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Inevitable Homoeroticism in Spanish Romantic Heroes

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Inevitable Homoeroticism in Spanish Romantic Heroes

With his comprehensive exams looming, Dean really ought to figure out how the Spanish library works. He squints at the poster on the wall with the Library of Congress numbers, and then squints at a row of books, and then frowns because he actually can't find where anything matches up to the wall. There's a shelf labeled MA Comps Books, which he crouches in front of, but the titles all just blur together and the point of this is actually to see what else is in here anyway, so he stands up and starts scanning the shelves at random, trying to find the organization on his own.

Fuck the system.

He's still chuckling at his own joke when Castiel walks in. He can call him that because they're actually not that far apart in age, and Castiel only teaches undergrads, and that's how Castiel introduced himself to him, but Dean doesn't exactly feel like his colleague. He really isn't yet -- but fingers crossed that he'll be a step closer when the department gives him his MA after they finish handing him his ass in the oral exams.

"Buenos días, Dean," Castiel greets with a warm smile as he cradles a technically forbidden Starbucks cup in one hand. He makes a beeline for a shelf, so clearly he knows what he's doing.

"Buenos," Dean tries to appear the same, feigning a purposeful shelf-scan.

"How are you? Keeping busy?" There's a self-deprecating merriment about that phrase that turns the corners of Castiel's mouth up in a wry twist that Dean steadfastly ignores. Castiel's at the big, sleek conference table now, pulling books out of a bag, and Dean turns around to watch how he goes about returning books to this library. That's also a good thing to know.

"Oh, no, I just have buckets of free time," Dean says with a snort. "I only have 18 more compositions to grade, and comps to study for, and a paper outline due, so I'm sitting on my thumbs every night just wondering what to do with myself."

Castiel's small laugh is a little too precious because he doesn't offer it up too much. Not that Dean pays attention to Castiel over the department picnics and too noisy, too awkward, crowded receptions in the department lounge after one talk or another. Nope, that isn't happening at all.

"I have that same problem." Castiel's voice is warm, and Dean still wonders how his throat manages that kind of roughness. He watches Castiel turn around, books in hand, and he tilts his head at the shelf -- then walks two shelves over and tilts his head to the other direction. God, he shouldn't be that fucking cute.

"How long have you worked here and you still don't know this library?" Dean teases because he can't help himself, shut up. Castiel shoots another wry smile over his shoulder and puts one book back, then another.

"I know it better than you do."

And that just closes Dean's trap. Castiel chuckles again, pulling another book from the shelf.

"What section of the list are you working on?"

Now Castiel is turns those gorgeous blue eyes on him, and Dean sends up a silent thanks to whoever's listening -- God or Cervantes or Borges or who the fuck ever runs things -- that Castiel is not a grad teacher because Dean doubts he could sit through three months of looking into those eyes and being expected to take notes on anything other than how blue they are.

"Golden Age," Dean answers because it's always good to have an answer to that question when asked, because people want to know that you're being responsible and all that, but Dean's progress is slow going. SPAN 2010 is a bit of a bitch with all its grading, and anyway, thinking about comps makes him want to puke, just a little.

"Ah," Castiel's eyes light up, "that's my specialty. You're a Latin Americanist, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Dean says, nodding, "around the Boom, I think, but post-Boom can be pretty cool. All the postmodern stuff. You know." Yeah, that sounds real educated, Dean, good job, but Castiel is only nodding.

"If you want to talk about Golden Age sometime... or not," Castiel's grin twitches into place again and Dean's stomach gives a little flip, "then I'd be happy to help."

It isn't uncommon to hear these things thrown around between his other grad students, between the PhD candidates or the newbie MAs, but he hasn't exactly been offered anything like that by a professor. But Castiel isn't really his professor. Dean nods, rolling his shoulder casually.

"Sure."

Castiel nods and starts gathering up his stuff, and he turns another smile onto Dean. "Good luck filling the time." And then he's out the door, and Dean's stomach clenches in a knot of sick anxiety entirely unrelated to the reading list.


~

Okay, so the last place he wants to be on a Friday at 4:30 in the afternoon is in some uncomfortable plastic bucket seat in a too-cold conference room listening to three of his fellow students read papers about things unrelated to what he's actually interested in, but hey. Gotta put in a little face time at some of these things.

He's like, almost a pro at this, having been to the fall and spring ones, and he's made the mistake of arriving too early and getting sandwiched in between two professors. Awkward times. As he's soloing it to this one again, he sidles up at about five minutes to start and picks his way through the rows, plopping himself down behind a few other MA students and at least two rows away from the professors.

Things are looking up until Castiel walks in, Starbucks in his hand again, and Dean acts like he isn't paying any attention at all as Castiel's eyes sweep over the available seats, but yeah, he's sort of watching. So when Castiel's eyes land on him, Dean feels it and looks up, and there's semi-awkward eye contact (though only awkward on Dean's end, he's pretty sure), and then Castiel's joining him.

Great. If there's anything better than squirming in his seat, drifting in and out of attention to a paper about feminism in so-and-so or the concept of time in this novel, it's doing it while trying not to guess the brand of aftershave Castiel uses.

"Hola. ¿Cómo estás?" Castiel greets smoothly as he settles in, balancing a conference tote bag between his feet.

"Bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?" He tears his eyes away from Castiel drinking out of his cup.

"Bien."

Dean's saved from fumbling through an appropriate follow-up sentence in Spanish by the lecture series director introducing the first speaker. Thankfully today they're all focusing on Spanish literature; at the conference in Dean's first semester, there'd been a paper in Italian, so he spent 15 minutes comparing Italian pronunciation to Spanish and trying to imagine how a word was spelled based on his limited understanding of Italian words.

In all honesty, he's had more boring 15 minutes, but he isn't really about to admit that to anyone.

He still doesn't really catch everything, though, because his mind drifts in and out of the papers, alternating between theoretical framework and the way Castiel's head tilts when he listens, how he nods just barely when he agrees with something, how his fingers fiddle with the sleeve on his coffee cup. These are not thoughts he should be having about a faculty member, so Dean swallows them down as best he can.

Questions are awful though because Castiel's like, compelled to at least ask one question of each presenter -- that's the point of this thing, after all, for students to see what conferences are like -- and then Dean has to turn his head and look at Castiel as he's delivering a succinctly-phrased question in that rumbly voice of his, and it's just not fair. He'd rather be crammed in by the director of graduate studies and the professor that mocks him for stupid questions and his -- okay, yeah, sure -- limited vocabulary range in class than here.

When it's all done and it's time to shuffle to the department lounge for lukewarm fruit and cheese, he slips away from Castiel, joining up with a few other MA students, and they drift over together.

The department lounge is not made for this kind of gathering; too many people shoved into one place, talking over each other, with most of those conversations being awkward as hell. Dean fills his plate slowly, attempting to look busy so as to avoid any unnecessary conversation for the time being. Last time he was here, he wound up discussing various types of cheese with a chaired professor, and it's an experience he'd rather not repeat.

"I'm a brie fan myself," comes a grumble of a voice to his left, and Dean nearly drops his plate of grapes and cheesy crackers to find Castiel slowly filling his own plate.

"I never know what to do with that crusty outer part," Dean says, and he picks up a grape to slide into his mouth around the time that Castiel lifts his eyes to reply, with a small smile on his lips. Their eyes meet, and Castiel's smile twitches.

"To be honest, neither do I."

They scoot away from the table, though Dean'd really rather flee; he could slide over to another knot of people, but he's never mastered the art of escaping conversations like this. He and Castiel eat cheese in silence for a few beats before Dean can't stomach the awkwardness anymore.

"The papers were good, huh?"

Castiel nods, licking over his lips. "I found the Quijote one interesting. Too often, I think, it gets labeled simply a mockery of libros de caballerías, when really it does so much more. In a way, it's the ultimate libro de caballerías."

Sigh. Dean's never good at this impromptu smarts business, and as he eats another grape, he scrapes his brain for an on-the-fly smart response, but then figures hey, it's Castiel. No chance he'll get him on his comps panel.

"Like The Nutty Professor is the ultimate comedian-plays-all-the-parts movie, and so Adam Sandler really should just shoot himself in the face."

Castiel chokes and coughs, and Dean's pretty sure it's because he's not used to hardcore laughter. His smile is surprised and amused and really, really melty when he looks up at Dean.

"I'm not sure I'd lump Eddie Murphy in with Cervantes."

Dean shrugs, but he's grinning back at Castiel, and god, okay. He should not let himself feel all warm like that under Castiel's gaze. Thankfully he turns them away from Dean and scans the room, eyes skimming over the faces of the people. Dean's fully prepared for Castiel to be making his awkward exit to find another person to stand around awkwardly with and have more conversations about cheese.

"This room isn't meant for this many people." Dean's ears are throbbing a little, to be honest; the threadbare carpet and scant paintings on the wall don't really do much to absorb the sound.

"No," Castiel agrees, and Dean bites back the urge to shiver. Yeah, no. Definitely couldn't stand three months listening to that, not if he wants to be able to write more on his written comps than 'Castiel Novak has a really sexy voice.'

There's more silence, but it's slightly more comfortable; it's like now that they've acknowledged how difficult it is to maintain conversation in these things, they can allow their own silence with a little less fear.

"They should really start offering wine. It might make it all marginally bearable."

Dean snorts his agreement. He's always preferred a good beer himself, but he's acquired a healthy appreciation for wine; it's hard not to, what with it being offered at practically every single Romance language event he's ever gone to. And you better believe he took full advantage of that starting with the Spanish farewell party to the seniors at his undergrad.

"I think I could use a drink after this week." Castiel eats his last grape and turns an inquisitive look on Dean that he isn't sure he understands. Or believes. "Why don't we make our escape while we can? Would you care to get a drink with me?"

"Uh," is Dean's classy, suave answer, and he blinks down at his shoes, which aren't any classier or more suave than his mouth. "Uh, yeah, that sounds great." Because it does. Way too great. Dean's just going to have to rally together all his willpower, which he starts doing as they make their slow way toward the door, and then they're free of the lounge, and then they're heading toward the bus and discussing places to go, and Dean's head is spinning a bit more than it should be.

He'd been fully set on going to anywhere, really, but where they actually go is a vaguely classy establishment. At the very least it probably serves food that's worth eating and it doesn't crank shitty pop music all the way to eleven at all hours of the day. Dean shrugs out of his beaten up leather jacket a little self-consciously once they settle at a small table. When Castiel excuses himself for the restroom -- and calls it a restroom--Dean whips out his phone.


Me: Sammy. What do you do when youre out to drinks with a prof- not one of your profs just a prof- & like... youre... hanging out...


Sammy: Um... I'm pretty sure I have never been in that scenario since I'm not 21 just yet and professors are supposed to frown on that sort of thing. Why are YOU in that scenario?


Me: He asked me. Shut up. This is friggin glamorous grad school life ok


Sammy: Oh, is that it? Because it sounds awkward. Especially since it's you.


Me: Youre jealous and you know it


Sammy: Oh, totally. I don't know, Dean. Talk about Spanish literature. Ramble endlessly about your students like you do to me when I'm trying to study. Have a conversation like a normal person. I know you can do it. I've seen it once.


Me: Har har youre a big help. Go read about the supreme court or whatever it is you do


Sammy: Enjoy your awkward drinks.

Castiel slides into his seat, and he orders them a couple glasses of wine, and Dean swallows down his nerves as he leans back in his seat.

"How are your classes?" Castiel prompts politely, and damn if Sammy didn't have a good idea.

"Mine or the ones I teach?"

Castiel opens his hands, shrugging lightly, and Dean takes that to mean either, or both, which means he can launch into a conversation he's had about six dozen times but yet somehow it never stops being relevant.

"Mine are fine, you know. Teaching's alright. Better this semester. I taught SPAN 2010 my first semester, and like... Um, basically I have to throw out all those lesson plans." He huffs a chuckle. "They're just -- they were crap. Doing better this time. My students on the other hand." He rolls his eyes and sits back as the waitress delivers their wine.

"I can't imagine a class getting the upperhand over you," Castiel comments, and Dean looks up because that sounded a little like a flirty thing, but Castiel's concentrating on his wine, so Dean picks his glass up too and takes a sip. Good, not bad. Beer's better.

"Nah, I've got a couple of athletes in my first class, and they're alright. I laid down the rules early enough, let them know they're not about to get away with any shit, and I cut 'em off when they try to mouth off. No, what's annoying is my second class. God, I swear they are the most boring class ever."

Castiel's smiling warmly over his wine glass, and Dean's stomach is churning with uncertainty, but he keeps his mind focused on the same-old, same-old discussion of his students.

"You'd think we were in sign language class or some sh -- something." He swallows some wine and attempts to wrestle his tongue under control. "They never talk, and they actually said in the mid-semester evaluation thing I did that they want more worksheets." He makes a face as Castiel's smile grows incrementally. "Worksheets. Who volunteers for friggin' worksheets? So I had to stop playing the verb race game with them, which is really friggin' annoying because now if I want to play that game in my other class, I have to find some activity that's not a piece of crap to give to the loser class. It's pathetic."

By the time Dean's little tirade is over, Castiel's chuckling -- a slight noise, quiet, only discernable because he shakes his shoulders with the sound.

"I actually never liked that game," Castiel admits, the corner of his mouth twisted into a half-smile. "I fear you wouldn't have liked me as a student."

"Oh yeah?" Dean asks, a self-conscious spike stabbing through him. "What, you like worksheets?" Castiel holds Dean's gaze, one eyebrow slowly lifting, and Dean narrows his eyes at him. "Seriously? Worksheets?"

Chuckling, Castiel lifts one shoulder and lets it drop. "They're mechanic. Predictable. I enjoyed them more than things like verb race games or -- oh, God." He rolls his eyes and the gesture seems so new that Dean's mind quickly catalogues it and files it away. "Matamoscas."

Dean shoots him an incredulous look and sets his wine glass down, laying his palms flat on the table.

"Dude. What is your problem with Matamoscas? Okay -- I'll give you the dangerous thing. Kids have been taken out by desks or the stray pencil, but come on. Matamoscas is sweet."

"If you're competitive. I for one don't enjoy racing across an obstacle course of a classroom to slap at a word on the chalkboard with a flyswatter." He picks up his glass, eyes glittering at Dean, and did he really just classify Castiel's eyes as glittering? "All I'd remember is the adrenaline and fear of tripping over my own feet. I'd much rather do a worksheet."

"Then you," Dean says, leveling a finger at Castiel, and their eyes hold, and Dean swears there's something crackling somewhere because he can practically hear it, "are weird."

He drinks his wine to punctuate his statement, but somehow he and Castiel are still staring at each other, even as Castiel sits back and picks up his own glass, bringing it to his lips.

"I wouldn't argue with that."

Dean swallows a bit thicker than entirely necessary and breaks the gaze, reaching for some of the bread on the table. This is definitely a thing that shouldn't be happening. He shouldn't be having eyesex with a guy who's like, a full-on faculty member and not just a grad student who's farmed out to warm up a couple of classrooms and keep 36 kids awake (mostly) for six hours a week.

But somehow, they finish one glass of wine, and another, and Dean finds out Castiel has three older brothers, and Dean tells him about Sam, and they skirt awkwardly around the subject of their parents to turn back around to their travel abroad trips in undergrad. Dean wins a few more rare hard laughs from Castiel, and they finish off two more glasses of wine before they make their separate ways home.

Dean spends the bus ride telling himself that since they both paid, it wasn't a date or anything, but then he just winds up confusing himself with who would pay on an actual date, and then he gets too close to some questions he's been asking of himself for a while now. He'd much rather leave aside words like 'bisexual' and just stick with 'equal opportunity appreciator of sex.'


~

The preceptor meeting runs long and Dean's gums throb because they seriously just spent two hours picking teeth, poring over one half-assed test after another -- unless, of course, we're talking about the newbies, who either fumbled through their assessments or way over thought them. If he has to hear another word about ease-of-grading and how many freaking spaces it takes to make a goddamn blank on a fill-in-the-blank, he'll hit someone in the face with La Regenta. Both tomes.

Dean's coming out of his office, bag over his shoulder, when he glances up at the sound of approaching footsteps. Castiel smiles warmly in greeting, and Dean gives one right back, even though he's definitely not doing any of this flirty thing, nope. He's just being polite.

"You're here late," Castiel remarks, coming up to a stop in front of Dean, who pulls his office door shut behind him and hitches his bag higher on his shoulder.

"Yeah, tell me about it." He glances furtively down the hall before he rolls his eyes. "Going over tests. You're here pretty late yourself."

Castiel shrugs his one-shouldered shrug that Dean's trying hard not to find cute because Dean doesn't find things on a frigging guy cute. "Grading. I can get more done here when I use going home as an incentive."

They share a dry laugh, and then Castiel starts staring at him again, and words bubble out of Dean's mouth before he can stop them.

"Want to get another drink? A little pre-incentive reward?"

"I'm actually pretty hungry. Can we upgrade that to dinner?"

And so Dean has a definitely-not-a-date-thing with Castiel because it isn't like either of them had any time to get like, excited for it, and Dean hasn't showered since this morning, since he's been here all day, teaching and going to class and futzing around his pointless office hours. Castiel still smells vaguely of aftershave, but only if Dean gets too close, which he only does by accident when the bus jostles them closer together.

The conversation between them shouldn't be as easy as it is, but it's really, really easy. Castiel's good at the silence-filling questions, and he head-tilts whenever Dean says something he doesn't understand, and he fixes him with that earnest look that makes Dean want to explain everything to him in a way completely separate to how he wants to explain when his students look blankly at him. Castiel doesn't look blank, not once, not ever; there's always something burning in there, be it curiosity or confusion or interest or amusement.

"What'd you do this weekend? Anything good?" Dean asks over his burger, and Castiel's eyebrows lift in something Dean's beginning to recognize as enthusiasm.

"I read a paper at a conference about Santa Teresa."

"What about her?" Dean tries to keep his conversation light, but imagining Castiel's gruff voice reading some of those poems -- stuff about desire and angels and staffs and light and heat -- makes his mouth go a little dry.

Castiel's lips twist in a faint wry smile, and he looks down at his plate.

"I compared the language of desire she uses with that of John Donne."

So basically, Dean really wishes he'd been there.

"How was the turnout?" he asks instead, remembering to swallow his food before he talks because that's a thing that Sam had told him about in his big Checklist of Things Responsible Grad Students Do. Honestly Dean threw it away, but he's aware that, you know, polite company, you chew your food.

Castiel's shoulder twitches in a shrug. "It was a multidisciplinary conference. There was a cluster of Hispanists, but the majority were English or comparative literature scholars. They were only interested because I was talking about a nun and sex and Jesus."

Dean nods like yeah, that's just sad that people could be so immature, even though that's the only reason he'd show up to a talk like that. Hell, that's the only reason Santa Teresa and San Juan are two of his favorite Golden Age poets.

"Well, a 'rock me, sexy Jesus' nun is hardly ever not funny," he points out, and Castiel snorts.

"You may have a point. I admit I'm still bitter over the reception afterwards. There was one English scholar who tried to insist that Spanish literature was inferior to the rest of European literature."

"Not that shit again." Dean groans and rolls his eyes. "Dude, like, I don't even get where these people are coming from. Like – okay." He sets his burger down and Castiel's head tilts, but Dean focuses on what he's saying. "I get that Spanish theater sucked for a while, and I get that Latin America copycatted a lot of Europe for a while, but how can people just look at someone like, fucking Larra and say, 'yeah, cool, thanks for the memories but our romanticism is way more legit than yours'?"

Castiel chuckles and shakes his head. "I don't know, Dean. I ask myself that frequently. I'll stick with the nuns and sexy Jesus."

They laugh together, and Castiel's eyes are doing this kind of sparkly thing that Dean feels a little gay for recognizing, but hey -- he is the one going to grad school for literature. He's dealt with the ha ha you're a little gay jabs from Sammy and Bobby since he started getting into all this literature stuff. If his dad hadn't died, then he probably wouldn't be here at all, would probably still be back at Bobby's garage, speaking slang Spanish with the other mechanics.

Dinner's over too quickly, really, and they find themselves outside waiting for a bus. Dean's warm from the beers he had and he feels loose, liquid, and way more relaxed than he has all semester. Comps does not a relaxing atmosphere make.

"Thank you for the dinner invitation, Dean," Castiel says. Someday those manners are going to irritate Dean, but for now they only remind him of the way Bobby would smack him in the head and call him an idjit when he didn't say please.

"I think you were the one to bring that up, Cas," Dean says, the nickname slipping out without him even realizing it, "but I'll take the credit."

Castiel looks surprised, and for a second Dean's afraid he's stepped out of bounds, but then Castiel smiles and their bus pulls up. Dean closes his eyes briefly and follows him, squeezing into a seat beside him.

"What're your plans for the rest of the night?" Castiel's voice is pleasant, even, calm, but in it Dean can hear something chasing around in his thoughts, though he's afraid to touch it.

"Grading. Second drafts of the compositions." He presses his lips together and finds Castiel's eyes on him, but they quickly dart away again, shifting to just beyond Dean's shoulder as the bus rolls up.

"I have essays to grade as well." There's a firmness in Castiel's voice, but Dean can't be sure why it's there, and who Castiel's trying to convince.

The nagging sensation that whatever waits for Dean at home wouldn't be nearly as good as what he would've gotten if he'd brought Castiel home with him doesn't leave Dean, and it makes it damn difficult to concentrate on grading. For once, he's grateful he doesn't need to make specific corrections because he isn't entirely sure what tense this verb should be in, except that it shouldn't be in the present. He circles it in the nondescript, you-figure-it-out way he's supposed to when his phone rings.

"Hey. How're you?"

"Peachy, Sammy. What do you want?" he asks, and he hears Sam's amused huff from the other end of the line.

"Can't I just call my brother?"

"Sure, but not when you sound so ready to butter me up that you could be a Paula Deen recipe." Dean switches the phone to his other hand so he can toss the compositions aside. "So what's up? You need more money?"

"No," Sam says quickly. Dean's thankful Sam can't see him wince. "No, that isn't it. It's, um. Well, it's something I want to ask you about -- um. About Jess."

Dean's face grows increasingly impatient before he snaps, "Spit it out, Sammy."

He hears Sam take a breath and let it out fast before he comes out with it. "Jess wants me to go home with her for fall break."

He knew this would happen. Sam tried to wriggle out of coming home for fall break last year, but he blamed it on studying and papers, which is definitely not an acceptable excuse in Dean's book. Sam's grades are important, but he'd rather sit around doing homework with Sam than not see him for several more months. Maybe that's a little dependent of him, but whatever. Family's important to him, and Sam's important to him, but somewhere along the way, Sammy got the urge to wriggle out from under his big brother's thumb. So Dean tries to squash that out of him as often as possible.

This time, though, this time he isn't sure he can say no. He'd like to, that's for damn sure, but Sam and Jess started dating in the spring, and he can tell he really cares from the way Sam sounds when he talks about her even all the way across the country. Homework is a crap excuse to not come see your brother. A girl, on the other hand... Dean still counts himself over her, obviously, but Sam's happiness is important, too.

"Meeting the folks? That's pretty serious," he says instead, and he wonders if Sam's going to marry this girl, and tries not to think about how weird that would be. Sam going off to college had been an experience, and one he didn't like much. He's gotten used to it now, being alone, giving Sam his space, but he fucking hated it at first.

"Yeah." Sam sounds sheepish; Dean wonders if he can negotiate to get a nephew named after him. "So anyway, is that -- is that like -- can I go?"

He sounds so young that something chokes in Dean's chest as he remembers Sam's first date, his first girlfriend, his first ski trip weekend. "Yeah, I guess," he grunts out, trying to sound gruff. "This better not be a cover for some lame excuse like 'oh I have to write a paper,'" he adds, using his mock-whiny Sam voice.

Sam's answering laugh is relieved, and Dean bites back a sigh, at least until he manages to hang up with Sam and toss the phone aside. His apartment is small, and he feels like a giant in it most of the time, but just now it feels empty and quiet and more than a little suffocating. Scrubbing a hand through his hair, he considers his options. Bed, porn, beer, compositions.

He goes for Door 5 and reaches for his phone, his fingers hovering over the keys hesitantly before he texts Castiel.


Me: Buenos noches. Mi llamo es Dean. Grassy-ass para el comida.

It's only a few minutes before Castiel texts back.


Castiel: Don't make me hate you. But you're welcome.

It isn't much, but Dean chuckles and presses his hands to his face, taking a deep breath. Okay. Porn, beer, then bed. Fuck the compositions.


Dos

There's a week of warm greetings in the hallways, brief conversations in the doorways to their offices, and occasionally getting coffee together -- but the Starbucks is just across the street, and they don't really sit down and drink it together because they're busy academics, blah blah. Dean's never done this with a guy before -- the warm looks and the accidental touches and the easy conversation. He's bagged dudes, but there was never this... falling stage. He isn't sure what to do with it, and only hesitantly starts to call it a crush.

He runs into Castiel again on Friday afternoon, and that had maybe been Dean's plan all along.

"Still going up to the winery this weekend?" he asks, shuffling his bag to his other shoulder.

"I don't know." Castiel wears exasperation well -- though Dean thinks he wears most emotions well. "My car has stopped working, and it isn't the battery."

Dean tries not to smile at how annoyed he sounds because that's just not cool.

"Well... I could take a look at it?" he offers instead, but Castiel shakes his head.

"No, I'll just take it in to a mechanic and have it looked at." The irritated tone to his voice is kind of adorable, and fuck, guy crushes turn Dean into such a girl.

"Great. So tell me your address and I'll come look at it." Castiel frowns at him, and Dean laughs. "I was a mechanic. Worked in my dad's friend's garage all through high school."

He doesn't know what to do with the look on Castiel's face. It's all uncertain, flustered surprise, and he isn't exactly sure what's causing that mixture of emotions, except that he's glad to be witnessing it.

"Very well," Castiel says finally, and he pulls his office door shut. "You can come by tomorrow afternoon. I'll text you the address."

"But you'll miss the winery thing," Dean points out with a frown. "I could come over now; I just need to get my toolbox -- "

"No." Castiel adjusts his bag in his hand and starts down the hall. "Tomorrow is better. I'll see you then."

Dean watches him go and isn't sure how he managed to make Castiel's life worse by offering free at-home car service, but he isn't about to flake out now. One, he misses cars, and two, the opportunity to see Castiel's house is far too tempting. He can't really figure out why, but he's feeling a Sam-shaped absence, and Castiel doesn't really fill it -- but standing around getting grease under his nails, telling Castiel to hand him this or that? Yeah, that could help.


~

Castiel's house is small, nestled in a fairly quiet street. The lawn is neat, and his car -- definitely not something Dean approves of -- waits for Dean in the driveway, so he parks his baby out front and gives her steering wheel a light stroke for luck before he gets out and retrieves his toolbox from the trunk.

When he stands, Castiel's on the front step in a faded T-shirt and jeans, two things he's never seen him in before, and Dean swallows before he waves.

"That's quite the car," Castiel says as Dean approaches, and he casts a proud smile over his shoulder at her.

"Some people have dogs, some people have kids. I have a car." He grins at Castiel, who gives him a smile back, somehow smaller and shyer, lacking his usual wry wit.

"At the moment, I don't have any of those things. There's the patient."

Dean nods and sets to work, getting some backstory from Castiel before he settles in to poke around under the hood, chasing down one suspicion after another. Castiel doesn't stray far; he hovers around the side of the car, watching as Dean leans over and checks nuts and bolts and oil sticks. Dean's actually fairly successful at tuning him out, drowning himself in the familiar innards of a car, reveling in getting his hands dirty.

"You really know what you're doing," Castiel comments with some surprise as Dean pulls out a spark plug and inspects it.

"Did you think I was lying just to come over here and break your car?" he says with a smirk into the engine.

"No, I just -- I don't know anything about cars. Where did you learn?"

"My dad taught me some," Dean hedges. "The rest I learned at the garage I worked at during high school. That's where I learned Spanish, and that's why my first Spanish class in school totally kicked my ass. Suddenly I couldn't say 'chingar' and I had to use grammar rules and none of it made any sense."

Castiel snorts behind him, but there's a silence that's heavy with the weight of whatever is setting Castiel off about this whole ordeal.

"You worked a lot in high school then?"

Dean presses his lips together, but his hands stay steady. "Yeah. My dad had trouble finding work, so I helped out."

There's silence again, and Dean slips back into concentrating on his differential diagnosis of the engine. He definitely does not compare himself to House as he digs out something he hoped he wouldn't have to use and starts testing the connection between the battery and the alternator. Castiel seems to be watching intently; Dean's awareness of Castiel's hovering drifts in and out, and the silence remains unbroken until Dean grunts his success.

"See this here?" Dean asks, and Castiel comes around, leaning over the car with him. "That's your alternator, buried in there. And it's stopped talking to the rest of your car. You're going to need to replace it." He straightens, and he doesn't realize how close they are until their shoulders touch and Castiel looks up at him.

Their eyes meet and there it is again -- that undeniable thing that lurks just beneath the surface, only now it's more like parading around them in one big Carnival parade of unresolved sexual tension. And this time Dean knows it isn't just him because Castiel's eyes flick to his lips, and there's a redness just touching his cheeks.

"I'll have to take it out, take it up to a shop and get them to order you a new one," he says quietly, and he watches as Castiel nods. "When it comes in, I'll replace it for you."

"Thank you," he murmurs, and Dean shrugs numbly, watching Castiel's lips move.

"No problem."

The moment -- whatever it is, whatever it could be -- skitters away from them, thanks to a cluster of frat boys wooooo-ing to another cluster on the other side of the road in a fit of Friday night celebration, and Castiel steps back, reaching a hand up to tousle his already completely disorganized hair.

"So you can fix it?"

Dean nods and pulls the rag out of his back pocket to wipe his hands. "I just need to get the right part, which shouldn't be too much of a problem. In a few days, she'll be just fine. You know. For what she is." He smirks at Castiel, who rolls his eyes.

"I haven't had any trouble with this car until now," he says, vaguely defensive, and then Castiel shakes his head. "I made some sandwiches. Come inside; have some lunch."

All he really needed was the S-word, but soon enough Dean puts his toolbox away and follows. Castiel's house inside is about what he'd thought it would be; there aren't many decorations, but there's a sense of lived-in comfort in the dark furnishings. Or maybe that comes from the overflowing bookshelf and stacks of papers tucked away on the well-worn kitchen table. There's a prevailing tidiness to everything that's at odds with the rough edges of the torn-out notebook pages, though he can tell Castiel tried to get them into a manageable stack.

"So I guess you missed the all-guys-work-on-cars day in kindergarten?" Dean teases, coming out of his food orgasm to fill in the conversation gap. Castiel makes a mean roast beef sandwich.

"I must have." He stops there, but there's definitely thinking going on in that brain of his, so Dean waits patiently, enjoying the hell out of his sandwich all the while. "My father didn't have much time for teaching me how to fix cars," he settles on finally, "or anything else, really."

"Oh." Dean actually sets his sandwich down and frowns down at the tabletop. "That... sucks." He clears his throat and considers the likelihood that they'd have matching daddy issues. "My dad was around a lot, but." He shrugs. Long ago he'd had strong-voiced defenses for his father, but then he'd nearly killed Sammy when he was driving drunk, and Dean's kneejerk need to talk him up faded. "Wouldn't have been too bad if he'd left a little more often."

Honestly, that isn't something he's admitted to many people. Sam, in a vague way; Bobby, in a desperate, self-loathing way. He's had time to reconcile these things in the time since his dad died the summer after Dean graduated high school, and he spent a year scraping a life together for himself and Sam, though Bobby helped. He isn't sure what's drawing it out now, except for this unnamable comfort, this connection that buzzes and hums like an electric fence between himself and Castiel.

"I'm sorry," Castiel says suddenly, shaking his head. "I shouldn't be burdening you with these things." He stands abruptly and takes his plate to the sink.

"Hey." Dean isn't sure if he should stand or what; there's a part of him that's screaming to follow, to lay a hand on Castiel's shoulder, but instead he turns away from his sandwich and leans forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. "It's fine. You aren't my professor, right? And you're -- what, less than ten years older than me, right?" He shrugs. "Way I see it, we're... colleagues."

Okay, that was definitely chickening out. He takes a breath and tries again.

"Friends, too."

Castiel half-turns with a half-smile. "Friends. I'd like that."

Dean would maybe like a lot more than that, but he can roll with friends.

Fall break is still a tough three days in which he calls Bobby and whines about Sammy having a life that's more important than his big brother, and he gets called an idjit and told to get over it, his brother's growing up, but the fondness in Bobby's voice is comforting, anyway. Sam calls, too, to babble about Jess and her parents and how much they really liked him. Something twists in Dean's gut when he talks about their house, their dog, their normalcy, but he keeps it out of his voice.

He orders the part for Castiel's car and texts Castiel a total of six times; his responses are always nearly immediate.


~

What he should be doing is paying attention to his professor talking about Fuenteovejuna, but Dean's taken some notes -- okay, he wrote down "I am Spartacus" in size 26 font -- and he feels like he's got an understanding of the work. Good enough, anyway, to open up his email and let Castiel know about the state of his alternator.


Dean Winchester to Castiel Novak
Cas,
The part's on its way. Should be in Friday, I'll be over Saturday to replace it if that's alright with you. Sure you don't need a car or anything? I could drive you up to the store if you need.
Dean

He has enough time to add "Machiavelli" to his notes and get called on to read a few lines out loud before Castiel emails him back.


Castiel Novak to me
Dean,
Saturday is fine. The bus should work until then, but I'll let you know. Shouldn't you be paying attention? I'm having dinner with Mrs. Brenda Hilton tonight. I won't mention this indiscretion.
Castiel
-----
Castiel Novak
Assistant Professor of Spanish


Dean Winchester to Castiel Novak
Well, Cas, Professor Hilton just called me Dave, so I don't think I have much to worry about.


Castiel Novak to me
You're recognizable even without your name, Dean. Just because she gets flustered while cold-calling doesn't mean she doesn't know who you are.


Dean Winchester to Castiel Novak
Are you saying I fluster her? Huh. Guess I should stop practicing my model poses during break.


Castiel Novak to me
Probably.

Hilton calls an actual break, and Dean takes a deep breath, staring at Castiel's last email. He'd entirely missed the last half of the discussion of act two while he was trying to decide whether or not to mention his model posing. It's definitely the overtly flirtiest he's been with Castiel, and it took him a full few minutes to decide to even go with it. He isn't new to flirting -- it's almost a hobby, at this point -- but somehow it's way, way harder when he actually means it.


~

When Dean rumbles up to Castiel's house in the Impala on Saturday, he finds a strange car straddling the edge of Castiel's yard. He grabs his toolbox and makes his way to the front door, glancing at the out-of-state license plate as he goes. The door opens before he can even bring his hand down to knock.

The guy standing there is shorter than him, but older, and there's a playful look in his face that Dean immediately doesn't trust.

"So you're the mechanic," he says gleefully, and Dean's mouth opens in slight surprise.

"Um... yeah, I guess. Cas around?"

The door opens wider and Castiel looks out at him, exasperated and apologetic.

"Dean, this is my brother Gabriel. Gabriel, this is Dean Winchester."

The look on the brother's face is damn near perverse as he turns a knowing grin on Castiel. "Definitely a trade up, Cas," he says, emphasis on the nickname, and Dean's stomach flips over in a knot because he really doesn't need someone throwing around how obvious it is that Dean and Castiel are playing a fiery game here.

Castiel gives Gabriel a frustrated, pleading look that Dean distinctly recalls seeing on Sam's face once or twice before he pushes past Gabriel to the stoop. "Stay here," he says, and it's not enough of an order to do much good, but Gabriel laughs.

"Whatever you say, kiddo. I'm not sure I really want to watch him change your oil anyway."

The door shuts, and Castiel looks apologetically at Dean before he leads the way over to his car, much the same as it was when Dean last saw it.

"You didn't get my text?" He sounds so petulant about it that Dean's lips quirk into something even as his stomach does a leap -- oh my god he sounds like a girlfriend -- and he pulls out his phone, only to scowl at it.

"Sorry. Must've sat on it and turned it off." It makes an annoying sound he still hasn't figured out how to switch off as it turns on, and Castiel sighs heavily.

"I'm sorry for Gabriel," he murmurs once they get to the car, and Castiel stands with his hands on the side of the hood, staring down into the engine with a small frown. "I wasn't expecting him to visit me today."

"No problem. I'm a big brother too; I know how we operate." Dean's phone buzzes in his hand, and he opens Castiel's texts.


Castiel: Would be best if we didn't do this today. My brother980z
Castiel: Just cannot WAIT to meet you, please hurry over, Dean, and be prepared to get nice and grea09
Castiel: Disregard that.

Dean looks up at Castiel, grinning, and Castiel fidgets and rubs a hand over his neck, looking away a little guiltily.

"Gabriel is very good at wrestling phones away from me," he says quietly, and Dean snorts.

"Yeah, there's step-by-step instructions in the Big Brother Handbook," he deadpans, and Castiel cuts him a glare without any venom in it.

Chuckling, Dean pockets his phone and gets to work, setting about replacing the alternator, which involves a lot of little things needing to be connected and parts to keep track of. Currently, that's a big problem because he can't get that teasing look of Gabriel's out of his mind because it was as familiar as Castiel's exasperation. Dean's pretty sure he's teased Sam about a girlfriend or two with a face like that.

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't use any of the knowledge from that handbook around me," Castiel says, and Dean can hear him roll his eyes. "I have enough brothers."

Dean's mouth opens with something -- I'm not interested in being your brother -- but Castiel catches his eye and the words die in his throat, to be replaced with a mutual, only somewhat awkward laughter. He bends back over the car and works in silence, acutely aware of Castiel's eyes on him. Conversation starts out light and sparse as Dean asks for a ratchet, asks Castiel to hold something for him. Eventually, he points things out to Castiel along the way, explaining what he's doing, and Castiel hums understanding, asks a question or two.

He's finishing up putting the engine back together finally, with Castiel at his elbow, offering help where he can. Neither of them hear Gabriel approach, and he nearly drops his ratchet when Gabriel speaks from somewhere behind him.

"The view's better from over here, Castiel."

"Gabriel."

There's warning in Castiel's voice, and -- okay. Context clues. Dean's not the most observant guy in the world when it comes to real people, but he analyzes literature often enough, and he can read this situation. He casts an appraising look over Castiel, rolling around the words gay and crush in his mind, and steps away from the car.

Gabriel's grinning big at the two of them, reveling in Castiel's discomfort, and Dean has just enough time to make a quick decision about how he's going to handle this.

"If I knew you were gonna be here, I would've worn my tight jeans," he says with a big, near-flirtatious smile, and Gabriel's eyebrows lift. Dean can play along. That's the only way to win over the big brother type; he ought to know. He pulls the rag from his back pocket and wipes his hands, giving Gabriel his best stare-down.

"Cute. He's cute," Gabriel says, though he's looking more at Castiel than Dean.

"And he's standing right here." Dean looks between the two brothers, his gaze lingering on Castiel, who gives his head a small, slight shake. Dean takes it for the dismissal it is, but he isn't too upset about it. There are a lot of things he'd rather be doing than hanging around and playing sexual innuendo with his colleague-friend-crush's brother, and that includes boning up on the Medieval section of the MA reading list (which is his least favorite, thanks). He tucks the rag back in his pocket and gathers up his toolbox.

"I'll leave you two to your powwow, then."

"Thank you, Dean," Castiel says, and he knows he doesn't just mean the car. "I'll repay you for the labor you put in soon."

Before Dean can say that's okay, Gabriel cuts in with, "I bet you will, you saucy thing."

Castiel's face falls into a petulant glare, but Dean's ready this time, and he shoots a grin over his shoulder.

"By the way, Gabe," and the nickname isn't anything like the fond thing that Castiel's is, "I wasn't changing his oil. I was tightening his belt."

The sound of Gabriel's laughter and the sight of Castiel's paling face follow Dean to the Impala, and he drives home wondering if he's going to regret that or not. Just as he pulls into his parking spot, his phone buzzes, and he pulls it out to read the text message.


Castiel: I take it back. I'm definitely not paying you for the car. Gabriel won't shut up about my belt, and that's your fault.

Yeah. No regrets.


~

Dean's grumpy as he makes his way to his pointless office hour for the day, mainly because of the aforementioned pointlessness. Office hours are a vast expanse of time in which he sits crammed in his windowless shared office, which is piled high with artifacts from grad students past -- including an inexplicable book of Walt Whitman poetry on the bookshelf, deodorant in a file cabinet drawer, a stack of Antes de Leer from God-knows-when, and a spice rack, complete with spices. Today, one student will come to see him. Maybe. If she remembers that she'd emailed him. It's time to do his reading, sure, but it's time that he could be reading in the comfort of his own home, and not crammed in some tiny, crappy chair.

But then again, he can't run into Castiel in the hallway of his apartment, and Dean's on his way to do that before settling in for some office hour boredom. If he has to be here, he's going to make the most of it.

"Hi, Cas," he says, coming up behind Castiel, who starts and turns from where he's putting the key into his office door.

"Dean." He looks flustered, a little shy, and Dean unconsciously licks his lips. "Thank you for fixing my car, and I... apologize again for Gabriel's inappropriate behavior." They're speaking in hushed tones, he realizes; not so hushed that it would attract attention, but definitely quieter than normal, and Dean doesn't know what that means except that it sets his mind buzzing with possibility.

"He wasn't so bad. I've said worse to Sammy's friends."

Their eyes meet, and there's that spark -- that click, and Dean hates the word 'inappropriate' for bubbling up between them. What's so inappropriate about shacking up with a guy who's never going to be his professor, not ever, but who just happens to work in the same department with his actual professors?

"I decided to repay you after all," Castiel says after a moment, a small smile at the corners of his mouth. Dean starts to argue, but he holds up a hand. "Labor for labor. I'd like to make you dinner," he says, and adds after a beat, "if that's something you would like."

"Good food's always something I would like," is what Dean says, but his expression answers the hesitancy, the question, the promise in Castiel's eyes, and they smile at each other a few more moments, at least while the hallway is empty, while they have the privacy to indulge in it.

The department secretary Marie rounds the corner and Castiel ducks his head; Dean turns a broad, easy smile on her and gives her a big wink. He's been flirting with her since day one, and she laughs and lightly smacks his shoulder as she walks by, saying something about how Dean's smiles make this department go 'round.

"They do," Castiel says quietly, once she's turned the corner, and their eyes meet one more time before they're interrupted by, of all things, one of his students.

"Oh, Dean?" It's some freshman, a girl who's a foot shorter than him and always sounds like she's afraid he'll snap at her to call him Professor or Mister or Señor or something whenever she says his name.

Dean resists the urge to curse. Mostly because she's so tiny and nervous he's afraid she'll faint.

"Yeah. 142, around the corner. I'll be there in a sec." She shuffles off, and Dean smiles softly at Castiel.

"Friday at 8," Castiel says, opening up his office door.

"I'll be there." They have ten more seconds of fluttery, tense staring before Dean backs up a step and finally turns around to go to his own office.

Maybe the first few times they'd gone out hadn't been a date, but this time he's pretty sure -- he's got a date with a professor. All those times he'd teased Sam about being a teacher's pet seem to be coming back to bite him in the ass, but if that's something Castiel's down for, then Dean would be okay with that.

Tres

Dean turns up on Castiel's doorstep with more than one kind of appetite on Friday. This time he's showered, changed, and put on aftershave, so it's definitely a date. Castiel's hair is still a little damp, he notices, when he opens the door, and Dean crosses the threshold with a flicker of anticipation in his chest.

"Good evening."

Castiel's voice, he suddenly realizes, reminds him an awful lot of his Impala, and the thought brings a small smile to his lips as the both of them embark on another of their staring matches. Castiel shuts the door behind him, and their personal bubbles brush up against each other.

"Buenas noches," Dean says playfully, and Castiel huffs a laugh.

"Claro. Bueno -- ¿a comer? ¿Tienes hambre?"

Maybe Dean had intentionally sparked the Spanish in this conversation just so he could hear it roll off Castiel's tongue; he thinks he could hardly be blamed for that. At the mention of food, though, he inhales and smells more than just Castiel's shampoo and detergent; that's definitely the aroma of something delicious. Hot and a good cook? Dean hit the jackpot.

"Siempre."

Dinner is amazing, it is, something Peruvian and spicy, rustic in a way that he tends to find Latin American food, and Dean's stuffed when they drift to Castiel's couch, the TV on something nameless and a bottle of wine -- their second -- on the table in front of them. It's a subtle difference, but it's definitely there; whatever walls had been in place before are gone now, and it's just Dean and Cas, and the department is some other world they're taking refuge from as they tuck themselves away on Castiel's couch.

"So are all your brothers as charming as Gabriel?" Dean asks, lifting his wine to his lips. Castiel's smile twitches.

"Generally, yes, in different ways. Since you've mentioned it, I've been seeing it in you -- the big brother tendencies." Dean lifts an eyebrow and Castiel shakes his head, amused. "I think you benefit in being only an older brother. You have the same confidence that my eldest brother Michael has. The others are at once older and younger."

"So they have to compensate," Dean finishes, and Castiel nods, bringing his glass to his lips. "And you're the youngest?" At another nod, Dean whistles lowly, though his smile is teasing, easy and open, but this time it isn't just for show. "Must've been hell for you."

"Still is." Castiel tilts his head, looking at Dean in that way he does that makes Dean worry about what thoughts are rattling around his head because maybe Castiel can read them. "I would like to meet Sam. How is he?"

Dean's jaw clenches briefly at the thought of introducing Sam to a boyfriend, but he swallows that down in another drink of wine. There's a nice buzz going on, and he leans into that instead of serious questions like that.

"Alright. Bracing himself for midterms. I think the only thing he pulls his head out of a book for is his girlfriend. She seems sweet," he says, but his voice turns a bit tight, and Castiel's head tilts farther until he looks way too much like a puppy. The thought makes Dean have to suppress a laugh; maybe he's had too much wine.

"So you're the protective sort of older brother," he muses, and Dean rolls his eyes before he reaches out to shove at Castiel's shoulder. Only after does he realize that it's the first real touch either of them has ever gone for. It's not like it stops the turning of the world or anything, but there's something shining in Castiel's eyes when Dean pulls his hand back that has nothing to do with being slightly jostled in his seat.

"Shut up. I've only got the one. I have to make sure she's not just out to change his oil," he says, grinning, innuendo in his voice, and Castiel nearly chokes on his wine, and it's the most inelegant thing Dean's ever see him do.

"I don't think Gabriel's intentions were as thoughtful." Castiel's eyes burn into Dean's, and at this point, he isn't sure what they're dancing around anymore. Maybe there's a more smooth time to do this, maybe he should wait until he's leaving and he can give Castiel a whopping kiss goodbye, but that sounds kind of stupid when he could do that right now.

Dean's deciding factor is that Castiel's eyes are on Dean's lips, and if they're both thinking about kissing each other, then any time spent not kissing each other is a waste. Just as Dean starts to lean in, Castiel gives a sharp little inhale of breath, and it plays over on repeat in Dean's mind when he presses their mouths together in a slow kiss that doesn't involve any tongue but somehow manages to avoid being chaste.

"Dean," Castiel whispers against his lips, and Dean's tempted to just ignore it when Castiel's hand grips his upper arm, and he draws back, eyes still on Castiel's mouth. "This is inappropriate." There's no conviction in his tone, but worry flares up in Dean anyway. He takes Castiel's wineglass and puts it with his own on the table before settling back, plastering his side against Castiel's. It's only half an accident.

"I guess," Dean says on a long sigh, and there's silence between them before he turns to look at Castiel, eyebrow raised. "But it'd be a fucking tragedy if we let that stop us."

There's the briefest, barest flicker of a smile, and then Castiel's hand cups his neck and pulls him in for a kiss that's all pent-up desire, and it's pretty obvious that Castiel's throwing everything to the wind. Dean meets his intensity, parts Castiel's lips with his tongue, licks into his mouth; when he tugs lightly at Castiel's hair, he elicits a small, muffled noise, and Dean becomes obsessed with hearing it again.

"Hey," Castiel huffs against Dean's lips, squeezing at his upper arm again and dodging Dean's mouth. "I have to breathe." He presses his mouth to Dean's, briefly, tenderly, like he can't go too long without the contact, and Dean has to agree. Their angle is awkward, but he can't complain about having no place to put his hand other than Castiel's thigh, which he squeezes lightly.

"I guess I can allow that," Dean says with a smirk, and Castiel rolls his eyes again, his thumb brushing over Dean's jaw.

"I can see that you are going to be aggravating." It's warm, fond, so Dean isn't too affronted, and anyway, Castiel's sliding into his lap, straddling his waist, and it's Dean's turn to have his mouth more or less fucked by Castiel's tongue. He squeezes Castiel's waist, slides his fingertips underneath the fabric of his shirt, and there's so much he wants to taste, but just kissing seems like a whole -- a whole section on comps all by itself, worthy of him poring over every little detail, chasing down every little bit of information he can about the how's and the why's of Castiel's mouth.

"Joder," Castiel mutters when their mouths break apart, and Dean grins, breathing heavily, but it's okay because Castiel is too.

"Do you always swear in Spanish?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Castiel teases in return, sliding his hands down to pull up at Dean's T-shirt, baring a strip of skin that his fingertips touch experimentally, both of them testing the line of how far they're going.

"That's hot." Dean feels giddy, and he isn't sure if it's the wine or the way Castiel's hips are pressing into him, and he's pretty fucking sure he can feel an erection that's definitely not his own somewhere down there. Castiel's laugh is small, brief, and husky, and he sets their foreheads together, their noses brushing.

"¿Andas jodiendo o vas a besarme?"

"Impatient," Dean chides before he catches Castiel's mouth in a heated kiss, one hand sliding up his back, his fingers splayed out, trying to feel as much of him as he can all at once. He trails away from Castiel's lips, licking a trail down his throat, and he mouths at his Adam's apple.

A small exhalation catches in Castiel's throat, and he tilts his head back, but Dean only gets to scrape is teeth against the junction of shoulder and neck before he gets his head jerked back by a forceful hand in his hair. Castiel's on his throat with a distinct eagerness that Dean honestly wouldn't have pegged him for; he seems so calm and... professor normally, but apparently he's dynamite in the sack.

Maybe that one's more Dean's porny thought process right now, but Castiel is doing something vigorous to Dean's neck, and it's Dean's turn to groan, his hands finding Castiel's hips and squeezing.

Somewhere between the rough kisses and finding out who has a sensitive neck (Dean) and who has sensitive ears (Castiel), their hips start moving together; at first it's slight, just small circles, just the energy of their searching kisses traveling down with their arousal to set their hips in wistful motion. Soon after, though, it's much more than that, and Castiel grips his shoulders, and Dean grips his ass, and they're grinding like fucking teenagers who're just looking for any old thing to do with these sexy type feelings.

His shirt starting to stick to him with frustrated sweat, Castiel's mouth finds his with a passionate but distinctly cooling-down type of kiss, and he presses their foreheads together as he slows to a halt. As eager as Dean is to do something -- Jesus fuck, anything -- with Castiel, breathing raggedly while their hands slide hotly along each other's sides is pretty perfect. It wouldn't be his first choice, but Dean's glad for the chance to actually breathe, anyway.

Once they seem to have a handle on themselves, they break apart, and Dean looks up into those blue eyes, all hazed over with lust and affection; Dean can't even pretend that doesn't send a bolt of heat all the way through him. They're even more unnerving and glorious from up close. No, they're awesome -- the true definition of the word, from way back when, when it talked about God and the whole inspiring love and fear equally thing.

"You should go," Castiel says, voice all gravel and lust, and Dean lifts a disbelieving eyebrow.

"Oh, no. You're totally right. This date's going way south. I should leave before I embarrass myself." He just barely sees Castiel start to smile before he kisses him, but Castiel lays his hands on Dean's shoulders and squeezes, pushing him back.

"No, really." It isn't until he registers the unhappy resolve on Castiel's face -- and somewhere in there, an uncertainty, an insecurity -- that he realizes Castiel is serious.

"Oh. Um." He frowns and squirms under Castiel's weight, trying to figure out if this date really did go south. "Yeah, that's sort of at the bottom of my list of things we could do right now, but -- yeah, I can go."

Castiel chuckles and drags his hand over to the side of Dean's neck, and maybe Dean'd been a bit overeager in the porn star assessment. There's a hesitancy here now that suggests to him that they're wading into territory that Castiel's maybe had less experience with. He's got incredibly hot make-out sessions covered, though.

"I'm not a first-date-fuck kind of guy. I'm not that easy, Dean." He presses his lips together and looks down, and then quickly to the side because probably staring at a pair of erections straining at their jeans maybe isn't the best thing to stare at when you're telling yourself no. Or so Dean figures.

"But you're a first-date-grinder kind of guy," Dean says, a touch gentler, and he reaches up to brush his thumb against Castiel's now smiling mouth.

"All the more reason you should go. You're very tempting. You might drive a person to sin." The playful humor chases away some of Castiel's hesitation, which Dean's glad for. That's endearing, but he prefers Castiel like this, sparkling with wit and confidence.

"I've heard that."

He'd always thought the expression was cliché, a little dumb, but now he gets the whole drowning yourself in someone's eyes thing. He pulls Castiel down for a kiss that starts slow, more sensual than the overeager things they had been before, and seriously, Dean'd had honest intentions. But then the kiss starts up again, and again, and then Castiel's sucking his tongue into his mouth, and then their hips are working together again.

Castiel breaks away abruptly, pressing his palms flat on Dean's shoulders, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Seriously. Stop distracting me from maintaining the veneer of my virtue."

Dean chuckles and lifts one of Castiel's hands from his shoulder. "Pretty thin veneer." He kisses the inside of Castiel's wrist, feeling the weight of an intense gaze on him; he brushes his tongue against the skin and hears Castiel hitch in a breath. "This is 50 percent you, you know," he murmurs against his wrist, then he kisses Castiel's pulse point. "You are in my way of getting up and all."

Castiel makes a small noise in his throat.

"Coño. Fine." He stands and adjusts his pants, and Dean watches because he can't help it; Castiel's flushed and grinning and pointing to the door. "Get out of my house."

They don't break eye contact as Dean rises to his feet, which puts them in each other's personal bubbles, and God, Castiel smells good, like the spices he used to cook and shampoo and laundry detergent, and Dean breathes deeply, memorizing this for later tonight when he jerks off so he can fucking sleep.

"Thanks for dinner. And the blue balls," he teases, and Castiel rolls his eyes.

"You're ever so welcome. Next Friday I'm serving up the same, if you'd like to drop by."

There's a joke there, but the offer's serious, and Dean presses his lips together as he nods, biting back a grin that would be way too stupid for him to comfortably be wearing right now. "Tempting offer. I'll have to take you up on that."

"You'd better."

And at that, delivered so sincerely, with such a hot intensity in his eyes, Dean has to kiss him, has to slide a hand into his hair, and Castiel melts easily into it before he steps away again, smiling broadly.

"I'm serious. Vete a la mierda."

"Now you're just doing that to wind me up," Dean says, leveling an accusing finger at him, and Castiel gives a one-shouldered shrug that's totally all feigned innocence. Bastard.

He walks Dean to the door, and they have another staring contest that feels almost like kissing, and then they actually kiss, something sweet and slow and brief because Castiel starts shoving him out the door. They're still laughing when Castiel shuts the door on Dean, firmly, and Dean takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

He drives home with an antsy, frustrated kind of warmth rolling through him that leaves him anxious for something but still somehow happy about everything. It kind of sucks in the way that new infatuations suck because he can't just plaster himself to Castiel's side, preferably with his tongue down Castiel's throat, at all hours of the day. So when he lies awake for an hour because he's too distracted by the smell of Castiel that's somehow clinging to him -- seriously, is it in his hair? -- he blames it on sexual frustration and not on a faint, throbbing, halfway-anxious ache settling into his gut.


~

It's an accident when they run into each other on Monday; he needs to make a boatload of copies because they're reviewing commands on Wednesday, and the best way to do that is with a commands chart. Castiel's office is also near the copy machine, but there's a real purpose to this mission, too, he swears.

The door's actually shut when he walks by, and he deals with his disappointment as he negotiates with the copy machine, coaxing it into accepting his code and then spitting out the correctly sized-and-oriented chart. Usually he doesn't have much issues with it -- he's good with machines, and probably would've kept after engineering if he hadn't been less good at math -- but today it seems to be in a pissy mood.

"Marie's waiting on someone from IT to take a look at the copier," comes a gravelly voice from behind him, and Dean turns around with that dopey smile already climbing to his face. "You don't happen to fix copiers too, do you?"

"Sorry, no. Just cars. I tried working my mojo over it, but it wasn't listening to me." Feeling flirty, he adds, his eyes on Castiel's. "Guess it doesn't like me."

Castiel hums and steps into the room, sliding his hands into the pockets of his trousers. "That is surprising. Up until now, I wasn't certain there could be anyone or anything that would not submit to your 'mojo.'" He smiles, just slightly, and their eyes meet and lock.

There's something wrong in that they're more or less just having sex with each other with this staring contest in the middle of the copy room, but there's no one in the hall behind them, and anyway, he keeps his eye on the door, just in case.

Dean leans in and lowers his voice conspiratorially. "That's how you know copiers are evil," and he adds a wink.

Castiel huffs a short laugh, sliding his hands into his pockets. His tie's flipped backwards, and Dean's eyes dart briefly away from Castiel's in order to take him in, crooked tie and slightly rumpled jacket and nice shoes that could use a polish. Castiel's waiting for him to finish, the humor traveling up to his eyes.

"I suppose I'm not evil then. How comforting."

Dean smirks, and his eyes flick over Castiel again, and his mind beats out Friday Friday until his mouth opens up and starts talking.

"Hey," he starts, narrowing his eyes. "There a reason we're not getting dinner until Friday?" He won't admit to telling it to say anything; it goes down in the record book as his mouth momentarily taking over and running the show. Wouldn't be the first time, either.

Castiel's eyebrows lift, and the smile at the corner of his mouth twitches in amusement. "If there is one, it's probably not very good. What're you doing..." He trails off, his brow creasing as if he was seriously thinking about this, but Dean has a sneaking suspicion it's all an act. "Tonight?" His smile widens, and so does Dean's, but he wrangles it back into something befitting this playful game of theirs.

"Oh, I can fit that in, yeah. What're you serving up?"

"I won't have time to run to the store. It'll have to be what we didn't get to finish the other night." There's suggestion in his voice that definitely elevates this conversation to something that shouldn't be going on in the copy room.

"I can deal with that."

Behind him, the copier whirs to a halt, and Castiel glances at his watch. The suggestion drops from his face, replaced with something else, something warm and affectionate, and Dean swallows thickly.

"Now that that's settled, I have to go teach a class," he says with a small laugh, and he rubs a hand against the back of his neck. "I'll see you tonight."

Dean watches him leave and takes a deep breath as he tries to settle his nerves, and he can really only think how glad he is that he's done teaching for the day because he isn't sure he can think much beyond dinner tonight. And he really could use some more experience before he tries to handle teaching with half a boner.


~

Dean goes to Castiel's house for dinner that night, and then the next night, and then on Wednesday he really has to do some work, only he winds up with Castiel on his couch and a stack of grading in his lap while the TV hums quietly in the background of shuffling papers. He asks Castiel questions about La vida es sueño while Castiel shares some choice student errors and it's pushing midnight when Castiel finally leaves, lingering in Dean's space before kissing him softly.

His apartment's pretty achingly empty after that, and Dean gives up on Segismundo and whatever the fuck's going on in that play to go to bed and sleep away Castiel's absence. He still smells like Castiel, still can't tell if it's his hair or his skin or he's just somehow breathed Castiel in so much that he's part of him, and he exhales him slowly like he's weaning himself off him. But those are the kinds of thoughts he has at night, before he drifts off, and he doesn't touch them again in the morning.

On Thursday they actually manage to stay in their own houses, but when Friday rolls around and they run into each other entirely on purpose in the hallway, Dean doesn't even try to say no. They order a pizza and start a case of beer, making a pact not to talk about what they should be doing before they fit themselves together on Castiel's couch.

The good thing about Back to the Future is that Dean doesn't actually have to pay attention because he's already seen it a billion times, has in fact made Marty McFly his personal hero, so he can focus on the way Castiel's eyes crinkle when he laughs, or the way the heat rolls off him and through Dean's T-shirt until he feels warmed up from the inside just off Castiel alone, beers aside.

When they start kissing, Castiel tastes like pepperonis more than himself, but the way he slides against Dean is familiar, the way their mouths fit together already almost instinctual. Somehow Dean doesn't mind that they've never gotten past heated kissing and pulling at clothes. He's been fighting against that little voice in his head telling him that's how he knows he ought to make his bows and leave the stage, but it's easy to drown that voice out under the little noises Castiel makes when Dean scrapes his teeth against his Adam's apple, or when he licks over the line of his collarbone.

"How do you do that?" Castiel says on an exhale, his body arching up against Dean's. They're kind of uncomfortably crammed on the couch, but Dean's getting used to this too, fitting himself on Castiel's couch.

"Do what?" he murmurs into Castiel's chest, licking over a nipple, and he gets Castiel's fingers in his hair in reward, tugging at him.

"Somehow manage to know where all my buttons are and press them. Are you psychic? Did Gabriel give you the numbers of my ex-boyfriends?"

"Nope. I'm just awesome at this." He lifts his head to grin as cockily as possible, and Castiel rolls his eyes, his fingers trailing down the back of Dean's neck to settle at the crook of his neck. Lowering his mouth, he leaves a wet trail of kisses up Castiel's chest until he settles on top of him again; one of Castiel's arm rests heavily on his lower back, keeping him in place. "And maybe I'm just fluent in Castielese," he murmurs, holding onto his smile.

Chuckling throatily, a dark, husky sound that Dean's started to look forward to almost as much as his kisses, Castiel brushes his thumb over Dean's lower lip. "I wouldn't be surprised. How am I at Deanish?"

He scrapes his teeth over the thumb pushing its way into his mouth before he answers, his tongue tracing patterns against the skin. "Mm, not bad. I'd give you an A... minus."

Then there's a jab of fingers against his ribs and more throaty laughter, swallowed up by kisses, drawn-out and playful, but there's a stillness washing over them that draws them to a stop. Dean leans his forehead against Castiel's shoulder, closes his eyes at the fingers that start to thread through his hair, and he's half anticipating what Castiel's going to say before he says it.

"It's getting late," Castiel murmurs.

Dean mumbles his reply and noses at Castiel's shoulder.

"Stay." It's hushed and nervous and demanding all at once, and Dean lifts his head, finding Castiel observing him with a question in his eyes, which have settled into a deep blue in the low light of the room, but they burn with the same intensity as always. "Don't go."

"Mr. Novak, I think you're trying to seduce me," is Dean saying yes, and Castiel's lips twitch into a smile.

"I think I already have. And don't get too cocky yet. I'm still holding onto my chastity here."

"You just want to have a sleepover with me?" Dean teases, but secretly he's glad because he wouldn't want it like this, and maybe that's girly of him to think, but it just doesn't feel... right, not right now, not just yet. Tonight's too perfect, too warm and comfortable and drowsy to try to cram sex in the middle of it.

"Let's save the pillow fights in our underwear for next time." Castiel pulls him in for a kiss, warm and lazy, and Dean sighs into it because, yeah, Castiel does a pretty good job of knowing what Dean likes too, and it isn't just about how to wind him up. This kind of kiss -- this winds him down, eases tension out of his shoulders, calms the constant thrum of worry that takes up shop at the back of Dean's mind, and it's not everyone who knows how to do that, either.

They put what's left of the pizza and beer in the fridge and drift into Castiel's bedroom, which is decorated like the rest of the house, with a dark blue bedspread that's pulled neat, but there are stacks of books on a dresser, papers piled up on his nightstand, and clothes in a small heap in the corner.

Maybe it isn't very hot that the first time Dean sees Castiel without any pants on isn't before sex, but it approaches something like 'romantic' before Dean starts backing wildly away from trying to figure this moment out. They slide under the covers and share another kiss, gentle and soft.

Dean would've guessed that it'd be hard for him to sleep like this, slotted against another person, after he's been on his own for so long, but it's surprisingly easy, and he remembers being a kid, crammed into a motel bed with Sammy, hearing him breathe and feeling him rustle around next to him all night. The first night they got their own rooms at Bobby's house, Dean couldn't sleep all night, the bed too wide and cold, the room too still and silent. He's gotten used to it now, enough so that he's surprised when Castiel's solid weight beside him brings a kind of comfort he'd forgotten he used to have.

With Castiel against him like an extra blanket, Dean falls asleep easily, lulled away by the rustling of covers and steady rhythm of two bodies relaxing into each other. He sleeps hard, too, until his phone buzzes sometime in the morning, and he stirs because he always does when his phone buzzes, because it might be Sam, or Bobby. He has to wriggle to the edge of the bed and strain, but he grabs his pants and the phone from his pocket. He's surprised to see that it's already almost eleven.


Sammy: What do you think would be better for Jess's birthday? Art museum or zoo? Should we go out to dinner or should I make dinner?


Me: Panties or bras.

He settles back on his pillow and Castiel stirs beside him, making a noise of complaint that distracts Dean with its surprising adorableness before his phone buzzes again.


Sammy: I can see why you have such a great track record with girlfriends.

Castiel groans again and throws an arm and leg over Dean, almost possessive in the way he latches onto him. "I hope you don't think you're going anywhere," he mumbles sleepily into Dean's shoulder.

He stares at Sam's text, something supremely uncomfortable rolling around in his stomach, a striking contrast to how warm and comfortable he is otherwise right now. So he ignores it.


Me: You asked. Go away i'm still sleepin

"No, I'm good," he tells Castiel, sliding a hand over his back, and he holds his phone in his palm until it gets hot, and he reaches over to set it on the nightstand. They doze for long enough that Dean stops thinking about that text message, stops wondering what his brother would think about this, and Castiel stirs again finally, his stubble scratching Dean's shoulder as he readjusts, pulls him closer.

"Was it Sam?" he asks, his voice gravelly with sleep, and Dean nods, which Castiel must feel because he doesn't say anything else; he inhales deeply instead and rolls away from Dean as he stretches. For all his talk of Dean's mojo, Castiel's got some of his own because Dean can't pull his eyes away from the roll of his body. He looks over when he finishes and smiles to see Dean staring at him. "How is he doing? Pre-law treating him well?"

This isn't a conversation he wants to have in Castiel's bed, at least not while they're staring at each other, so he rolls in and lays his head against Castiel's shoulder.

"Oh, sure. He's a genius. It's girls that give him trouble." Castiel's chuckle rumbles through Dean's cheek, and a hand slides against his hip, squeezing gently.

"And is he a secret mechanic too?"

"No," Dean says, and feels his throat get a little tighter, "he wasn't very good at it. He tried, but -- well, he had homework to do. That was more important."

"And you didn't?" There's a note of concern, mild surprise in Castiel's voice that Dean struggles not to think too hard about; he's grateful for this position, grateful they don't have to look at each other, because while this conversation makes Dean want to squirm, he doesn't want to squirm away from it. It occurs to him that he's rarely talked this out with anyone; he didn't need to with Sam or Bobby, and with girlfriends he'd mostly brushed it off.

"I was working. My dad, he -- " He sucks in a breath and the hand at his hip squeezes again, gently. "My mom died when I was a kid, and Sam was just a baby. It was just out of nowhere; an aneurysm, you know?" He swallows thickly and sighs, his eyes sliding shut. "Dad was a fucking wreck. Tried to get his shit together, but just couldn't manage it. We hopped motels while he tried to find work, but he always stopped going, or would just space out on the job, or would turn up drunk, and then we'd be off again. When I was fifteen, Bobby -- that's my dad's friend -- he got us an apartment, and my dad said he'd work the rent off, only he didn't. So I did."

"And Bobby owns a garage," he murmurs, his fingers tracing the column of Dean's spine, which is oddly grounding.

"One thing my dad did do," Dean says, finding the words bubbling up out of nowhere, "is fix up the Impala with me."

There are warm lips in his hair and Castiel's hand finds his, sliding their fingers together slowly, matching their palms, before he links their hands together and sets them against his chest. "It's a beautiful car. You keep it in very good shape."

"She," he corrects, smiling, and he kisses the nearest patch of skin he can reach. "Not an 'it.' She's a she."

"Oh, perdón," Castiel intones, the sarcasm heavy in his voice, "discúlpame, por favor."

When Dean jabs Castiel's side, he isn't expecting Castiel to be ready for him, or to be as strong as he apparently is, because he manages to flip Dean over and put up a good fight as Dean wrestles him back. Granted, the fight doesn't last very long, and their mouths meet in a kiss somewhere between Dean rolling Castiel back over and Castiel attempting to keep them from falling off the edge of the bed. Dean's still perched over Castiel when they come up for air, and he smiles, threading his fingers through Castiel's hair.

"What about you?" he asks, attempting to sort out the way Castiel's hair has managed to stick up while he slept. "What'd you do growing up?"

Though he sighs in a put-upon way that Dean knows is affected, the way the smile drains out of his eyes is real, and he reaches up to take Dean's hand out of his hair.

"Nothing terribly interesting. My father is an industrial architect, which means that he travels around the country for months at a time building cheese factories or yogurt factories, things like that. Sometimes he'd take Michael with him, and Lucifer -- "

"Lucifer?" Dean cuts in, frowning, and the smile returns to Castiel's eyes.

"Yes, Lucifer. My mother is a religious studies professor. A top scholar in the field, actually. Haven't you ever wondered about my name?" When Dean relents and nods, Castiel chuckles. "Michael is an obvious choice for a first born, and after that Mom really wanted to name her next son Lucifer. Gabriel was a surprise. If you recall, Gabriel was the one who came to Mary to tell her of the pregnancy."

Dean doesn't actually recall that at all, but he pretends like he does. "Right. So what's Castiel about? Is he the angel of the youngest sons?"

"No, nothing so elegant. He's the angel of Thursday." He lifts his eyebrows. "I was born on a Thursday. They had a name picked out for each day of the week. I was almost Uriel," he says with a frown, and Dean wrinkles his nose.

"Yeah, if you were my brother? I would've called you Urinal."

"Exactly. My mom was hoping I'd be born on Tuesday -- she had an appointment to have her labor induced then, actually, but I came early. My later obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was tainted by the knowledge that I could've been Raphael."

Laughing, Dean presses his face into the crook of Castiel's neck and breathes him in, kissing gently along his throat before he draws away again, and he shifts so he can prop his head up in his hand. "So what do your brothers do now?"

"Michael and Lucifer are lawyers, actually," he says, sliding his hand slowly up Dean's back, "at rival firms, of course. It's something of a joke at family reunions. Gabriel runs a TV production company."

"And how'd you wind up here?"

They've talked like this before -- easy conversation over wine in a noisy restaurant somewhere on the corner and somehow it's even easier when they're half-naked, and his brain's still fuzzed-over with sleep, and Castiel's fingertips are warm and idle where they rest on his arm. It's easy -- crazy easy, weirdly easy in a way that relationships usually aren't for Dean because usually he only feigns easiness until he gets too antsy, too afraid of settling into something permanent, and he squirms away. This is real, though, and he blinks away his thoughts on the subject as Castiel draws a breath.

"I've always been interested in languages. Spanish was my first, but then in high school I got the Italian Rosetta Stone and taught myself. When I got to college, I double majored in Spanish and Italian, with a minor in French, and I took classes in Latin. My MA is actually in comparative literature -- I picked up Portuguese for that," he says with a smile that's definitely encroaching on self-pride, and Dean would jump on him for that except shit. "But it's not easy finding a job in comp lit, so when it came time to pick a PhD program, I went with my first love."

"Damn," Dean says, and then to save a little face and not be so impressed, he adds, "you are a bigger nerd than I thought."

Smiling, Castiel touches Dean's cheek and brushes his thumb over his jaw. "How'd you go from fixing cars to Spanish literature?"

Sighing, Dean rolls over onto his back, his eyes landing on the ceiling. "That's a longer story. It was an accident, really." Castiel fits an arm over his chest and molds himself against Dean's side, his eyes bright and curious and probing in a way that just makes Dean want to talk.

"Tell me," he prompts softly.

"In high school, my grades were sort of... It wasn't what I was worried about."

No, he'd been worried about Sam, Sam's homework, their dinners, their dad's most recent bout of depression, and in the middle of it all, he was resentful, a little bit, that he couldn't just do normal teenage stuff. He didn't let that get in the way of taking care of Sammy or their dad, but it did get in the way of his homework.

"I was good at math, though, and Spanish, randomly, but language is kind of like math, you know, and the boys at the garage -- they'd help me." Dean stops because things get harder here, and Castiel nods, his fingers tracing over Dean's ribs, and he'd swear Castiel was counting them. He takes a deep breath, letting his eyes fall shut.

"My dad died about a month after I graduated high school. He'd started working again -- he was trying, I think, after I graduated, because he and Sam were fighting about how he should get some help for his depression, and Dad didn't want to admit that he was actually depressed. There was a car accident." The hand on his ribs flattens out, and Castiel pulls him closer. "It wasn't his fault, weirdly, because he'd driven drunk plenty of times. It was someone else, running a stop sign. Plowed into the side of him."

"I'm sorry, Dean," Castiel murmurs, and Dean tries to shrug it off.

"Anyway," he says thickly, pressing on, "Bobby had us move in with him, but his stipulation was that I had to go to college. Probably under any other circumstance I would've said fuck no," Dean says, huffing a humorless laugh, "but he caught me at a weak moment."

Castiel waits for him to continue; Dean finds a point on Castiel's ceiling to talk to.

"So I started at the community college, and it wasn't as bad as high school. I took Spanish, duh, but also some technical classes, and my favorite professor said I'd probably be good for engineering. I kind of liked the idea of that -- working with my hands, maybe getting a good job, earning some money. I transferred, but turns out -- I'm not that good at math." He laughs and scrubs a hand over his face.

"But I was still taking Spanish, and I was up to the major classes. My advisor said I should give it a shot, stick with it, see if I liked the lit classes better than math. No one was more surprised than I was when I did." He rolls his eyes and glances over when he feels rather than hears Castiel laugh softly, something tender and gentle in his eyes that Dean quickly works to ignore. "All those years Bobby kept getting after me to read, and here I am. Oh, you should've seen his face when I told him."

"Bobby sounds like a good man," Castiel murmurs, and Dean's smile grows fond.

"Yeah, he is." He runs out of words, already feeling like he's told his life story, and he and Castiel lay together for a few moments, with Castiel's fingers lightly following the swell of Dean's hips.

"Come on," Dean says finally, and he rolls onto his back. "I'm starving. I'll make breakfast, but only if you promise to help."

"Deal," Castiel says with a smile.

Somehow he doesn't manage to leave Castiel's house until it's getting dark. He probably would've stayed if it didn't feel too ridiculous, too coupley, too much after only a week together. The thing is, though, that he feels like they've been together far longer already, and it's difficult to get himself to leave.


Cuatro


Cas: Got afternoon plans?
Me: Yea actually. Sorry
Cas: What's more important than tostones and questionably appropriate makeout sessions in my living room?
Me: My costume for the dept Halloween party. Dude youre making tostones?
Cas: Oh, what's your costume? And yes.
Me: Cant say. Gotta be a surprise. Can I come over for dinner?
Cas: If you tell me what your costume is.
Me: Dude. No.
Cas: Then dude, no.
Me: Asshole. The surprise is part of the costume
Cas: Hmm... is it someone from Retablo de maravillas?
Me: I dont even know what that is. Dont depress me and remind me of comps
Cas: Fine. Have your secrets. And come over for dinner.
Cas: But there won't be any tostones left.


~

His office is quiet thanks to the kid making up a test, and he tries to look busy -- not that he doesn't have a reason to be busy because he does, but he just always feels the pressure to look professory when he's hanging around a student. He scrolls through the comps notes that have been filtering around the department for God knows how long to bone up on the text he should've read for today but didn't. Don Juan Tenorio sounds cool and all, but Dean was a little preoccupied over the weekend, okay.

Someone walks into the office, and he looks up, expecting it to be one of his officemates, but Castiel stands there instead, a little awkward in his eagerness, and his eyes flick from the student back to Dean's face. The way he adjusts his grip on his briefcase and shuffles the weight on his feet smacks of disappointment and Dean's stomach (and maybe other things) constrict at the thought of what Castiel might've done had Dean been alone.

"Is it someone from Latin American literature?"

Dean stares at him for a full five seconds before he laughs and leans back in his seat, aware that his student's watching now, but oh well -- this part is cool too. They're cute when they realize that their teachers are actually only a few years older than them and have lives, too.

"You realize even if you do guess, I'm not going to tell you?" Dean points out, and Castiel just shrugs. Dean relents with a sigh. "Nope. Other side of the pond. Though one year I will dress as Cortés and go around pickpocketing everyone."

Castiel smiles at him, a real smile, and he glances at the student before settling those eyes on him again. Dean silently wills Castiel to tone it down. It isn't that he's embarrassed about... Alright, maybe he's embarrassed about it, but only when he has to be in some semblance of power. He doesn't know what his students would think of him if they knew he was dating a dude.

"I'll be in my office if you'd like to get lunch later," he says and waits for Dean's nod before he turns around, his overcoat swaying out behind him as he leaves the office.

"Is there a Halloween party?"

He remembers this girl's name because it's spelled a little differently, though Dean's usually pretty good at names and faces anyway. Helps when you're charming your way through something, like missing class because your dad's a kind of a useless mess.

"Yeah, this Friday. It's pretty nerdy, actually."

"You're dressing up like a character in a book?" Jaymee asks, smiling at him. Dean's had to remember to keep in check his impulse to be vaguely flirty with most girls since becoming a TA, but he gets the distinct impression that they aren't as interested in being proper.

"Yup. But I can't tell you. It's a secret." He winks at her and watches her blush and giggle. Oh yeah, he's going to Hell. At least he won't come off completely gay. "What about you? You got a costume?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm the same thing every year. A cow."

"Nice," Dean says with a smile, and they both drift back into productivity. The reality check of him and Castiel being a thing -- like, a thing that people might become aware of -- is a little unsettling, and he lingers in his office even after Jaymee leaves; he absently stares at the comps notes but doesn't actually read them.

He's banged dudes before, but there wasn't a dating... thing to it, not really. It'd been at undergrad, and there'd been a lot of drunk parties, and some shit went down in the International House that he's sworn never to mention to another soul again. It was more of a friends-with-drunken-once-a-month-benefits than a boyfriend deal. And now he's fooling around without the influence of alcohol or irresponsibility, and it's... daunting.

But it's good, too. He likes it, likes Castiel's kisses and his cooking and his house, likes doing his work there, likes having someone he can call up and hang out with and talk to. Dean doesn't find it difficult to make friends, but his definition of friendship rarely involves intimacy; he just doesn't go there. Castiel is different, though; he pulls Dean in and keeps him still, keeps him steady.

Which is all why he's reluctant to question it. And anyway, maybe Castiel doesn't even want to call this anything official. Maybe this is just two guys with fucking amazing chemistry (even denial!Dean can't deny that) who are smart enough to enjoy it while it lasts.

He shuts his laptop and heads for Castiel's office. Intense thoughts about his sexuality demand sandwiches.


~

Dean chews on a pen as he squints at his laptop while he tries to condense a 17-page paper into a 250-word abstract when he isn't even entirely sure what the paper is about anymore, except monsters and magic in some Medieval text and how they contrast with humanity or some shit like that. Whatever, it got him a pretty decent grade, and if he polishes it up he can read it at this grad student thing in the spring and look awesome and proactive.

"I hate Practicum," his officemate, a first year, announces from his desk as he slams a book shut and shoves it in his bag. "It's such a waste of time. The information is valuable, but do I really need to read 20 pages about classroom arrangement and then write a reflection and then film myself and then reflect on my reflection?"

Dean snorts and spins his chair around; he plucks the pen from his mouth and points it at Andy. "The answer to that question is a resounding no. I guess it's sort of like our hazing ritual. Just bullshit your way through it and you'll be fine."

Andy sighs and rolls his eyes, shouldering his bag, but he cuts off his reply as Castiel materializes in the doorway.

"Hello," he says warmly.

"Hi. Well, I'd better go." Andy gives Dean another disgusted look before he starts down the hall.

"Can you at least tell me what period?" Castiel asks, tilting his head.

These requests for hints are almost how they've been saying hello, and Dean smirks, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Nope."

"Is it contemporary?"

Dean snorts and starts a retort to the effect of, "I am not about to play twenty questions with you," when the humor trails out of his voice. Castiel very casually shuts the door to Dean's office and turns around with a mildly amused, mildly expectant expression.

"Oh, good. I hate that game. I can think of others I like better."

Maybe Castiel should dress up as a fucking wizard for Halloween because all it takes is for him to tilt his head like that, to put a new shade to his eyes, and suddenly the air in the room starts to sizzle with anticipation. Dean licks over his lips in an effort to keep his mouth from going too dry, and he leans back in his seat, spreading his legs a little wider, draping his arms over the armrests.

"Oh yeah? Maybe you can teach me one," he says lowly, and maybe he should be more concerned about doing this in his office, but on Wednesday afternoons there's usually no one else in here because all the newbies have Practicum, and the only other second year in the office doesn't come in until 3 (lucky bastard).

"I'd love to, though you're going to have to get out of that chair." Castiel exudes composure, but his voice is already a notch lower, and he isn't always making eye contact, and a small thrill runs through Dean.

He rises slowly, feeling Castiel's eyes on him the whole way, and he takes a small step closer, setting his hands on his hips.

"Any reason you have to teach me in my office?" His voice, however, betrays just how good of an idea he thinks all this is.

"Because your office has an inexplicable couch. I thought we might put it to good use."

Dean glances at the "couch" -- really it's more of a loveseat. It's not that comfortable to sit on, but he refers to it jokingly as their waiting area, and it is pretty convenient when students come around. Reaching out with his foot, he nudges it.

"Dunno, it's pretty small."

"I can work with it." He hears it -- a splinter in Castiel's otherwise flawless restraint, a wrinkle in his deadpan demeanor -- and then Castiel grabs Dean's shirtfront and they're kissing, mouths meeting in a hungry and surprisingly heated mix of tongues and lips. It's surprising only because the atmosphere of the office is hardly erotic; he can hear someone flush in the men's bathroom next door, but Castiel doesn't stop kissing him. Instead, Dean finds himself backed up to the couch, and Castiel tries to push him down, but Dean's too tall for that, or the couch is too short, and he half-loses his balance as he blindly attempts to find the cushion.

"Sorry," Castiel mutters, breathless, and he hovers in front of Dean. "It is small, isn't it?"

Dean rolls his eyes and reaches for Castiel to pull him down. "I can work with it," he breathes before he kisses Castiel again, Castiel rising to meet him. He isn't exactly thrilled about the idea of waiting for his boner to go away before he can go home, so he tones down the intensity. Castiel seems to have the same idea, and their kisses turn slow, sensual, exploring.

He settles his hand against the back of Castiel's neck, keeping him close, and the light pressure of Castiel's hand on his upper arm, where he squeezes and clings gently like he's trying not to drown, or trying to keep Dean from drowning, sends more than one kind of warmth through him. He just goes with it, tries not to name it, and drags his hand down to Castiel's shoulder, his thumb brushing against his pulse point. Castiel makes a small noise and draws Dean closer.

The handle to Dean's office moves, but the door locks automatically when it's shut; a soft knock follows, and then possibly the worst thing Dean could hear comes from the other side.

"Castiel? Is this where you disappeared off to?"

Fuck. They leap apart and Dean swipes a sleeve over his mouth as he shares a guilty look with Castiel. It's another professor on the other side of the door, and what's worse, one of the ones that Dean's going to have to suck up to because he's one of the modern Latin America guys.

"Yes, Balthazar," Castiel answers, and Dean hurries to his computer chair while Castiel opens the door. "Did you need something?"

Balthazar leans in and smirks when his eyes land on Dean. "Am I interrupting something?"

"Castiel," Dean clears his throat because he only awkwardly remembered the –tiel, "is helping me work on this paper I wrote. I want to submit it to this monsters conference. It's no big though; I can email it to you. That'd probably be better, anyway."

Castiel needs to get better at lying because the relief in his face lasts a little too long, and he turns back to Balthazar. "I'm free."

Balthazar's lips turn up in a smile that's too knowing for Dean's tastes. "So I see. Castiel, I need to talk to you about the changes we're making to the 3010 course. If you'd follow me to my office...?"

"Of course. Goodbye, Dean." Castiel's so stiff he may as well have stuck an 'I was just making out' sign on his forehead, and Dean really wants to wipe the smirk off Balthazar's face as he looks at Dean again. There's something far too much like glee in his eyes, and Dean doesn't want to know how to interpret that. At least it isn't disgust, anyway.

"Later."

They get as far as the door before Balthazar turns, his hand on the handle, and the bastard looks like he's about to laugh. Great. Dean was supposed to have a class with him next semester. "Shall I shut this again?"

"No, that's fine. I should go soon actually." Dean musters his most winning smile.

At least he won't have to worry about walking home with a hard-on because that effectively killed the mood. He shoves things in his bag and tries very hard not to think about what just happened, about what's happening, because mid-week makeouts in his office are actually an improvement to his life. Balthazar didn't seem eager to run to the Dean of Graduate Studies, and maybe, if Dean tries hard enough, he can wring some sort of justification out of his brain. These professors have to be cultured, right? He's seen enough Safe Space stickers on the doors of professors' offices; they can't think badly of him for being... for having... this whatever.

He still feels a sick weight in the pit of his stomach, but he clenches his jaw and gathers up his things. The weight will go away; he'll will it away. It just needs some time to settle.


~

Dean's on his way to Castiel's for dinner when Sam calls.

"Hey. What's up?"

"Uh, nothing." Dean shuffles his bag onto his shoulder and closes his hand around his keys. "I'm on the way out the door, though. What do you need, Sam?"

"Again?"

The tone of Sam's voice stops Dean's hand, stalls it in its trip to the doorknob, and he remembers Sam calling the other day, and the one before that; he'd been at Castiel's, and he slipped into the other room to talk.

"Hey, man, sorry. Got bit by the academic bug." He sets his bag down on the floor and turns around, headed for his couch; he tries to keep the guilt out of his voice, but there's no avoiding the return of that sick weight, only now it's affecting more than just his stomach.

"Yeah, sure. Why can't you just tell me that you're dating someone?"

Dean's mouth goes dry. "What? What're you talking about, Sammy? I'm not -- "

"Please, Dean. You? The academic bug? Yeah, right." Sam's sigh is heavy on the other end of the line, but Dean's sure he can hear something fond in his voice too, and he clings to that. "I'm guessing it's pretty serious, if you're being this cagey about it."

"Uh," Dean starts, falters, and scrubs his hand over his face. "Sammy, I'm not -- I don't -- "

"Okay, okay, jeez. It's just an emotion, Dean, don't pull a muscle. Fine, we don't have to talk about it. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

There's a definite gentleness to Sam's voice there, and Dean can't decide if it makes all this better or worse.

"Yeah, okay. Later, Sammy."

He turns the phone over in his hands, slides his thumb between the flip-lid and the buttons, until the phone gets warm in his hands. Keeping all this a secret from his students is just par for the course, and parading your relationship around the department isn't kosher, but he knows this isn't the kind of secret you go around keeping from your family.

It'd been easy, until now, because it'd been so fast; he and Castiel were skating along the surface of their sexual tension, and then suddenly there was kissing and tostones and their life stories, and Castiel was just there. Dean tripped along with it because it felt good -- feels good, and he doesn't want it to end.

And -- well. Sam's across the country, and Bobby's two states away. Dean had a hard time adjusting to life away from Sammy, but now he's come to enjoy that he's cultivated a world for himself where he's Dean Winchester, but not the poor kid with the drunk dad, not the pseudo-father of his brother, not the guy with the black and white vision of the world that his dad had groomed him into being.

There's something deceptively safe about this world because Sam so rarely visits it; Sam's never spent more than a few days at a time at Dean's apartment here, and they spend their summers at Bobby's. The idea of having a world that's uniquely Dean's is exotic, is almost selfish, but he's come to cherish it, however guiltily.

He doesn't want to give it up, not now, not yet.


~

His costume, really, is all about his entrance. That's why Dean's sitting on the (clean, he checked) counter in the second floor men's room, one foot swinging idly. Halloween isn't really a favorite thing of his, beyond the free candy and the chance to dress up once a year. That, and teepeeing the houses of class-A douchebags. Dean figures he can't really get away with that anymore, but he bought extra toilet paper, anyway, just in case his upstairs neighbors ding-dong ditch him again tonight.

Coming up with a costume is what he really gets excited about, and he'd had ideas this year of finally being Cortés, or maybe Columbus, and was working on his pickpocketing skills when they read Estudiante de Salamanca in his Romanticism class, and that pretty much decided it.

He doesn't feel as manly as he could in these tight black pants, but he does actually draw the line at knee socks. The cape does a hell of a lot to boost his confidence, and the belt around his waist that holds a thin rapier, which he coated in fake blood, makes him feel a little bit like a badass.

His phone buzzes on the counter, and he flips it open.


Cas: I'm here. Are you?


Me: Hold your horses jfc. Are there people there?


Cas: Yes, the turnout's as good as it's probably going to be.


Me: Ok I'll be there in a few.

Dean slides off the counter and picks up his hat, which used to have a big feather on it, but that's another line he's not interested in crossing. He thinks he still looks appropriately striking, once he pulls it down low over his forehead, and his eyes get swallowed up in shadows. His phone buzzes again as he turns around to make sure he hasn't gotten anything on the back of his pants.


Cas: This costume had better be impressive or I'm going to be severely disappointed.

Dean double checks before answering, but yeah, his ass looks pretty good; he gives himself a smirk of approval.


Me: Trust me. You'll like it.

He slips his phone into his pocket and starts for the elevator, since it deposits him in the back hallway of the department. The hallway's deserted, and he slinks up to the door to the computer room. Since this room hooks onto the lounge, they've turned both into party rooms, but the food's in the lounge so there aren't many people over here. He doesn't think about how the combination lock on this door could foil his entire plan -- after all, Don Félix de Montemayor would hardly be a badass if he struggled with temperamental doorknobs -- but it yields to him, miraculously, and he pulls the door open.

Dean practically has a master's in swaggering, and he makes his way through the computer room, aware of the eyes on him and the laughter from the students who get the joke. He doesn't look at anyone as he enters the lounge, and he tries to walk as "mysteriously" as possible over to the food table, crammed in the corner. It's a really bad time for a Ke$ha song to get stuck in his head, but the party really hasn't started, clearly, until now.

"Damn," Jo, another grad student, says with a laugh, and she plops her Indiana Jones hat back on her head. "I feel like we should all be playing poker right now."

The cluster of students around her and a few professors laugh, nod their compliments at Dean on his costume, and turn back to their conversations. Dean kind of desperately wants to look for Castiel, but that's not what Don Félix would do, so instead he focuses on piling his plate with lame cheese and some cookies that someone decorated all Day of the Dead-like. It doesn't take long for Castiel to find him anyway.

"Very impressive," he says, his voice a low rumble, and Dean hopes no one else recognizes the sex-tones in it. "Don Juan Tenorio?" Castiel's got one arm in a sling, and he's wearing what looks like a repurposed colonial costume.

"You are such a Cervantes fanboy," Dean says, fond, then a smug grin takes over his face. "And nope. Don Félix." He pops a carrot slice into his mouth and watches Castiel take in his costume again. The anxiety he's feeling right now about Castiel's sex looks is probably good; it'll keep his own sex looks off his face.

"Isn't he the one with no redeeming qualities?" Castiel asks with a frown, but his eyes are lit up with some mixture of amusement and arousal that Dean appreciates.

"He's the one that goes out with a big 'fuck you' to everyone," Dean counters, lowering his voice automatically. "God, the devil -- Félix just thumbs his nose at all of 'em. Tells 'em all to fuck off." The swearing has brought him a step closer to Castiel; that, and the secretary just squeezed behind him to get at the cookies. He's in Castiel's space now, closer than he would like, but they're not too close yet.

"That's blasphemy, Dean," Castiel says, and he tilts his head. Dean isn't sure what the appraising look is for, but it's making him forget the room around them and then remember it again with painful clarity.

"Yeah," Dean says, his eyes falling to their shoes and back up again. "Well, ol' Félix and me, we're not too concerned about the nature of our sins." His eyes lock with Castiel's for a moment before he grins and huffs a laugh. "Besides, his story's all full of ghosts and skeletons and creepy houses. Don Juan ends with an angelic chorus. So not Halloween."

Castiel chuckles his dry, breathless laugh, but Dean notices that his eyes never waver from Dean's face. Someday maybe he'll find that creepy, but right now it just makes Dean realize how fidgety he gets, how hot and bothered Castiel makes him with just a look.

"That's right. Will you be following a ghost home, then?"

They're nearly whispering now, but with how loud the room is, that means they're also half lip-reading, and Castiel gets shuffled closer to him as someone tries to get behind him to reach her purse by the wall.

"Nah. I like my conquests to be room temperature at least. That's where Félix and I differ. I've got standards."

"Excuse me, boys."

Dean and Castiel look up at the same time to find Crowley, Dean's Enlightenment and Romanticism professor, standing in front of them.

"Mind if I reach through your sexual tension and get a brownie?"

Dean's going to have to give Castiel a lesson on keeping a straight face; his face flushes so fast it nearly gives Dean a head rush, though that may also be because Dean's blushing too, he's pretty sure. He steps back and reaches up to adjust his hat, his eyes flicking around the room.

"Great costume, Dean," Crowley approves as he sets his brownie on a Halloween napkin. "I applaud your attention to detail. If Castiel here pines away from love in the next few weeks, I'll know just who to blame. And then he'll have to kill your brothers." Crowley turns a devilish smile at Castiel. "How convenient, hm? Well, I'll leave you two boys to smolder quietly by the snack table. Happy Halloween."

He lifts his brownie at them in a pseudo-toast before he slips away, and Dean notices that he's heading directly for Balthazar, too. Fuck.

"That could've gone worse," Castiel says beside him, and Dean's head snaps up.

"Worse?"

But he stalks off before Castiel has a chance to talk, before the surprised, wounded look in his eyes transfers to his words, and he seeks out the sangria and his officemates, clustered in the opposite corner. He stays only long enough not to make a scene with his exit; there's a trivia game he unfortunately has to hang around for, but he makes sure to put himself on a team that doesn't involve Castiel, or any other professors. As soon as that's over, he makes his way for the exit, and the tension doesn't ease out of his shoulders until he steps outside into the cool fall air.

That lasts all of five seconds.

"Dean."

He doesn't turn around to face Castiel, but his hands ball into fists at his sides, more out of an effort to keep himself from storming away than anything else.

"What happened in there?" The edge to Castiel's voice should tell Dean that this is a dangerous conversation, but he doesn't really want to listen to the warning, not right now.

"Cas, I've got to catch my bus," he says, dismissive, and thankfully he can see his bus approaching now. He starts for the bus stop, and he doesn't need to turn around to tell that Castiel is following him.

"I parked nearby," Castiel starts, but Dean cuts him off with a raised hand, and he finally looks over his shoulder, a dark glint to his eyes. He was going to say something, but the words drift off at the sight of Castiel looking small in the dim early evening light, his shoulders rounded off and hurt, with confusion dulling the usual bright, piercing blue of his eyes. His silence seems to be answer enough to Castiel, whose lips draw together in a firmer line, and Dean heads for the bus stop. He keeps his eyes trained ahead this time, ignoring Castiel behind him.

The bus ride could be more awkward, what with the cape and his pissed off expression, except it's a college town and there isn't much anyone on that bus hasn't seen before. On the way home, he tries to erase systematically nearly everything from that evening, but he can't figure out where he ought to start: Crowley's smug face; how uncharacteristically small Castiel looked with his arm bundled up at his side; how characteristically warm Castiel had made him feel in front of the snack table when all Dean could see when he looked into those eyes was his own reflection staring back at him.

He doesn't make much progress by the time he gets home.

He tears the cape off and yanks the sword off the belt, and he stands in his kitchen, hands on his hips and sick frustration making him entirely unfit for sleep or TV, and if he tried to drink now, he's pretty sure he'd just wind up throwing up or crying or something pathetic, and he doesn't want to do any of those things. If he were in high school -- if he were in high school he would just pick a fight with someone, punch out everything he's feeling until there's nothing left and he can start over again, clean slate.

He isn't in high school anymore, but he's halfway to putting on jeans instead and heading to a bar when there's a knock on his door.

Dean grits his teeth and sighs. It's probably a neighbor, but he can't think of what anyone would want; he isn't in a particularly charitable mood, but he goes to the door anyway and pulls it open.

Castiel still has the sling around his neck, but his arm isn't in it anymore; he took off the jacket, at least, but his shirt still has frilly sleeves, and none of it matches the intent in his eyes.

"We're going to talk," he says, firm and determined, and he steps forward, nearly putting himself chest-to-chest with Dean. Not wanting to fight Castiel, at least not physically, Dean steps away, but his hands curl into fists anyway.

"How'd you get in the building?" he demands instead of agreeing to any kind of talk, and Castiel shrugs his usual shrug -- just one shoulder lifting up and down in a twitch of nonchalance -- but somehow it manages to look threatening and cold.

"Buzzed one of your neighbors. It's not like your security's tight."

Castiel shuts the door behind him and stalks into Dean's apartment like he owns it, and Dean clenches his jaw as he trails after him.

"Are you going to tell me what happened back at the party?" he asks, rounding on Dean. He can never quite get his apartment bright enough; probably he needs a different kind of fluorescent light in his kitchen, but right now his apartment's full of a murky orange glow that makes shadows in the corners and in Castiel's eyes, though Dean's not convinced that's entirely a trick of the light.

"What, like you weren't there?" Dean isn't about to let himself be intimidated in his own house, and he shoulders past Castiel to his fridge to pull out a beer. He opens it against the counter and takes a long pull, and his skin crawls more and more with each heavy second of Castiel's silence.

"If you're worried about Crowley, I talked to them -- him and Balthazar -- and they assured me that this relationship, while not ideal would not be -- "

But the roaring in Dean's ears cuts out most of what Castiel's saying, and he steps forward, his eyes darkening.

"You talked to them," he repeats heavily, and Castiel's face flickers.

"Yes," Castiel returns, just as heavily. "After you stormed off to sulk in a corner, I spoke with -- "

"About this relationship," Dean interrupts, with venom, and Castiel's words taper off; his mouth settles into a thin line, and Dean's not very surprised to learn that those eyes, so expressive and blue, can turn so steely and sharp.

"That is what I called it, yes. Do you disagree with my word choice?" His eyes narrow and there's nothing very professor-ly about the question.

The problem is, mainly, that Dean doesn't disagree. He doesn't know what else to call what they're doing, what they've been playing at, and though he's been avoiding it, in this moment he knows that there's no word for what Castiel is to him other than 'boyfriend,' at least not functionally. He's caught, but then he was already an animal in a trap when Castiel pushed his way in here. He retaliates accordingly.

"I do now," he says, voice tight. Castiel's eyes open wider and then narrow again, until the blue's almost indistinguishable from between his eyelashes. "You can just tell Balthazar and Crowley that there's nothing to worry about." He turns around because he doesn't really want to see the consequences of this; he stares into his sink instead as he listens to Castiel breathe in and out, bitter and disbelieving. Castiel laughs, hollowly, and Dean grips his beer tighter.

"I thought it would be a fucking tragedy if we let this slip away from us."

It hurts, having his words thrown back at him, but he doesn't turn around.

"Dean, they don't care. If I taught at the graduate level, then it would -- "

Dean sighs and sets his beer down heavily, the sound loud in the kitchen, and it seems to pave the way for him to be able to hear Castiel think behind him, hear his clothes rustle as he adjusts his weight on his feet.

"It's not them, is it?" Castiel asks, voice hushed. "It's us. It's this -- it's because you 'aren't gay.'"

Dean can hear the air quotes, and they're like slaps to his face, both of them; he grips his beer tight enough that he reconsiders, forces his grip looser, to avoid breaking the glass in his fist.

"Jesus," Castiel exhales behind him, and his shoes scrape across the linoleum. "Fine. If you're going to let that stop you, then fine." Castiel's walking to the door, and Dean feels each step reverberate through him, jolting the nerves in his stomach. He holds tight to his anger and whirls around.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he bites out.

"It means that you're being ridiculous." Castiel sounds tired, and his eyes are hollow as he holds his hands out. "That you're being the coward you told me not to be."

Dean doesn't respond right away; he swallows with an audible click instead, meeting the challenge in Castiel's eyes, even when he knows that he'll lose that challenge. Yeah, he's being a coward; there's no way to argue around that, but he still doesn't appreciate being told that to his face.

"I'm not a coward," Dean says thickly, and Castiel's shoulder lifts and settles, once.

"No, you aren't," he agrees, the corner of his mouth lifting in measured nonchalance, "but you're acting like one. Actually, this might be the moment you become one, so you might want to pay attention. You'll probably want to remember this."

Dean's head actually hurts from the swirl of thoughts in his mind; they press at his temples until they throb, and he can't catch hold of one thought long enough to analyze it, decide if it's worth keeping or throwing back. He knows, though, that he floods with sick relief when Castiel stops walking to the door. He could go through with this, could really let Castiel walk out the door, if he had a good reason, something compelling, but all he has is something labeled cowardice, and what Castiel has to offer is a lot more appealing.

"Cas," he says, breaking, and he covers his eyes with his hand. Castiel's shoes scuff on his kitchen floor again, coming closer.

"Dean."

It's a mystery to him how Castiel manages to pack so much into just his name, but it's all there, his muted offering of peace along with the hard reminder that Dean still needs to apologize too. He could still back out of this; he could still shut down, kick Castiel out of his house and avoid that hallway in the department, but it seems careless, wasteful to throw someone away who can reach right through him to all his dark, secret places and rattle his self-made cages.

He drops his hand and opens his eyes, and Castiel's there, frustrated but waiting, patient, exuding a warmth that Dean can't, doesn't want to resist. Dean reaches out a hand, and Castiel moves forward, until Dean can grip his forearm and brush his thumb against the inside of his wrist. He takes a breath, breathes in Castiel's aftershave, faint now, and the somewhat musty smell lingering in his shirt, from the costume.

Dean isn't good at words, not when they matter. He can bullshit a paper with the rest of them, but genuine words, when the grade really matters, that isn't his specialty. His apology is in the way he tips his head forward, presses his face into the crook of Castiel's neck, and holds on, drawing Castiel in close against him. Castiel's arm winds around him and keeps him close, and his breath teases Dean's ear as they stand in each other's arms for a moment, two.

"We can move as slow as you need to, Dean," Castiel murmurs, and his voice rumbles in his chest, vibrates against Dean. "But not so slow that we wind up going backwards."

He nods, his nose bumping Castiel's shoulder, and then he straightens up.

"No going backwards," he promises, and he thinks he means it.

Castiel nods, just a twitch of his head, and then leans in to seal their agreement with a kiss, light and bittersweet. They rest their foreheads together and don't move, breathing each other's air shallowly, before Dean breaks the spell; he leans back against the counter and draws Castiel with him, his hands settling on the small of his back.

The moment is fragile, as most regrowth is, and Dean doesn't quite know how to handle it, except they can only awkwardly absorb each other's presence for so long before it becomes a problem. Dean feels words bubbling up, eager to break this tension, and he hopes that enough time's passed for them to move beyond wounded sighs and dark looks.

"You know, I don't think going fast is the issue here. Just about every other relationship I've had started out with getting naked first," he says, a wry twist to his lips, and Castiel smirks too, his eyes rolling upward for a moment.

"Of course they did, Don Félix." His voice is light, and he leans in for another kiss, this one less tentative, more sure of itself, and it spreads through Dean like reassurance. Dean's hand rubs small circles against Castiel's back when he pulls away, and there's a thoughtfulness in his eyes now that wasn't there when he leaned in for the kiss.

"In that case... Maybe we ought to speed things up a little, then." Castiel's eyes burn into Dean's, and he lines their bodies up, pressing in against Dean.

"Might help," he agrees, a little breathless from the whiplash of all this, but makeup sex has never been something he's turned down; makeup sex that also happens to be first time sex, he hopes, won't turn out to be a total disaster. Castiel leans in close, his lips parted, but he hovers over Dean's mouth, leans away from him when he tries to catch his lips; when he finally allows a kiss, it's light and breathy, and his tongue teases just along the seam of Dean's mouth before it's gone again.

"I would just like to state that this -- argument aside -- was my plan for the evening the moment I saw you in this costume," he breathes against Dean's mouth, and Dean's lucky he hears it over the thrumming of his heart in his chest.

"Can't say the same for you," Dean admits, his lips twitching into a smirk. Castiel laughs, his forehead resting against Dean's temple.

"You mean you aren't turned on by literary geniuses?" he says, recovering, as he kisses the shell of Dean's ear.

"Not in frilly shirts." He runs his palm over the front of Castiel's shirt to demonstrate, and Castiel's hands tighten on his hips.

"You'd better help me out of it, then." His voice rumbles with promise in his ear, down Dean's neck, until it hits his chest and then it's everywhere, reverberating through him and heightening his senses, tuning them all to Castiel.

Despite the shaky middle ground of their evening, they fall back in together easily -- and, well, isn't that their story, anyway? This has always been easy, something just waiting for them to come along and notice it, give in to it, and they give into it now, pulling at each other's clothes as they make a staggered path over to Dean's bed. Castiel's sling gets caught on his ear, and the knot on Dean's cape somehow becomes incredibly difficult to untie, and they both laugh as they yank each other free.

It's kind of unspeakably amazing to pin Castiel to his bed, his bed which admittedly hasn't seen a whole lot of action since he came here, but then Castiel flips him over, holds Dean's hips tight, and scrapes his teeth along his shoulder, and Dean's pretty sure everything about this night from here on out is going to be unspeakably amazing.

Dean knows Castiel's a practiced grinder, but he doesn't really realize how handy that skill is until their cocks are sliding together, and Castiel's breath is hot and ragged in his ear already; they're only getting started, but the way their hips roll together sends flashes of need through Dean until he's gasping.

"Fuck," he exhales, and Castiel chuckles, brokenly, at his ear. "I could come just from this."

"Another time, maybe. Or round two." He draws away, a smile on his face, and Dean's heart would skip a beat at the eagerness in Castiel's eyes, but it's too busy pounding out a rhythm in his chest. And then Castiel's gone, or that's what it seems like, because all Dean notices is his mouth, pressing and licking and biting, here and there, on his way down Dean's body.

His stubble -- perpetually there no matter the time of day, and Dean likes it when they're kissing until it makes his face go numb and tingly, but by then he's numb, so whatever -- brushes the swell of his thigh when Castiel transfers his attention there, and Dean shivers, actually shivers, so Castiel gives one of his throaty chuckles. Doesn't stop, really, even when he closes his mouth around Dean's cock, and Dean hopes that's all for effect and not amusement over his cock or anything.

He rules that out almost immediately. His cock is anything but laughable.

It turns out that the mess Castiel calls his hair is good for gripping, as Dean's fingers find out; they slide in and find purchase, and Castiel groans around Dean's cock, which makes his breath hitch. They're a tangle of cause-and-effect; Castiel's mouth slides off and he tongues at the slit instead, and Dean's hips twitch, and so Castiel grips them tighter, his fingers digging in. It's really, horribly wrong that Dean's last near-conscious thought is that this is like some sick, perverted porno of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

After that, there's just wet heat and wet noises and Castiel's mouth, as eager and practiced as his hips, and Dean loses himself to it all. He moans, he thinks; he really isn't paying much attention to anything the hand at the base of his cock now and the mouth that slides to meet it. Nothing else seems important until the need for release swells, pounces him and leaves him breathless, and his back arches.

He gasps, once, "Cas -- "

He doesn't breathe as his climax hits him, as his cock twitches in Castiel's mouth, as his hips stutter and jerk; when things start to calm down, he blinks, coming to, at least enough to notice that somewhere through it all, Castiel and Dean latched onto one of each other's hands.

Castiel uses that to draw himself up, and he falls on Dean, noses at his neck and nips at his earlobe. He ruts against Dean, his cock sliding in the space between his hip and his thigh, and he makes a noise -- eager, impatient -- as he draws Dean's hand to his cock. The eagerness is what reaches through Dean's post-orgasmic bliss and rattles him enough to make him pay attention, and he laughs as he skirts his fingers up the length of Castiel's cock.

"You are, like, the embodiment of sex right now," he says, and Castiel makes an impatient noise again, biting Dean's shoulder.

"Whatever you say," he near-moans, and his hips thrust toward Dean's hand, "just -- please -- I -- quiero -- "

Dean's comment about how Castiel is so incoherent he's slipping into a whole other language is cut off by Castiel kissing him abruptly, and Dean tastes himself mixed up with all the usual tastes of Castiel, and Castiel rocks against Dean's hand again, but this isn't how Dean wants this to go. He rolls them over and breaks out of the kiss; his fingers tease the base of Castiel's cock, and his free hand cups his neck.

"¿Qué quieres, Cas?" he murmurs, his voice hazed with lust.

Castiel's breath comes out in a huff, and Dean isn't sure if it's from impatience or arousal or what, and Castiel's hand slides over his arm, clutching.

"Can't -- I can barely think in English, Dean; just blow me," he growls, but it's a whiny kind of a growl, and Dean can't help but smirk.

Dean tuts and drags his thumb over the head of Castiel's cock before he pulls his hand away, settles it on his hip instead. "Español, por favor."

"Really?" Castiel rolls his eyes, sighs again, and appears to be concentrating; he licks his lips and Dean's eyes follow the movement, and he almost forgets his game entirely, eager to chase that tongue back into its mouth. "Vale -- no puedo esperar, no quiero esperar. Te necesito. Adesso," he adds, and then frowns. "Ora? No -- joder, Dean, por favor."

Dean tilts his head, distracted by what he thinks is Italian. "¿Ahora?"

", ahora, coño." It's fonder now, and he pulls Dean in for a kiss that's as much teeth as it is tongue; he nibbles Dean's lips, draws them into his mouth, licks over them, as he rocks his hips up against Dean's again. "Tócame," he murmurs against Dean's lips, his fingers threading through his hair and sliding down to his neck.

And that, said so seriously, goes straight to Dean's cock, and he thinks again about Castiel mentioning a round two. He obeys, though, and doesn't make Castiel wait much longer; he leaves sloppy kisses down Castiel's torso and settles between his legs. It's been a while -- a long, long while -- since he gave one of these, but he's not sure Castiel really needs a lot of skill at this point.

His cock is salty and solid, and Dean fits his mouth over it, a hand coming up to grip the base. Castiel makes a noise of relief and there's a hand in his hair then, fingers slipping through the short strands, but it seems to get frustrated and settles on his shoulder instead. Dean finds a rhythm, jerky and slow, his grip uncertain, before he pulls off and decides if he wants to do this, he'll have to get a little acquainted with Castiel's cock first. He traces the length with his tongue, mouths over the head, runs his fingers up the underside, and he learns the shape and weight of Castiel's cock as Castiel's fingers dig into his shoulder.

"Más," Castiel groans, and Dean, confidence bolstered, complies.

He finds a rhythm again, steadier, and drags his mouth over Castiel's cock until Castiel starts making these noises; they're quiet at first, from somewhere deep in the back of his throat, but they get louder, little keening sounds of want and need. Dean thinks he hears his name in there somewhere, but Castiel's so breathless it's hard to be sure.

He does hear his name once, though, clearly, when Castiel tenses up and hisses Dean with a desperation he isn't quite expecting; it'd knock him breathless too, if he wasn't already a little, if he wasn't concentrating too hard on the slide of Castiel's cock over his tongue. Castiel moans through his orgasm loud enough that Dean hopes his neighbors hear -- the ones that have loud, annoying sex on the squeakiest bed ever made at 8 in the morning -- and then he relaxes, a dead weight in Dean's bed.

Dean crawls up and takes his time, now that he has it; he kisses Castiel's hipbone, then his ribs, then follows the line of his sternum up until he settles beside Castiel, his mouth resting against his shoulder. It's a while before either of them speaks, content to catch their breath and hold each other, even though Dean's starting to get a little cold. That's just everywhere he isn't touching Castiel; the parts of him that are slotted against him are hot, overheated, and Dean leans into him, chasing the warmth.

"Dean," Castiel murmurs finally, and Dean mumbles a reply against his skin. "I know too many languages for you to make me switch to one in bed. Don't make me want to go on Word Reference while your hand is literally inches away from my cock."

Dean's laugh is rusty with his tiredness in the wake of everything, and he burrows closer, his smile brushing Castiel's skin.

"But it's hot when you do," he counters, and he feels Castiel's answering smile against his forehead.

"I'll grant you that. Just don't make it into an ultimatum; I can't always guarantee what language will come out." Castiel pauses, and Dean feels his smile widen. "Think of it as Polyglot Roulette."

Dean groans because it's really not that good of a joke, and he pushes himself up onto his elbow to look down at Castiel. "This is the nerdiest sex I think I've ever had."

Castiel's hair is insane, sticking up different directions, when it isn't matted to his forehead, and his eyes are a dark blue, which Dean thinks is more a result of sex than a trick of the light. His smile is warm and soft when he reaches a hand up to touch the line of Dean's jaw, and then the corner of his mouth twitches wryly.

"I'm not sure if I should consider that a challenge or not."

"You know what's sad?" Dean asks as he pulls away. "I don't either."

He turns out the kitchen light, and he slides into bed with Castiel; he tangles himself with blankets and sheets and Castiel's legs, and he falls asleep to the sound of Castiel's breathing, soft and steady beside him.


Cinco

Dean's pretty sure that if he ever meets Juanes, he's going to punch him in the face. "A Dios le pido" starts up behind him again as one of the new master's students click-clacks away on her lesson plan that's got so many details and time markers and little notes to herself that Dean wonders if she penciled herself in some time to breathe, too. The worst thing -- the absolute worst thing -- about freaking Juanes is that his songs are freaking useful sometimes, eating up ten precious minutes of class time and demonstrating culture or whatever along with grammar points, and so Dean's lesson plan for tomorrow features the exact song that makes him want to blast Metallica across the campus until his ears bleed out the disease.

The shit he goes through, all in the name of education.

He hunches further over his copy of El médico de su honra and sings Journey in his head, which effectively makes it impossible for him to concentrate on who's cheating on who with which guy and who's eavesdropping behind a curtain in this scene. He's about to reread the page he's looking at for the third time when someone's hip nudges his shoulder, and he looks up to find Jo grinning down at him.

"Skip to the good part, when he kills his wife." She flops down in an empty chair and smiles at Dean's officemate.

"When he what?" Dean flips through to the last act, but he realizes belatedly that his skimming skills aren't so hot in Spanish, and he awkwardly flips a few more pages before stopping.

"Oh, yeah. Total bastard. Blah blah, my wife's cheating on me, blah blah honor, blah blah I'm going to bleed her to death. I can't decide if it's better or worse than the one where the guy makes his wife's lover kill the wife unknowingly..."

"Uh, that one's worse," Dean says; he closes the book and tosses it on the desk, happy to set it aside. "The lover's his illegitimate son."

"Oh yeah." Jo's face twists slowly into a smile as she remembers, and Dean snorts.

"You're sick, you know that?"

"Hey, I don't write the stuff. It's all pretty gross and sexist; I love to hate it, like how I feel about you." She grins widely at him and Dean chucks a paper clip at her.

"Like your face."

"The wit of Dean Winchester, ladies and gentlemen." Jo starts up a slow clap, and Dean's officemate chuckles behind them. Two more officemates file in then, a PhD student and someone in his year, and there are nodded greetings and people settling into chairs. Dean's still trying to think up something good to get Jo back with when she throws the paperclip back at him.

"Look alive, Winchester. I've got a question."

"I told you -- you're going to have to buy me dinner and a movie first," he retorts because that one at least comes easily, but instead of the usual eye-roll, Jo's eyebrows actually reach for her hairline and she tilts her head at him. Her smile alone makes Dean a little uncomfortable.

"Oh yeah? Does that mean you aren't dating Castiel? Or do you have an open relationship?" She pauses and grins until her nose wrinkles, and her eyes sparkle with delight. "Or are you just kinky?"

Okay, so Dean had expected that after the Halloween party, people would know, or suspect, and maybe they'd even ask him about it, but most people around here are like -- well, most days people are treading lightly, too afraid to show weaknesses or insecurities in case they might get blown out of the water. He underestimated Jo, however, and his eyes flick to his officemates, who are all now watching with interest. His face flushes under their gazes, and he glares hard at Jo as he pulls his arms in tight against his chest.

"Why? Would it be a problem if I was?" he says, his voice laced with warning that's only thinly veiling his insecurity, and Jo laughs, her head tipping back.

"Down, boy. No, it's not a problem. I'm just glad my gaydar's as accurate as ever." Jo flashes him another winning smile, and the other student in his year -- Chuck, kind of a mess, but fun after finals -- groans and scrubs his hand through his hair.

"I just lost a bet with Ash," he says miserably, and Jo laughs again, spinning around in her chair.

The office is suddenly too small for Dean, and he gets up abruptly, the chair skidding out behind him. He tries not to look like he's having a tantrum as he stalks out of the office, but he doesn't think he's very successful, not with Jo's laughter following him. The computer room door doesn't make it easy on him; he viciously stabs the sequence of buttons to unlock the door and jerks the handle, but it doesn't open. By his third try, he can feel his ears start to burn, and then the door opens from the inside.

"It doesn't like you when you're angry." Castiel steps back and gestures widely for Dean to come in.

"It's smart," is Dean's curt reply, but he does try not to scowl at Castiel as he sits down at one of the computers and logs in so he can pull up the answer key for tomorrow's auditory quiz. It's hard to think, though, between the way Jo sounded when she said gaydar and the fact that apparently Chuck and Ash are making bets on his sex life.

"I sense this rage comes from more than just the door," Castiel says hesitantly as he sits again in front of the other computer, and Dean tenses.

They'd talked about this, of course; Saturday, they got up and had breakfast and talked about how there's no need for secrecy anymore unless they want to impose it on themselves, and Dean'd said no thanks -- he could own up to this thing with Castiel if asked, but only if asked. They're not going to go around holding hands and skipping down the hallways, but they aren't going to skulk around the back alleys and avoid going out to eat together, either.

It all sounded okay, mostly, sort of, in theory when he had Castiel in borrowed boxers and a T-shirt leaning against his chest and brushing kisses to his neck. Now, though, Dean feels hot and suffocated, and he'd really prefer it if Castiel wasn't here to witness this because it makes him feel guilty, on top of everything else. He'd promised, after all.

"So Jo knows," he says by way of an answer, and he punches his password to log onto the school website wrong, so he has to do it again.

There's a prolonged silence beside him before Castiel exhales, softly. "Okay. Dean -- "

"And Chuck and Ash had some kind of a bet that Chuck just lost. Think we ought to apologize for that? Is that what you do when people bet on who you're having sex with?"

"Dean." Castiel's hand settles on Dean's, stops him from viciously clicking on the Teaching Resources tab, and Dean looks up, an apology already half-forming at the same time that he has to fight an impulse to snatch his hand back. "Stop. This will get easier."

"It gets better?" he replies, tone flat, and Castiel's eyebrow lifts in a very forbidding way that must be pretty effective on his students; it stops Dean's mouth, anyway.

"Yes, actually, you'll find that it does."

He squeezes Dean's hand and starts to take it away, but Dean actually stops him and links their fingers together instead. Even though Dean still feels overheated, and actually has broken out into a sweat, he recognizes that Castiel's right -- objectively. By tomorrow he won't feel so sick, and by next week Jo won't find this so hilarious. There's no harm, either, in these people knowing because this world is still his own; the department still feels like a whole other country compared the space he shares with Bobby and Sam. It's his training slope, his bunny hill; if he survives the ride to the bottom, then he can think about tackling other, rockier challenges.

"I know. Just... Give me time for it all to sink in," he murmurs, not meeting Castiel's eyes.

"Well, naturally." Castiel's smile is gently teasing as he leans back in the computer chair. "And you don't have to apologize to Chuck about anything. The bet was about whether or not I'm gay. Crowley actually runs the pool, but don't tell anyone I said that."

Dean snorts, and some of the weight lifts. "Do you get a cut?"

Someone starts struggling with the door and interrupts Castiel's reply; on the second attempt, the door swings open and Jo steps in, her eyes dancing between Dean and Castiel. Castiel retracts his hand and turns calmly back to his computer, and Dean scrubs his hand through his hair before he drops it back onto the mouse.

"Hello, Jo," Castiel greets, as polite as ever.

"Just need to print. Hope I'm not interrupting anything," she quips, and Castiel doesn't even look up from the screen.

"No, Dean and I can manage to conduct ourselves in public. I'll be done in a moment."

It's the frostiest Dean's ever heard Castiel, and he shoots a look at Jo, who seems a little taken aback. Dean is too, to be honest, but he thinks he can see what Castiel's doing.

"Sorry," she says, to Castiel and to Dean, and it's sincere; it's in the way her mouth turns down at the corners. "It was just a joke."

Castiel stands as the printer comes to life, and even though his shoulders are still stiff, he smiles warmly at her. "It's no trouble. The computer is yours." He picks up his printout and steps away as Jo moves past him, and Castiel drifts out of the room, absorbed in going over whatever it is he collected from the printer. Jo waits until the door clicks shut behind him before she leans toward Dean.

"Did I just piss him off?" she whispers.

Dean shakes his head and turns back to his own screen as he fights back a smile. It was pretty devious, actually, to set Jo on edge like this, but he's convinced Castiel did it for Dean's sake.

"Nah, he's fine," he assures her, and they lapse into a silence during which they're both lost in a hot embarrassment or at least Dean thinks that's the case with Jo. His hand finds the back of his neck and rubs at it, slips beneath the collar of his shirt and fiddles with the tag, before he speaks again. "And I'm not totally gay, by the way. I'm still into chicks."

He can practically hear Jo roll her eyes as she stands up, and the printer starts spitting out paper.

"Duh. You're like -- what, a Kinsey 2? Kinsey 3?"

At Dean's confused face, she laughs again, but it's kinder this time.

"No one's going to question your masculinity, Dean. You could beat up just about everyone in this department." She checks over her printouts and starts for the door, but she stops before she gets there and turns around. "Except me."

Dean would argue except she's kind of totally right, as Dean found out during his first Halloween in the department. Jo slips out of the room, and Dean takes a deep breath, forcing some relaxation into his shoulders. He'd survived that, and other than the couple of minutes when he thought he might choke and die in a pool comprised entirely of his own fear and anxiety, it wasn't too bad.

It isn't an experience he's eager to repeat anytime soon, though.


~

By Wednesday of the following week, Dean recognizes that he's splitting his time about equally between his own apartment, the department, and Castiel's house. Currently, he's surrounded by a small pile of books, sitting on Castiel's floor with his laptop in his lap. It'd been a college graduation present, one he's still a little annoyed at Bobby and Sam for getting for him, but he can't deny that it's come in friggin' handy. Like right now when he has an annotated bibliography due but he can't actually bring himself to leave the enticing company of his new boyfriend... thing -- especially when his boyfriend is fucking ace at making tostones.

"I hope you weren't planning on doing anything tonight other than making these for me," Dean says with his mouth full, flipping through another book in search of an article about Meléndez-Valdés and the rococo. In retrospect, he really should've picked another author, but that poem about the woman with that fan had gotten him legitimately a little hot and bothered, and the best paper topics are the ones he can fap to later.

"Of course not, Dean. My schedule revolves around you and your addiction to fried plantains," Castiel deadpans as he situates himself on the couch again, reaching for the remote.

"Hey." Dean's head snaps up and he frowns, unhappy that his outburst flew out of his mouth before he could approve the message. "Don't -- don't turn that."

Castiel looks between the TV and Dean with an arched eyebrow. "You're watching this?" Dean mumbles a response and turns back to his computer, chewing at his lip. "Wait -- I need to put this into words. You watch Dr. Sexy, MD?"

Dean hunches his shoulders under Castiel's smirk and picks up a book again, though he snaps it shut when Castiel -- the bastard -- starts laughing.

"It's a guilty pleasure!" He sets his laptop aside and reaches for another of the tostones, glowering at Castiel all the while.

"You should be nicer to Gabriel then," Castiel says once he finally recovers, and Dean's already suspicious of that little smirk at the corners of his mouth. "He's involved in the production of this show. It's one of his favorites too, actually."

If there's anything that could stop a properly-made bite of delicious tostones from reaching Dean's mouth when one's already in progress, it's this news, and he tries to keep himself from gaping for too long at Castiel, but it's a lost cause.

"You're serious?" he asks, disbelieving. "He -- he knows Dr. Sexy?"

Castiel's laugh is throaty and fond as he gets up off the couch and kneels in front of his TV stand, pulling open a drawer that Dean had been curious about but had never ventured into. Peering over now, he can see that it's full of DVDs -- some of them still with the plastic on them. Since there's a bookcase with a bottom shelf full of DVDs that Dean's already poked through, he figures this is where movies and things Castiel doesn't like but owns come to collect dust.

"Here." He slides one, two, three cases across the floor to Dean. "He gives them to us every year for our birthdays because he gets them free."

Dean stares down at the so far complete series of Dr. Sexy, MD and up again at Castiel, feeling his features go slack but unable to really do much about it. Once his mind catches up, it doesn't even register as important that he ought to fix his expression into something more respectable. He pushes a small pile of books out of his way and pulls Castiel into an enthusiastic kiss that breaks with a playfully wet sound.

He's already reaching for season one.

"It's marathon time."

Dean moves to the couch and hastily works through his bibliography with Castiel providing over-the-shoulder grammar checks on request; somehow he manages to finish in time for the third episode, which is the one where Dr. Sexy gets a new haircut and it kind of does things to him, but they only get twenty minutes in before his phone rings. Dean picks up his phone off the coffee table and regrets having eaten so many tostones when he sees Sam's name; they sit like rocks in his stomach as he pulls away from Castiel.

"Hey," he greets softly, and he runs a hand through his hair.

Castiel raises an eyebrow and picks up the remote, his finger tapping the pause button; Dean shrugs and turns away as he attempts to ignore Castiel and Castiel's house, like maybe if he blocks it all out, Sam won't be able to tell that he's here. Sure, they're on the phone and he can't see anyway, but that doesn't really reassure Dean all that much because Castiel could sneeze or something and then Dean would have to lie, and that would be awkward for everyone. Well, mainly just him.

"Hey. You got a minute?"

"Sure. For you, Sammy, I've got two," he answers readily because ever since Sam pointed out how busy Dean's been, he's been on top of texting Sam and answering his calls. Unfortunately, that makes this the third time this week that he's left the room to talk on the phone, and he feels Castiel's frustration bouncing off his back as he drifts to the dining room while trying to act casually.

"And how many do you have for your girlfriend?" Sam asks, warm teasing in his voice.

Yeah, definitely had too many tostones.

"What's up, Sammy?" Dean's voice is gruff because that's how he's been handling these questions, and Sam accepts it, which is pretty fucking painful because Dean knows it's under the assumption that just divining that Dean is dating someone is enough. He doesn't need more detail because Dean'll tell him eventually, when it becomes important, when they get beyond these teasing stages.

"Speaking of time for girlfriends..." Sam sucks in a breath, and Dean leans against Castiel's dining room table, needing the balance. "Jess invited me to her place for Thanksgiving."

Okay, Dean admits it, that's a bit of a blow, even if he can barely even face his brother on the telephone right now. Holidays are kind of stupidly precious to him, if only because they're about family and connection and food and warmth, and he tried his damnedest to keep them that way for Sammy when they were growing up, shuffling from motel to motel, following their dad's drifting jobs.

It's probably better that they won't be seeing each other because the thought of going home and still doing this disappearing act every time Castiel called him, or coming up with a lie every time Castiel texted him, almost makes him as sick as the thought of telling the truth, or talking to his boyfriend on the phone in front of Sam.

Still, he misses his brother. It's going to be pretty empty in Bobby's house.

"Guess that means you want to go."

"Yeah," Sam says, and it's hesitantly amused. It hits Dean over the head that in a couple years, this could be the girl Sam's going to marry -- or the next one, or the one after that, but Sam's getting around to that age where people do that kind of thing. It makes his mouth go dry, suddenly. "So anyway, is that -- you going to be okay if I go?"

"'Course I'll be okay," he grunts, pulling out the annoyed act. "If anything I'll be jealous. Bobby's bird could use a little work."

"Honestly? That's at least fifty percent of why I'm going." Sam sounds relieved, and Dean sets out to convince himself he is too. "Hey, I should go; got a test tomorrow I need to study for."

They say their goodbyes, and Dean steels himself to go back to the living room. Castiel has Dean's laptop on his lap, checking his email; he doesn't look up as Dean settles back in beside him -- with a little more space between them -- and hits play on the remote.

"How's Sam?" He sounds faraway and distant, more like a robot talking than himself, and Dean remembers their fight with a small chill.

"He's fine." Dean picks up his beer and rests it against his knee, his hand holding onto it for comfort. "When you're done with that, hibernate it."

"Is the reason you vehemently wish away my existence whenever you speak with your brother solely because I'm male, or do you also think he'll take a violent dislike to me?"

When he looks up, Castiel's eyes are sharp and sparking with the frustration that's been building up all week. Dean pulls from his beer before he answers, trying to swallow down his shame -- which now is twofold: shame over coming out to his brother, and shame over not being able to come out from his boyfriend -- because it really gets in the way of talking. His mind flashes back on Castiel laughing at him just now over Dr. Sexy, and a similar conversation between himself and Sam, two summers ago.

"You'll probably get along great, actually," he admits after hesitating, "which probably won't be so good for me."

Beside him, Castiel sighs and closes up Dean's laptop before setting it on the coffee table.

"Dean -- this is difficult for you. I respect that. It's also difficult for me when you deny that I'm even here."

"I know," he cuts in, because he does; he knows it really well, hates that it's the way he works, but there's really nothing he can do for it. He takes Castiel's hand, is pleased when Castiel lets him. "Just let me figure out how to tell him. I'm not going to give up on us." He considers adding "again" but doesn't think he can force out any more of his emotions into words. Castiel is still for a moment, but then he squeezes Dean's hand and picks up the remote.

"I look forward to the day your brother and I can tease you endlessly," he mutters, with a ghost of a smile in his tone.

"Little Brothers' Revenge?" Dean offers, and though a weight doesn't lift, it at least re-balances on his shoulders, becomes a little easier to bear.

"Exactly." Castiel's smile blossoms into something real, and he takes the beer from Dean's hand.


~

The next time Sam calls, Dean's out to eat with Castiel, and his phone vibrates in his pocket while the waiter finishes taking their orders.

"Hey," he answers, a sick weight coiling in his gut.

Whatever Sam says next, Dean barely even pays attention to it; blah blah Jess, blah blah exams, something like that, but what Dean mostly notices is Castiel studiously looking away, a frown tugging at his mouth, and he very primly unrolls the napkin from his silverware and lays it in his lap.

"What's that noise? Oh -- are you busy?" Sam asks, and Dean drags himself back to the conversation.

"Sort of, yeah. I'm -- I'm out with Cas. "

Two things happen at the same time that Dean ought to be pleased about, but they only push that sick weight further until it seems to root him to the spot. Castiel's mouth twitches into a small smile, and he ducks his head to hide it, as if he's embarrassed by it, as if it snuck up on him on accident. On the phone, Sam sucks in a breath and prepares to tease Dean.

"Oh, Cass, is it? Well, tell her I said hi."

Dean watches Castiel and wrestles with himself, but the struggle's brief; he'd already decided this back on Castiel's couch with the smell of tostones heavy in the air.

"Yeah, Sammy. I will."

Dinner is a blur of swallowed guilt and tapas, and Castiel tries and fails not to be visibly disappointed when Dean says he really ought to go home -- alone -- tonight so he can get some work done on his paper, distraction-free. He drops Castiel off and doesn't go home right away; he puts in a cassette instead and cranks up the volume and just drives circles around the town. The air's cool enough to bite at his skin, and he rolls the window down, lets the air blow in and ruffle his hair.

He's happy with Castiel -- happier, actually, than he's been with any girlfriend he's ever had, but he doesn't think that's a gender thing. He thinks that's just a Castiel thing, far beyond his rumbly voice and his sharp eyes and the way Spanish (and French, and Italian) just rolls off his tongue. Far beyond his tongue, come to that. They haven't said anything, but Dean knows it's there, knows it runs both ways; there's a connection, and it's deep, and the extent to which Castiel manages to penetrate him (not like that -- not yet, anyway) still makes him a little nervous.

But Castiel is warm, steady; he's a fucking amazing cook, even if it's just macaroni and cheese or something, and he owns pajamas with matching tops and bottoms, and he looks small and disheveled in Dean's hoodie when he steals it in the mornings. And Dean reaches inside him too, pulls Castiel out and makes him smile, small and private or big and wide, draws a laugh out of him when Dean manages to stick his spoon to his nose over dinner. When Dean presses up behind him in the kitchen and reaches around him to "help" cook, and his breath skirts the edges of his ear.

Deep down, Dean can't run away from this because he knows -- fiercely -- that Castiel is his, so uniquely his, like this world here but better because he's Castiel's, too. Where Castiel's always been the youngest one, trailing behind, now he's at the center of Dean's world; and, as a bonus, he's older. There's just too much right about them for Dean to let the wrongs take over.

And then there are nights like these, when Dean feels the edges of this snow globe world he's created, and knows it's going to have to shatter soon. Thanksgiving will be a reprieve; just Bobby, and he'll come back early, say he has a paper to do; but there'll be Sam over Christmas and questions about Cas, and all the plates Dean's been spinning will slip out of his grasp.

When he pulls up to his apartment, he doesn't think the drive actually solved anything, so he sits in the car and lets the tape run out, until he can get his mind to settle on a decision.

Telling Sam -- that's something huge; telling Bobby's something slightly smaller than huge, and anyway, Bobby doesn't really talk about feelings. Dean's pretty sure they could do the whole thing through grunts and implications, and then they could fall into turkey comas, and then Dean would be driving home.

It's hard to imagine blurring life in his snow globe with life on the outside, but Bobby's house has always been a safe zone, a bit of a snow globe in and of itself. He'll take that step, at least.

He pulls the keys out of the ignition and slides out of his car, and he tells himself no more serious thoughts about his sexuality until he gets about eleven more pages written on Meléndez-Valdés... which actually isn't that much more appealing than his plans to come out of the bisexual closet. He really needs to find a better redirection strategy.


~

The trouble with Dean's plan to come out to Bobby is that the conversation has to start with something other than an inarticulate grunt or a vague comment that skirts around the topic at hand, because when things start too vague, then they have to get all uncomfortably literal and direct. That is definitely not where Dean wants to go, but he has no idea how to actually start this conversation at all.

He gets the idea when his pocket buzzes about an hour or two after he gets there and parks the Impala in her spot in the driveway. He and Bobby are in the living room, and Bobby doesn't look up from the book on his knee as Dean flips open his phone.


Cas: Plane landed safely. Another miracle of aviation.


Me: shut up. I wasnt worried


Cas: You managed to capture an impressive amount of defensiveness in those five words.


Me: I'm friggin concise


Cas: Unfortunately this flight isn't. Still on the plane, waiting to taxi in. I smell like an airport and also the intoxicated woman next to me.

Dean feels eyes on him and looks up; Bobby's attention is on him, and he lifts an eyebrow. Dean shrugs and turns back to his phone as it dawns on him. Dean can't start this conversation, but maybe Castiel can, even if it's just from texting Dean a noticeable amount.

"Sam okay?" he asks, and Dean shakes his head.

"Not Sam," is all he offers back, and he returns his attention to his phone.


Me: Hot. Bobby's house smells like um whiskey and grease. Actually it kinda smells like home


Cas: Lovely. I wonder if Yankee candle sells that.

Bobby huffs in his seat and gets up abruptly, tossing his book down before he stomps out of the room. Okay, so maybe this isn't the smoothest way to slide into this conversation, but it's one that won't require Dean actually saying anything, so it's the best plan he could've come up with, in his book.


~

He's starting to get worried, actually, when they make it to Thanksgiving and Bobby still hasn't said anything. Dean's actually a little concerned he's texting Castiel too much, except Castiel doesn't seem to be enjoying his return home too much, and texts Dean back regularly. According to Castiel, his house is too noisy with his brothers and their wives and Gabriel's general existence. Maybe Dean had supplied that last part, but Castiel hadn't contradicted him, so he thinks that totally counts.

It's hard to keep it up while he's helping Bobby cook, but he manages it between mashing potatoes and ripping loaves of bread into tiny little bits for Bobby's stuffing of ultimate goodness. Really, it's been fun watching Bobby's annoyance slowly notch higher with each text Dean's gotten and sent back. He's pretty sure the moment almost comes when his phone buzzes on the table while Dean pulls the bird out of the oven and looks over his shoulder, just to make sure that it's Castiel.

"Pay attention, boy," Bobby grunts and cuffs Dean on the back of his head.

"Ow!" Dean snaps, and he hurriedly sets the pan down on top of the oven. "Don't hit a man when he has fifteen pounds of hot turkey in his hands!" He flips the sink on and sticks his hand under the faucet, even though he didn't really burn his hand; he just wants to play up the sympathy card. Not that that ever works well with Bobby, but that doesn't stop Dean from trying.

Bobby turns away to fiddle with the sweet potato casserole, but he swears he hears Bobby say, "Hope you did burn it. Serves you right," under his breath. Dean almost, almost hears the time bomb ticking away.

It doesn't go off until they're at dinner, and his phone buzzes again; Dean doesn't get a chance to flip it open before Bobby speaks -- well, more like grunts, as he glares over his turkey, heavily glazed in gloriously artery-packing gravy.

"You're popular."

For about five seconds, Dean's delirious with happiness because his plan had worked, and he'd annoyed Bobby into asking him about his texts, which is pretty hilarious, all things considered. After those five seconds, though, he remembers what the plan was all about, and the smugness drains away. He shrugs, self-conscious suddenly, and slides his phone into his pocket.

"Yeah -- well, it's just one -- friend. Cas. Castiel."

If Bobby notices Dean's change in demeanor, he can't tell; Bobby frowns, confused, and goes back to shoveling stuffing onto his fork.

"Castiel? The hell kinda name is that?"

"A Biblical one. His mom's kind of a Bible scholar." Dean hadn't actually thought about Castiel having a weirdass name, and the Bible is sort of the farthest place from where he wants this conversation to go. He picks at his turkey, swirling a bite around in gravy longer than strictly necessary before he lifts it to his mouth. Bobby stops eating, and his fork clinks on his plate.

"You start going to church while I wasn't looking?"

"No, no," Dean says hurriedly. "He's a professor -- to the undergraduates." Also not really where he wants this conversation to go. He closes his mouth and reaches through his anxiety to find the words that he'd actually been planning to say, all covered in implication and double-meaning. "He's a... friend."

"Well, congratulations," Bobby says after a moment, his eyes lingering on Dean; he seems to shrug it all off, but his forehead's still knotted up with a question. "Knew you had it in you to make one of those eventually."

"Yeah... " Dean smiles and doesn't make it convincing. The hardest part about this conversation, other than actually (not-) having it, is that he has to embrace a little of his worry in order to make it genuine, to get the point across to Bobby. "Hey, I was actually thinking about... having him over sometime during winter break. Or maybe going to visit his house. Or both, I don't know." He sets his fork down too, reaches for his beer, and glances up nervously.

"That so?" There's realization sneaking in around that question in Bobby's eyes, and Dean's simultaneously thrilled and sickened to see it. It's hard to want a plan to work while also being afraid that it will work; his grip tightens around his beer.

"Yeah," he returns, a weight to his voice, and he makes himself meet Bobby's eyes.

"I guess you're pretty good friends, then."

"Yeah, you could say that."

He and Bobby don't break eye contact for another few seconds, and Dean can almost physically feel Bobby take the implication from him, roll it around in his mind, and come to his conclusion. He can almost feel Bobby delivering his judgment when Bobby skirts his eyes away, back to his plate.

"You sure you wanna shut yourself in with a Jesus nut for the Holy Son's birthday?" he asks, concerned, and Dean lets out a preliminary breath of relief.

"Oh yeah, she's a scholar, not a member of Westboro Baptist. She's -- yeah, that'd be okay," he scrambles to explain, his heart rate speeding as this conversation winds down. "Cas says she wants to meet me."

"Huh." Bobby presses his lips together and processes that for a moment during which Dean doesn't breathe; finally, though, he brings his eyes back up to Dean, and there's a smile that's meant to be joking, but isn't, not really. His smile is all acceptance, or at least that's all it is to Dean. "Guess he didn't go into much detail about you, then."

Dean lets out the breath, sucks in a new one, and lets it sink in that he just came out to Bobby about having a boyfriend, and Bobby barely even batted an eye. If this were really a joking conversation, Dean's reply would be instant; as it is, he smiles at Bobby, then at his turkey, then at his beer, before he lifts it to his lips with a witty reply ready.

"You're a sweetheart, Bobby, you know that?"

"Tell myself that every day."

There's warmth there now, and Dean welcomes it; the game of annoyance had been its own kind of warmth, but now it's the real deal, all cheesy and Hallmark-y, but that stuff's okay on special occasions like Thanksgiving and maybe even the day you come out to the closest thing to a father you have left anymore. They even manage actual conversation without any undercurrents of implied meaning, mostly about Sam and cars and what amazing chefs they both are, and Dean loses himself to it all. This is why he likes holidays; it's the only time of the year he can actually have all that fuzzy family feelings shit and not feel lame about it. They're, like, sanctioned.

He and Bobby are doing the dishes when the mood in the conversation shifts and a veil falls over it; Bobby studiously looks at the plate in his hand, very thoroughly drying it.

"This house ain't a palace, but there's enough room for Cas, whenever he wants to swing by."

Dean hadn't been expecting that, but then he didn't really know what to expect out of any of this; Bobby's acceptance, approval settles slowly over Dean's shoulders, a warm weight that leaves him a little speechless for a second.

"Okay... Awesome. Thanks, Bobby," he fumbles, staring blankly at the plate in his hands.

"Well? Are you going to wash that plate, or are you just going to cuddle it all day?"

The utter normalcy of Bobby snapping at him is a relief, but the implication of that doesn't hit him until later, when he's on the couch and pulls out his phone to text Castiel back. Dean having a boyfriend, maybe bringing a boyfriend home, that's all normal now. He almost lets himself bask in the success of the entire operation when his phone buzzes again, and he flips it open as Bobby gets up and drifts out of the room. Dean's a little suspicious of that, isn't sure he really likes it, but it still smacks of way too many okay vibes for him to question it.

Cas: Stop sexting my brother. It's Thanksgiving. We're trying to eat.
Me: Jesus Christ we aren't sexting!
Cas: Not Jesus. Gabriel. Or should I say Gabe? Can I call you Deano?
Me: Not unless you want me to punch you in the face.
Cas: Ooh, manly. I think you're the most masculine of Castiel's boyfbndo8
Cas: Please disregard the last few messages.
Me: Sure thing. Hey Cas, punch Gabe for me.
Cas: I think this is only encouraging him.

Dean's smiling at his phone when Bobby comes back, and he can't be sure because it's brief, but he thinks he sees a smile on Bobby's face before he brings the beer bottle to his mouth.


Seis

Airports are stupid, even when he isn't getting on an airplane, because they're too bright and too full of people and too freaking huge and who's their interior decorator anyway? This bench is really hard and uncomfortable and it kind of blends into the grey speckled wall behind him. Also, whoever was supposed to cordon off the security lines did a crappy job, and the announcer person is like, barely understandable; seriously, who set up their sound system?

He sucks in a breath.

According to the screen he's side-eying, Castiel's plane will be here soon, but not soon enough; Dean has to institute a rule: he has to hum at least half of an entire Metallica song before he can check the time on his phone again. He's only a fourth of the way through "Some Kind of Monster" when the people around him start crowding toward the arrival area, and he pushes himself to his feet in time to see Castiel round the corner, pulling a small suitcase behind him.

He definitely doesn't exhale in relief.

"You ready to get out of here?" he asks as Castiel stops in front of him, and Castiel's face shifts from one of annoyance to amusement; it comes down over him slowly, like an egg cracking over his head, and Dean notices it with something like warm affection rising in him.

"Very. I enjoy flying, but the airports I could do without." He stops, hesitating, and his smile inches wider. "Also, I missed you." His tongue darts over his lips, and then he's leaning in, and their lips brush. Dean's senses shoot into overdrive, and he can smell Castiel -- vaguely like aftershave, mostly like he's been on a plane for a couple hours -- and he can taste the stale pretzels on his lips.

But then he can also hear all the people around him, can feel how exposed they are, in the middle of an airport.

He ducks his head and steps back, and he hates that his cheeks are flushing in something like embarrassment. Ignoring whatever new emotion's flickering over Castiel's face now, he reaches for his suitcase instead and nods behind him.

"Let's go then. I'm starved."

Only he isn't, not really, but settling into a discussion of what they should have for dinner, what leftovers Dean's brought back from Bobby's, that's far more appealing than discussing what happened, or didn't happen, just now. Dean mostly struggles to ignore however Castiel reacts, but he hears the soft sigh, feels Castiel hesitate behind him before he pulls his backpack higher over his shoulder and follows.

At Dean's apartment, they eat Thanksgiving leftovers on paper plates, crammed together on Dean's couch, and as far as second-round Thanksgivings go, it's pretty inadequate. Dean doesn't even have a kitchen table, and all the food tastes distinctly of having been reheated, nothing quite as good as it had been the first time around.

"You made all this yourself?" Castiel asks, taking another forkful of mashed potatoes.

"Yup. Probably isn't as good as what you guys throw together in Angel Land." Dean takes a self-conscious bite of the turkey with the gravy that came from a can -- the only thing that did, he swears. Castiel snorts softly and shakes his head.

"My uncle owns a restaurant. On Thanksgiving we eat there; it's tradition. We've never cooked at home."

Dean glances up from his plate and catches the soft smile on Castiel's face, the way he seems to be marveling at the existence of the mashed potatoes Dean had pointed out that he'd made himself, and his throat constricts, a bit uncomfortably. He clears it and reaches for his beer.

"Well, that's a damn shame. You could probably cook the shit out of a turkey."

Castiel laughs, and it's Dean's favorite kind, where Castiel bursts into a fit of amusement like a sneeze, like he hadn't seen it coming and is totally unable to stop it. That kind passes quickly, but it always leaves Castiel's eyes sparkling, and he leans over to steal a kiss.

"I would like to learn," he says as he draws away, and he nudges at the potatoes again before he takes a bite. "I've always wanted that. On Christmas, we do a little cooking, but it's pork, and usually the meal isn't very involved. Just the basics."

Dean's jaw clenches briefly, and he sets his beer down, anything to keep his eyes off Castiel's fond, faraway look. "You know what's funny?" Castiel looks up, but Dean doesn't really need the acknowledgment to continue. "Sam always said -- well, he wished, anyway, that our Thanksgivings were more normal. You know, big family, big table full of food, lots of -- lots of Hallmark shit, and bonding, or whatever."

"And here I am thinking wistfully of your Thanksgiving exactly how he feels about Jess's?" Castiel prompts when Dean trails off, and he meets Castiel's eyes finally, giving a brief nod.

"Yeah. Pretty much. Am I the weird one for being cool with however my holidays shake down, so long as I have good food, good beer, and my family around?"

"No, Dean. Well, maybe a little." He smiles, just at the corners of his mouth, and he takes their plates off their laps to set them on Dean's lone side table. "Dean, you have the remarkable talent of being content just where you are, even in the middle of the storm; you can make yourself into the eye. You can keep the satellites like Sam and me steady by anchoring us."

He reaches for Dean's hand, and when he pulls Dean closer, he follows, allowing himself to relax against Castiel's shoulder.

"You really missed me, huh?" Dean asks, and Castiel rolls his eyes, almost imperceptibly.

"Yes, I did."

"What'd you miss most about me?" Dean grins widely, and Castiel rolls his eyes more dramatically this time as he pushes Dean off him and stands up to clean away their food.

"Your modesty," he retorts as he sets their plates in the sink and runs water over them.

Dean follows and lines himself up at Castiel's back, hands at his hips and mouth against the base of his neck. He breathes a kiss along the top of his spine, presses his mouth to the base of his hairline, and Castiel shivers in his arms.

"I missed that." Castiel's voice is more of an exhalation. Dean noses the shell of Castiel's ear before kissing just beneath it.

"Missed it too," Dean murmurs, letting his lips brush against skin as he speaks, and Castiel leans back against him; he tilts his head back, exposing the line of his throat, which Dean is more than happy to take advantage of.

"Anything else?" Dean sees the ghost of a smirk on Castiel's lips, and he grins too as he snakes a hand along Castiel's side and up his chest, seeking to feel his warmth through his clothes.

"Mm, your sex voice?" He kisses down Castiel's throat, sweeps his tongue briefly over his Adam's apple, and he watches it bob as Castiel swallows down what Dean's sure would've been a very un-cool whimper.

"In which language?"

It's Dean's turn to feel the urge to whimper uncoolly; he scrapes his teeth against Castiel's perpetual stubble instead, biting a faint mark that will be gone, totally, before Castiel has to teach again. His breath hitches, and then Castiel's fingers are in his hair, and he tugs Dean up into a hungry kiss. It's really their first, good-and-proper kiss since Castiel's plane landed, and neither of them is in a great rush to bring it to an end. Dean hitches Castiel's shirt up, claims the skin underneath for his own with his thumb, tracing the lines of Castiel's ribs.

Castiel turns around then, in the small space Dean affords him before the sink, and then there are hands and mouths and disappearing shirts as they mostly just make out in Dean's kitchen, with Castiel pressed against the sink. They go slow, take their time, but it isn't like there isn't a heat to the way Castiel drags his teeth against Dean's shoulder; it isn't just a flame, just a fire. Dean likes to think of it more like a bonfire, huge and hot and steady, going at capacity until it gives out to the morning light.

He feels like a bonfire's cooking him as Castiel undoes his jeans, and then Dean fumbles with Castiel's; it's always an awkward shuffle, no matter how smooth the sex is going, to get out of pants and socks and shoes, but then they're skin-to-skin, and Castiel's cock is a heavy heat against his own.

Dean's always surprised by Castiel's forcefulness at times like these, the way he grips Dean's hips and pushes him, starts walking him to the bed as he licks his way into Dean's mouth and kisses him hard and deep. He's waiting for Castiel to pounce him; his body is tensed for it, eager to have Castiel shove him onto the bed and climb on him and work his hips in that filthy way that he must've picked up from years of being a teenage half-prude. Instead, Castiel turns them around; he pulls Dean on top of him, and Dean settles himself between his legs, his mouth breaking away to map some territory on Castiel's chest that he hasn't gotten to reacquaint himself with yet.

"Dean."

He hears the question already, somewhere in the gravel of Castiel's voice, behind the lust and the breathlessness, and he makes his decision before he even lifts his head.

"Yeah?" he asks, his thumb working a slow circle over the bone of Castiel's hip. The light is low in Castiel's eyes, and they're a deep blue, the sex-blue Dean's getting used to. Hesitation keeps Castiel quiet, and his hand cups Dean's face, his thumb passing over his lips. Dean darts his tongue out against the pad, and Castiel's throat bobs, his own lips parting.

"Dean, I..." Castiel trails off, and that uncharacteristic shyness creeps into his expression, the one Dean likes seeing because not many people can have seen it, not for it to still be so pure, so sweet.

"Yeah," Dean says, voice rough, and he nods, briefly. "Yeah, Cas."

He draws Castiel's thumb farther into his mouth, between his teeth, and he bites it gently while Castiel's eyes flicker shut and open again, breathing slowly. He pulls his thumb free, lets his fingertips trail down Dean's neck, and draws Dean up into a kiss. Dean's cock slots against Castiel's hip, and he rolls their hips together, earning a gasp from Castiel that breaks their kiss. He reaches for the shelf on his multipurpose headboard, the one that's usually always obscured by an only occasionally necessary pillow, and he comes back with a box of condoms and a bottle of lube. Castiel arches his eyebrow, but his hand slides low over Dean's back, and despite the layer of sweat and the humidity between them, Dean shivers.

"How long have you had those there?"

"Mm, sometime after our first make-out session on your couch." He ducks his head, fiddles with the cap of the lube, until Castiel takes it from him and opens it with a suspicious ease.

"Sometime?" he prompts, and Dean shrugs.

"Maybe the next day."

"You really are a Don Juan," Castiel murmurs, a smile at the corner of his mouth, and Dean leans in low, but he holds back from kissing him, letting their lips just barely brush instead.

"Don Félix," he corrects. "He's way more badass."

There's kissing, then, and breathing hotly against each other's mouths, as Dean rallies his nerves and slides a slicked finger inside Castiel. He's expecting more resistance, expecting more... something from Castiel, something that isn't him writhing against Dean, clutching at him, and tilting his head back as he breathes heavily through his nose and visibly struggles not to moan continuously. Not that Dean's complaining about all that, because he isn't; actually he's humping Castiel's hip unconsciously, which is why it's suddenly difficult to maneuver his finger properly.

Three fingers in and Dean's pretty sure he could just jerk off to the way Castiel rocks his hips back against Dean's hand, making impatient noises that seriously sound like they're coming from his nose they're so whiny, so needy.

"Now," Castiel hisses, canting his hips up, and Dean has to compensate for how he nearly groans from the whole display.

"Ahora?" he teases, and Castiel's eyes open, land on him; his eyes are wild but his face is set, his mouth a firm line, and his voice comes out a growl.

"Now isn't the time for jokes, Dean."

Regardless, Dean's laughing to himself, just a little hysterically, as he tears open a condom wrapper. He isn't nervous; it's sex, and Dean doesn't get nervous about sex. It's just that usually the sex comes before all the seriousness, all the cuddling and the cooking for each other and the lounging around in each other's space. Everything's all backwards with Castiel, and there's emotions all in the way as Dean lines his cock up against Castiel, and those blue eyes flutter closed for a second, but are on him again, as steady and deep as always.

He moves his hips, and their bodies fit together; Castiel breathes slow and deep as he pulls Dean in for a kiss, and Dean dimly wonders if they're, like, making love or whatever. He doesn't have a lot of time to think, though, not around his cock burying itself in Castiel's body; Castiel breaks away to exhale, his fingers stroking up Dean's back. Dean's shaking with the effort to hold back, to make sure everything's good, that Castiel is good, but he can't get himself to form the words to check either.

That's when Castiel's leg hitches up, wraps around him, and his eyes snap to Dean's.

"¿Me follas o qué? Anda," and he bucks against Dean. Dean's not even sure what Castiel says, half because he's not sure what that verb is -- he really needs to Word Reference the Spain-centric dirty words, and oh God, he's thinking about Word Reference while he's balls-deep in Castiel -- and half because his brain derails the second Castiel's voice grinds out those words in a perfect accent, somewhere underneath all the sex.

He moves, thrusts into Castiel, shallow to start with; Castiel hisses out a yes between his teeth and starts full-out undulating against Dean, and he never really appreciated the true meaning of that word until he feels it acted out beneath him. Waves just roll; Castiel wriggles and writhes underneath Dean until Dean's not sure who's the one who's supposed to be doing the fucking here. But that only lasts for a second, and then he remembers, and he grinds into Castiel, releasing the tension he'd been holding onto.

He'd been afraid this would be all tenderness or something sappy like that, but there's a fierceness to the way their bodies meet, to the occasional scrape of Castiel's nails on his back, to the rough coming together of their mouths too loosely formed to be a genuine kiss. Underneath all that, though, is the soft brush of Dean's parted lips on Castiel's shoulder when he drops his head there to breathe, and the gentle curl of Castiel's fingers in his hair, on the back of his neck. It's not hearts and flowers and sobbing emotionally in each other's arms, but it's not fucking either. That hand on his neck tugs, brings him up to a solid kiss, and Dean happily stops trying to analyze everything.

Castiel's head falls back, his mouth open in a moan, when Dean takes his cock in hand, and he mouths at the line of his throat; Castiel's moans vibrate against his lips like that, and he likes it, likes feeling those sounds almost as much as hearing them. Dean's knee slips, and he finds a new angle when he regains his balance; Castiel cries out, clutching at Dean's arm.

"Fuck," he groans, "fuck, Dean -- "

Castiel's orgasm is a force that takes him abruptly, and his cock pulses in Dean's hand with the intensity of it, but it's the way he lifts his head and looks into Dean's eyes, still shaking with the aftershocks, that drags Dean over the edge with him. He rides Castiel through his orgasm, with Castiel murmuring to him, and Dean couldn't say what language it's in; it doesn't really matter, though, so long as Castiel's voice is throaty in his ear as the pleasure melts away and leaves Dean feeling loose and exhausted.

They share a shaky kiss before Dean rolls to his side; Castiel gasps softly as their bodies separate, and Dean blindly gropes around for his T-shirt, which can stand to be sacrificed. He does a shoddy clean up job and tosses it away again, intent only on nosing back onto Castiel's shoulder and curling up against his warmth. Castiel really is like a furnace; he's always overheated, but now especially, and sometimes it's too much, leaves Dean feeling almost scalded just from touching him. Right now, though, it draws him in like a blanket, and he buries himself in it, sets his nose against Castiel's neck and inhales. He smells like sweat and sex, obviously, but his shampoo, too, just underneath, and Dean's sheets, and it's pretty much perfect.

"You said 'fuck'," Dean mumbles, once he has his breath back, and Castiel laughs softly.

"You've found out my dirty secret. I don't always curse in Spanish. As it turns out, when I'm being fucked vigorously, I tend to curse in whatever language happens to come out first. It's usually English. And 'fucked' just then doesn't count. I'm not swearing; it's a perfectly legitimate verb."

"Oh God. New rule. You aren't allowed to bring up parts of speech in bed."

He pries himself away long enough to pull the covers over them, and Castiel rolls over; Dean takes the invitation and curls up at his back, draping an arm around his waist. It's quiet, then, just the sound of their still-uneven breath in the darkness, and he really ought to tell Castiel about Bobby. It's good news; he ought to be able to tell him, but when he tried to bring it up over dinner, the words choked in his throat. They do now, too; he even inhales, in preparation to speak, but they don't dislodge.

Talking about what happened with Bobby would lead to talking about what might happen with Sam; it would lead to talking about this thing between them, which is clearly a solid thing, clearly a definite, even if Dean can't open his mouth and admit it. That much is so obvious to Dean that it makes talking about things seem so redundant, so pointless.

Castiel will have to know about Bobby; Dean will tell him tomorrow, take the morning to work himself up to it. He nuzzles against Castiel's shoulder and closes his eyes and lets himself be content with his decision.


~

"Dean." Castiel' voice is urgent at his ear; somewhere in the night, Dean had rolled onto his back, and now Castiel's at his side, an arm loose around his waist. He hadn't been sleeping very deeply; he'd been coasting, mostly, through a dream about fishing and also making out with Castiel, and it'd been a good, warm, sleepy dream that he doesn't want to leave. Something's been tugging him away from it though, and now Castiel's offering his own contribution to the Rain on Dean's Sleep Parade.

"What?" he grunts.

"Dean, your neighbors are having sex."

"They do that," he says, sighing, as he realizes now that they're the ones that have actually been making his sleep difficult. He makes to turn over, but Castiel's arm is firm around his waist. In the shuffle of Dean trying to move is when he feels it, warm and pressing at his hip. Castiel's mouth follows, closing around his earlobe.

"I thought we could offer them some competition," Castiel growls in his ear. The growl is probably a lot of things -- like the fact that he's just woken up with morning wood -- and not necessarily an indicator of how hard and fast he wants this, but Dean's pretty sure that it actually is.

Dean opens his eyes.

"God damn, you are the best fucking boyfriend," he finds himself saying as he rolls over, and he and Castiel spend the better part of the morning having a shouting contest with Dean's neighbors.


~

The only reason Dean's showering alone is that Castiel promised to organize a suitable breakfast, suitable both for Thanksgiving and also for a proper post-mind-blowing sex meal. He isn't eager to draw the shower out, but it's nice to stand under the warm spray, especially as he battles himself over whether or not he ought to plan out a script for the whole Bobby thing, or just let whatever happens happen. If he lets his nerves get the better of him either way, he'll bail out on the plan; with that logic, he blanks his mind instead and lingers an extra couple of minutes.

He's humming when he finally turns the water off and steps out of the shower; he towels himself off roughly, only half paying attention to the noise drifting in from the main room. Castiel likes background noise while he does stuff, but says music distracts him; it's easier to drown out talking. NBC's his favorite because it's particularly mindless, he claims, but Dean's pretty sure he genuinely likes Kelly Rippa.

He can't make out what's being said (not that he really cares much) through the door, which is shut, for some weird reason since he never shuts it. It's a little pointless since he lives alone, and the only other person who's been here while he showered is someone who's sucked his cock, so it seems redundant. Castiel must've shut it, for some reason, and it's steamy in here, suffocating, so he wraps his towel around his waist and steps out of the bathroom.

There are eggs cooking on the stove, and some bland morning show pretending to be news fills the living room, but what isn't normal is Castiel with his hands on his hips and Sam -- Sam -- sitting on his couch. Sam's on his feet once the bathroom door opens, a smile on his face.

"Dean," Castiel starts, and Dean's not mentally prepared to deal with the nervous excitement and half-apology in Castiel's eyes. "He said it was a surprise -- "

"Sammy?" Dean chokes, focus entirely on his brother, who forces a smile onto his face and lifts his hand in a wave.

"Hey. Happy Thanksgiving." He grins, pleased with himself. Bitch. "You don't have to get dressed up or anything."

Dean closes his mouth, which he realizes has been hanging open, and he pulls his towel tighter around his waist. "Yeah, well. Forgot to bring in clothes with me. Wasn't expecting you, Sammy."

"I know. That's why they call it a surprise." He rolls his eyes and sits down again, looking huge and out of place on Dean's tiny couch; he nearly takes up the whole thing, and Dean's never seen him on it.

Castiel's staring a hole into Dean, but he can't look at him right now; he goes for his closet instead and starts pulling out clothes, willing himself to calm down. So far today, the most awkward part has got to be coming out of the bathroom nearly naked to find his brother and secret boyfriend talking over eggs; it really can't get worse than that.

Actually, it probably can, but Dean's trying to stay positive.

He dresses quickly in the bathroom and swaggers back out, pulling out all the bravado he can muster, and he leans against the kitchen counter. He'd rather not, but Sam's sprawled on the couch, and Dean's too afraid to stir the room too much, in case it might explode.

"Sam said he wanted to take you out to breakfast, but I'd already started cooking," Castiel says, still apologizing, still on edge; he can hear it in the way his rock-solid voice is shaking around the edges.

"Don't worry about it. I'll make it lunch, instead. It's nearly lunchtime anyway." Sam's smile to Castiel is friendly, sweet, unassuming, and Dean wonders just how the hell Sam's explaining all this to himself inside his head. Maybe he has friends who cook him breakfast all the time in Stanford. Friends he wouldn't mind walking around naked in front of. Which, if that's the case, Dean wonders a little about Stanford.

"Yeah, no worries." He offers Castiel a tentative smile and nods at the oven. "What's for breakfast anyway, Cas?"

Castiel starts talking about eggs and sausage, but Dean stops hearing him when Sam gets up from the couch, and Dean knows that look. It's a suspicious look, it's a figuring-something-out look, and he forces out a laugh.

"What's the matter, Sammy? You haven't gone all vege-tight ass out in California, have you?"

"You're Cas?" Sam asks, slowly, and Dean's stomach sinks.

"Your brother has a penchant for nicknames," Castiel says, not turning around, not realizing that the jig is up. Dean scrambles to think of something to say, but there's nothing -- nothing that wouldn't dig himself deeper into a hole of his own cowardice and inability to face the truth to Sam, to Castiel, to himself -- to anyone, really.

"But Cas is a girl." Sam isn't helping with his explaining-why-the-sky-is-blue voice, and Castiel turns around; his frown is deep, and it's one of the biggest expressions of emotions Dean's seen on his face, right up there with his orgasm face and that time after the grad student lecture series when he'd made him laugh about Adam Sandler. Only this time it's the reverse, the negative of all those moments.

"No." Castiel's weight shuffles on his feet, and his eyes slide to Dean, settle heavily on him. "No, I'm not."

They're both staring at Dean now, not that he's looking at them; no, he's staring hard at the pattern of the linoleum, his face hot and his stomach rolling. He never thought the smell of cooking sausage would make him so ill, but there it is; just one more shitty thing about this day.

"Cas is Dean's girlfriend," Sam says heavily, and Dean shrinks into himself, gripping the counter hard.

"That's almost right." Castiel's tone is flat, empty of emotion, and that's when Dean knows he's fucked, really; that's what makes him flinch as the conversation stalls. It's so surreal because in the background, the morning fake-news anchors are making jokes about wine, and Dean's kitchen is too small, too crowded. The three of them are way too big to be standing in his tiny apartment. None of them seem to fit in this snowglobe he's made of his life right now; he realizes, of course, that they don't fit because it was never their world. It was always Dean's, Dean's world where he hid from them, but they were never in it.

"Dean. You lied to me?" Sam asks, the emotion unreadable, and Dean can't answer.

There's another silence that seems to stretch out far too long before Castiel noisily switches the oven off, moves the skillet off the heat, and drops utensils in the sink.

"I'd better leave you two to talk." Castiel turns around and holds out his hand to Sam, who takes it after a hesitation. "It was very nice to meet you, Sam. I've heard a lot about you. I assume those weren't lies."

Dean watches his brother wince for him.

"It was nice to meet you," Sam says, and it's sincere, warm, but Dean hardly has a chance to revel in that before Castiel turns around and catches Dean's eye.

It's only for a second -- just one second of his gaze settling on Dean -- and it's like being plunged in a lake that's twenty below; it's like needles on every available inch of his skin, and he's still tingling with it as Castiel zips shut his suitcase and leaves. The sound of the door sliding over Dean's too-thick carpet is far too subdued for the reality of Castiel's exit, but the air in the room ripples anyway, even at the absence of sound.

Sam sits back down and rubs his hand over his hair, like he's trying to push the situation into his mind in a way that makes sense.

"All this time, you've been lying to me? You've been dating him?"

Dean sucks in the air through his teeth and nods. "No, I never said -- you said girlfriend. I just didn't correct you."

Sam's sigh is hard and reminds Dean so much of his dad that he nearly gets sick.

"That's still lying, Dean. Why didn't you tell me?" There's nothing of their dad in Sam now; now it's their mom's soft-hard eyes, staring down at Dean and asking him why he lied about breaking a dish.

Dean fumbles as he tries to find a longer answer than just I couldn't, but all he finds instead is the tight, intense knot of anxiety lodged deep in his chest that wants, intensely, never to be as big of a disappointment to Sam as their father was. It's a gamble he's unwilling to risk, at least not lightly, and he swallows thickly around a knot in his throat.

"Couldn't," he says, and he shrugs, giving up on elaborating. "I just couldn't, Sammy. I was working up to it, really, but..." He trails off, and Sam's eyes somehow manage to go tender while still boring straight through him.

"But what, Dean? You thought I'd freak out?" Sam gets up, all earnest good intentions, all firm opinions, and he steps toward Dean with his hands out. "Because honestly? You seem more freaked out about the whole thing than I am, and I don't think it's just because he's a guy. If you just wanted to sleep with him, you'd already be joking to me about how your odds of getting laid just increased by fifty percent or something."

Dean's face flushes, and he scowls down at the floor as his mind scrambles for a good comeback to that, a good smack down to prove him wrong, but he can't find one, suddenly. Because Sam's right, and that's just annoying. If Dean's going to have a huge breakthrough about his big gay crisis, or whatever, he'd rather it be on his own terms, preferably with a power ballad in the background, maybe in front of dramatic scenery. He didn't really want it handed it to him along with his ass in his kitchen with the scent of cooling sausage hanging heavy in the air.

"Yeah, well, I knew you'd go all Oprah on me," he returns, a lame comeback to be sure, and a lie at that. He just barely makes himself meet Sam's eyes, even though they're glinting with fondness.

"Someone needs to." Sam snorts softly. "Maybe you should watch her; she'd teach you about this thing where sometimes people talk about their feelings in more than just grunts. They use actual words to say things like, 'Hey Sam, I'm dating this really great guy, and I think I'm bisexual, and I just want to make sure that doesn't change how you feel about me.'"

He rolls his eyes and plucks a fork off the edge of the sink so he can spear one of those sausages; the knot in his stomach is still there, but it's uncoiling slowly now that the tension between them is relaxing too. It feels normal to stuff his face anyway, and he needs to put some normalcy into this conversation, needs to frame this moment in things that are familiar so that the other things -- the bisexual thing, the boyfriend thing -- start to feel normal right along with them.

"Sorry, I've got enough crap to study right now. I'll save the emotional seminar for next fall," he shoots back, and Sam rolls his eyes, and things almost seem... okay, between them.

Sam takes a piece of sausage for himself and starts eating the eggs, warm beside Dean. Every time he sees Sam after a long time apart, he's surprised all over again by how tall his brother is, how quickly he shot up from a gangly little thing with a nose in his book to become this giant with stupid hair. Dean lifts a hand to the back of his neck and rubs as he clears his throat.

"But, uh... Are we -- I mean, you're okay with -- all of this?"

"Dean, you're my brother. Of course I'm okay with this." He sets his fork down and looks up, and the relief that surged suddenly inside Dean idles. "I hate that you lied to me about it, though. That really hurts. That's more like Dad, you know, all the lies and the secrets." His eyes aren't soft anymore, and that's what's alarming.

"Sammy -- " he starts, but Sam holds up a hand.

"But I'm kicking myself too for not catching on. You know, sometimes I could hear him, and I just thought it was the TV?" He breaks off and stabs at the eggs in the skillet, a frown dragging down the corners of his mouth. "I came here because Jess had to go to a bachelorette thing over the weekend, and I didn't feel like going back to school yet. It wasn't until I got here that I realized I'd never even seen your apartment. I miss you, Dean."

Dean tries not to let it offend him that Sam sounds surprised about that.

"So we both need to work on our communication skills," Dean offers, and Sam shoots him a flat look, but it softens in a moment, and he nods, slowly.

"Yeah. Yeah, we do."

It is a relief that Sam realizes that his itch to get away is maybe taking him too far, even though Dean should feel guilty for thinking that; he can't bring himself to be upset about the fact that his brother doesn't want to squirm away from him anymore, that his brother feels this divide between them too and wants to close it up as much as he does. There's an awkward moment, a feelings kind of moment, where they stare at each other and take in the fact that they live on opposite sides of the country, and how sometimes that really, really sucks, before Dean can't take it anymore.

"Stop hogging all the eggs," he orders, and he pulls the pan closer.

Sam laughs, and they squabble, have brief fork battles over who gets what bite, and they rock-paper-scissors over the last piece of sausage. Dean glowers over at Sam, who mm's his way through the entire link. He grins a shit-eating grin (or in this case, last-sausage-eating grin) as he finishes, and Dean punches him in the shoulder.

"You're cleaning all this up," he declares with a firm point of his finger, and Sam scoffs.

"I didn't agree to that!"

"It was in the fine print of the sausage deal. You weren't paying attention."

In the end it's the both of them, knocking elbows, and they spray water at each other. It's good to relax like this with him, but in the back of Dean's mind is Castiel; well, not even the back, more crammed in around all the sides, encroaching on this good moment with his brother. He'll have to deal with that, he'll have to do the talking thing, and he almost wishes he could send Sam in to do it for him like that book with the one guy with the big nose. That didn't work out for Wishbone, though, so he knows better than to suggest it now.

"He seemed nice," Sam says, proving that they really aren't on very different wavelengths, no matter how much distance gets put between them. There's comfort in that, but Dean has a hard time holding onto it now that they're starting this conversation.

"He is." Dean busies himself with scraping a pan clean, and for a minute that's the only sound, other than the quiet clank of the silverware in Sam's hands as he dries them off.

"And he's a professor?"

Dean lifts his head, eying Sam, but there's nothing judgmental in his tone; it's all curiosity, and Dean presses his lips together, giving a tight nod.

"Yeah. Not one of mine though, just to the undergrads."

Sam nods, but stops, and he looks up, eyes wide. "Hey -- is he that one you went to drinks with, like, months ago? And you were flipping out?"

"I was not flipping out," Dean grumbles as he passes Sam a plate, but Sam only laughs.

"Sure. Anyway, I think I like him. I mean, I liked him when he was your girlfriend, but I think I like him even more now. He makes a good breakfast."

"He makes a good everything."

Dean's voice his quiet, his grumpiness passing, and he ignores whatever reaction Sam might have to that. He lets the sink drain and scoops up a handful of utensils to put away. Sam seems to take the cue that his brother needs a time-out from his emotions, and he starts putting dishes away, even though he really has no reason to know where they go. Dean only has four cupboards, though. It's not too hard to figure out.

"I haven't seen you this serious about someone in a while," Sam comments finally, putting glasses back upside-down. Castiel fixes Dean's glasses, turns them upside-down whenever he comes over because Dean never remembers to put them that way.

"Yeah, I know. He just sort of..." Dean trails off and turns around, leaning back against the counter. "One day he was this professor down the hall, and then he wasn't anymore. It's only been a few months, but there's this Cas-shaped hole when I'm not with him. It's weird, Sammy." He hugs his arms around his chest, and his eyes find where Castiel left his trench coat draped on the back of his desk chair.

"It's called a relationship, Dean. It's a good thing."

They share a smile and a silence that's not uncomfortable, but maybe awkward because it's the sort of silence that could be filled in with a hug, but no one's died or anything, so instead they let the silence wrap around them and bind them together. Sam starts to laugh softly once the not-hug ends, and Dean arches an eyebrow at him.

"Something funny I missed out on?"

Sam looks up, nodding, a stupid grin on his face.

"Jess is the secretary for one of the GLBTQ awareness groups at Stanford. I guess I never mentioned it."

Dean hadn't quite been aware of that last knot of tension that had been coiled around the Sam-center of his brain, but maybe that's because it's just been there so long that he's long since stopped consciously feeling it. He notices it now because it's gone, eased beyond any doubt, and he huffs out a laugh of his own.

"Awesome. If I can't manage to salvage my love life, maybe I can be her cause célèbre."

Sam snorts and makes his way back to the couch, and he picks up the remote, muttering about putting it on something halfway decent, and Dean really ought to be ready to leave this conversation behind him, but there's one thing that's stopping him, for whatever stupid reason.

"Hey, Sammy? How'd you know I'm not all-the-way gay?"

He realizes this is an assumption that shouldn't bother him, but he's working on his own internal issues, and he's making baby steps with them, okay. Right now it still matters, but Sam doesn't really seem to think much of it, his attention on flipping through Dean's TV.

"Well, obviously you're a Kinsey 2 or 3 or something."

Obviously. Dean throws his hands up.

"What the fuck is a Kinsey?" he barks, but Sam only laughs.

Siete

Sam thinks Dean ought to give Castiel space before calling, or texting, or anything, and that advice isn't too hard to follow so long as Sam's around. Even though their relationship's been a little strained, Sam knows how to distract Dean, how to make him smile, even if sometimes that's just because he's so doofy that Dean has to torment him. The Laws of Big Brother-dom just require that.

But there comes the inevitable moment when Dean's in the airport, hands in his pockets, watching his brother tower above everyone around him as he disappears off to his gate, and Dean has no distractions. He blames Sam for having to go to school so far away, for having to take a plane to get back all the way across the country, because Dean starts worrying about that, still safely within the Laws of Big Brother-dom.

Unfortunately, it isn't a huge leap from there to Castiel flying home, when Dean stood around this airport just like this, vibrating with anxious energy just listening to the things flying overhead and trying not to think about Airplane! when the plane came through the windows. It's in the Laws of Boyfriend-dom; he had to be worried about Castiel not eating the fish and, generally, not getting sucked out or crashing in some river or getting hijacked by terrorists or eaten by hormonal snakes.

And then he's standing in an airport, hands in his pockets, and his chest tightens because he might not have to worry about whether anyone would believe Castiel if he saw a monster eating the wing of the plane because that kind of worry doesn't really follow the Laws of Ex-Boyfriend-dom.

He's just starting the car up when his phone buzzes, and his heart leaps into his throat so fast he almost chokes; he nearly drops the phone, as he pulls the screen up.

Sammy: Give him a call. Maybe you could use your phobia as a sympathy card.

He couldn't admit it -- never would admit it -- but Sam's name is disappointing for a full minute; Dean has to wait for his pulse to slow down before he can text him back.


Me: Dont these things interfere w/ the plane? Turn ur phone off
Sammy: That's an urban myth, Dean, but fine. But just because I was the catalyst for your huge fight with your boyfriend. I'll call when I land.

Dean blasts Metallica on the way home in the hopes that it would blast his thoughts out of his head, but when he steps into his apartment, he's somehow managed to have six different conversations with Castiel in his head, and he's rejected almost all of them. He grabs a beer and sits, twirling his phone around in his hand, before he decides to approach this the way he approached his tests in undergrad. He can only stress up to a certain point; from then on, he just has to cut himself off, just stroll in and take the tests and get what he gets.

The phone rings twice before Castiel answers.

"Hey, Cas -- "

"Dean." Castiel's voice is clipped, and he interrupts Dean before Dean can start on the jumble of a sentence he'd had about Sam and Leslie Nielsen.

"I just -- "

Castiel cuts off whatever Dean had 'just' too, and Dean hears determination in the sigh on the other end of the phone, but it's more than that; he can tell when Castiel's about to start on something he's rehearsed, like a lesson plan or the premise of a paper.

"Dean, I recognize this is a difficult process for you. I respect that, but right now I'm still angry with you. I'm still hurt." That hadn't been part of the script; Castiel has to clear his throat and even out his voice again before he continues. "We can't have this conversation until I can approach it more rationally. I'll call you in a few days."

Dean stammers something like "alright" into the expectant silence, and Castiel hangs up, and Dean's left with his phone blinking at him.


Cas
Time: 00:00:47

Forty-seven seconds. It only took forty-seven seconds for Castiel to hollow Dean out.


~

The week after Thanksgiving is a strange week where everything feels pointless. Through some weird mistake, chapter six isn't even on the final exam, not that he's telling his kids that, but he finds it harder every day to care about teaching them the present perfect of the subjunctive when it won't even matter to them until next semester, and by then it's another TA's problem. He's totally having a party on the last day, and he gives exactly zero fucks.

Meanwhile, in Dean's classes it's fucking crunch time. The Meléndez-Valdés paper is finished, but now he's got to start researching La vida es sueño, as well as actually get around to reading the thing. Actually, those are both things he should have started or completed by now, but he's far from a model grad student. He needs to shape himself up into one soon enough though because in a week he's taking exams in his courses, two mock-comps exams. Everyone he runs into in the department seems to have a stress cloud buzzing around their head like Charlie Brown's messy friend Pigpen, and Dean can't even stand to sit in his office anymore.

Not that those are the only reasons he's feeling particularly loathsome toward the Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese department's floor.

When Dean's there, he sticks to his office, to the computer room, but he still has to check his mailbox, still has to make copies. On Wednesday he walks in with fifteen minutes to spare before he has to teach, and he has to run off copies for his kids, but Castiel is at the copier. Dean bolts while Castiel is still in the middle of turning around. He pulls out a different bullshit assignment for them to do and plays off how rattled he is.

He figures Thursday will be a safe day; he's just got the one class, and then he'll go to the library and pick up some books for his paper, and then he'll go home and bury himself in the Spanish Golden Age, where people solved their domestic disputes by tricking people into chopping their wives' heads off and bloodletting their wives to death. Simpler times.

It's taken Dean a year, but he can make it to the PQ's now without getting lost in the labyrinth of this library, and he's grateful that no one's sitting at the carrels that line the wall just beside the books he's looking for. He's never sure how they manage to work in here; libraries can be warm, but this one's mainly huge and twisting and suffocatingly gray, like a hospital for books. There are more cheerful places in this library; he's seen them when he's gotten lost before, but the PQ's get relegated to the morgue.

He consults his list of books and frowns at the shelves, mercifully free to mutter to himself; his whispering is so furious he doesn't hear the approaching footsteps; it's the shadow he sees, flickering across the shelves, that has him looking up when Castiel rounds the corner. It's a huge school -- the biggest Dean's ever set eyes on -- but somehow the Spanish section of the library manages to be the smallest fucking world ever. Dean's run into no less than three people here in one day before, and he should have known, really.

Castiel looks up from the list in his hand and stops muttering to himself, and Dean's surge of emotions sinks when he sees the spark go out of Castiel's eyes.

Castiel swallows thickly and focuses on the bookshelf.

"Dean," he greets, and he tries to sound cool, but Dean can hear the waver, sneaking in around the edges.

"Cas." Dean isn't about to act like he's twelve and giving Sam the silent treatment -- well, okay, so he actually last gave Sam the silent treatment over dinner this past weekend, but still.

"Cas, I'm sorry," he blurts, and Castiel's throat bobs. "It was a shitty thing to do. I know that now -- I knew that then."

Those blue eyes, when they find him, are sharp.

"Then why did you do it?" Castiel asks, his voice a fierce whisper.

"Because... I'm a dick?" Dean picks at the cover of a book and misses Castiel's eye roll.

"If that's the best you have, then I give you a C for effort."

This time, Dean hears the footsteps approaching, and Castiel does too; he sighs heavily, his lips a thin line, and both of them wait while the person turns down a different row and drags the chair for her carrel across the floor. Castiel regards the shelf and plucks a book, the picture of calm, but more like a lake after a rock's been dropped into it; he's vibrating with emotion, and it tears through his act.

"Cas, I'm sorry -- "

Castiel holds up a hand, his attention still on the shelf, and he takes his hand away to pull another book out.

"I believe that you are. I'm close to forgiving you, but you're ruining it by talking." He glances at his list, nods, and turns back to Dean, where the conviction in his eyes wavers. "I'm not having this conversation in the library. I told you I'll call; I will."

His shoes snap together as he turns, but Dean reaches out to stop him, his fingers on his sleeve; Castiel freezes.

"Tonight Professor Barnes is having our History of the Language class over. I won't be able to answer."

Castiel's jaw clenches, but then he nods.

"Your paper, when is it due?" he asks, his tone curiously light.

"Wednesday after the 2010 final, but I've got my finals before then, one on Friday and one on Monday -- "

"Right."

This time when Castiel cuts him off, it smacks of recognition, of remembering Dean's schedule, how he's promised to help Dean study for the Golden Age final. Castiel's head turns, and their eyes meet, hesitant and uncertain. Castiel's throat bobs again, and he steps away.

"Tomorrow then," he says, and Dean imagines Castiel typing this into his calendar. Tense conversation with Dean. Forgive him?

"Okay."

Castiel nods and hesitates a moment longer before he presses his books against his chest and leaves. Dean stays still until he can't hear Castiel's footsteps anymore, and then his eyes refocus on the shelf in front of him, and he remembers why he came here in the first place. Research, and papers, and grad school shit that makes him feel small and unprepared compared to all the other people here who are actually interested in this, unlike Dean who's interested in the paycheck that he can send along to his brother and the diploma that will make Bobby proud.

He jerks a few books that sound familiar off the shelf and waits five minutes so he doesn't have to worry about running into Castiel on the way out.


~

Dinner at his professor's house is delicious and only five shades of awkward, mostly because the wine was flowing, and Barnes has some great stories. When he pushes open the door to his apartment, Dean's buzzed and full of good food and the bottled-up feelings of the near-dumped, and the only thing that's there to greet him is a stack of second draft compositions. Somewhere in his teaching bag is a set of notes on his students' presentations -- and he can only hope he hasn't lost any of them -- and on his desk is a stack of research he really ought to read for real.

There was a point, somewhere in his first semester when he realized just how deep of a pool he'd swum into blindly and how much he'll have to tread water just to stay afloat, that he didn't think grad school could get much bleaker. He was okay with that though because from rock bottom, there's only one way up, and he thinks he's done a good job of working up from that first semester.

This, though, this is bleaker. Because he had a taste of actually enjoying this life, enjoying academia a little bit more and enjoying being here, and he fumbled the ball.

He flops into bed hoping the wine will pull him to sleep, but he gets dragged into a confused assembly line of thoughts, nearly all of which focus on how amazing Castiel is and how much it freaking sucks that he isn't in Dean's bed right now, but it isn't even the sex thing. It's the way Castiel fits against him and is considerate with the blankets, even when he's unconscious and snoring a little but in a breathy-not-too-annoying way. And when Dean nudges him in the side, he mumbles something that isn't always English (or any other language, for all Dean knows sometimes) before he rolls over.

He doesn't really miss the sex -- well, no, he misses the sex -- but the sex isn't even what it's all about here. That's never been what it's about, and that's what brought on Dean's big gay crisis because until now, his thing for guys was about attraction and lust and the occasional urge to indulge. But Castiel isn't occasional, and that thought seems really profound and meaningful to Dean through the wine cloud in his mind.

He realizes that Castiel has been right all along; he isn't Don Félix, who followed that ghost chick through that haunted house because he wanted a piece of that. He's more the Don Juan -- well, the Romantic dude's Don Juan, not the original -- who starts out flipping everyone off, but ends up on his knees, accepting the chick's love and going off to heaven. He would've thought this revelation would be more repulsive to him, since the ending of Don Juan is kind of a festival of pussy-dom, but so long as there aren't cherubs and heavenly music and flowers and shit, he's actually... cool with this. He's actually comforted by this because despite the Hallmark commercial ending, Don Juan still is kind of a badass, and Dean's living in the postmodern world; he doesn't have to spit his soul out and die in order to win. He can go in there and win his boyfriend back and be a badass about it.

When he wakes up in the morning and remembers his embarrassingly academic revelation, he can't actually find much fault with it.


~

Castiel texts Dean between the morning and the afternoon, and Dean actually can sit and picture Castiel in his house, making coffee, papers in his lap and pen between his fingers, but he's too busy deciding the appropriate time to text to concentrate grading.


Cas: My house. 7 PM okay?

Dean's mouth goes dry, but he reminds himself he's Don Juan and he's going to get Castiel back without almost going to hell to do it.


Me: I'll be there.

Dean's actually there at 6:45, and he sits in his car and pretends to be busy with something until 6:50, when he doesn't think he can conceivably stall without losing too much face anymore and he pulls himself out of the Impala and starts for Castiel's front door. It opens all too quickly after his knock, and his mouth goes dry again when Castiel is in front of him, still dressed from work but without his tie, his face set but his eyes as uncertain as Dean feels.

"Come in." He steps aside stiffly, and Dean follows, licking over his lips and going over the script he'd written for himself. It's currently in its fourth version, and Dean decides that none of it is actually any good and rejects it all before he even turns around to face Castiel.

"Have a seat," Castiel starts, but Dean shakes his head and holds out a hand.

"No. I'd rather do this standing."

"I screwed up, Cas. I knew it then, and I sure as shit know it now, but those are all my issues. I'm dealing with them, I'm getting there. It'll take a while to undo twenty some years of this... internalized homophobia."

He gestures to himself and tries not to be embarrassed for the term, but it's accurate and he's in grad school, right? People throw around "hegemony" and "teleological" every day like they know what they mean; he can use big words too. Castiel's mouth twitches from its firm line, but it doesn't reach a full smile. That's okay; Dean knows you really have to work for those. There was a time when they came easy for him. They'll get back to there; he's certain of that.

"I know that." Castiel's eyes are fixed on him, holding him to his spot. "I recognize that you're apologetic for what happened. I accept that. What concerns me, Dean, is where are we to go from here? I don't want to be the boyfriend you pretend doesn't exist, let alone never talk about. What would've happened if we hadn't been outed at the party, Dean?" Castiel pauses, tilts his head, but his eyes never waver from Dean's face. "I don't want to be your big gay experiment."

Dean shakes his head and takes a small step forward.

"That's not what this is, Cas. I know it's hard for you to believe me when I say that right now, but I'll prove it to you, Cas. I will." He sucks in a breath and bites his lip; he has to say these words, and he knows that he means them, but that doesn't make them any easier to say. "I -- I love you, Cas."

Surprise flashes in Castiel's eyes for a moment, and then his eyes harden again and he shakes his head.

"Can you say it without stuttering?"

Actually, Dean isn't sure if he could just then, but it isn't even (entirely) because of the bisexual thing. Emotions aren't really his thing, so he does what he's best at. He takes a step forward, into Castiel's space, and Castiel doesn't flinch away, not even when Dean reaches up to touch his face. He pulls him in for a kiss, slow and tender and searching, and Castiel's hand even settles on his waist. Dean doesn't stutter when he kisses out his I love yous.

"I love you, Cas." But he says it again anyway, for good measure.

Castiel's mouth twitches into a smile, a real smile, and he sets their foreheads together.

"I love you too, Dean."


epílogo

Dean scrubs his hands over his face and sits back against his couch, trying to press the tiredness out of his eyes. He has seven pages to go on this paper, and he already feels like he's done with it, like he's ready to chuck Calderón de la Barca out a window. It's 3 AM but it's exam week, and there's nothing waiting for him in the morning other than seven more pages of this and 18 more final exams to grade.

Well, that and Castiel.

He drops the hands from his eyes so that he can look over at him, stretched out in Dean's bed. Castiel is such a weird mix of put-together and scattered, that sort of absent-minded professor that Dean's always found a little amusing because it means Castiel's hair is always a fucking mess, but his handwriting is neat and cramped and he's probably the best goddamn teacher Dean's ever met.

When he sleeps with Dean, he keeps to his side of the bed, like he's afraid of disturbing Dean out of his own rest. When the bed's all his own, though, he's all limbs, and right now the blanket is twisted around one of his arms somehow, and his shoulder's exposed. His face is buried in the pillow so all Dean can really see is a mop of tangled hair and his back rising and falling, slowly.

God, he wishes he could be in that bed right fucking now.

Fuck you, Segismundo, Dean thinks venomously, and he sets his laptop aside so he can refill his coffee cup.


~

It's 6:32 in the goddamn morning, and Dean has three more pages to go. He really ought to just try to crank this shit out, but it feels like if he tries to have one more thought about Segismundo and Machiavelli and the rebel soldier, thoughts might start literally falling out of his ears. That sounds messy, so air drumming along with Kansas seems like the better idea.

He leans his head back against the couch, shuts his eyes, and waves his hands in time to the beat, resisting the urge to hum since Castiel is still asleep because Castiel is a normal person, or at least no longer a grad student. One of his earbuds slips out of his ear, but he doesn't stop drumming to fix it.

"How's the paper?"

He jumps and sits up, only mildly embarrassed to see Castiel on his back in bed, watching Dean; he'd be more embarrassed if Castiel's smile wasn't so fond. Also, if he wasn't deliriously hopped up on caffeine and extreme readiness for this semester to be over -- so ready that he can't even bring himself to finish his paper.

"Getting there," he says, tugging out his other earbud.

"I hope you're working classic rock in there somehow." Castiel pushes himself into a sitting position, and for once Dean's grateful that Castiel prefers to sleep in a thin T-shirt. He really doesn't need to be distracted right now.

Well, more distracted.

"The paper would be finished if I could do that. Hey, am I bothering you?" he asks with a frown; reaching out, he turns down the brightness on the screen.

"No. No, I just woke up." Castiel yawns and reaches up, rubbing at his eyes. "Is there any coffee?"

Dean shakes his head, reaching for his cup. "No. I was about to make more, though."

Castiel nods and swings his legs out of bed, getting to his feet. "How many pages do you have left?" he asks as he crosses to Dean's kitchen and pulls his coffeemaker closer.

"Three," Dean says with a sigh, pulling the laptop over again.

Castiel eyes the clock on the microwave, appraising. "Okay. If you finish within the next two hours, we'll have morning sex. Anywhere you want."

Dean stares at Castiel's back, wondering at how he can say these kinds of things so matter-of-factly through his sleep-clogged voice, like it's the most natural wager in the world to be making at 6:46 in the morning on a Thursday.

"That the kind of extra credit you offer all your students?" Dean doesn't have the same ability to sound as calm and cool as Castiel does, and Castiel smiles at him over his shoulder before he reaches for the Cheerios that Dean keeps there specifically for Castiel now. (Dean likes Lucky Charms.)

"Only my favorites. I don't have the stamina to extend the offer to all my students, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't spread this around. I wouldn't want the others to complain to Jessica about how I'm being unfair."

Smiling, Dean slips one headphone in and looks back at his paper, trying to drag back thoughts about rebel soldiers and defenestration (which is totally his new favorite word), but the words just aren't coming. With a sigh, he looks back at Castiel, who's leaning against the counter, bowl balanced in his hand.

"You realize now all I'm thinking about is where in this apartment I would most like to have my sick, twisted way with you?"

Castiel shrugs, one shoulder moving up and down. "I don't feel sympathy until at least 8 AM."


~

"Done," Dean murmurs because he wants to make sure before he really gets around to celebrating.

"Hm? " Castiel asks, lifting his head from looking at the papers in his lap.
"Done," he repeats, firmer this time because he's double-checked and there's a title and page numbers and his name, and it's fifteen pages and it's done. He really ought to read through it, but truth be told Dean never had much patience for reading through his papers. He doesn't actually like hearing himself talk all that much, and agonizing over word choice just makes him a little sick.

Anyway, reading through his paper totally does not trump screwing Castiel against his desk (at least he thinks that's what he's going with).

"Mm," Castiel hums, and his eyes flick past Dean's head to the clock on the microwave. Reaching up, he pulls the pen from between his lips, and he raises an eyebrow at Dean, something very professorly forbidding about his expression. "It's 9."

Dean twists around, even though there's a clock on his laptop, and he frowns. "So? It was 7 when you got up," he counters, hitting save about three more times before he shuts his laptop.

"No, it was 6:45. You're fifteen minutes too late." He sets the pen between his lips again and turns back to the essays in his lap.

"Oh, come on," Dean says, rolling his eyes, and he slides his hand in Castiel's hair, pulling him up for a kiss, the pen still trapped between their lips. Castiel doesn't argue very much, though he does laugh, muffled against Dean's mouth and the pen. He draws away and it falls between them, but Castiel's face is still very much a No Face.

"I'm sorry -- truly, since it's now past 8 -- but you missed out on the bargain, Dean."

"Dude, you can't promise me victory, paper-finishing morning sex and then just say no," he counters, keeping Castiel close with a warm hand pressed against his neck.

Castiel's No Face turns into a much, much better face.

"Did I neglect to mention that if you missed the time window, we would have -- how did you phrase it -- sick, twisted sex anywhere I want?" he asks, all sly and shy and teasing and knowing and fucking sexy.

"No," and Dean knows he's grinning like an idiot, but he doesn't really care because he's too busy setting Castiel's grading aside, on top of his laptop. "No, you didn't mention that."

"Oh, well. Oops. My ability to make the fine print clear doesn't kick in until 9 AM."

But most of Castiel's witty whatever is swallowed up when Dean presses their mouths together again, and he tugs at Castiel's shirt, because Dean's ability to listen promptly checks out when his boyfriend uses the words "sick, twisted sex" in that order.