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Life In Pink

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1989

“So, Ms. Susan hired a wedding planner, ‘cause her daughter needs help with color seams.”

“Color seams?” Cas scrunches his nose. He bends forward to rest his chin in his hands. “What are those?”

“Like…” Dean drums his fingers. “Like, what colors go good together. Say, if you chose, I dunno, orange and purple, I’d tell you that they crash so you gotta pick something else.” 

Cas nods, considering this. “What other stuff does a wedding planner do?” 

Dean’s bright green eyes practically sparkle at the question, and he gestures to the magazine flipped open between them. “I just read a tiny bit,” he admits bashfully, “but there’s a lot about the dress and what kinds of flowers you buy and what sorta cake to get so everyone’s happy.”

“It’s fancy,” Cas murmurs in awe, touching his finger to a three-tier cake with lavender icing. He patiently waits for Dean to scoot closer then asks, “What flavor do you think it is?” 

Dean peers over Cas’ shoulder. “Hmm. Grape, maybe? Ooh, or bubblegum! That’d be cool!” 

Cas laughs, “I don’t think that’d taste very good.” He looks at the pages again then over at Dean with a curious gaze. “What kind of cake would you want, Dean?” 

“Me?” Dean points at himself. He’s only seven so he hasn’t tried many flavors. “I like strawberry shortcake… and chocolate, I guess. But you know what’d be awesome, Cas? If I could have pie.” 

Cas hums and smiles like that was the answer he expected. “Pecan pie?” he asks. 

“Mmhmm, and cherry,” Dean replies. 

“How old do you think you’ll be? When you get married?” Cas muses. 

It feels like an eternity away so Dean just shrugs, “Not before fifty.” 

“Fifty?” Cas widens his eyes. “But what’re you going to do till then?” 

“Be a wedding planner!” Dean grins widely, smiling even bigger when Cas mirrors it back. “And we’ll have more time to play if we wait that long. You can’t play anymore after you get married.” 

Cas frowns. “That doesn’t sound very fun,” he sighs, but Dean giggles and nudges his shoulder. 

“Don’t worry. We still have like, forever.” 

Cas sighs again, but adds more cheerfully, “You’re gonna be the bestest wedding planner ever.” 

“Thanks,” Dean blushes cherry-pink, feeling a bit embarrassed as he stares at the flowers. “You don’t think it’s dumb I wanna do girly stuff?” 

“It isn’t girly. Boys get married too.” 

“Yeah, but…” Dean bites his lip, recalling the disappointed huff he heard from his dad. He hadn’t been happy about Dean reading some “froufrou women’s Bible,” might’ve even told Mom not to take him to the salon with her anymore had she not scolded him to leave Dean alone. 

“I think it’s cool,” Castiel smiles, and it’s soft and pretty like the morning sky. 

Dean ducks his head, both of his cheeks still warm from the compliment. Even when he turns the page to show Cas all the different kinds of cursive you put on invitations, his face remains slightly flushed and he’s able to forget that he was feeling sad. 

“What’s the groom supposed to say to the bride?” Cas asks. “Before the old man says they can kiss?” He rolls onto his side and props himself up on one elbow, while Dean does the same so they’re facing each other, deep in thought. 

“He prolly…” Dean thinks for a moment. “He prolly promises to make her lots of sandwiches.” 

“So she won’t be hungry,” Cas nods his agreement. “How about her? What does she promise?”

“Hmm, maybe to buy him presents.”

Castiel grins. “I want mine to buy me socks.”

Dean laughs because Cas’ socks are crazy - kittens and stars and bumblebees - and whoever marries Cas better try their hardest to find for him all the pairs he likes. Dean could always tell ‘em, too, that Cas’ favorite store is the Cracker Barrel near Aunt Ellen’s diner. That’s where Cas found his Halloween socks, the ones with shiny pumpkins and fuzzy black cats. 

“He wore lots of socks and lived happily ever after,” Dean announces. 

Cas wriggles his toes, clothed in white - the teeth of a dinosaur - and moves in close until their knees bump and echoes, “And they lived happily ever after.”

 

 

2015

“Cas, oh my god. I’m so sorry I’m late.” 

Dean is breathless by the time he finds his seat across from Cas, flashing an apologetic smile as he grabs Cas’ drink and takes a long gulp. “The meeting ran over and traffic was a bitch,” he groans, returning the iced tea to Cas - half-empty now - with another guilty look. “Sorry.” 

“It’s fine, Dean,” Castiel laughs. “How’s your latest bride? Bridezilla or Angel?” 

Dean scoffs. “Angelic brides are a myth, Cas.” 

“But surely, no one could resist your unparalleled taste and charm.” 

“Well, yeah, that’s true. I am the best,” Dean smiles. “Wait a minute… That sounds familiar. Have you been reading my client testimonials again?” 

Cas shrugs, but his eyes are crinkled. “I just want to make sure no one’s slandering you.”

“Nerd,” Dean chides fondly. “So, what’s new with you? How are the little squirts?” 

Cas opens his mouth to reply but is interrupted by their server bringing out the food, and Dean groans despite himself at the sight of his favorite burger in the city. They’ve been patrons here for years, which is how Cas knew what to order for Dean. Of course, Cas also knows how Dean takes his coffee and what he likes in his smoothies, pastas, and sandwiches, but that’s neither here nor there and Dean’s more curious as to why Cas asked him to lunch.

“My patients are fine,” Cas finally answers, slicing into his burger with the provided steak knife. Dean never understood his need to cut up his burgers but Cas argues it actually keeps his food from falling apart. “I discharged a boy who had surgery last week and he drew a picture for me. Here, I took a photo.” 

Cas takes out his phone and thumbs at the screen before turning it around so Dean can see.

Dean immediately melts. “Aw, man, that’s cute.” It’s a crayon drawing of a boy in a leg cast with Cas standing next to him in bright blue socks. “He make fun of you for your dorky socks?” 

Cas clicks his tongue, playful and mischievous. “No, Dean. They aren’t mean like you.” 

Dean laughs and takes a bite of his burger, wipes the ketchup that oozes onto his chin. “So, ah, how come you wanted to meet today? I mean, our lunch day is usually Thursday.” 

“Right, well…” 

Cas puts down his burger and pulls a napkin from the dispenser, then spends a weirdly drawn-out minute wiping the grease from the ends of his fingers. “About that. Dean, I’m, um…” 

“Hey,” Dean sets his food down as well, suddenly nervous, his mind immediately swarming with all sorts of worst-case scenarios. “Is everything okay? Cas, are you-” 

“I’m getting married.” 

Dean blinks. Once. Twice. 

“You’re… what?” 

“I’m getting married, Dean,” Cas says slowly. “It’s… new. It happened yesterday.” 

When they were kids, Dean would walk down the block and spend every Saturday with Cas at his house. They’d pass the mornings watching cartoons and be in hysterics at the antics that unfolded onscreen. Cas particularly loved the Road Runner, how he’d always outsmart Wile E. Coyote. The traps and anvils and speed skates would enthrall them both, reel after reel. 

I’m getting married. 

Cas is getting married. 

Dean’s feeling a bit like Wile E. Coyote himself, like an anvil has been dropped on his head and his world is spinning, birds and all. It’s not just the news that shocks him, although it’s enough to leave him speechless, but the fact that Cas didn’t tell him- Cas is his best friend and yet- 

“I don’t…” 

Dean’s hands drop into his lap, clenching so tightly that his slacks start to wrinkle. His eyes are darting everywhere - everywhere besides Cas - who sits stock-still and infuriatingly calm like he is merely waiting for Dean’s freakout to end. 

“Who is it?” Dean finally asks, once his brain supplies that it might be an important detail. 

“Lisa,” Cas replies, the name reminding Dean of beautiful brown eyes. 

“Oh.” Dean should’ve assumed, of course. He knew that Cas and Lisa were dating. “You haven’t been- I mean, this seems… pretty sudden,” he stammers.

“I suppose so,” Cas says as he reaches for his drink. The food sits forgotten on their respective plates and Dean realizes that he isn’t hungry anymore. “Though we’ve been together for almost six months. We met before you started work on that outdoor wedding.” 

“Right. Yeah, I remember.” Anna Milton’s lavish spring wedding was the reason he hadn’t seen much of Cas since the fall. She’d married at her childhood home - under a billowy tent pitched in the backyard - and it’s always a whole other ballgame to plan a wedding around a home and not a formal venue. 

“I know I should’ve told you sooner, Dean. I’m sorry I didn’t,” Cas says earnestly. His eyes are all big and contrite and Dean can feel himself start to forgive.

“When I took Lisa out to dinner yesterday, I had no idea she was going to propose.” 

Dean lifts an eyebrow. “She asked you?” 

Castiel nods, quirking a smile, somewhat amused, entirely handsome. “I’d been thinking about our future as well, but she beat me to popping the question.” 

“That’s…” Dean braces himself, because he’s a good friend and that’s what Cas needs. “This is really great, Cas. Congratulations.” 

He can see the tension seep out of Cas’ shoulders, like he expected Dean to tell him that this is a terrible idea. That he barely knows Lisa, relative to the near-three decades he’s known Dean; that Dean has loved him as more than a friend for the past five years and he has no idea. 

“Thank you, Dean. Your blessing means a lot.”

He has no idea. Not a clue. Dean closes his eyes, then opens them. 

“Do you have a date?” he asks politely. 

Cas shakes his head. “No, Lisa mentioned something about a winter wedding but nothing’s set in stone. We’ll have to consult a wedding planner.” 

Dean’s heart drops to the pit of his stomach. 

“Who, um, who’s your wedding planner?” 

“We actually don’t have one yet, but we were wondering…” and Cas looks so damn hopeful. 

Dean paints on a smile that he thinks is pleasant, convincing enough not to cause concern. “I’ll set up an appointment. You can come in with Lisa,” he says, all while tamping down on the pain and jealousy that threaten to taint Cas’ obvious happiness.

“She better buy you socks,” he teases instead, voice a little shaky and pulse running wild when Cas smiles back, private and fond.

 


 

Dean’s boss is delighted by the news of the wedding. 

“Lisa Braeden!” she leans back in her fancy, ergonomic chair, eyeing Dean like he’s her absolute favorite person in the world. “Dean, the Braedens own one of the largest fitness empires on the west coast. They’re not gonna spare any expense. This is huge for you, do you understand?” 

Dean nods, staring down at this hands.  

“Sure, unlimited budget. The two magic words any planner wants to hear.” 

Even without looking up, he can tell she’s rolling her eyes. “I was thinking more along the lines of becoming partner, Dean Winchester.” 

Dean’s head jerks up, mouth parting in surprise. “Partner?” 

“But I mean, I guess you’re right. Unlimited budgets aren’t too shabby either.” 

Judith,” Dean hisses, and his boss just laughs, twirling a pen through her fingers. “Partner?” he asks again, because it’s what he’s worked toward since coming to the firm. 

“Yes, Winchester, you’re an asset to this company. Despite your constant sarcasm and general air of defiance.” Judith adjusts her glasses then stares him down with one corner of her mouth turned up. “You bring in more revenue than anyone else and your reviews are also glowing and there’s also the inexplicable phenomena that brides apparently love you. I need you here.” 

Any other time, they’d be bantering again, but in the face of his boss’ praise, all he can manage is, “Wow, Judith, I- Um. Thank you.” 

“No sappiness!” she snaps her fingers, waving him out with her bracelet-clad wrists. “Just plan the wedding of the season and the position’s yours. The groom’s your best friend, you said?”

And just like that, Dean deflates a little. “Yeah, um, Cas and I met when we were five.”

Judith whistles. “Well, in that case, I’m not too worried, but no fighting till after the wedding.” 

Dean sighs as he walks to the door. “No need to worry about that.”

 


 

He pencils in Cas and Lisa for their initial consultation the following week. He schedules it as late in the day as he can but knows that Cas will have to leave work early to make it on time. 

And as he expected, when Cas walks into their meeting on Tuesday, his hair looks messy and completely windswept like he ran across town so he wouldn’t be late. Dean thinks it’s probably because he stayed at the hospital till the last possible minute. 

Lisa, meanwhile, is perfectly put together like she stepped off a display at a department store. She gives Cas a kiss on the cheek and shakes Dean’s hand, firm and confident. Dean can tell this is her business demeanor, the one she wears when helping her parents with the company. 

“Dean, it’s good to see you again,” she smiles dazzlingly as she sits down. “I’m so relieved that you could fit us in. I would’ve wanted to work with you even if you and Cas hadn’t been friends.”

“Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate that,” Dean says, not missing the fond look that Cas directs his way. “So,” he clears his throat, “we should talk about numbers today. Try to narrow down a date and how many guests you’re planning to invite so we can move onto venues. Details come later.” 

“Sounds great,” Lisa nods, pulling out a tablet and clicking it on. Her voice is pretty, attractively husky, and Dean absently wonders if Cas thinks so too. 

“Cas told me that you might be leaning toward a winter wedding?” he asks. “Winter ceremonies can be very beautiful but the challenge is, of course, inclement weather. We wouldn’t want your guests to be stranded at airports, especially Cas’ parents who’ll be flying in from Boston.” 

“Right. I’ve just always thought that December weddings are really romantic.” Lisa reaches over and places a hand on Cas’ knee. “I’ll be fine with autumn too, if that makes more sense.” 

Dean nods and makes a note in their file. “Do you have an idea of the number of guests?” 

“Around four hundred,” Lisa replies, right as Castiel says, “We’d like to keep it small.” 

Dean pauses, pen hovering uncertainly over his pad. Cas is turning toward Lisa with a shocked expression while she lowers her iPad to twist and face him. 

“Four hundred?” Cas repeats. “Lisa, we aren’t friends with four hundred people.” 

“But my parents are,” Lisa counters. “There are business contacts they have to invite.” 

“To our wedding?” 

She sighs. “I can’t just ignore their wishes, Cas. Look, the more the merrier, right?” Her eyes grow wide, a bit puppy-eyed, and Dean can see Cas wanting to argue but caving instead. 

“If that’s what you want,” he murmurs indulgently, leaning back against his chair while Lisa brightens and confirms, “Four hundred, Dean. Now, where can you put us?” 

Cas is more or less just present for the remainder of the meeting, speaking only to give his assent to his fiancée’s decisions. Dean suggests a couple of wineries in addition to the city’s botanical gardens, all of which are spacious enough for parties of a few hundred or more. 

“I can contact these places to set up tours for us,” Dean says. “Would the two of you be free next week?” 

“I’m away next week, actually,” Lisa smiles. “But I trust your guys’ judgment so just go ahead and visit them. Email me pictures.” 

“Lisa…” Dean tries not to frown. “You’re the bride. You should really be there.” 

“Well, you’re the professional,” Lisa says breezily. “You’ll know what’s best. Seriously, it’s fine.” 

She’s already standing up; the discussion’s over. “Okay, then, I’ll, um…” Dean looks to Cas. “I’ll text you the details? We could go this weekend.”

Cas smiles for the first time in an hour. “Sure, Dean. I look forward to it.”

Lisa thanks him, says she’ll be in touch as soon as she’s back, and Cas opens the door for her, leading her out with a hand on her waist. Dean watches them leave and keeps it together until his office door shuts, shrouding him in silence. He scrubs a tired hand down over his face and reaches for his phone to dial Jo.

 


 

“Wow,” is the first thing Jo says once Dean’s done ranting to her for five minutes straight. “Are you okay?” is the second thing she says and Dean just groans into his take-out lunch. 

“I don’t know,” he tells her honestly. “I just… I want him to be happy.” 

“I know,” Jo sighs sympathetically, “and I adore you both but you’re making yourself miserable.” 

“I could be partner,” Dean deflects, pressing his knuckles against his eyes. 

“You deserve it,” she replies and the phone line crackles as she sighs again. “Babe, you’ll have to decide if you can go through with all this wedding prep. It won’t be easy dealing with cakes and like, other romantic shit when Cas is marrying someone else, you know? It could be hell.” 

“Romantic shit?” Dean repeats helplessly. Despite everything, his mouth twitches up. 

“Shut up,” Jo laughs at him. “That’s your expertise. Mine’s actually cool.” 

“Hey, now,” he warns playfully. “Remember, I worked with you at your dad’s garage.” 

“Remember, I kicked your ass at replacing anything.” 

Dean laughs. She’s got him there. “Alright, alright. Touché.” He rolls his eyes but purely out of fondness and there’s an ache in his chest at how much he misses her.

As though she’s read his mind, Jo tells him “I miss you,” voice softer than before. He clutches his phone a little tighter and thinks of the summers they spent smudged in grease in Bobby’s shop. It was Jo and Ellen’s idea, mostly to get John to back off with his macho bullshit. It had only gotten worse since they lost Dean’s mom and they figured the garage would placate him some. In hindsight, it was a good decision, because Dean adored the Singers and they adored him. He also discovered that he enjoyed working on cars quite a bit and might have gone into engineering like Jo did had he not been so set on his current profession. 

“I miss you too, Jo,” he says with a smile. “I guess I’ll see you at the wedding, yeah?” 

He can tell that she’s smiling, but a little less bright than usual. “Yeah. Take care of yourself, okay? Promise me.”

Dean looks at a photo on his desk, one of him and Jo and Cas when they were in high school. Jo is standing behind them, making a duck face, her hands in their hair. Cas is mid-laugh with an arm around Dean and Dean just looks like he’s so embarrassed by them both.

“I promise,” he answers at last, though he isn’t quite sure if he believes it himself.

 


 

They decide to hit the wineries on Saturday morning, since they’ll be able to visit both places with just one drive down to Napa Valley. Cas picks him up around nine, in a nice blue pullover that brings out his eyes, and Dean tries his best not to blush when Castiel hugs him. “Thanks again for doing this, Dean.” 

“Of course, Cas. Who else could put up with you?” he teases, unable to keep from smiling when Cas huffs a laugh and catches his elbow. “Come on.” 

The trip isn’t too long, just a couple of hours on the road, and Dean links his phone to Cas’ car so they can listen to his go-to, classic rock playlist. 

And speaking of songs, Dean becomes curious, “Hey, um, do you and Lisa have a song?”

Cas creases his brows. “A song for what?” 

“For the reception, like for the first dance.”

“Oh,” Cas hesitates, tapping his fingertips on the wheel. “No, I guess we don’t. What do people usually pick?”

“Um, well…” Dean would be lying if he said he weren’t a little taken aback. It’s pretty normal for couples to have at least a few songs narrowed down. “‘At Last’ is definitely a classic. The last couple I worked with chose ‘The Way You Look Tonight.’ Ed Sheeran’s really popular, and so is ‘All Of Me’ by, ah, John Legend… Here, we can listen to some of them.” 

Dean switches the playlist to the one he keeps on his phone for consultations, and as the first notes of “L-O-V-E” flow through the speakers he says, “Another obvious classic.” 

Cas nods. “How about Celine Dion?” 

Dean laughs. “I’ll refrain from saying ‘cliché’ because I respect everyone’s choices, but I mean, yeah, it’s a cliché. Why, is Lisa a fan?”

Cas shakes his head, replying, “I just remember the song from Beauty and the Beast. Ben’s six so maybe a familiar song will be good.” 

“Oh. Right,” Dean thumbs through his songs to see if he’s got that on his cloud. “How, um, how is Ben?” He vaguely remembers Cas telling him that he first met Lisa when Ben came in with a broken wrist. An injury from Taekwondo, or may be it was Little League; Dean isn’t sure. 

“He’s a good kid,” Castiel says, a smile tucked into the crooked curl of his mouth. “He’s always going to love his dad best, but I’m hoping he’ll come to like me a little more in due time.” 

“He will,” Dean assures him, because Cas is wonderful with kids; it’s what makes him amazing at his job. 

The track changes before Cas can answer, making them both laugh with an orchestral intro they’ve both heard maybe a hundred times. It’s “La Vie En Rose” - the original version - which Cas became enamored with back in tenth grade when he had to translate the lyrics for French class. He listened to the song practically on repeat, and half the time, Dean was there too. 

“This is your song,” Dean declares. “C’mon, she’ll never forgive you if you turn your back on her now. Don’t deny it, Cas. Edith is your girl.” 

“I do love this song,” Cas agrees, already humming along and mouthing the lyrics. His voice is deeper than it used to be, when he sang the song for Dean and translated the words. Now, the French sounds like honey over gravel when Cas speaks, and makes heat spread across Dean’s cheeks, coloring them. 

“C’est lui pour moi, moi pour lui dans la vie.” Cas smiles. “That was your favorite part.” 

“W-was it?” Dean asks weakly. “I forget what all of it means.”

“It’s him for me and me for him, for life. Something like that.” Cas throws him a winsome look and if Dean weren’t sitting already, his knees would have buckled.

“So, you should, um… You should talk to Lisa. See if she likes it.”

He watches Castiel nod and when the song ends, he plays it again.

 


 

“What do you think of the winery?” Dean asks later. They’ve done the sampling, talked to the owners, and are taking a stroll through the gardens at their suggestion. “We wouldn’t have to worry about space and the French-style gardens go well with the song. It’ll be romantic when you have your first dance.”

He’s not entirely sure if Cas is listening when they come to a stop in front of the fountain. The sculptures are ornate - little harps and cherubs - and Cas squints at them for a second before he says, “It’ll definitely fit four hundred.” 

His tone is off, barely noticeable to someone who hasn’t known him as long as Dean. He takes a few steps closer and places his hand on Castiel’s arm.

“Cas,” he squeezes gently, trying to soothe by touch alone. “You know, at the end of the day, all that matters is you and Lisa. Whether the wedding party is big or small, as long as you two are happy, the rest just…” he waves his hand, “fades to the background.” 

Cas tilts his head, a trademark gesture he’s always made since they were ankle-biters. “You’re right, and I do understand but it’s just- It feels like the ceremony’s becoming more about other people than about us.” 

“Hmm,” Dean sighs, gazing at the chateau that rises before them. It’s almost majestic against the gorgeous, gorgeous expanse of cloudless sky, and he can picture the perfect ceremony to see Cas off to the next phase of his life. It’s almost an occupational hazard, that he’s still able to visualize and conceptualize details. Even if the wedding isn’t as he’d hoped, where he’s not the one standing beside Cas. 

“A big wedding doesn’t have to be impersonal,” he says. “I can be sure to highlight details that make it about you two. You guys and Ben.”

Cas slips his hands into his pockets and turns toward Dean, breeze rustling his hair. “I showed Lisa that article you wrote for Brides. You gave advice on how to add a personal touch.” 

“Yeah, I did,” Dean laughs, ducking his head and scuffing his feet. “Can’t believe you remember that, Cas. That was like, two years ago.” 

“It was your first one with Brides. Of course I remember.” 

Dean blushes and hopes the crimson isn’t too obvious beneath the sun. “I mean, I guess Ellen and Bobby framed their copy, so… you know.” 

Cas quirks an eyebrow. “I scrapbooked mine.”  

It’s delivered completely deadpan saved for the twitch along his jaw, and Dean scoffs, shoves at his shoulder, mutters “Asshole” because he can. Cas laughs, doesn’t even pretend to dodge the blow, and instead stands a little closer and says, “Lisa thought I was really knowledgeable about weddings.” 

“You?” Dean stifles a laugh. “What do you mean? Why’d she think so?” 

Cas crinkles his nose at that, giving Dean the gummy smile he loves a little too much. “Well, the first time she came over, she found the bridal magazines all over my shelves. I only have the ones with articles you’ve written but that’s still twenty or thirty… It was really amusing.” 

Dean doesn’t know whether he should laugh or blush, and what ends up coming out is an odd mix of both. Thankfully, it’s lost on Cas, who’s now fishing in his pockets for two loose coins. 

“Want to make a wish?” he puts out his palm, offering a penny that’s seen better days. 

“Don’t you have a cleaner one?” Dean feigns annoyance, but Cas just chuckles and hands him one that’s shinier on both sides. 

“Ready?” Castiel asks, before closing his eyes and curling his fingers around the coin.

Dean watches him for a moment, heart brewing storms of want and adoration. In the end, he takes a deep breath and calms himself, grips the little penny and says, “Yeah, I’m ready.”

 


 

Dean was only five when Cas’ family moved to Lawrence from suburban Boston, and it’s hard to pinpoint the moment he and Cas became inseparable. One day, he and his mom brought by a pie to welcome the Novaks, and then the next they were playing all the time, in the living rooms and hallways of each other’s homes. 

He does remember, however, the very day he fell in love with Cas - or, at least, when he realized his feelings and opened the floodgates to years of pining. 

It was a Thursday five years ago, and the skies had been bleak since early morning. Dean was drunk, having called in sick, and tangled up inside his sheets, angry and pitiful. Empty bottles rolled around on the floor and left behind trails that stank up the room. 

A frame lay flat on his bedside table, in which a woman was smiling and sitting behind Dean, a child at the time with huge green eyes. She held his hand, just as delicate as hers, and she had kissed his forehead afterward, telling her how much she loved him. 

“Mom…” Dean sobbed into his pillow. She was gone now, had been for twelve years. Dean could still smell the smoke, hear the wail of the fire trucks. See the ugly flames engulfing their house. 

He hadn’t meant to be alone today, as he knew from past experience that he’d become a mess if left by himself. He was supposed to be with his boyfriend, at a cabin they rented in Tahoe. He hadn’t expected to be broken up with last night, over text like some blindside attack. 

If he’d somehow known that Eric would leave him, he could’ve driven to Stanford and been with  Sam and Jess. He needed Sam, today more than ever, especially with Cas being so far away, on the other side of the country for his residency. 

He missed his brother, and Jess’ kind smile. He missed his mom, her tender warmth, and above all Cas, whom Mary had adored like one of her own. Cas was there, the night of the fire, holding Dean as he cried and cried. Every year, if the trip was possible, Cas came to Dean so they could be together. 

He always knew exactly what to say, how to comfort Dean and make him feel like he’d be okay, that he could get through this. Dean was desperate to hear him now, just a phone call would be enough. Before he knew it, he was fumbling for his cell and pressing a thumb to the speed dial. 

As it rang, Dean buried his face into the sheets. His breaths were coming fast and the tears ran hot, seeping into the fabric. He silently begged for Cas to pick up; please, Cas, I need you. I’m a mess without you here. And when he heard a click, followed by Cas’ concerned “Dean? Are you okay?” he knew immediately that Cas remembered. Of course he did. Dean choked back a sob.

“Cas…” he called brokenly. “Cas, I’m… I’m sorry for… calling, but I just… I didn’t know-” 

“Hey. Dean, stop, it’s alright,” Cas soothed him. “Wait, are you alone? Where the hell is Eric?” He sounded pissed. 

“He-” Dean squeezed his eyes shut. They stung but he couldn’t find it in himself to care. “We’re not… together anymore.” 

Cas released a shaky breath. “Since when?” he asked carefully. 

“Yesterday,” Dean said with a laugh, the sound of it rough and laced in self-pity. 

“Dean, I’m so sorry. Look, are you- Could Sam-” 

“No,” Dean cut in quickly. “Don’t… Don’t make me call Sam. He doesn’t need to see me like this. Cas, don’t make me… okay? I just want…” 

“I understand. I won’t ask you to call him. What can I do? What you do n-” 

Cas’ voice cut out as another blared sharply in the background, though everything grew a little softer when Cas presumably lowered the phone to hold against his chest. There was no doubt he was getting an earful when Dean heard “Novak! Get back to the meeting!” What Cas said in reply was too muffled to decipher but placated the other enough to give Cas more time. 

“Dean? Are you still there?” 

“… Yeah,” Dean mumbled miserably, because Cas cared so damn much yet here he was, doing him no favors. “I- I’ll let you go back to work, Cas. I think I’m okay now. Thanks… you know, for listening.” He could picture Cas’ little frown, his moue of disapproval at the obvious lie, but he didn’t wish to interrupt Cas’ day any further so he said goodbye and hung up the call. 

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that, cocooned in his bed and ignoring his phone and all calls. Except, when he woke after what felt like just a few fitful hours of sleep, the city was bathed in faint orange and he realized he’d slept through the previous day. 

Needless to say, he jumped in surprise at the sound of footsteps beyond his door. It wouldn’t be Sam, who never came without calling, and he hadn’t given Eric a copy of his key. The only person it could possibly be was Cas, but they were thousands of miles apart. 

Perhaps he was hearing things. His headache was jarring; he wouldn’t put it past his current state. Though at the sound of two, firm knocks and a softer “Dean?” outside his room, he felt his mouth drop open in shock because he could swear- He’d recognize that voice anywhere. 

“Cas?” 

The door slowly pushed open, revealing his best friend like this were some sort of dream. He saw Cas standing there, hair disheveled, his clothing rumpled beneath his trench coat. It was almost unreal to have Cas in his apartment; the distance alone was a huge hurdle for them. 

Dean stumbled as he climbed out of bed, legs feeling weak after a day of disuse. Meanwhile, Cas crossed the room in the knick of time to meet Dean and catch his inelegant fall. 

“I’ve got you,” Cas whispered gently, and that was all it took for Dean to melt into his arms. He rested his forehead on Cas’ shoulder and felt the tension start to leave his body. Cas smelled of aftershave, a little of the airplane, but it was warm and intimate and Dean leaned into it. He pressed against Castiel’s chest and let himself be held in his kind embrace. 

“What about work?” he asked, not without guilt, the first thing either of them said after a bit of silence. He knew that Cas’ chiefs never cut him any slack and had no idea how he’d managed to leave. 

“I took the first flight out,” Cas said, his tone calm and matter-of-fact. His arms were wrapped tightly around Dean’s waist and they seemed to anchor and protect him all at once. 

“But… what did you tell them?” Dean pulled back, just enough to see Cas and those fond blue eyes he’d missed so much. 

Cas smiled through his clear exhaustion, dark circles and chapped pink lips. He kept his gaze intently on Dean and replied, “I told them I had a family emergency.” 

Dean swallowed hard. “You… You said that?” 

Cas leaned in and touched his lips to the apple of Dean’s cheek, which they’d only done before for silly photos or to embarrass each other. Never for a moment such as this, where Dean had his heart right there on his sleeve. He felt raw and totally defenseless and overwhelmed by the words coming out of Cas’ mouth. 

“I did. I had to see that you were okay,” Cas said. His breath tickled across Dean’s skin in warm little puffs that made Dean flush. 

“Thanks, Cas,” he murmured quietly, curling his hands around Cas’ biceps. “You didn’t have to do this for me, but I’m… God, I’m really… glad that you did.” 

“Good,” Cas smiled against his cheek, continued to hold him like it was the most natural thing. He eventually asked if Dean was hungry and let Dean choose where to order from. 

They spent the day clad in flannel pajamas, ate pad thai on the couch and watched a marathon of Friends on TBS. Cas made him stay in the living room while he rid Dean’s room of the bottles on the floor, and Dean chewed his lip out of mortification but Cas just sat down beside him and pushed a hand through Dean’s hair. It felt nice.

“When do you have to go back?” Dean asked him later that night. They were lying down face to face on Dean’s bed and Cas smiled softly, “Sunday morning.”

“Wish you didn’t have to leave…” Dean confessed a little shyly, his hand reaching out. 

Cas let Dean’s fingers wrap around his wrist and said in turn, “Wish I didn’t have to either.” 

They fell quiet as they peered at each other, green meeting blue and hand meeting wrist and he took a moment to take in every detail of Cas’ face. Those dark, unruly tufts of hair and stubbled jaw. Brilliant eyes. He’d always recognized that Cas was handsome but had never felt his heart beat so quickly at the sight of him. 

It was odd, this sudden awareness, this magnetic pull that drew him to Cas. How long had this attraction been sitting in the corner of his brain? Latent and unbeknownst to him? 

As they drifted off to sleep, Dean tried to keep the conflicting thoughts at bay. Cas was his best friend and there was no reason for the status quo to change because of today. He wouldn’t risk their exceptional friendship over a moment of weakness, surely a fleeting attraction. All he had to do was sleep it all off; he’d be thinking more clearly without the exhaustion. 

But when he opened his eyes the following morning, shielding his face from the sun streaming in, he turned his head as Cas began to stir and felt his breath hitch at the crazy-vivid blue filling his view. They’d even shifted closer throughout the night, that he was warmed by the heat that radiated from Cas’ skin. He couldn’t say a single word while Cas’ eyes adjusted to the light and focused on him, and his pulse was racing again at Cas’ smile, slow and sweet. 

“Good morning, Dean,” Cas murmured fondly, and Dean had to admit then that he was a goner.