The parking lot is packed, and Dean clenches his jaw because he’s driving his baby over a field. She’s just too good for grass and mud. The sky isn’t threatening rain, but if it does, and she gets mud on her… He’s always concerned about her, but especially after she stopped the apocalypse by snapping Sam out of it, he thinks it’s only right that he take extra care now.
It feels so normal to cruise through lines of cars at the speed of a snail on espresso, when just a few weeks ago, he and Sam managed to lock Michael and Lucifer (and yeah, their half brother, so that kind of sucks) into a cage in Hell. He’s still not even sure how they managed to pull it off, but he wouldn’t have doubted divine intervention, not after Bobby and Castiel were brought back too.
He glances in the rearview at Castiel, who’s hunched in his seat and looking out the window with the kind of empty, torn look that he gets when there’s nothing to distract him. Dean’s starting to hate it. He’s alive, dammit, but Castiel misses his angel mojo, and Dean kind of gets that, but it’s irritating to him that Castiel can’t at least be a little grateful he’s alive at all, even if he’s a human now.
Sure, it’s a pain in the ass dragging Castiel on hunts, and he and Sam have to share a bed again, and most of the time Castiel just stares into space and picks at his food and looks so depressed to take a fucking shower that he’s turned into a real downer. But he can get into watching TV, and he’ll tilt his head at reality TV, and he’s gotten hooked on a soap opera or two. Hearing him talk about the day’s episode is actually one of Dean’s favorite parts of the day because at least Castiel looks excited about something, or upset, or amused.
Finally finding a spot, he noses his girl in and shuts her off.
“Boys, I hope you brought your empty stomachs,” he says, half twisting in his seat to look at Castiel, who lifts his head, his eyes still lacking a flicker of interest—of anything. “The fair is a veritable smorgasbord, and we are going to eat our way through it.”
His chuckle fades away as Sam throws Castiel another of his soft, soothing, victim smiles. Dean hates those too. Castiel doesn’t need to be coddled like that. He’s Castiel.
“It’ll be fun, Cas. You’ll see.”
“I’m not that hungry.” And then he opens the door and shuts it behind him. Sam pulls a concerned frown at Dean.
“I think it’ll be good for him,” he says, like he’s trying to convince Dean, but Dean hasn’t really argued with Sam over this idea of his. Frankly, he’s willing to try anything to shake Castiel out of it.
“If not, I’m blaming you,” Dean retorts before he hauls himself out of the car.
Castiel has his hands in the pockets of the jeans they bought for him, wearing a flannel shirt that Dean threw into the basket for him when he wasn’t picking anything out. Dean still hasn’t gotten used to him without his trench coat, and he’s cracked a few jokes about it, but secretly he doesn’t find it that funny. Castiel just doesn’t look like himself, and it only compounds the whole thing where Castiel doesn’t feel like himself, maybe doesn’t even know who he is. It’s an uncomfortable reminder, and Dean wishes the weather could be colder so Castiel could wear that fucking coat.
Castiel stares out in the direction of the fairgrounds, where they can see the Ferris wheel turning slowly. He sidles up to Castiel, violating the personal space rules that he’d set himself initially. It’s just that Castiel hasn’t been violating them in a while—not since the human thing—and Dean should be happy about it, but it just worries him. It feels like another symptom of this depression clinging to his trench coat.
“Wait till you see it at night,” he offers, sounding hopeful. Castiel turns that dead gaze on him, but Dean can see something in there, at least. A hint of interest. “They’ll turn all the lights on, and this place will look like a Christmas tree.”
He loses Castiel again, as he looks down at his feet.
“I don’t celebrate Christmas.”
Dean resists the urge to roll his eyes as Sam lifts his eyebrows at them. “Ready?”
They buy their tickets and shuffle through the main gates, where they pause to get their bearings, decide what they should check out first. They’d ask Castiel, but at this point, they know he wouldn’t say anything; he’d just shrug and stare moodily off into the distance, and Dean or Sam would have to make the decision for him.
“How about the animals?” Sam suggests, looking down at the map in their hands. They gave one to Castiel, but he just holds it loosely; Dean notices he’s looking at Dean’s though, and Dean imperceptibly turns it enough that he can see better.
“What are you, eight?” Dean snaps, and Sam’s silence draws his eyes up.
“We should start with the animals.” Sam’s eyes flick briefly to Castiel and then his eyebrow quirks, and Dean speaks Sam-lish well enough to know what he means. Sam and Dean aren’t children, but Castiel sort of is. Dean presses his lips together and sighs through his nose.
“Fine. But I’m not going into any tent that stinks.”
“Afraid they’ll try to put you in a pen?”
Dean looks sharply at Sam, who looks sly but a little hesitant. Their relationship has been a bit… strange, but it’s getting better, and Dean’s willing to bet it’s Castiel that’s helping them out, giving them both something to focus on, and something that they both feel equally guilty about.
“You know, I think you are eight,” Dean returns, and Sam chuckles. Castiel walks silently beside him, though Dean knows he’s taking in the conversation. He always does.
They make it to the baby animals first, and though Dean rolls his eyes, Sam drags them in to look at the cow that’s in the middle of giving birth. Her moos are loud and fill the space, rising up over the swell of people talking and children laughing. Dean can feel Castiel at his elbow, and he squirrels this away. Castiel’s distracted enough that he’s wandered into Dean’s space.
“She’s in pain,” he murmurs, and Sam doesn’t hear it; he’s reading the information on the fence. Dean glances at him.
“Yeah, that’s how it works. But the end product’s pretty cute.” He nods his head toward another cow and her recently born calf in a nearby pen. Castiel’s eyes lift, but his focus returns to the cow, whose tail switches in agitation.
“Life is painful.”
He sighs and claps Castiel on the shoulder, pulling him away from the cow pen. “Alright. Someone’s been watching too much Oprah. C’mon. Look, baby ducks on a slide.”
Actually, Dean remembers loving these little guys, how they waddle up the steps and slide back down into the pool of water. He remembers wanting a set up like that for himself, a water slide with a hamburger bar at the top. That’s something he could be okay with. Castiel tilts his head at that, and Dean feels a little bit better about being one of three grown men staring at baby ducks.
From there it’s a few more animal tents, pigs and goats and horses in a ring, trotting around. It’s not any kind of fun horsing event, so they don’t hang around long, and Sam starts off for the nearest building when Dean pulls up short.
“Dude, no. No sheep. I can smell them from here.”
Sam’s protest is interrupted by Castiel pulling out his map.
“No sheep,” he says forcefully. “That’s the last of the animals. What’s next?”
Dean wishes Sam wouldn’t look so relieved when he cuts him off.
“We’ve been here for way too long without eating anything. I say we grab some of those ribbon fries over there,” he says, nodding to a cart.
Castiel only picks at them, leaving Dean and Sam to demolish the plate, which they manage to accomplish without much difficulty. It doesn’t take Dean long to remember why he never had much fun going to the fair with Sam, who leads them through one agricultural building to another. At least they manage to pick up some soy donuts and free milk along the way. Castiel eats more of those than he did of the fries. Dean scribbles that down in his mental Castiel journal.
He could be more annoyed at Sam making this into some educational thing, except Castiel seems to enjoy learning some of these things, so whatever, but he can only stand it so long. As they wander out of that building and Sam starts looking at his map again, Dean smacks it out of his hand.
“My turn. I think it’s time Castiel saw his first pig race.”
The tent is nearby, and they stand off to the side in a cluster of other childless adults, not that Sam wouldn’t stand out in any crowd. He notices Castiel shuffling closer to him, and he doesn’t think much of it, not really, because that’s normal behavior for Castiel and lately he’s been acting way too abnormal. For once, no personal space is fine.
Dean’s a pretty macho guy, okay, but when the announcer asks for pig rooters, Dean just remembers childhood trips to the fair and never getting picked, and there’s a buzz in the crowd, and Dean just goes for it. He’s honestly surprised when the announcer picks him, but he’s going by sections, and his section’s all adults anyway. So why not go for the six-foot-tall guy in work boots and a beat up leather jacket who’s shouting his head off?
Sam’s half annoyed, half laughing, and as Dean starts to cheer wildly for his pig, rousing the enthusiasm around him, Dean thinks he sees half a smile on Castiel’s face. Just a small one, more like an angel one, where only the corners of his mouth are affected.
Dean’s pig wins, naturally, and he troops up to the bandstand to get his prize—free popcorn, please and thank you—and a poster of a potbelly pig. Not a bad haul. He returns, grinning, and Sam knocks him in the shoulder, making some comment about his big brother being a total loser, but Dean goes on autopilot for his answer because he’s too busy meeting Castiel’s eyes. Castiel looks amused, and he’d make an idiot of himself all over again if it would just shake out that whole Life is pain look again.
It’s starting to get dark, so they find something worthwhile for a meal, and they settle down to eat some pretty decent barbeque. Dean catches Castiel’s eye, just for a second, before he dumps sauce on his sandwich, and Castiel obediently follows suit. Actually, this is something of a common occurrence for them—Dean showing Castiel how to go about eating something the right way—and Sam hasn’t tried to interrupt it or commented on it or even joined in. Maybe they’re both just used to Dean being the big brother here.
Sam pulls out the map when they’re done and flips it open to that day’s events.
“There’s a concert later.”
“C’mon, Sam. We want Cas to have a good day, not subject him to crappy music.”
Castiel sighs and pushes his plate away.
“What’s the matter, Cas?”
Dean grits his teeth against his brother’s dewy eyes and dewy voice, but his irritation doesn’t last long; Castiel fixes a glare on the both of them, laying his hands on the table.
“If you’re so concerned with forcing me to have a good day, you could ask me what I want to do.”
“Sure, Cas.” Sam practically knocks his drink over as he pushes the pamphlet at Castiel, and he points out the day’s events with his finger. “You pick.”
Castiel fidgets under their eyes as he pulls the paper closer to him, and he scans the list quickly once, then again, his mouth pulling into a frown.
“I don’t want to do any of this,” he declares, lifting his head, and while normally that would sound like Castiel being all surly and depressed, Dean hears the genuine tone in his voice, and he’s almost relieved. He claps Castiel on the back and leans over, eyeing the list over his shoulder.
“Can’t say I blame you there, Cas. This all sounds a little lame. So screw it; the main fair attraction is the food anyway. You still hungry?”
He and Castiel are close, his hand still on Castiel’s back, and he looks into Dean’s face with the kind of hesitation that he remembers seeing there even before he was mojo-less; it’s a nice relief, to see Castiel being a little like the one he remembers, and not this hangdog wet blanket.
“I’ve seen several signs for funnel cake,” he says, his voice half-seeking approval.
Dean pats his back soundly and stands, grabbing their trash and piling it onto his tray.
“Funnel cake it is. Look alive, Sammy. Let’s work toward an early heart attack.”
They follow the trail of people making their way past stalls and tents, eating their way up the path, with Sam and Dean making half-awkward conversation, and Castiel only half-participating. The crowd gets thicker as they get nearer the midway, with the games and the really good food, and the people shouting to get you over to their stall. The crowd pushes the three of them together, and more than once Dean feels Castiel’s hand at his lower back, just the briefest touch, before it retreats.
They stop in front of a shooting game, and Dean and Sam exchange appraising looks.
“They’re always fixed,” Sam’s saying, even as he reaches for his wallet.
“But we have to at least show Cas how it’s done.” He spares a glance over his shoulder, and the grin stalls on his face. Castiel’s been behind him as they shuffled their way through the crowd, and Dean hasn’t noticed the way his chest is hitching, or the wide-eyed look of fear that’s turned his expression a little desperate.
“Hey, Cas and me have to hit the bathroom,” Dean says. He’s pushing Castiel away before Sam looks up, and he waves him on. “Go ahead, tear ‘em a new one. Keep your phone handy. We’ll meet up again soon.”
Sam’s eyes flicker between the two of them before he turns away, shrugging. Dean keeps a hold on Castiel’s upper arm as they push out into the crowd, and he keeps close against Castiel’s side, heading in the direction of what the map calls the crafts hall. Sure, it’ll be boring, but he’s pretty sure it’ll be empty, and that’s more important right now.
They break from the crowd and head inside, and Dean’s grip turns from firm to something approaching gentle as he leans Castiel against a wall.
Castiel nods mutely, and Dean notices he’s still breathing heavily. He isn’t sure what could’ve brought this on, really, because it isn’t like Castiel hasn’t stared down far worse than chili cheese dogs or Snake Ladies in trailers.
“What happened? You feeling sick?” He sweeps a concerned, evaluating look over Castiel, who’s paler than Dean would like.
“Couldn’t breathe,” Castiel manages, and he takes a longer, slower lungful of air now, as if to punctuate the difference between there and here. Dean glances outside again, and he kicks himself for not thinking of it sooner.
“Alright. Mark that one down. You don’t do well in a crowd.” The doe-eyed way Castiel looks at the world now, the way he’s retreated into himself, it really isn’t any wonder that being suffocated by bodies wouldn’t really do much to make his day any better. Dean tugs on his sleeve and starts for the water machine he sees near the bathrooms.
They spend far longer in this building than Dean would have on any other day, working their way through the water bottle and peering at quilts and crafts and duct tape wallets. He’d try to get back to Sam already, except Castiel seems to be enjoying himself, inspecting the way people have put together this craft or that one. He doesn’t mind it, either, when Castiel lingers on the art displays, even the ones from elementary schools. Castiel likes art. Another one for the Castiel journal.
Staring at half-eaten pies, Castiel tilts his head at something lemony.
“Are these for sale?”
“No,” Dean snorts, and he points out the ribbons. “They were in a contest. I guess this one was the tastiest.”
Castiel considers them a moment longer and then turns a fairly hopeful expression on Dean. “Can we taste them?” Dean laughs out another no, and Castiel frowns at the case, clearly disappointed. “That’s idiotic. Why display them if they aren’t available to be eaten?”
“A question for the ages, man. I’d break into the case with you, but they’re probably all stale by now anyway.” Castiel looks a little mollified at that, and Dean chuckles, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Sorry I can’t. This is like, the one thing that’s most interested you all day.”
Castiel tilts his head at him then, and he almost finds it a relief that Castiel doesn’t break this staring contest. Far too often lately, he won’t hold Dean’s gaze. He misses it, if only because it means that Castiel isn’t feeling like shit for once.
“I liked the ducks,” he offers, and Dean huffs another laugh, rolling his eyes. He opens his mouth to reply, but Castiel continues, and lately Dean doesn’t like to shut Castiel up, not if he’s wanting to talk. “And the pig races.”
There’s a weight behind Castiel’s voice that Dean doesn’t quite know how to interpret, so instead he breaks their gaze, and he slings an arm around Castiel’s shoulder, pulling him away from the pies.
“Well, let’s see if we can’t find you something else to like. You think you’re ready to hit that crowd again?” Castiel stills beside him, but nods, and Dean pats his back. “Stay beside me, or behind me.” He starts to mention holding onto him, but he doesn’t, afraid to bring up that he’d noticed it for whatever reason. Instinctually he knows Castiel would do it again anyway, and Dean doesn’t really need to bring it up.
Sure enough, Castiel’s hand finds its way to Dean’s lower back more than once as they slip back out into the crowd, with Dean leading them off to where they last saw Sam, not that he thinks Sam would be there. He should be more eager to find his brother again, but he doesn’t mind a little alone time with Castiel, either. It’s frustrating watching Sam baby him, or frown pitifully at him. He doesn’t need pity.
He pulls Castiel to games that don’t have many people at them, and he shows him how to squeeze the water guns to get the maximum effect, gives him some dart-throwing pointers. They handle a few more shooting games before Dean realizes they’re near the Ferris wheel as the lights twinkle behind them. He nudges Castiel, who looks up at the sight with more appreciation than fear.
“You wanna ride that?” Dean asks, and Castiel frowns at him briefly, as if weighing the question, before he nods slightly. Dean bites back a sigh. His fear of heights is pretty strictly limited to airplanes, but Ferris wheels, on occasion, have given him a twitchy feeling in his gut. But he remembers the way Castiel had looked interested way back even by the car, so he knows there really isn’t much of a decision here.
“C’mon then.” He leads them to the line, which is pretty long, but Dean angles Castiel until he’s against a fence and the crowd passes behind Dean; he uses some of his height to create a bit of a space for Castiel, so he isn’t so suffocated.
Belatedly he realizes what this might look like, two guys on a Ferris wheel, and he wishes Sam were here because a third wheel would eliminate any incorrect assumptions. He tries not to think too much of it, and turns to try to make small talk with Castiel, when he notices Castiel staring just past him. Over his shoulder, Dean spots a teenage couple, his arms wrapped around her, hands on her appreciable ass, with her head tucked into the crook of his neck.
“Don’t worry, Cas,” he says, turning back around. “I promised you I’d get your virginity problem taken care of, and I will.”
Castiel blinks, refocuses on Dean, and Dean holds back a chuckle at the fear flickering in his eyes. “I do not want to go to another Den of Iniquity.” He lowers his voice, leaning closer to Dean, and Dean can’t stop laughing this time.
“Alright, alright. No more dens. How about a little room service some night?”
They shuffle forward as the line moves, and Castiel’s lips press together in a thin line. He looks like he’s about to bolt, and Dean really shouldn’t enjoy winding him up like this. He can’t help it that he’s been someone’s big brother most of his life.
“I don’t want a prostitute,” Castiel says softly, though it’s pretty clear that the quiet isn’t because he’s afraid of being overheard. Dean eyes him, trying to puzzle out whatever’s going on in Castiel’s now-featherless brain.
“You want a girlfriend? You might need to test out those sea legs of yours for a little while longer before you sign up for match.com.” Castiel narrows his eyes at Dean, and Dean sighs, waving his hand. “Nevermind.”
The line dwindles, and their conversation stalls, but it isn’t too uncomfortable. Their shoulders bump together as they make their way closer to the Ferris wheel, and Castiel’s pretty entranced by the lights, so Dean lets him absorb, sending a text to Sam.
Me: Where are you? We’re by the ferris wheel
The reply is near-instant.
Sammy: At the reenactment thing. Don’t fall out.
Me: Ha ha.
When he pockets the phone, it’s their turn to slide into a car. There isn’t much space between them, but there usually isn’t even when they aren’t crammed into a rickety, swaying metal seat. They lurch forward and Dean carefully lifts his eyes to the horizon, ignoring the ground. Castiel’s a little more fascinated, and he murmurs comments to Dean about things getting smaller, about what he can see. At Dean’s third grunted reply, Castiel looks over at him.
“You are afraid?” he asks, concerned. Dean shrugs.
“I’m fine,” he says, annoyed, because he kind of isn’t. “Just—sit back, okay?”
Castiel complies, and their arms are in full contact as Dean leans away from the edge of his car.
“I don’t want a girlfriend.”
It’s such a fluid continuation of their conversation on the (blessed, sweet, firm) ground that Dean’s a little whiplashed at first, as he tries to backtrack through his mind.
“That’s probably better. You don’t want to get too tied down to anyone right now,” Dean offers, more uncomfortable giving relationship advice to Castiel than he is when he’s arranging to get him laid. “Like I said, I’ll get you a hooker sometime. We’ll have to ditch Sammy for the night,” he muses, when Castiel cuts through his thoughts.
“I don’t want a woman.”
The cart stops three quarters of the way up, and Dean can see the tops of cars stretching out for ages when he turns his head to look at Castiel, who’s resolutely staring ahead of them.
“You’re gay?” Castiel’s face flickers in response to Dean’s rather unbelieving question and his shoulders lift in a barely-there shrug.
“I don’t know.”
Dean snorts, turning away from Castiel, a shiver of discomfort running over him, because this conversation feels pretty similar to one he had with Bobby when he was fourteen and got caught with a boner watching Bobby’s new assistant washing cars.
“You want to sleep with guys, that’s usually the qualifying factor for being gay,” Dean mutters, hunching in his seat.
“I want to sleep with a guy,” is Castiel’s hesitant reply. “Not all of them.”
Suspicion crawls over Dean’s skin, and he bites his lip between his teeth, feeling the full force of the heat between their two bodies, something that he’s come to take almost for granted, something that he fully realizes he seeks when Castiel doesn’t offer it up.
“Oh yeah? Who’d you have in mind?” Dean asks like it’s a joke, but when he feels Castiel’s eyes on him, when he looks up and stares into them, he knows there isn’t really anything funny happening.
Castiel stares for long enough that he almost doesn’t need to say anything, but he does anyway, his gravelly voice carrying the weight it usually does when he says Dean’s name. “You.”
The fact that Dean doesn’t react with a visceral reaction to run is actually the only answer he needs, but Dean doesn’t say anything; can’t, not yet. He only swallows thickly and breaks their gaze as the wheel starts moving again. He can see (but he’d rather not) the whole fair stretched out before them, but the anxiety rolling in his gut isn’t wholly related to being so far from the ground.
Dean hasn’t really thought about a guy in a long while. Bobby’s the only one who ever caught wind of it, and he kept it a careful secret from John and Sam, too afraid of being called out for being weak, too afraid of being left behind. It’s not really a huge deal; he’s definitely 80%, 90% all about the chicks, and it’s the rare dude that turns his head, anyway.
It isn’t as if Castiel turns his head. He’s been clinging to that fact like a life raft since the shed and Castiel stormed in, power crackling around him. Frankly, Castiel scares him a little sometimes, and yeah, he’s attractive, but what buzzes between them is a lot more than the fact that he has a nice ass. If that had been all, then hell—maybe he would’ve offered himself up way back and ditched the whole Den of Iniquity idea entirely. Maybe they would’ve given into the heat between them already.
It’s more than heat, though, and Dean knows it. It’s deep, whatever it is, and he has to wonder if Castiel didn’t burn himself onto Dean’s soul when he dragged him out of the Pit.
The wheel stops with a lurch when they’re on the top, and Dean reflexively grips the edge of the seat, knuckles turning white, and he closes his eyes to breathe. He really wishes they didn’t have to have this conversation on top of a Ferris wheel of all fucking places, as if he doesn’t feel sick enough.
And then he feels a warm hand on top of his, and he opens his eyes to Castiel’s steely gaze, but it’s full of that hesitant, uncertain look that moved in ever since Castiel realized he was human. At least, and Dean notices this with a dizzy surge, Castiel doesn’t look so morose. He turns his hand over and links their fingers together, steadfastly ignoring the cliché of the whole moment.
There it is again, that ghost of a smile, and Dean considers chasing it, worries faintly about where Sam is, if he’d see. Ultimately, though, he grits his teeth against the instinctual fear of being rejected. Sam’s been with a lot worse than Castiel by this point, okay.
Leaning over, he kisses Castiel in something that starts chaste, but once Castiel seems to accept that it’s happening, he responds with the spark that Dean’s been missing in him since the non-apocalypse.
“Alright,” he says finally, pulling away, breathless and aware that he’s grinning a little embarrassingly. “Hold it in, Casanova. Virginia may be for lovers, but I’m not sure we qualify.”
He texts Sam once they get to the ground, aware of how closely Castiel walks beside him now.
Me: You ready to head out? Meet us at the car.
This time, Castiel’s hand is on his lower back nearly the entire time they’re working their way through the crowd. Dean would take his hand if they were somewhere else—California maybe, he thinks—but right now, this kind of contact is good. He realizes this isn’t something he should rush into, guns blazing, as it were, but damned if his heart isn’t beating a little faster once they make it past the gates and the crowd thins out. It’s really just the two of them now, heading for the car, and Castiel’s putting off a better vibe than he has in weeks.
They’re at the car before Sam is, and they sit on the hood together. The night’s pretty clear, and the lights from the midway light up the sky. There’re the strains of a concert from one of the stage areas that isn’t too far from them, and people mill around in front of them, looking for cars, looking tired or energized, depending on the direction they’re headed in.
“I’m struggling with my humanity,” Castiel says gruffly, and Dean does roll his eyes this time now that it’s dark and Castiel can’t see.
“No kidding, Mr. Life is Painful?”
“I have been struggling to find the parts that are not painful,” he counters severely, chastising Dean for his attitude. Dean lets him, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop.
“We’ll find your equivalent to my bacon cheeseburgers. And this year, you will celebrate Christmas. We’ll get a tree and everything.” When he looks over, Castiel is shaking his head.
“None of that means anything to me.” Admittedly, something in Dean cracks at that, and he doesn’t quite know what to say. Castiel’s hand finds his leg and settles on it. “You do.”
Dean swallows thickly and stares down at that hand, feeling an incredible weight falling on his shoulders. He’d only recently managed to cast off the last one, so this feels pretty unfair, and he only stares at Castiel’s hand.
“I can’t be your one good thing, Cas,” he says, shaking his head. “That’s just way too much of a terrible idea. It’s not like I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I know. You already do that.” Castiel takes his hand away, but his voice had been matter-of-fact. “You are wrong though, Dean.” At Dean’s questioning look, Castiel only stares back, with the kind of serene confidence that he’s seen in his eyes when Castiel used to talk about God. “I believe it falls to you to pull me from this Pit, as I once pulled you from yours.”
“Earth’s a hell of a lot different from… from Hell.” Dean’s argument voice is a little weakened by his uncertain word choice there at the end, and he frowns at himself. Still, he can see what Castiel means. Even though it makes him a little sick when he hears it in such plain terms, it’s what he’s been doing all along, isn’t it? And he’s been doing a better job than Sam, in his opinion. Castiel’s silent, like he can see Dean accepts this, and he does, really. The silence is full of the things that Dean would suck at saying anyway, and Castiel turns his eyes away to the lights glittering in the distance. Dean breathes in, out, watching his profile, until he reaches over and he takes Castiel’s hand again.
“You aren’t my one good thing,” Castiel adds, his voice softer. “You’re the most important.”
Dean doesn’t really know how to respond to that, not in words that wouldn’t be lame or stupid or inadequate, and he notices Sam approaching before he can respond, and Dean lifts his hand, giving Castiel a harder look than before.
“Sam can’t know about you and me. Not yet, okay?”
Castiel’s momentarily taken aback, but by the time Sam approaches, his expression’s evened out to his usual neutral, distant look. Something tightens in Dean’s chest to see it return, but it’s for the best, for now, at least until Sam gets clued in.
“You guys have fun?” Sam asks hopefully, and Dean hops off the hood.
“We had a ball, Sammy.” He laces with voice with sarcasm as he pulls out his keys and jangles them. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
Castiel lets Sam and Dean tease each other the whole way out of the parking lot; he waits until they reach the highway before he says the thing that nearly makes Dean swerve off the road.
“I think I’m gay,” he announces, clearly to Sam, who twists around in his seat. Dean pulls a grim expression when Sam looks at him, though really Dean doesn’t know what angle he should take with this. He can’t exactly yell at Castiel for doing a shitty job of keeping the cat in the bag.
“You’re gay,” Sam repeats slowly, and Dean fidgets when Sam looks at him again.
“I want to sleep with men. That is the definition?”
Castiel meets Dean’s eyes in the rearview mirror, so Dean’s pretty sure he doesn’t miss the you’re-so-going-to-get-it glare. Castiel doesn’t seem to care, though.
“Well, yeah. I guess it is.” Sam eases back into his seat and stares out the window, a ghost of a smile on his face, and nothing more is said. Dean casts a look over at his brother, and then at his sort-of-a-boyfriend-thing in the backseat, and decides to keep his fat mouth shut, for once.
For all of ten seconds.
“That all you’re going to say?” Dean asks, only faintly nervous. “The man comes out to you, and you just go, ‘well alright’?”
Sam lifts an eyebrow at him. “I can’t throw him a parade in here, Dean. What else am I going to say? Castiel’s gay.” He shrugs and tosses a smile over his shoulder. “Okay.” Sam falls silent again, and Dean takes his eyes off the road for a second to gape at him.
“Okay? That’s it?”
This time, Sam frowns. “Are you saying it’s not okay?” There’s a threat in Sam’s voice that Dean definitely notices.
“No, of course not.” He shrugs his shoulders, suddenly feeling guilty.
The silence is awkward, though it’s only a few seconds long.
“You don’t have to say anything else, Sam.” Castiel’s voice is so concernedly serious that it makes Sam laugh.
“Thanks, Cas. I guess I’m less uptight than Dean about the whole thing, since he’s a little gayer than I am.”
This time, Dean only barely avoids swerving the wheel when he turns to look at Sam so fast he hurts his neck a little.
“What did you say?”
“Relax,” Sam says smoothly, “it’s fine. You are into guys, right? I mean, obviously you’re bi or something.” Sam’s so calm and benevolent that it eases Dean’s fear, but it doesn’t make this any easier. That sickness returns to Dean’s gut, and he slouches in his seat, glaring at the road.
“What put that idea into your head?” Dean recognizes that this would be the time to tell his brother, but he can’t quite get himself to say it.
“Oh, I dunno. I’m your brother, and I’m not blind, and we shared a hotel room while you were going through puberty.” He’s so fond that something chokes in Dean’s throat, and he swallows past it.
Dean doesn’t answer right away, grips the steering wheel tighter, adjusts in his seat.
“I never did anything while you were around,” he mutters, and he sees Sam shrug out of the corner of his eyes.
“You could’ve. You can. It’s not a big deal.”
He chances a glance at Sam, and then finds Castiel’s eyes in the rearview, practically burning two holes in it with their intensity. There’s silence again, as Dean just nods at Sam and focuses on driving, keeping an eye out for deer. There are a long few minutes before Sam speaks, sounding as if he’s about to start laughing.
“Should I get my own room tonight?”
Dean glares at his brother, who’s grinning way too much for the situation, especially when Dean’s breaking out into a cold sweat over the whole thing.
“That would be wise,” Castiel says from the back, and Sam loses it, laughing harder than he’s seen Sam laugh in a long time. Dean clenches his jaw and glares at Castiel in the rearview again, but Castiel’s smiling faintly again. Sighing, Dean focuses on the road.
After he punches Sam in the shoulder.
The ride to the hotel could be more awkward than it really is, but Sam puts in one of Dean’s tapes, and the music fills up the silence companionably. His mind isn’t really on the song, but his hands tap along to it anyway; instead his mind is full of Castiel’s voice, of this image of himself pulling Castiel from this depression he’s fallen into. That can’t be permanent; Castiel has to stand on his own two feet, and he’s shown today that he wants to, that he has the potential to reach out and take what he wants for himself. Dean’ll just have to help him get there, that’s all.
He finds Castiel’s eyes in the rearview for like the twentieth time, like Dean can’t keep away from it, like he and Castiel orbit around each other and he’ll always manage to pull Dean in, just like Dean manages to pull him in. There’s a symmetry to this; Castiel pulled Dean back to humanity, and Dean will pull Castiel into it.
Well. At least it isn’t like Dean’s a stranger to codependency.