean’s waist. “I’ll show you how. I’ll take care of you.” And he did, carefully, fingers knotted together and arms around each other, shifting and pushing and Cas kept asking and Dean kept giving and the way he moaned open-mouthed against his jaw were all the answers he needed, and promising so much more besides. Dean was falling and begging and raging against it and Cas, eyes dark and sparking and needing for himself, caught him with a whimper that bubbled and burst into a shout, harmonizing with Dean’s before fading into breaths, ebbing and flowing in waves that crashed with a rustle and a murmur in the dark.

    Chapter Text

             Dean woke to sunlight shifting across his face and the sound of damp leaves rustling against glass. The sun didn’t shine through his dorm window, and there were no trees outside. He turned his head and soft hair brushed against his cheek. He glanced down and saw the pale curve of Cas’s jaw and the slope of his nose. His lashes fluttered against his slightly flushed cheeks, casting shadows through the low-slung early light. He licked his lips in his sleep and Dean smiled sluggishly, remembering the night before in a daze. He considered sending Jo a victory text, but that would mean getting out of bed, breaking contact with Cas. And the thought of telling someone, even in the most general sense–– he repelled from it, burrowing into the sheets and squeezing Cas’s hand tightly. He didn’t think he could even begin to describe things. It wouldn’t do them justice. Dean slid a leg between Cas’s and pulled him closer. Almost in response, Cas flipped onto his stomach, angled towards Dean, and buried his face in his neck. His eyes blinked open groggily and he looked up. He blinked several more times before smiling slowly.

     

             “Good morning, Dean.”

     

             “Morning, Cas.”

     

             Cas had pushed the blankets back from his shoulders and around his waist, and Dean brushed his fingers along Cas’s spine absentmindedly. On his shoulder blades, jutting upwards slightly, were two angel wing tattoos, small but intricate, ready to take flight. Dean traced the outline of each of them, wondering when Cas would fly away, to bigger and better things, higher places, just like Sammy, because even now, warm and solid against him, Dean could feel the inevitability beneath his skin.

     

             Cas nestled against Dean, locking their ankles together and wrapping his arms around his neck. Almost like a kitten. The comparison combined with the definitive snuggling territory they had entered made Dean prickle uncomfortably, but he shrugged the feeling off and returned to sleep as well, glad Cas hadn’t tried to say anything else, because he didn’t really think there were any words appropriate.

     

    ---

     

             Jo was sitting on Dean’s bed in a blanket, drinking tea and eating a sandwich, watching TV, when he came back in. He closed the door and looked at his feet, trying to sneak in without her noticing even though her head had already whipped around to fix him in a fiercely questioning stare.

     

             “So, did Dean Winchester get lucky last night or what?”

     

             “Jo,” he begged, crossing the room and sitting down on the bed next to Jo, wincing. He was dying to talk about it, fill his mouth and her head with Cas, but he had no idea what to even say. His clothes were wrinkled and his hair could’ve rivaled even Cas’s muss, and from the way he tenderly moved he knew there was no way he could avoid the subject with Jo.

     

             “Looks like someone bottomed.”

     

             Dean wanted to say “Fuck you” but that would be taken as an affirmative so instead he took half her sandwich and began wolfing it down. God, he was hungry.

     

             “Oh hey, you dropped something...Your anal virginity!”

     

             Dean glared at her and took the quarter of a sandwich she had on her plate and ate that too.

     

             “Was he good in the sack?”

     

             Dean swallowed. “His hipbones hurt like fuck.” It was easier to say things in tandem with Jo’s lewd comments, because if he said anything else he’d probably morph into Sammy and his penis would turn inside out into a vagina.

     

             “I see. Did you cry when you came? Did you two whisper intimate things to each other during pillow talk? Did you confess your love and plan to elope?” Jo asked teasingly.

     

             Dean gave her a reproachful look and the mocking grin split across her face into a real one.

     

             “You really like him, don’t you Dean?”

     

             He made a noncommittal sound.

     

             “You know, thirteen-year-old me is really jealous. Remember that massive crush I had on you?”

     

             “Yeah,” Dean laughed, the tension in his muscles easing away. “I remember that. Middle school was fun, huh?”

     

             “Not really.”

     

             “Yeah, not really at all.” Dean smiled at Jo and she smiled back, blinking slowly.

     

             “I’m happy for you, Dean. I think this will be good for you.”

     

             “What will?”

     

             “Having someone. Even if he’s just a bunch of twigs in a sweater.”

     

             “He’s a bunch of hot twigs in a sweater.”

     

             “Smokin’.”

     

             “He’s a literal faggot.”

     

             Jo’s laughter skidded from her throat and she began coughing, beating on her chest as she tried to swallow her sandwich, but unable to control her amusement. Dean began laughing as well, building to hysterics from the sight of Jo, combined with the ridiculousness of everything that had happened in the past two days.

     

             As Dean left his last class, his pocket buzzed. He read the text and fought a smile at Cas’s caller ID, a picture he’d taken on his way out that morning: Cas was rolling over, eyes half-open, squinting like a baby bird in Dean’s direction, terribly confused at the sudden decrease in warmth.

     

             I’m bored.

     

             Must suck being a genius, Dean tapped out the reply with one hand.

     

             I’m not a genius, Dean. My IQ is just significantly above average.

     

             Dean rolled his eyes and got into the Impala. His phone buzzed several more times and he scrolled through his texts at the next red light.

     

             I’m really bored Dean.

             You should entertain me.

             And by that I mean come to my dorm.

             Now.

             And by that I mean suck my dick and I’ll suck yours.

             It doesn’t have to be at the dorm.

     

             Dean snorted and shook his head, shifting back into drive as the car behind him honked. “I’m going, I’m going.”

     

             When he pulled up into the parking lot beside the football field, he replied, Sorry. Can’t. Practice.

     

             ):, was the only reply he got and Dean slipped his phone into his pocket and entered the locker room, glad the ache in his legs and lower back was finally subsiding.

     

    ---

     

             Dean spun around, water filling his eyes, as the sharp sting of a towel hit his ass, followed by a catcall.

     

             “What the fuck, man?” he yelled after Adam.

     

             “Someone did well!” he replied.

     

             Gordon turned at the exchange, gave Dean a once over, and let out a low wolf-whistle. “Was she a vampire or something?”

     

             “Wha––?” Dean glanced down at his chest and reddened. Starting from what he could see of his collarbone, extending all the way to one on his inner thigh, were sporadic, rosy bruise-marks of varying sizes. Fuck, Cas. “I...uh...”

     

             The guys all started laughing and Dean turned the water off angrily, crossing to a bench and wrapping a towel around his waist, although it did little for protection of the hickeys.

     

             “Who is it? I think I can speak for all of us when I say we’d all like a hit of...that.”

     

             “Fuck you,” Dean snarled, angrily pulling on a pair of boxers, followed by pants. He hated the idea of them talking about Cas like that, even though they had no idea it was Cas. And if they did, well, shit, that would be a whole other story, and probably far less nice, if degrading, things would be coming out of their mouths.

     

             He left the locker room still buttoning his shirt, wishing his teammates’ chasing leers bounced off instead of sinking into his back to settle in the bottom of his ribcage.

     

             He swung by the grocery store just off campus and grabbed two boxes of sushi: dynamite roll for him and an angel roll for Cas (He might have possibly remembered that it was his favorite roll from a text, but that did not mean he was memorizing random Cas trivia in his spare time). On the way to checkout, he tossed a piece of pie in the basket as well because if Cas was still as horny as the barrage of texts he’d received during practice stated, interesting things could happen with pie. And if Cas wasn’t, and they ended up snuggling and watching the obscure cult TV shows Cas was so fond of, well, that was okay too, because with Cas cuddling wasn’t a totally abject idea. And pie was still awesome, even if it wasn’t put to recreational use.

     

    ---

     

             When Cas answered the door Dean nearly dropped the bag of groceries. He was wearing a black sweater with a rocky horror mouth on it and a pair of black boxer briefs. His hair was sticking up on one side as if he’d been sleeping on it and his eyes were slightly glazed.

     

             “Oh,” he said, hand dropping limply from the door to hang by his side.

     

             “Oh?” Dean tried not to sound disappointed.

     

             “Oh,” Cas said, smiling and wrapping his arms around Dean, kissing him firmly. Dean parted his lips to let Cas in and could taste faint traces of pot on his tongue. His first reaction was to pull away; he avoided that stuff because of his football scholarship, but the open shallowness of it all, and the way Cas’s breath rushed into his lungs and filled them to bursting point pulled him into the room, closing the door behind himself.

     

             “Surprise,” Dean said breathily as Cas pulled away, rubbing his face. His stubble was a significant shadow. He’d forgotten to shave.

     

             “Good one.” Cas crouched by his minifridge and pulled out two beers, offering one to Dean.

     

             “I brought dinner. You said you like sushi...”

     

             “How cute of you to remember, Losechester,” Cas teased, straightening up, and Dean missed the view.

     

             “You wish, Castiel.”

     

             “I know.” Cas poked Dean in the chest with his index finger, tilting his head to the side and half-smiling.

     

             They didn’t get to the sushi or the beer until thirty minutes and a soiled dishtowel later.

     

             Cas animatedly explained the storyline of what he’d been watching, a show called Happy Town that had been so bizarre they cancelled it after the third episode, but had allowed the first eight to air. The show was creepy, but Dean smirked at Cas as he played up the fear, practically crawling into Dean’s lap. They fed each other sushi and made out lazily during the slow bits of the show and drank beers and the pie was only put to regular ingestive uses; but from the way Cas ate his, staring at Dean pointedly, tongue straddling the fork, it was toeing a fine line. Dean knew he should be disgusted at the cutesy, romance novel, teenage girliness of it, but oddly enough, he wasn’t.

     

             As the fourth consecutive episode ended and Cas began fiddling with Dean’s zipper, he glanced at his watch.

     

             “Fuck. It’s like eleven, Cas. I have to go.”

     

             Cas sat up, scowling. “No.”

     

             “I really––”

     

             “Stay here.”

     

             “Cas...”

     

             “Dean.”

     

             Dean kissed him chastely and got up, slipping into his boots and jacket and grabbing his car keys from the table. He glanced at Cas from the door, who was sitting crossed legged on the floor in front of his bed, eyes bright and pupils wide, lip thrust out in a pout. He leaned back, arms bracing himself, watching Dean through narrow eyes, hips jutting forward slightly, displaying his frustration. Well wasn’t that just...

     

             “I guess I can stay a little longer...”

     

             Cas grinned.

     

             A little longer turned from a hand job to finishing Happy Town, to fucking Cas on a pile of sweaters at the foot of his bed.

             Dean bit his lip, groaning, and Cas pushed him off. He let out a whine of protest and he fell backwards, Cas’s legs untangling from around his waist.

     

             “Cas,” he began through gritted teeth.

     

             “I do not wish to get come all over my babies,” he stated, rolling off of the pile and straddling Dean. The carpet rubbed against his back, even itchier than the sweaters.

     

             “They’re a bunch of hideous sweaters.”

     

             “You call your car your baby. How is that any different? Would you wish to have bodily fluids smeared on the Impala’s backseat?”

     

             “Well, actually Cas...”

     

             Cas’s eyes sparked. “I’m holding that as a promise.”

     

             Dean’s groan at that thought was muffled as Cas kissed him.

     

             They never made it to the bed.

     

    ---

     

             Dean woke to an overcast sky outside the window, a sheet still half on the bed draped over him and Cas. His phone was buzzing and he hoped it wouldn’t wake Cas, who was nestled against his chest, as he reached in the general direction above his head.

     

             “Hello?” he said, voice still thick with sleep.

     

             “Dean.”

     

             “Sammy! It’s you!”

     

             “Yeah, genius, and I’m calling from my phone, the number of which you have saved.”

     

             Cas let out a low whine in his sleep and shifted, grinding against Dean, who blushed at the feeling of his morning wood, as if Sam could see the position he was in.

     

             “Is someone there, Dean?”

     

             “Yeah, uh, can I call you back later? I’m a bit...”

     

             “Oh. Is it the girl you were talking about? Cassie, right? Is this like, a morning after morning?” He could feel Sam’s excited grin. What a bitch.

     

             “Uh...” Dean hated lying to Sam, but he didn’t know how to respond. He wasn’t ready to have that talk, to explain things to anyone, even his little brother. Or especially his little brother, he supposed, since explaining Cas would lead to discussing the other...stuff, like Cas wrapping his arms against Dean’s neck and whining, “But why won’t you give me a blow job, Dean? I’m so haaaard.”

     

             Dean really did not want to know what Cas was dreaming about.

     

             “Dean what is––?”

     

             “I’ll call you later, Sammy,” Dean grunted, pushing Cas off, who clung to him as he got up from the floor, searching around for his pants.

    Chapter Text

             It all became a blur to Dean. The days rolled by and things were divided evenly, time in his dorm, time with Jo, time in class, time with other friends, time at football, time asleep, time awake, time in the Impala. And then there was time with Cas and it was all mixed in there because he was thinking about him when he wasn’t talking to him which he almost always was when he wasn’t with him. And when he was with him it was all big blue and it felt like he was drowning.

     

             He wondered if this was what falling in love was like–– something he never had planned to do.

     

             It was less like a fall and more like sinking, surrounded by pressure and dark and gasps.

     

             That sounded about right, Dean thought as he tugged Cas’s head back by the longer hair on the top of his head, sucking on his neck, getting a hiss in response.

     

             He caught Cas looking at him sometimes, like how he did when they first met, a look he came to recognize as possessive. Like he could read Dean’s mind and knew exactly how full it was of himself. Like he knew Dean was trapped and he was happy about it, because Dean was his, all his, no one else’s. He was made to catch him as he fell, to pull him out of the depths.

     

             He bit into Dean’s shoulder, harder than he should’ve and Dean let out a yelp of protest. He held Cas tighter, trying to gain some leverage, anything to put him back in control, the way he liked to be, send him off moaning into the hereafter, weakly thrusting, hands on Dean’s hips and leaving bruises. But Cas liked control even more and tightened his legs around Dean, shifting and groaning, and the noise was enough to render Dean incapable of thought.

     

    • • • • • • • •

     

             Dean heard a faint thrum followed by several soft plucking noises and the sound of a pen scratching on paper. He rolled over in the direction of Cas’s warmth and opened his eyes.

     

             The room was blue and still, everything seeming slowed down, like they were underwater. A wide-eyed moon could be seen out of Cas’s small window. Cas wasn’t looking at Dean; He was sitting up, sheets rumpled around his waist, guitar in his lap and notebook open before him. He was shifting his fingers over the strings, without plucking them, although each movement left faint residual thrumming noises that tripped over each other. Cas bit his lip, scribbled something out, and turned to look at Dean, eyes soft.

     

             “Cas?” Dean asked sleepily, a smile in his voice.

     

             Cas started, eyes widening, pen dropping and guitar sliding off his lap with a hollow clang.

     

             “Dean?” he squeaked,

     

             “Shh, chill out dude.” Dean pulled himself closer to Cas, resting his head against his hip and giving him a light kiss on the protruding hipbone. “What are you doing up, anyway, Casanova?”

     

             “We don’t have any class tomorrow, and…Casanova?” Cas fiddled with Dean’s hair.

     

             “Cas-anova.”

     

             Cas smiled, closing his eyes for a moment before looking at Dean again; his eyes seemed to have become brighter.

     

             “What are you writing? Is it about me?” Dean teased, pulling the notebook towards him and lying over Cas’s lap to read the slanted cursive; he didn’t notice Cas’s blush. Dean froze, and turned to look at Cas with wide eyes.

     

             “Cas?”

     

             “Would you kill me if I was writing a song about you?” Cas wouldn’t look at him.

     

             Dean wasn’t sure how to respond. There was a salty taste in his mouth and he seemed too full of big blue to say anything. So he kissed him; pushing him back against the bed and tugging the sheet up over their heads so the light diffused into a soft, ethereal blue and Cas giggled, so close that his laughter fell into Dean’s mouth and became Dean’s laughter. 

     

    And there was that time where we went to the beach

    The waves were roaring and I could feel each one

    Oh I could feel, I could feel each one

     

    And there was that time where we went to the park

    And sat on the bench in that darkest of dark

    I asked you to hold me but you didn’t know how

    I couldn’t say I loved you but I’m saying it now

     

    The waves are coming I can see them from our bed

    And the salt of our words is filling up my head

    All I can see is this bright big blue

    And falling and drowning is all that do

     

    The waves are coming I can see them from our bed

    All leather and concrete water’s filling up my head

    Your scattered freckles turn to kisses on my back

    The water is rushing, spilling through the cracks

    • • • • • • • •

             And that’s how things went, he supposed. On and on and he didn’t mind. It was all moments he felt rather than remembered. The sensation of it, of a memory composed of emotion, rather than thought, it was bizarre, it was incredible, but sometimes, it scared him; and despite all the soft kisses and warm water splashing over their legs in the bath, there was the darkness too. There was the anger when Cas pushed him against the wall, impatient, not taking his time; there were still the dreams of being torn apart by water, by blue and salt and rough whispers of the last thing Dean wanted to hear. There was the smell of pot when he got over and found Cas opening the windows with a guilty glance at Dean. There were the closed off eyes Cas tried to hard to hide when Dean said certain things, and Dean would drink beer with Jo and bitch about it–– about how they shouldn’t have secrets because, because–– because, what, Dean-o? He’s your boyfriend –– and Dean would tell her to shut the fuck up because what did she know and she’d laugh at him and ask if he’d told Sammy yet because you have to tell him sometime, Dean, he’s your brother.

     

             Cas had become a well-loved and spoiled bad habit of Dean’s, and he was wondering when things would sour, because they always did. Perhaps it was an overindulgence, all this sex and smiling and deleting texts so no one found out besides Jo–– perhaps it was poison. He was waiting with baited breath he only exhaled when Cas looked away. Waiting for the other foot to fall, because it always did.

     

             It started on a Sunday. Cas had pulled him out to go sweater shopping since winter was quickly setting in. They were in a tightly packed church thrift store in a chapel’s basement and Cas was shifting through what seemed like the hundredth rack of sweaters, focused intently on the myriad colored scraps. Dean watched him. Thrift stores had never appealed to him and he wondered when he became so much Cas’s boyfriend he could be whipped into going shopping with him. And holding the keepers, but no one ever needed to know about that.

     

             Cas looked up at him suddenly, holding up a turquoise sweater with black vine patterns and asked, “Does this match my eyes?”

     

             Dean was shocked to think Cas consciously brought attention to those magnificent eyes of his, since they seemed to shine so naturally.

     

             “Dude, you’re already having sex with me. You’re not making me any gayer than that.”

     

             Cas scowled and thrust the sweater towards him. Dean took it obligingly and draped it over his arm, on top of all the others.

     

             “Then you don’t get to fuck me when I’m wearing it,” he huffed

     

             “We’ll see about that. Hey, Cas? Do you really need all of these? I mean you already have like...a mountain in your room.”

     

             “Yes. I do, Dean.” Cas handed him a hideous red and silver monstrosity with a fringy Christmas tree and plastic Christmas lights attached.

     

             “I’m wearing this on Christmas.”

     

             “No. You’re never wearing this.”

     

             “But Dean...”

     

             “You might be such a hipster you need to prove your superiority through clothing no one else has but I will not even be seen with you as a friend much less the guy I’m in the closet with if you wear this.”

     

             “Dean––”

     

             “This is so ugly I wouldn’t even bully you if you wore this because being in any sort of context, even by association with it would automatically render me unfuckable.”

     

             “So you’re saying this sweater will remove the desire to copulate with me in others it is so ugly?”

     

             “Yes.”

     

             “I’m buying it.”

     

             “Why?

     

             “So I can laugh when I prove you wrong.” Cas bit his lip as Dean glared at him, fighting a smile. He leaned over the rack, causing it to shift and several sweaters to fall off their hangers, as he leaned in for a kiss. Dean jerked away, neck prickling at the blatant publicness of the location and Cas’s gesture. Cas might be fine and dandy waving his gay or bi or pan or whatever flag, but Dean wasn’t. Dean didn’t even have one to wave. It was just Cas, although he’d never tell him that. He saw the hurt in Cas’s face as he pulled away though, the broken look creeping into the edge of his eyes, something he’d forgotten about, that he’d never wanted to see again.

     

             He wanted to kiss it off.

     

             “Cas, we should try on those sweaters.”

     

             Cas tilted his head to the side for a moment, brow slightly furrowed, puzzled, before his eyes widened. “Oh. Yes, Dean. Yes we should, they might be too small. Wouldn’t want them too tight.”

     

             The sweaters fell onto the floor of the changing room with a clatter as Cas perched on the edge of the seat, watching Dean wolfishly, legs spread apart. His nails scrabbled against the cheap wood paneling as Dean took him into his mouth, and he was glad the overly loud pop music blanketed their noise.

     

             Cas left wearing the Christmas sweater, cheeks flushed and damp, gripping Dean’s hand tightly, smirk reaching all the way up to his eyes.

     

             As they paid, he turned to Dean, who was eyeing the bags apprehensively and said, “Don’t be jealous, Dean. I love you more than sweaters.”

     

             Dean froze, the crashing in the bottom of his mind flooding into the space behind his forehead, dripping into his heart, frothing in the corners of his eyes. He stammered incoherently for a moment, the frigid fear running into his marrow and circling in his ears. There were a thousand things he could say, a thousand things he could do. Angry things, careful things, all things that would make Cas smile, that he was sure would banish the look that hung like cobwebs in the back of his gaze. Instead he said,

     

             “Did you love Balthazar more than sweaters, too?”

     

             Cas said nothing, but his shy, nervous smile disintegrated. He handed the cashier his money, took his change and his bag, and walked out the door. Dean followed after him, stomach churning, the roaring sound still filling his ears, wishing Cas would turn around. Just look at him. Just that.

     

             He didn’t.

     

             “Cas,” Dean called.

     

             He reached the Impala and walked around to the passenger side.

     

             “Cas!”

     

             Dean reached the car, opened the door and slid in. Cas yanked his door open and flung himself into his seat, tossing the sweaters into the space at his feet.

     

             “Cas.”

     

             “I don’t want to talk to you right now, Dean.”

     

             “Cas...”

     

             “That’s not fair of you. I never even talked to you about it.”

     

             “Cas, I’m sorry. I––”

     

             “Just don’t. I’m not––I mean––” He ran his hand through his hair, bags rustling as he shifted his legs. “––Everyone knows. I shouldn’t have expected you wouldnt’ve––I’m sorry, just––just drop me off at my dorm, okay?”

     

             Dean said nothing, sucking on the inside of his lip, a salty taste in his mouth.

     

             The drive was silent and he dropped Cas off.

     

             “Bye Dean, I’ll see you later.”

     

             He shuffled to the door without looking over his shoulder. As he fiddled with his keys he glanced at Dean, who smiled overly brightly back, but he didn’t return the gesture. Dean waved hesitantly as Cas opened the door and disappeared inside.

    • • • • • • • •

             Things didn’t stay bad, which Dean was grateful for. Cas called him after his test on Beethoven and they made out and ate microwave tacos and fell asleep in their clothes on Dean’s bed. Or rather, Dean in a t-shirt and his underwear and Cas in a sweater.

    • • • • • • • •

             They walked to Sacrilege the next day, because Cas wanted to wear one of his new sweaters out in defiance of the cold and Dean still felt too guilty to argue with him. Cas took his hand and Dean tensed, afraid someone would see even in the empty street. He quickly let go and after glancing around surreptitiously, Dean twined his fingers into Cas’s, squeezing slightly. Cas gave a sharp squeeze, almost painful in return, Dean’s joints grinding. The leaves were frostbit and crackled beneath their shoes as they walked, Cas speeding up when they approached a cluster, wanting to beat Dean to it. He loved the sound and Dean felt a pang in his chest each time he stomped down on them.

     

             Since the thrift store, he’d been hyper-aware of Cas, of the little details that accentuated his Cas-ness. He catalogued them, cherished them, shuffled through them when he was by himself or bored with the people around him. He’d forgotten how broken Cas was, how much he didn’t say, that despite his confident smirk and the way he only had to glance at Dean a certain way to have him roll over, whimpering, he was fragile, liable to wash away. How easy it would be for Dean to fuck it up irreparably. Cas was good at fixing things, he’d noticed, but he didn’t want to push it and find out when things were too broken to be fixed.

     

             Dean gave him a light kiss on the cheek and felt Cas smile at the touch. He squeezed the tips of Dean’s fingers and the constriction traveled up his arm, circling his ribs.

     

             Since Cas had said it, however accidental, or intentional, as might have been the case, Dean couldn’t get it out of his mind.

     

             “I love you more than sweaters.”

     

             It would echo around in his head until it was all he could hear, and he wished he could hear it again, fresh. See that hewn luster in Cas’s eyes as he said it, the slight, apprehensive smile.

     

             “I’m sorry,” Dean said suddenly, the words sharp in the cold air.

     

             Cas looked at him. “Hm?”

     

             “I’m sorry about...at the thrift store.”

     

             “Oh. Yes. That.” Cas dropped his hand.

     

             “That was really fucked up of me.”

     

             “Yeah, it was.”

     

             Dean fidgeted uncomfortably, pulling on his fingers.

     

             “Who told you?”

     

             “Jo. When I asked her to...find out who you were...she...” Dean blushed and hated himself for it.

     

             “And she dug up all my dirt.”

     

             “Just the...uh...college stuff yeah.”

     

             Cas let out a huff Dean thought could possibly be taken as amusement. “I guess our pasts are never behind us, huh?”

     

             “Not with that statue he made of you on campus.”

     

             Now it was Cas’s turn to blush. “Right, that.”

     

             “It’s beautiful. I actually sort of wish I’d made it. Or like...something...for you, you know?”

     

             Cas’s hand slipped into his again. “It’s okay. I don’t have expectations for you in comparison to him.”

     

             Dean’s lips twitched.

     

             “I suppose you know the story?”

     

             “Yeah, enough. Don’t really want the details since, you know...”

     

             “You’re jealous.”

     

             Saying no would have been a lie so Dean asked, “Do you miss him?”

     

             “I guess you could say, yeah,” he sighed. “I mean, I miss waking up to him, you know? Certain things he would say, that I hear now or something like that, and I think ‘Balth would’ve said that.’ But, I think it’s more just having someone, because when I think about us, as Us, well, it was actually pretty shit. He wasn’t exactly nice to me, except when we were having sex.”

     

             Dean flushed at Cas’s words, partially regretting asking in the first place.

     

             “But, no, I mean, not now. When I was at the statue that night, I was questioning. It’s a place I like to think. I was thinking about you that night, actually, and then there you were––” Cas smiled to himself, glancing down. “No, I don’t miss him, Dean. Not now. There’s no room in here to.” He turned his eyes to Dean, meeting his levelly.

     

             Dean caught his lips, everything going still in the frozen November street, except for the push and pull of their breath.

    Chapter Text

             “How do you feel about steak?” Jo asked as soon as Dean picked up the phone.

     

             “What?”

     

             “Steak. Meat of cow. I’m buying us takeout dinner at Albertson’s and I want to go all out.”

     

             “Why?”

     

             “Because I heard Cas was away on a trip to see some play and I haven’t seen to you in two weeks you’ve been so busy being happy, which, you know, it’s great that you’re happy, but it sucks for me cos you’re my best friend. Which also means we need to celebrate.”

     

             “Celebrate?”

     

             “Your getting a boyfriend.”

     

             “He’s not...”

     

            “He so is. You ditched me to go shopping with him.”

     

            “Fuck you.”

     

            “That’s more like the Dean Winchester I once knew and loved.”

     • • • • • • • • •

            Jo was lying on her back on Dean’s bed in a pair of his boxers and her bra, something he would have deemed cheating with anyone else (because yes, he had begun to consider looking as cheating, and he didn’t even want to go where that meant), sipping a beer and shifting her gaze listlessly from him to the TV. It was the Dr. Sexy mid-season finale and they were waiting anxiously to see if Dr. Sexy would be able to remove the inoperable brain tumor–– that of course, he was operating on ––from the frontal lobe of his true love.

     

             Dean was scooping ice cream into bowls, his face aching from smiling. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed Jo the past few weeks. He’d been with Cas in all his free time; no matter what he did it felt like he didn’t spend enough time with Cas, but he’d missed the lazy banter with Jo. The only person who knew him better than her was Sammy, and not even he did completely these days.

     

             As if on queue, Jo pulled herself into a sitting position. “Have you told Sam, yet?”

     

             “About what?”

     

             “Seriously?”

     

             Dean didn’t reply, because playing the stupid card was not going to cut it. Nowhere close.

     

             “You’re not just fucking a guy, Dean. Although from all your pocket-dials there’s a lot of that going on. I haven’t seen you for two weeks. The last time that happened was when you went with your family on vacation to Canada cos Sam won that essay contest about moose. This is––”

     

             “Yeah, it is. Okay.”

     

             “Okay.”

     

             Shut the fuck up. “I’m waiting for the right time.”

     

             “I see. Are you also avoiding him?”

     

             “What?”

     

             Dean put the ice cream away and brought the bowls over, sitting beside Jo, spoons clinking as they slid around the rim.

     

             “He emailed me asking why you were ignoring his calls and texts.”

     

             “Uh...”

     

             “He’s going to find out, Dean.”

     

             At his aghast stare, Jo laughed. “I’m not going to tell him. I’d never do that, but Sam’s a smart kid, he’ll know eventually. And would you rather he finds out by walking in on you two or you telling him?”

     

             Dean nodded, saying nothing.

     

             “Okay.”

     

             “Okay,” he replied.

      • • • • • • • •

             Dean gritted his teeth, turning his head to look out the window at the passing scenery as Cas’s hand crept up his thigh, stroking his index finger along the rough denim, toying with his zipper.

     

             “Cas. You’re driving.”

     

             Cas had convinced him to go to a bonfire that some of his friends were throwing. He promised Dean he wouldn’t let on that they were...whatever they were, and apologized in advance for anything they might say to him. Dean wondered if the beach was the same one they’d gone to. Where it had all started.

     

             Cas was pushing against Dean’s growing erection with the flat of his palm, and Dean waved him away. The last thing he needed was to get to the bonfire horny and unsatisfied and have to sit there all night unable to do anything about it. Or have Cas crash the car. That could be a problem too.

     

             “This is not road-safe.”

     

             “It’ll be fine.”

     

             “Jerking me off while you drive will most definitely not be fine.”

     

             “Dean, don’t worry. I’ve driven on acid before and no one died.”

     

             No one did, and Cas’s falling apart red car with the scratched paint pulled into the sandy beach parking lot safely, with a smug Cas behind the wheel and a slumped over, panting Dean in the passenger seat.

     

             They were bearable, Dean thought, as Gabriel, some dick in a flannel, finished another long-winded story he’d lost track of five minutes ago. The rest of them laughed, sounding like seagulls flocking around scavenged food, and Dean forced a dry laugh as well. Cas was watching him out of the corner of his eye and from the tenseness in his shoulders, rather than the usual relaxed slope, he could tell he was nervous. Nervous that Dean wouldn’t like his friends. He swelled with importance at the thought. He could’ve kissed Cas right then, paid him back for the car ride, but they were being careful. While Cas had none of the fears Dean did about people knowing he was whatever-the-fuck-sexual, he had also expressed a desire to keep things under wraps. They hoarded each other, didn’t want anyone else to know. Didn’t want to explain themselves to people who wouldn’t understand anyway. How the football scholarship Kansas boy ended up with the northwestern hipster.

     

             “So how do you know Castiel again?” A thin black guy, Dean thought his name was Raphael, asked, eyes darting between them.

     

             “When Starbucks––” derisive snorts all around and Dean shifted irritatedly. “––closed for awhile I started going to Sacrilege, and I saw Cas––Castiel a bit there, and I’m friends with Anna, we have a few classes together, and we ran into him one day when we were hanging out, and she introduced us and yeah, things sort of took off from there.”

     

             “Took off. I see, like in bed? Is his big sister okay with that?” Gabriel snickered, arousing laughs from the group.

     

             Dean held his hands out in front of the fire, warming them, hoping the glow masked the angry flush in his cheeks.

     

             “No, Gabe. We’re good friends, Dean and I, nothing more,” Cas replied when it became obvious Dean was not going to. He felt a prickle of irritation at how easily Cas said it, partly jealous since he knew despite all his capability with lying, his voice couldn’t have been steadier.

     

             “Big sister?” Dean asked, confused.

     

             “Yes. Anna is Castiel’s older sister.”

     

             Dean glanced at Cas, surprised. Cas shrugged in response.

     

             “Oh, I never...knew that.”

     

             "I didn't think it was of import," Cas muttered defensively, and Dean's eyebrow quirked at the comment.

     

             “Now you do, Dean. Watch out for Castiel though, he’ll find a way into your pants before you even realize it, and leave you with nothing but a shattered sexuality and no reputation.”

     

             Dean swallowed dryly, staring into the bonfire, wishing he could just take Cas’s hand and run through the cold night with him to the car and back to the dorm and curl up beneath his big comforter and hear the rustle of breath in the warm cocoon as they fell asleep. Cas’s fingers brushed against his hand lightly as he shifted positions, and Dean knew it was intentional, an apologetic promise.

     

             The conversation shifted then, to music and books and podcasts and blogs and so many things Dean couldn’t follow or didn’t get, becoming acutely aware of his Midwestern upbringing with his mechanic father and housewife mother and genius brother that would go so much further than he ever would. So Dean just lost himself in the flames and how they too had currents and shifted in sheets of gold just like the waves, and watched Cas laugh and smirk in the eddies of shimmering air above the fire, all mask just how when they’d first met.

     

             “Dean. Hey, Dean. Dean.”

     

             Dean shifted out of his reverie. “Huh?”

     

             “Want some?”

     

             Zac, a gaunt guy with greasy dull brown hair cut in uneven layers offered a joint to Dean. He felt Cas’s gaze on him, not pressuring, just observing.

     

             “Oh, uh, yeah, sure.”

     

             Dean took it from Zac awkwardly, setting it on his lips and inhaling deeply, glad he was able to handle the smoke without coughing. It had been a few years. He caught sight of Cas as he exhaled, long, thick plumes spilling over his lips and from his nostrils, and he smiled through the smoke. Cas was licking his lips and glancing from Dean to the fire and back again, eyes dark and wide and Dean recognized that look. It was the look Cas gave him when all he wanted was Dean.

     

             Cas took the joint from him when he proffered it, fumbling to put it to his mouth. As he exhaled, closing his eyes and passing it on to Raphael, Dean understood the look. The billows of smoke, the way he licked his lips afterwards. It was hot.

     

             The night wore on, sinking into a stupor, and everything became more bearable in the hands of smoke and beer. A few more people came, three girls named Lils, Ruby, and Meg with two guys they called Aze and Al, twins from the look of it. Dean recognized Meg as the girl Cas had kissed at the first party, a memory forgotten until then, and from the way she raked her eyes over Cas hungrily, Dean realized what keeping things secret meant. It meant he couldn’t move over, kiss Cas until he was breathless, look at Meg, and have everything be perfectly clear. But when she sat down next to Cas, hand on his thigh, and he rolled his eyes and moved away, closer to Dean, the message was painfully clear. Meg scowled and moved away to find another guy to smother.

     

             Cas met Dean’s eyes and smiled, raising his eyebrows in a helpless gesture.

     

             People shifted. A few people would make out suddenly, and it would die down in a matter of minutes. Lils left with Aze and disappeared in the rocks and a few people went stumbling down the beach, dropping clothes and tossing themselves into the ocean hollering. “We’re so free, going back to nature. It’s all we need.” They left their iPhones by the fire so they wouldn’t get wet.

     

             Cas shifted closer to Dean, as per their natural gravity, and as the fire burned low and people came back, curling up in fleece blankets with dream catchers and wolves printed on them, nursing beers, Cas nestled against Dean, a hand on his chest, the other fumbling and at last twining their fingers. Dean rested his cheek against the top of Cas’s head and wrapped an arm around him, supporting him. He vaguely remembered that this did not coincide with their keeping it on the down low, but fuck it, we’re cold, seemed like an adequate enough excuse.

     

             “Can we stay like this forever?” Cas mumbled, lids closing in the face of the warm fire.

     

             “No. Not with them.”

     

             “My friends are dicks,” Cas slurred, and Dean kissed his forehead appreciatively, lips tripping over strands of hair, pulling Cas to his feet and guiding them down the beach toward the parking lot. No one noticed them leave, too involved with each other. Since it had started Dean had realized they were both outsiders, not just him. He could tell Cas had noticed too. They’d become an isolated entity, unable to relate to others outside their sphere, and Dean wondered if it was a bad thing, this detachment.

     

             But when Cas kissed him at last, in the shelter of the car, windblown and warm with chill edges, tasting of their own world, Dean knew it wasn’t bad, just the best.

    Chapter Text

             Thanksgiving crept up on Dean without his noticing, until he was staring it down from a week away. As he looked over his calendar, Cas asleep in his lap, his phone rang. Almost as if sensing his thoughts, the Caller ID read Home.

     

             “Hey,” he sighed as he picked up.

     

             “Hi sweetie.”

     

             “Mom,” Dean smiled.

     

             “I was calling to see if you could come out for Thanksgiving. I know you’re busy, but we miss you, and it’s Sam’s last one at home, and it would be so nice to just be together...and if you’re seeing a girl, she’s welcome too, of course.”

     

             As soon as his mom said it, Dean’s chest was aching. He missed his parents and Sam. God, he missed Sam. He looked down at Cas, who threw an arm over Dean’s waist, grinning in his sleep. And Cas, too. He wanted to see Cas in a hideous turkey sweater curled up on his couch watching TV with his mom and Sam. He could already tell that Sam would love him. He knew Cas’s plans were just to hang around and study, something he’d been slacking on since he and Dean...so it was very easy for Dean to say, “Could I bring Cas?”

     

             “Cas?” His mother’s voice was polite, questioning.

     

             Dean swore silently at his near slip, glad he’d had time to catch himself.

     

             “He’s a new friend of mine. He’s just hanging around campus by himself and I was wondering if he could come home with me, see what a real Kansas Thanksgiving is like, he’s from one of those hippie towns, and just be fed some real food and sleep in a heated room for a little while.” Dean cursed himself inwardly, wondering if the rambling let on to anything.

     

             If Mary was suspicious, it didn’t show, she simply said, “Sounds lovely. I’ll let your father know you’re bringing a friend with you. See you on Friday?”

     

             Dean calculated driving time plus breaks and stops with Cas at turn-offs.

     

             “Yeah, probably between eleven and midnight?”

     

             “Okay, Dean. See you soon, love you.”

     

             “Love you too, Mom.”

     

             As he set his phone down on the bedside table, Dean felt a rush of relief that he hadn’t had to speak with his father. Lying to his mom was one thing, because she’d understand when he...told her...whenever that was, but lying to his father...

     

             Cas yawned, breath fluttering on Dean’s stomach, and rolled onto his back, looking up at Dean.

     

             “Were you talking to someone?”

     

             “Yeah, I’m going home for Thanksgiving. And you’re coming with me.”

     

             A slow, warm smile spread across Cas’s face at this, still half-asleep.

     

             “We’ll have to be really quiet,” he murmured, planting a kiss on Dean’s hip.

     

             “Yeah, I guess we will.”

     

             “Let’s...mmmf...practice.”

     

             Dean tilted his head back, letting out a sigh of agreement.

    • • • • • • • •

             He had lunch with Jo the day before they set out, while Cas was packing. He actually did have a turkey sweater, and was looking everywhere for it frantically, determined not to pass up the perfect occasion.

     

             “So let me get this straight, Winchester–– no pun intended––” Dean rolled his eyes as Jo took another bite of salad. “You’re taking your boyfriend, whom you have sex with more than you seem to do anything else, to your parents house for Thanksgiving, under the pretenses that he is your good friend and that you are still straight as a slice of grocery store white bread, with not even Sam in the loop to cover for you should the need arise?”

     

             “Yes,” Dean replied, biting into his cheeseburger. Stated like that the idea of cuddling by the fireplace and his whole family loving Cas seemed less appealing.

     

             “Well good thing I’m going to visit Ma and Bobby for the second half of the break so you’ll have an ally––again, no pun intended––”

     

             “That’s not even a pun.”

     

             “––Gay, GSA, allies, just roll with it–– to help keep your secret.”

     

             “Thanks.”

     

             “I’m not hauling ass back home to fight with Mom just so you and Cas can have some help and get rescued if need be. I’m doing my duty as Joanna Beth Harvelle, and simultaneously getting an opportunity to laugh my ass off while you and Cas try to keep your penises to yourselves.”

     

             “So you’re not going to help me out?”

     

             “I will, if your parents are going to find out, but I’ll take my sweet time about it, and gather enough blackmail evidence for a lifetime. I’m really hoping for some pictures of shower head or walk in from Sammy.”

     

             “Thanks for the mental image.”

     

             “No problem.”

    • • • • • • • •

             They took to the road on Thursday morning, with whole-wheat sandwiches Cas had made, which Dean grimaced at suspiciously. He had a to-go slice of pie and a burger as well, glad for an excuse to pass on the alfalfa and tofu medleys. Cas only rolled his eyes and said, “More for me.”

     

             He watched Dean eat his cheeseburger as they refilled gas and when Dean noticed his staring he said, “You can have some,” and gave him the remaining half of his burger. Cas wolfed it down hungrily, closing his eyes and letting out a deep sigh, almost a groan.

     

             “This makes me very, very happy.”

     

             “Damn skippy, now get that tiny, flat ass of yours back in the car.”

     

             Cas glared at him, cheeks puffed out, and slid into the passenger seat.

     

             Music quickly became an issue, because neither of them could find a medium between Dean’s Metallica and Zeppelin mix CDs and Cas’s iPod jack full of echoey, acoustic ballads that didn’t even have names, just Track 1, Track 2, and so on.

     

             “Come ooooon, Dean,” Cas whined.

     

             “No. Absolutely not. You’re not girling up my baby.”

     

             “I’ll do the thiiiinnnggg.”

     

             “Which thing?” Dean’s voice plucked with interest.

     

             “The thing. With the...”

     

             “Oh. That thing.” Several registers higher. Dean tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, bit his lip, glanced at Cas and back at the road and back at Cas again. “Oh alright. Fine. But just this once. And we get to do it the whole trip.”

     

             Cas smiled appreciatively, ejecting the CD and setting up his iPod.

     

             “It’s like an IV of doucheyness.”

     

             “Yeah, well look at me.”

     

             “Right, I forgot you’re actually a pretentious dick.”

     

             “Bingo.”

     

             As Cas’s music filled the car, the edges of notes ripping out the windows to dash on the freeway, Cas leaned back in his seat, sighing and watching the landscape pass by. Dean scowled, but tapped his fingers on the wheel nonetheless, eyes shifting to Cas every few minutes, watching his reflection in the window, the shifts of light on his face and his slight smile whenever a song he really liked came on. Dean liked to look, to etch every detail of him into the top layer of his brain, easy to access, although he already had Cas memorized, down to the freckles. Mostly, he liked to make sure he was still there.

    • • • • • • •

             They pulled up in front of the simple blue house with the green door, fogged up windows glowing warmly.  As Dean nudged Cas awake, who arched like a cat, legs stretching and mouth gaping in a yawn, the door opened and Sam practically ran out. God, he was huge. When had the kid grown so much?

     

             Dean climbed out of the car, grinning, turning around and into a tight embrace, flinging his arms around Sam and holding him tightly for a brief moment. The anxieties that had built up in the hours Cas had been asleep where Dean had been left with his thoughts eased as his brother’s solidness was reaffirmed.

     

             “It’s good to see you, Dean,” Sam grinned, pushing hair out of his face.

     

             “You too, Sammy. God, you’re huge. And you need a haircut.”

     

             “Jess likes it.”

     

             “Jess?”

     

             “My girlfriend.”

     

             “Your-–what Sammy! Really!”

     

             “Yeah,” Sam beamed. “I know you’re surprised. She’s coming over on Thanksgiving. I’ll tell you about her while we unload the car.”

     

             Sam stepped around Dean and approached the trunk.

     

             “Dean?” Cas asked, voice gravelly as he stepped out of the car.

     

             “Oh,” Sam said, glancing at Cas and then at Dean.

     

             “Yeah, right, Sammy,” Dean forced a smile. “This is my friend Cas, he was hanging around campus over break so I dragged him along with me.”

     

             “You must be Sam,” Cas said, smiling what Dean had come to recognize as his polite, socializing smile. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

     

             “Wow, huh, Dean...hasn’t mentioned you. But then again––” Sam looked at Dean pointedly. “––I haven’t really spoken to Dean enough the last few weeks to have anything mentioned to me.”

     

             Dean swallowed, looking away. “Let’s...uh...let’s get these bags out of the car.” He opened the trunk and heaved one bag onto his shoulder as Sammy lifted the other.

     

             “Wait, it’s my bag, let me––” Cas began.

     

             “No, Cas––” Dean caught himself. “You’re our guest. Let us.”

     

             Cas eyed him for a moment before nodding and following Dean and Sam into the house.

     

             As soon as they entered the living room and began crossing it to the stairs, Mary raced from the kitchen in a flurry of shining gold hair and big smiles.

     

             “Dean!” she cried, wrapping her arms around you. “It’s so good to see you, we’ve missed you so much. Look at how big Sam’s gotten, huh? He’s taller than you now.”

     

             “Yeah, I know. It’s crazy. It’s good to see you Mom.”

     

             “This must be Cas!” Mary exclaimed brightly, turning to where Cas stood awkwardly, fiddling with a fraying cuff, tugging at the loose thread.

     

             “Yes. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Winchester,” he blushed.

     

             Shy Cas was something Dean rarely saw, and he gripped the strap of the bag he was carrying tightly to fight the urge to hold his hand.

     

             “Please, Mary. And none of that Mr. Winchester nonsense with Dean’s father, call him John.”

     

             “I think I’ll speak for myself, dear.”

     

             Dean turned around to find his dad standing in the doorway. He swallowed, blanching, at the sight of the man. Immediately everything felt too obvious. The way he was holding Cas’s bag, Cas’s clothes, the hickey peeking from just below his collar. He held his breath, expecting a release of thundery rage, and immediate realization of what was going on.

     

             But it didn’t come. Dean unclenched as John crossed the room and gave him a pat on the back.

     

             “Good to see you, son.”

     

             Dean smiled weakly at his father.

     

             “This is Dean’s friend, Cas,” Mary said, gesturing at Cas, who was staring around the room wide-eyed, looking just how Dean felt, even more unsure what to do with himself now that he was face to face with the main reason he and Dean were lying through their teeth. Sam was staring at him intently and when he noticed Dean watching him he met Dean’s eyes levelly, raising an eyebrow. Dean, unsure what he was asking–– although he had some suspicions–– was unable to respond.

     

             “Well dinner’s almost ready and your father is doing some work in the garage. So you boys get settled. Your room is the same as you left it, sweetie, and I cleaned up the guest room for Cas. Come down whenever you’re ready to eat.”

     

             Mary gave each of them a kiss on the cheek and a warm smile and disappeared back into the kitchen. Dean caught Cas’s eye as they began to climb the stairs, and from the look in his eye he too had forgotten they would be sleeping in different beds, something that had become alien to them.

     

             They deposited Cas and his bag in the guest room and proceeded down the hall, lights off, to the closed door of Dean’s room. Their breath was loud, footsteps clattering on the uncarpeted floor, and Dean’s heart was hammering in his chest. Now that it was just him and Sam he was scared of what his little brother would say. The kid had great intuition, not to mention he was damn smart and could put up a hell of a fight.

     

             “Cas, huh?”

     

             “Yeah?” Dean ventured, uncertain how to respond to the questioning tone.

     

             “Sounds a lot like Cassie.”

     

             “What?”

     

             “That girl you said you were seeing. Cas. Cassie.”

     

             “Oh, right.” Dean was glad the lights weren’t on, so Sam couldn’t see him flush.

     

             “Yeah. He looks at you a lot, Dean.”

     

             “Does he?”

     

             “Mhm. His pants are pretty tight, too.”

     

             “What is that supposed to mean?”

     

             They reached the door, opened it, flicking the lights on to illuminate a simple room with empty shelves, an empty desk, and a neatly made bed with dark blue sheets.

     

             “I don’t know, Dean. Why don’t you tell me?” Sam set Dean’s bag down on his bed as Dean sat down beside it.

     

             “It doesn’t mean anything,” Dean said through gritted teeth. “Things didn’t work out with Cassie anyway, and it’s just a coincidence.”

     

             Sam nodded slowly, one hand on the doorframe.

     

             “Okay. Just seemed like a funny coincidence since the guy looks at you like you’re the only thing in the world.”

     

             Dean stared blankly at him, mouth slightly agape, a deer trapped in the headlights, all cognitive abilities suspended.

     

             “Okay, well, I’ll see you at dinner, Dean.” He turned to go, and hesitated. “It’s good to see you. It’s always good to see you. I missed you.”

     

             As soon as Sam’s footsteps had retreated down the stairs, Dean hurried to Cas’s room, where he was splashing cool water on his face in the adjoining bathroom. He spun him around, pressing him against the sink, and kissed him hard, hands around his wrists, pushing him back. He parted when his chest began to burn, although that might have been all the churning salty blue, the same color as Cas’s eyes, swirling in his chest, battering the inside of his skin. He rested his forehead against Cas’s, breathing heavily, lids hanging shut as he focused on Cas’s clean–– even after being in a car all day ––scent and the way he could trace his outline by feeling in the swirling dark of his shut eyes.

     

             “Sam...” Dean began, and he felt Cas nod against him.

     

             “It’s okay, Dean. I’m here. I’m always here.”

     

             Dean opened his eyes and stepped back, looking at Cas, blue burning his lids as he blinked, filling his throat and making him choke.

     

             “Cas, Cas I luh-ike your sweater,” Dean stammered, head throbbing suddenly.

     

             Cas stared at him, brow furrowed, eyes dark. Dean pulled him close, wrapping his arms around him and resting his head on his shoulder.

     

             “I’m glad you’re here.”

     

             “Thank you for bringing me, Dean,” Cas said stiffly, giving Dean a dry peck and stepping back into the bedroom.

     

             “Let’s go down to dinner.”

     

             Dean followed him into the hall and gripped his hand as they descended the stairs. Cas pulled away quickly. “Careful,” he whispered, at Dean’s bewildered stare, to which he replied with a terse oh, right nod.

     

             Dinner was surprisingly easy: spaghetti with salad. Sam and Cas got along fabulously, discussing books with a fervor that creeped Dean out, because it was close to Cas’s during sex. Sam and his father remained peaceable, except for a few tense comments; and Mary had already fallen for Cas, smiling broadly as he complimented her cooking and asked for the recipe, discussing it with her as she told him about it, something that surprised Dean, because he’d never taken Cas as a cook.

     

             “You cook?” Dean asked, as they began talking about pot roasts.

     

             “Used to,” Cas answered. “Not so now much since I live in a dorm.”

     

             Dean nodded and returned to his food. He forgot just how smart Cas was, that he was double majoring and minoring and was there on a full ride. He knew so much, and Dean’s small sliver of knowledge, limited to football and cars and how to make Cas smile that sloppy, lazy smile that meant he was bogged down in contentedness, paled in comparison.

     

             “Dean says you’re at Kripke University on a full ride, what are you studying?”

     

             “I’m majoring in comparative literature and music theory, with a minor in theology,” Cas answered.

     

             “Impressive,” Mary smiled. John grunted.

     

             “How did you end up at Kripke?” Sam looked up from his plate. “You seem more like the––” he glanced at Dean, treading carefully, “––big leagues type.”

     

             Cas laughed dryly. “Yeah, I guess I am. I...uh...I was going to go to Yale, actually, but my...uh...my parents kicked me out, and I didn’t have a full ride there, so I couldn’t pay. Kripke had offered a place to me and when I said I would go if they could help out with my tuition, well, it’s not like I could pass it up.”

     

             “Why’d you get kicked out?” Mary looked surprised that such a ‘nice boy as Cas’ would ever do anything get to get disowned.

     

             “Because I was––” Cas froze at a kick from Dean, meeting his eyes across the table. He gave a slight shake of his head and Cas’s eyes widened, flooding with apology. “Difference of opinion,” he coughed. “We had a difference of opinion. My parents, they wanted me to go into the family business, and I...didn’t.”

     

             Dean’s breath rushed out of him in relief and he glanced at Sam, who was watching Cas interestedly. He chewed on his lip, taking a sip of the wine Mary had opened.

     

             “No wonder you two ended up together,” John huffed, a tinge of amusement in his voice. “Same problem with Dean over here, but we took him back, he’s too useful around the house,” he joked.

     

             From the way Cas reddened, Dean could tell he was as uncomfortable with John’s accidental double entendre. His eyes shifted from tracing Cas’s face, something that had become a habit of his, to meet Sam’s eyes. Sam stared at him a moment before turning his attention to their dad, who was telling a story about something that had happened at the garage that day.

     

             Dean and Cas stayed in the kitchen to wash dishes with Mary while John and Sam watched football in the living room. Cas said goodnight after fifteen minutes and went upstairs, saying he was tired. There’d been a moment where Dean had almost reached over the suds and given a him a kiss goodnight, but had caught himself just as he’d shifted to do so, Cas’s eyes sparking warningly. After he’d left a pleasant quiet filled the kitchen, save only for the slosh of water and scrape of plates against each other, and the muffled sound of the TV from the living room.

     

             “He’s a nice boy, Cas.”

     

             Dean didn’t trust himself to answer.

     

             “You two are very close.”

     

             “Yeah..I...uh...I guess we are.” Dean dried off a plate Mary handed him and set it in the dishwasher.

     

             “You seem different since I last saw you, Dean. You seem, lighter. I know it’s not always easy with your father and Sam and being caught between them, and I know it was hard when you said you wanted to go off to college. It was heavy on you; I could see it on your shoulders. And after Lisa...It’s gone, now. Is that Cas, Dean?”

     

             Dean looked up at his mom, startled. “Huh?”

     

             “Taking that weight off you. Even on the phone you seem...lighter, happier. Less worried, how you always were at home.”

     

             “Oh, I don’t know. I guess so, yeah,” Dean fought a smile as he dried off a large platter.

     

             “If he makes you happy, he’s welcome in our family any time.” Mary gave Dean’s arm a squeeze and went back to washing the dishes. It was silent for a moment and Dean wondered exactly what his mom was saying.

     

             “How’s Jo?” she asked.

     

             “Oh, she’s good, same as always. She’s coming down to visit Ellen and Bobby in a few days. She’ll probably come over here a bit and we’ll all go out like we used to, and Cas.”

     

             “Just be careful with Sammy.”

     

             “I will, Mom.” The end of the word trailed off into a yawn.

     

             “Go up to bed, sweetie, you look ready to drop. I’ll finish here.”

     

             Dean smiled appreciatively, gave Mary a peck on the cheek, and went upstairs, feet dragging with exhaustion.

    • • • • • • •

             He showered and brushed his teeth, changing into a pair of worn sweats he found folded in a drawer, dark blue with loose elastic so they sagged low on his hips. The house’s central heating, something he missed when he was on campus, filled the upper floor, and when Dean plodded into the guest room, he left his shirt on his bed.

     

             The guest room was empty and Dean sat down on the bed, still perfectly made, hearing the hiss of the shower behind the closed bathroom door. After a few minutes, the sound was extinguished, and the door opened. Cas stepped out, eyes crinkling as he noticed Dean on his bed. A towel was wrapped around his waist, chest gleaming dully with residual moisture, and he approached his open suitcase on the foot of the bed, toweling off his hair with a hand towel. It stuck up in tufts as he dropped the smaller towel on the floor and crouched beside his suitcase, rifling through it for a pair of plaid pajama bottoms. Finding them he straightened up, dropping his towel and smirking at Dean’s stifled gasp, tugging them on up over his skinny legs. He tugged a soft, cream-colored sweater from the pile that had replaced his neatly folded clothes and slipped it on, rubbing his arms and smiling appreciatively at its softness.

     

             “Do you two need to be alone?” Dean joked.

     

             Cas kneeled down and placed his palms on Dean’s knees, tilting his head up to kiss him. He went to pull back after a moment but Dean leaned forward, deepening the kiss, a low growl rising in his throat.

     

             “Dean,” Cas began, but fell silent as Dean tugged him onto the bed, pressing him into the mattress, kissing him fervently, tugging at the drawstring of his pajamas.

     

             “Dean.” It turned into a whine as Dean scraped his teeth along Cas’s protruding collarbone, hands sliding beneath his sweater to ghost his fingers on Cas’s pale chest.

     

             “Dean,” Cas pushed his shoulders back, forcing him to stop although his breath had also become ragged, and his eyes were flushed with desire.

     

             “Cas?” Dean ducked to kiss him again but Cas stopped him

     

             “Are you sure you want to do this...here? This is your...home...your family is downstairs, we might get caught...”

     

             Dean paused for a moment, as if evaluating his options, before pulling Cas closer against him and kissing him again, mouth wide and wet against his, tongue sliding along his lips. “Absolutely,” he murmured, and well, Cas couldn’t deny that, wriggling out of his pants and tugging Dean’s down, sighing as Dean pushed his sweater up, yanking it over his head and grunting in frustration when it tangled around his arms. He left it for a moment, Cas’s arms folded between them, kissing him again, biting his lip and grinding against him before helping to remove the sweater all the way.

     

             “Those didn’t last long,” Dean laughed, brushing the clothes to the floor and spreading Cas’s legs apart, smiling at the whimper drew from Cas’s lips.

     

             “Neither will I so just...get on with it,” Cas hissed through gritted teeth, pulling at Dean impatiently.

     

             “Been waiting for this––all––day,” he panted. “Wanted to be––clean––for––meeting––” Dean silenced him with another throaty kiss, sliding his fingers between Cas’s legs. Cas bucked as Dean stretched him open, a bit rougher than usual because he, too, had been eyeing Cas since they’d set out early in the morning. He held Cas down with his free hand as he tried to thrust against him, kissing him gently. When Cas’s impatient growls became too much, he lifted his legs, pulling them around his waist, and entered, letting out a low hiss of relief. Cas tilted his head back and let out a low moan, which Dean silenced with a kiss.

     

             “C-careful,” he stammered. “Don’t want...”

     

             Cas nodded, understanding, and began to move against Dean.

     

             They moved awkwardly, on edge, stopping and starting at the slightest sound, half-imagined. Cas pulled Dean against him, arching his back to find the right angle, and let out a strained groan as he came, grinding weakly to help Dean along. Dean buried his hands in Cas’s hair, kissing him frantically as he fell into him. Cas smiled beneath his lips, nipping at the tip of his tongue.

     

             “Dean, I––”

     

             Dean cut him off, pulling out and rolling off of him, running his fingers through his hair. He kissed him gently and murmured, “Good night, Casanova, see you in the morning,” and tugged his sweats on, slipping out the door and down the hall, heart hammering from the look in Cas’s eyes as he’d moved away from him, the suddenness of his motion effectively silencing what he’d been about to say, what Dean knew he kept stopping him from saying.

     

             He dreamt he was drowning.

    Chapter Text

             He woke up when the morning hours were still steeped in darkness, and tugged on a thick sweatshirt over his thin sleeping shirt, plodding downstairs quietly and into the kitchen, fumbling with the coffee pot in the dark.

     

             He gripped his mug tightly, a large blue one with a silver Chevrolet logo on it, chipped on the rim right above the handle, the same mug he’d used since he was eight. The steam washed over his face warmly as he stepped outside, sitting on the front stoop and observing the empty street serenely, the stirring of the bare branches, the glisten of frost on the dark road. He heard the click of the door closing and turned around. Sam’s hands were bunched in his sweatshirt and his hair looked even worse than it usually did.

     

             “Morning,” he mumbled, sitting down beside Dean.

     

             “Hey, Sammy.”

     

             “Couldn’t sleep?”

     

             “No, guess not.”

     

             “Dean.”

     

             “What?” Dean turned to look at Sam.

     

             “We should talk about this.”

     

             “About what?”

     

             “Cas.”

     

             “What about Cas?”

     

             “That...”

     

             “That what?”

     

             “Dean...”

     

             “If you’ve got something to say, say it,” Dean snapped challengingly, glaring at Sam.

     

             “Nothing, Dean, nothing. Just, I don’t care how you are...however you are.”

     

             Dean got to his feet angrily, yanking open the door and storming inside.

     

             “It’s not your place to assume things, Sam.” He slammed the door behind him, leaving Sam out on the porch, staring after him. He went back upstairs, slowing his pace so as not to wake anyone else. He collapsed onto his bed, pulse hammering in his skull, and breathed until it slowed. Then he picked up his phone and called Jo, counting the rings as light steeled through the cracked shutters and crept across the floor.

     

             “What time is it even, Dean?” Jo griped when she picked up.

     

             Dean said nothing, his head spinning.

     

             “Good morning to you too,” she grumbled.

     

             Dean closed his eyes, breathing deeply, trying to steady himself. His hand was shaking so badly he could hardly hold the phone.

     

             “Dean? Dean, are you okay?”

     

             “I-I don’t know, Jo.”

     

             “What is it? What happened?” Her concern dripped through the phone and into his ear, filling him with guilt.

     

             “Nothing, never mind, sorry I woke you up.”

     

             “Dean.”

     

             “Sam knows.”

     

             “What?”

     

             “Well, he doesn’t, but he keeps trying to ask me.”

     

             “Are you going to tell him?”

     

             “Fuck no. He’ll pull something stupid, tell Mom and Dad.”

     

             “Do you really think Sam would––”

     

             “No. Just, I can’t. Okay. Not right now, not when Cas keeps trying to say...”

     

             “What?”

     

             “Nothing. Bye. Sorry I woke you up.”

     

             “Dean...”

     

             “See you in a few days.” He hung up, not letting her respond. It had been a stupid idea calling Jo. A stupid idea bringing Cas along. Stupid. Stupid.

     

             Dean bit back tears as he crawled back beneath the blankets, nestling into the pillow and closing his eyes, trying to fall back asleep. He heard the rustle of sheets and then the warm slide of skin against his legs as Cas slipped into bed and pulled the blankets tight around them, draping his arm over Dean’s side and rubbing small circles in his back. Dean fell asleep with his head nestled in Cas’s shoulder, breathing shakily as Cas’s slender hands rubbed out the sobs.

    • • • • • • •

             They spent the next few days wandering around town, Dean pointing out the places he’d gone to school, played, cried, laughed.

     

             The day of Thanksgiving they he pointed out a park bench he proudly claimed as the location of his first kiss. They sat together, watching the playground, and Dean took Cas’s hand, carefully pressing them between their legs so no one would see. Cas glanced around before giving Dean a quick kiss, smiling as he pulled back.

     

             Dean’s hand reached forward to cup his face, opening his mouth to speak, but Cas tore away, running into the playground and leaping onto a swing, laughing. His huge acorn sweater slipped off one shoulder, revealing the orange one beneath, for extra warmth, as he tossed his body weight from side to side in order to gain momentum, legs flying loose, long and gangly.

     

             As Dean approached he hopped off and transferred to the tire swing, kicking his legs inside and twirling gleefully. Dean grabbed the chains and brought it to a halt, grinning at a slightly breathless Cas. He bent his head down and kissed him, liking the tang of ice on his lips, not caring who saw. The tips of his shower-damp hair were frosted as Dean tugged on them, and his tongue tasted like coffee.

     

             They parted after a long moment. The swing had come to a stop.

     

             “Cas––” Dean began, voice choking as Cas gave him a sharp jab in the stomach, swinging his legs free from the tire swing.

     

             “Tag! You’re it!” he called, taking off into the tangle of the jungle gym, feet spraying sand behind him.

     

             Dean stared after Cas for a moment, dumbstruck, before taking off after him, laughing.

     

             He caught him quickly, throwing himself at him and wrapping his arms around his midsection, Dean’s heavier weight bringing both of them into the sand, giggling, specks sticking to their flushed skin. They rolled onto their backs, staring at the empty grey sky.

     

             “I love you.”

     

             “What?” Dean’s head snapped to the side to see Cas’s face.

     

             Cas froze, mouth slightly open. “I-uh...nothing.” His eyes were so blue Dean figured that was why the sky was gone to gray; all the blue had been stolen out of it.

     

             “O-kay.”

     

             “Okay.”

     

             Cas hurriedly got to his feet, dusting himself off and shoving his hands into his pockets, thumbs coasting his waistline. Dean scrambled up, eyeing Cas nervously.

     

             “You okay?”

     

             “Yes. I’m––” He cleared his throat. “––fine.”

     

             “We should be getting back. Dinner...”

     

             “Yes.”

     

             They left the park silently, hands in their pockets, shoulders bumping occasionally.

    • • • • • • •

             Jessica had come over in the time they’d been gone and Dean’s jaw practically dropped when he saw his brother’s girlfriend. Never in a million years had he expected Sam to land such a...babe. He noticed Cas watching him disdainfully out of the corner of his eye and quickly stopped his gawking, risking a flirty smile to let Cas know that yes, he was still very much gay for him. Gay. Sammy. Ugh. Luckily, Sam was too busy making mooneyes at Jess to notice the silent exchange between him and Cas.

     

             They all sat on the sofa and watched a rerun of the Macy’s day parade, Jess in Sam’s lap, his arms around her, and Cas and Dean beside each other, legs spread slightly wide so their thighs could touch, hands resting side by side. As close as they could get when they were in the company of others. As the sun set, Dean got up and stretched, letting out a drowsy, appreciative sigh.

     

             “I’m gonna make a fire, how does that sound?”

     

             When he had a blaze stoked and burning brightly, he returned to the sofa. Jess and Sam had separated, her head resting on his shoulder, clasped hands resting where their legs touched. As Dean sat down, Cas scooted closer to him, glanced at the TV to the entrance to the kitchen to Sam and Jess and back to Dean before resting his head on his shoulder, shifting his position lightly, hair brushing his ear. Dean froze, but his tension eased as Cas gave his arm a squeeze and he noticed that Sam and Jess were hardly paying attention. Too involved with each other to notice the blatant gayness of Sam’s older brother and his new best friend.

     

             Jo texted him and he moved carefully, not wanting to wake Cas, who had fallen asleep.

     

             God, Bobby’s already drunk and I’m so bored because Ma won’t let him give me beer.

     

             Cas is cute when he’s asleep.

     

             Thanks for the help, Winchester.

     

             No problem. Do you want to come over?

     

             Can’t, Ma’s goin all out for dinner. We’re still on for tomorrow though, right?

     

             Definitely. Cas also wants to go sweater shopping for black friday.

     

             I see. You guys are really gay.

     

             I noticed.

     

             Does this mean you’re okay with it now?

     

             Dean didn’t answer, giving Cas’s hand a squeeze, which he returned. It was at that moment that John decided to get home from work, with both of his sons sitting on a couch borderline cuddling with their dinner guests. The distinguishing difference, however, was that Jessica was Sam’s girlfriend, pretty and wholesome and a girl, and Cas was Dean’s new college friend who was a guy and resting his head on Dean’s shoulder, hand cupped in Dean’s. Dean quickly let go and scooted several inches away, but John’s eyes narrowed.

     

             “Son?”

     

             “He fell asleep. I didn’t want to wake him up.”

     

             John gave a terse nod before going into the kitchen where Mary was cooking.

     

             Dean suddenly needed fresh air and got up from Cas, who stirred but did not wake. As he hurried into the hall he felt Sam watching him, and determinedly did not look at him. Passing the second entrance to the kitchen, his parents’ muffled voices drifted into the hall,

     

             “He’s a very odd boy, yes, John, but––”

     

             “No. I don’t mean odd, he’s a good kid, but I think he might be...”

     

             “What?”

     

             “You know...gay...”

     

             “Gay? Nonsense. So he’s not like Dean, all cars and rock and muscle, but he’s a perfectly nice boy...”

     

             “He seems off to me, Mary. I think he’s gay and I think he’s trying to...turn our Dean. He was holding his hand when I walked in, holding his hand.”

     

             “Calm down, honey. I’m sure it was just your mind, or seeing things wrong.”

     

             Dean climbed the stairs quickly, not wanting to hear any more of what his father had to say. All of the good feelings of the last few days had leaked away, replaced with a steely knot of dread.

    • • • • • • •

             Dinner went smoothly, though, John’s behavior towards Cas unchanged. Jess stole the show, all white bread sugar spice and everything nice, and the way Dean tensed when Cas’s hand slid along his thigh beneath the table, or the way their hands lingered as they bumped over a platter went unnoticed. Even Sam was oblivious, fixated on the radiating presence of Jessica. When Cas had a smudge of vanilla ice cream on the side of his mouth and Dean wiped it off with his thumb, he turned to catch his mom smiling in what could have been a knowing way at them, but the expression was gone so quickly he swore he’d been imagining it.

     

             Dean watched Cas’s eyes slide shut sleepily as he pushed back from the table, full beneath his turkey sweater, with its sequin beak and felt appliqué feathers. He finished his sixth slice of pumpkin pie and took his and Cas’s dishes into the kitchen, setting them in the sink. He pulled Cas to his feet on his way upstairs.

     

             “Goodnight Mom. I’m going to put Cas to bed before he falls completely asleep. He’s a heavy sleeper and you won’t be able to move him if he does.”

     

             As he kissed Mary on the cheek and turned to leave, he noticed the way Sam and John’s eyes were flashing and swallowed, tugging Cas’s sleeve urgently in an attempt to hurry him up.

     

             When they climbed into Dean’s bed, the door shut tightly, and Dean kissed Cas slow and tenderly, far too full or tired to do anything but spoon; he tasted like pumpkin pie.

     

             Dean heard the patter of water as the bathroom door opened. He rolled over, pressing his face into the pillow. The first slivers of sunlight were slipping beneath the shades and across the floor and he let out a groan of protest.

     

             There was the rustle of sheets as Cas tugged the corner of the blanket back, and Dean began to sit up, wiping his eyes groggily. As he leaned forward, Cas pushed himself onto the bed and a sharp pain exploded across Dean’s forehead.

     

             “Cas. Shit. What the fuck? Ow.”

     

             “Ohmygod.”

     

             “What?”

     

             “I went to hug you and kneed you in the face.” Cas flicked the light on, grabbing Dean’s chin and jerking his head towards the light, staring at him worriedly. “It might give you a black eye.”

     

             “It’s alright, I’ve had worse. As long as you don’t think I’m too hideous to fuck.”

     

             Cas tilted Dean’s head the other way, then pulled him forward, ducking down and kissing him. “Never. You’re beautiful.”

     

             And Dean blushed and scowled at the comment as Cas pushed him backwards on the bed, not bothering to turn the lamp back off, and kissed his way down his body, setting his white winter skin ablaze.

    • • • • • • •

             They ran into Sam a half hour later as they left Dean’s room, hands slipping around each other’s wrists and grinning.

     

             “Whoah, hey, good morning,” Dean said as he nearly ran into Sam, bumping into Cas behind him as he stepped back.

     

             “Uh...hey...” Sam replied uncertainly, giving each of them a once over.

     

             Dean tugged the waistband of his sweats up a bit, covering a hickey on his hip, hoping the flush beneath his skin wasn’t extending across his bare chest. He felt Cas’s hands jostle against his back as he fussed with his sweater.

     

             “Good morning, Sam,” Cas broke the silence.

     

             “Morning, Cas.” Sam gave them a forced smile. “Do you guys...uh...want to make some breakfast.”

     

             “I can cook.” Cas pushed in front of them and practically ran down the stairs.

     

             “What’s up with him?” Sam asked as they followed after him.

     

             Dean shrugged. “Dunno, he’s a weirdo.”

     

             “Why was he in your room?”

     

             “We were going to go to old town and he was waking me up so we could get an early start.”

     

             Sam eyed him, not saying anything.

     

             “God kid, sometimes I think you can see into my soul.”

     

             He let out a noise of acknowledgment. “Are you okay, Dean? I feel like we’ve barely spent any time together or talked about anything since you’ve been back. You’re always with Cas, it’s never us...how it used to be.”

     

             “I’m sorry.”

     

             “It’s okay, I just, I worry about you sometimes, you know?”

     

             “No, I don’t.”

     

             “You don’t have to take care of us all the time anymore. Look how good Mom and Dad are–– he quit drinking you know, six months sober. I’m almost out of here, you can do things for yourself.”

     

             “Maybe I already am.”

     

             “Are you?”

     

             Dean thought about it, thought about Cas in the kitchen, where he could hear the clatter of pots and pans and the slam of drawers and cupboards opening and closing. The mess of his hair and the way everything about him was rumpled, even his smile. He thought about all the places his hands had been and all the places Cas’s had been and where their mouths had been too. The skin, the words, those words, the ones they kept tripping over.

     

             They reached the base of the stairs and entered the kitchen, Dean ignoring Sam’s question.

     

             Cas was scooting eggs around a pan, tossing in diced vegetables as they thickened and opacified. He looked up at them as they entered, half-smiling as they sat across from each other at the table tensely.

     

             “You two okay?”

     

             They both nodded and Cas frowned before turning back to the stove.

     

             Dean got to his feet suddenly.

     

             “Uh...dishes.”

     

             He walked to the cupboard robotically, opening it and pulling out three dishes and glasses and taking them to the table. Cas lifted the pan from the stove and crossed to the table, spooning eggs onto each plate with a spatula. He sat down at the head of the table, in between Dean and Sam, and smiling broadly at them.

     

             “Silverware, dude,” Sam said when no one started eating and Cas looked at the inquisitively.

     

             Dean bolted up. “I’ll get it.”

     

             He quickly got the forks and sat back down, just as Sam got to his feet, opened the fridge, and pulled out a jug of orange juice.

     

             “Right. Well, enjoy,” Cas began to eat, small nervous bites, watching both of them from beneath arched brows.

     

             Dean ate uneasily, looking up every few moments, eyes darting from Sam to Cas and back again. He would catch Sam doing the same and quickly force his eyes back down, shoulders hunched.

     

             “Jo was going to come over here around eight and we were going to go out. Do you still have that fake ID we got you last year?” The words were sharp in the silence.

     

             “Yup.” Sam nodded.

     

             “Is that alright with you, Cas? All four of us going out?”

     

             “Sure.”

     

             “Okay, well then. I guess, uh, I guess Cas and I will head out soon.” Dean shoved the last few forkfuls of egg into his mouth and snatched his plate from the table, setting it in the sink with a clang and darting upstairs to take a shower.

    • • • • • • •

             He stood beneath the steaming stream, quivering, wondering when eating breakfast with his brother had become awkward.

     

             He tied his shoes, sitting on the edge of the bed. There was a knock on his door and it opened a little ways, Cas poking his head in.

     

             “Can I come in, Dean?”

     

             He grunted and affirmation, not looking up as Cas sat beside him.

     

             “Dean.”

     

             He looked up. Cas was shaken and his mouth went dry, dread filling his gut.

     

             “Did he say anything to you? Fucking hell, Sammy; this was a bad idea, why did I ever––”

     

             “No, Dean. No, not really?”

     

             “Not really? What do you mean ‘not really’?” Dean finished tying his shoe and rose to his feet.

     

             “He just asked me if I was gay.”

     

             “And?”

     

             “I wasn’t going to lie to him. I said I’d been with men before.”

     

             “And you think that’s okay? You think his brain didn’t immediately––”

     

             “I don’t know, Dean. He said for me to be careful––”

     

             “He threatened you? I never thought he was the type, but––”

     

             “No. He said to be careful because he thought you liked me. He said, ‘Dean probably doesn’t even know it, but I know him well enough to know it when I see it.’ I thanked him for his concern and said it was between you and me.”

     

             Cas got to his feet and approached Dean, taking his hands in front of him.

     

             “That I would take care of it.”

     

             “Will you now?” Dean smirked.

     

             “Yes.”

     

             “Now?”

     

             Cas tilted his head to the side contemplatively.

     

             “Maybe later.”

     

             Dean groaned in frustration and gave him a sloppy kiss.

     

             “Let’s go see the sights, then.”

     

             “Sure,” he snickered.

     

             “What? Old Town is fun.”

     

             “Whatever you say. It’s very...touristy.”

     

             “You mean mainstream?”

     

             “No.”

     

             Dean looked at him skeptically.

     

             “No!”

     

             He left the room, grabbing his car keys from the bedside table, and Cas followed after him.

    • • • • • • •

             They drove into town, the thrum of the Impala a comforting sound after days in the house or walking around the neighborhood. The heat blasted full force, fogging the edges of the window, causing light to refract and silver everything. It made the interior of the car look like the setting of a dream, one Dean had had too many times, of Cas pressed up against the window, breath escaping in moans, puffing up and out and spreading thickly on the windows.

     

             Cas pulled him into a bookstore with cracked window frames and a door that jingled when they opened it. It was crammed with rows of bookshelves with just enough space for one person to walk down, much less turn around. Cas beamed and Dean sighed disinterestedly.

     

             “Do you not like books, Dean?”

     

             “They’re okay.” he shrugged.

     

             “This is unacceptable.”

     

             “Hmm?”

     

             “You need to like books.”

     

             “Will you dump me if I don’t?” Dean smirked, freezing as a blush crept onto Castiel’s face, realizing what he had just said.

     

             “No,” Castiel answered for him, and Dean smiled, muscles easing.

     

             Dean followed Cas as he meandered down the shelves, always a few feet behind him, running his fingers along the spines. Cas turned around to check on him, and he quickly tugged a book off the shelf and flicked through it, focusing on the page mindlessly. A flash of warm air sidled across his cheek and he looked up, meeting Cas’s eyes and swallowing, a sensation that rolled all the way down his spine, like free fall.

     

             Cas took the book from Dean’s hands gently, smiling as he turned the pages. He cleared is throat and watched Dean from beneath hooded, lush-lashed eyes, lids fluttering like moth wings on his cheeks––

     

             “Today, this day was a brimming cup/today, this day was the immense wave/today, it was all the earth.’”

     

             ––Dean could hear the store distantly, like listening to a phone conversation from underneath a blanket, but the air had congealed on the shelves around them, and the only thing he could hear was the rhythm of Castiel’s voice, sliding over the syllables, pushing them over his lips with his tongue. And the swollen fullness of the words, bloated and trembling like the snow in the tree branches outside––

     

             “‘Today the stormy sea lifted/us in a kiss/so high that we trembled/in a lightning flash/and, tied, we went down/to sink without untwining.’”

     

             ––that was all there was. Their breaths rolled over each other, falling into the other’s mouth, unsure where his air ended and Cas’s air began. The words tasted like salt, pressed against the backs of his eyes, the backs of his legs and hiding in his spine, yearning against his skin, Cas’s skin, tingling and sparking beneath and between and among them––

     

             “‘Today our bodies became vast/they grew to the edge of the world/and rolled melting/into a single drop/of wax or meteor.’”

     

             ––he was pulling him to him, damp, brittle hair against his temple, tongue tripping over his skin, the beginnings of words tangling in his eyes as his own raged, green and blazing like sunlit fields in summer, pushing him forward, wanting to hear it all again and again, the three words in exponential repetitions, and closing him up, holding him back sealing him with kisses and touches to compromise the sentences flat and hiding on the roofs of their mouths––

     

             “‘Between you and me a new door opened/and someone, still faceless/was waiting for us there.’”

     

             ––Cas finished and dust flocked to fill the spaces his words had left in the air between them. Dean’s mouth was dry and ragged feeling and he ran his tongue along the inside of his cheeks.

     

             “Cas...”

     

             Castiel gave him a quick but passionate kiss and stepped further down the shelf, eyes flashing.

     

             “Let’s get out of here, Dean.”

     

             A smile split his face, like a beam of sunlight piercing the murk of the bookstore, and he reached for Cas’s hand, squeezing his pale fingers and following him out into the light.

    • • • • • • • 

             They walked down Main St., Cas clutching his new books close to his chest to protect them from the wet slosh of footstep-pounded snow. Dean held onto his elbow slightly, guiding them onto a canopied arcade full of tacky shops parading holiday cheers, Christmas lights wrapped around the faux-Greek columns to their left, clashing carols spilling out of the steam-windowed stores. They passed an alcove with a small, curtained photo booth crouching inside and Dean saw Cas’s eyes linger as they passed.

     

             “Do you want to go?”

     

             Cas started, gaze quickly catching up and meeting his. “Huh? Oh, no, I’m having a great time, Dean, really.”

     

             “No, stupid, I mean the photo booth. You looked like you wanted to.”

     

             “I really don’t think stupid is the right adjective to describe me, Dean. You are one of the first people who should…”

     

             They’d stopped walking, a few feet ahead of the alcove. Cas was tugging on the hem of his sweater, looking at his feet, a blush creeping across his cheeks. He licked his pale lips and glanced at Dean.

     

             “Cas, dude, do you want to go to the photo booth? It’s girly as fuck, but––I mean––“ He ran his hand through his hair. “You’re like, my boyfriend, okay, I guess, and if you want to do something, I’ll do it with you, because I like it when you’re happy and stuff…” Dean looked at his feet and Cas bit down a laugh.

     

             “Dean, I don’t want to make you do anything you’re uncomfortable with, that you’d consider effeminate or––“

     

             Dean gave him a quick, chaste kiss. “Just shut the fuck up and get in the photo booth,” he laughed as he crowded them into the small space.

     

             They fed their combined crumpled singles into the machine and perched on the cramped bench, legs overlapping.  Instructions whirled across the screen before the camera’s viewfinder showed up, presenting a reflection of themselves; Dean: gelled up hair slightly askew, hickey’s dark and ripe against his cold-chafed neck, the collar of his leather jacket turned up against the cold; and Cas: rumpled as typical, in a long black cashmere sweater that peaked out from beneath his decorative blue one with the words GOD LOVES YOU written across it. There was a bit of snow, quickly melting, caught in his hair, and a thick, multi-colored knitted scarf coiled around his neck, covering the bottom of his face. He tugged it down and shifted his eyes to the corner of his vision to check on Dean, who was rubbing the back of his neck and looking around the photo booth awkwardly, unsure of what to do with himself. He turned and met Cas’s eyes, a smile quirking at the corner of his mouth just as the camera clicked for the first picture, a flash briefly flooding the room.

     

             The remaining nine pictures went by quickly, the two of them shuffling around, bumping against each other accidentally on purpose, limbs flushed close, cheek against cheek and grinning. Cas went to lick his cheek when Dean commented that he should smile after the third shot, instead of staring at the lens curiously, head tilted to the side, and the sixth picture caught Dean leaning backwards, just before he fell over, Cas pushing towards him, eyes shut and laughing, tongue outstretched.

     

             The last three were empty frames, the camera capturing only the white back wall of the photo booth–– the final shot only a breathless Cas leaning against the bench smugly.

    • • • • • • • 

             They left the arcade and crossed the street to the entrance of the park.

     

             “You wanted to go thrifting, right?” Dean asked.

     

             “You’re taking me shopping?” Cas asked him, disbelieving.

     

             “Don’t make me regret my offer,” Dean nudged him with his shoulder affectionately, sending Cas stumbling a few steps. “There’s a few across the park, we can cut through.”

     

             “It’s pretty,” Cas observed, taking in the smooth white mounds of snow, disturbed only by the footprints of small animals. The benches were clean, snow in piles beside them, brushed off by park custodians earlier in the day.

     

             They walked in silence, small smiles on both their faces. Dean had his hands in his pockets and Cas had drawn his long sleeves over the tips of his fingers, rubbing them against the fabric to warm them.

     

             “Dean,” Cas asked quietly.

     

             “Mm?”

     

             “Can I…can I hold your hand?”

     

             Dean looked at him, shocked. They weren’t big on the PDAs––didn’t really go with the whole secretive thing. Sure, they had their moments, but they never talked about it. Cas had never been up front about his intents for their relationship, and Dean had never brought up his either, although he had imagined trips to Mexico and small apartments leading to a larger house and Cas writing books or recording CDs, working in the office of an auto shop Dean might have been saving up to open, because really? ––football–– no. But they didn’t talk about any of this, because as Dean kept telling himself, any of this was not supposed to be happening. They didn’t bring it up. Ever. That included hand-holding. As Cas bit his lip and watched Dean hesitantly from beneath his thick lashes, trying to gauge his thoughts, Dean felt as if he’d been plunged into one of his nightmares, the ones he bolted from, clutching Cas in his sleep, shaking and gasping for air, chest burning for so many reasons. He could hear the crash of waves, see them tripping and leaping and rolling over the gentle snowy slopes at Cas’s back.

     

             “Dean?” Cas’s eyes were wide and worried, blue glass, cracking at the edges. Broken.

     

             Dean smiled, pulling his hand out of his pocket and pushing Cas’s sleeve up to twine their fingers together. Cas grinned back, so wide it hurt, and gave his arm a tug, picking up their pace.

     

             “The sweaters aren’t going to wait for us.”

     

             As they crossed the park, Dean noticed the familiar outline of a friend from high school across a lawn, hurling snowballs at someone Dean quickly recognized as well.  He tensed, praying silently for them to not turn around, not see him, not cross over and clap him on the back, not force him into a lie, step away from Cas and rigidly do the required introductions.

     

             “Dean…” Cas followed his gaze, loosened his grip. “Do we––“

     

             “No,” Dean interrupted, resuming walking, quickening their pace. “It’s nothing. I don’t care.”

     

             When they left the park, Dean dropped Cas’s hand, balling his into a fist.

     

             “Over there, across the street.” He jerked his head at a cheery, cluttered-looking storefront. “Jo used to go there for her Halloween costumes. She’d buy me mine as well since I couldn’t be bothered.” He wouldn’t look at him. He could feel his lungs burning, needing to come up for air. He’d do something stupid if he looked at him.

     

             “Dean, it’s okay if you care.”

     

             “What?” He didn’t mean to snap, he really didn’t.

     

             “It’s okay if you care if people see us. I––I know it’s not easy and––thank you for––for just being with me at all. As long as it doesn’t change how you––feel––it’s okay.”

     

             “No. It’s not okay, Cas. It’s not okay because if I can’t even introduce you to someone without standing two feet away from you and saying ‘my friend, Cas,’ emphasizing the my friend part a hundred times, then how am I supposed to take you home for holidays, send cards to Mom with both our names on it, look for ap––stuff. And stuff. I’m just like––like him and I told myself I never would be because he hurt you so mu––” Dean clamped his mouth shut. He knew he was blushing, and didn’t care in the way he thought he should.

     

             Cas eyed him, brows knitted, head to the side.

     

             “I’d say you were a dick but I can’t tell if you act this stupid because you’re closeted or because you have commitment issues. Or if they’re the same thing.”

     

             Dean bit his lips. “Now there’s the pretentious, slutty genius I fell––” He closed his mouth quickly, grabbing Cas’s hand and tugging him into the crosswalk, across the street, and into the thrift store.

     

             The rack closest to the entrance was for sweaters, and Dean could see several more behind it.  From Cas’s sharp intake of breath, he could see he noticed, and Dean hoped he didn’t come in his pants because of it.

     

             “Go get ‘em.” He gave him a gentle prod and walked down an aisle towards the sign with a downward pointing arrow that said MUSIC.

     

             Cas looked at him with gleeful, disbelieving eyes and Dean gave him a sharp salute before a rack came between them and he could only see his form rifling through hangers in narrow slats between the shelves.

    • • • • • • • 

             They arrived home with the sun hanging low and golden in the sky, searing across the snow and filling the horizon with light. Cas was clutching a swollen bag of sweaters in his lap, occasionally pulling the handles apart to stare fondly at the tangled mass within.

     

             “You better not cheat on me, Cas,” Dean smirked, tapping his fingers on the wheel to the harsh bass of one of the new CDs he’d picked up.

     

             Cas closed the bag and stared at Dean, eyes glowing as they pulled to a stop in front of the house, its white form blocking out the light of the setting sun. He didn’t say anything but as Dean tugged the keys out of the ignition and looped his shopping bag around his wrist, he remembered their other shopping day. I love you more than sweaters. He swallowed and quickly got out of the car, shooting a “You coming?” over his shoulder as he let himself into the house.

     

             When they entered the house, joking about the photo booth pictures, now tucked into Dean’s pocket, they found Sam and Jessica in the living room, tongues down each other’s throats and Sam’s jeans unbuttoned and Dean had practically died while Cas laughed his head off. Sam and Jessica sat up, bashful and beet red, Jessica mumbling an excuse and goodbye and rushing out the door. Sam buttoned his pants, staring fixedly on the TV.

     

             “I should be proud, I really should, but I’m too fucking disgusted. Maybe later,” Dean said, shaking his head and going upstairs. Cas laughed harder, wiping away tears.

     

             “Don’t worry, Sam, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Good job getting the girl.”

     

             Sam turned a brighter shade of red and Cas followed after Dean up the stairs.

     

             They got ready early and spent the final few hours playing Clue with Sam, even though Dean had wanted to cancel the game when Cas entered his room with spiked shower hair, in a thin, slim-fitting black t-shirt and thick, cable-knit cardigan. Cas played Ms. Peacock, which Dean snickered at, as he chose Mr. Green from the box and Sam chose his customary Professor Plum. Mary brought snacks in for them, smiling warmly, as Dean and Sam burst into an argument about fair movement, and he flushed with embarrassment as Cas accepted the tray. His humiliation was forgotten, however, and he even thanked his mother, when Cas took a carrot stick between his thumb and forefinger, dipped it in ranch and fucking licked it off, looking at Dean pointedly. Dean swallowed, glanced at Sam, who was watching him and Cas, and desperately brought attention back to the game, just as the doorbell rang and Jo and Mary’s voices could be heard from the hall.

     

             This was going to be a long night.

    • • • • • • • 

             Everything was cast in blue as they entered the club, the music slightly echoing, lights shivering in a watery image on the wall. Dean was already sweating as they pressed into the throng of bodies, Cas close against him in front, Jo and Sam pressing in on either side. Jo caught his eyes as Cas began to dance, not moving from Dean, and she quirked an eyebrow at him, jerking a thumb at Sam.

     

             “Real subtle,” she mouthed, although she might have been speaking; Dean couldn’t hear her anything over the music. Dean rolled his eyes and hooked his fingers into Cas’s belt loops, telling himself it was too crowded for Sam to see anything. Dean began to grind against Cas, but he pulled away, eyes flashing tauntingly at Dean, tip of his tongue peeking out between his lips. Great. He was being coy.

     

             “I’m going to get some drinks,” he said, turning away in the direction of the bar.

     

             Dean watched him go. Jo tugged on his wrist, pressing her mouth against his ear and yelling, “He sure taught you how to do the puppy eyes. You look like someone punched you in the stomach and he just walked away.”

     

             “Fuck you,” Dean replied, the smell of Jo’s hair as he murmured into her ear made him nostalgic for when they came here in high school, when they’d flirt jokingly and everything was simple, all black and white, clear diagrams of how to do things with girls in the bathrooms, none of these gray areas.

     

             “Let’s do shots,” Jo exclaimed. “I want to see what we can dig out of Sam when he’s hammered,” she gestured at a bewildered, dancing Sam, who stared at them pleadingly as a girl approached him, not even asking before taking him as a partner and dancing provocatively. Dean hollered and Jo wolf-whistled before they tugged him away from her by the arm and pushed through the crowd to the bar.

     

             Cas was leaning against the glassy counter top, cardigan folded over his arm. He was talking to an attractive man with shaggy blonde hair and from the suggestive way the man leaned slightly towards Cas, hips jutting forward a minute distance, finger circling his drink, scraping patterns in the condensation with his fingernail, Dean could read the intentions clearly. Cas had done the same thing to him months ago at that first party. He scowled, heat filling his face, pricking at his skin from underneath, but he did nothing, not with Sam right there. Instead he tapped Cas on the shoulder, leaning casually against the bar and smiling. Cas turned around and fucking beamed, and Dean realized that for all his nonchalance, he must have been as uncomfortable as Dean had been. The guy scowled and stalked away just as Jo came up. The bartender pushed four beers across the counter at Cas, who handed one to each of them.

     

             “Can we get four shots as well?” Jo called to him. He nodded and walked away.

     

             Sam sipped his cautiously while Cas chugged his down in one long gulp, eyes wide. Dean and Jo chuckled at them as they nursed theirs at a moderate pace somewhere in between. Jo turned to Sam, grinning, and said, “Dean told me about your little adventure with Jess today.”

     

             “I didn’t––we weren’t––it wasn’t––“

     

             “Good for you. I think Dean was starting to get a bit worried there.” She winked at Sam. “Don’t worry, by the end of the night we’re going to know all about you and Jess.”

     

             While Jo chattered on to a terrified-looking Sam, Dean leaned close to Cas and gave his wrist a squeeze.

     

             “You okay?”

     

             Cas nodded. “I––I want to kiss you, it’s all I can think about, but…”

     

             Dean nodded, turning away, trying to keep his cool. Hell, if that wasn’t hot.

     

             The bartender returned with their shots and the round disappeared quickly, each of them trying to drown their own anxieties. Another round appeared even faster than the first disappeared and soon that was gone too.

     

             The night devolved into a pleasant buzz, the lights a blur and the music humming into background noise. They berated Sam shamelessly, and when he wouldn’t say anything they pushed ideas forward, doubling over the counter and slamming the glass with their hands as with each proposition Sam grew redder and redder, until they gleaned that his and Jess’s dewy eyes over milkshakes were far less innocent than they had been led to believe.

     

             They each licked a line of salt off their wrists. Jo leered at a passing guy, who watched the trace of her tongue with interest. She waved at him with a waggle of fingers and Sam looked away uncomfortably, eyes landing on Dean. This probably wasn’t any better as Dean was watching Cas nurse his wrist dramatically, pulling off with a relish that must have made an inaudible sucking noise, tossing his head back and closing his eyes and he swallowed the shot, throat bobbing. Dean was rapt and drunk and found himself blurting, “Yer really fuckin’ hot, Cas. Fuck.

     

             Cas gave him a look that silently said, I know.

     

             Dean saw Sam staring at him, shocked, and for a moment fear clouded his vision, but Sam must have been drunker than he let on because he burst into stumbling laughter and slurred, “Er you fuckin’ my brover?” Cas froze, but at Sam’s increased hilarity at the question, he began to laugh, and soon all of them were clinging to the bar and each other and begging for some vodka, which the bartender gave them, smiling obligingly.

     

             From there things went quickly, linearly. Dean stumbled, scrabbling at Cas for purchase. Cas caught him (as always), and tugged him upward, face close and then touching and then lips, and Sam and Jo were turned around, thank god, and they were off, through the bodies, groping and kissing and licking and into the bathroom; unbutton and unzip and clatter of the lock as they fell into the stall, Dean pushing Cas against the door, biting back a moan as clothes were quickly pushed away, all efficiency and cool linoleum against their backs and hot between them, fingers hooking at whatever edge they could, kicking at the toilet seat, set a steady rhythm and Dean could hear the bass thrumming somewhere far away, beyond the pounding in his head and he knew that groan was louder than it should have been but so help him God, Cas was all around him, legs knotted at the small of his back, hands tugging at the damp fabric of Dean’s half-off shirt, his own fingers sharp on Cas’s shoulder blades right over his tattoos and the beat was faster outside, or were those his hips––things were getting sloppy and his feet slipped on the tile, one arm swinging out, palm flat against the wall to hold them up, and Cas was practically screaming,  begging for it, and he knew they should be quieter but he was so close and then he was there and they were both there and Cas was clawing at his back and Dean was sucking a line from his ear to his collarbone and they were both loud and the door was opening, and the sound of it closing one of finality and then it was over and quiet, too quiet and he could hear the drip of the faucet and the thrum of the air in the vents. The fluorescents were flickering slightly and dread pooled in Dean’s stomach as Cas tugged clumps of paper towel off the roll and cleaned them up, putting them both back away and straightening their now-wrinkled shirts. Dean turned and tugged open the lock and he felt so sick and the room was spinning as the door opened and he closed his eyes for a moment, telling himself he was way too drunk for this to be happening, that he was way too drunk and this wasn’t happening, but when he opened his eyes again, and he heard Cas’s sharp intake of breath––no exhale––he knew it was. Sam was still standing there, mouth open and eyes stormy, brow slightly furrowed as if he couldn’t figure out what he was seeing or what he had heard.

     

             “Dean,” Cas warned, brushing his lips against his ear as he said the word, and then everything was moving again. Dean heard himself say, “Oops. We were washing our hands?” and then Sam was slamming his hands against the wall, kicking the garbage can, hitting anything within reach, screaming, “FUCK YOU DEAN, FUCK YOU. YOU SAID YOU FUCKING WEREN’T AND I’M YOUR FUCKING BROTHER DO YOU THINK I WOULD CARE IF YOU WERE FUCKING GAY YOU FUCKING LIED TO ME” and Dean was screaming, “DON’T YOU FUCKING SWEAR AT ME SAMMY, WATCH YOUR FUCKING LANGUAGE” because any other comment was even more bullshit than that one and Sam was yelling back, face red and wild, “YOU CAN’T FUCKING SAY ANYTHING TO ME, DEAN, AT LEAST I’M GOING SOMEWHERE WITH MY LIFE AND SO IS MY GIRLFRIEND AND I’M NOT FUCKING SOME GUY BECAUSE I KNOW EVERY GIRL REALIZES I’M WORTH NOTHING MORE THAN A ONE NIGHT STAND,” and “YOU’RE SO FULL OF SHIT, SAM, YOU KNOW THAT, THINKING YOU’VE GOT IT MADE BECAUSE YOU’RE SOME BIGSHOT AT OUR TINY-ASS HIGH SCHOOL IN OUR WHITE-ASS KANSAS TOWN? THINK YOU’RE HOT SHIT BECAUSE OF JESS? WELL SHE’S THE ONLY GIRL WHO’LL EVER THINK YOUR GIRLY FUCKING FACE IS HOT, OR EVEN REALIZE YOU HAVE A DICK” and then Dean was on the floor and blood was spilling on the blue and green tile and Dean clambered to his feet, pushing Sam against the wall, no breaks between his punches. And Cas was grabbing onto them, pulling Dean away and even though he said he wouldn’t he was screaming too, “DEAN YOU FUCKING IDIOT JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP AND THINK ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE OTHER THAN YOURSELF FOR FIVE FUCKING SECONDS” and Jo was running in, holding her heels by the back straps, eyes and hair wild and she was screaming too, the door slamming shut behind her, but as soon as the words left her mouth–– “YOU GODDAMN TESTOSTERONE FILLED ASSHOLES JUST CALM THE FUCK DOWN” ––everything was quiet: Sam slumped against the wall, blood and tears mixing and dripping down his front; Cas standing stock still, straight as a ruler, eyes steely and bright, chest heaving; Dean hunched over, clutching his nose, panting and spitting blood onto the floor.

     

             “Now listen to me, you idiots. I’m calling a cab while you guys drink some fucking water and pay our bill, and then we’re going back to my house and you guys will go the fuck to sleep and chill out and in the morning we are going to talk about it.”

     

             “There’s nothing to talk about,” Dean snapped. “My brother is a fucking––“

     

             “A FUCKING WHAT, DEAN, A––“

     

             “SILENCE,” Jo roared, and Cas grabbed Dean as he lurched towards Sam.

     

             Dean opened his mouth as if to say something, but instead he keeled over, throwing up on Jo’s feet.

     

             Her eyes flashed and she said flatly, trying to contain her anger, “This is going to be hell in a hand basket to explain to Mary.”

    Chapter Text

             Dean woke with a crick in his neck and Sam’s foot uncomfortably close to his face. He winced, stretched, and sat up as the world spun nauseatingly around him.

     

             He and Sam were head to toe on the floor of Jo’s basement, tangled in sheets and moth-eaten comforters, the boys too tall for the small space between the ratty, stained sofa and the old TV with the magnet-warped picture. He and Jo had made out once on that couch, in eighth grade when everyone started hooking up; they’d stopped seconds in and had laughed for the rest of the night about the ridiculousness of it. He’d hooked up with Lisa on there too, a mutual friend of theirs at the time–– she’d given him a hand job on that couch and he was pretty sure he could still see the stain. Jo had been pissed. He could hear her voice upstairs, slightly raised, and from the snatched words –– idiots, not my fault, stupid men –– he assumed she was on the phone with Mary. Leave it to Jo to talk them out of a problem while they were sleeping off their hangovers.

     

             Cas was curled up on the couch now, in a large comforter, hair mussed and face bleary with sleep. One eye opened a sliver and stared at Dean before groaning and burrowing back into the blanket. Dean hazarded a glance at his brother and leaned over him carefully, giving Cas a kiss on the forehead and tasting the boozey sweat dried in his hair. Cas tilted his head up, searching for Dean’s mouth with his own, when Sam stirred. Dean fell back abruptly and Cas rolled over, pretending to be asleep.

     

             “Morning, Sammy,” Dean croaked, voice catching on guilt.

     

             Sam rolled over, gave him an impressive bitchface, and said, “I’m not talking to you, dickwad.”

     

             “Sam, come on––”

     

             “Don’t, Dean, okay. Just don’t.” Sam tugged the covers over his head and Dean flopped onto his back, staring at the concrete and wood ceiling above him, with dark gaps leading up to the underside of the kitchen floor.

     

             He had no idea what to even say in a situation like this. Sorry you walked in on me fucking the guy I said I wasn’t seeing that I sort of am, but I’m sort of kind of fucking in––

     

             “You boys better not have killed each other and Cas and Dean had better still have their pants on and have Sam separating them,” Jo warned as she opened the door and sidled down the stairs into the basement, balancing four plates of bacon, eggs, and toast, along with four glasses of orange juice –– a skill she’d picked up from her one summer of waitressing.

    • • • • • • • •

             They sat cross-legged in a circle, blankets pushed off to the side, up against the couch, eating silently, Cas watching Dean with wide eyes as he pushed food around his plate, Sam glowering angrily at his eggs as he stabbed at them with his fork, and Jo chewing methodically, shifting her gaze over each of them.

     

             “So,” she began, taking a sip of orange juice.

     

             “I’m really not in the mood for any more bullshit,” Sam snapped.

     

             Dean bristled. “Don’t talk to Jo that––”

     

             “It’s okay, Dean,” Jo cut him off. “He’s allowed to be angry.”

     

             “I don’t need you as a go-between between me and my brother,” Dean snapped in reply.

     

             “Actually maybe you do, since we obviously don’t speak the same language anymore,” Sam muttered.

     

             “Excuse me?” Dean heard his voice rising and made the conscious decision not to lower it.

     

             Sam rolled his eyes and gave him his not-even-funny-you’re-not-my-brother-right-now bitchface, the one that actually scared Dean.

     

             “Sam, I don’t understand why you have such a problem––”

     

             “You don’t understand? That’s rich, Dean. There’s not much to understand: you lied to me and let me find out the truth by walking in on…” Sam looked away, unable to finish the sentence, gesticulating vaguely towards Cas, who looked at his plate, blushing.

     

             “That’s exactly what you don’t understand, Sam. No matter what you say, that–– you do care––”

     

             “Dean, I don’t care. I think you do.”

     

             Dean jerked towards Sam, but Cas gripped his arm tightly, and Dean paused, meeting his pleading eyes. He gave a sharp nod before getting to his feet and sliding into his crumpled jeans and jacket on the floor beside the sofa.

     

             “I’m going out,” he grunted, heading up the stairs and out the door without looking over his shoulder.

    • • • • • • • •

             With each footstep Dean said to himself I don’t care. He walked erratically, chasing down leaves beneath his soles, gritting his teeth against the cold that slipped close against his back between his jacket and the thin cotton of his t-shirt. He didn’t know why he was mad at Sam: Sam was mad at him so he would be angry in return, and Sam was automatically wrong if they were both angry. As Dean walked he realized this was ridiculous, rolled it around in his head and sighed, tears burning in his eyes, creeping onto his lashes and freezing, crumbling onto his cheeks and melting away. He followed the road into Old Town, kicking angrily at the frost in the gutter, feeling satisfied as it shattered. With each kick his anger shifted more from Sam to himself; what-ifs and why-didn’t-s stacking themselves in his brain. Why hadn’t he just told Sam that first time they’d texted about Cas? Why hadn’t he come clean when Sam asked him the first day of the trip? Why had he brought Cas here in the first place, when he knew things would get complicated?

     

             Dean was several feet past the bookstore before doubling back and entering. He wandered through the aisles to the back until he reached the small poetry section they’d been in the day before–– what felt like years. He ran his fingers over the spines until he got to the place Cas had tucked the volume he’d read from. He tugged it off and rubbed the cover with his index finger. Pablo Neruda. Dean didn’t even pretend to himself that he knew who the guy was, just brought it to the counter and pulled his wallet out of his pocket where he’d tucked it the night before. As he did so, a strip of glossy paper fell to the floor. Dean bent down to retrieve it and smiled; they were the photos from the booth yesterday. He handed the clerk a ten and took the book, holding the strip against the hard cover, clutching the book to his chest and leaving the store, nodding a thanks to the clerk.

     

             He began walking in the direction of Jo’s house but stopped on a bench when he realized he still couldn’t stomach the idea of talking to Sammy. He killed some time by flicking through the pages, skimming the poems and turning off his phone when Jo tried to call. When he found the one Cas had read, heart twinging from the intensity of the memory, he placed the photo strip between the pages, as a bookmark of sorts. He tried to read the poem over again, “September 8th,” closed the book and slipped it into the large, inner pocket in his jacket, beginning the walk back to Jo’s house.

    • • • • • • • •

             He arrived back at Jo’s to find Sam and Cas showered and clothed, the three of them sitting on the couch watching Looney Tunes. Jo was sitting between Sam and Cas with crossed arms, defiant of the awkwardness that pervaded the room.

     

             “Hey, Dean-O, feeling better?”

     

             Dean nodded and crossed the room, sitting on the armrest of the sofa beside Cas, who reached up and gave his hand a squeeze. Dean managed a weak smile of thanks, understanding the gesture and its simplicity so as not to freak Sam out.

     

             “We should head back,” he said to no one in particular. “It’s our last day and Mary’d like us around the house.”

     

             Sam got to his feet quickly, so that he and Dean were the only ones standing, Sam a good few inches taller, and the two stared at each other for a tense moment before Cas got up as well, clearing his throat in the silence. Jo beamed, overly cheery, getting up as well and giving Dean and Sam a pat on their backs and Cas a careful hug.

     

             The drive home was tense, to say the least, Dean playing Metallica softly on a crackling radio station, Sam in the backseat and Cas in shotgun, their fingers tightly laced. He knew Sam could see and he didn’t care, because he needed something to hold onto, to keep everything from sinking in and falling apart.

     

             They pulled up outside and although Dean wanted nothing more than to go up to his room with Cas and kiss him until he forgot about yesterday, he managed to say, “You go on, Sam and I will be in in a minute. Cas got out and Sam scooted out and into the passenger seat, still not looking at Dean.

     

             “Sammy, come on.”

     

             Sam crossed his arms and put on a resolute bitchface.

     

             “Listen, Sam, I’m––I’m sorry, okay. I’m really sorry that you had to find out like that. I was going to tell you, I swear, it’s just––it’s hard. It’s just hard.”

     

             Sam nodded slowly, face still stony, eyes darting over dials on the dashboard.

     

             “I didn’t know what to say, how to explain it, it’s not––we’re not––”

     

             “I knew you were…whatever you are…the minute you guys got out of the car.”

     

             Sam stared at him, the soulful puppy turned up full force and Dean looked away awkwardly, fingering the dial on the radio, resisting the urge to turn it all the way up.

     

             “It’s not hard to guess, Dean. The way you too look at each other, God––” Sam ran his fingers through his too-long hair in need of a cut. “––It’s like you’re the only people in the room. It feels like you’re about to start reciting sonnets to each other or something. Or singing show tunes––I––sorry––I didn’t mean that in a ‘You’re gay way’––”

     

             “I know, bitch,” Dean interrupted, putting on a fake angry voice.

     

             Sam looked at him, a smile struggling and finally breaking across his face. “Jerk.”

     

             They grinned for a moment before Sam continued, “What I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter what you two are, and how you say it, but I knew, and other people will too, that you guys are…something…and that’s okay. You should be thankful for it, you should let people know you’re thankful for it. Let Cas know.”

     

             “What does that––”

     

             “Don’t fuck this up, Dean. It doesn’t matter that Cas is a guy, or that he reads poetry and is double majoring, or that he’s pretentious and only wears ugly sweaters, none of it matters. He’s not supposed to be the one that got away, he’s supposed to be the one. Make sure he is.”

     

             And with those words and small, smug smile, Sam got out of the car and entered the house without once looking over his shoulder at the slack-jawed Dean in the drivers seat.

    • • • • • • •

             When Dean entered Cas’s room and pushed him onto the bed, kissing a line from his mouth to his collarbone, the first thing Cas did before kissing him back was ask, “Is everything okay?”

     

             “Yeah. Now get those pants off,” Dean replied, before crushing their mouths together once more, trying to let him know, to tell him with each tender motion.

    • • • • • • • •

             The next morning, Dean woke before it was light out and made sandwiches with Mary in the kitchen while everyone else was asleep. They sipped their coffee as they sliced white bread, Mary’s the color of caramel and Dean’s black–– a habit he’d taken up since getting together with Cas.

     

             “Cas is a nice boy,” Mary said.

     

             Dean nodded carefully, spreading mustard on a slice.

     

             “Hold onto him.”

     

             Dean looked up at his mom in shock, feeling the cold slip of mustard as he accidentally brings the knife too close to his fingers.

     

             Mary smiled at him and bowed her head slightly in understanding and Dean thought something he thought very often, that he had the best mother ever.

    • • • • • • • •

             Dean merged onto the freeway and reached for the radio, but Cas gripped his arm, stopping him.

     

             “Cas?  Everything okay?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the road.

     

             Cas didn’t respond and Dean glanced at him. He was looking at his hands, which were gripping something nestled in the folds of his sweater.

     

             “I was wondering,” he began. “I…uh…I made you…us…uh…a mix…CD…and could we…uh…”

     

             Dean grinned, shaking his head and taking the CD from Cas’s hands. Honestly, he couldn’t understand how the Cas who sneered at him over coffee and the one too shy to play a mix CD were the same person.

     

             He pressed play and after a few moments of the CD whirring in the player, it began, twangy chords filling up the car and God, it was so hip. Cas cracked the window and leaned back, smiling, as the lyrics began. Dean listened, trying to be open minded and it wasn’t so bad after all.

     

             Alabama, Arkansas, I do love my Ma & Pa, Not the way that I do love you; Holy Moley, Me-oh-My, you're the apple of my eye; Girl, I’ve never loved one like you; Man, oh man, you’re my best friend, I scream it to the nothingness; There ain’t nothin’ that I need.

     

             Dean looked over at Cas and found him staring, wide-eyed and sky-blue at him, the way he did sometimes. Cas bit his lip, eyes darting away, and Dean reached for his hand, knotting their fingers together and lifting the joined fists to his lips to plant a gentle kiss on Cas’s knuckles. They came to rest beside the gearshift, Cas’s thumb tapping against his wrist in time to the music.

     

             Well, hot and heavy, pumpkin pie, chocolate candy, Jesus Christ; there ain’t nothing please me more than you.

     

             They rolled the windows down the rest of the way as the road sped by beside them, corn fields and forests, turning the volume up so high the sound warped at the edges and they could feel the vibrations in the seat cushions. Cas slipped out of his shoes, socks mismatched as always, tucking his legs up on the seat with him. He scooted over until he could lean against Dean’s side, resting his head on his shoulder and closing his eyes. His hair flopped over his face and tickled against Dean’s ear, and he could feel Cas’s smile on his neck.

     

             Home, let me go home, home is wherever I’m with you. Oh, home, let me come home, home is wherever I’m with you.

    Chapter Text

    The clock slowly came into focus, Cas’s breath on the back of his neck and shit. Practice started in five minutes and he smelled like sex and had no idea where his clothes were.

     

             Dean flew out of bed, running into the bathroom and splashing water on his face and torso in an attempt to refresh himself without having to take an actual shower. He ran the extra toothbrush Cas kept on the counter (his toothbrush, who was he kidding) over his teeth and threw it down before running around the room, kicking sweaters out of the way in search of his jeans. He found them and put them on as he looked for his shirt. He couldn’t find it anywhere, and as he got to his feet after looking under the bed, he glanced at the clock and fuck, five after nine. He grabbed the thing closest to his foot, inhaling Cas’s scent as he tugged it over his head.

     

             As he searched around on the bedside table for his car keys, Cas’s head lifted. He blinked sleepily at Dean and made a questioning noise.

     

             “Practice,” Dean supplied.

     

             “Mm. K. See you later?”

     

             “Yeah.” Dean bent over Cas and gave him a gentle kiss on the temple.

     

             Cas burrowed back into the pillow “L’ve oo,” his voice was muffled.

     

             Dean blinked stupidly before kissing the top of his head again and grunting, “Mhm.”

    • • • • • • • •

             He drove to practice in a daze, breaking several speeding laws and not even waiting for the engine to completely still before tearing into the locker room. His teammates were still lingering at the benches and they hollered at him–– hello’s, good morning’s, and why are you late, Winchester’s.

     

             He fiddled with his lock, head still spinning from the hurriedness of the morning and felt someone behind him.

     

             “Yeah?” he asked.

     

             “Hey, Winchester.”

     

             Gordon.

     

             “Do you have something you aren’t telling us?” Gordon’s voice was mocking.

     

             Dean’s throat tightened. “W-what?” He struggled to speak levelly. “What are you talking about?”

     

             “I don’t know, why don’t you tell us. You are wearing that faggot, Collins’s shirt.”

     

             “It’s a sweater,” Dean automatically replied, wincing internally as he did so.

     

             “Oh, it’s a sweater, I see. Did he tell you that while you sucked his cock?”

     

             Dean said nothing, only got his uniform out and began changing, keeping his eyes focused on a crack in the concrete floor.

     

             “Yeah, Dean, are you the faggot’s little bitch?” Adam jeered.

     

             Dean closed his locker, resisting the urge to slam it, glowered at them, and walked out onto the field, telling himself no response was the best response.

     

             He missed the ball every time someone passed it to him that day. No one spoke to him for the duration of practice, just snickered in his direction and mimed lewd things at him.

     

             Cas called on his way back to his dorm. He ignored it, clutching the wheel tightly, his pulse still loud in his ears, crashing.

     

             He texted him a few minutes later: Dean, you okay? How was practice?

     

             Dean deleted the text, a lump in his throat. He wondered when he became so fucked.

    • • • • • • • •

             He dropped the sweater off at Cas’s dorm, handing it to some guy smoking cigarettes outside and saying it was for Castiel. He drove away as soon as the guy went inside to deliver it. It would get to him eventually.

     

             Jo came over and watched Dr. Sexy while he got drunk and yelled at the characters. She didn’t ask what happened, just got him a cool towel and a plastic trash bin when he started puking. She handed him a bottle of water from the case he kept under his bed and frowned as his phone started buzzing irritably for the tenth time that night. She glanced at it as Dean opened the water and gulped it down.

     

             “Shit, Dean, you have twelve missed calls from Cas and thirty-seven texts.”

     

             Dean climbed into bed in response, knocking over the water, which he hadn’t capped, and reaching for his beer, which Jo snatched away and put out of his reach.

     

             “Get some sleep, you idjit,” she said fondly, grabbing his laptop and climbing into bed beside him. She propped it open on her lap as Dean tugged at the hem of her shirt as he fell asleep. “You’re too drunk now, but we’re talking about this tomorrow.”

     

             Dean groaned in response, he thought he might be sick again.

     

             Jo was still there when Dean woke in the middle of the night, sweaty. She’d fallen asleep and the multi-colors of his screensaver swirled across her face. He poked her stomach questioningly and she jerked awake.

     

             “Hey,” she whispered when she woke up enough to comprehend her surroundings. “Ready to talk?”

     

             Dean nodded numbly but said nothing, rolling onto his back and worrying the edge of the sheets, staring at the ceiling.

     

             “Dean, you’re the one with the problem,” Jo reminded him.

     

             Dean nodded again, not trusting himself to speak.

     

             “You should call Cas.”

     

             No response.

     

             “Dean.”

     

             “Jo.”

     

             Jo said nothing, knowing he was about to break. Sure enough, after a minute, his voice broke the silence, sounding small and un-echoing in the dark, uncertain.

     

             “How did it end up like this?”

     

             “Like what?”

     

             “Totally fucked.” He paused. “My teammates said I was Cas’s bitch today. I didn’t say no.”

     

             Jo placed a hand over his restless fingers and gave them a squeeze. They stilled.

     

             “I could lose my scholarship, Jo. I could lose everything. And I don’t really care.”

     

             Jo watched him thoughtfully.

     

             “Well, Dean, looks like you’re at a crossroads. Gotta decide what the loss and what’s the gain.”

     

             “Can I have both?”

     

             “Sure, maybe, I guess. You don’t really need both though. You know that.”

     

             She waited for a reply but got none. When she looked at Dean again, he was turned away from her, pretending to be asleep.

    • • • • • • • •

             Dean got ready on the day of the game with a pit in his stomach. He’d woken up to a Good luck :) text from Cas and he could feel the tenseness through the phone.

     

             They hadn’t talked about the two days’ silence the week before, but it was obvious from the way Cas acted around him, closed kisses and clipped words, that he hadn’t just let it go. Dean was scared to discuss it, scared what Cas would think if he knew Dean had been so easily shaken, just from some light macho bullshit.

     

             He drove to the field with a thick sense of apprehension clouding his mouth: bitter and briny, like something curdled and hidden under a rock. It intensified when he parked and saw the crowded bleachers, followed him through the showers and the changing room.

     

             He walked onto the field and found Jo and Cas in the row second closest to the front. Pam and Chuck were behind them, chugging from a thermos he would bet good money contained vodka. They found him as well and Jo blew kisses while Pam and Chuck waved lopsidedly with their entire bodies. Cas smiled widely at him but didn’t move. Dean jogged to his place keeping Cas’s image balanced on the inside of his lids. The starting whistle blew and it and all sounds after it came through his ears muffled, warbling, unsure. Everything was going by, faster than he could process, and he stopped trying to understand what and just went. He ran close against the bleachers and Jo’s voice raced past, that’s my boy, as he caught the ball.

     

             The whole game was like this, running by and blurring together, until the timer flashed zero and the whistle blew and he was tackled into the grass by a pile of sweaty, exuberant men. Heaved up, pulled along, arms above his head, fists pumping, cheering.

     

             He gulped down water from a condensation-frosted bottle and crossed the field to the bleachers, several teammates nearby doing the same, seeking out friends. He approached Jo and Cas who had moved down to the first bench; Pam and Chuck had long disappeared. Jo hopped down as he arrived, throwing her arms around his neck, chattering and squealing, all white teeth and congratulations as she buzzed around him. Cas slipped down beneath the railings after her and approached Dean as well, eyes bright, smiling.

     

             “Congratulations,” he murmured, and Dean didn’t so much hear him as he recognized his lips forming the words. He turned to Cas, a sense of relief flooding over him at his expression, his lips quirked and eyes blinding beneath his mop of dark hair. And then everything was in slow motion between them, but going impossibly fast–– as Cas wrapped one arm around his hips, the other hand on the back of his head, pulling him down into a kiss. It was quick but that’s where things slowed down because in the moment of their lips he could hear the absolute silence of everyone around him, see Jo’s shocked and horrified-worried expression over Cas’s shoulder, his teammates turning and pointing in his direction. His lips closed and he pushed Cas away, staggering backwards, eyes wide and shocked. Cas’s had turned into a question and Dean was looking everywhere, at everyone around him for the answer, because he was telling himself, over and over, that he sure as hell didn’t have it.

     

             And there were a million people giving one to him: Jo, eyes bulging, egging him on, jerking her head towards Cas as he continued to move away from Dean, pressing his back up against the wall, shrinking into the concrete, becoming small as he tried to hide from the impulsiveness of his actions. Gordon and Adam had approached, laughing, other boys behind them whistling. They clapped Dean on the back, eyes darting to Cas, saying,

     

             “The Collins fag got you good there, didn’t he?”

     

             “What the fuck was that, Dean, don’t let the he-she make a bitch out of you.”

     

             “Help us teach him a lesson, he doesn’t get to fuck around with one of our guys like that.”

     

             And Dean was stammering as they advanced towards Cas, unable to breathe, his lungs filling with words he could say.

     

             It’s not like that.

     

             He’s supposed to do that.

     

             It’s okay, he’s my boyfriend.

     

             Fuck off.

     

             I love him.

     

             And the horror at all the thoughts, at Cas staring past them at him pleading, was too much pressure, too many promises he would be making that he knew he couldn’t keep, so he was pushing forward, forcing out a laugh, harsh like a crow’s caw, and said, “I don’t know what the fuck that was, but you better not touch me again, you fa––“ and he choked on that, mouth snapping shut with realization, hand moving towards Cas, who was already slipping away, head down, knocking Dean over in his rush. Jo scrabbled for him, but he pushed past her as well and Dean knew he was crying. He could hear laughter and felt sick, like he drank too much pool water. He was screaming Cas. “Cas!” “CAS!” but Cas was long gone and he’s turning around yelling “Fuck you what the fuck was that why did you do that that’s not okay!” but they were already gone as well, back to the locker rooms to change. Dean turned towards Jo, who was staring at him, steely-eyed. She shook her head as Dean begged, “Jo, Jo please, what do I do,” before she slapped him, once, clean and sharp across his cheek, jerking his head to the side. She walked away as Dean stumbled to his knees in the dust between the bleachers and the field. He watched her form turn into a silhouette and disappear. He’d never felt so small.

    Chapter Text

             Dean was throwing things again. He knew he shouldn’t, because it would be just like last time–– he’d have to buy new dishes and a new phone, have to scrub beer stains off the wall. He didn’t care, though, because it was the only thing that seemed to do any good, to make things feel any different. There was a satisfied crunch as his phone shattered into pieces and Dean threw the fragments nearest to him again. Jo could see how she liked getting in touch with him now. He screamed a bit, just for good measure, his frustration disintegrating into a pounding headache until he collapsed onto the sofa, spent, his neighbors hammering their fists against the shared wall in an effort to get him to quiet down. A plastic chip (probably from his phone) dug into his thigh and he reached under to remove it, squeezing it in his fist until its edge was sharp and painful against his skin.

     

             One week. It’d been a week since the game, since he did the stupidest thing he’d ever done in his life (including the time he tried to break into school in the middle of the night to put fish in Sam’s first girlfriend’s Ruby’s locker). Cas wouldn’t pick up the phone and he couldn’t even completely blame him. He hadn’t even tried going to the dorm, he wanted to be spared that humiliation. He hadn’t gone anywhere in the last week, just ordered Pizza Hut and demanded things from Jo. She wasn’t talking to him but she got them for him nonetheless, letting herself in and depositing them on the coffee table before leaving without a word. Dean didn’t say anything to her, it wasn’t worth the energy trying to get a Harvelle to come round.

     

             He was lying in his bed, trying to ignore the fact that his sheets smelled terrible and he hadn’t showered in four days, when he heard the sound of a lock clicking. He sat up groggily, and shouted “Who is it?” hoarsely, voice rough from disuse.

     

             “It’s your rescue squad, Winchester,” Jo called, stepping into the room. “Complete with a special guest rescuer from our very own hometown of Lawrence, Kansas.” She stepped to the side to reveal six feet of patented concerned-face Sam Winchester.

     

             “Sam!” Dean exclaimed, before realizing how stupid it sounded.

     

             “Time to get your ass out of bed and get in the shower, Dean-o. Your days as a pathetic teenage girl sulking over her breakup are over.” Jo tore the sheets from Dean’s body without a shred of remorse.

     

             Dean mumbled threats at her, although he was flushed with gratitude inside, and snatched his last pair of clean sweatpants from his dresser on his way to the bathroom.

     

             Sam came in while he was in the shower, sitting on the toilet seat and talking to Dean above the thrum of the water.

     

             “Jo told me what happened. That sucks.”

     

             “Yeah, it does,” Dean replied, closing his eyes and sighing as he felt the grime of the last two weeks wash down the drain.

     

             “You fucked up, man.”

     

             “If Cas wasn’t such a fucking pussy about everything it would be fine.”

     

             Sam didn’t reply for a moment and Dean wondered if he was still there as he massaged shampoo into his temples.

     

             “Sam?”

     

             “Are you really telling yourself that, Dean?”

     

             “Telling myself what? I did something stupid, sure, but Cas is the one acting like a bitch and not picking up his phone.”

     

             “Why don’t you go to his dorm?”

     

             Dean snorted at that, rinsing out his hair instead of answering.

     

             Sam said nothing else and when Dean stepped out into the steamy bathroom, he found it empty.

    • • • • • • • •

             They filled up four washing machines at the student Laundromat with everything washable in Dean’s apartment, and went out for lunch at the diner across the street while they waited for the cycle to be done. Sam bought Dean a burger and a milkshake with promises of a slice of pie after since Jo was still half-mad at Dean and refused to purchase comfort food for him.

     

             When they got to the pie, Jo decided it was time to return to the more pressing matters at hand.

     

             “So how are you going to make it up to him?”

     

             “To who?” Dean asked around pie.

     

             “Who do you think? Cas, dumbass.”

     

             “I object to that.”

     

             “There’s nothing to object to, moron.”

     

             “Hey!”

     

             “Dean, I’m not dicking around. What are you planning to do?” Jo snapped.

     

             “I don’t need to do anything.”

     

             “Hell froze over you don’t.”

     

             “What?”

     

             “You can’t be serious,” Jo exclaimed, aghast. “You can’t honestly not be planning on winning him back.”

     

             Dean snorted. “Whatever. It was fun while it lasted, but it was only a matter of time before––”

     

             Dean was cut short as Jo stormed out, leaving his lap filled with vanilla milkshake that dripped off his jeans and onto the floor.

     

             He looked towards Sam for help to find him stifling laughter.

     

             “It’s not funny,” he protested.

     

             “It sort of is.”

     

             “Bitch.”

     

             “Jerk.”

    • • • • • • • •

             Dean drove Sam to the airport two days later. They sat in the car in an illegal parking zone for several thick, silent minutes, until a security guard tapped on the passenger side window and motioned angrily for them to move. Sam flailed to unbuckle his seatbelt and Dean chuckled as he rearranged his oversized limbs within the car.

     

             “Dean,” Sam turned to him, his hand on the door lock.

     

             “Sammy, please, don’t,” Dean begged.

     

             Sam nodded, smiled sympathetically, and gave him a one armed hug before climbing out of the car, retrieving his bag from the trunk, and waving over his shoulder at Dean as he walked into the airport. Dean waved back and pulled away, much to the satisfaction of the exasperated security guard watching the Impala with a suspicious eye from the curb.

     

             Dean tried calling Cas on the drive back to the campus. He was met only with the irritable click of a voicemail, and Cas’s voice, slurred at the edges the way he was when he’d been smoking: “Fuck off, Dean Winchester.” And Dean hung up, rolling his eyes, muttering, “Real mature, Cas, real mature.”

    • • • • • • • •

             Dean went out to a bar by himself the second Friday after the game. Jo’d been making goo-goo eyes at some lean dick of a soccer player named Michael who she had a class with. When Dean had called her to come with she said, “Sorry, I’m working on a project with Michael and I’m not leaving unmade-out-with.” Dean had called her a terrible friend and told her to go fuck herself to which she replied, “I’m the best friend, and I’m sure I won’t be doing as much of that as you,” and hung up. Dean knew it was meant to be affectionate, but he couldn’t help but squeeze his eyes shut for a moment, holding his phone against his lips and muttering, “Too soon.”

     

             He entered the bar and immediately changed his game plan from rebound sex to get fucking hammered, the million and one bodies pressed against his suddenly revolting. He pushed through the crowded dance floor to the greasy counter of the bar. As he did so, he caught sight of a green wolf. Turning abruptly, Dean reached for the arm of the sweater.

     

             “Cas…”

     

             He spun the guy around and came face to face with a short, round-faced but not unattractive man with a shag of mousy brown hair.

     

             “Excuse me,” Dean said bluntly, disappointment and confusion warring in his head.

     

             The guy’s lips lifted in a half-smile. “Perfectly fine. One might mistake me for him as I am wearing his jumper.”

     

             The guy was fucking British, Dean observed in the way he might imagine it would if someone said Sam was a meth addict. Yeah right.

     

             Dean opened his mouth to reply, but the guy had already moved away; he could see his back retreating into the crowd.

     

             As he sipped his gin and tonic, Dean caught sight of a familiar group of lanky guys in printed t-shirts and hats with feathers in them, and tattooed girls wearing smudged, bright lipstick. Cas was in the middle of them, and Dean wondered how the fuck he looked so normal–– touchy, emotional Cas–– where Dean was so not normal, so not okay.

     

             It wasn’t fair.

     

             And then it felt like the world was ending, because Cas had his arm around the waist of the guy wearing his sweater, bringing the two of them close, hips pressed tight. People were moving around them, unnoticing, accepting it as normal and Dean wondered how the fuck the entire room hadn’t stopped and stared, aghast. Cas was looking up, and Dean’s mouth went dry as he looked past the million and one people between them the way he always had, straight to Dean; and Dean could see the blue of his eyes even from here–– that familiar shade that haunted his every thought. A smirk ghosted on Cas’s lips and he half-blinked, smug, as the other guy pulled something from his pocket, putting it to Cas’s lips before crushing their mouths together.

     

             It was long and slow and flashing tongue and so deliberate, so intended for Dean’s eyes that he felt sick. He downed the rest of his drink and pushed into the crowd, turning his back on the unwanted sight. He was moderately drunk and returning to Plan A had suddenly become a brilliant idea.

     

             Dean stumbled into the redhead in a tight-fitting white dress and red pumps, muttering apologies before he heard the friendly greeting; “Dean!”

     

             “Anna?” he asked, confused, before correcting himself. “Anna! Hey, how are you?”

     

             “I’m good, wow, I haven’t seen you in ages. You’ve been hanging out with Castiel a lot, haven’t you?”

     

             Dean suppressed the urge to glance over his shoulder and look for Cas somewhere back on the other side of the room and wondered how much Cas had told his sister. He wondered if they were close; he hadn’t even known they were related until some of Cas’s friends spit it out.

     

             “Yeah, a bit,” he said vaguely. “We had a bit of a falling out, though, so I guess I won’t be seeing him much anymore.”

     

             Anna’s eyebrows furrowed slightly and she tilted her head in a way that hit Dean on the head with family resemblance. He could see the question on her lips; what happened? But she thankfully said nothing.

     

             Somehow they got dancing, Anna moving close in a way full of intent and Dean didn’t object–– the hollow ache in his chest was begging for coddling and Anna was hot. It was a little odd how eager she was to bump and grind with a guy who’d basically blown her off in favor of hanging around with her brother three months ago. On some level he guessed that Cas either hadn’t told Anna about them or she was one bitch of a sister. On another, his consciousness was screaming REVENGE SEX! REVENGE SEX! NOT COOL! But hell if Cas wasn’t doing the same thing. This is more personal. He couldn’t erase the look on Cas’s face as he shoved his tongue down the dick’s throat across the room, hopping up on whatever the guy had put into Cas’s mouth (because Dean knew Cas was all over that shit, that he didn’t do it around Dean because Dean didn’t; that more likely than not when they weren’t together he was on his back tangled in his sheets laughing at the blackholes on his ceiling) and staring at Dean like it was just some game.

     

             Dean thought with a sting that maybe that was what it had been all along. Maybe Cas was a compulsive liar. I love you more than sweaters. Maybe Cas had been the pretentious slutty genius the whole time, leading Dean on and making him think it actually amounted to something. Maybe he’d done this to half the other guys like Dean.

     

             The thought burned with such an unexpected intensity that Dean’s subconsciousness decided without consulting him that the only way to remedy it was to pull Anna loosely against him and kiss her throatily. It wasn’t his best work, but hell, he was drunk and shamefully desperate, in need of sex as far as possible from the hard angles and firm, narrow planes of Cas’s body.

     

             His mind screamed revenge sex! Revenge sex! Crossing a line! at him and he heard Jo in his head, saying you fucking idiot Dean and Sam tutting that’s low, even for you, but Dean couldn’t seem to find a shit to give as he pushed Anna against the door of her room, hiking her up on his hips, her dress riding up, sucking on her throat as she undid his jeans.

     

             Afterwards, as Dean lay on his back in her bed, resting his head on his arm and tracing the cracks in the ceiling with his painfully awake eyes, he thought shit out of luck for no family resemblance. If he closed his eyes, Anna could’ve been mistaken for a high-pitched Cas–– same breathy exhalations, sharp, half-bitten back moans. It was partly creepy, partly a turn-on, and mostly saddening. Dean glanced at Anna, a mess of red hair on the pillow, sleeping an appropriate distance across the mattress for a one-night stand. All business, nothing more.

     

             He remembered after his and Cas’s first time, Cas cleaning them up, taking care of him more painstakingly that anyone ever had besides Mary. Wrapping his arms loosely around Dean in a question mark, a way in which he could say no and pull away. He hadn’t. He should’ve. He shouldn’tve. He’d pushed a leg between Cas’s and placed his head on the same pillow, feeling his breath on his collarbone.

     

             Dean rolled onto his side, back to Anna. She didn’t move; she remained motionless, indifferent, all business.

    • • • • • • • •

             He bought coffee with Jo at Starbucks the next morning, loading it with cream and sugar. They sat by the gas fireplace and ate dry pastries warmed in a toaster oven behind the counter, and Jo spoke to Dean in the fragile way one spoke to a mentally unstable person who had just come out on the bad end of a tragedy.

     

             “I’m fine, seriously, Jo,” he said, a total non sequitur to the awkward, mostly one-sided conversation Jo was trying to have with him.

     

             Jo set her coffee down.

     

             “Don’t fuck with me, Winchester. That’s what you say when you’re really not.”

     

             “That’s what I always say.”

     

             “You didn’t say that when Cas was around.”

     

             Dean stopped chewing his blueberry scone. The icing flaked off onto his lower lip and he brushed it off distractedly.

     

             “Are you implying I wasn’t fine until Cas was around? Is that what you mean?”

     

             He said it snarky as hell, he knew, but Jo only resumed drinking her coffee and spoke to him over the plastic lid with raised eyebrows,

     

             “I don’t know, is it?”

     

             Dean stuffed the rest of his scone into his mouth, gulped down his coffee in one go despite the burns on his tongue, and stormed out, turning several heads as he flung the door open and stomped to the car to wait for Jo to finish; he’d never actually drive away without her.

     

             He told her about the club as they drove away, from the guy wearing Cas’s sweater, Cas’s Sweater! to his adventure with Anna.

     

             Jo let out a long breath half-turned whistle and shook her head.

     

             “You are one son of a bitch, Dean Winchester. I expect you want me to find out who the hell that guy is?”

     

             “Basically yeah,” Dean knew there was no point dodging around it.

     

             “Did you say he was short and British?”

     

             “Mhm.”

     

             “Don’t have to dig up any dirt then, that’s Crowley. Architecture major with a penchant for pills. Balthazar came back from his semester across the Pond, brought him with. Cousins or something.”

     

             “Wait, Balthazar’s back? Like…Cas-Balthazar, Balthazar?” Dean spluttered.

     

             “Noooooo, because parents go naming their kids Balthazar all over the place,” Jo answered sarcastically.

     

             “No need to be so snappy. Remember I’m a broken puppy.”

     

             “Oh fuck you. You can’t act angsty only when it’s convenient. Are you going to go beat him up now, or something?”

     

             “Who?”

     

             “Balthazar. Crowley. Either -or. Both.”

     

             “Why would I do that?” Dean laughed forcibly.

     

             “To play the card of the jealous ex you are, teach him a lesson for deflowering your blushing bride.”

     

             “What are you even––he’s not my ex and Cas is hardly a blushing bride––” he spat out derisively. “Cas can do whatever the fuck he wants. He’s probably happier now that he doesn’t have to dodge around me anymore while he gets high out of his mind.”

     

             Jo snorted. “What the fuck ever, Dean. Say what you want but it’s not going to change the fact you miss him and are moping around having sex with his sister like a petty asshole.”

     

             Fuck you curdled on the tip of Dean’s tongue but he didn’t have it in him anymore to argue with her.

    • • • • • • • •

             Dean was chewing on the end of his pen, rolling it along his bottom lip and staring blankly at the same page of his textbook that he’d been reading for two hours. He had a sparse smattering of notes on his page for his outline, but today every sound seemed to pull him out of it. He usually had no problem plowing through bullshit work, but he’d been trying and failing to focus since he got to the lounge at midday. He really had no idea why he was here, but he’d decided it would be good to have a change of scenery since he only hung out with Jo and sometimes Pam and Chuck–– but they weren’t around much these days; Jo and he had a running wager that they’d started hooking up, the two intuitive slackers naturally drawn to each other.

     

             He heard the sharp rapport of angry footsteps and barely had time to look up before he was falling over backwards in his chair, knee hitting the table he was working at as he landed on the floor with a clatter. He looked up to see a fuming Cas, wide eyes, flared nostrils, and static hair.

     

             “What the fuck?” he swore, genuinely bewildered. “What the fuck was that you––”

     

             “Don’t even start, Dean. I don’t want to hear any of your ‘I’m a free spirit I do what I want’ bullshit. Because I don’t care and it doesn’t matter.”

     

             Cas’s voice held none of the condescending flirtatiousness it usually did when he was irritated with Dean and egging him on. It sounded like it did that day at the thrift store, but if his voice had been stormy then, this was a fucking hurricane, no-bullshit and pure ire.

     

             “Cas––”

     

             “It’s fucking Castiel to you. Listen, you assbutt––” He hissed, bending over Dean and fisting his hand in his shirt. “––If you ever come near me again, I will end you. And I don’t mean I will kick the shit out of you, I mean you will wake up naked in a park high as fuck in pink lacy panties and every person to be even remotely associated with this school will know that you, Dean Winchester, are a spineless, shallow, cock-sucking slut who overcompensates for his penis’s inadequacy and his own mental retardation by acting like the hottest thing to ever grace this earth, which, I will also make abundantly clear, you are not. See how you like unfuckable now.”

     

             Dean felt the sting of what had once been the memory of playful banter over sweaters turned into such a harsh display of malice. He was still speechless, mind wiped blank by Cas’s threat. He could tell from the steely flatness of his expression that he wasn’t kidding, and the thought terrified him.

     

             So, in typical Dean Winchester fashion, the only way to respond to something like this was grin cockily up at him and sneer, “That’s not what you said when I bent you over your kitchen table.” Fuck, Dean, most gorgeous fuck-ing thing I’ve ever––

     

             Cas’s fist collided squarely with his nose, wiping out the tangy, stinging memory. Dean was still seeing stars, mouth flooding with blood, as Cas stood over him, clenching his fists.

     

             “I have no idea how I ever stooped low enough to touch a Neanderthal like you.”

     

             “Cas,” Dean said, forcing himself to swallow his blood because there was no way he was going to spit it all over a school-owned room. “Why the fuck are you––”

     

             “Why the fuck, Dean? Why the fuck!” And Cas had lost it now, eyes going wild, all composure lost. Dean felt a punch of guilt as he saw he was teetering on the edge of tears. “There is such a long list of WHY THE FUCK. You fucked my sister, Dean! YOU FUCKED MY SISTER AFTER YOU FUCKED ME. AFTER YOU FUCKED ME IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE, FUCKED ME OVER. Why the fuck, Dean? WHY THE FUCK DO YOU THINK?”

     

             “THAT WAS AFTER YOU STUCK YOUR TONGUE DOWN CROWLEY’S FUCKING THROAT,” Dean yelled back, vision dark and crashing on the edges, not even caring who heard anymore. Tears stung his eyes.

     

             “That’s not the point!” Cas roared, far too close.

     

             “Then what is!” Dean’s ears were ringing.

     

             Cas stepped back, a devastated, post-apocalypse, well shit can’t get worse so what the fuck ever look on his face. “You really don’t…” he murmured, voice half inaudible.

     

             Dean stared at him, breathless, blood tricking over his lips and down his chin, afraid to move or say anything. Cas met his eyes, brow furrowed and mouth taut. He shook his head and turned on his heel. He left with a defeated slump to his shoulders not representing the complete ass-kicking he had just performed.

    Chapter Text

             The nightmares started again, all muffled yelling and big blue and drowning. He’d wake up in the middle of the night and sit in the bottom of the shower stall, knees up and head bowed, letting the water wash over him, cover his face so he could barely breathe, because when water was all around him, crying didn’t count; and Dean Winchester didn’t cry. He didn’t text his best friend to make sure she was still there even if it was three am. He didn’t seek comfort: he provided it.

     

             Dean went to class and went to football and went home. No one talked to him anymore–– not since they found out “Dean Winchester is a faggot” –– and he didn’t talk to anyone either. He’d notice things and find a text to Cas half-written before his brain caught up with his thumbs and he deleted it with a taut, straight face. He went on drives when he wasn’t doing homework, keeping the radio off and listening to the pucker of air through the open window, the raw silence of the New England countryside.

     

             He picked up a habit of going to bars and clubs and getting mostly drunk while he people watched. Sometimes he’d see Cas. Sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes Cas saw him: sometimes Dean crept out before Cas noticed him. Cas was always laughing, wide-mouthed and head back, nothing like when he was around Dean, soft huffs and chuckles. He was always center-of-attention, smiling, tasting, trying, and Dean had never seen anyone ever try so hard, plaster haughty indifference upon his face in such an ill-fitting mold before. He marveled that no one noticed, that he himself hadn’t. He’d pass Cas in the daylight sometimes too, on his way to class, in the park. He was rarely alone, always with a group. His eyes were glazed and his hair was crazy in a limp, bedraggled way, not in the crawled out of bed after a good night of fucking way–– although from what Dean heard Pam and Jo whispering about that was all he seemed to do; when they’d notice him listening they’d stop abruptly and give him pitying, poor baby looks. He hated them for it.

     

             Dean was reflecting on all this at another bar, musing into his drink, as he watched Cas dance and laugh and tongue fuck his way through the crowd, and he knew he must look like a pathetic loser, when he heard the sound of a stool being pulled out and a polite cough.

     

             He looked up to find a guy with a neat mouth and dirty blonde hair sitting a respectable distance away, watching him intently.

     

             “Can I get you a drink?” he asked in a clipped British accent.

     

             Dean didn’t even try not to roll his eyes. Did he give off desperate gay guy now? He wasn’t one to turn down free booze though, and hey, maybe some one night stands with dicks would help get his mopey, cardboard-box-left-out-in-the-rain ego to get its shit together again.

     

             The guy called for a round of shots before tugging the stool a bit closer–– still not in hitting-on range ––and giving Dean a onceover.

     

             “So you’re Dean.”

     

             “What’s it to you?” Dean retorted, downing the tequila as soon as it was placed before him.

     

             The guy eyed his own glass, but didn’t touch it.

     

             “I’m Balthazar.”

     

             Dean froze, fiddled with the napkin beneath his now empty shot glass, and wished it was still full because downing a shot seemed like the perfect thing to do right now. He glanced at Cas, who was staggering in circles around some stick of a girl with disproportionately wide hips and blue hair fading to green and bleach at the tips, mouthing at her neck. He noticed the mocking way in which the rest of the group watched Cas, and it felt like a personal blow.

     

             “He’s cute when he does that,” Balthazar said, taking his drink. He waved the bartender over and ordered another.

     

             They both watched Cas as he pulled the girl to her, tugged what looked like a small baggy out of his back pocket and held it up to the girl, smiling mischievously.

     

             “Does what?” Dean asked numbly.

     

             “Goes all ‘end of the world on us,’” Balthazar laughed dryly, taking a sip of the orange cocktail he ordered. “Parties his way to the apocalypse, all drinks and drugs and cheap sex. He can be such a little whore sometimes.”

     

             Dean didn’t think anyone should sound so affectionate talking about someone like that, but he guessed it was just a special Balthazar thing. He could picture he and Cas together, see them as a couple: it sucked.

     

             “Thinks he’s fooling everyone, but he doesn’t look like he’s having a good time, never does. Always so serious, Cas was–– too serious for that kind of bullshit. Now he just looks sad.”

     

             Dean burned at the use of the nickname, almost offended he hadn’t been the first to call Castiel that. It made everything even more insignificant, put Dean even more into perspective as just another in a long line.

     

             “He talks about you all the time, you know,” and did this guy ever stop talking. “Never says your name but he gets that wounded puppy, angst-in-the-eyes look. He got nowhere near this fucked after me though, and it’s only been a month. Good job, you must’ve been something special, although looks could deceive.” He gave Dean a disdainful glance and Dean felt the acute desire to punch him in the face and leave.

     

             “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about,” he said tersely.

     

             Balthazar laughed derisively. “You know, Castiel, the one in the jumpers who’s in love with you.”

    • • • • • • • •

             She stretched her head back, hands on Dean’s chest, gasping in small hiccups as she rocked against him.

     

             She’d come to his dorm, pissed, slammed the door and asked him why he was such a dick. He’d looked at her stupidly, a silent ‘what’ on his lips.

     

             Dean wrapped his arms around her waist, flipping her onto her back and covering her mouth, wanting nothing more than to silence such Cas-like­ noises.

     

             “Why did you let us?” Let us do what. “I mentioned it to Cas. He almost started crying. Why didn’t you say something?” There was nothing to say.

     

             She pulled her mouth away from his and he tangled his fingers in her mass of fiery hair, closing his eyes as they fell out of rhythm, her gasps turning into a faint moan as she tightened around him.

     

             He didn’t know when they started making out–– he was Dean Winchester and she was trying to talk about feelings–– it just happened.

     

             He came tumbling after her, blue bursting behind his clenched lids, fisting the pillow behind her head. “Cas.”

     

             They lay side by side in the bed, quiet and pensive, shoulders brushing from the familiarity of multiple casual hook ups.

     

             “Did you say my brother’s name when you came?” she asked, her tone measured, not offended, just curious. Dean was relieved for it. “Do you miss him?”

     

             Dean said nothing, wondering why women always had to do this, how they transitioned so easily from one thing to the next.

     

             “He misses you.”

     

             Dean exhaled loudly, closing his eyes and imagining that when he opened them, Cas would be beside him on the bed.

     

             “Fuck, why am I doing this?”

     

             Dean opened his eyes and turned his head towards Anna. No luck.

     

             “Doing what?” he finally replied.

     

             “Fucking my brother’s boyfriend. He blows me off, says he doesn’t need me to baby him, that it doesn't matter, but it does, and shit, I’m his sister. I'm a SHIT sister.”

     

             Dean wasn’t going to argue with that, but he knew women well enough not to agree with it either. I’m not his boyfriend. Dean said nothing.

     

             “I think I should go.”

     

             Dean was finding it was much easier to let other people do the talking these days.

     

             “I think you should too.”

     

             “And not come back,” Anna added.

     

             Dean felt himself nodding.

     

             “And not come back,” he agreed.

     

             “Thanks for the fun, Dean.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek and got out of bed, shimmying into her dress.

     

             “No problem,” he heard himself replying; but everything had become distant, muffled under the saltwater sensation in his lungs.

     

             He closed his eyes again, wishing.

     

             When he opened them, Anna was gone, as if she’d never been there in the first place; he was alone.

    • • • • • • • •

             It was only a matter of time before Dean entered another level of degradation.

     

            Dean couldn’t bring himself to hook up with any more people, Anna was gone, and beer and his hand could only get him so far.

     

            He was leaving the Impala Gentleman’s Club, fifty dollars poorer and blaming Cas for the blueness of his balls when he heard slurred protests echoing from a nearby alley. He hunched his shoulders and retreated into his collar, but the sounds persisted and he turned around irritably and doubled back. He wasn’t going to let some poor guy get potentially stabbed or raped.

     

             The alley was dark, streetlights blocked out by the apartment buildings that leaned in towards each other over the rutted concrete. It was lined with dumpsters and stunk like a dead whore. Dean coughed, trying to suppress a gag, and made his way towards the flailing figure sitting on a set of cement steps leading up to a solid metal door.

     

             “Dude, you okay?” he called unsurely. At least the guy wasn’t getting mugged, and if he was high or crazy Dean could handle him if he proved dangerous.

     

             “THE FUCKING DEMONS ARE COMING FOR ME!” he screamed. Dean came closer and frowned; the person’s voice was definitely male, and chillingly familiar, but he caught a glimpse of a lace dress and high heels scrabbling on the bottom step.

     

             “Uh…”

     

             “Dean?”

     

             And this, Dean supposed, was when things really went to Wonderland.

     

             “DEAN! THEY DIDN’T GET YOU!”

     

             The guy moved towards him and Dean stepped back in shock. Fuck his luck–– it was Cas. And fuck Cas’s luck–– he looked like shit: his pale legs were bared to the cold underneath a lacy blue dress and he tottered about in terribly clashing bubblegum pink heels, the muscles in his fishnet-clad calves defined.  His face was a smudge of cheap pigment, clumps of mascara hugging his lashes greedily, the rims of his eyes lined so they were bright and swollen.

     

             “Cas, what the fuck…” Dean didn’t even want to know.

     

             “Dean why are you here?” Cas fell forward and on instinct Dean caught him, almost sighing with contentment as Cas sagged against him, relieved to feel his weight despite the circumstance. “Dean I got so lost.”

     

             And fuck his eyes were growing brighter and he was he about to––shit.

     

             Tears started spilling down Cas’s cheeks and he forced his hands beneath Dean’s jacket and around his waist, clutching at the fabric of his shirt at his lower back. Dean felt the tips like points of ice against his skin. The sensation made him aware that Cas was shivering–– of course he was, it was freezing and he was only wearing…whatever he was wearing.

     

             “I’m so cold, Dean.” His teeth had started chattering. Dean needed to get him somewhere warm, his natural instinct to protect Cas overwhelming the urge to push him away and leave him in the alley for the crackheads to play with. He began maneuvering them towards the Impala, murmuring reassurance as Cas’s tears dripped onto his shoulder, slipping beneath his collar.

     

             In the car Cas started screaming about demons and angels and a boiling sea devouring him and Save me, Dean! Save me! And Dean squeezed the wheel, biting back anger at whoever did this to him, ignoring a small voice inside him that said you did.

     

             Eventually Cas seemed to tire himself out, sagging against the door, eyes shifting listlessly at the neon lights and staggering strangers racing by outside the window. His tears had run tracts through the smudged pigments on his face and dried, exposing stripes of pale, gray-speckled skin. His hair was greasy and clung to his face and his faint freckles stood out against his cheekbones. He laughed raspily, breathing on the window and tracing patterns in the condensation with a trembling index finger.

     

             “Cas, who the fuck did this to you?” Dean asked, unable to restrain himself anymore.

     

             “Cas,” he giggled. “It’s been awhile since anyone called me that.” He looked at Dean out of the corner of his eye. “I liked that you.”

     

             The words hit Dean with bittersweet nostalgia and he averted his gaze, focusing on the road. He felt his muscles quivering beneath his skin, uncertainty flooding his veins.

     

             “Crowley,” Cas muttered. “Said we’d have a good time. We did. Gave me some…some pills,” Cas was slumping even further, lids fluttering, limbs drooping, heavy. “Damn good pills, but then Balthazar was there. I don’t like Balthy, Dean. Scares me. Reminds me o’ you.” He shifted his weight with a soft groan, leaning against Dean. “So I ran away and when I stopped I was lost, and the shadows were chasing me with their big, white teeth.” Cas let out a small yelp of fear and burrowed his face into Dean’s neck, clutching at him. He smelled like shit: all drugs and sex, but underneath it Dean caught whiffs of pure, crisp Cas–– and he ached for it.

     

             The whole drive back he thought about Cas. About he and Cas and Balthazar and Cas and Cas and Crowley and this Cas and his Cas. He couldn’t figure out who was real and who was just an illusion of circumstance.

     

             Cas had dozed off against him, a dead weight, and when Dean parked outside his dorm he tugged at him, trying to wake him. He stirred, but made no attempt to get up, so Dean sighed, got out of the car, and opened the passenger side door, unbuckling Cas’s seatbelt and pulling him into his arms, supporting him as they walked up to his room.

     

             “Thank you, Dean,” Cas murmured as he guided him into the room, barely audible. “L’you more’n sweaters.”

     

             Dean smiled painfully and pushed him into the bathroom, stripping him down and practically throwing him into the shower, turning it on and leaving, blushing despite the fact that he’d seen it all before.

     

             After ten minutes Dean reentered with a pair of sweatpants and a hole-filled green sweater the color of his eyes that Sam had given him years ago, expecting Cas would find comfort in it. Cas was slumped over in the tub, blinking sleepily, water running in rivulets over his body. His ribs showed faintly and Dean wondered if he’d lost weight; he looked like he had. He’d made no apparent attempt to wash himself so Dean detached the head from its hook on the wall and tugged it down to spray Cas off. He shut the water off and tossed Cas a towel, snapping at him to get up and dry himself.

     

             Cas nodded, trying to pull himself to his feet by using the shower curtain as a hold. The opaque sheet of white plastic tore down, Cas slipping backwards and falling into the tub, tangled in the curtain.

     

             As Dean bent over the tub to help him up, he suddenly surged forward, screaming, “FUCK YOU DEAN! FUCK YOU TO HELL I FUCKING HATE YOU!” and he was crying again, gripping at Dean’s shirt to pull their mouths together, all teeth and tongue and impatience.

     

             He kicked away the shower curtain as Dean pulled his clothes off, moving towards the bed, leaving their clothing and the curtain in a crumpled heap in the tub.

     

             It was all anger and things they wouldn’t say, refused to say, not looking at each other, loud in grunts and groans but repelling from intimacy, Cas insistent and clawing at Dean’s back, his head pressed into the pillow, leaving half moons in his shoulders as Dean bit at his neck, jerked his head back by the hair.

     

             It was surgical–– fast and insistent in a way lacking tenderness and I need you, stay with me and Dean felt it like a hollow ache even as he was filled with Cas. He tugged him close, lip-locked as they came and he felt like a fucking girl, wanted to cry, wanting more than anything for Cas to stay like this, hard inside him, never letting go.

     

             And then it was over and they lay side by side on the bed, panting, aches settling in their muscles. Dean had missed it, sex with Cas, but it felt like he hadn’t gotten it. This was different, distanced and glazed over just how Cas had become–– indifferent. His breath evened out and he rolled towards Cas, flinging an arm around his waist and rubbing against his calf with his foot. Cas huffed and rolled away, leaving Dean reaching for him blindly as he got to his feet in the dark.

     

             “Cas,” Dean whimpered, hating himself that it came out like he was begging, which he was, irrevocably and shamelessly–– irrevocable, that’s how he felt.

     

             Cas snorted. “What the fuck are you doing? You think you’re special? You’re ridiculous. You’re nothing. I don’t do cuddles, not for anyone, especially not you.”

     

             As Cas entered the bathroom, shimmying into his scanty dress and stepping into his hideous hubba bubba heels, balling the fishnets into a fist, Dean was bombarded with a thousand memories that could prove Cas wrong, if only Dean could find the three-word proof necessary to back them up. Cas left without a word or a glance at the bed; and Dean lay there, watching him go, screaming in his head. I need you, stay with me. He closed his eyes, trying to sleep, something he found impossible in the stifling silence of the room. He hurt from the inside out, like pieces of glass were running through his blood, caught in his lungs. Shattered, broken, like Cas had become. Always been. He’d been glued back together and Dean had pushed and prodded and watched the pieces crumble. He’d never wanted to see that look on Cas’s face, big eyes too sad for someone so remarkable, fraying apart into the sea.

     

             Dean turned over, burrowing his face in his pillow, seeking Cas’s scent, any lingering trace of him to prove he’d ever been there in the first place.

    Chapter Text

    He was running through water, sucking at his legs, tripping him, and the crests of the waves were smiles, wide and bright and slipping into nonexistence in the dark. The sound of the water on the rocks was made of “I love you”s and they flooded into his mouth, pushing at the backs of his eyes until he couldn’t see, at his skull until it broke apart, shattering, and he was falling into the deeps, pressure and dark and big blue, pricks of pain and it was all made of glass, shattering upon him in waves, crashing and loud and bitter “you faggot, I hate you”s screaming in his ears.

     

             Dean jerked awake, panting and wide-eyed, hands frantic at the empty space beside him in the bed, searching for…no one. He laid back down, biting his fist and balling up his eyes to push the sobs back down–– they weren’t there, couldn’t be there; no one had to hear.

    • • • • • • • •

             Dean had woven the blankets around himself like a cocoon, with only his head poking out when Jo came over the next morning. She began boiling water for instant coffee and he wondered how she just knew to come over like that, when half of him wanted her to and half of him didn’t want to see another human being–– when he needed her.

     

             Jo put some Eggos in the toaster and plopped down on the bed beside him and he winced as the force jostled him. He ached in every corner of his body in every possible way.

     

             She wrinkled her nose in distaste after a moment. “Gross, dude, your bed smells like––” Her eyes widened and her mouth flew open. “No. You didn’t.”

     

             Dean groaned and retreated all the way into his nest, submerging even his head. He bounced again slightly as Jo leapt off.

     

             “God that’s disgusting I’m sitting in your jizz! That’s something you at least warn a girl about!” she shrieked. The waffles popped up and she threw them onto a plate, angrily smearing frosted butter and Aunt Jemimah on them.

     

             She thrust them at Dean dramatically, refusing to look at him before returning to the task of mixing instant coffee powder into the water.

     

             “What the honest to God fuck, Dean?” she asked angrily as he began to eat, blushing and unable to meet her eye.

     

             Dean shrugged and glumly replied, “I dunno, it just happened.”

     

             Jo rolled her eyes and let out a disbelieving grunt. “Having sex with the ex of your recently demolished only serious relationship ever just happened?”

     

             “Yeah…” Dean set the plate down next to him, no longer hungry.

     

             “What, did you trip and fall on his penis or something?” Jo crossed her arms.

     

             Dean looked at his hands in his lap and said nothing.

     

             Jo’s stony silence turned sympathetic.

     

             “Oh, I’m sorry, Dean.”

     

             Dean nodded.

     

             “He was wearing a dress.”

     

             Jo’s eyebrows raised but she said nothing, spearing one of his waffles on a fork and nibbling on it thoughtfully. “If that’s what you’re into.”

     

             Dean grimaced. “Thanks, Jo.”

     

             “Any time,” Jo replied, grinning at him, and Dean, surprisingly, found himself grinning back.

    • • • • • • • •

             Part of him wanted to laugh and part of him wanted to cry and part of him wanted to shake Cas by the shoulders and call him an idiot and a massive part of him with a hold in all of these other parts just wanted to kiss the I just watched a kitten genocide look off of his face.

     

             Castiel didn’t notice Dean as he sat down beside him on the lawn, giving him a once over and yes, he was definitely losing weight.

     

             “Do I even want to know why you’re in your underwear in a park at seven in the morning?” Dean finally decided to ask.

     

             Cas shifted his gaze from the sky to Dean, yawning–– and could it be possible his eyes were less blue than they had been a month ago?

     

             “Probably not,” he drawled.

     

             “What the fuck. Seriously, what the fuck.”

     

             Cas laughed at that, returning his focus to the slowly drifting clouds.

     

             “This isn’t okay,” Dean said roughly. “You have to stop doing this, Cas. I know you don’t want to hear anything I have to say but if you keep going down this path you’re going to get kicked out and then where will you be.”

     

             “I am fine, Dean. In case you didn’t notice––” Cas hiccupped and it smelled like vomit and booze and made Dean sick to his stomach “––I am fucking excellent, actually.”

     

             “You know that’s a load of bullshit,” he replied.

     

             “Just fuck off, okay, Dean. You don’t know anything and it’s not like you care, like you ever cared.”

     

             “You know that’s not––”

     

             “Not true?” Cas let out a bark of laughter. “It seemed pretty true when you dropped me in front of all your friends.”

     

             “This isn’t you Cas, I know you and this isn’t it. You smell like Kesha, you’re naked in a fucking park, stop it before you lose everything.”

     

             “I have nothing left to lose.” Cas got to his feet and walked away, shoulders back, far too proud for someone who had fallen so low.

    • • • • • • • •

             He began to not sleep, sorrow a lead weight in his bones, exhausting him and simultaneously keeping him awake. He’d sleep in snatches like surf clinging to the shore and wake from the blue with a jerk, fumbling. His dreams shifted in eddies, dark and roaring and gripped tight and raised to sunny, frosty mornings where we could feel the warmth in his chest and the cold in his bones and under the comforter they’d go–– smiling and laughing and then in the rasping dark their breath would turn to waves and fill his lungs and he’d be drowning again.

     

             Dean stumbled into the Impala on a reflex, black leather and the crackle of cassette tapes building comforting walls, ones he’d helped Cas climb over and ones he reinforced to keep him out. He drove in silence fiddling with the dials on the radio but never turning them on. He wondered how late it was; he passed no cars as the town retreated behind him.

     

             He thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye, a familiar movement like that of a bird settling after flight. He glanced away from the road and found the passenger seat empty. His reflection met him in the window and beyond the glass the dark landscape sputtered past.

     

             The beach met him in a slick expanse of pulled back tide, the smooth surface glinting under thin light from a sliver of moon. Plovers stirred in droves where the tide kicked at the shore and the froth looked like clouds in an abysmal sky. He looked for stars but found none, just the blinking red lights of airplanes as the sky ran into the sea and it all became one universal boundary. He could almost see his heart out here in the dark, glowing and burning and filling up all the space. Dean ran forward, breath short, seeking the water but finding only heavy sand clinging to his soles, space upon space upon space, no end. He fell, exhausted, sitting with his knees up in the sand. He rested his wrists on his knees and watched the ghostly lines of his fingers flex and intertwine. He counted his heartbeats as they seemed to swell into the air around him and he felt the dampness of the sea sink into his bones and run through his veins with the not-quite sadness not-quite rage feeling that had made a home there.

     

             He wondered when he’d run out of space and why the universe kept expanding instead of closing in until it compressed him to nothingness. That must be preferable to whatever was happening now, like his blood was boiling, pressure pushing out until it seared beneath his skin, stretching his ribs to a point of aching, his throat pulled taut as words clawed their way into his mouth, tearing at his tongue and beating on his teeth, begging to be screamed.

     

             He began shivering and his breath was snatched from his lungs in a gasp before it was even inhaled and Dean wondered if this was what a real, honest-to-god panic attack felt like. He stumbled back to the Impala and hurled himself inside, turning on the ignition but going nowhere, letting heat pump out of the vents as he fought to still the hammering of his heart. There must be a way to stop it, cease this crashing, sourceless pulse that had settled inside him without invitation. He closed his eyes, pressing his knuckles against his teeth sharply and wishing for something to snatch the hole away–– not fill it, just remove it, smooth it out like no one had burrowed in and dug his nest in the first place.

     

             Dean fiddled for the radio and with a slow click the whirr of a CD spinning without playing filled the car. A bass line began, thrumming through the steel frame, accompanied soon by the pluck of a piano. Dean closed his eyes and bit his lips, unable to turn it off but not quite able to listen. He’d forgotten it was in there, that Cas had slipped it in with dexterous fingers on the car ride home over Thanksgiving.

     

             I can give it all on the first date; I don't have to exist outside this place; And dear know that I can change.

     

             They were dancing, not together but those big, blue were locked on him and he knew he was watching, always watching, and waiting. He was pulling him under, a riptide, through the bodies to beneath and just a press, pressure, tearing at his clothes and his hair and tugging him apart until they were one, so deep and vast and he felt himself brush against eternity, swimming in impermanence as the needy surge and rush of their bodies rushed by and was gone in a wave of bliss contained in a fleeting moment, unable to be recovered or remembered in the aftermath.

     

             Dean bit into the white skin of his knuckles harder, searching for the external pain beneath the vibrating beat, something beyond the internal pain pressing against his lungs. He choked, a pitiful noise, the song playing around the caverns of his ears, remembering clasped fingers and a solid weight as they drove through the sunlight, going nowhere because they were already home.

     

             But if stars, shouldn’t shine By the very first time Then dear it’s fine, so fine by me ‘Cos we can give it time So much time With me.

     

             He knew he was trying to say something around the puckering whimpers bursting from his chest and into his mouth with a sour taste. He bit down onto his fist harder, pushing them back. He was begging, incoherent, but he knew the sounds and he knew his body although he wasn’t sure he knew himself anymore because was he even himself when he was alone like this, drowning and falling, lost out there in the blue.

     

             If you want me Let me know Where do you wanna go No need for talking I already know If you want me Why go

     

             He wanted to yell, to cave in the hood and shatter the glass and throw punch after punch until it was all warped and bent and bloody and unrecognizable as any part of him. He wanted to crawl back to Mary and reemerge as something new, without any memory of blue eyes and unwavering faith–– in him. In him, in his ability to mend and care and he was never someone who could do that. Look at him: cast to the side in favor of the younger, not quite enough to keep anyone smiling or laughing or loving.

     

             “I’m not going anywhere, Dean. Ever. I choose you,” He said it as if it was the most natural thing, without even looking up from his coffee and book, jotting down a note in the margin, lashes fluttering above his lowered lids and hovering smile. “You are my faith.”

     

             I can give it all on the first date I don’t have to exist outside this place And dear know that I can change; But if stars, shouldn’t shine By the very first time Then dear it’s fine, so fine by me ‘Cos we can give it time So much time With me.

     

             The notes fell away, pulling the throb with them and Dean was left, shivering and raw and wondering if, despite Mary and Sam and simpler times, he was only just now learning how to miss someone. He thought he had before, but the ache that had filled the empty spaces in his body was unlike any missing he had ever felt before. Longing; onomatopoeic almost. He laughed at this as he turned and drove back the other way, putting the big blue, black in the dark, at his back.

    Chapter Text

    Dean glared at the bottle, silently cursing as he blamed it for being empty, although he was the one drinking and the bottle had nothing to do with it. The TV was mumbling softly, a gentle glow and Dean rolled over to lean off the edge of his bed and vomit into the trash bin set there for that purpose. As he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and took another swig of mint vodka (mint so as to try to nullify the taste of vomit), he knew this was what a complete lack of dignity looked like. He knew Jo would have many kind words for when she came over tomorrow as he was sure she would (she came over in an every other day pattern and acted like each time was her last).


             Dean sat back up, flopping into the soiled tangle of sheets. His elbow hit the remote and the channel switched to static. He watched it absentmindedly for a few minutes, pondering how everyone came and went, in and out, no one seemed to stay, not even those that seemed like permanent fixtures. Jo came and cleaned up and left to resume the life she was steadily constructing away from him. Sam was on a straight-ahead road to great things. Cas was…Cas was completely fucking off the reserve and as Dean wondered if the snowstorm of the television screen would feel cold, he realized that he too, was off the reserve with his rock-bottom grades and overflowing recycling bin, but that they’d wandered in different directions.


             He was fumbling for his phone before he knew what he was doing, slurring half out loud and half in his head that maybe they could wander together, just for a little bit, wander naked in his bed with––


             “Hello?” his voice was gravelly and Dean recognized it as his post-coital voice, a small twinge that felt something like clarity pierced through the stupor rooted in his stomach.


             “Cas,” Dean rasped. He heard the immediate rustle of sheets and squeak of floorboards, followed by the opening and closing of a door.


             “What do you want, Dean?” his voice was sharp-edged and hostile, but Dean could see the hopeful question marks at the end of his words.


             “Cas?”


             “Yes?” Dean almost smiled as he heard a huff of breath and knew Cas was rolling his eyes. The casual appearance of the image filled him with a sense of recklessness and soon Dean was tripping over his words, but even as they fell from his mouth with a relieved weight, he knew they were coming out all wrong, that he was saying all the wrong things, but the slackness of his tongue made it impossible to stop.


             “I think about ya a lot ya know? Like all the fucking time. I think about fucking you, about your cock–– you have a really nice cock, not that I’ve seen many, I’m not a fag y’know, but as far as I think cocks go yers is really nice. I think about those ugly fuckin sweaters and that fuckable mouth of yours and all that stupid smart shit I have no idea what it means you say. Fuck, Cas, I fucking miss you, like all the fuckin time like it actually hurts and I dunno if you git like thah all th’time but it fuckin sucks and I think…ah thing…ya should come ov’r righ’ now…make i’…suck less. Come ov’r an’ fuck me, riiiiiiiiight––now. Now.”


             Cas’s voice wavered, but evened out as he spoke, “Dean, how much have you drunk? You’re not thinking straight, you––”


             “I really fucked up di’n’t I? You were fuckin aw-s’m an’ lookit me, Dean fuckin’ fuck thins up Winchester, doin whah I alwa-s do, fuck shit up. Thas uh grae’ word isn’ it, fuck, like…FUCK, like it fuckin’ sucks like I can’ deal and fuck me like let me put my dick inside you––”


             “DEAN!” Cas’s voice was strained. “Dean I am very discomfited right now.”

             Dean sluggishly wondered how Cas could speak so clearly when he knew he wasn’t sober either. Must be practice. The thought brought unbidden tears to Dean’s eyes and he hated himself and hated being drunk as he pressed the heel of his hand against his eye.


             “Cas, come on, we can fix this.” He was practically begging, but since the line hadn’t gone dead yet, he didn’t mind. He waited for a long moment with bated breath, hoping. He threw up in his mouth a little but didn’t move for fear of disconnecting.


             And then,

             “There’s nothing to fix. Never was anything to be broken in the first place.”


             The tears were unwanted and Dean hated them as they spilled down his cheeks and he hated himself for being such a fucking girl. He hated that his sobs were echoing across the phone line and that Cas could hear them.


             “Cas, enough of this bullshit, we both know––” Disappointment was a great sobering mechanism. “Cas? Cas?––FUCK!”


             Dean hurled the phone at the wall at the sudden sound of a dial tone. As it flew apart he hurled the mostly empty bottle at the wall as well for good measure. It shattered and he collapsed backwards into his bed, head reeling and stomach churning.

    • • • • • • • •       

             Jo was sweeping glass into a dustpan when Dean woke up. He groaned softly to let her know he was awake, but she was unresponsive. He groaned again, louder, and her head whipped around.


             “Why won’t you fix things, Dean?”


             “I don’t know,” he replied honestly, expecting Jo to throw her hands in the air. “I’ve tried.”


             “No, you haven’t. You’ve pretended to try and then sulked when nothing got better,” Jo corrected.


             “He won’t let me!”


             Jo ran her fingers through her hair exasperatedly.


             “I’ve told you you’re an idiot before, right Dean?”


             “Yes. Many times.”


             Jo rolled her eyes. “You’re a fucking idiot.”


             “I know.”


             “Well at least we’re making progress,” she sighed, straightening up and dumping the shards into the trash. “You’re not allowed glass bottles anymore.”


             “What?”


             “Just go take a shower.”

    • • • • • • • •

             At Jo’s prodding and insistence he arrived at class on time, looking down guiltily and shuffling to his seat in the back, aware that he hadn’t been seen in the classroom in over a week. Jo had lectured him in the car and her tender battering had awoken a sense of resolution in him. He was done drowning himself in vodka, done drowning period. He didn’t know what he’d said to Cas the night before and he didn’t really care. It was behind him, just a phase. He’d work through it and get over it just like he always did. He’d be fine. He was fine.


             He paid attention and circled things in red pen on the diagram of an engine and as he took down notes and nodded his head in understanding he allowed himself to sketch up hopes for a garage with zeppelin cooing over the speakers and his father clapping him on the back proudly and Jo working the counter, alluring enough to get tips from the muscle car men that they would split. And then unbidden Cas was walking in the front door, waving at Jo and kissing Dean gently in passing, sitting on a stool behind Dean as he worked, strumming along to the radio on a guitar.


             And then Dean jolted out of the daydream and re-riveted his eyes on the front of the room; he had no idea what Professor Henricksen was talking about.

    • • • • • • • • •

             Dean pushed through the week with a sense of purpose, water bottles and coke filling his fridge, going to Starbucks and doing homework before returning to his dorm and watching TV. Sometimes Jo came over and they’d watch TV together and quiz each other for tests during the commercial breaks. When she’d leave he’d feel sad and would let himself wallow for a few minutes before shrugging it off.


             He’d glance at the small selection of books on his shelf that he’d accumulated as gifts from people who didn’t really know him at all and he’d think that maybe he should start reading since he didn’t do much of anything anymore. He’d had to leave the team, naturally, and was sitting anxiously on the edge of figuring out how to get through school for the next semester. He really should call his mom and talk to her about it. He should call and talk to her in general. He should call Sam and talk to him.


             He started going on dates, boring shit like bars and restaurants and a few trendy movies, but he never went in for the kiss and his tone never changed from polite and mildly interested (which he really wasn’t).


             He felt like he was reaching some approximation of closure as he left class on Friday with a 98 on his test for the week, his teacher smiling at him and saying “Nice to have you back, Mr. Winchester” as he left the room. Soaring on this sense of accomplishment he crossed the campus until he found himself in a small lawn with a bench and a statue of an angel.


             He sat on the bench across from the statue and studied it thoughtfully. It looked nothing like Cas in the daylight and he wondered if it had been modeled on him at all of if Balthazar had just slapped the dedicating title on it at the end. Had he even made it thinking of him in the first place? It seemed so unfair, the Balthazar had marked the world, or this campus at least with what had happened with him and Cas, and that he had nothing to show for Cas and himself. It seemed unfair that anything had happened between anyone and Cas ever because Dean had never had anything happen in that way with anyone else. He couldn’t imagine being able to, feeling any of this more than once.


             “I see you’re admiring my handiwork,” came a clipped voice.


             Dean snapped his head around to find Balthazar to his left.


             “Mind if I sit?”


             “Help yourself,” he grunted, scooting down the bench so as to make a greater distance between them.


             “It’s quite a nice statue. I got an A on it, won the Donors’ Trust competition as well, that’s why it’s in the grove.”


             “They call it a grove?”


             “Yes. I’m sure they wouldn’t have chosen mine if they knew it was a token gift for my gay lover.”


             Dean snorted derisively. “It doesn’t look anything like him.”


             “It doesn’t?” his voice was amused. “I never noticed that.”


             “Funny, since you made it for him.”


             Balthazar laughed softly at that. “I started with the idea of making an angel for…my boy named after an angel. Thing is, I don’t think I ever once thought of him while I made it.”


             “That’s because you’re a dick,” Dean replied.


             “I suppose you could call me that. I could call you a lovesick moron if we’re going to call names.”


             Dean got to his feet, fists clenching.


             “You’re just like him, Dean, playing pretend, thinking everyone believes you’re fine. They’re just going along, because the ride is fun, it’s easier than letting on that they know better. Saying you’re okay doesn’t make it so.”


             Dean left calling Balthazar a liar because look at him, he was fine, he was smiling and doing homework and seeing girls–– and also coincidentally seeing Cas at a lot of the bars they went to but he wasn’t phased by that, honestly–– he was Dean Winchester, King of Okay.

    • • • • • • • •

             The phone was ringing before his eyes were open. Dean scrambled for the phone and glanced at the caller ID as he pressed it to his ear. Anna.


             “D-Dean?” her voice was shrill and shaking, threatening to be drowned out by frantic background noise.


             “Anna? What’s going on? Are you okay?”


             “No. I mean––I––yes, I’m fine, but Cas––Cas––”


             Dean was out of bed and reaching for the light, resting his elbows on his knees and staring at the space between his feet, trying to steady himself.


             “Cas? What’s wrong?”


             “H-he––I think he might be––”


             “What? Anna, breathe.”


             Several staggering gulps. “I think he might be…that he tried to...” She was unable to say the words.


             The world went cold and adrenaline pumped beneath his skin. His back had gone straight and his mind was blank, not searching for anything, just trying to process on the most primal level.


             “What?” He stuttered, closing his eyes and trying desperately to keep it together. Why was he still sitting here? He had to be doing something.


             “We were on the phone and he started going on with all his existential angst bullshit, quoting poetry and crying and saying his life wasn’t worth anything and I told him to calm down–– didn’t think––thought he was just having one of his bad days––he–he said he should just stop wasting God’s time and take himself out, stop wasting your time, and he hung up. I––I tried calling back but he didn’t pick up and then I––I called the pharmacy, just to check, because I had one of those feelings, you know, and he hasn’t––he hasn’t filled his subscription for his anti-depressants in over a month, Dean, and––”


             “Anti-depressants? What?” Dean snapped into motion, tugging a shirt over his head as he pressed the phone between his jaw and shoulder, kicking on a pair of boots.


             “He never–-my fucking brother. He’s manic-depressive, Dean, this isn’t the––it happens––it’s not my place to tell you but I––I’m away on a trip for class, I knew he’d been a bit AWOL lately but I never thought, just, Dean––


             “Why are you calling me?” Dean asked gruffly, even as he snatched up his car keys and tore out of his dorm and into the parking lot.


             “You’re his, Dean, no one else’s, especially not mine, and right now he needs you, just please, my baby brother––”


             “I’m already on the way,” Dean said as he floored the gas and swerved onto the road towards Cas’s dorm. He tossed the phone onto the front seat, gripping the wheel and trying to steady himself; he’d need to be prepared for whatever met him in Cas’s room.

    Chapter Text

    He shoved people out of the way as he took the stairs two at a time, fingers catching on the primer-coated walls, legs shaking. His vision swam and his eyes burned and his lungs had stopped being lungs, just ragged, gasping sacks and as he slammed himself against Castiel’s locked door the big blue filled his veins, drowning his blood and his pulse and his breath and everything but “CAS!” He was screaming it, tearing around the room, searching for his spindly form. “CAS! CAS!” He was crumpled in on himself in his bed, knotted in his sheets, hair damp and lips dry, pills and empty bottles caught in the fabric around him. He was shivering and it was a small comfort as Dean hooked his arms around his shoulders and lifted his far too light body, Cas’s legs dragging as they staggered into the bathroom, too small to contain their momentum, falling to his knees and tugging them both into the tub, gathering Cas against him as he turned on the water. Cas’s skin was clammy and stuck to Dean’s fingertips as he squeezed and prodded and begged silently into his ears, mouthing at the tender skin. Stay calm, stay calm. Mary always told him to stay calm but how could he when–– he was sobbing, screaming, the sounds echoing around the bathroom. He jerked his arms beneath Cas’s rib cage until they felt ready to give out, until he was soaked and blinking back water that caught with tears in his lashes. He was shivering now too, clinging to the feeble warmth of Cas’s body, hoping it wasn’t getting colder. He was praying like his father had never said there was no God when he was ten because there had to be someone to save him, something out there that gave a big enough shit to–– “Please, please, don’t die on me just wake up and be an asshole and put on a sweater and please.” And he stopped talking after that, just holding him against the porcelain. The first cough was feeble and then there were more, thunderous, filling up the bathtub and Cas vomited weakly, pills and bile spilling over his chapped lips and through Dean’s fingers as he held onto him, head pressed between his knees and pills washing down the drain, Dean pressing his face into Cas’s hair, breathing him in and whispering against his ear, tongue tasting the tang of tap water as it washed away his sweat.

     

             “Cas, Cas, Cas,” the only word he remembered through his relief, arms wrapping around his sides and twining their fingers together.

     

             “Dean,” he whimpered, more a sob than a word, leaning back and turning his head into Dean’s shoulder. “I don’t want to die.”

     

             “You’re not going anywhere.” Dean pulled them both to their feet, shutting off the water and hoisting Cas out of the bathtub, stepping out after him. He peeled the sweater off and stepped out of his own pants, Cas tugging at his arms and hair, sucking at his neck, murmuring, slipping Dean’s shirt off. Dean pushed him back, still gripping his hands tightly.

     

             “Stop acting like a fucking idiot.”

     

             This wasn’t happening again–– no more stripping in bathrooms and having stupid angry sex. Not now, when he’d been so close to losing him. He couldn’t go from negative to a hundred, not like this.

     

             Cas bit his lip for a moment, leaning into Dean again, tears welling at the corner of his eyes, dark and big and blue and threatening to burst and spill. His lips reached for Dean’s again and Dean could smell the beer and booze on his breath as Cas fell forward and he caught him–– trying to let him know through the press of his fingers, tell him everything.  He held him up and kissed his forehead whispering, “Hey there, Casanova,” half-carrying Cas out of the bathroom and folding them into the bed, pressing their damp, clammy skin together, feeling it grow warm. Dean tugged the big duvet over their heads and held Cas in the dark, glad he didn’t have to see him as he cried.

     

             “Why won’t it stop, I just want it to stop. There’s so much all the time and it won’t go away. It’s so cold and hard and I’m alone all the time and I hate it. I don’t want to be alone anymore, Dean. Dean, I…”

     

             Dean pulled him closer, squeezing his hand and burrowing his face in his neck, breathing in his crisp, Cas smell that showed through after the water washed everything else down the drain. He wondered if in the morning he’d find that the water had washed everything away and it was just the two of them again. He would take the morning as it came, with its changes and stasis, but for now it was just them, in the dark, buoying each other up. He could feel Cas’s heartbeat through his back and against his own chest. Cas turned to press their fronts together, hooking his legs around Dean’s and sighing hiccups into his collarbone. Dean splayed his fingers over Cas’s shoulder blades, nails scraping against the wing tattoos.

     

             “I’m not going anywhere.”

     

             “Ever?”

     

             “Ever.”

     

             “Hide out in here with me. Forever.”

     

             “Forever,” Dean agreed.

     

             “I love you.”

     

             Dean closed his eyes, focused on their pulses, trying to synchronize them. “Never try to kill yourself again.”

     

             “Always.”

     

             Dean edged closer, saying nothing, focusing on the stillness surrounding them in the warm dark, banishing everything but the ebbing rhythm all around them, the tender press of skin, the careful way they touched as if the other would disappear if they moved to much. The blackness turned to blue as he fell asleep, and he clung tighter to Cas, stopping him from flying away, praying he would stay here, in the dark, with him. Cas clung back and Dean could feel it in the tremors of his sobs that he too, wanted to remain, if nothing else, in the dark and the deep and the blue. They could remain like that forever, clinging, floating, not quite drowning, not quite swimming.

    • • • • • • • • •

             Dean stretched out as he woke, the top of his head breaking from the comforter, letting light and cool, unheated dormitory air trickle into their snug cave. Cas stirred and Dean closed his eyes beneath the swaying contentment that washed over him, feeling rested and awake and okay, really okay. He pushed the blanket down past their shoulders so he could see Cas’s face and narrow torso. He counted his ribs and swallowed dryly at their prominence, kissing his cheek and shifting down to place his lips carefully upon each one, marking them, recounting. He murmured against them as they pressed up against the inside of Cas’s skin, almost bruising. Dean pushed forward and Cas shifted into wakefulness,

     

             “What are you doing?” he mumbled, not angry, but not as happy as Dean felt either, and Dean’s hope that things were okay again began to fall, his loose smile slipping from his face.

     

             “Kissing you good morning?”

     

             Cas was sitting up now, frowning at Dean confusedly. “Why would you be doing that?”

     

             Dean felt a blush spreading across his chest, sitting back as well, distance falling into place heavily between he and Cas. “After last night, I thought…”

     

             “You thought what? That everything would suddenly be fine?” Cas spat, he rolled away from Dean, turning his back to him.

     

             “I didn’t––I mean, you tried to kill yourself,” Dean said frantically, willing Cas to understand, somehow. He felt like a child who had been caught doing something he didn’t know was wrong. “After something like that––”

     

             “After something like that I don’t want to be alone! I don’t want to be left like I’m worthless. And that’s what you do, Dean! That’s all you do! And what, it takes me fucking overdosing to have you behave like my fucking boyfriend? Well that’s not good enough, if you wanted me you should have let me know in front of your friends when they called me a fucking faggot. Get out.”

     

             “Cas, what––”

     

             “I don’t want to see you, Dean. I had it good, everything was going right, and then you fucked it up. Thanks for not letting me die or whatever, but that doesn’t fix anything.”

     

             Dean blinked stupidly before scrambling out of Cas’s bed, goose bumps erupting across his skin as he scuttled to the bathroom and hurried into his still-damp clothes. He paused at the door, eyes running over Cas, too small in his bed, memorizing him. He wouldn’t meet Dean’s eyes, something he never did, because he always met his eyes; he was Cas, honest and unashamed and now he was hiding and shattering and his pale skin was falling apart into the sheets.

     

             “You said you loved me.”

     

             “And…?”

     

             Dean searched for something to say, but Cas still wouldn’t look at him, eyes down and splintering and he held his pride beneath his tongue, refusing to swallow it–– And I’m sorry –– and left, without a word, feeling Cas’s pleads on his back but not turning around, just walking, making his own prayers, for a hand on his wrist and dry lips begging against his own–– And I love you too ––but his shoulders stayed squared, his back turned, because they weren’t the chasing after types.

    Chapter Text

             Jo pushed him into shotgun on a Saturday morning, swinging by the communal house Chuck and Pam lived in and ushering them into the backseat. She turned on the radio as they merged onto the freeway and ejected the CD that automatically began playing, giving Dean a wary glance from the corner of her eye. He looked out the window, blushing, thanking her silently as she turned up the Kansas on the Classic Rock station his radio was always set to.

     

             They drove until they were surrounded by half-cultivated fields and farm stands, cows watching them pass disinterestedly, the sky blue and unforgiving above them. They parked in a dirt turn-off, climbing over a sagging wire fence and tromping through the grass, thick roots and dandelions catching beneath their soles. They passed through a small copse, Dean forcing a smile as the others laughed around him, a real one breaking through when he and Jo glanced behind to see Chuck kissing Pam on the cheek in a gesture far too tender for the pair’s personalities, unaware they were being observed. The group emerged from the other end of the trees in another, smaller field that fell off in a ledge of crumbling soil. A second fence ran loosely along the base and beyond that they could see sheep droving in clumps like small clouds across the rich green. The grass was longer there, as though it had been forgotten about, and they sat amongst it close to the edge, patting down the stalks in between to see each other more easily.

     

             Pam procured a bottle of Strawberry Hill and Chuck a joint and they passed them around amicably, sharing remember when’s, laughter mirroring the gentle sshhi-ing of the birds in the trees and the wind through the leaves. They lay on their backs when their heads began to spin, knees bumping. Dean flung an arm over his eyes to watch the sky against the glare and Jo gave his leg a gentle kick that he returned. Pam rested her head on Chuck’s chest and Jo and Dean stifled laughter. They fell into silence, listening to the murmur of the countryside, eyes mulling over clouds.

     

             “So I heard your boyfriend broke up with you,” Pam interrupted the quietness.

     

             Jo elbowed her and she shifted away from Chuck, reaching for the Strawberry Hill and chugging the dregs before passing it on to Dean, who finished it off.

     

             “Yeah, sort of. We were never really together y’know though, so…”

     

             “Still, that sucks,” she answered in an unconvinced, mildly condescending tone.

     

             “Yeah, it does.”

     

             There was a lull in conversation, a breeze blowing up from the field below and playing over them, stirring the fabric of their shirts.

     

             “Cas tried to kill himself,” Dean said suddenly, remaining focused on the sky; he could feel his friends’ heads all turned in his direction, eyes bugging.

     

             “And…?” Jo said at last.

     

             “And Dean-o saved him,” Pam explained.

     

             “How did you––?” Dean asked.

     

             “I can read you like a book, Winchester, it’s not hard to figure out.”

     

             “Ohmygod though is he okay are you guys okay what happened––” Jo was babbling.

     

             “He’s fine, I guess. He was fine enough to kick me out the next morning,” Dean kept his voice measured, tone brittle.

     

             “You didn’t…again?”

     

             Dean shook his head almost imperceptibly.

     

             “Wait, you two had fucked up angry rebound sex with each other––” Pam began.

     

             Dean closed his eyes and let Jo do the irritated staring for him.

     

             “Wow, I bet that was hot,” Pam said in addendum, falling quiet after that.

     

             “I’m writing you two into my novel,” Chuck interjected, and Dean cringed as his mind immediately thought gay word porn due to the context in which Chuck had interrupted.

     

             “Since when were you writing a novel?” Jo asked.

     

             “I don’t know; it seemed like it would be fun.”

     

             Dean accepted this answer. “Well why would you put Cas and I in it?”

     

             “It’s sort of our story, like, us in college. And Cas seems like a big chapter for you.”

     

             “Does he?”

     

             Jo and Pam sighed dramatically and Dean rolled his eyes.

     

             Well, he is.

     

             Jo picked at some of the longer stalks, weaving them together into a bracelet and slipping it over Dean’s wrist. A few of them snapped and frayed from the strand. It would go brown in a few days and he’d tug it off then.

     

             They sat like that for a bit longer, the three of them interrogating Jo about Michael, of which there was no news other than that he used way too much tongue. Which, as Pam liked to point out, was actually substantially better than no news.

     

             “Hey, look,” Jo nudged Dean. He followed the length of her arm to where she was pointing at a large cloud overhead. “That one looks like an angel.”        

      • • • • • • •

               Dean stepped into Sacrilege with his book bag slung over his shoulder. He was there on the pretense of Starbucks was crowded and I have to study and wanted a change of scenery. He repeated this to himself as he ordered his coffee and caught himself combing the tables in search of a baggy sweater and muss of dark hair. He had low expectations and it hit deep in his stomach as he found him, sitting at a table in the back beside a bedraggled potted tree. Dean hastily added another coffee to the order (Brazil blend with a double-shot of espresso, black), wincing at his impulse. He took the cups from the barista without tipping and maneuvered his way to the table, recognizing it as the same one he’d made his way to with Cas on frosty mornings what felt like a lifetime ago.

       

               “Hey,” Dean began hopefully. He felt a speech lining up and wished for Cas to let him say it. He couldn’t have just forgotten everything, forgotten their quiet words in the dark beneath a comforter, skin pressed and closer than they’d ever been amidst the gasps and moans. The promises, the admittances, it couldn’t have just melted away at the touch of sunlight.

       

               Cas looked up from his book, a forced smirk of indifference that betrayed the opposite already on his face. He rolled his eyes, took the coffee from Dean and looked past him. Dean followed his gaze, biting down on his tongue as Crowley came forward, a slice of pie in one hand and a cup of douchey-looking whipped coffee in the other. Dean opened his mouth to say something but found himself too horridly astonished.

       

               “Well, look what the cat dragged in,” Crowley sneered sarcastically, pushing past Dean and into the seat opposite Cas.

       

               A Dean Winchester in another life would have had the perfect comeback-slash-pop-culture-reference on the tip of his tongue, but this one didn’t. He glanced at Cas, whose eyes darted away quickly, lips moving as if half-saying something, and left without another word.

       

               The only consolation he was able to find in the experience was that Crowley had pushed the pie across the table to Cas when he sat down; Cas wasn’t a pie person–– he only ate it when he was with Dean.

      • • • • • • • •

               “So did you hear the news, Dean-o?” Jo asked, lips parting around her straw.

       

               “Whuh?” Dean swallowed his mouthful of burrito and cleared his throat. “What news?”

       

               “Cas is in a band again.”

       

               “Is he?”

       

               Jo contemplated Dean thoughtfully before rifling through her bag and slamming a black and white poster copied onto yellow paper onto the table between them.

       

               “The Trenchcoats?”

       

               Jo rolled her eyes. “I doubt they’re classic rock, but you know…whatever.”

       

               “I know what?”

       

               “That we’re going.”

       

               Dean turned a steely gaze on Jo. “Jo…”

       

               “Friday night, I know you have nothing planned because I don’t and you only ever hang out with me.”

       

               He rolled his eyes. “Thanks for the confidence booster.”

       

               “I don’t care what we do at the gig, you can get drunk and crash the act and make a speech to Cas or you can vomit on his shoes, see how I care.”

       

               “How about we not go?”

       

               “I want to scout out your competition. Let me be the vapid wasp I really am once in awhile.”

       

               Jo pouted at Dean and he sighed dramatically.

      • • • • • • •

               He clung to Jo’s hand like an anchor as they entered the sea of bodies, all of them swaying towards the stage. Dean kept his eyes away from it, taking in each person they pushed past in minute detail, closing his eyes and keeping his breath deliberately steady as Cas’s voice slipped over the instrumentals.

       

               He’d rarely sung for him, looking away bashfully whenever Dean brought up his music, saying it was stupid and begging Dean to never go looking for it. Neither of them mentioned the song Dean had seen that one night.

       

               Cas was sitting on his bed, legs crossed, in a pair of Dean’s pajama pants and a black sweater with a white music staff running across the chest. It had slipped off of one of his shoulders, but he hadn’t noticed, staring fixedly at his fingers as they shifted over the strings on his guitar. He hadn’t noticed Dean had come in and started slightly when Dean had cleared his throat and sat down across from him on the bed, crossing his own legs as well. He’d said nothing, not even looking up, just his lids fluttering slightly, and begun to play. Dean hadn’t known the song, hadn’t really cared. He’d recognized it as not something written by Cas, though. They’d sat like that for an hour, Dean watching him, air suspended as it filled with the careful, clanging notes of his guitar twisting with his voice. He’d finished self-consciously, refusing to look at Dean, and Dean had leaned forward and kissed him over the guitar in a way demanding nothing, just for the moment of it, of that kiss, and Dean realized it was something he’d never done before. None of this was something he’d ever done before.

       

               Jo had brought him a beer and he tried not to chug it, still sitting with his back to the stage. The song ended and a quiet riddled with coughs and soft chatter filled the space.

       

               Footsteps, the squeak and click of a mic being adjusted, “Hello, thanks for coming.”

       

               Dean turned around. Cas was there, in his wolf sweater, hair deliberately mussed, eyes sparking and clear (Dean knew his policy was total sobriety for anything professional, but he was surprised nonetheless). The light from the stage was a soft purplish blue and it fell on his cheeks and lids and shoulders, casting deep shadows. He seemed to be forever looking down and there was something about him that exuded sadness. Dean swallowed roughly.

       

               Cas lifted his eyes, surveying the crowd, before lowering his head to the mic again. “Um, this…uh…this next song is about You.”

       

               Dean felt Jo freeze behind him as Cas stepped back, staring down at his guitar, carefully arranging his fingers before he began playing.

      You held me in the waves
      surrounded by the ocean and each other
      once we saw how we felt
      I started to melt into you oh I want this forever

                Dean had no idea where to look, hunching into the collar of his coat, throat burning. He stared fixedly at his hand, resisting the urge to turn back to the stage. He heard Jo’s sharp intake of breath and finally he couldn’t help it anymore, twisting around in his chair to watch Cas. He seemed suspended, eyes hooded and watching the crowd and Dean wanted to hide even as he prayed for Cas to see him, to sing to him.

      Lying here I feel like I could break
      and I’m tired of hearing ‘I’m okay’
      and I tried I tried I tried for you
      and you lied, you lied for you too

                  Dean bit his lip and felt Jo’s hand, warm and reassuring, undemanding just there on his arm. His blood was shivering in his veins, his breath raw and salted in his throat and he simultaneously wanted to hide and run on stage and have everyone know whom Cas was singing for. His stomach was sick with guilt and he wanted to piece him together with the notes of a new song, a happy one, see Cas wide-eyed in the sun and dusty like he was in his memories. He’d wanted Cas to unravel the first time he saw him, but not like this–– never like this.

      I’m burning
      in this fire creeping up my back
      I want to drag you down and down and attack all of your pride
      you’re so sad
      I can’t look at you anymore
      without wanting to cry

                   He cowered from the big blue he knew awaited him there and felt himself caught in its current. Everything was sharp in his ears except for the lilt of Cas’s voice and he could feel his breath growing short. This song is about You. About You. Just Cas and his guitar and his stupid sweaters and Dean had never wanted anything more.

      And I’ll tear my hair out
      and I’ll pull at your clothes
      I’m still haunted by you looking down your nose

      And I’m not even worth it, love
      and I’m not even worth it, my love

      I’m drowning
      I thought you were too

       

            The notes fell away, the other bandmates standing on the sides of the stage awkwardly. He heard Cas’s sharp intake of breath through the mic, raw and unforgiving as his eyes sparked, searching the crowd. He bowed his head. “Thank you.”

      Chapter Text

                  The song finished and Dean was gaping, hand loose around his beer, condensation dripping over his fingers. Jo was gripping his arm as he watched Cas’s eyes scan the audience once before he released the mic and darted offstage and out the door at the side of the stage, up against the wall and Dean was pushing through the crowd, irritated protests lingering in his ears as Cas fell into the arms of some lanky whatever-just-like-all-the-others–– and Dean was drowning, he knew he was, lungs burning because if he doesn’t feel those eyes on his, lips stammering even as he kissed them, Cas’s fingers tripping on his pulse, looped around his wrist I love you more than sweaters and Dean was grabbing him by the shoulders, turning him around, and “Cas.”

       

                  Cas was pushing him back, but Dean wouldn’t let go, searching for words before he broke away.

       

                  “Cas, just listen to me,” he begged and Cas whipped away but didn’t leave. “Just stop this, all this bullshit, just come with me and forget about it. We can fix this!”

       

                  “Don’t you get it, Dean! We can’t fix this, it’s fucking––” He raised his arms above his head “––It’s fucking whatever and it’s useless and just leave me alone, I just want you to go away, Dean!”

       

                  “I won’t,” He reached for Cas again.

       

                  “You fucked me Dean, in every possible way. You called me a faggot, after you fucked me and you know who called me a faggot? Everyone at high school, every day for four years until I fucking tried to kill myself and I then it was like I stopped existing. Do you know how that feels, Dean? I don’t think so, because everything is fucking perfect for Dean Winchester!” He barked a laugh. “I met you and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe it’s a good thing I’m still around,’ that things could maybe not suck, but I was wrong. I fell for you, Dean, for you, not for your face or your body just you and your fucking stupidity and your classic rock and your whatever and you know what you did? Nothing! I waited and I waited while you played football and angsted and stuck around through all your stupid bullshit and you just fucked my sister, that’s what you did, so you know what, I’m done. I’m done with falling in love with straight guys and getting laughed at and I’m done with you.”

       

                  “Cas––”

       

                  “You keep saying you care but where were you when I needed to hear it?”

       

                  And Dean was running through a thousand moments and looks and phone calls, hosing him off as he slumped in the shower, peeling his stupid lacy dress off his underweight body; lying in the dark just breath and trying not to break and begging for him to stay with him and he might have broken Cas but he’d been the one trying to put him back together; it wasn’t his fault Cas kept losing pieces. He looked at the sorrowful shadow before him and shook his head. He was reaching for someone who’d never been there in the first place, and he was done with the impossible.

       

                  “I was there, Cas, where were you?”

      • • • • • • • •

                  “I just don’t get it anymore, Jo,” Dean sighed, changing channels and then changing back, setting the remote down in his lap and stretching his legs out.

       

                  “Don’t get what, Dean?” Jo’s voice had become tired around him lately, as if she’d given up. Dean couldn’t blame her. She had to eventually, although he doubted if there was ever really anything there for her to give up on in the first place.

       

                  “Why did he get so pissed?”

       

                  “About sleeping with his sister?”

       

                  “Yeah. I mean, it’s not like I was sleeping with him at the same time. He wasn’t talking to me and Anna is hot.”

       

                  Jo made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat and shook her head, scooting away from Dean slightly.

       

                  “We just…I thought we had an agreement…”

       

                  “A fuckbuddy agreement?”

       

                  Dean shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”

       

                  Jo rolled her eyes even more exaggeratedly.

       

                  “What?”

       

                  “You don’t get hung up over a fuckbuddy, Dean!”

       

                  “Well––”

       

                  “Dean!”

       

                  “Jo!” Dean snapped, whipping his head around to glare at her. “This isn’t my fault! Why does everyone keep acting like it is! Cas is the one who freaked out and ruined everything, he knew I didn’t want it to be like that, he didn’t want it to be like that!”

       

                  Jo shifted posture, sitting upright as if she were about to stand. “Cas ruined everything? Cas did? Dean, Cas wanted all of it, anything you would give him and he just sat there, waiting to hear it, Dean, with that stupid, oblivious face of his. He was just waiting and you never did it!

       

                  Dean stared at her blankly for a minute and closed his jaw. He looked away from her, fighting what was all around him down to the very last scrap of his DNA. “Never did what?”

       

                  “Tell him you wanted him! He’s in love with you, Dean, present tense, and all he did was hang around waiting for you to fucking say it back!”

       

                  Jo collapsed back onto the sofa with a huff, folding her knees up against her once again.

       

                  They watched the sun set and spill through the cracks between the curtains and turn red and gold over his and Jo’s legs tucked up on the sofa. The bands of light permeated the thick silence, the moment suspended, apart from time, steeped in realization. Jo bumped Dean’s knee with hers and smiled weakly. “I didn’t––” Dean began, still a bit shell-shocked.

       

                  “Yes, you did.”

      • • • • • • • • •

                  There were only a few people who knew just how careful they had to be around Dean: Sam, Mary, and Jo. They treaded carefully around subjects, poking at them and building metaphors to coax out Dean’s thoughts. He was a far more trepid animal than many gave him credit for, cautious and fragile despite his boisterousness. Sometimes Dean was aware of the tender way they handled him, and sometimes he wasn’t. Sometimes he was thankful, and other times, like right now, he hated it.

       

                  “I heard you and Castiel were having trouble,” Mary said sweetly over the phone, and Dean cringed.

       

                  “Sam told you.”

       

                  She paused. “Yes, Dean, are you––”

       

                  “We broke up.”

       

                  “Sweetie…”

       

                  “I’m fine, Mom, really, you know me.” Dean forced a smile knowing she couldn’t see it, and thinking it was for the best since it was so painfully fake.

       

                  “I do know you Dean, and I know how you and Castiel––”

       

                  “We were nothing. It wasn’t important, just a phase.”

       

                  “You can come home if you need to.”

       

                  Dean’s throat tightened. Nowhere felt like home anymore, it was a feeling he’d lost somewhere out there in the big blue.

       

                  “Thanks.”

       

                  “I love you.”

       

                  “Love you too, Mom.”

       

                  Dean moved to hang up.

       

                  “Remember, angels are watching over you.”

       

                  Dean smiled painfully, nodding and setting the phone on the table and turning the screen face down.

       

                  He crossed his room and collapsed on his bed with a huff, eyes running everywhere, over piles of clothes and schoolbooks and his laptop closed on top of the TV. He could see dishes drying on the counter in the bathroom beside the sink, and the drip of the faucet echoed faintly. A sense of restlessness stirred in him and he fidgeted, feeling an action course through his veins from an unknown source. It infiltrated every corner of his consciousness until he was choking and seeing blue and fuck, he needed to do something.

       

                  He got to his feet, shoes still on, and paced anxiously. His eyes landed on his single shelf of books and he half-shrugged to himself, crossing the room and sitting on the sofa beside him, staring fixedly at the spines.

       

                  A narrow, blue clothbound volume caught his eye. A sense of sincerity seemed to accompany it, unlike the other glossy hardback courtesy-gifts that exuded bullshittery surrounding it. There were faint traces of foil spelling out a title that had long been eroded by other fingers grasping it. Dean tugged the book off the shelf and fanned through the pages carefully, recalling swollen words, trembling in the sunlight–– the feeling of dust drifting in water, up and up and finding light in another’s voice, gliding smoothly over words he couldn’t seem to find. Something slid out with a rustle and drifted to the floor, slipping beneath the sofa. Dean set the book down and got onto his hands and knees, peering under the couch and carefully extruding the paper from amongst dirty socks and moldy pizza crusts. He straightened up and sat back on the couch, perched on the edge and leaning forward, shaking slightly as he turned the paper over. It was glossy and smooth–– commercial photo paper. He was swallowing the lump in his throat before he even took in what the photo was of. It was a long strip, ten photos in two columns of five by two. Almost a stopmotion but not quite, Cas leaning forward, bright-scarved and GOD LOVES YOU tongue outstretched, Dean half-turned away from him–– the two of them; kissing and smiling and confused and falling and blank frames and it hit him in a tidal wave, choking him, pushing him under.

      Today, this day was a brimming cup/today, this day was the immense wave/today, it was all the earth.

      He was looking for something to hold onto, desperate, as memories, unbidden and thought forgotten, pushed from his eyes and his mouth and stuck to his skin, bursting soundlessly because they had come from a place without sound, muffled and quiet and hiding in the dark, together. Because that’s what is was ultimately about, finding someone in the dark and keeping them. He’s not supposed to be the one that got away, he’s supposed to be the one. Make sure he is. I love you more than sweaters. Saying you’re okay doesn’t make it so. You got that big heart, but you’ll be forgotten if you don’t find someone to share it with.

       

                  And Dean was finding action, it was pouring from him, shaking his body like earthquakes as he tore out of his room, probably not locking the door, pawing through the blue: light and destination and reaching for sound, and sight, and senses and something beyond the numbness he was trapped in. I need you, stay with me. And Dean was staying, he knew he was, forever–– never leaving, he’d stay without him, because it was just him. The Impala was roaring in his ears and he wondered how much time he’d wasted in the total of his life because even if it was all a waste he should be wasting it well and he finally fucking was and there was nothing stopping him as he tore down the walls he’d built everywhere around himself. He had finally learned to swim and he was floating and growing and running through halls and he’d never run so fast nor been so awake and burning and he was pushing through all of Them and there He Was, just sitting and smirking and turning away from some girl and Dean felt himself decelerate, slam to a stop and it was all gone into the frothing blue gaze that crashed the meet him.

       

                  “What the fuck do you want?” he sighed exhaustedly, his voice the heavy tone of one who has given up completely and Dean paused for a moment, uncertainty bogging him down. I need you, stay with me and he pulled Cas roughly to his feet even as he leaned backwards and tried to fall down again.

       

                  He gripped him, pinning his arms to his sides, faces close, searching, and the air of the room was bated, silent. He nodded, imperceptibly, and Cas’s eyes were round and wide, little caps of sky in his brimming skull, lit like they were that first sun-laden day, intense and vivid and alive, hopeful. Dean leaned forward, lips brushing Cas’s ear, tangling their fingers together. “Let’s get out of here, Cas.” Cas’s hands snapped away, fingers squirming and angry, nails digging into Dean’s flesh as he pulled away.

       

                  Dean pulled him outside and into the Impala. Cas was kicking and screaming and raging against it and Dean wasn’t letting go, not ever, pulling him with both hands knotted together and even as FUCK YOU FUCK YOU I FUCKING HATE YOU LET ME GO his feet were still moving in the same direction as Dean’s were, running from him and running to him and running with him as the car raced along the road, almost flying.

      Today the stormy sea/lifted us in a kiss/so high that we trembled/in a lightning flash
      and, tied, we went down/to sink without untwining.

      He felt it converging, a million moments and smiles and touches and things he almost said because he could never say anything, but he was doing it now, as he hurled out of the car, pulling Cas with him and they tore across sandy concrete and through the dunes, grass ripping at their legs and the mounds of sand fell away to the smooth expanse rushing to meet the ravaged sea which spread outward to the sky, indefinite and indeterminable and it all became one, ultimately, broken and pieced together and broken again and wasn’t that all the same thing. He held out his hand and Cas’s hovered, pulling away before crushing their fingers together, nails scraping unsurely against his palm and Dean promised himself he’d never let Cas be unsure again and he tried to tell him that in the way he gripped his fingers. He gave him one look, pulling him down the beach, caught in their current and crashing into the waves, against and against and going with. The water swirled and clung and tugged at their waists and Cas was pulling away again, fraying and ready to fall apart into the water and Dean wouldn’t let him, grasping him and he was screaming just “CAS! CAS! CAS” and Cas’s eyes were closed, shaking his head from side to side, body trembling, face twisted in fear. Dean kissed him because that was all he could do, just act and Cas’s lips were tight and closed and words were spilling over Dean’s lips before he even pulled away.

       

                  “Cas, I’m so sorry there isn’t even a word for it–– no poems or shitty songs just all of this sorry, as big as this fucking ocean. I was such a dick I didn’t think dicks like me existed outside of movies but I guess they do because look at me and I shouldn’t even be here, with you because you’re way too fucking everything but I just fucking love you I love you so much and it has nothing to do with anything or anyone but you and it never will and that’s why I’m so sorry because it’s just you, Cas, it’s only you, only ever going to be you. And I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I hate myself, I shouldn’t even–– you try so hard, harder than anyone I’ve ever seen to just keep it all together and I fucking broke you, I didn’t even think twice I was so pissed off because I thought no one should know, that I shouldn’t feel something like this. I fucked you up so bad I broke you and how could I ever do that I promised I’d fix you but I just I love you, and I’ve never––”

       

      Dean’s mind suddenly caught up with him; he didn’t think he’d ever said so many words at one time and he just held onto Cas tighter, meeting his eyes, begging. Cas looked away and Dean was drowning again, just raw and blue and eaten away. “I’m just…I’m sorry. You can go back to the car now and I’ll drive you––” He was silenced as Cas grabbed his shirt in fistfuls, crushing their mouths together all salt and bite and clawing at him through their clothes and he didn’t know which one of them was saying I love you I love you I love you into the others mouth and it didn’t matter, because they both were. They both finally fucking were.

      Today our bodies became vast/they grew to the edge of the world/and rolled melting/into a single drop/of wax or meteor.

      They were lifted and dropped and One as they clung to each other tighter amongst the Waves, hands tight and laughing and cold and numb and never feeling so much, so pulled away just bones and brine and words they hadn’t known how to say until then and as the wind dried them with a frigid kiss, warming from the inside out, that was All They Ever Were.