The Men of Letters were sadistic bastards, he concluded around box thirty of their dissection of one of the multiple storage rooms. Or they had no sense of practical organization, hoping someone in the future would get everything settled for them. Everything was listed in an orderly fashion, labeled by notecards in an extensive file cabinet with each object or document’s name, age, usage, origination, and known side effects – very little of which he paid attention to, probably against his better judgment. His job was to make sure the listed items were actually there when Sam called for them and not strewn about across the bunker somewhere.
He was starting to believe they were hoarders, as well; after finding a third of what was labeled the Spear of Destiny and an idol that shorted out the electricity within the city limits for an hour, they had whittled down their list from a hundred-odd boxes to a startling seventy – they were never getting this done. Even with Kevin’s help, the stacks were never-ending, their original intention for it to take a few hours stretching on for four days. Dean swore, if he had to look at another statue or curse box or whatever in the foreseeable future, his eyes would cross.
Three hours into their fifth day of cleaning brought them to their first misplaced item, a bundle of seven white feathers with no corresponding number anywhere in the first cabinet. They were larger than a bird’s by several inches, one of them twice the length of his palm and sharp to the touch, one of the barbs pricking his finger, blood staining the vane a bright red.
Sam found him cursing around his finger in his mouth and feathers in hand, both looking all the bit confused at one another. “What’d you do?” Dean waved the bloodstained feather in his direction, still sucking the blood from the wound. “…Please tell me you hurt yourself on something else.”
“Hello, bloody feather here.” He pressed his finger to his pant leg to slow the bleeding, staining the fabric at his knee. “Does it look like I didn't touch it?”
He received an exasperated growl of his name in reply, followed by a wave of the notecard. “You really should’ve listened when I said to use gloves.”
“Yeah, well, most of the stuff in here hadn’t actively tried to maim me.” He placed the feather aside and handed the bundle off to Sam, who took it with a gloved hand. “What’s so bad about a couple’a feathers?”
“Uh, what’s so bad?” Sam huffed. “Haven’t you noticed everything in here is basically a time bomb? I mean, we don't even know what half of this is, and you’re just pulling things out, and—.”
He lost track after that, more interested in the sudden twinge running up his back, ending between his shoulder blades. Probably a spasm – sitting on the floor for hours straight probably wasn't the smartest idea in the universe. Sam was still yammering about storage room etiquette and something about not paying attention when he was talking to him and – oh, he was talking to him again. “Are you even listening to me, Dean?”
“Not really.” He winced as he attempted to shrug, opting to just lean back and brace himself with his hands with the hope that it would alleviate at least some of the pain along his spine. “While you’re on your little tirade, why don't you tell me what’s on that damn card of yours?”
Apparently, Sam had forgotten he was even holding the thing. “Oh, right.” Duh, Sammy. “Shelf W, Section C, Item 12, Rahmiel’s Feathers.”
“Angel feathers?” He looked at the bundle in Sam’s hand, now wrapped in an abandoned strip of burlap. It wasn't unusual considering the spell work the Men probably dealt with in the past. Earlier in the week, they found another, much larger collection of opened bottles and jars full of multicolored feathers from at least seventeen different Angels, Castiel’s being one of them – he hadn’t found it humorous. Where was he, anyway? “What’s so different about these? Shouldn't they go with their buddies over there on Shelf F?”
“That’s just it.” Sam held out the card, Dean taking it and promptly going wide eyed at the printed words. “They’re cursed. They were forcefully ripped from their vessel and were supposed to be used in some sort of location spell, only whatever they used with it backfired and turned them into cursed objects.”
“Curse, like what? I’m gonna turn into a lizard or something?” Whatever Sam was getting at, it wasn't listed on the card; only the date of extraction – they pulled the poor guy’s feathers out – and the attempted usage were marked, with an external folder number on the back.
“More like you’ll temporarily grow wings.” Wait. “They have an entire folder on alternate uses of all the objects in here, you won’t believe what the—.”
“Sammy, focus.” He snapped his fingers and attempted to right himself, ending up sprawling out on his back in the process. Sam picked the opportune time to become concerned, kneeling beside him and helping him sit up. “Get back to the—wing thing, will you?” Why was the room spinning?
“It’s only for a day or two—Dean, you with me?” He grunted what he hoped was an affirmation, eyes closed to the light of the room – when had it gotten so bright? “Dean, wake up—Dean—…—.”
His consciousness returned sometime later, face smothered in what he felt to be a soft blanket or maybe a pillow, too comfortable and warm for his liking. It even smelled nice, a light mix of sage and musk, doing their best to lull him into a false sense of security. Through closed eyelids, he noted the lights had been shut off save for a dim source to his right, and his body had been moved, no longer on the floor of the storage room, but rather what he recognized to be his bed. Or, someplace eerily close. He stretched atop the rumpled sheets; dreaming, he considered, I was just dreaming. There’s nothing wrong with my—.
Wrong. The moment he touched his fingertips to the headboard, something crashed to the ground from the desk across the room; that stupid marble statue of an Angel Sam had found weeks before that somehow kept finding its way into his room. One of its hands had skittered towards the closet door, palm raised to the roof. But it wasn't the statue that caught his attention – it was what knocked it over. Great tawny things stretched in either direction of him a good dozen feet, darker at the tops and fading to a brilliant silver at the edges, glowing a dull blue in the darkness of his room.
If it weren’t for the ever present weight between his shoulder blades, he would have thought he was hallucinating and went back to sleep. Instead, he righted himself and pulled his wings – there was no denying their presence, they were there, in their full glory – tight against his back, trying to make sense of it.
Cursed object – that damned feather knocked him out and turned him into a bird. At some during his unconscious state he had lost his shirt, probably before the wings could decide to rip holes through the fabric and tear it to shreds. Whoever was thinking ahead, they deserved a medal. Neither party had been consulted on him bleeding everywhere in his sleep, though; the sheets would need to be changed and drenched in bleach, from the looks of it. The skin of his back wasn't faring much better, dried residue flaking off with his every move.
He needed a shower, that much he knew. Unlucky for him, Sam caught him in the hall outside of their bedrooms, expression caught between awe and horror. Behind him, his wings curled in tight, a faint tremble running through them, unseen by either brother. “So, how are you…?”
“Feel like I got mowed over by a truck.” Dean pinched the bridge of his nose, wriggling his shoulders a bit. “How long was I out?”
“Half a day, maybe more. It’s three in the morning,” Sam bit through a yawn. Never once did his eyes leave the plumage at his back, ruffling at the unwanted attention. “So, this is…new.”
“Since when did you forget how to talk?” He laughed despite himself, struggling to ignore the pain radiating through his chest at the action. “Feels even worse. Who took my shirt?”
“Probably Cas.” Sam shrugged. Of course it would be Castiel, hovering ex-Angel of the Lord content to wander the Bunker or linger in doorways longer than necessary. “He checked on you a few times after we dragged your ass to bed, said he was worried.”
“’Course he would be.” Dean shook his head – when was he not? All he did in the last few months was worry; he probably paced whenever he and Sam were away on hunts until they got back, for all he knew. Sam had already declared him ready to actually go with them instead of being shut away; Dean wouldn't allow it, citing that Castiel was safer there than wherever they decided to hole up for weeks at a time. The tension was wearing thin between hunts, neither party wanting explicitly to separate, but knowing that either brother would be leaving sooner or later, leaving an ornery fallen Angel behind.
Sam shrugged. “Look, he’s just doing what he can. You haven’t exactly been accommodating—.”
“Oh, I haven’t been accommodating?” Feathers flared at the mention, forcing him to wince at the twinge that ran up his back. “I’ve been nothing but accommodating, and what does he say about it?”
“Dude, you’re—you’re poofing at me right now.”
“I don’t care if I’m—what are they even doing?” Dean glanced over his shoulder, watching the intricacies of each shift of the wings, now haphazardly tucked at his back, almost trying to hide from view. “Dude, I think you hurt their feelings.”
At his front, Sam was biting his knuckle, doing nothing to hide the smirk on his lips. “I think you need to talk to Cas about this. Y’know, so you don’t try to accidently proposition someone. I’ll see if we can find out how to reverse this in the morning, alright?”
“I’m not gonna—Sammy, get back here!”
But Sam was gone, the door to his room clicking shut, leaving him alone with a pain in his back and dejected-looking wings. It didn't matter; he had more pressing matters at hand. Like, managing to fit through the shower room door. Primaries dragging across the tile with every step, he managed to worm himself through the doorway and into one of the stalls, for once thanking someone, Castiel or not, for taking the time to get him out of his shirt before his back decided to split in two. The bloodied vee of his back was more mortifying than it should have been – would that scar? It would probably be the most interesting of his collection, for sure.
But how was he supposed to explain that he had spontaneously grown wings to someone? Not even cool ones, at that. In the fresh light of the shower room, he spotted every variation of color, from burnt umbers to the lightest of ashes, shining under fluorescent bulbs, each shift brushing feathers against one another or the floor. The fresh nerve endings were destined to give him a migraine.
That, and Castiel deciding it would be an absolutely perfect time to show up right as he was getting his pants off, promptly turning both of their faces a brilliant shade of red. Against his will, he felt his wings flare up again, this time to their full breadth, exposing the dirtied undersides and flapping in near-joyous wonder. All a stark contrast to the expression he wore, somewhere between anger and sheer embarrassment. “You aren’t—why’re you here?” he snapped, still frozen in place, pants pooled around his ankles. “You’re s’pposed to be asleep.”
“Dean.” That one word in that voice, riddled with sleeplessness and what he suspected to be irritation, had his wings snapping back to attention and huddling close, actually shivering. He was starting to believe they were sentient. He found himself backing away and nearly tripping over his jeans as Castiel stepped forward, slow, palms raised to him. “Stay still.”
“What, ‘re you gonna pet me?” Dean backed into one of the cubicle walls, wings protesting at the impact. “I’m not some animal at the fuckin’ zoo, Cas, you can’t just—.”
Castiel hushed him again, padding over in bare feet and blue plaid pajamas to stand at his feet, eyes darting between each appendage in awe. “…I didn’t think they would manifest so quickly.”
“Yeah, well, they did.” Shaking off Castiel’s stare, he stepped out of his pants and kicked them towards the bench by the door. “And they hurt like a bitch, too. So look… It’s three in the morning, I feel like the world’s worst hangover incarnate and I’m covered in blood. Can we please have this discussion in the morning?”
“Don’t you want to know what they’re doing?” He could have sworn Castiel was smirking at him. “You were excited to see me.”
Dean rolled his eyes with a huff, turning towards the shower stall. “More like mortified. You can’t just walk in on a guy when he’s in the shower, man!”
“You weren’t in the shower, Dean.” Castiel folded his arms across his chest, still glowering as Dean looked over the dated temperature knobs on the wall. “Is it customary to bathe with your underwear on?”
“What? No, dude—.” An embarrassed flush ran up his neck, wings practically giddy with excitement. “Great, what’re they doing now?”
With a shake of his head, Castiel moved to pull off his sleep shirt, Dean making no move to stop him – his feathers did it instead, a primary tracing the skin of Castiel’s wrist and garnering immediate interest from both parties. Castiel actually pet him, carefully running his fingers along the longest of his feathers, a shiver running through the appendage and down his spine at the contact. “I want to clean them, if you’re willing. It’ll be more comfortable to have them groomed for you.”
Great, he really was a bird. “You gonna tell me how good of a boy I am too?”
“Dean.” He straightened at the gruffness of the tone, meeting Castiel’s glare. “If you’re not interested, I’ll leave. I’m not forcing you to do this.”
“I know, Cas,” he sighed. “I’m just… I thought having wings would be cool. Hell, I wanted to see yours forever.” He saw Castiel’s expression soften at the mention. “But this?” He pointed to either side of him. “Hurts.”
“They’ll only hurt if you fight them.” Castiel walked to the bench and tugged off his shirt, undoing the drawstring of his pants and folding them neatly next to its counterpart. His boxers followed – holy crap there’s a naked Cas over there. “Sit, please. It’ll put less pressure on your back if you’re not standing.”
It made sense; that didn't stop him from looking Castiel over, just a quick glance, barely enough time to take in all that skin he had never had the chance to see, that one freckle beside his nipple, the dips of his hipbones, the swell of his – stop gawking, man. He met Castiel’s gaze again as he reentered his space, ushering him towards the larger of the stalls. While Castiel fiddled with the shower knobs, he shucked his briefs and cast them in the vague direction of the door, seating himself facing the wall beneath the cold rain of the showerhead. “Sorry,” Castiel muttered, unapologetic. “The water heater doesn't fully work until five.”
How many times Castiel had taken a shower before the sun came up to find that out, he didn't know. “I’ll do it, you go get my stuff from the other stall.” His wing didn't brush against his ass with intent as he left, no; not that he was willing to admit to himself, anyway.
By the time Castiel returned with his body wash and shampoo and a shower puff he had no recollection of ever buying, he had adjusted the water to his liking, sitting beneath the spray with his head bowed and wings slumped and matted against the slick tiles. “I’ll brush them for you too, once they’re dry.”
“You’re liking this too much, you know that?” He hadn’t meant it to come out as harsh as it did; over his shoulder, he saw Castiel visibly deflate, teeth worrying his lower lip. “Sorry, just—sit down, do… whatever you gotta do.”
For a while, he let Castiel work without speaking, hands mindful of the sensitive skin around the base of his wings as he washed him, scrubbing away the remnants of dried blood and other indeterminate materials from his back, running red down the drain beneath his ankles. The whole thing had an air of ritual to it, of intimacy as he felt fingers work through his feathers, straightening out the skewed coverts and clumped primaries and secondaries, smoothing them down afterwards. “You done this before?” he found himself asking, drowsy, close to nodding off under the tenderness of Castiel’s ministrations.
“When I was an Angel, sometimes,” Castiel replied, now sitting before him, cautiously carding his fingers through the feathers closest to his body. “The older Angel’s would groom us as fledglings, and we were left to either ourselves or our partners as adults. It taught us to bond with one another, mostly.” He looked wistful as he spoke, brow softened with longing.
“Are we bonding now?” His unattended wing flapped at the sight of Castiel’s smile, his own showing teeth. “So, uh, about them moving—.”
“Wings are connected to the soul,” Castiel began, squeezing a dollop of shampoo into his hand and motioning for Dean to lower his head, massaging his scalp as he lathered his hair. “They show your true emotions – fear, anger, happiness, love. You were scared, earlier. When you thought I was going to scold you.”
“I wasn't—.” He really wasn't – but his soul said different. If any of what Castiel was saying was true, then what else were they implying? If he was stuck with them for the immediate future, how much else would he be able to read? Expressing emotions or feelings didn't come naturally to him in any sense, and the fact that his wings were doing it for him – what was he supposed to say? Castiel didn't know—couldn't know. “I wasn't… scared.”
Castiel hummed to himself, rinsing off his hands and letting the water wash away the suds in Dean’s hair. He closed his eyes to the soap and spray, eyelids fluttering with every drag of fingers through matted locks, leaving him sighing just from his touch. Too intimate, he reminded himself; it was almost like Castiel cared. Castiel always cared, now that he thought about it; too much heart, a forgotten voice called back to him. Always too much.
“I used to watch your soul,” Castiel confessed, lowering his hands to his lap. Against his will, a shroud of brown and silver wrapped around Castiel, feathers brushing at the scarred ridges of his back; he felt him collapse into the hold, simple as it was, the wings supporting him as he leant back. “You lie about what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking. About your intentions. I based my assumptions of you on your souls reactions, not your words.”
“So that explains the staring,” he added. Castiel responded by rolling his eyes. Dean watched him pet one of the longer feathers absently, stray drops clinging to the surface before sliding off into the spiral of the drain between them. “Dude, you could’ve just asked—.” The exasperated sigh he got was his answer – he wouldn't have answered if Castiel had asked, he knew. “Okay, maybe not. But you didn't have to get all freaky with my soul.”
“How else was I supposed to know what you meant?” Castiel stood, leaving Dean eye-level with his crotch before he turned to shut off the water – that view wasn't much better. All he had to do was reach up and—. “You were very stubborn, then moreso than now. Though, in spite of that…” Castiel turned to him and offered his hands, helping to pull Dean upright despite the sodden weight at his back. “…I could always tell when you needed me the most. I would touch you—,” he illustrated by placing his hand on his formerly branded shoulder, “—and you would call out to me. You would want me back.”
Castiel didn’t give him a chance to reply, simply stepping out of the stall and heading for the towels left out on the bench, leaving him to stare at the empty wall, wings shivering near-violently, slumped to the floor. He was gone by the time he pulled himself together and dried off, halfhearted, before trudging into the hall. After he woke up in the afternoon, he would go back for his clothes; anything other than sleeping off the ache in his bones was too much effort.
Judging by the naked man on his bed, he wouldn’t be dropping off into the land of the unconscious any time soon. There wasn't any use fighting it, anyway. Castiel beckoned him over from his position cross-legged by the headboard, eyes heavy, a black-bristled brush in hand. “Before you sleep, I’d like to brush you.”
He snorted, barely able to shake his head. “Can you do it while I’m asleep? Pretty sure I’m gonna clock out the minute I get in bed.”
“I’d prefer you to be awake.” Saying and doing were two different things, but he could at least try. His head barely hit the pillow before he was dozing, barely missing the feeling of Castiel crawling over his back to straddle his waist, pushing both wings flat onto the bed, feathers strewn about in every direction. He wiggled his hips a bit in retaliation, purring at the feeling of Castiel pinning him harder, effectively seating himself on his ass. “Stop moving, Dean.”
“You’re the one on my ass, man,” Dean purred. “Normally I don't let guys do that till the second date.”
“How amusing.” But Castiel didn’t stop, instead leaning over enough to draw his bare hands down between his wings, stroking along the top arch and smoothing back down, leaving them to arch into his hands with each pass until he abandoned them completely. “I never told you how beautiful they were,” Dean heard him say, beginning to brush the shortest of his feathers, straightening out the ones loosened by their previous shuffling about.
Stretching his arms above his head, he mumbled into his pillow, “what did yours look like?”
He felt Castiel falter above him, taking a few seconds to start back up again. “They faded much like yours, black to sky blue. I had a few white feathers, like the ones you have in your storage room.” Of course he remembered that. “The Men of Letters were very adamant about those in particular. I didn’t see the appeal.”
“They’re gorgeous, though.” He turned his head towards the wall, praying he didn't fall asleep before Castiel was done. “Probably wouldn’t poison me if I touched ‘em.”
“Hasn't your brother told you not to touch things?” At least Castiel found it funny. “Mine weren’t as brilliant as yours.”
“Doubt it,” he murmured, opening one eye to find Castiel staring at him. “Woulda been cool if you’d’ve whipped ‘em out, once in a while.”
“I was afraid of what their effect on you would have been. Their manifestation could have blinded you.”
“What a way to go, though.” He yelped as Castiel thumped the brush against his arch, unattended wing flaring out in retaliation. “You pissed off my soul, dude.”
His attentions shifted to the other side while his freshly preened wing curled up lazily on the bed, draping over the edge. There was no use keeping them clean, in retrospect; in a few hours, they would be mussed from sleep and whatever else they got up to before he dozed. Upon telling Castiel so, he received a kiss to the browning feathers. “Then I’ll just have to clean them again. You seem to enjoy it enough.”
“Didn't think it’d feel this nice,” he admitted. “C’mon, I wanna roll over. You’re kinda crushing my dick like this.”
Castiel acquiesced with a groan, maneuvering himself over while Dean rested on his side, right wing stretched towards him in invitation. “Your soul is propositioning me, Dean,” Castiel mused, resuming his practice and brushing out the underside. “Are you aware?”
“’M not aware of much of anything, right now.” He stretched out a hand to rest on Castiel’s thigh, eyes closed for the proceedings, content to feel his hands and that brush on him; where had he gotten it, anyway? “I feel the same too, y’know.”
That time, Castiel did stop. “…What?”
“What you said, about wanting you back.” He sighed into the crook of his arm. “Don’t deserve you. Never deserved you.”
The sound of the brush being set on the bedside table distracted him from feeling the bed dip by his head, arm pulled away from his face to rest in the sheets. In the dim light of the room, he saw Castiel move in close, lips pressing soft to his temple, cheek while a hand carded through still damp hair. “You deserve the world, Dean… And you deserve me, too.”
He chuckled at the feeling of Castiel flopping into the sheets beside him, his free wing knocking him down and tugging him close to cocoon him in soft warmth, drawing their bodies together. “Your soul wants—.”
“No, Cas. I want.” Dean wrapped an arm around his waist and tangled their legs together, tucking his head under Castiel’s chin. “C’mon, don’t leave me hangin’ here.”
“You’re terrible.” Still, he hugged him back and settled into the warmth of the wing and their twined bodies. “…We’ll figure this out, Dean,” he said, kissing his hair. “We’ll reverse the spell—.”
“Cas, for once, shut up.” He nuzzled closer, sighing. “I got someone I want for once, so lemme enjoy it, please?”
Castiel pressed his thumb to his lower lip, kissing him, soft. “I’ll still be here when you wake up.”
“Hope so. Was kinda plannin’ on gettin’ to know you better.” He smirked into Castiel’s neck. “’N you can pet me s’more.”
Castiel smiled, shuffling closer. “I’m looking forward to it.”