Twelve hours ago, if someone had asked how Dean was planning on spending his Friday night, he would have made a list of desires including but not limited to cheeseburgers, peach pie — and Karen, the cute brunette from the diner. He certainly wouldn’t have said “chasing down a Sin-you and trying to break it like a colt.” And so, here he is. Isn’t this just his life.
When he was little — before he was old enough to basically start raising Sam — Dad had let him ride a mechanical bull once. He vaguely remembers insisting on it, recalls John Winchester’s indulgent smile and his hand on Dean’s back, keeping him from falling off as the bull bucked. They’d probably gotten some weird looks, but they were a weird family and usually got weird looks so it didn’t matter. Even then, though, Dad probably had an ulterior motive. It wasn’t just a father giving in and letting his son ride a mechanical bull, it was “Dean, you should learn how to ride a creature that wants very much to buck you off and gore you with its horns, because chances are good you will be running into one in the future.”
This is fucking nothing like a mechanical bull. This is so much harder and Dean is going to kill Sam.
“Hurry up!” he screams at his brother, twisting his hands further into the Sin-you’s wild mane. The creature circles and bucks, kicking its hind legs violently and Dean hunches forward, considers just wrapping his arms and legs around the Sin-you’s neck and seeing how that works out for him.
“I’m trying, I’m trying!” Sam calls back, frantically leafing through the ancient text. “But if we didn’t summon it for judgment, how do we make it leave? This doesn’t say anything!”
Dean bites back his sass about how they didn’t summon jack. “Find something to kill it, then! I can’t do this forever.” He’s having trouble as it is, fingers white-knuckled in the Sin-you’s red mane, thighs gripping its flank so tightly they will be sore for days — provided he doesn’t get a horn through the heart.
Half a minute later, Sam gives a frustrated yell and just aims his gun, considering.
“Don’t you fucking dare!” Dean shouts at him, because with his luck this bronco will buck just in time to ensure Dean gets either a bullet or a stomping.
His brother actually spreads his hands, inviting, looking almost casual amidst this display of March madness. “Well, I’m open to suggestions. What are you going to do, ride him until he gets tired?”
Oh my fucking god, Dean is going to get this horse-thing broken-in, saddle it, and use it to ride down and hog-tie Sam. And then Dean will kill him.
Cas ends up solving this problem. The angel appears out of nowhere, diving down and driving his kick-ass angel sword through the Sin-you’s skull. Everything crackles and sparks, the way they do when supernatural meets supernatural, and this time Dean is thrown off.
He hits the ground painfully, probably bruising his tailbone, thanks, and watches with morbid fascination as the magnificent horned creature goes up in golden flame. He shields his eyes when it gets too bright.
It’s over soon; the Sin-you burns right out of existence and soon the deserted country road is dark again.
“For future reference,” Cas says, sheathing his blade, “there appears to be a weak spot right in next to their horn.” He glances over at Sam, then steps forward to offer Dean a hand.
“Thanks, Cas,” Dean sighs, letting the angel help him stand on wobbly legs. The hand-holding goes on a bit too long, but what can you do, Cas and personal space never could exist in harmony.
Then Cas kisses him — sort of. It’s a quick brush of lips; Dean could almost get away with claiming it didn’t happen except he felt Cas’s warmth against his dry, frozen mouth. Then it’s over and the angel puts some distance between them, acting like it was nothing out of the ordinary and leaving Dean dumbfounded.
Which, okay, maybe before Heaven went to shit its denizens were a little more European? Maybe it’s a custom they engage in only with close friends and Dean should be flattered Cas wants to kiss hello. Maybe it’s a long-lost custom and Castiel, Angel of Thursday, is all about bringin’ it back. Maybe that’s what the whole hubbub in Heaven is really about: not enough hugging anymore. Regardless, they should really clarify things, because in these parts people don’t typically kiss hello. Dean opens his mouth to explain, but Cas has already moved on.
“I came as quickly as I could, though you have come far from the location you texted me.” He glances around the dark backwoods road.
Dean glances at Sam, who gives no sign of having witnessed the kiss. “Yeah, sorry about that. I didn’t think this thing would want to cover so much ground.”
“What was it?” Cas queries, tilting his head.
“A unicorn,” Dean mocks, nodding toward his brother.
Cas blinks, looking over at Sam. “It did not look like a unicorn.”
Sam has the decency to look contrite. “It was, uh, a bad translation.” He holds up the old book. “I just thought, you know. With the Apocalypse and all…”
“Thought what?” Dean needles. “Thought we could use some sunshine and rainbows? So you go snooping through dubious ancient texts and summon a freaking Sin-you?” He throws up his hands. “Why not, right? Oh, by the way,” he turns to Cas, “turns out the Sin-you are supposed to sit in on divine judgment or something, and when you call them for nothing, they get pissed.”
“I messed up,” Sam admits, wearing his best puppy-face and somehow managing to curl in on himself while standing seven-feet tall. He holds the text to his chest. “The Sin-you wasn’t bothering anybody before I summoned it here. It’s dead because of me.”
This brings Dean up short, because they each have a rap sheet of Stupid Things they’ve done over the years, and with all the other bullshit happening around them these days, he doesn’t want Sam to be heartbroken over his dead horsie. “Uh,” he utters, and closes his mouth again, because he can’t think of anything to say that won’t sound empty or halfhearted. Mr. Articulate, that’s him.
“I do not believe the Sin-you is dead, Sam,” Cas speaks up. Sam lifts his head, hopeful. “A being that metes out justice on a divine plane cannot be so easily killed on this one. I am certain I only destroyed its earthly form and severed its link to your world.”
“There you go,” Dean adds, shooting Cas a grateful look. “See, Sammy? Your horsie buddy is off judging people in his own world now. No harm done. He probably got back in time for the verdict.” Of course, this means teasing is back on the menu. “Sorry you didn’t get your unicorn. If it’s any consolation, I thought you were a pretty enough princess for one.”
Sam glares at him.
Dean ignores it. “So, back to the motel? I’d like to salvage what remains of the evening, if you guys don’t mind.”
Sam has done his share of stupid things. Case in point: the Apocalypse. That’s sort of on him. But it’s not like Dean hasn’t done his own share of idiotic shit, so all the ribbing is kind of unfair.
“Are you done?” he finally asks, after enduring jab after jab.
Dean considers it, making a show out of contemplating the ceiling. “Yes,” he replies. “I’m done.” Sam releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Then Dean quips, “Until I think up some new ones,” on his way out and Sam purses his lips together and tries not to rise to the bait.
He sulks for like, thirty seconds after his brother heads for the bars, then decides to take a shower and forget about the whole damn thing. Except he can’t get to the bathroom, because Cas is blocking his way.
“Jeez, Cas!” Sam gasps. “I thought you left.”
“Sam,” Cas says, gravely, blue eyes earnest. “I need your help.”
And the thing with Cas is he can make planning a birthday party sound like a mission for the Holy Grail. “With what?” Sam asks, ready to do a solid for the angel who saved their asses tonight.
“Dean.” His brother’s name drops from Cas’s lips like a rock.
Sam blinks. “What about him?” Except for being destined for a world of hurt from the waist down tomorrow, Dean has seemed fine.
Cas gets a funny, narrow-eyed expression on his face, like he’s pissed at the universe. “I would have liked to speak with Anna, but…” he shakes his head. “I am — learning — to exist between Heaven and Earth, but there are certain things I do not know…” he trails off again, frustrated.
“Take your time, Cas,” Sam encourages him. The angel gives him a grateful look and wow, it’s nice to have someone around who appreciates his bedside manner for a change, Dean.
“I believe I am in love with Dean,” Cas blurts out, and then looks thoughtful, as though this is the first time he’s said the words out loud and is testing the feel of them.
Which, wait, what? “Like, love-love?” he asks, dumbly.
“Not the love I feel for humanity as a whole,” Cas clarifies. “What I am feeling, I think, is romantic love. If,” his face scrunches up, “if I am not mistaken. I do not think I am, however; my vessel and I are more entwined than ever, and the human body helps, hm, propel me along.”
“Hang on,” Sam interrupts, raising his hands. “Wait just a second. What exactly do you feel?”
Cas has clearly rehearsed this answer, because he squares his shoulders and says with pride, “I want him to look at me the way he looks at the women he spends the night with.”
And just like that, Sam has a lovesick angel in his motel room. It’s kind of adorable. And hilarious. Adorably hilarious.
Sam reaches out and clasps Cas’s shoulder. “First of all, I want you to know that you have my blessing.” He bites his cheek to keep from laughing. “Second, no, you don’t want Dean to look at you like that.”
“I don’t?” Cas cocks his head, confused.
“No. Those looks are ‘we’re two consenting adults, let’s have a good time and never speak of this again’ looks. I’m gonna guess angels — you — are generally in it for the long haul.”
“Long haul,” Cas tries this out, contemplating. “Should I ask him to marry me?”
Yes, Sam almost hisses, because he would pay to see that. He would — oh god, Dean’s face. His face. But that would just be mean to Cas. “No, no. Too soon, Cas. Start small. Have you tried making your, uh, intentions known?”
The angel stands up a little straighter. “Dean is uncomfortable when talking about feelings—”
Tell him what he’s won, Johnny, Sam thinks with an eye-roll.
“—So I had thought it best to show him how I felt, but not to overwhelm him. I kissed him today, and tried to remain aloof. He did not respond as I’d hoped.”
“You kissed him?” Sam sputters. “When?”
“I thought he would call me later and ask why I did it.” Cas actually sounds kind of bummed. “But he hasn’t. And now he is…” he nods toward the door, shoulders sagging. “Perhaps a poem, or a letter? I’ve heard these are ideal means of romantic pursuit.”
And it can’t hurt that much, can it? Worst case scenario, Dean is completely befuddled. Best case scenario, Dean realizes that he and Cas are starring on As the World Turns and finally fade-to-black.
“Yes,” Sam says. “You should totally write a love letter.”
And then he laughs for days.
“Do you like me?”
Underneath the earth-shattering demand, there would be two checkboxes marked YES and NO. And even back then, Dean had known enough to never get attached, never get close because he would be leaving, or they would leave, or maybe the whole damn experience was just a precursor to his endless string of one-night stands and inability to commit.
Whatever the case, Dean always drew another box and checked MAYBE.
Unfortunately, this is not an option with Cas’s love letter. For one, it’s a really long letter, which isn’t fair. Subjecting someone to an epic starring your feelings is uncomfortable enough, but waxing poetic about someone’s eyes or how you want to lie upon the edge of the world and wait for eternity in their arms is just, damn it. What the hell is Dean supposed to say to something like that? “Thanks, you’re cool, too?” What the fucking fuck.
Second, he finds it folded into a paper crane on the Impala’s dashboard. A paper crane. If Cas wanted to show off his folding skills, why didn’t he fold the damn thing into a car? Or a gun? Or anything cooler than a sissy bird?
Third, he can’t blame this on Heaven being European anymore. If their resident nerd angel has a crush — sorry, a yearning that will move the moon — on Dean, then that means Cas has fallen for him in more ways than one and that is terrible, hasn’t he fucked Cas over enough? The angel is like an adoring puppy: he gives everything for Dean, Dean proceeds to screw everything up, and then Cas shows up a few days later and asks for cheeseburgers. (Well. In between that there had been anger and condescension so maybe Dean was splitting hairs with this one but that is not the point.) The point is, there is no Father more intimidating to impress, and how is he supposed to do right — really fucking right — by an angel?
Fourth, Sam is being kind of a jackass.
“This is so beautiful,” he wibbles at the letter, teary-eyed, and Dean tries snatching it back without swerving into the other lane and getting them killed. Sam holds it further out of reach.
“Why were you going through my stuff?” Dean demands.
“It was just poking out the side pocket of your bag,” Sam defends himself. “I thought it was notes about the poltergeist.”
“You fucking liar.”
“So?” Sam prods. “What’re you going to say to him?”
“Say?” Dean croaks.
“Yes,” his brother deadpans, “when you call him. You are going to call him, right?”
“Sam,” Dean mews — fucking mews — because, because, “it’s Cas.”
“He compared you to exotic fruits,” Sam whistles. “I didn’t know he was hiding talent like this. He should publish something.”
“I know what he compared me to!” Dean snaps, grip tightening on the wheel because the word “succulent” had appeared more than once. And “honeyed.”
“He’s so romantic,” Sam goes on, and Dean gets the impression that his brother is actually talking the angel up. “And he totally kicks ass. He’s like a warrior poet. He swoops in, saves the day, and then writes a sonnet about it.”
Dean gives Sam a sidelong glare. “What. Are you doing.”
“He braved the Pit, fought his way through the hordes of demons and fire, to pull you out of Hell. That’s gotta count for something.”
Jesus fucking Christ. Dean pulls over, keeping his hands on the wheel to steady his nerves as other cars zip past them. “Sam,” he says, voice clipped. “I am not telling Cas shit.” He wills this to be the end of the conversation, but of course it isn’t — not from the way Sam twitches in his seat.
Sam gives him a long, hard stare. Finally, his brother says, “I’m thinking calla lilies and red roses.”
“For your wedding,” Sam continues, prim. “Calla lilies for Castiel, because he’s pure and good and sweet. Red roses for you, because you’re a prick.”
There are a hundred things Dean wants to say to that. He wants to rail about not getting close, and haven’t enough of their friends died already, and what the fuck does a badass angel want with Dean Winchester? He wants to admit to Sam that he doesn’t even know what he feels for Cas, and actually, the only reason he hasn’t awkwardly spouted the “sorry, not gay” speech is because it’s Cas. Cas, who smites evil but can’t operate a vending machine, who writes love poems but doesn’t get sarcasm, who is so nakedly and eagerly honest about loving the human who helped bring him down.
But he doesn’t know how to say any of these things, so he tells Sam to fuck off to fucksville and pulls back onto the highway. He hates the way Sam looks at him, like he’s kicked a husky puppy in the face — and hates himself even more because even letting Sam think he is a colossal douchebag is easier than confessing that he’s scared of maybe possibly having feelings for Cas.
“Gah!” he yelps, staggering back against the shower wall and so long, erection, nice masturbating with you. “Cas, what the hell?!”
Thankfully, the angel remains a silhouette on the other side of the curtain, but Sam can picture the intense gaze. “Dean is gone to fetch breakfast, so I thought it best to approach you now.”
“Yeah, Dean,” Sam mutters, standing awkwardly under the spray. After a moment, he figures why waste the water, and starts shampooing. It’s not the weirdest thing he’s ever done. “How’s that whole thing going?” Because from where Sam’s standing, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Dean and Cas are carrying on as though there have been no love letters or kisses exchanged — and the worst part is that neither of them seem to think this is unhealthy. As for one-on-ones, Cas has been scarce and Dean is locked down like Fort Knox.
“Matters are not progressing to my liking,” Cas confesses.
“Seriously,” Sam sighs, grabbing the soap. “I’m sorry Dean is such an ass. And I’m sorry I told you to send that letter.”
“It’s nothing to be concerned about,” Cas assures him. “I welcome the challenge, and am willing to earn Dean’s affections.”
“Um.” Sam wipes water from his eyes. “Actually, Cas, I think Dean is just a jerk. He didn’t seem too, er, receptive to your letter.”
“He isn’t,” Cas says. “And he was.”
Huh. Sam peeks around the curtain, blinking at the angel. “How do you know? Did something happen?”
Cas gives Sam the tiny beginnings of a smile. “Not as such, but I know Dean inside and out. I put him back together. I know,” he reiterates. “I just need to devise a more … comfortable atmosphere. And perhaps a gift.”
“Dean likes presents,” Sam allows, because he’s not really sure he’s following. “What’d you have in mind?”
Cas cocks his head. “It first occurred to me after the matter with Famine and the Cupid, on Valentine’s Day.”
“Little late for Valentine’s Day,” Sam points out.
But Cas shakes his head. “No, Dean doesn’t strike me as the sort of man who would appreciate being given favors in honor of Christian martyrs. I was thinking of borrowing the concept of White Day. Dean loves candy.”
“What’s White Day?” Sam wonders.
“The short explanation is Dean purchased at least one of my indulgences on Valentine’s Day.” Sam doesn’t remember; Cas ate a lot that day. “I’m returning the token of his affection with one of my own and confirming my interest.”
“I — what?”
“What sort of candy does Dean enjoy?”
“Wait, uh, M&Ms?”
“Thank you, Sam,” Cas says sincerely, and flaps out of sight.
“God, my life is weird,” Sam sighs, and goes back to his shower.
“Cas!” Dean squeaks, more shrill than he will ever admit, and spills washer fluid everywhere but down its tube. “Jesus!”
“My apologies, I did not mean to startle you. But Sam is getting some drinks so I figured now would be a good time.”
“A good time?” Dean busies himself with tightening the washer fluid’s cap so he won’t have to turn around. “For what?” For smiting the jackass jock who won’t even return the sensitive guy’s love letter? He could see it.
“I have a gift for you,” Cas declares.
“Cas,” Dean starts, voice strained, “look, I — what are those?” He blinks at the giant bag of M&Ms in the angel’s hands, and puts the jug of washer fluid on the ground.
“I was told you like them,” Cas says, as if this information was vital to averting nuclear war.
“Who told you?” Dean asks suspiciously, even though he knows exactly who: one nosy baby brother who catches Dean’s eye as he comes out of the gas station, and promptly spins on his heel and heads back in.
Cas doesn’t bother answering that question. “Will you accept my gift?” he asks instead, holding out the bag.
And it’s fucking unbelievable, but suddenly it’s not about M&Ms anymore. “Candy doesn’t last forever,” Dean points out.
Cas shrugs one shoulder. “When the bag is empty, tell me. I’ll come and fill it again.”
Jesus fucking Christ. Dean fists his jeans to stop his hands from shaking. How is that possibly the most perfect thing Cas could have said? Fucking angel. “Cas,” he tries.
“I…” he takes a deep breath, reaches for the bag.
A horn blares right in his ear, making him jump and realize he’s been blocking the pump for some time. It also total kills the moment.
Dean yanks the M&Ms out of Cas’s hands, hisses “Come see me later,” and goes to move for the stupid uppity Prius.
So he kicks Sam out for a few hours and texts Cas the room number. When the angel appears Dean moves before he can totally choke, grabbing Cas’s lapels and pulling their bodies flush. He kisses Cas before he can think about it, before he can find one of a million excuses not to; kisses him hard, passionately — the only way he knows how.
Cas lets him at first, but when even Dean realizes how desperate he is, Cas steps back. Dean lets go of the angel’s clothes, but Cas takes his hands to keep them linked. “We have plenty of time,” Cas assures him. “No need to rush things.”
Dean glances down at their hands. “Why me?” he asks quietly. “All I’ve ever done is bring you more trouble.”
“I have been exploding more since we met,” Cas agrees, and wait, did Dean say Cas didn’t grasp sarcasm?
He winces. “Cas—”
“Dean.” The angel pulls him forward. “Why not you?” Then he brushes their lips together, like he did just a few days ago — only this time, Dean kisses back, and it’s not so scary anymore.
“You guys are so cute,” he says despite himself, laughing off Dean’s crude gesture as he makes his way to the bathroom.