They’d both registered for the same Intro to Modern Astronomy class and, to Castiel, he’d just been another kid in a lecture hall.
His chosen seat in any class is always as far back as possible; Dean had slipped into the room late one day, dripping slightly, and dropped his soggy ass into the seat right next to Cas's. Even though there'd been plenty of other empty seats.
“Still raining, I take it,” he'd muttered drily as the teacher raised a reproaching eyebrow at the topmost tier of seats.
Dean had made some kind of stupid pop culture reference – Cas can’t for the life of him remember what it had been – and the next class, Cas made a point to sit next to him again. There had been a comfortable sort of silent camaraderie, at first, and then they'd started actually talking during the weekly middle-of-the-night labs (it was astronomy, after all) and somehow in the middle of being classmates and lab partners and studying together and ordering pizza, they’d become inseparable.
“One more beer?”
“You’ll drink me out of house and home,” Cas grouses, but opens the fridge anyways. Dean flashes him the stunner grin he usually reserves for flirting. “And you’re underage.”
“Aw, but that’s why you love me.”
He sighs and tosses another bottle over to the couch, vehemently ignoring the half-choked flutter in his stomach. By the time he’s back to sitting down with a controller in his hands it’s all but pushed out of his mind. Same old, same old.
They go back to their thousandth co-op runthrough; it’s mindless, now, a way to relax and zone out to the familiar sounds of Halo. His favorite part of the score is coming up (favorite movement but man, does he ever hate Rally Point Alpha on Crow's Nest) and usually Dean is much more vocal about killing off the Covenant, but he's been off all day. Cas knows that with Dean, it’s always better to let him take his time and talk when he wants to.
Twenty minutes later, bingo.
“Sammy got into Stanford.”
“That's... wow. That's impressive.”
Dean rolls his eyes and mows down a mob of Grunts.
“Yeah. It’s all he can talk about, how much he wants to get away,” he continues, voice low. “How could you ever want to leave your family behind? It’s family.” He realizes his mistake in a matter of seconds. “I– Cas, sorry. I didn’t mean–”
“It’s okay,” he says easily. “Your family isn’t like mine, and my family isn’t like yours. Nothing to apologize for.”
Dean is silent as the cutscene plays.
“I don’t wanna lose him, too,” he mutters, embarrassed, and pointedly avoiding Cas’ eyes.
“Of course not. He’s your brother.” The sound of the key scraping in the lock makes him jump. “Damn–”
“Cassie,” warbles Gabriel from the doorway. “You didn’t give all my booze to Dean, did you?”
“I gave him mine,” says Cas defensively, bristling at the nickname, "and don't call me that."
“Dean's got nickname privileges, why don't I?” he fires back, sharp as ever. Cas glares. “Anyways, it’s Friday night, baby cousin. I’m having people over.”
“Yes, and by people, I presume you mean half of the town.”
“Correct! So lay off my booze. Heya, Dean-o.”
“My name’s Dean.” Dean's voice is a low growl, but it's not even vaguely threatening. He's got no idea why or how Dean can actually tolerate Gabriel – well, granted, they both love booze and asses and Dr. Sexy, but it’s still difficult for Cas to comprehend why the hell anyone would ever want to willingly spend time with his older cousin.
“We should go to your place,” Cas huffs under his breath at Dean, and even though he's trying to hide it, he knows that Dean can read the irritation in every line of his body. It's absurdly difficult to hide things from him.
“And avoid the party? You really are an antisocial freak,” calls a new voice from the door. Cas closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. These are old scars that Michael is digging at, and he's not going to let them bleed any more. He can feel Dean stiffen next to him.
“Sweet!” crows Gabriel, and rushes forward to pry two cases of beer and a suspicious-looking bag out of his brother’s hands. “I owe you one, Michael.”
“C’mon, Cas,” says Dean, “you’re sleepin’ with me tonight.” He exhales and, again, ignores the way his stomach flops when Dean hauls him out of the house.
Dean has glow-in-the-dark stars on his dorm room ceiling.
Cas had originally made fun of him for it, and then two weeks later he’d found himself helping Dean rearrange them into actual constellations instead. They’re both slightly closeted astronomy nerds; Cas’ linguistics major doesn’t give him much leeway for dabbling in cosmology, and Dean’s mechanical engineering major even less.
Speaking of which, Cas is convinced that Dean’s hands are magic. He can fix anything that has a motor and moving parts – computers, fridges, fans – but it’s cars that are his specialty. Specifically, that huge, hunking '67 Impala that Cas knows all the facts about just because he's heard Dean recite them so often. The amount of adoration Dean pours into that car is astounding.
“Still can’t believe you haven’t shown your family yet,” says Dean, interrupting his thoughts with a sharp flick to his forearm. And yeah, okay, Dean's hands are also really good at being irritating. Magically good.
“Wearing only long-sleeves is a little suspicious,” he continues, eyebrows raised. “Ballsy, which I honestly didn’t expect of you, but suspicious nonetheless.”
“It’s all thanks to you,” Cas mutters, noting distantly that he may or may not be slurring his words. “You know, that I started to stand up to them.” He turns his head to look at Dean; there are little glow-in-the-dark-greenish sparks reflecting in his eyes.
The ceiling fan keeps spinning idly, making the constellations wink in and out of existence. Cas rubs the spot on his forearm, the tattoo he’d gotten over two months ago and never told his family. They were too strict, too conservative; they’d disown him, he’s absolutely positive. It’s much easier to be himself around Dean compared to his family. He knows he’s an eccentric person and he’s got nowhere near the amount of charisma and people skills that Dean has, but in a way, he’s always thought that’s why their friendship works – they fill in the spaces for each other, like that cliche puzzle-piece analogy.
“I am still convinced that Aquarius is crooked.”
Cas’ search for an appropriate response is interrupted by the racket Dean’s phone makes when it rings.
“Yeah?” He can hear a female voice and can only assume it’s Lisa. They’ve been stretched thin these past few weeks, and he shoots Dean a sympathetic look. “I– Look, hold on a sec. No! Okay– Yeah. I’ll be there in five.” He hangs up; Cas raises an eyebrow.
“Everything okay?” Dean runs a hand down his face.
“I have no idea. She’s kind of… in a mood.” He grabs a coat and the keys to the Impala. “Don’t start on The Ark without me,” he says with a half-hearted grin. Cas smiles back, already pulling his laptop out of his bag.
“Good luck, Dean,” he replies, and with that Dean’s gone.
Cas takes the liberty of ordering them pizza – there’s a chance Dean will be back by the time it gets delivered and if not then hell, he’ll have that much more pizza for himself. He browses the internet and lets his mind wander.
It’s a little alarming, how close they’ve gotten over the course of the year – from sharing smartass comments in the back of an astronomy lecture to sharing their fears, secrets, victories, defeats. Dean is utterly, mind-numbingly loyal; Cas knows that if he were to be so much as looked at in the wrong way, Dean would immediately be on the warpath. “Righteous” is the lexeme Cas associates with him, righteous like all of those puffed-up fairy-tale heroes, but minus the ego and with a whole lot more heart. All in all, he feels extremely lucky – blessed, even – to have someone like Dean Winchester in his life.
Sometimes – though he’ll absolutely never admit it – he quietly wonders what it would be like to date him. Dean has no qualms accepting Cas’ bisexuality and even confessed that he’s not exactly on the “straight” end of the spectrum, which led to a conversation so close to disastrously awkward that Cas has never, ever brought up the subject again.
Dean’s extremely attractive. By anyone's opinion. High cheekbones, short, sharp nose, a smile that can charm anyone’s pants right off – and then the other things, like the way his eyes crinkle up when you make him laugh and his tendencies to be a mother hen and his unflinching dedication to everything and everyone he loves. Cas ignores it, the same way he’s ignored it the second Dean and Lisa started showing interest in each other.
The doorbell rings, interrupting the thoughts he’s going to pretend never chased themselves around in his head. It’s the pizza, of course, and Cas stomps down on the flicker of disappointment when it's not Dean at the door. A curvy blonde with chunky mascara looks him over appreciatively, flirts her way through getting his signature and a tip.
Less than ten minutes later and halfway into his second slice of gooey, cheesy perfection, the key scrapes in the lock. Dean looks like he just got back from war when he nudges the door open – tired eyes, tired face, tired shoulders.
“What happened?” asks Cas gently, standing.
“We broke up,” he says shortly. “...I broke up with her.”
He drops his jacket and the keys to the ground, kicks off his shoes, and mindlessly takes a slice of pizza. Cas is quiet. He knows Dean will talk by himself, and that he doesn’t need someone to say mhmmm or yeah or to give him the You Are Strong And You Can Get Over This speech. “It’s just– It sucks when you constantly keep finding ways you don't match up, and I was done with it.”
Cas doesn’t think he’s ever seen Dean looking so tired, and puts a hand on his shoulder.
“Anything you need?”
Surprisingly, he leans in for a hug and Cas awkwardly responds in kind. They don’t exactly have the huggy kind of friendship; it’s more of a play-video-games-and-crash-on-the-same-bed kind of friendship, but hugging is a level of intimacy they don’t usually breach. He distantly notes that Dean smells… nice. He leaves it at that and rubs a half-circle on Dean's back.
“Yeah,” Dean half-mumbles against his shoulder, “I needa ice some sons of bitches.”
Cas bites his tongue to withhold yet another comment on his word choice (because, really, how does he even come up with these things?) and The Moment is over, whatever it may have been. They work their way through the box of pizza in comfortable silence and they’re nearly at Cortana when Dean’s phone rings. He worms it out of his pocket and Cas can see his shoulders relax in relief.
He can hear her sharp voice and holds back a smile; she’s probably reading Dean the long lecture she knows Cas wouldn’t have given him.
“Yeah. No, I’m okay. I promise. Nah, I’m home playing Halo with Cas. Really?” A sly smile spreads across his face and Cas can recognize that note in his voice. “Yeah, sounds– thirty? Uh-huh. Thanks, Jo. Bye.”
“So did she yell at you or baby you?” says Cas, and takes the last slightly cold crust.
“Both, and that was mine.” Dean nudges Cas’ head with his knuckles, then gets up and stretches. “Theta Chi’s having a party tonight, Jo’s picking me up in half an hour,” he says, wandering over to his closet. “You coming with?”
He waggles his eyebrows, teasing, and Cas makes a mental note to somehow have Dean teach Gabriel and Michael that you can nicely tease someone about being an introvert instead of insulting them.
It’s half past one and Dean isn’t home yet; his roommate, Chuck, had ambled in thirty minutes ago and shut himself in his own bedroom with a mumbled hello. Cas can feel the tiredness seeping through his eyelids; he’s long overdue for some heavy sleep. A 14-hour knockout sounds perfect. A good half of the clothes he usually sleeps in are here already, but for some reason he decides to take one of Dean’s shirts instead. Everything smells so nice and he really shouldn’t be thinking thoughts like this about his best friend who literally just broke up with his girlfriend, but he knows he’ll blame it on sleepiness in the morning.
He always does.
What feels like five minutes later he’s jarred awake by the sounds of scrabbling at the door. Dean’s not back yet and that could be him, but the dorms are notorious for theft and it could just as easily be anyone hopped up on anything – it’s a Saturday night in a college town. Cas slides the pocketknife into his hand and walks silently into the hallway, ears and eyes on high alert, when the door opens and Dean practically falls in. He hurriedly closes the knife and shoves it back into his pocket in time to grab the back of Dean’s jacket.
“Whoa,” he grunts, “how much did you have?”
Dean chuckles absently and manages to stay mostly vertical on the way to his room.
“Beer pong,” he says proudly, grinning. “Beat all’m frat boy fuckers.”
“Yes, good,” says Cas distractedly, “and now you’ll be hung over until Tuesday.”
Consonant cluster simplification, not bothering to articulate difficult sounds with a numbed tongue.
Dean shrugs off his jacket and drapes it halfway across the chair, then nearly falls onto the bed to struggle with his boots.
“I made out with Meg,” he eventually confesses. It sounds a little dazed, a little confused, and Cas crosses his arms. The behavior is so typically Dean that he’s not sure whether to be glad he’s functioning properly or to reprimand him. “It was… I d’nno. I did it to try ‘n, y’know, get over Lisa or whatever, but, like…” He shrugs and has to catch himself from falling sideways. “Didn’ feel right.”
“Because of Lisa?” Dean shakes his head emphatically, which only seems to make him dizzier.
“Nah… I d’nno why,” he muses, and then starts trying to get his flannel shirt off. His arms manage to somehow get hopelessly tangled, so Cas heaves a sigh and tugs the sleeves down his arms. “I don’ feel so bad over Lisa. Like, I knew it wasn’ gonna last or nothin’–” Half of Cas’ brain is still on auto-pilot, making notes of his word choice, the shifts in pronunciation. “But makin’ out with Meg was kin’a bleh, y’know? But, like, I think makin’ out with Lisa woulda been kin’a bleh, too. You listenin’, Cas?”
“I always listen to you,” he says, halfway through a yawn. “You gonna sleep in jeans?”
Dean looks down at himself with surprise.
“Oh. Guess not.” And with that he wriggles out of them, kicks them a couple of inches away from the bed, and worms himself halfway under the comforter. “Cas?”
His stomach twists a little at the way he says it, the way those definitely-drunk eyes are staring imploringly at him.
“You’re stayin’ the night, right?”
“Only if you make room.”
So with that Dean rolls onto his back and Cas sits down next to him, cross-legged. He makes it a point to avoid eye contact because Dean is still looking at him.
“Are you sure you’re feeling okay? About Lisa?”
“Yeah. I d’nno… I thought it’d feel like the end of the world, but I feel kin’a lighter,” he drawls, now half-sleepy and half-plastered. “It feels okay. You’ve got bedhead.”
Cas frowns and flattens a hand over his head.
“You woke me up,” he retorts.
It’s not fair because Dean is all tired sleepiness and soft angles so he lays down on his back and tries his best not to make it look petulant. He makes a valiant attempt to not look at Dean; he’s a little unpredictable when he’s drunk and god knows Cas is terrible at explaining awkward situations, so yeah, he’s going to do his best to avoid a potentially scarring conversation in the morning.
“Thanks for bein’ my friend, Cas,” murmurs Dean, interrupting his thoughts, and he’s suddenly a lot closer than before.
“You’re welcome,” he manages to barely whisper because Dean is very much drunk and very much in his personal space.
His whole body feels like lead as Dean lurches forward and, with none of his usual grace, plants a kiss on his cheek then proceeds to curl himself into Cas’ side.
All the air is gone from his lungs.
He can’t function, he can’t breathe and it definitely should not be like this.
He has no right to be feeling any kinds of feelings for his best friend who just broke up with his girlfriend, the best friend who is currently nuzzling his neck.
“D’nno what I’d do without you,” Dean breathes, and goosebumps explode all down Cas’ neck. He can feel the subtle brush of lips against his skin as he talks and it’s mesmerizing; one of Dean’s arms is winding around his waist, unintentionally pushing up his shirt. “Wasn’ feelin’ too okay ‘bout all this earlier, but ‘m feelin’ good with you here.”
Cas gives up.
He hesitantly runs his fingers through Dean’s hair, once, and keeps going when Dean makes a satisfied noise low in his throat, rumbling against him.
“Cas,” he murmurs, voice rasping slightly, and his mouth goes dry as Dean somehow manages to wrap both arms around him tightly, as if he were scared of letting go.
“Yes?” he breathes against Dean’s hair and it smells so damn good. His back is warm under Cas’s hand (when did it even get there?) and his stubble is a little scratchy on his neck; Cas doesn’t know whether to hold his breath or hyperventilate.
“Thanks,” comes the slurred reply. “‘Preciate you bein’ here f’me alla time. D’nno what I’d do without you.”
This is pushing boundaries he didn’t know could be pushed. He’ll blame it on the drunkenness and the sleepiness in the morning, like he always does, and so Cas resignedly curls an arm around Dean and pulls him closer.
He can tell it’s past noon when he wakes up, and a look at his phone confirms it. Dean is pressed warmly into his side, still out cold and breathing softly, and Cas tries to come up with a way to explain what happened.
Sorry, you came home drunk so I decided it was okay to hold you all night while we slept. No problem, right?
He slides his laptop onto his thighs and sits up a little; Dean sighs in his sleep and shifts his head so that it’s on Cas’ chest. His mouth is dry, he can’t swallow properly– Dean is going to wake up any minute and freak out.
Forty-five minutes later, he’s still aimlessly perusing the dregs of the internet and he’s about to reach for another pop-tart when Dean raises his head.
“Cas?” he mumbles, voice thick with sleep.
He closes the laptop and sets it on the ground, heart hammering, and he’s about to sit up and give Dean the hint that he’s allowed to kick him out when an arm curls around his waist and Dean is halfway on top of him, burying his face into Cas’ shoulder.
“You have bedhead. And I have a hangover.”
“You were fairly drunk last night,” he responds, doing his best to keep his voice even. Dean pulls insistently at his waist and Cas can’t help but give in again, turning around to let him push himself closer.
“I didn’t do anything stupid, did I?” he croaks from somewhere near Cas’ neck.
“Apparently, you made out with Meg,” he says, swallowing a chuckle.
Dean looks up at him with a frown, one arm still tangled somewhere around his hip.
“No, I meant to you,” he says. Cas frowns back.
“You were extremely… cuddly.”
“And that’s it? I didn’t, uh… do anything stupid while drunk?” Cas raises his eyebrows.
“Unless you count curling up next to me like a cat as stupid, then no,” he replies, doing his best to remain carefully neutral. Dean cracks a slight smile.
“Good,” he says, and pulls Cas back towards him. “I was gonna save the stupid stuff for being sober.”
It lasts the entire week.
Cas finds himself unable to be more than ten feet away from Dean, and Dean seems to be suffering from the same ailment. They do their homework with their shoulders pressed together, work their way through each successive video game with one person curled around the other; they’ve bickered through body language over who gets to be big spoon at night, and Cas usually wakes up with Dean’s head tucked into his shoulder.
He tries feebly to convince himself that this is normal – it’s normal to sleep with your best friend every night, to be constantly touching when awake, to wake up with your legs tangled together and your arms around him with his face buried in your hair, just like it’s normal to then hold his face between your hands and run a thumb down his jaw and stare at each other’s eyes like you’re in a cheesy, shitty romance movie from the ‘80s. Normal. Right.
He comes back from his last, painfully early midterm of the week to find Dean spread out with notes and diagrams and charts.
“Are you ready for your midterm?” he asks, slinging his backpack onto the floor and shrugging off his almost tragically ugly trench coat. He mostly wears it out of stubbornness now, just to irk Dean. The room’s a mess, naturally, but since it’s peak midterm season neither of them really care. He slides into place behind Dean, back against the wall, knees up so Dean can rest against his shins.
“I know everything about internal combustion engines,” he sighs, and tilts his head back to look at Cas. “I swear, I’ll have motor oil leakin’ out my ears soon.”
Cas quietly makes a mental note. Use of /ın/ versus /iŋ/ in addition to deletion of a preposition, Standard Dean English.
“Hey, I know that face. No analyzing me.”
“Alright, alright,” Cas chuckles.
Dean snorts and elbows his shin affectionately, then goes back to a diagram of something that’s supposed to be an engine, but looks to Cas like a medieval torture chamber. He could barely keep his eyes open in class and it’s even worse now, settling over him like a fog, so he scoots and moves and shifts until he’s curled into Dean’s side, head on his chest with an arm wrapped warmly around him. The sheafs of notes and diagrams are swimming lazily.
“Let’s get dinner at the Roadhouse again tonight,” Dean murmurs, hand absently flattening a cowlick in Cas’ hair. “I should be done with the midterm at, like, four.”
Then, without warning, the realization that he’s been violently suppressing feelings for Dean hits him like a ton of bricks.
It’s decidedly not physiologically okay for his stomach to be flipping around like that, especially when Dean doesn’t stop slowly running his fingers through Cas’ hair, and the comfortable rise and fall of his chest is hypnotically soporific. He’s asleep within seconds, in spite of the churning mess in his chest.
He opens his eyes, blinks a few times, and tries to clear his head. Apparently, his nap is now over.
“Hold on a sec,” he mutters, and digs through the mess of papers for his notebook and a pen. “Say that one more time.”
“My name, say it.” He’s shuffling through a series of binder-clipped charts, cross-referencing, circling things that would look like gibberish to anyone else.
“What, ‘Cas?’ Oh, come on–”
“Force divided by acceleration is...?”
“Mass.” Dean rolls his eyes royally, used to the sudden interviews.
"What's short for gasoline?"
“Okay, and now–” He pauses and thinks for a second. “C-r-a-s-s, pronounce that.”
“Uh, ‘crass?’” Dean looks at him skeptically. “Dude, is that even a word?”
Cas scribbles what he can in abstract symbols, sits back, and sighs.
“Got it,” he says, looking for all the world like a satisfied cat.
The little gray notebook is full of sticky notes and IPA charts for dialects he’s interested in, notes he’s jotted down while eavesdropping on campus, odd constructions or vowels he hears. Dean’s staring at him with a cross between annoyance and fondness on his face, and Cas is hit with yet another wave of Completely Unfair.
“Alright, Chomsky, I gotta get to class,” says Dean, reaching out to push Cas’ hair out of his eyes and run a thumb down his cheek. He swears he can actually hear each of the valves in his heart thudding open and closed. “You want me to drop you off at Gabe’s? I can pick you up for dinner.”
“That sounds nice,” murmurs Cas, trying not to actually purr at the feeling of Dean’s fingers in his hair. The hair, oh, he's always liked having it played with, but this is completely new and god damn, Dean needs to stop before something stupid happens.
Thankfully he starts gathering up his notes, and Cas takes the opportunity to stand and yawn and stretch and mess his hair back up again. He’s got nearly a week’s worth of clothes here that should be washed, so he shoves it all into a duffel and he’s ready to leave when Dean is, jangling the keys to his car anxiously, and Cas can see him running through formulas and notes in his head.
He used to think that the Impala is kind of cold and old and generically car-ish, but the more time he spends in it, the more he comes to appreciate the warm smell of worn leather, the perfectly cared-for radio and finishings, the way the steering wheel is polished from continuous use. It’s obvious how much love Dean has put into this car; it seeps out of every one of her bolts and seams. The drive is short and the weather is still chilly and Cas really doesn’t want to go back to Michael and Gabriel, but Dean can’t be late for class or his midterm so he gathers up all of his miscellaneous crap.
“I’ll call you when I’m done,” says Dean. “God, I better pass.”
“You’ll do fine,” Cas replies and, automatically, without even stopping to consider, he leans forward and kisses Dean on the cheek. Dean just sort of stares at him as he fumbles his way out of the car, suddenly incredibly embarrassed, and he catches a dazed wave before Dean drives off.
Cas wants to punch himself.
Clothes always smell nice coming right out of the dryer, when they’re still warm, and Cas lets himself flop over the heap of clean laundry on top of the dryer.
Nothing's ever really going to top accidentally putting on one of Dean’s shirts, though, which he'd done two days prior in a display of dull-witted sleepiness. It had been warm and soft and it’d smelled just like him, and Cas had tugged it off thirty seconds later when Dean brought it to his attention, laughing at the fact that Cas had been tired enough to wear a shirt he’d just dropped onto the floor. Fresh laundry is nice, sure, but nothing smells better than Dean.
He groans quietly into what feels like a pair of jeans. This is absolute madness. He shouldn’t ever have given in to these stupid emotions but, naturally, Dean just has to be the exception to everything.
Miraculously, Michael is gone somewhere and Gabriel is locked in his room with what sounds like half a harem when Dean walks brazenly through the door, not even bothering to knock.
Cas fights ferociously with himself, resisting the urge to touch Dean as he walks up – his arm, his hand, his side, anywhere – but then Dean's wrapping himself up in Cas, mumbling about something something engines and Cas breathes him in, tangles a hand in his hair. This should stop, this shouldn’t be happening, and Dean should most definitely not be touching the back of his neck like that and causing shivers to roll down his spine.
Friday night dinner is a completely normal affair, other than the fact that Cas helplessly presses his shins along Dean’s while eating. Ellen and Jo don’t even bother taking their orders any more – it’s always two bacon cheeseburgers, one with everything and one with just lettuce, two sides of fries, two beers. Ellen’s known Dean since he was in diapers and pretends she doesn’t remember he’s not 21 just yet, and scowls at Jo every time she stays at their table chatting instead of doing her job.
Cas wouldn’t ever change a thing about their Fridays.
He’s completely immersed in a journal article assigned by his professor and he’s only barely conscious of Dean pressed in a warm line all along his side, hunting down some obscure original parts for the Impala’s radio.
This, he’s sure, is what heaven must be like.
Ass o’ clock in the morning, stomach full with beer and burgers, and… he has no label for Dean. Friend would be too little and anything else is too much and, honestly, Dean is just Dean. There’s never been anyone quite like him in his life, and there never will be.
He can feel Dean’s fingers on his knee, tapping idly to the rhythm of his music. Lippi-Green’s complete dismantling of Disney movies has him sucked in, so humming along to the next song is nearly subconscious and it takes him a couple of seconds to realize that Dean has stiffened up, fingers frozen on his knee.
“Stairway to Heaven?”
Dean’s fingers are still on his knee, and the warmth of his palm is more distracting than it should be.
“You’re humming along to Stairway,” says Dean, almost suspiciously.
Cas feels himself turning pink.
“Nothing wrong with liking a song sometimes,” he mutters, and turns the page on his article.
Dean plugs his laptop in to his speakers and the intro’s flutes sing sweetly into Cas’ ears.
He puts the article down in favor of closing his eyes and leaning into Dean, soaking up the song he’s secretly been keeping on repeat for the past week.
An arm curls its way around his shoulder when Dean sets his computer aside and this, this has to be nirvana.
The guitar solo starts and a thrill runs through his chest, though he’s not entirely sure whether it’s the alcohol or the music or Dean’s fingers brushing slowly down his cheek. Dean turns the volume to full blast as the final verse pounds through the dorm room and suddenly Cas realizes that Dean’s grinning and singing along and that he’s never heard him sing before and wow, it’s more than a little goofy but completely endearing and he grins right back.
Robert Plant goes solo for the last line and Cas is left breathless; Dean is inches away from him, hand still around his shoulders, and Cas could probably make constellations out of the freckles peppering his nose and cheeks, nebulae out of his much-too-green eyes. It’s absolutely silent in the room, like the universe is holding its breath, and Cas has never felt more perfect.
He reaches forward and takes Dean’s face between his hands, then places a very careful, very gentle kiss on Dean’s forehead.
Twenty minutes later and Cas is pretty sure they’re still having A Moment; Dean is curled tightly around him, one hand fisted in the front of his t-shirt and the other carding idly through his hair. He can feel the steady rise and fall of breaths against his back. Dean presses another soft barely-a-kiss to the nape of his neck and, yeah, he’s got no idea where this is going but he’s hoping with every fiber of his being that it’s not heading south.
Dean is still snoring quietly when he wakes up so Cas busies himself with winding himself as tightly as possible into Dean’s chest. Everything is perfectly warm and there’s sunlight glowing behind the blinds; a tiny ray perfectly curls itself to the curve of Dean’s cheekbone. Cas traces it, lightly, and realizes Dean is awake when he starts blinking blearily.
His body is warm and soft and pliant and still in the just-woke-up stage, and Cas can’t get enough of the way Dean surrounds him and presses a soft kiss to his cheek; he can feel Dean’s fingers tangling themselves in his hair and sighs.
“Cas,” he murmurs, and gets a kiss on the shoulder in response.
Yeah, this is definitely being filed as one of the best mornings he’s ever had.
He shifts their collective weight and then Dean is on top of him – chest crushed against his and he can’t breathe, his fingers are bunched somewhere in the back of Dean’s t-shirt and there are hands framing his face and Dean is close enough to kiss and he’s got no idea who started it but their lips are brushing together, barely-just-barely, and Cas has never tasted anything so beautiful.
His heart stutters to a dead stop; Dean pulls away half a millimeter and just looks at him.
Of course, at that moment the door bangs open.
“Rise and shine, D–”
Cas freezes and Dean scrambles to sit up.
His voice is part furious, part embarrassed, and part Good To See You; Cas buries his face into a pillow. Just their luck that Sam would choose this day to come for a surprise visit. There’s a couple of seconds of incoherent sputtering between the two brothers, then Cas decides to sit up and break the tension.
“Hello, Sam,” he says politely.
“I– uh, hi, Cas,” replies Sam, still with a look of I Need Brain Bleach on his face. “It’s, um, good to see you.”
“Likewise.” He starts to rummage for actual clothing instead of the boxers-and-one-of-Dean’s-shirts that’s become his standard to sleep in. Sam is frowning deeply.
“I thought you were with Li–”
“Hey,” interrupts Dean sharply, “that’s my vintage Zep shirt.”
Cas shoots him a glare that dares him to do something about it, and reaches for his notebook.
“Uh, do you want to explain?” tries Sam again.
“You know how I feel about that shirt,” Dean says to Cas, fiercely defensive, and then turns back to his brother. “No. And what are you doing here, anyways? Besides forgetting to knock.”
“Didn’t know I was interrupting something,” Sam mutters.
Cas is scribbling down vowels and consonants and the discrepancies between how Dean talks and how Sam talks.
“I wanted to say hi to you and Ellen and Jo, and Dad says you should come to dinner and stay the night.”
Dean glances at Cas.
“Cas is coming,” he says simply, and makes it clear that it’s non-negotiable. Sam gives him a look that’s one hundred percent duh.
He reverently slides the heavy vinyl out of its cover and puts it onto the turntable, only releasing his breath when the needle touches down and a soft crackle comes from the radio.
Dean’s room at the Winchester house is beautiful and every time he visits, he’s completely happy to sit in on the worn wood floor with a book while they all do Family Things that Cas still feels a little too awkward to participate in, even though he’s spent most of his weekends in Lawrence.
This, though, is the first time he’s touched the record player.
Dean’s collection is enormous; it’s all stuff he’s hunted down in thrift stores and online or things he’s gotten from his dad, and it took Cas a good ten minutes to find the record he’d been looking for.
He carefully repositions the needle over the last track on the A-side and waits, holding his breath again, until a familiar intro begins to play. He turns it up, suppressing a grin, and goes back to his book.
Honestly, he doesn’t really know why he likes this song to much – he just does and that’s that. It’s odd but catchy and it just fits him, and he finds himself humming along to it while he’s buried nose-deep in reading. He doesn’t notice Dean walking in until hands grab his shoulders.
“This,” he says emphatically, green eyes wide and intense. “This.”
“This what?” Cas frowns and dog-ears his page.
“This is why–” Dean is completely at a loss for words, still holding his shoulders tightly, flush creeping up his cheeks. Cas spreads his hands, waiting for a coherent sentence, chest tight. “You know, it’s why–”
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind…
Cas clamps a hand over Dean’s mouth because he knows there’s a flood of words coming.
“You’re going to make me miss the solo,” he says seriously.
He can feel Dean fidgeting beside him and meets his eyes as Plant rocks into the last verse.
It’s almost like they’re back in the dorm again, backs against the wall, sides pressed against each others’ in a warm line, only this time Cas is running his fingertips lightly across Dean’s knuckles.
Dean patiently waits until the last note fades away and then very slowly, very deliberately turns towards him.
Cas has lost all ability to function.
He spent the entire day pushing away what happened in the morning ( just a kiss not a big deal notabigdealnotabigdealnotabigdeal ) but the careful walls are crashing down around his ears.
Dean moves one knee on either side of his waist, hips pressed flush against his, and still manages to look like he’s got no idea what to do. Cas can barely process what’s going on except warmth and a perfect weight on his thighs and shit, Dean’s mouth is getting awfully close to his; he can feel Dean’s shallow, scared breaths mirroring his own and the soft hitch when their noses accidentally brush together.
He brings a hand up and lets it hover just above the curve of Dean’s neck, shaking slightly, then Dean’s gaze flicks from his eyes to his lips and back and Cas snaps.
One hand curls tight against Dean’s neck and the other is at his back, fingertips digging into his skin, and Dean is crowding him against the wall, mouth harsh and hot and needy against his. If there’s a place where their bodies aren’t touching then Cas can’t tell; he feels fingers wind into his hair and bites at Dean’s lip in return, rewarded when he arches his back. He’s never been this thoroughly kissed before, not with such pristine attention, and he can’t stop a quiet noise of disappointment when Dean pulls away.
“This isn’t–” Dean whispers, “I’m not fucking up, am I?”
His breaths are erratic against Cas’ mouth.
“I think I’ve told you before that you are utterly brainless,” Cas murmurs, resting his forehead against Dean’s. “Are you drunk or can I count on this being something regular?”
Dean chuckles and kisses him once, twice, and Cas can feel his train of thought going, going, gone.
“Told you I was saving the stupid for sober.”