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Tomorrow's Dream

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Sometimes it's really hard to get up and start the day.

Usually Dean doesn't have much of a problem with that. He always makes sure to catch enough hours of sleep and lets himself be wakened by some nice rock songs instead of a shrilling noise. Furthermore he loves his job and his employees, so it's not really a hardship to leave the house.

Normally.

But right now his head hurts, his mouth tastes like he swallowed something dead and he's cursing himself for drinking way too much beer last night. Admittedly they had been celebrating Sam's engagement, but it still doesn't excuse why he didn't cut down on alcohol much sooner.

Why aren't time machines invented yet? He'd love to go back and kick his past self in the ass.

He's considering to call in sick for the day and hide underneath his covers, but in the end he refrains from it. He wouldn't hear the end of it since all of his employees and friends knew exactly about his plans because Dean couldn't shut up about his brother finally popping the question. They wouldn't let him live it down if he'd dare to be a no-show today.

So he crawls out of bed, grumbling and cursing, and swearing to himself to never touch alcohol again. He knows it's a hollow promise, but right now he feels good with it.

It's quite an achievement when he reaches the bathroom. After finishing the most urgent business he brushes his teeth for about ten minutes before he climbs into the shower. The fresh water feels really nice for a change and he hears himself sigh in relief. Maybe he'll even manage to swallow some dry toast without puking his guts out before heading to work.

There's a text message waiting for him when he finally comes out of the bathroom. Do you feel as awful as I do?

Dean rolls his eyes, fondly. Sam drunk less than him, even squeezed in a few glasses of water, and he's still complaining?

Dean decides now and then that he's gonna make his brother completely drunk at his bachelor party!

What r u whining about? U can stay in bed all day lazy ass! I need 2 go safe the world.

Dean grins, pleased with himself, before he starts dressing for the day and looking for some aspirin. After the shower he feels slightly better, but he won't survive the day without a few drugs.

You're a mechanic in a small town, Sam writes back ten minutes later. Not exactly hero material, dude.

Dean snorts. I'm a business owner, bitch. So suck it up, I'm awesome!

Whatever you say, jerk.

Dean can't help but smile. Admittedly Sam likes to mock him sometimes, but actually he's really proud of his big brother. A fact he's never tired of vocalizing in the presence of literally anyone else.

Dean sighs, stretches his limps and grabs his car keys. He's slightly early, but since he skipped his breakfast for the day apart from a few bites of dry white bread he's got more time on his hands. And it can't really hurt showing up half an hour earlier instead of bailing altogether as probably every person on earth suspects.

Before he's got the chance to open the Impala's door though he notices his neighbor Anna rushing out of the house toward her car. Her eyes are fixated on her phone and she looks kind of anxious. It's at least a clear difference from her normal calm exterior.

“Hey, Anna,” he greets her, waving his hand like a stupid idiot and doesn't give a damn. “Everything okay?”

Anna looks up, clearly puzzled as if she didn't expect at all that some other human being would acknowledge her existence. She watches Dean warily and he can't help but shudder slightly. There's definitely something wrong!

But instead of confiding she just smiles harried and says, “Everything's great, Dean. How about you?”

Dean knows a diversion when he sees one, but it's Anna's personal business if she wants to talk about her worries or not. All he can do is being nice and offering some support if needed.

“Hungover,” he confesses. He even adds a pout for good measure and feels a little bit proud of himself when Anna starts to chuckle. “We celebrated Sammy's engagement last night.”

Anna frowns, stepping closer at the fence that's separating their properties. “Your brother is engaged? I didn't know that.”

Dean shrugs. “It's new. He grew some balls a few days ago.”

Actually Sam had been thinking about it for two months straight. Picking up the ring, making hundred different pictures of several locations and asking Dean's opinion if they would be good places to propose. He had been so nervous and excited it'd been kinda cute.

In the end he just blurted the question into Jessica's face right after they had sex, horrifying himself and making Jess laugh so hard she only stopped for saying Yes quickly before laughing some more.

And well, at least he waited till after the sex.

Nonetheless Sam told their parents a heartwarming story about Jess making some breakfast and Sam realizing all of a sudden there would be no better time than this, an everyday situation he was eager to share with her for the rest of his life.

Jess went with it because she loves her giant dork and Dean went with it because he likes to have some blackmail material for later.

“So your little brother is finally settling down,” Anna says with a warm smile.

She doesn't know Sam very well since his brother had been at Stanford since a few months ago and only had got the time to visit his family occasionally, but nonetheless she seems happy for him.

Yeah, Anna always has been a kind soul.

And he's more than glad that she bought the small house next to his about two years ago instead of that overactive couple with the huge sex appetite (at least they used to eyeball Dean like a piece of meat the few times they came over to inspect the house – both of them!)

Anna is about to add something else, but suddenly her phone beeps and she seems to remind herself that she's actually on a mission.

“I gotta go,” she says, looking uneasy again.

Dean frowns. “Are you sure you're alright?”

“Yeah, I'm ...” She takes a deep breath, obviously trying to collect herself. “I just need to pick up my brother from … from the airport.”

There's a lie somewhere in that sentence, but Dean doesn't dwell on it since she just dropped some information he wasn't aware of.

“You've got a brother?” he asks astounded.

He actually thought he knew Anna quite well. They use to hang out together from time to time, enjoying their shared love for awful horror movies and junk food. They even hooked up one time, but although the sex had been really great they decided to stay friends instead and Dean had been grateful for that since he isn't the best at commitment anyway and he would have hated to see Anna turn into a bitter ex-girlfriend someday. They grew closer over time, sharing stories about their childhoods and families.

But not once did she mention a brother!

“It's … it's complicated,” she tries to explain. “Castiel is ...” She glances at her phone again and pales some more. “I really need to go.”

She marches in her car's direction, not once looking back.

Dean watches confused how she drives out of the driveway, her expression grim. Whatever the hell is going on with her brother, there's probably a really good reason why she never mentioned him before.

He just hopes she stays safe.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

“You're early, Winchester.”

Ash no-one-is-really-sure-that's-his-last-name Smith, the newest addition to their little force, grins at Dean over his coffee mug, obviously totally aware that Dean, although he showed up even before opening, is an utter mess.

“Shut up, Ash,” he grumbles. He eyes the coffee pot and contemplates if it'd be a good idea to try some. He still feels nauseous, but his stomach sort of settled after the toast and some water. He probably can't eat a burger today – that would most likely end badly –, but a cup of coffee couldn't be that harmful, right?

“Aw, don't be that way,” Ash tells him with the world's biggest shit-eating grin ever. “I'm just surprised to see you here, boss. I thought you would be at home, vomiting and regretting your life choices.”

Dean grunts annoyed. “I did half of that this morning already.”

“Don't worry, you will puke your guts out at the end of the day,” Ash promises as if he seriously thinks Dean can't wait for that to happen. “You look at least horrible enough.”

“Jeez, thanks!”

“You're welcome,” he says cheerfully.

Dean scowls at the guy and starts to wonder if it wouldn't have been a better choice to schedule Jo Harvelle for the morning shift. Sure, the blonde woman is fierce, knows no mercy whatsoever and doesn't miss a chance to mock Dean, but at least she's grumpy till at least noon and wouldn't bother him with liveliness and all that fucking crap. Dean never has been good at handling a morning person's happy mood while feeling like shit.

But Ash seems to enjoy Dean's crankiness and doesn't look all too eager to leave his boss alone in peace for the rest of the day.

Fortunately they got a broken Prius in yesterday afternoon and Dean immediately orders Ash to move his ass and go to work. The mechanic does as he is told without any complaints although he throws some looks in Dean's direction as if he's collecting a few mocking comments in his head which he's going to use at his break.

Dean sure as hell can't wait to hear them.

He settles down in his small office, overlooking the high paper pile on his desk with dark eyes. The taxes are due in a few days and Dean hates every second of it. Of course he fucking knew what would be expected of him when he inherited the auto shop from his father, but that sure as hell doesn't mean he needs to like it. Unfortunately you can't do whatever you want when you're running a business – at least when you want that specific business to be successful.

And well, Dean can't exactly complain. Admittedly Trentwood isn't the center of the universe, but since Dean's business is the only decent auto shop in the area he's got more than enough customers, even a lot of people from a few towns over. They trusted his dad's knowledge back in the days and Dean is more than pleased that obviously the majority of them seems to feel the same way about his son. Sure, it probably didn't hurt that Dean worked at the shop since he was fifteen and knows many of the faces since then, but nonetheless he's happy that they stayed with him instead of looking for different options.

It's a really nice feeling.

“Why the hell are you here, Winchester?” a voice from behind him suddenly exclaims. He turns around, grinning at Charlie Bradbury. The redheaded woman with the pouty mouth looks highly displeased to see him. “I bet you wouldn't show up today. Actual money, you bantha!”

Dean rolls his eyes. Of course she did.

Charlie isn't known for missing an opportunity when it presents itself and usually she's quite precise in her predicaments. Hell, she even saw it coming that Sam would blurt out his proposal during sexy times (“He was thinking way too much, driving himself crazy. Of course it was destined to happen at a time when his brain was shut down.”).

“Why are you here, you son of a bitch?” Charlie growls. “I just lost fifty bucks!”

Dean snorts. “I'm so sorry that my ambition is standing in your way.”

Charlie folds her arms in front of her chest. “Oh please. You're just here because you didn't want to hear our 'We told you so's.” She shakes her head. “I warned you beforehand that it wouldn't be a great idea to do this thing on a workday.”

Dean groans. He remembers that talk quite well. And he really doesn't need to be reminded of that.

“It was the only time I'd got Sammy all by myself,” Dean says. “That poor busy puppy has a full schedule. And I never meant to drink that much. Actually it wasn't that much to begin with. I'm just --”

“Old?” Charlie helps him out with a wicked grin. “Did you forget you turned ninety a few months ago? You should probably cut back a little bit.”

Dean grits his teeth. “Thirty is not that old, Charlie! Don't act like I should start to look for nice nursing homes.” He glances at the papers in front of him and sighs. “Don't you need to go to work or something?”

Charlie works at a bureau at the other end of the street. He really has got no fucking idea what she's doing there exactly – he only knows it's got something to do with computers, but everytime Charlie tries to explain it to him it goes way over his head –, but obviously she's good a her job and gets paid a shitload of money which she mostly spends for video games, BluRay-boxsets and nice LARP-outfits.

“At least you look like crap,” Charlie continues, ignoring his question completely. “I also bet that you would puke into a trash can if your sorry ass really would – against all odds – show up for work. So please don't disappoint me.”

Dean scowls at her. “Seriously? You're all disgusting human beings, you know that?”

Charlie grins. “We know. I'll ask Ash to keep me updated. I don't want to miss a thing.”

She's about to turn away but suddenly he calls, “Wait, wait. There's something else.”

She lifts her eyebrows, watching him warily. “What? Is this about the whole handmaiden thing again? I'm sorry, my friend, you can't back out at the last minute. I will only accept a coma or death as an excuse.” She hesitates before adding, “No, wait, just death. A coma is not good enough to miss the heroic battles of Moondoor.”

Dean exhales. “Actually … I wanted to talk about Anna.”

Anna and Charlie became quite good friends the last year. They met at Dean's when he invited some people over for barbecue and beer. They hit it off immediately, obviously both huge fans of some fantasy novel they talked about all day. Since then Charlie informs him regularly about their 'girls nights' and bemoans the fact that Anna is obviously straight as an arrow (or at least not interested in Charlie in that way) on a nearly daily basis.

“What's with Anna?” Charlie asks tentatively.

“I just wanted to know if you could tell me about her brother,” Dean says. “She's picking him up from the airport right now and … well, I never heard of the guy before.”

Charlie blinks a few times, staring at Dean motionlessly. Finally she asks, “Anna's got a brother?”

There are different emotions swirling in her eyes. Confusion, surprise, hurt.

“Yeah, obviously she does,” Dean says. “At least that's what she told me. But ...”

“But?”

“I don't know.” Dean shrugs. “She seemed nervous or something. I didn't like it.”

“Nervous about meeting her brother?”

Dean hesitates. “I think something happened. And not something good.”

Charlie looks thoughtful all of a sudden. She glances at her cellphone, probably contemplating if she should give Anna a call or not. Finally she suggests, “Maybe it's not a brother-brother, you know?”

Dean frowns. “What?”

Charlie tilts her head, apparently deeply in thoughts. “Well, perhaps it's just a term she uses for him. Like when Benny calls you 'brother' without being your actual brother.”

Dean hesitates. “Yeah, maybe,” he admits.

“But it still wouldn't explain why she never talked about him,” Charlie continues. “There must be something. Something really dark in their past.”

Dean can't keep himself from snorting. “Really dark? Jeez, Charlie, you should cut back on the whole LARPing. It starts to affect your brain.”

But Charlie totally ignores him. “I could dig a little bit. Use my hacking skills.”

“Charlie --”

“C'mon, Dean, don't tell me you're not curious. Anna told me about her favorite sex position, for crying out loud! She told me about her mom's death and how much that affected her. But her brother …?” She shakes her head. “She didn't mention his existence at all. There must be a reason for that and I doubt it's because he's such a nice guy and she loves him so much.”

The ugly feeling in his stomach is back at full force. He knows she's right and he doesn't like it one bit.

“Maybe you should talk to her first before doing something illegal,” Dean tells her nonetheless. “She was in a hurry this morning and didn't have the time to explain it to me. Maybe I'm freaking out over nothing.”

“But maybe you're not.”

“Still – no hacking!”

Charlie rolls her eyes. “Fine. But only if you puke into that trash can next to you. You owe me.”

Dean can't help but smile. God, he loves that woman like the sister he never wanted. “By the way, you seriously know Anna's favorite sex position?”

Charlie shrugs, looking way too smug. “In her defense, she had been really drunk that night. And oh my God, that lady is quite kinky! Too bad I can't tap that.”

Dean leans back in his chair. “Just go to work already, Bradbury.”

She starts to pout. “Don't forget the trash can.”

“I will try my very best.”

But at the end of the day he needs to disappoint her again.

 

 

* * * * *

 

Dean feels himself become kind of uneasy again when he parks the Impala in his driveway and throws a glance at Anna's house. Her car stands right in front of her garage, just like any other day, and everything seems perfectly fine.

But he can't shake the image of her anxious expression that morning.

And before he's able to talk himself out of it he walks over and knocks on her front door. He's slightly aware that he's still wearing his oil-stained clothes, but he doesn't care. Anna told him once it's a nice look on him and so he refrains from changing beforehand.

“Hey, Dean,” Anna says, not at all surprised to see him. Apparently she knows very well that she had him worried.

“Hi, Anna.” Dean smiles weakly. She looks better than before. Much calmer. As if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “I just wanted to make sure you're alright.”

“That's really nice of you. I'm fine.”

There's still something in her voice Dean doesn't like but at least he doesn't hear any alarm bells ringing in his head anymore.

“And your brother?” Dean asks and tries to sound not overly prying.

“Castiel is fine,” she reassures. “Just a little tired. Long flight.”

Dean nods understandingly. “So … where did he come from?”

Anna sighs deeply. “Look, I know you have got a lot of questions, Dean, but I'm really exhausted right now. My brother and I … we've got a lot to discuss, you know?”

“Yeah, of course.” Dean immediately takes a step back. “Family comes first, right?”

Anna seems grateful regarding his support and in the end that's all that Dean is able to give her. Encouraging words, an open ear and a chance to settle things with her brother without further interruptions.

That and keeping Charlie from hacking the shit out of this guy.

“Thank you, I appreciate that,” she says. “The situation … it's just a little messy right now. Castiel needs me.” She exhales. “He's a good guy.”

She adds that last line just for Dean's benefit since obviously she's concerned Dean could think otherwise. And yes, he kinda does. Never mentioning the guy before and looking freaked out when he called her? A normal and healthy sibling relationship usually doesn't look that way.

“Don't be afraid to ask if you need my help,” Dean offers finally. He still doesn't feel completely relaxed without meeting this Castiel, but it's obvious that Anna doesn't wish for that to happen right now and Dean just needs to accept that. “Both of you.”

“Thank you, Dean. I won't forget it.”

 

Chapter Text

It still takes three days until Dean finally meets Anna's brother.

He doesn't want to pressure her or anything so he stays away but nonetheless keeps a closer look than normally. For the first two days he notices that she doesn't seem to leave the house at all. Whatever the hell she needs to discuss with her brother, it obviously takes a really huge amount of time.

Charlie doesn't seem to know much more than he does either. She spoke to Anna a few times on the phone and obviously Anna gave her a very vague explanation about estrangement, but didn't go any further. But she assured Charlie more than once that she was perfectly fine.

Of course Charlie still was more than eager to hack Anna's brother and get to know everything about that guy in a not very legal way, but until now Dean was able to talk her out of it. Although he's got no clue how long he will manage that. Charlie can be very stubborn when she wants to.

And of course deep down Dean is curious too. He's more than certain that in a few days he'll crumble down and allow Charlie to do anything she wants to do. And he knows that's creepy and a little bit stalkery, but he just can't forget Anna's face from that morning her brother obviously called her.

He can't let it slide forever, he knows it. His protective instincts are kicking violently right now and he won't be able to resist it for very long.

But for right now he's got enough willpower to temporarily accept Anna's decision and give her time.

Three days after the brother's surprising arrival Dean is sitting in his small backyard, a beer bottle in his hand, and enjoying the nice weather. He just got off the phone with his mom who reminded him for the twelfth time of his dad's birthday dinner in two weeks. Apparently she seems convinced that her eldest son is an utterly forgettable moron who isn't able to recall one single date.

Admittedly he forgot his father's birthday last year, but he had been on his fucking death bed with the worst flu in existence so he really thinks he should get a pass on that.

He looks at the flower bed in the shadowy part of his garden and contemplates to pep it up a little bit in the near future. He never thought he would be some kind of gardener when he rented the little house with its backyard, but somewhere deep inside himself he found a rather enthusiastic compassion toward plants and flowers. He may not be an expert and he's got no freaking clue how to make his garden a piece of art or whatever, but it looks quite nice and Dean always feels himself relax watching it, so it definitely serves its purpose.

He even considers buying some apple trees or creating a small herb garden so he could actually use the fruits of his labor, but he really needs to collect some information regarding that special topic first.

The second he takes his tablet and decides to browse the internet for some first steps how to be a productive gardener he suddenly hears a loud yell and a crashing sound from the direction of Anna's house.

Immediately he's on his feet, jumps over the little fence and runs toward her back porch. “Anna,” he calls alarmed. “Are you alright?”

At first it stays quiet, but then a very deep voice that most definitely doesn't belong to Anna says hesitantly, “Um … no.”

“Is it okay to come inside?” Dean asks. “It's Dean, from next door.”

There is silence again and Dean considers to just screw it and enter the house without a direct permission, but then he hears the same voice again agreeing, “Yes, you may come inside.”

Dean doesn't hesitate for a second when he walks right into Anna's kitchen. The first thing he notices is a mess of dark hair and a lot of blood.

Shit.

Dean curses under his breath. Immediately he knees beside the guy on the floor who is sitting in a jumble of shattered glass and blood. It honestly doesn't look very pretty.

“What happened?” he asks worriedly, staring at the red substance with wide eyes.

The man lifts his head and Dean suddenly feels overwhelmed by all the blue. It's deep and bright and hypnotizing and …

There are more important things right now, Dean reminds himself indignantly.

“Um … you're Castiel, I presume?” he asks instead since the guy doesn't seem overly keen to answer his question. “It's really nice to meet you. Although I hoped it would be under better circumstances.”

Castiel manages a weak smile before Dean lets his eyes wander over his body. His jeans is soaked with blood and he's clutching his right hand at his chest, obviously in a first attempt to stop the quite impressive bleeding. He seems tense as if every muscle is cramped all over.

“What happened?” Dean repeats his question with a much warmer voice.

It seems to have the desired effect because Castiel's expression gentles a little bit. “I tripped … over the cat,” he explains and looks downright pained as if this is the most awful and embarrassing thing that ever happened to him. “And I had a glass in my hand when I fell.”

Dean throws a glance at Jasper – the black cat with the constant fuck-you-attitude – who sits on the kitchen counter and doesn't look fazed at all. As if all of this is an everyday occurrence and not worthy his time to freak out about.

“I told Anna more than once that this thing is a menace,” Dean says, shaking his head. That stupid cat seems to love crossing someone's path and standing right in the way like it's some kind of sport. “Is Anna here?”

Castiel just shakes his head.

“Okay, fine, then it's just me,” Dean states. “Come on, let me help you up. We need to clean that wound.”

“It's bleeding,” Castiel states, sounding astounded.

Dean tries to look sympathetically. “I can see that, buddy.”

“It's not healing,” he continues as if this is some kind of miracle.

“It will eventually,” Dean promises, wondering if this guy maybe has got a shock or something. He squeezes Castiel's shoulder reassuringly. “It just takes some time.”

Castiel frowns. “It's so … human.”

Well, Dean has got no idea what to say to that so he just grabs Castiel's arms and lifts him up before he's even able to protest. The man starts to swagger immediately and Dean pulls him closer.

“Do you need to lie down?” he asks concerned. “I don't want you to faint on me or something.”

“I'm … I think I will manage,” Castiel tells him, but he doesn't sound so sure himself. Dean considers dragging him over toward the couch and let his body and mind have some time to calm down, but in the end he decides that two minutes of cleaning the cut won't hurt his system too much.

He leads Castiel to the sink and starts the water. “It'll probably hurt. I'm really sorry.”

Castiel just nods and doesn't even wince when the water runs slowly over his injured hand. Dean watches closely how the blood vanishes in the drain while he throws some side glances in Castiel's direction now and then and doesn't even bother to be subtle about it. Castiel's attention however is fixed on his hand, a puzzled expression on his face as if it's an utter mystery to him how he could have hurt himself like that.

Dean thinks about how he worried the last couple of days that Anna's brother might be some kind of black sheep, a bad boy or something stupid like that. Maybe a guy who visits once a decade when he's in need of money or a place to crash for a while. Or perhaps an ex-con, a junkie or a criminal no one in the family really likes to talk about.

Right now Dean feels a little bit foolish for ever thinking that.

Admittedly he can't judge Castiel's character after two minutes, but Dean always has been good with that kind of stuff. Intuition and all that crap. And right now Castiel looks more like a lost puppy and not someone Dean should be concerned about when leaving Anna alone with him.

Although that won't make him stop worrying all of a sudden. There's still something fishy going on around here and that won't disappear with a nice smile and a set of blue eyes.

Otherworldly blue eyes!

Dammit!

“Shit, that cut looks really deep,” Dean realizes after he forces his mind back on the situation at hand. “And there are still some splinters. A doctor needs to see this.”

Castiel flinches and pulls the hand at his chest again as if he'd fear that Dean would just take it with him. “I … that is not possible.”

“What?” Dean furrows his brows confused. “But that looks honestly ugly, man. And it will probably get worse.”

Castiel's eyes widen slightly. “Worse?”

Dean nods. “More blood, infection, pain. It's gonna be a bitch.”

Castiel averts his gaze, contemplating these new information. “I … I can't,” he finally says. “I don't … I don't have ...”

He looks honestly distressed right now and Dean starts to feel sorry for the poor guy.

“You don't have insurance, is that it?” Dean wonders, using the most soothing voice he's able to muster. It's not the first time that he meets someone who refuses medical attention simply because he's got no idea how to pay for all of this.

Castiel watches him intently, no, he's actually staring at Dean with those really distracting eyes, right into his mind and soul.

“Yes, I have no insurance,” he finally states. He even sounds like he never used that word before.

Dean pats his arm before he even realizes it. “It's okay, Castiel,” he says. “I'm friends with our local doctor. We'll find some kind of arrangement, okay?”

Castiel takes a step away from him and Dean suddenly feels a lot colder although it's actually a really nice and warm day.

“You don't have to, Dean,” Castiel counters.

“Please, man.” Dean tries putting on his best puppy dog face. He knows he's not a master of arts like Sam, but most of the times it works its magic. “You're hurt and I just need you to get some proper care. Just humor me, buddy. Do it for Anna.”

Castiel's resistance obviously starts to crumble. “Anna ...”

Apparently he struck a nerve. “C'mon, Castiel. Doctor Hobbs is a really great guy and he owes me a favor. I actually wanted to ask him to buy me a six-pack or something, but this is way more important.”

Castiel hesitates a moment, staring at Dean as if he holds the answers to all the questions in the universe. Dean wonders when it had been the last time that someone looked at him like that. If there ever had been someone beside Castiel.

“Alright, Dean,” he concedes in the end. “But then allow me to buy you a six-pack instead.”

Dean beams brightly. “Sure.”

He pulls out his phone and searches for the doctor's number in his contacts. Wendy, his receptionist, picks up after the third ring.

“Hello, love of my life,” Dean greets her with a big grin. “It's always so good to hear your voice.”

The elderly woman chuckles. “Dean Winchester, how may I help you?”

“I've got a medical emergency,” Dean cuts right to the chase. “Anna Milton's brother cut himself very badly, lots of blood. The doctor really needs to take a look at this.”

Wendy stays quiet for a few seconds before she finally asks, “Anna's got a brother?”

“Yeah, I didn't know either.” He shrugs although she can't see him. “Just tell the doc we're coming over now. Ten minutes.”

“I'll do that, honey.”

After ending the call he turns toward Castiel again who watched him motionlessly the whole time, not even blinking. Like a fucking robot who needs to study human behavior and isn't allowed to miss a second. Dean knows he should feel uncomfortable under that intense gaze and his skin indeed tickles a little bit, but not in a bad way.

“Um, we're good to go,” he announces, clearing his throat. He takes a fresh washcloth from one of the cabinets and presses it cautiously on Castiel's wound. The man hisses in pain at the contact, but doesn't flinch back. “I'm sorry, I just don't want it to get infected. Do you need anything else before we go? Maybe a coke or something? You look a little pale here, man.”

“I'm … fine,” Castiel says and sounds exactly like Dean when he lies to the people around him that he's totally okay. He rolls his eyes and grabs a bottle of coke from Anna's fridge anyway.

“It'll help calm the nerves and get your system back on track,” Dean promises with a reassuring smile. “Now get your wallet and let's go.”

Castiel's eyes widen. “My … wallet?”

He looks like Dean just suggested to take off all of their clothes and dance in the moonlight.

“Um, yeah?” Dean tilts his head. “An ID would be nice, I guess.”

Castiel ducks his head. “Someone … stole my wallet.”

It's a lie, Dean feels that deep in his gut. He learned to read human expressions and voices a long time ago. Not to mention the fact that Castiel seems to be an awful liar to begin with.

But Dean can't be mad at him, being all sheepish and small. Whatever the reason for holding back the truth may be, he can't imagine it's something bad.

So in the end Dean decides to just go with the lie. “Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, buddy,” he says. “That sucks.” He tries to appear understandingly. “Then let's forget about the ID. It's a small town anyway, anyone knows fucking anyone.”

Castiel just nods, obviously grateful that Dean didn't push harder. He even manages a small smile that looks quite good on him.

But once outside his expression turns tentatively again while eyeing the Impala. “I don't exactly enjoy using an automobile. It's … slow and confining.”

Dean frowns and feels a little bit offended on Baby's behalf. But he refrains himself from starting an argument about his car's fucking awesomeness and gives the guy a pass instead. The poor bastard is bleeding through that washcloth and seems to get paler by the second. He really doesn't need a lecture of any sorts.

So he decides to postpone this and helps Castiel climbing into the Impala.

The drive starts in absolute silence. Obviously Castiel doesn't seem remotely eager to fill the quiet with some easy chat or whatever. He just stares out of the window, observing every little detail as if it might be important sometime. He seems especially enthralled with the little park in the town's center and Dean can't help but agree. The Women's Garden Club takes great care of this small patch of earth and all the colorful flowers and plants are arranged in a way Dean would never accomplish.

“So, Castiel,” Dean finally breaks the silence. “Where do you come from? Anna didn't tell.”

Castiel turns his attention toward Dean hesitantly. “If you don't mind I would not like to talk about it.”

Dean flinches immediately. “Sorry, man,” he says quickly. “I didn't mean ...”

Castiel smiles weakly. “It's alright, Dean. It is quite natural to be curious since I am fairly sure that Anna never spoke of me before, am I correct?”

Dean bites his bottom lip, throwing the guy a side glance. “Yeah, she didn't.”

“All I can tell you is that we have the same father and that she was the first person I could think of to call after --” He stops himself, ducking his head. Whatever the hell happened, he looks shaken up about it.

“You don't have to tell me anything, man,” Dean assures. “I won't kick you out of the car for keeping your private business private. It's fine.” He takes a deep breath. “Then tell me something else. Anything. Tell me about the last book you read. Or your favorite color.”

Castiel squints his eyes. “Why?”

“Because I think you could use a distraction,” Dean explains. “You look white as a sheet and I can imagine that the pain is probably a bitch right now.”

“It is rather unpleasant,” Castiel confirms.

“So humor me, man,” Dean encourages him. “Tell me anything. It doesn't matter.”

Castiel looks thoughtful for a few seconds before he finally says, “Soap operas are very confusing.”

Dean blinks. That's not the direction he thought this guy would go, but hell, who cares? As long as he keeps his mind off the pain and the blood, anything is acceptable.

“The protagonists and the whole setting are highly exaggerated,” Castiel continues. “The dialogue is overly dramatic and unrealistic. And the continuity errors are very upsetting. So why are so many people fascinated by this?”

Dean grins widely. “You got yourself hooked up on a show ?”

“I don't understand it.” He seems absolutely bewildered and it's kinda endearing. “I just wanted to understand why people watch shows like this. And then suddenly I wanted to know what will happen next. Although I know it's going to be as exorbitant as it had been before.”

Dean laughs loudly. “It's one of the biggest mysteries on earth.”

“It sure is.”

So Castiel starts to ramble about some cheesy soap opera he discovered a few days ago, going on and on about some details that don't add up (“How is it even possible that a single man has got an evil twin brother, an evil stepmother who's also his long lost cousin and an evil tax accountant who has got an even more evil twin brother himself?”) and they reach the doctor's office without realizing how the time flew by.

Doctor Hobbs is already waiting at the front desk, chatting with Wendy. He's a middle-aged man with three hyperactive sons and an even more hyperactive pack of dogs. Dean has got honestly no idea how Hobby manages to stay calm and relaxed despite all this but every time he handles his patients with a patience like you wouldn't believe.

“You are our accident, I assume?” Hobbs smiles at Castiel in a way that makes everyone loosen up a bit. Well, everyone but Castiel apparently. The man goes stiff and gets closer to Dean and Dean can't help but rub his back encouragingly.

“It's gonna be fine, Cas,” Dean promises, afterwards realizing that he used a nickname just like that without thinking about it. Castiel watches him surprised, but at least it seems to put him at ease a little bit.

“He's right,” Hobbs agrees. “We'll take good care of you. Wendy over here will show you to the examination room.”

Castiel hesitates, maybe even contemplating if he should just bolt and leave everything behind. But after one glance at Dean's direction he finally succumbs and lets Wendy lead him to the room while she starts to babble almost immediately about her clumsy grandson who managed to fall into a well during a chicken chase.

“So, what happened?” Hobbs asks. “He seems a little spooked.”

Dean sighs. “He tripped over Anna's damned cat and fell on the floor with a glass in his hand. And yeah, he's a bit freaked out, I guess. Or maybe he's always that way. I've never met him before today.”

Hobbs nods. “Don't worry, we'll patch him up. A few pain killers and a candy and he'll be smiling again.”

After the doctor vanishes to do his job Dean pulls out his phone and sends Anna a quick message: Hey, Anna, don't freak out or anything but ur brother had an accident. Nothing bad but I took him 2 the doc. Call me when u have time.

Only two minutes later his phone starts to ring.

“Dean?” Anna asks out of breath. Dean assumes she ran outside at the backyard of the animal clinic to talk in private as soon as she read the message. “What happened?”

Dean repeats the chain of events and she starts to sigh deeply. “I shouldn't have left him alone.”

Dean frowns. “He's a grown-up, Anna. It's not like you left a toddler all by himself.”

“I know, I know.” She sounds seriously tired. “Castiel is just … he's different.”

Tell me about it, Dean thinks by himself.

“I don't really want to talk about this over the phone,” Anna says. “I will be at home as soon as possible. One hour tops. And Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you so much.” He can practically hear her smiling. “You're such a great guy. I've got honestly no idea why the women in town don't start to fight over you.”

Dean laughs loudly. “Maybe one day they will.”

“Most definitely. See you soon!”

It takes about twenty minutes until the examination room's door opens again. Dean abandons the magazines in his hands immediately – he actually read some very emotional story about a family father who had been diagnosed with cancer and he feels a little teary right now – and stands up.

“So, what's the verdict?” he asks.

Doctor Hobbs exchanges a quick glance with Castiel, obviously making sure if it's okay to tell his medical history, before he replies, “It could have been worse. The cut is quite deep but no sinews or nerves have been nicked, so that's a plus. I cleaned the wound and stitched him up but the aftercare it what's most important. We don't want to mess up my good work, right?”

He slaps Castiel on the shoulder what leaves the guy look very puzzled.

Dean chuckles and steps beside Castiel, watching his bandaged hand intently. “You okay?”

“Human bodies are quite fragile,” Castiel says. “Just one cut is able to cause pain and could have immobilized my hand entirely if fate wouldn't have decided otherwise. It is … interesting.”

Dean furrows his brows and turns toward the doctor. “You gave him some strong pain pills, huh?”

“Actually they're not that strong,” Doctor Hobbs disagrees. “Castiel probably just needs some rest.”

Dean couldn't agree more. There are some serious bags under Castiel's eyes, the mix of excitement and medication obviously taking its toll. “Let's take you back to Anna's, man.”

But Castiel just grabs his wrist, ignoring the rules of personal space completely and gazes right into Dean's eyes again. Not blinking, not moving, just staring. And Dean can't help it when his cheeks start to heat. There is something really weird about this guy and he's not exactly sure if it's in a bad or a good way.

“Thank you so much, Dean,” Castiel says while he steps closer to Dean as if it's the most normal thing in the world. As if they're best buddies or even something more (because if Dean's being honest with himself he would never invade his friend's personal bubble like that) and not technically strangers who met one hour ago.

“Um … you're welcome,” Dean croaks, disliking that he's not able to make his voice sound normal. Furthermore he's super aware that Doctor Hobbs and Wendy are standing right beside them, watching that little scene amused.

But for some unexplained reason Dean can't make himself step back.

“Your soul is so bright and beautiful,” Castiel continues like he's stating some common facts. “I have never seen anything like this before.”

And yeah, Dean is full-on blushing now!

He never heard words like that before. Ever.

Even Wendy – who always brags that her husband keeps surprising her with the most charming and innovative compliments – gasps quietly.

But Doctor Hobbs just says, “Wow, maybe the pain pills are stronger than I thought!”

Dean chuckles uncomfortably. Yeah, that must be it!

Because there's no way in hell that Castiel seriously meant those words.

No fucking way!

 

Chapter Text

Castiel falls asleep the minute Dean leads him into Anna's spare room and helps him onto the bed. He doesn't even manage to mumble a “Thank you” before his eyelids shut and he's dead to the world.

Dean smiles slightly. There's something quite adorable about this guy although Dean refrains from saying that out loud. He would probably lose his man-card or something.

Dean considers going back to his place since Anna promised to be home shortly and Castiel is out like a light anyway. But he doesn't feel exactly comfortable with leaving a guy on pain pills all by himself (apart from that murderous cat, of course), so he pays attention to the kitchen instead since it looks like a small horror movie and Anna seriously doesn't need to see that when she'll come back home. So he collects the broken glass on the floor, careful not to cut himself, and cleans the blood. It's not as easy as he thought – especially because the blood and the tiles seem to love each other very much and apparently don't want to be separated – and it doesn't help one bit that Jasper watches him the whole time as if he's already plotting his next assassination, but in the end it looks as good as new.

And it's exactly fifty-five minutes after their phone call when Anna arrives at home. She seems like she ignored some traffic lights and speed limits without giving a damn when she drops her bag onto the floor and approaches Dean immediately.

“How is he?” she asks concerned.

“He's fine, Anna,” Dean reassures, rubbing her arms in an attempt to comfort her. She stays stiff for a few seconds before in the end she starts to relax a little bit. She even lets Dean lead her to the couch. “Your cat failed to murder him.”

Anna manages a weak smile, throwing a fond look in Jasper's direction who just licks his butt and couldn't care less about the two humans in the living room.

“So he's okay?”

Dean nods. “Well, he needed stitches and the doc wants to see him again in a few days. But if you'll take care of keeping the wound dry and clean, it's gonna be alright.” He squeezes her hand. “Well, he's on some strong pain meds right now. He told me I've got a pretty soul.”

Anna laughs, but it sounds hollow. She still seems restless. “So … you'll probably wait for some explanation, right?”

“Well, it'd be nice.” Dean shrugs. “But you don't need to tell me anything if you don't want to.”

Anna sighs deeply. “What did Castiel tell you?”

“Not much,” Dean confesses. “You've got the same father, he lost his wallet and he's obviously extremely confused by soap operas. That's about it.”

Anna closes her eyes and takes a few shallow breaths. “Castiel, well … he didn't grew up like most kids. He didn't play baseball in the front yard and he never bought candy canes at the little shop around the corner with his last pocket money. His mom never baked him some pie and his dad never read him a bedtime story. The place where he grew up … it's different.”

Dean frowns. “Different how?”

“It's secluded,” Anna tries to explain. It's obvious that she's having trouble finding the right words. “It's … a world on its own. With total different rules and life styles.”

Dean tilts his head, watching her intently. “So … like a commune of some sorts. Or a cult?”

Anna starts to squirm. “Something like that, yes.” She bites on her bottom lip. “In this world everything is different. It's really hard to explain, but it's … like living in another century.”

“That sounds … interesting?” Dean summarizes, not sure what else to say.

“Well, it is,” Anna confirms snorting. “And that's why he seems so weird to us. He isn't used to our way of life. He doesn't know what's appropriate and what's not. Till a few days ago he never even watched TV.”

“That's why the thing with the soap operas,” Dean realizes all of a sudden.

“He probably never even had a burger before,” Anna tells him and yeah, that's downright sad. “In some aspects he's like a child who knows nothing about this world. Don't get me wrong, he's actually quite brilliant and I've got no doubt that he'll adapt very quickly, but right now I'm just worried. Constantly. I kept him in the house to keep him safe for a while. But obviously destiny had other plans.”

Dean snorts. “You just should get rid of the cat, you know. He tried to kill me too.”

Anna chuckles weakly and Dean starts to wonder if she slept properly the last few days. At least it doesn't seem that way.

“Castiel … had been very brave,” she continues. “I can't tell you everything, mostly because I don't know all of it myself, but for a long time there was only darkness for him. No one to confide to. He was lost and desperate for --”

There are suddenly some unshed tears in her eyes and she rubs her face almost violently like she can't stand the thought to lose control over her body functions. Dean reaches out for her, contemplating to pull her into his arms and hug her tightly, but she flinches backwards before he's even able to touch her.

“I'm – I'm sorry,” she says, her voice unsteady. “It's seriously not me who needs --”

She stops, throwing a glance in the direction of Castiel's bedroom. Her expression is so fucking sad that Dean honestly has no idea what to say without her bursting into tears. He's never been good with comforting crying women (or people in general) and he fears that he would only make it much worse.

In the end he just takes Anna's hand carefully in his and considers it a success when she doesn't withdraw.

“I could have helped him, you know?” Anna's voice is barely a whisper now. “Maybe I could have … I don't know. Tried harder at least.”

Dean feels his insides tighten. He hates seeing her like this, so vulnerable and on the verge of tears. Suddenly he understands her anxious expression that morning when he first heard of Castiel's existence. She must have been overwhelmed, confronted with a situation not a lot of people have to deal with.

Feeling utterly guilty, telling herself that she should have done more to help her brother in the first place. Just something. Even a tiny bit.

And Dean is not in the place to judge the situation. He knows practically nothing and he's got no clue if Anna would have had the power to support Castiel in some way. But he's absolutely certain that she didn't abandon her brother on purpose, only selfish reasons on her mind. That's just not Anna.

Especially seeing her now, worrying over Castiel like there is nothing more important in her life. As if it's the only thing that matters.

And Dean can actually relate to this protective instinct. He felt it the second he first laid eyes on Castiel, hurt on the floor, and it didn't really stop. So when he's feeling like this after only two hours of knowing the guy, he can't even imagine what Anna goes through.

“I'm sorry, Dean,” she says after a while of tensed silence. “You're being the nicest guy ever and I'm burdening you with all this crap.”

“No, Anna,” he interjects instantly. “Don't say that. We're friends. You're allowed to dump all your shit on me.”

She smiles weakly but obviously very gratefully.

Dean responds in the same manner, trying to look understanding and compassionate and suppressing all the urgent questions on his tongue.

Sure he wants to know more, wants to know fucking everything, but Anna doesn't seem as if she would handle that very well at the moment. Apart from the fact that she maybe thinks it's not her story to tell anyway.

And of course Dean's capable to accept that, but he can't help feeling his heart breaking for Anna and especially for Castiel. He's got no idea how these specific places – communes, cults, Scientology, whatever – work, never took the time to imagine how it could be. It just seemed like something very distant you don't actually think about since it doesn't affect your life.

It feels downright awful to think of Castiel – who seems so kind and nice – suffering like that. He remembers Castiel's closed off expression when Dean asked about his past. The lie about the wallet (maybe he never really owned an ID in the first place) and how awkward he seemed telling it. How the doctor's visit took him all the courage he could muster. Dean just thought he didn't like physicians (since a lot of people don't like seeing their doctors, Dean being one of them), but considering his background he'd probably been afraid, confronted with an unfamiliar situation like this. Maybe even terrified that someone would see right through his lies and do something about it.

Dean really wants to punch some faces and comfort the poor guy at the same time.

“Are there safety issue?” he asks after a few minutes. “I mean, I heard that some of these cults … well, they don't like it when their members quit?”

He actually doesn't wanna talk about it, especially since Anna starts to look pained again, but he seriously needs to know if there's something dangerous going on.

Anna avoids his eyes all of a sudden. “I'm … I'm not exactly sure. He told me not to worry but ...”

“But you do nonetheless.” Dean nods understandingly. He'd do the same if it'd be Sam. As a sibling you just can't shut it off. “And what about your father? Cas told me you were the only person he could turn to.”

Anna seems to prepare herself for an answer, but suddenly her lips twitch upwards. “Cas?” she asks amused.

Dean can't help the slight blush and really hopes that Anna doesn't notice. “Castiel is just a mouthful. And don't change the subject.”

Anna sighs, her smile vanishing. “Our father … it's complicated. Very, very complicated!”

And that's it, she doesn't seem to want to elaborate any further and although Dean would really like to hear that specific story, he just needs to accept that. There's some family stuff he doesn't want to share with her either, so he can't exactly judge her for keeping silent.

“Okay, fine,” he says. “But … if there is something going on ...” He takes a deep breath, not exactly sure how to phrase that sentence. “You just tell me, okay? If you need help.”

Something strange glints in Anna's eyes, but it's gone in a second. “I will.”

“And … Anna?” He starts to fidget, watching her with an uneasy expression. “Were you … I mean, were you part of this as well?”

Anna's features go dark. “A long time ago,” she admits. “I just want to forget it ever happened.”

Dean nods instantly. “Fair enough. I'll never ask again. Sorry.”

She puts her hand on his thigh and smiles gently. “Please don't apologize. It's okay.”

“How about you'll come over tomorrow for some burgers?” he asks all of a sudden. He grins brightly, more than eager to lighten the dark mood a little bit. “I can't live next to a grown-up guy who never had a burger before. It's a crime, Anna!”

She chuckles quietly. “It is,” she agrees. “But you don't need --”

“Oh please, don't tell me I've done enough already, I shouldn't make the effort, yada yada.” Dean waves her off immediately. “I wanted to make some burgers anyway and it'd be nice to have some company. If it's alright with your brother of course.”

Anna's expression is warm when she watches him. “I think he won't have a problem with that. You made him go to the doctor today. Either he likes you or he's terrified of you.” She laughs and it still sounds a little weary and harried, but at least it's a start. “And you're seriously not that terrifying.”

Dean pouts. “Hey, I can be intimidating!”

Anna pats his arm. “I'm sure you can,” she reassures. “Maybe in an alternative universe you're the most feared teddy bear of the United States.”

“You bet your ass on that.”

 

* * * * *

 

Castiel feels dizzy when he wakes up.

At first he doesn't know where he is and for a second he's convinced he's back at that place. That dark, cold place that he couldn't escape for a very long time.

Which he feared would be his grave rather sooner than later.

His pulse starts to race involuntarily. Had everything been a dream? The sunlight? Fresh air? Freedom?

Anna?

Anna …

But it takes only a moment to realize that he's lying in a comfy bed with nice sheets in a small room that looks nothing like his former prison. His eyes automatically wander to the window left of him where he can see the last remains of daylight, ready to turn into dusk. It feels nice and warm and Castiel tries his hardest to concentrate on that while forcing his heartbeat to calm down.

It works eventually although he still feels a little bit shaken up.

He wonders if this will ever go away.

“Castiel?” he suddenly hears a voice from the doorway. He freezes up on instinct, but relaxes immediately when he notices his sister, looking tentatively as if she's not sure if it would be alright to come near Castiel.

The last couple of days she didn't stop acting that way around him. Like he would break the second someone would touch him. Like she is afraid he would flee like a panicked animal.

“I'm awake,” he informs her. “You may come in.”

Anna still hesitates for a moment before she finally forces herself to move. “You should stop worrying me so much, Castiel.”

Castiel props himself up. “I am very sorry, Anna. It was not my intention to bother you.”

She shakes her head instantly and sits down at the end of the bed. “You're not bothering me, you fool. I'm just ...” She sighs deeply. “I just never thought you would trip over my cat.”

She starts to laugh. It sounds anxious and somewhat hollow, but for a long time she can't make herself stop. So Castiel lets her be, chuckles even a little bit because it sounds indeed outright ridiculous. He's got honestly no idea how this happened in the first place.

“I think Jasper is jealous of me,” Castiel explains. “Maybe tomorrow he will try eating my face while I'll sleep.”

“He's not that bad, Castiel.”

“He urinated on my bed five times, Anna. I'm fairly sure that he doesn't like me.”

Anna looks at the door where Jasper is sitting in the hallway, watching them intently. Castiel is quite certain that the cat is planning his next murder attempt.

“Well, you're lucky that Dean heard you,” Anna says. “Otherwise you probably would have waited for me to come home since you still don't know how a phone works.”

Castiel scowls. “Phones are very confusing,” he defends himself. “Like … everything else.”

It just feels like a whole new world with magic carriages and magic communication boxes and metal birds and Castiel has got a very hard time wrapping his head around all these things.

“What did you tell Dean?” he asks, his mind focusing again on that kind man. Of course Anna told him beforehand about her neighbor with the gruff voice, the dazzling smile and the gorgeous green eyes (although not in these words). She called him a charmer, a protector, a workaholic, a family man. Someone you can trust completely.

And although it is very difficult for Castiel to put his fate into someone else's hands after everything he'd been through, he can easily envisage Dean being one of the exceptions.

The first time he saw the man Castiel immediately had been blinded by Dean's beautiful soul. Even in his weakened state Castiel was able to see it as clear as day and he started to wonder what it might look like when he would be on his full power again. He can't really imagine how it should be possible for this soul to look even more stunning.

Castiel felt safe in Dean's presence instantly. Actually some kind of miracle considering his past. He never thought he would feel entirely comfortable with another person again.

But apparently he was wrong.

“I told Dean the story we made up a few days ago,” Anna says. “He thinks you escaped a cult and we should leave it with that.”

There is an ugly feeling forming in Castiel's stomach. “I do not like lying to him,” he finally confesses.

“I know.” Anna looks as guilty about the whole thing as he is. “But what do you want to tell him? The truth? That's not happening.” She sighs. “'Cult' sounds way better than 'locked away in a magical sealed cave for nearly two-hundred years', Castiel.”

He needs to agree on that although he doesn't like it. It is not utterly pleasant to lie to a man like Dean – or to lie in general –, but it seems to be a necessity. He ignored this once and paid an awful price for it. He really doesn't want to relive that experience.

“He asked if you're safe,” Anna continues. “And I was about to lie again, but ...”

Castiel furrows his brows. “What did you tell him?”

“The truth,” Anna says, her eyes searching for his, once again looking for answers she believes Castiel is denying her. “That I don't know.”

Castiel exhales. “I told you not to worry,” he assures, again, for the hundredth time. “All the protection and cloaking spells you cast and additionally my wards will keep us safe. Our family never found you after you left us all those centuries ago. What makes you think this will change now?”

Anna grinds her teeth. “Because they never looked for me, Castiel,” she reminds him. “They were happy when I was gone, don't deny it. I was just the little freak who loved humanity too much. But you …?” She closes her eyes for a second. “They will roam the earth to find you. And I'm not sure ...”

Castiel touches her wrist lightly, sharing a tiny bit of his very weakened magic with her. He feels how it warms her insides and she starts to smile involuntarily.

“Don't worry,” he says. “Apart from all our precautions we have Gabriel on our side. He promised to keep a close look.”

Now Anna rolls her eyes. “Gabriel, really? He may be powerful, but he is easily distracted by candy and hot asses. I wouldn't count on him too much.”

“He helped me,” Castiel states firmly. “And yes, sometimes he acts like everything is just a game for him, but he's maturer than you think. At least he has his moments.”

Anna snorts incredulously. “If you say so.”

“I do.” Castiel nods, unwavering in his faith. Gabriel may appear reckless and irresponsible most of the time, but Castiel knows that he cares deeply about his family and would do anything for them. And perhaps he hides that love behind a big smile and stupid jokes, but that's just who he is. It doesn't make it any less true.

“His face was the first I saw after two-hundred years of darkness,” Castiel continues. “His voice was the first I heard apart from the noises in my own head. And I will never forget that.”

He still hears it, the concern in his brother's voice. The fear. And the utter relief.

“Okay, okay, fine,” Anna concedes eventually. “When you have faith in him, I will do too.”

Suddenly Castiel feels incredibly tired again. The agitation and tension of the last few weeks, the miserable lack of any strength – supernatural or otherwise –, the fact that he can't manage to sleep for a longer period of time without nightmares and on top of that the effects of the very strange pain medication the doctor gave him -- all that is just outright exhausting. He wonders if he will ever feel strong again. Like himself.

“And about Dean ...” Anna says.

Castiel's head perks up at the mention of that name instantly, he can't help it. “What about him?”

“He invited us over,” Anna informs him. “I agreed if that's okay with you.”

“Of course.” The prospect of spending more time with Dean makes his heart feel a little bit lighter.

“I think it might be a good practice too,” Anna says. “I can't keep you in this house forever and you need to learn how to act normal. I know you never have been good with that in the first place, but we should give it a shot nonetheless. It would be beneficial for you to interact with a normal person for once.”

From Castiel's point of view Dean is far from normal, but he refrains from saying so. He just nods, feeling himself smile thinking about being with this man again without bleeding on the floor.

Well, hopefully.

“Does it hurt?” Anna stares at his bandaged hand, her expression concerned.

“I had worse,” Castiel just says, shrugging. “Way worse.”

Anna's expression turns sad in a matter of seconds. There's that guilt in her eyes again – something Castiel noticed constantly the last few days. She apologized more than once for never trying to free him and although he reassured her every single time that he never blamed her, that he's actually outright glad she didn't give it a shot since it could have killed her in the end, she can't stop feeling that way.

And Castiel gets it, he really does, but nonetheless it doesn't help to ease his mind one bit.

“Don't look at me like that, Anna,” he says. “I am fine and one day I will be the man I once used to be. It will just take some time.” He still feels some doubts regarding that matter, but he won't tell Anna. “Until then I'm going to confuse myself with your strange television shows.” He frowns. “What are reality shows, by the way?”

Anna starts to snicker. She probably knows very well that he's just trying to distract her, but goes with it nonetheless. “Don't start with those, okay?”

Castiel nods. He trusts her judgment and should have listened to her in the first place when she warned him to watch some stupid soap opera.

“And, Anna?”

She looks at him expectantly. “Yes?”

“What is a six-pack?” he wants to know. “I promised Dean to buy him one, but I have honestly no idea what that could be.”

She seems highly amused by his ignorance. “Let me take care of that. I owe Dean big time too.”

 

Chapter Text

Dean knows he makes a mean burger.

People complimented him many times because of his cooking skills and although he doesn't like to brag he never can't keep himself from smiling smugly when someone tastes his food for the very first time. Even his dad told him him once in confidence that his meat is even better than his mother's and that's the biggest praise he ever got from the man.

Castiel however seems skeptical.

He watches the burger in front of him as if he actually believes it would attack him the next second. And that image alone is downright hilarious.

“Come on, man, taste it,” Dean encourages, taking his seat next to Castiel. “You'll like it.”

“You said the same about the beer,” Castiel counters.

And yeah, okay, he did. When Anna and Castiel gave him the six-pack Dean immediately wanted to share the nice gift. While Anna accepted the offer without further questions Castiel remained hesitantly, smelling the beverage and grimacing because of the odor. But Dean promised him he would like it – a misconception as they realized a few seconds later when Castiel tasted the beer and afterwards looked at Dean as if he had betrayed him.

“Although admittedly this burger smells nicer than the beer,” Castiel says. “But I don't understand what's so special about it. It is meat and bread, Dean.”

“Just taste it, Cas.”

Just as the day before in the doctor's office Castiel reacts positively to the use of that nickname. First there is a slight smile and finally he does as he is told.

He grabs his fork and knife and Dean is about to tell him that you need to eat it with your hands because this is just the way you enjoy a nice burger but in the last seconds he refrains from that. It'd probably be painful for Castiel considering his injury to balance the food in his hands and Dean seriously doesn't want to cause more discomfort so he keeps his mouth shut.

And in the end it's highly rewarding to see Castiel's eyes widen in surprise when he gets the taste on his tongue. He seems bewildered for a second how “meat and bread” can taste so differently but in the end he just seems to accept it, digging in like a starving man.

“Boy, Anna, don't you feed him at home?” he asks laughing, throwing Anna an amused glance. She sits across from Castiel, watching him with a fond expression that Dean knows quite well himself. At least he's fairly certain he looks the exact same way with Sam.

“This is very good,” Castiel finally manages to tell him. “You are an excellent cook.”

And well, as mentioned, he gets a a lot of praise but for some reason Castiel's words make his cheeks heat up a little bit. He hastily ducks his head, hoping it wasn't obvious.

The lunch continues with harmless conversation. Dean avoids asking about Castiel's past altogether and instead talks about Sam's engagement, Charlie's persistence to make him her handmaiden permanently (which leads to a dissipated explanation about LARPing since of course Castiel doesn't know what it is and reacts utterly confused by the concept) and several other safe topics. He recommends some movies Castiel seriously needs to watch (“You can't live without knowing Star Wars, man!”), a few books and – naturally – a lot of music.

Time flies by as if it doesn't exist at all and Dean is quite surprised how much he enjoys the company. Sure, Anna has always been great to hang out with but Castiel is something completely different. Dean feels a strange urge to tell him everything about the pleasures of the modern world and make him forget all the bad things that happened to him.

And maybe that's naive because he's quite aware that you can't just forget stuff like that over a nice meal but nonetheless he tries his best to let Castiel feel welcome.

It's about two hours later when Anna finally says, “So guys, I just got an emergency text from the animal clinic. I need to go.”

She looks at Castiel with a weird expression and for a second it seems like they're communicating just with their eyes. Quite remarkable for siblings who didn't see each other for a very long time. But since Dean doesn't know the whole story in the first place he refrains from saying so.

“I will be fine, Anna,” Castiel promises, an easy smile on his lips. “I know how to use a key to let myself in. And I gave Jasper some tuna this morning so there is some kind of truce between us right now. I'm certain he won't harm me again for now. At least not on purpose.”

Anna rolls his eyes. “Fine. It won't take long.”

After she leaves silence settles between the two men but it is not an uncomfortable one. Dean just feels relaxed and calm, leaning back in his chair and watching Castiel who examines Dean's garden with a ridiculous amount of concentration as if he's looking for something specific.

“Your garden is well cared for,” Castiel finally states.

Dean smiles slowly. “I'm doing my best. I'm quite new to the whole gardening business.” He shrugs. “I'm planning a little herb garden right now, to be honest. I've got no clue whatsoever about that though.”

Castiel casts him a soft look and Dean's stomach, filled with burgers and beer, tightens a little bit at this sight.

“I can help you with that if you'd like,” he offers. “I am quite familiar with the different types of herbs and seasonings.”

Dean blinks a few times. “Uh, sure. That'd be nice.”

“What is your intention with this?” Castiel asks. “Do you simply want some spices for cooking or do you crave a few medical herbs as well? I know some natural aids for painful maladies like headache, heartburn and soreness. There are also some herbs who help you focusing, being more vital or even increasing your stamina.”

Dean chokes on a gulp of beer in his mouth hearing that.

Dammit!

Admittedly Castiel probably just talked about general stamina since he's still smiling like a innocent puppy with no filthy thought in his head but Dean can't help his mind from wandering in a very different direction.

“Um … how about you'll make a list,” Dean suggests, voice a little unsteady. “What herb you'll think would be most … um, satisfying ...” His eyes widen immediately. “I mean, beneficial!”

Castiel, bless his heart, doesn't seem to notice Dean's small slip-up. “I can do that.”

Dean exhales. “Uh, great. Thanks, Cas.”

Castiel tilts his head, watching him intensively. “You keep calling me 'Cas',” he points out. He doesn't sound upset or anything, more like curious as if something like that never happened to him before. And maybe it seriously didn't. Dean has got no clue how this guy grew up and what kind of people had been around him and he sure as hell won't ask without Castiel's consent.

“If you don't like it, I'll stop,” Dean promises. “It's just … everyone needs a nickname once in a while. And I know it's not very original, just a shortened version of your name, but ...”

Castiel seems confused for a few moments, processing this obvious new information carefully. Finally he states, “You don't need to stop. I appreciate the sentiment. And I think I like it.” His lips curl up into a small smile. “What is your nickname, Dean?”

“My …?”

“Yes,” Castiel says firmly. “You just said everyone needs one. So what is yours?”

Dean coughs uncomfortably. “Well, I don't really … My brother calls me 'jerk' sometimes but it's more of a sibling thing and actually not exactly a nickname per se.”

Castiel seems to gravitate closer to him although he doesn't move his chair one single inch. “So you don't have one?”

“In kindergarten some kids called me 'Freckles'” He grimaces. “I punched them in the face and they shut up very quickly after that.”

Castiel chuckles amused. “But the name suits you, Dean. Your freckles are quite lovely.”

Again with the bluntness.

Castiel obviously learned to say what's on his mind, no matter how weird or awkward it may sound. Since this day Dean couldn't tell Charlie that he likes the shoes she bought at a special place and wouldn't shut up about for weeks (since he feared he would sound way too girly stating that) and here is Castiel, saying stuff like that basically into a stranger's face and looking highly pleased with himself.

And Dean isn't sure if he's supposed to be impressed or weirded out.

At least his heart skips a beat hearing those words and Dean doesn't know what to make of this.

“Yeah, well, I'm not especially fond of that name,” Dean disagrees. “So if you don't want a fist in your face, better don't use it.”

Castiel seems fairly amused. “You can't hurt me, Dean.”

And of course he's not capable of doing something like that. Castiel means no harm and Dean sure as hell isn't four years old anymore. He solves conflicts in a more grown-up way now (no matter what Sam sometimes implies) and furthermore it'd be like kicking a puppy. Even Dean's past self wouldn't have been able to do such a thing.

Nonetheless Dean can't help himself wondering if Castiel actually meant it would be physically impossible for Dean to hurt him.

“Tell me about yourself,” Castiel suddenly says, his eyes shining in an odd light. It seems like he's keen to change the subject quickly as if he revealed too much about himself by accident and needs to distract Dean somehow. “Anna told me you own a garage and I'm not sure what that means since she and a lot of your neighbors seem to have garages as well. What so special about yours?”

Dean stares at him for a minute, contemplating if Castiel might be joking or not, but his expression is open and curious.

“It means I own an auto shop,” Dean explains, suppressing a grin. “It's a place where we fix cars when they're broken or need extra care.”

“Oh.” Castiel nods. “So you are an automobile healer.”

Well, Dean never saw it that way but it sounds quite nice. “Yeah, in a way. Maybe I should put that on my card.”

Castiel looks puzzled. “What card?”

“Never mind,” Dean waves him off. “I inherited the shop from my dad about three years ago. I actually never thought it would happen that soon, I more or less just finished my business degree and felt like an fucking newbie, you know? But after ten months being his partner my dad called me into his office and asked if I'd be ready to take some responsibility.”

Castiel smiles warmly. “And you were.”

“Oh hell, no!” Dean disagrees, laughing loudly. “I just turned twenty-six, dude, and I thought I'd have ten years, maybe even twenty before my old man would lay low a bit. I wasn't prepared at all!”

He remembers how he felt back then. Overwhelmed. More than sure that he would screw up the whole thing big time.

“Well, turns out my dad made some really good business at the stock market,” Dean continues. “I don't wanna say he's filthy rich or something but he can't complain. He made some nice investments, even bought a few houses in town and rents them now. This one right here is actually one of his.”

He points of the building behind him with a casual shrug. He had been quite surprised when his dad offered him this place out of the blue, a few months before Dean's lease of his former apartment was about to run out.

“I pay a monthly rent and everything, so it's not a gift,” Dean tells Castiel, more than eager to make himself clear that he's not some spoiled child who takes nice presents like cars and houses from their parents like it's the most normal thing in the world. “And I'm actually saving some money to buy the place one day. It would be nice, I think. I mean, my dad told me I could do whatever I want with the house but it'd still be his, you know?”

“What would you change?” Castiel asks.

“Well, I haven't really thought about that yet,” Dean confesses. “Maybe I would increase the kitchen. It's a bit small right now for my liking. I love me some space. And perhaps some bigger windows on the second floor. During winter it gets a bit dark up there.”

“It sounds like you have a lot of plans for your future, Dean.” There's not that much emotion in Castiel's voice but Dean can nonetheless hear clear as a bell that he admires Dean's spirit. “And according to Anna your garage goes quite well too.”

Dean chuckles. “Yeah, well, I needed to get over my initial shock since my dad was very serious about the whole You're-in-charge-now-son thing. I mean, he's still a partner and he helped me a lot in the first few months but since the last years he just shows up sporadically. Mostly when we have a beauty in the shop for a change.”

Castiel narrows his brows. “A beauty?”

Dean feels himself grow fond of the squinty eyes and the head tilt everytime Castiel is confused about something.

“A nice car,” Dean clarifies. “Especially classic ones, like mine.”

“I see.” Castiel throws a glance in the direction where the Impala is parked on the other side of the house as if he could see her perfectly. “I have to confess I don't know much about cars. I can't honestly tell how your Gazelle is distinct from any other automobile.”

Dean snickers amused. “Impala,” he corrects.

Castiel grins lopsidedly. “At least I knew it's an African inhabitant. But apart from that I'm not very well versed.”

“I can change that if you're interested,” Dean offers immediately. He remembers Anna's words from yesterday, how Castiel practically grew up in another century and would need guidance and time to adapt properly. “You may come around any time and ask me all the questions in the world if you like.”

Castiel's eyes widen in surprise as if he's not used to such simple kindness. And it makes Dean's stomach feel a little unsettled to think that maybe he seriously isn't.

But only a moment later Castiel's expression turns serious. “Please don't feel obligated to help me, Dean. It's alright.”

Dean blinks. “What? No, Cas --”

“I know what Anna told you about … about what happened to me.” There's just a single muscle that twitches on his forehead, otherwise he seems totally unaffected, but Dean can see the deeply buried pain in his eyes clear as day and it makes his chest feel heavy. “I appreciate that you're trying to help but despite Anna's words I'm not an inexperienced child that would run over by a car the second you'd leave them out of sight. I admit our first meeting might tell you a different story but I assure you that I'm capable of surviving. Quite capable actually.”

Dean feels suddenly very uncomfortable hearing those words. It sounds as if Castiel needed to fight for his own fucking life and he can't stop thinking about Anna's teary eyes the other day. Whatever happened it might have been more serious than Dean thought. And it makes him feel sick to imagine a kind guy like Castiel in such a situation. He actually needs to restrain himself from fetching a blanket and wrapping it around Castiel to protect him from the big, cruel world.

“You know why I'm offering my help?” Dean asks, his voice gentle. “Because I like you and think we could be great friends.”

Castiel stares at Dean with wide eyes as if that thought never even crossed his mind. “Really?”

Dean flashes him a warm smile. “Really, dude. I don't give just anyone a nickname, you know?”

For a few moments Castiel doesn't seem to know what to say like the whole concept of kindness and friendship is foreign to him. Finally he lowers his head, a light flush on his cheeks. “I like you too, Dean.”

And Dean's stomach flips slightly although he expected to hear those words.

“Yeah, what can I say? I'm adorable!” He grins widely. He knows he's trying to loosen the mood with a stupid joke like he always does when the air gets too emotional but he can't help it. He's never been good with the heart-to-heart-talk and he especially could never deal with people saying something nice about him in his presence without reflecting immediately.

“You most certainly are,” Castiel agrees. For a second Dean thinks the guy is dead-serious but then he notices the amused glint in Castiel's eyes and his lips twitching upwards. “But honestly, thank you for this. It means a great deal to me.”

He seems so freaking genuine that Dean has got a hard time staying calm.

“No problem,” Dean manages to say eventually and makes an effort to let his voice sound extra casual. “It's really not a big deal.”

Castiel seems like he's about to protest, probably assuring Dean once more what a great guy he is, and Dean seriously wants none of that. He won't survive any of this without blushing embarrassingly fast.

“I can't promise you I'll be able to answer every question though,” Dean tries to deflect Castiel's attention elsewhere. “I've got my limits, you know? But maybe I could introduce you to my little brother at some point. He knows honestly everything.”

Castiel's eyes twinkle in amusement. “I doubt that.”

“No seriously!” Dean says with determination. “That guy knows the whole history of the zipper. Zipper, Cas! Who the hell knows stuff like that?”

Castiel tilts his head. “It's probably a quite interesting process --”

“Yeah, yeah!” Dean interrupts him immediately. “I heard all of that before. But thanks anyway.”

Castiel's lips turn into a gummy smile and Dean's gotta admit that it's a really nice sight. “I would be honored to meet your brother.”

Dean suppresses the bark of laughter in his throat. “Well, okay. I could arrange that. Maybe at the Annual Barbecue in a few weeks. Sammy is super busy with his new lawyer job right now but he still finds time to come to that. Probably even on his death bed he would somehow make sure to attend.”

Well, Dean isn't any better if he's honest with himself. There are a lot of things he enjoys and the big barbecue party every year, sponsored by the fire department, is in his personal top fives. He sure as hell won't miss that for the world.

But Castiel just frowns confused. “What is … a barbecue?”

And Dean can't help but feel good when he starts an animated monologue about the wonders of barbecuing and Castiel listens intently to every word he has to say.

Yeah, it feels really good.

 

Chapter Text

After that Dean sees Castiel on a daily basis.

At first the guy still behaves a little reluctantly as if he's not sure if he's welcome, despite Dean's assurance that he can come over any time he wants. He stays on his side of the fence, asking Dean about his day or making a few suggestions regarding the herb garden. Furthermore he makes it a habit to tell Dean goodbye every morning and Dean's gotta admit it feels kind of nice. At least he never once had someone who did that for him before (apart from his mom back in his school days) and admittedly it's just a small thing, not that big of a deal, but it makes Dean smile every time.

One day, however, Castiel just climbs over the small fence like he never did anything else in his entire life and starts to talk about the absurdity of political campaigns (“They seriously spend such an huge amount of money for something like that? Why don't they use that to help the poor instead? It doesn't make any sense to me.”) and just like that the ice is broken.

Sometimes Anna tags along as well, obviously fairly amused by Dean's and Castiel's interactions, but more often than not she takes over the late shift at work and can't make it. Dean is kinda sad about that because he loves the backup since Castiel tends to ask questions Dean has no answer to, but at the same time it's quite pleasant when it's just the two of them.

On the sixth day Castiel comes over with a dazed expression and says, “Did you know about a place called the internet?”

Dean laughs loudly. “Yeah, I heard of that before.”

“It tells you everything!” Castiel sounds highly amazed and considering the fact that the dude lived basically in a different century his whole life and maybe owned just a few books and nothing else, it seriously must be the most awesome shit he ever heard of. “How does it know all these things?”

Dean smiles at the sight of his awed expression. “Okay, listen, one of the most important lessons about humankind: Do not believe everything you read on the internet.”

Castiel frowns. “Really?”

Dean nods animatedly. “Yeah, it's filled with a lot of bullshit, trust me. But it can be very useful too.”

“And entertaining,” Castiel adds with a grin. “I watched cat videos for two hours last night and somehow it made me very happy.”

Dean starts to laugh. “Yeah, cats are a mystery, man. I mean, sometimes I enjoy watching Jasper licking his fucking paws and I hate that son of a bitch. I can't explain it.”

Dean notices very soon that Castiel isn't just a fast learner and a freaking sponge who is eager to absorb everything he hears but a really smart and sophisticated guy as well. His knowledge about nature seems without any limits and Dean feels himself drawn towards Castiel's lectures about the importance of weed or the process of pollination. He never heard so much about dandelions and bees and fruit flies in his whole life and at one point he even starts to wonder what the hell he is doing, listening to Castiel's rambling as if there is nothing more important in the world. Would it have been Sam Dean would have cut him off ages ago, telling him to shut his “nerdy mouth”.

But with Castiel he just can't do it.

At first he thinks it's just general politeness and the fact that he feels bad for the guy. So it's quite nice to see him smile and be excited about something.

But rather sooner than later Dean realizes that he actually listens to Castiel's long explanations. Usually he would have just sat there, nodding now and then to appear interested, but for some very weird reason he pays real attention as if he's preparing for some very important test or something.

Huh.

Strange.

Even when Castiel continues to add more topics to his repertoire – history, physics, some math – Dean still listens.

“Anna gave me a book about the importance of the media in modern times,” Castiel tells him one day. “It's quite remarkable how much has changed since back then.”

And Dean is seriously no history expert, but even he knows that there had been some huge changes concerning this topic since the last century.

“Well, you probably know more about this stuff than me,” Dean admits. “You know more about a lot of things, man. I've got honestly no idea why you even bother to ask me questions anymore.”

Castiel's smile falls immediately. “Am I bothering you?”

Dean backpedals promptly, shaking his head forcefully. “No, no, of course not. I like having you around. I just …” He bites onto his bottom lip, trying to find the right words, “... I'm just wondering what I could teach you, y'know? You're way more knowledgeable than I am.”

Maybe it's really time to introduce him to Sam. They would hit it off instantly, geeking over trivial dates and facts like huge nerds for hours, days – hell, years. There's no doubt in Dean's mind that those two would have a lot in common.

And although Dean likes this thought very much, he feels something uncomfortable growing in his stomach at the same time imagining Sam and Castiel being best friends and forgetting all about Dean.

But suddenly Castiel touches Dean's wrist lightly, a soft smile on his lips. “Dean, I really appreciate our time together. Please don't doubt that.” There's so much emotion in his eyes that Dean's got no clue how to handle that properly, but he can't bring himself to withdraw. “And maybe I wouldn't seek you out if I would like to hear an excessive report about what happened in Germany 1923, but you are able to teach me so much more valuable things. You're good with people, you know how to act in social situations which are an absolute mystery to me, you always seem to know what to say and do …” His smiles brightens and Dean feels like he's drowning a little bit. “I'm learning so much just by being in your presence, you have no idea. So thank you.”

Contrary to Castiel's belief Dean doesn't know what to say to this. He just stares at the man in front of him and hopes that he isn't blushing too hard.

Dammit.

He's got honestly no idea what's the matter with him. Usually he's witty and cheeky and knows how to handle compliments. Sure, sometimes his face colors a bit red (like the one time Jess told him he's like a brother to her), but he can't remember the last time such words or just a nice smile made his heart feel so tight within his chest.

“Um … it's no big deal,” Dean finally manages to say.

Castiel seems as if he wants to argue, but in the end he refrains from it, probably sensing even with his eyes closed that Dean is uncomfortable with the whole thing. Instead he says, “There is an issue I wanted to talk to you about. I'm rather confused by the concept.”

Dean sure as hell knows it's just a diversion, but he takes it anyway, gladly. “Just shoot, man.”

Castiel creases his forehead. “What is the purpose of synchronized swimming?”

Dean blinks a few times before he barks out laughing. “Dude, I've got no idea!”





* * * * *



 

 

His dad's birthday is usually a very quiet affair.

John doesn't like big parties so he keeps to the basics. A nice meal (chosen by him in great detail) and just a few guests to eat all the stuff. It used to be only Dean and Sam, but since a few years Jess tags along as well, surprising all the attendees with her huge appetite (which always leads to questions about a possible pregnancy, but that girl seriously eats that much!).

And today she doesn't disappoint either. She wolfs down the steak hungrily and Mary apparently can't keep herself from asking, “Are you sure you're not pregnant, dear?”

Jess needs some time to chew and swallow the huge amount of meat in her mouth before she finally answers, “Perfectly sure. I want to fit into my dress and that sure as hell would be a problem with a baby belly.”

She shoots Sam a pointed look as if he would dare to change that here and now, with his whole family present. Sam just blushes and mumbles something about having no time for a baby anyway.

And Dean chuckles silently and enjoys his brother's discomfort.

“How is the wedding going so far?” John asks, obviously eager to change the subject since weddings are a safer topic than sex and babies from his point of view.

Apparently he said the magic word because all of a sudden there's a lot of talking about locations and incompetent florists and people annoying them all the fucking time with unwanted advice (“Can you believe my mom? 'Jess, honey, why do you want a DJ? A live band would be so much better'!”). At least both Sam and Jess seem to agree that a small wedding would be the best. Just family and a few close friends, that's it. And Dean is quite glad to hear it since he doesn't fancy it very much to drown in an ocean of mostly unknown people. Apart from the fact that it seems utterly ridiculous to him to spend an huge amount of money for one single day in the first place.

He starts to smile involuntarily, watching Jess talking animatedly about some color pattern and Sam gazing at her as if she just found a cure for cancer. They're so disgustingly sweet and happy that Dean can't even be mad about that.

But it didn't use to be ray and sunshine all the time. They hit a rough patch a few years ago and broke up for some time. Till this day Dean doesn't know what happened – he just knows that a chick called Ruby was involved somehow – and he doesn't really care. He just remember Sam being pathetic and mopey for a long time and Mary being freaking devastated since she fell in love with Jess as quickly as Sam did.

And Dean didn't like it as well. He didn't like seeing his brother so upset and heartbroken. He didn't like to hear Mary's careful suggestions how Sam should win back the “girl of his dreams” everytime they met. And he sure as hell didn't like missing Jess so much. She felt like part of the family, like a sister and it hurt to lose her.

Fortunately they got their shit together in the end and became even more grosser than before (although Dean never thought this could be possible). Sometimes there's still some tension, old wounds not healed entirely, but this time Dean is more than certain that they'll be strong enough to overcome this.

And yeah, Dean envies them a little bit. He never had something like this, so powerful and consuming, and for a long time he thought he didn't want it anyway. Then he met Cassie and started to wonder if he could have it someday. If it could grow into something similar. He wasn't exactly opposed to the idea back in the day, even imagined a nice future with a white picket fence and it didn't scare him like he believed it would.

But in the end it didn't work out and he was back to square one. That feeling, however, that picture of a happy future, didn't disappear. And sometimes it hurts to see his brother having all that and him being right there where he always had been.

“Oh, I met Wendy the other day,” Sam all of a sudden announces, smiling brightly. “She told me she liked my hair.”

He throws a smug look in his brother's direction, but Dean just snorts. Does he honestly believe that Dean will stop complaining about his girly haircut because someone didn't find it particularly hideous? No way!

“And she'd like to have your recipe for your buttercream cake, Mom,” Sam continues and Mary just smiles like there's some secret regarding this topic between Wendy and herself. “And she asked me if Dean is gay.”

For a second Dean doesn't register his brother's words and just chews his pie innocently, but when it finally goes through his thick skull Dean chokes on a bunch of crumbs, his eyes widened.

Dammit!

What?” he croaks.

Sam just grins, Jess seems amused but keeps from smiling, John lifts an eyebrow and Mary looks utterly confused.

“Well, she didn't say 'gay',” Sam confesses. “She said something like 'interested in the same sex'.”

Dean feels his cheeks heat. Of course he knows exactly where this is coming from, remembering her expression back at the doctor's office vividly.

“Why would she think that?” Mary asks bewildered but Dean detects a note of curiosity in her voice as well and for some reason that makes him really uncomfortable. It sounds a little bit like she had the same thought before at some time too.

“Apparently Dean brought a 'dashing young gentlemen' with him two weeks ago,” Sam tells them cheerfully and even uses some fucking air-quotes. “And they 'looked into each others eyes for minutes'.”

Minutes?

Hell no!

Maybe a few seconds, yeah. He remembers drowning a tiny bit in Castiel's eyes and forgetting everything around him.

But minutes sounds exaggerated.

At least he hopes.

“So, who is your new boyfriend?” Sam jokes, laughing loudly. “I wanna know everything!”

Dean just grumbles and kicks his brother's knee under the table. “Really funny, Sammy. Maybe you should start to grow up, how about that?”

He refuses to get flustered because of that crap. And he sure as hell refrains from protesting too much since something like that always backfires horribly. People always seem to think there's some hidden truth when you fight them too strongly.

And there is not!

So he tries to stay calm and collected while suppressing the image of Castiel's eyes. “His name is Castiel,” Dean explains, ignoring Sam's gleeful expression. “He's my neighbor's brother. You remember Anna, right?”

Sam and Jess nod at the same time whereas Mary and John look at Dean as if they expect some serious gay secret coming their way. And to Dean's chagrin they don't seem freaked out or at least a little bit surprised. Just … curious.

Damn!

Maybe he should cut back on baking his own pies, dressing up for Charlie's Moondoor game and confessing his love for Dr. Sexy every time he's a tiny bit tipsy. Of course they think he's not entirely straight!

“He got hurt the other day, I drove him to the doc,” Dean continues. “And well … apparently on special pain meds Cas forgets about certain boundaries.”

It's actually the truth. Well, at least kinda.

Castiel stared at him very closely even before they arrived at Dr. Hobbs' office, but afterwards he didn't seem to be able to take his eyes off of Dean for a second. Just staring and staring and staring …

And shit, Dean feels uncomfortably hot all over again.

Fortunately it doesn't seem to be visible from the outside or at least Sam is nice enough to ignore it when he says, grinning, “Well, what a hero you are, rescuing injured maidens.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah ...”

“And it reminds me of the time you needed to take some pain pills because of your broken wrist and told everyone with a stupidly wide smile that you loved them,” Sam says with a shit-eating grin and seems way too pleased with himself when the rest of their family starts to snicker, probably recalling quite clearly how Dean one time even embraced the mailman before the poor guy was able to escape and assured him firmly for about five minutes that he was the best mailman in the whole world.

Dean tries to look miffed, but at the same time he's quite glad that they're joking about drug induced love declarations instead of teasing him about non-existent boyfriends.

“Yeah, at one point he offered me the Impala as a gift,” Jess says, giggling. “Sadly I didn't write it down and and let him sign.”

They tease him some more for about ten minutes and Dean just takes it, at the same time hoping they'd forgotten about Sam's encounter with Wendy, but as always Mary's memory proves to be perfect. When the discussion about Dean's most embarrassing situations dies down a little bit she asks, “And do you know how long Anna's brother will stay?”

Dean never really discussed this with either Castiel or Anna but he can't imagine that Anna would let her brother out of her sight anytime soon. How could she when he's got no money, no job, no real clue about insurances and taxes or even any form of identification?

“Probably a while,” Dean says eventually, not sure what else to say. Anna never really told him to keep Castiel's past (or at least the tiny bits he knows about) a secret but nonetheless it's most likely not for the best when he starts to reveal everything just like that. He's never been one for gossiping in the first place and the thought of telling Castiel's story without his consent first makes him feel a little nauseous.

But naturally Sam starts to ask questions almost immediately. Where does Castiel come from? What does he do for a living? Will he stay at Anna's or will he search for his own place?

Finally Dean sighs deeply. “Listen, Sammy --”

Fortunately he's saved by the ringing telephone on the kitchen counter. Dean leaps to his feet before he even knows it and exclaims, “I'll take it”, ignoring the fact that he's way too obvious in fleeing the scene.

“Hello,” he greets the person on the other end of line, probably sounding way too cheerful but not giving a damn. And he especially ignores Mary's raised eyebrow that tells him more than he likes to know.

“Oh, hello, Dean,” he hears a familiar voice answer.

Dean stiffens immediately although there's no real reason to. It's not like his grandma would bite off his head or something.

“Hey, gran,” he says and notices from the corner of his eyes how Mary freezes, turning tense all of a sudden. The rest of the family goes quiet too, casting cautious looks in her direction.

Till this day none of them learned what the hell happened between Mary and her parents. She falls silent everytime someone tries to mention it, even in passing, and since a very young age Dean just kept from talking about it altogether. For the first fifteen years of his life he only knew his grandparents by an old photograph he found in his mom's nightstand one day by accident.

His dad told him once that there obviously had been a huge argument because of the Campbell family business, whatever the hell that may be. John only knew that it involved a lot of traveling and a very unsteady schedule. Almost every member of the Campbell clan used to be a part of this, but Mary refused to commit herself to such a life at some point and caused a gigantic wave in the whole family. It was probably unheard of to have other dreams than this ominous family business. So Mary cut herself loose and walked away. And apparently no one tried to stop her.

But some day, over ten years ago, their grandmother Deanna tried to reach out and restore the contact with her daughter again. Probably her impending retirement made her realize what she'd lost all those years ago and that she didn't want to die without knowing her grandsons first. Mary stayed stubborn for quite a while after the first phone call of her mom out of the blue, but eventually she caved in, at least to a certain degree.

It's still kind of awkward to watch them rekindle their seriously damaged relationship, even after ten years. Granted, Dean still met his grandparents only four times in total and everytime it had been kinda weird. Mary insisted on meeting them only in her presence (and Dean is quite sure she barred her parents to call Dean and Sam at their homes or – God forbid! – even visit them there) and their conversations felt formal and rigid. As if both Samuel and Deanna were more than eager to make a good impression and at the same time avoid touchy subjects like the family business.

So it's seriously not the best relationship and Dean never knows how to act around them.

“How are you, Dean?” his grandma asks and Dean hears clear as a bell that it isn't just a polite question and nothing else, but that she's genuinely interested what he had been up to. So he puts on a smile and talks about the garage, his friends, his leisure activities, the fact that Sam seems to have grown two inches and probably one day will reach the sky, and his whole life in general.

“What about you, grandma?” Dean asks. “Bored yet?”

He can practically hear her eye-roll. “Retirement is tedious. I don't know what to do with myself. It feels like all I do is cleaning and cooking and researching.”

Dean frowns. “Researching?”

Suddenly there is silence on the other end of the line for a moment. “Um … I'm just … educating myself, you know? About things I never came around to bother when I was working full-time.”

Dean knows she's lying, but he doesn't call her out on it. He doesn't like to pry and when she's not comfortable with talking about it, so be it.

Instead he's about to change the subject and ask about Samuel, but suddenly Mary appears beside him out of freaking nowhere, saying, “She probably wants to talk with John, right?” and grabs the phone before Dean even knows how to react.

He watches his mom whispering into the phone, her expression strained and obviously not at all happy with the whole situation.

Sam throws a look at him, shrugging as if he wants to say, “Weird family, huh?”

And Dean couldn't agree more.





* * * * *



 

 

Castiel!!”

Anna's worried voice reaches Castiel's ears the second his legs start to buckle and he sinks onto the floor of the living room. He actually just wanted to stand up and fetch some water from the kitchen, but as soon as he rose from the couch he felt his body protest instantly and he couldn't shake the weakness in his knees before losing his balance.

Anna rushes to his side almost immediately, dropping the sandwich in her hands on the ground and not giving a damn that Jasper promptly snatches it and hurriedly flees with his prey.

“Castiel,” she whispers, her fingers running through his hair in a soothing manner. “Cas.”

At some time she started to use the nickname Dean gave him that first time they met and for some reason it feels really nice. As if she's a little bit closer to him every single time she's saying it.

“I'm fine,” Castiel says although he's quite sure Anna won't believe it at all. Apart from the collapsing right in front of her his body shakes violently and he's probably as white as fresh snowfall.

As expected Anna just snorts. “You're not fine, you idiot,” she hisses. “You're the opposite of fine.”

Castiel wants to argue, wants to make himself clear that he suffered through much worse and the fact that his system decided to break down for a second is freaking nothing compared to what he had been through, but he keeps his mouth shut. Anna always looks so sad and guilty every time they bring it up and Castiel can't bear it anymore.

“It's only been five weeks,” Castiel tells her while he attempts to climb back onto the couch very gracelessly. “It will take time.”

Anna still pets his hair as if she can't let go. “But how long?”

“Well, I've never been held captive for nearly two-hundred years before so I can't say for sure.” Castiel tries to sound jokingly and even manages a weak smile, but Anna doesn't seem to appreciate it. “I am way stronger than I've been five weeks ago, believe me. At first I couldn't use my legs at all. I wasn't even able to speak.”

Anna sighs. “Yeah, Gabriel told me that. That's why he waited so long to bring you here. He feared you would just drop mid-air and crash onto the ground.”

Castiel remembers how Gabriel made a fuss over him, he had never seen him so worried before. Gabriel made sure that his little brother ate and drank and bathe like an overprotective mother-hen and he seemed happy about every small improvement, even simple things like cutting his meat all on his own or standing on his feet for five minutes without losing consciousness.

“I will be fine eventually,” Castiel promises. “I mean I even used my wings the other day for a bit. Not for long and I didn't fly three states over, but it felt good.”

Really good in fact.

For the first time in forever he felt wholly free again.

But Anna doesn't seem to approve. “You flew?” she asks, concern in her voice. “Since when are you so reckless?”

“Anna --”

“No, no, no,” she interrupts indignantly. “Your magic is still acting up. Who knew what would have happened if someone would have seen you? You can't control it properly yet.”

Castiel rolls his eyes. “Who do you think I am? It was dark, shortly after midnight, in your backyard and I only flew about ten inches into the air. It was actually more floating than anything else. And no one was looking.” He takes her hand and interlaces their fingers. “I know you're worried but it just felt so right. It was the one thing I missed more than anything while penned up in that small cave. I dreamed about it every single day. So please, don't be mad.”

Anna's anger deflates promptly hearing those words. “I'm sorry,” she says, sounding sheepish. “I'm just worried.”

“I know.” Castiel drops a kiss onto her temple. “I appreciate it. But trust me when I say that I would never dare to do anything reckless that would jeopardize our safety. I learned this lesson a long time ago and I will never forget it.”

There are so many emotions in Anna's eyes that Castiel feels slightly overwhelmed. He recognizes the familiar guilt and sadness, but there's something else too and he feels inadvertently uncomfortable seeing it. It seems raw and deep and indecipherable.

And Castiel starts to wonder inadvertently if Anna keeps something important from him.

“Maybe … maybe some kind of exercise would do you some good,” Anna says and even Castiel – who has never been good with social interactions – notices instantly that she's trying to change the topic quickly before her brother would ask some ugly questions. “It can't be nice to be cooped up in here all day.”

Castiel can't hide his surprise. He actually thought Anna would like to keep him inside those walls till the end of time.

“Would you maybe like to come to the animal clinic tomorrow?” she asks.

Castiel stares at her in astonishment. She told him a lot of her place of work as well as of her decision to study veterinarian medicine in the first place. How she struggled for quite a while to find her passion, how she needed to overcome sexism and at least a hundred different obstacles, how she felt when she saved a puppy's life for the very first time and the animal looked at her as if she was the most amazing thing in the world. She never stops talking about the cats and dogs and occasional goats and Castiel always loves to listen to her enthusiasm.

But Castiel can't shake the feeling that she's just determined to distract him somehow.

“Yesterday we got some abandoned kittens in,” Anna explains. “They could use a little company.”

Castiel squints his eyes. “I'm not sure. Jasper seems to hate me.”

Anna waves him off. “Let's be real, Jasper is an asshole. But those kittens are sweethearts, believe me. You could benefit from each other.”

“Um, alright,” Castiel finally agrees. He still feels a little tense, but he trusts Anna completely and if there is something she doesn't want to tell him he just needs to accept that. “I think I will manage to pet some kittens.”

Anna beams at him.

And Castiel feels the knot in his stomach loosen since there is probably nothing more beautiful than his sister's smile.

Well, maybe one or two other things.

But it's still breathtaking and so utterly rare lately that Castiel can't stop himself from reacting to it. He would do anything to keep that expression there. He would pet thousand cats or stay in this house for all eternity if she would ask that of him.

“I love you,” he tells her because he sees no reason not to say it.

Anna blinks a few times as if she never thought to hear those words. But a second later her smile turns even more blinding and she embraces Castiel with an unexpected strength. “I love you too,” she whispers, an awed tone in her voice. “And I'm so happy you're here. Everything's gonna be great now, you'll see.”

And Castiel believes her.

 

Chapter Text

“Hello, Dean.”

Dean looks up from his phone and smiles at Castiel who's standing right beside Anna's car, obviously waiting for his sister to come outside. Dean is quite surprised to see him there since he usually sticks to the front porch, waving him goodbye in the morning in an utterly adorable way (not that Dean ever thought about saying that out loud).

“Hey, Cas,” Dean greets him, heading toward his garage. “Big plans?”

“I'm petting some kittens,” Castiel informs him, apparently not entirely sure if he's supposed to be excited about that or not.

Dean blinks a few times and tries to wrap his very tired brain around those words, but finally it clicks and he starts to laugh. “Ah, Anna's taking you with to work, huh?”

Castiel nods enthusiastically. “Yes. Obviously those cats are very young and their mother is nowhere to be found. They need some care and human contact before they will be able to move to a shelter or a foster home.”

Dean pictures Castiel cuddling with some kittens, cooing at them with shiny eyes, and it does something very weird to Dean's stomach.

Maybe the coffee he drank ten minutes ago had been expired or something.

“Well then … have fun, I guess,” Dean says.

“I will try to,” Castiel promises. “And maybe next time you'll come with me.”

Dean snorts and shakes his head instantly. “I don't think so, dude. I'm allergic to cats. It'd be one hell of a nightmare.”

“Oh.” Castiel blinks a few times. “But Jasper …?”

Dean throws his jacket onto the passenger seat and sighs. “Anna keeps her house extra clean, so there not that much hair flying around. And Jasper hates my guts, so he usually stays away from me. But a room full of kittens? Hell no!”

Dean shudders involuntarily. He remembers quite vividly how they noticed his allergy for the very first time when he had been five years old and they visited some old friend of his dad's mom. Her house had been filled with cats and he couldn't stop sneezing and coughing the minute he entered her place. Breathing had been a fucking hardship and at one point he was certain he was freaking dying.

Sure, in hindsight a little bit melodramatic, but he recalls the incident rather well so it seriously made some impression.

And he certainly isn't keen on repeating this experience anytime soon.

“Then I will remember to change my clothes before I will come over tonight,” Castiel says. “I don't want you to feel unwell.”

“Um, thanks.” Dean smiles awkwardly. It feels kinda nice to hear someone talking about coming over to his place as if it's the most normal thing in the world. “But … today it's gonna take a while. I need to catch up on some paper work ...”

Castiel nods understandingly. “Then I will let you rest. It must be very tiring and --”

No,” Dean interjects, surprising himself much more than anyone else. Usually he prefers an evening all by himself when work gets stressful, but right now it just sounds weirdly wrong to not have Castiel over, even for an hour or so. “I mean … you may come to my place. Just don't start to wonder when I'll be back later than usual.”

He clears his throat, feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden.

It wouldn't kill him to have a free night all alone, right? Just eat some takeaway in sweatpants and an old ratty shirt, watch Dr. Sexy and relax. He did it before and enjoyed it. Everyone needs this once in a while.

But now?

He likes Castiel's company. More than junk food or some TV show. And it doesn't feel like an obligation, a thing he needs to do instead of a free evening –

It's just … fun.

Nice.

“Alright, Dean.” Castiel smiles easily at him. “Maybe we could watch that movie with the golden robot tonight?”

Dean laughs loudly while opening the driver's door. “Yeah, that sounds really great actually.”

And when he arrives at work he can't keep that stupid grin out of his face, no matter how hard he tries.


* * * * *


“So, I've got a surprise for you,” Anna announces all of a sudden as she drives onto the parking lot of the animal clinic. “And I'm not sure you'll like it.”

Castiel wrinkles his forehead. “What are you talking about?”

Anna sighs. “In my defense, I didn't really have a choice. Because when that woman wants something, she gets it, you know? The minute I told her about the kittens, she decided to stop by. And then I made the mistake of mentioning you coming over and there was seriously no stopping her. She's a force of nature although she seems so sweet and innocent. And I dealt with a lot of shit in my life, but telling her no might be the hardest thing ever. Maybe it's even impossible.”

Castiel wonders if he should start to feel anxious since that description doesn't sound very pleasant. What supernatural creature is he about to meet?

“And she's cute and nice, but she is so much at the same time, you know?” Anna continues and ignores Castiel's confused face altogether. “And I wanted you to meet her, I really did. I even made some plans and intended to prepare you. Because you actually need preparation for this! But that sneaky little witch tricked me and sent me a text five minutes ago that she's already on her way. She can't be stopped.”

Castiel's eyes widen in surprise. “We're meeting a witch?”

Anna looks taken aback as if she'd already forgotten her own words. “What? No!” She huffs loudly. “That's honestly the last thing we needed. The last witch I met wanted to boil my bones and use my hair to make a wig.” She grinds her teeth. “I fucking hate witches!”

Castiel couldn't agree more, but this is still not answering his question. “Anna,” he urges. “Who are you talking about?”

Anna is about to reply when she catches a glimpse of a figure near the clinic's entrance. She takes a deep breath, parks her car effortlessly as if she never did anything else in her life and says, “You'll see.”

Castiel blinks a few times, still utterly bewildered, but follows her without hesitation.

And the next second there is suddenly a red-haired, squealing woman in his arms, hugging him tightly, and Castiel can do nothing else but stay stiff and hope that she wouldn't kill him.

“Um ...” he says, not sure how else to react.

Anna at least seems highly amused by all this, hiding a wide grin behind her hands.

Meanwhile the woman pulls back a little bit, a sheepish smile on her lips. “I'm so sorry,” she apologizes. “But I was just so excited to meet you. Anna and Dean wouldn't tell me that much about you so I just needed to see you in person.”

“Um ...”

Normally Castiel is quite eloquent with words, but he's not used to people embracing him out of nowhere and he doesn't know how to feel about it.

“You have no idea who I am, right?” the girl realizes all of a sudden before throwing a reproachful look in Anna's direction. “Anna, honey, why didn't you tell your brother I'd be here? He seems like a lost and confused puppy, look at him!”

Anna sighs. “You didn't give me much of a heads-up, Charlie.”

“Oh please, you could have told him my life story since I texted you.”

While the two women continue to bicker in a fond kind of way it finally clicks inside Castiel's head. Dean spoke a few times about this “quirky and geeky” girl and Castiel nodded along at the time although he had no idea what those words meant exactly. Anna even showed him a few pictures of her when she told him about her life in Trentwood, but it had been so many different faces and impressions the last couple of weeks he simply forgot.

“I apologize for not recognizing you,” Castiel says, interrupting the women's discussion. “There has been so much change in my life recently that I was unable to place your face.”

Charlie waves him off instantly. “No, please, it's totally okay. I was just joking.”

The next moment she grabs his arms and pulls him inside the building as if they've known each other for years and are the most comfortable with each other. Surprisingly enough just after two minutes of Charlie leading him through the confusing hallways and big bright rooms, which smell of disinfectants and make him a little bit nauseous, he actually feels some kind of connection with her. Maybe it's because of her close relationship with Anna and also with Dean, maybe it's because she's just a person you can easily connect with – even someone as awkward and hesitant as Castiel –, but Castiel likes her instantly.

Although he doesn't really understand what she's talking about most of the time.

At first she gushes over him, calling him 'cute' and his eyes 'intense, creepy and totally beautiful', and for a second he thinks she's flirting with him before he remembers that Anna told him some time ago that Charlie prefers female companionship. Afterwards she talks about some place called Middle Earth (and Castiel never heard of this before, but he refrains from asking since Charlie would probably spend the next two hours teaching him about it) and midgets and elves and things like, “You're actually Samwise Gamgee, right? You look so nice and innocent, but you'd fight orcs and carry Frodo at the top of Mount Doom” and Castiel just blinks and makes a mental note to ask Dean later the day what all of these words mean.

And nonetheless Castiel likes listening to Charlie. She's got some kind of energy you don't often encounter and he really wants to cherish it.

Charlie seems to appreciate his lack of interruption and only stops her flow of words when they finally reach the small room with the kittens – five in number – and she can't help but coo at them instantly. They're small and a bit clumsy, but definitely an improvement in contrast to murderous Jasper.

“Just play with them,” Anna says. “Pet them. Keep them company. Human contact is very important in their state of development.”

And with that she's gone, leaving them to their own devices.

The baby cats seems to fall in love with Charlie instantly. They lumber around her, obviously announcing her her queen and get into a few fights about who is allowed to touch her first. Charlie seems to be delighted by all the attention and her bright smile makes it more than clear why the animals are so drawn to her.

On the other hand they act very hesitant around Castiel and he can't really blame them. They probably sense that he's not as human as he pretends to be and their instincts are telling them to be careful and keep their distance. Charlie tries to encourage them, but they have none of that. They don't seem exactly frightened by him – his powers are most likely way too weak for them to realize what he actually is underneath this human shape –, but they're not very keen on his closeness either.

Only one black kitten doesn't seem to care. Maybe his instincts are poor, maybe he doesn't want to fight for Charlie's attention and isn't picky who is about to pet him in the end, but he settles beside Castiel on the floor and starts to purr immediately when Castiel starts to caress his fur.

“They're adorable, right?” Charlie's eyes shine so bright Castiel is afraid he would blind himself watching too closely.

“They are,” Castiel agrees and actually means it, despite the fact that he didn't have much contact with cats before and actually never thought he would.

But it's strangely relaxing to stroke this small animal and listening to his breathing and Castiel finds enjoying it. He decides that he needs to ask Anna if he could come around more often.

“I've got to admit something,” Charlie says all of a sudden, two dozing kittens in her lap and looking quite calm. “The first time I heard about you, I wanted to hack you.”

Castiel creases his forehead, eyeing her confused. “You wanted to kill me?”

Charlie's eyes widen promptly. “What? No!” She chuckles awkwardly. “I mean … I, uh, wanted to gather information about you. And not in a very legal way.”

“Oh,” Castiel says, nodding along although he doesn't understand why she didn't just say so.

“It's just … Anna never told us about you,” Charlie explains. “And Dean said she looked shaken up about you coming over. He was worried … and so was I.”

Castiel pets the black kitten at his side absently. “So did you … hack me?”

Charlie shakes her head. “Dean ordered me not to. And he may be a teddy bear most of the time, but sometimes he can be very authoritarian, you know? Well, apart from the fact that he was right, of course.” She sighs deeply. “But it wasn't easy. The bastard seemed to get more concerned every day, he was probably just a step away from bursting into Anna's house and demanding to meet you. He's got a distinctive protective instinct.”

Of course Castiel noticed this first hand the day they met. Instead of leaving Castiel by himself or at least calling Anna for help he just took matters into his own hands and made it his mission to take care of someone he actually didn't know back then. Not once did he hesitate like it's the most natural thing in the world to look out for a stranger.

“He's just a great guy,” Charlie continues. “And especially with Anna …”

Castiel looks up and watches her closely. He feels something very weird bubbling in his stomach hearing those words. “Is there … is there something between Dean and Anna?”

He wondered since the first time his sister told him about her neighbor. She was singing praises all the time, her eyes glinting, her smile bright, and Castiel contemplated if she maybe had some deeper feelings for this man.

And back then he hoped that would actually be the case because Anna deserved love and happiness and someone who gave her everything she needed. And he thought that it could maybe be this nice and thoughtful man from her stories and he'd have been happy for her.

But now, knowing Dean … he just can't feel the same anymore.

Of course he still wishes Anna love and support, but if it'd turn out to be Dean in the end … Castiel is quite sure it would break his heart and he knows exactly why. And maybe it's stupid and foolish to feel this way, especially after being out of this cave for just two months and still having trouble to adapt to this strange world, but he can't help it.

“Oh, Anna and Dean?” Charlie shakes her head and Castiel draws a relieved breath. “They had a very brief thing about more than a year ago, I think, but they decided to stay friends. Anna told me it had been fun, but there was something missing.”

“A spark?” Castiel suggests.

Because that had been precisely what he felt when he met Dean for the first time. Energy jerking through his whole body. So much of it in fact that Castiel didn't know how to handle it properly because it had been centuries since he had felt so alive.

“Yeah, a spark,” Charlie agrees, smiling slightly. “It's actually a shame, they would make a cute couple. Their babies would have been gorgeous.”

Castiel refrains from nodding because he seriously doesn't want to think about that.

Instead he says, “Sometimes platonic love is more desirable than anything else.”

Charlie stays silent for a moment and Castiel starts to wonder if he maybe said something wrong, but then a wide smile splits her face and she squeezes his hand. “Wise words, my friend. I really get why Dean likes you so much.”

Castiel's heart seizes up a bit although it's quite unnecessary since Dean actually told him so before and there's no need to react that way. But his body doesn't care.

“He said that?”

“Oh, he doesn't need to,” Charlie counters. “By his standards he's practically swooning over you. You're obviously something special, at least I'm quite sure he doesn't talk about me or Benny in that way.”

Castiel can't control the slight blush, so he ducks his head and focuses his attention on the yawning kitten next to him.

“Maybe...” Charlie starts, eyeing him pensively.

Castiel frowns. “Maybe what?”

“You know, Dean's really stressed right now,” she explains. “The paper work is piling up, there are some delivery problems – yesterday he spent two hours on the phone just because some jackasses can't do their jobs – and Ash is sick since a few days so Dean takes over his workload too. I think he could use a very special person doing something nice for him.”

Castiel creases his forehead. “Dean didn't mention this.”

Admittedly, this morning he said he would work a little longer, but he sounded casual. Like it's a normal occurrence that happens from time to time.

“He's a fucking martyr, you know?” Charlie sighs exasperatedly. “He doesn't want to bother you with his problems since you can't really help him anyway. At least from his point of view. I see the whole thing a bit different.”

“How so?”

“Like I said, maybe do something nice for him,” Charlie encourages. “Anna told me you're an amazing cook.”

“I'm alright, I guess,” Castiel objects. Since he found a cookbook in one of Anna's cabinets he's been determined to expand his culinary skills. He used to prepare meals for his family and friends before all of these things happened to him and he sincerely missed it. He always loved to gather several ingredients and create something new and wonderful, to experiment with different flavors and examine the people's reactions to it. And the modern cuisine offers so many unexplored possibilities he would like to investigate further.

“Don't be modest, Castiel,” Charlie says, smiling. “Anna told me you made a stew the other day and she nearly had an orgasm.”

Castiel chokes on air at these words. He honestly didn't need this picture, thank you very much.

“I bet Dean would like to have a proper orgasm,” Charlie whispers mischievously, winking at him.

Castiel stares at her with wide eyes, his face probably outright crimson.

He especially didn't need that image.

Charlie laughs aloud, apparently absolutely unapologetic. “I'm just saying you could maybe cook for him tonight. He'd love that, trust me.”

Well, that … that sounds actually like a good idea.

Often they prepare meals together and Castiel always enjoys these experiences, but he never once cooked just for Dean. Granted, he tried to make some cookies the other day to surprise him, but he still has got some trouble with the modern electrical devices and managed to burn them to ashes. Furthermore he's eager to bake him a pie someday, however, he doesn't feel confident enough for that yet because it needs to be perfect.

But a nice meal after a stressful workday – yes, Castiel could definitely do that.

“I like the idea,” he says. “Do you think I should surprise him?”

Charlie grins. “I like the way you think. But no, not this time. Dean would probably buy some greasy burrito after work and feel sick afterwards. Just tell him, so he's got something to look forward too.”

“Alright,” Castiel agrees, mostly because he doesn't dare to contradict a force of nature like Charlie. And because she knows Dean very well and it's presumably not wrong to listen to her. “And how do I tell him?”

Charlie squints her eyes and watches him warily. “Castiel, do you know how to use a phone?”

Castiel is actually afraid to shake his head, but he does nonetheless.

As expected she looks entirely horrified as if this is the most scandalous thing she ever heard. “Oh honey, that's a crime. Unacceptable!”

“Charlie …”

“Don't worry, my friend,” she interjects, sounding like a woman on a mission who wouldn't be stopped by anything. “By the end of the day you will not only know how to use a freaking phone, but you'll also fall madly and hopelessly in love with emojis. Believe me.”

And because there's no way to run, Castiel decides to do just that, praying silently that he won't regret this.


* * * * *


Dean's cell phone starts to ring two minutes into his lunch break.

He sighs deeply and glances at the display. It's an unknown number, most likely a customer who didn't bother with the landline. He thinks about ignoring it because he's fucking starving and he doubts he'd manage to stay patient and polite if the guy or woman on the other end of the line would turn out to be a rude jerk. Fortunately he didn't encounter that much asshats, but they're out there and they usually decide to show themselves at the least favorable moments ever.

But on the other hand Dean could never resist a ringing phone, even as a toddler when his vocabulary consisted of ten garbled words.

So he grabs his phone and answers, “Winchester Auto Repair.”

“Hello, Dean.”

Dean's mood improves immediately hearing Castiel's voice and he can't keep the smile off of his face. “Hey, Cas,” he says cheerfully. “You finally learned how to use a phone, buddy?”

He actually tried to teach his friend a few times before, but Castiel constantly eyed the device as if it was something evil straight from hell and said stuff like, “I don't understand why I need to use this when I'm talking to you right now”.

“Yes,” Castiel agrees. “Charlie can be very persistent. I didn't dare to contradict her.”

Dean lifts an eyebrow. “You've met Charlie?”

“Yes,” Castiel confirms. “She is very … interesting.”

“That's one way of putting it,” Dean says, chuckling.

He loves Charlie to the moon and back, she's probably the best friend he ever had and the coolest and most entertaining person he knows, but sometimes she's like a wild hurricane and for someone like Castiel, who is taking baby steps right now and is trying to adapt to a strange world, it may be way too much. Dean at least contemplated quite a few times if he should suggest introducing those two with each other, but hesitated every single time.

Well, now it seems like he doesn't need to worry about that anymore.

Fortunately it seems as if Castiel didn't take too much harm. He sounds calm, his usual self and not freaked out at all.

“She is quite nice,” Castiel continues, a fond undertone in his voice. “But she speaks in riddles most of the time.”

Dean laughs loudly. “Yeah, man, don't feel bad about that. Ninety percent of the world population has got no idea what she's saying.”

He remembers his parent's faces when they met Charlie for the very first time years ago. She immediately started a monologue about hobbits, Super Mario and unicorns with so much enthusiasm that Mary and John couldn't help but smile at her although they looked the most confused Dean had ever seen them. Fortunately he was quick-witted enough to take some pictures of their gobsmacked expressions.

“I like her,” Castiel announces and Dean can almost hear his fond smile.

“Yeah, well, it's hard not to.”

“I can imagine.”

Suddenly there is some rustling and Dean catches Charlie's muffled voice, obviously encouraging Castiel to say something particular. Dean takes a gulp of his coffee and waits patiently for their interaction to be over.

“I'm sorry,” Castiel tells him a few seconds later. “Charlie seems to be very eager that I offer to make dinner tonight.”

Dean lifts his eyebrows. “You want to make dinner?”

“Yes,” Castiel answers, sounding quite excited. “Charlie told me that you need to work longer because one of your employees is ill. So I intended to offer you some homemade meal.”

Dean's grin nearly splits his face, he can't help it. It's been a while since someone cooked just for him, aside from his family, and something warm blossoms inside of him at the thought of Castiel making such an effort.

“Um, I planned to order just some takeaway, but … yeah, that sounds nice.” Very nice actually. Very very nice.

“Good. Maybe you can send me a letter when you will head back home?”

Dean frowns. “A letter?”

Suddenly there is Charlie's voice again, explaining, “It's called a 'text', Castiel.”

“Oh, right,” he says a bit sheepishly. “I'm sorry, Dean. Of course I meant a text.”

Dean snickers quietly and can't help but find it endearing. “Yeah, I can do that.”

“And of course you and Anna are invited as well,” Castiel offers and Dean needs a second to understand that he's talking to Charlie.

“Oh no,” she says instantly, her voice crystal clear. She's obviously making an effort so Dean's able to hear her answer as well. “Anna and I … well, we've got a thing tonight. A very important … um, thing. So no dice. But you two should have some fun.”

“Alright,” Castiel says and he doesn't sound as disappointed as Dean suspected he would be. “Then it will be just the two of us, Dean.”

Dean's chest feels very tight again. “Sounds great, buddy.”

“Then goodbye, Dean.”

He hangs up immediately without waiting for Dean's response, apparently not at all familiar with the proper etiquette. Dean can't keep the warm smile off his face.

“Okay, Winchester, who is she?” Jo, who was sitting across from him the whole time and kept suspiciously quiet, eyes him expectantly.

Dean just wrinkles his forehead. “What are you talking about?”

“The girl who just called you.” She points at Dean's phone on the table. “You're all on lovesick-teenage-girl mode right now, with heart eyes and everything. It's truly disgusting.”

Dean flushes instantly and ducks his head. “It's not what you think ...”

“Oh, please.”

“No, really,” Dean counters. “It's just a friend.”

Jo snorts. “That may be the biggest lie you ever told me, Winchester.”


* * * * *


When Dean finally gets home and changes into some comfier and far less dirtier clothes he still can't forget Jo's words. How she called him “lovesick” with such conviction in her voice no one would have dared to contradict her for very long.

He's got to admit that maybe he acts a little differently around Castiel than any other. But that's because he never met anyone like this guy before and if he enjoys Castiel's company and finds him funny and endearing, that doesn't mean … well, that.

Right?

His thoughts are interrupted by the door bell and a wide smile splits Dean's face in half without his consent.

Dammit.

He can at least see why Jo would call him smitten. He sure as hell looks like a fool.

At the front door Castiel greets him with a nice smile and a delicious smelling pizza in his hand and Dean is just seconds away from dropping onto his knee and proposing.

Shit.

Stupid Jo and her stupid assumptions.

“I thought you would appreciate some homemade pizza,” Castiel says as he steps over the threshold. “I tried to remember what toppings you like and I hope I wasn't wrong.”

Dean's grin turns even wider (and how the fuck is that possible?). “My own personal pizza man.”

Castiel chuckles, putting the platter onto the kitchen counter. “I watched a movie with a pizza man and a babysitter the other day. Although it was very confusing. And I'm quite sure it was something pornographic because Anna started to blush and she urged me to change the channel.”

Dean can't help but laugh at the image of Anna being all embarrassed about watching some porn with her brother, even for a few seconds.

“Yeah, that happened to my mom too,” Dean says. “Sam was six years old and they watched some innocent movie together before she fell asleep on the couch. And my brother took the remote and changed the channel at some point. I found them some time later because the actress' moaning was so goddamned loud I could even hear it in my room. And when I woke mom up and she realized what was going on she yelped and nearly knocked the TV over. It was great.”

Dean finds himself thinking that he'd really like to introduce Castiel to his family. Sam and Castiel would hit it off immediately and their mom would probably adopt him right on the spot, spoiling him with pastries and cooing all over him.

And Dean can't bring himself to mind. On the contrary, it's a really nice picture.

The pizza turns out to be great and Dean expected nothing less. He moans appreciatively and probably way too loudly, but Castiel's flushed face is most definitely worth it. “This is awesome, dude,” Dean says with his mouth full, not giving a damn. “You've been holding back.”

“I could cook more often if you wish,” Castiel suggests, his ears still red and apparently keen to avoid Dean's gaze. “It would be my pleasure.”

Castiel offering to wait with a home-cooked meal every other night after a long workday just like a freaking wife and saying words like 'pleasure' in that deep voice of his isn't helping Dean's case in the slightest.

“Uh … you really don't need to,” Dean counters.

Castiel touches his wrist lightly. “You're giving me so much, Dean. Please, let me do this for you.”

“You don't owe me anything, Cas.”

Castiel's touch intensifies a bit and Dean tries to ignore his fluttering stomach. “It's not about that, Dean,” Castiel objects. “I want to do this because you're my friend. And I want to try some new recipes and you could be my rabbit.”

Dean chuckles. “Guinea pig,” he corrects. “And … yeah, okay. If that's what you want.”

“It is,” Castiel promises, his smile so brilliant Dean needs to avert his eyes.

“Thanks, Cas.”

After that they turn their attention toward Star Wars because this is a far safer topic and Dean's able to ramble about the movies for a fucking eternity. So he does while they place the pizza on two plates, talking about the backstories and different characters and “you'll fucking love it, Cas.” Castiel just smiles politely the whole time, obviously not convinced yet, but ready to give it a try.

As all their movie nights before Castiel takes his usual spot (and the fact that he already has a 'usual spot' makes Dean feel weirdly comfortable) and drifts closer toward Dean during the movie. Castiel watches the screen with earnest concentration, his face a mixture of several emotions – wonder, confusion, amusement – and he doesn't even seem to notice when he presses his leg against Dean's, his body heat not just a distant possibility but a real thing. Sometimes he even grabs Dean's knee or thigh very hard, mumbling under his breath – probably commenting the scene although Dean's never able to understand him – and lingers there for a while as if it's the most comfortable place in existence.

And Dean … well, he misses most of the movie, far too distracted by his friend next to him, and sticks to munching the delicious pizza and ignoring his confusing body reactions.

At some point – from the corner of his eyes he sees someone, most likely Obi-Wan Kenobi, sneaking through the Death Star's hallways – he gets a text message from Charlie. He opens it unsuspectingly and gasps for air when he reads, Did you have an orgasm yet?

Seriously?

Charlie isn't subtle at all.

“What is it?” Castiel asks, looking at him worriedly.

“Um, nothing,” Dean hurries to reassure. “Just a dumb text from Charlie.”

Castiel's face turns into something odd. “Is she talking about orgasms?”

Dean doesn't know if he wants to laugh or snort and in the end he makes a very embarrassing noise since he didn't expect Castiel to use that word at all. “Well … yeah. Care to elaborate?”

“Just ignore her,” Castiel suggests, watching Dean's cell phone warily.

“Uh … okay,” Dean says, probably looking like a bewildered puppy, but he does as he's told and switches his phone to mute.

“She is just … Charlie seems to be a bit weird at times,” Castiel tries to explain.

Dean chuckles. “Yeah, that's part of her charm. You'll get used to it.”

Castiel squints his eyes. “I'm actually not sure I will, but thank you for your confidence.”

“No problem.”

“And Dean?”

“Mh?”

Castiel's following smile is warm and affectionate. “I'm enjoying our time immensely. Thank you for this.”

There he is again, saying what's on his mind. Blunt and open.

And Dean feels his heartbeat picking up its pace, Jo's (and also Charlie's suggestive) words in the back of his mind. Freaking witches, messing with his head!

So he mumbles a quiet, “Yeah” because he isn't able to say anything else without embarrassing himself and turns back to the movie, hoping that Han Solo or even Luke Skywalker would be capable of distracting him.

But in the end it doesn't work.


* * * * *


“Do you think those two idiots got their shit together?”

Charlie stretches her legs on the couch and sips at her wine, not caring at all that she is occupying the whole space. So Anna makes do with the slightly scratchy armchair at the window.

“I wouldn't bet on that,” Anna objects. “I'm making up excuses for the last two weeks, leaving them by themselves. And I'm quite sure nothing happened yet. At least Castiel wouldn't keep that from me.”

Apart from the fact that Anna would notice.

When they reunited after all this time – centuries – she nearly didn't recognize her former proud and strong brother. The soldier and warrior had been gone, replaced by a shadow who gave her fake smiles and lied not very convincingly that everything would be alright in no time. It broke her heart to see him like this. Weak. Almost defeated. Not sure if he would have the strength to regain his old powers and to fit into this unknown world.

Nonetheless he seemed to be highly pleased to see her again after this eternity of never-ending darkness, a small light glinting in his eyes. He started to open up more and more and it felt good to see some mild spark of the brother she once knew.

And then Dean came along.

He'd been a godsend, Anna is sure of that. She noticed the positive effect immediately and encouraged both of them to spend more time together. Castiel became livelier very fast and dared to test his limits. He started to consume books, movies and any media he could find, he began to make contact with some other neighbors as well (he's talking with Mrs. Tanner about recipes for hours and hours) and voiced his desire to leave the house more often. And although Anna would have liked to keep him inside and safe forever, she was happy about it at the same time.

And watching Dean's and Castiel's interaction made her realize quite soon that her brother developed … well, she didn't want to call it 'crush' because that sounded way too high school. Infatuation maybe? Affection? At least she never saw Castiel act like that before and she loved to witness this side of him.

And she was more than surprised when she noticed that Dean responded in kind. The stares, the lack of personal space – there was no denying it. Dean blushing everytime Castiel said something remotely nice to him. Looking excited and happy when Castiel sought his advice. And being enthralled and fascinated when her brother gave one of his lectures about nature.

It was absolutely obvious.

“I always told you that Dean isn't entirely ladies-only,” Charlie says, sounding triumphantly. “I mean, I don't want to talk about Dr. Sexy or Han Solo – straight guys are allowed to have some mancrushes without feeling bad about it. But the way he ogles the firemen in their nice uniforms at the barbecue every year …” She shakes her head, sighing. “It's actually kinda pathetic.”

“Sometimes it's hard for people to come to terms with their own preferences,” Anna counters. “Not everyone is as sure as you and tells their parents at their sixth birthday that they want to marry Ariel.”

Charlie snorts. “Yeah, okay.”

“Just let them both do their own thing,” Anna says. “They'll figure it out eventually.”

“I hope so,” Charlie sighs. “God, you should have seen your brother's face when he thought there might be something between Dean and you. I wanted to hug him and never let him go.”

Anna leans back and closes her eyes. “They'll come around.”

“Their babies are gonna be so cute,” she squeals before laughing enthusiastically and making it very clear that she drank too much wine already.

And Anna just smiles and hopes it's true.

That Dean and Castiel will be happy and content and – maybe perhaps – marry someday and get sweet little kids. At least that Castiel will be able to leave all the bad behind, their family and their cold rules, and live the life that he deserves.

But at the same time she isn't sure if this is even possible.

Because when Castiel finds out the truth about Dean too soon, everything could be ruined.

 

Chapter Text

The next morning Charlie greets Dean with a big smile and a cup of Starbucks coffee, standing beside his office door at the garage.

Dean stops immediately in his tracks and eyes her suspiciously. “You're buying me overpriced coffee? Why?”

Charlie grins. “Because I'm an awesome friend like that.”

Dean snorts. “No, you're not.”

But he grabs the coffee nonetheless since he's in desperate need of some caffeine after being awake almost all night, thinking about things he's not sure he should think about.

“So, how was your date?” Charlie asks, trying for casual and missing by a mile.

Dean opens his office, throws his jacket into a corner and raises an eyebrow. “My … date?”

“Yeah, y'know.” She shrugs. “Castiel and you – alone.”

Dean rolls his eyes and outright refuses to blush. “It wasn't a date, Charlie. We do that nearly every night since we met.”

“So you're dating the guy over a month now without telling me?” Charlie starts to pout. “I thought you're my friend.”

Dean grinds his teeth. “I'm actually questioning this right now. And I'm dating no one, thank you very much.”

Charlie sits down onto a wooden chair, her smile dangerously wide. “But you would like to date someone special, right?”

Dean shoots her a dark glance before he turns his attention toward his computer which starts to make some really strange noises that let him hesitate for a moment. Thankfully Charlie doesn't seem to be freaked out by it though and since she's the specialist Dean trusts her judgment and refrains from worrying.

“Okay, Dean, let's talk open about this,” Charlie encourages. “You like him, he likes you. Where's the problem?”

“Charlie ...”

“And don't you dare tell me some heteronormative bullshit, do you hear me?” she warns. “You're not as straight as you may think you are and that's honestly not a big deal.”

Dean crosses his arms. “It is for me!”

“Oh please, don't act surprised by all this,” Charlie argues. “I know about Aaron.”

Dean can't help but stare at her in bafflement. He didn't thought that anyone knew about this very brief thing with Aaron.

It's been back in college and Dean tried to tell himself at the time that everyone likes to experiment at some point. So when he felt himself attracted to this guy who shared a few of his classes he was determined to pretend it'd been just a phase. He was happy with admiring him from afar and dreaming about certain activities which used to be reserved for girls only before, at the same time believing nothing would ever come out of this.

But then the party happened. Dean can't remember where and when, but he had a tiny bit too much to drink and he found himself alone with Aaron and suddenly he couldn't think of one good reason why he shouldn't just kiss the guy.

And so he did.

Part of Dean hoped it would feel weird, with the scrubby beard and everything, and it totally did, but in a good kind of way. He enjoyed it way more than he thought he ever would and he was utterly confused after this. For a long time he didn't know what to do and when Aaron changed colleges a few months later Dean felt relieved and disappointed at the same time.

“One of your college friends told me about this,” Charlies explains. “She saw you two at the party.”

Dean lowers his head. “It was just a kiss.”

“According to her it's been a twenty-minute-make-out-session,” Charlie counters. “That's a little bit more.”

Dean bites his bottom lip. “And so what? One drunken kiss and suddenly I'm gay, bi or whatever?”

She rolls her eyes exasperatedly. “Just forget about labels for a moment,” she says. “This is about you and Cas and the fucking fact that you're a lot happier since you met him. You should see your stupid face when you talk about him, Winchester. Every single day it gets worse. I've never seen you like this before.”

Dean doesn't know what to say to this so he just keeps silent and glares at his computer screen.

“I understand that all of this can be frightening.” Charlie's voice turns very soft all of a sudden. “But do you really want to miss your chance?”

Dean sighs. “Charlie …”

“One of Anna's colleagues saw Castiel yesterday and asked me if he's single,” she tells him. “And she won't be the only one. He's a doll and a hot piece of meat at the same time – and hey, don't judge me, I'm allowed to appreciate beauty –, so he'll get a lot of attention in this really small town. I can even imagine women fighting over him. Is it that what you want?”

Dean's chest feels too tight hearing that. He just should say, Of course I want Cas to be happy, maybe find a nice girl he can date and perhaps even settle down with some day,” but it feels so fucking wrong even thinking that, he can't help himself. It may be stupid and selfish, but the thought of Castiel being happy with someone else, only rarely finding time to keep Dean company – it seems like a goddamned nightmare.

This is so not what he wants.

“I'm …” he starts, unsure what he needs to say. “Maybe it's too soon … after what happened to him …”

“I know,” Charlie says. “Well, I don't really know what happened, but Castiel is grown-up enough to decide if he's ready or not, don't you think?”

Dean can't exactly disagree with her on that.

“Listen, I don't expect you to drop onto your knee and propose,” she tells him. “I don't even expect you to ask him out on a candlelit dinner or whatever. Just … think about it, okay? Because you both deserve something nice and it'd be a shame if you'd be too stupid or stubborn to take it.”

Charlie doesn't seem to expect an answer to that. Instead she rises from her chair, drops a light kiss onto his cheek and leaves the office without another word. She even skips her usual flirt with Jo and just disappears as if she wants to give him the much needed space to sort his head out.

And Dean really appreciates that.

Although thanks to her he isn't able to concentrate on anything for the rest of the day.


* * * * *


Even the following days he stays a utter mess.

He overhears the phone ringing right next to him, he confuses orders and names and half of the time he forgets what he's even supposed to do. It's a fucking disaster and he doesn't know what to do since he never felt that way before.

Jo just finds this highly entertaining and calls him “a lovesick girl with the biggest crush ever” and he can't even deny this, not really at least.

Especially when Sam shows up someday at the garage, waiting for Dean to be ready for his lunch break and – unfortunately – starting to talk with Jo animatedly the minute Dean turns his back to them. “Dude,” Sam says instantly, “whoever the girl is, ask her out before someone else does.”

And yes, this became a serious point.

Because more and more people got aware of Castiel's existence. Maybe since the trip to the animal clinic where several women noticed him cuddling cute kittens. Perhaps even before that and Dean never realized it till this day. Suddenly he hears people wondering about Castiel, asking questions. Curious, hopeful. He overhears a middle-aged woman calling him “fresh meat” with an high-pitched giggle and Dean felt very uncomfortable listening to that.

Yes, maybe it's time to do something about the whole thing before the majority of the female residents of Trentwood (and perhaps some male as well) would knock at Castiel's door to “welcome him to the neighborhood”.

But deciding something and actually doing it are two different things.

The next few days Dean can't find the courage to … well, to test the waters. To see if Castiel would – maybe, eventually – be open for something more than friendship.

He doesn't lack opportunity because Castiel comes over every night after work, most of the time even bringing some food with him. It would have been easy enough to start the topic then and there. Perhaps a harmless joke at first or some innocent flirting.

But no – obviously John and Mary Winchester raised a coward.

As soon as he sees Castiel everything he planned beforehand just flies out of the window. They talk, they listen, they have fun and sometimes there is some blushing and stumbling over words (mostly on Dean's part, but sometimes it's Castiel too and Dean feels some spark of hope inside of him). But there's nothing that would indicate that they could be something more.

And then the day comes when everything starts to change.

It's a Thursday, just after work, and Dean is just stepping out of the shower when he hears some noises from downstairs. He hesitates for a second, wondering if he should feel worried or not, before he hears a very familiar voice cursing the coffeemaker. Dean smiles to himself and feels something warm within his chest.

Damn, he's seriously screwed.

And he can't bring himself to mind.

Feeling light and happy he's about to change before he stops himself and only wraps a towel around his waist instead. It wouldn't harm to show up half-naked, would it? At least he's very keen to see Castiel's reaction to a wet and bare-chested Dean.

“Hey, Cas,” he greets his friend casually, walking into the kitchen as if it's a normal occurrence walking around with a single piece of cloth and nothing else.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel says, still glaring at the coffee machine. “I'm sorry for intruding, but I noticed that the backdoor was open and I presumed you did this for me. And since you said I could come over anytime and --”

It's absolutely glorious to watch Castiel's face the second he turns around and notices Dean's appearance for the first time.

Castiel pauses immediately and confusion flickers in his eyes at first, obviously bewildered by Dean's lack of clothes. But then his eyes begin to widen beautifully and a bright red start to color his cheeks when his brain registers what is standing right in front of him.

It's outright awesome!

Castiel hurries to avert his gaze, but the flush only intensifies. “I … I'm sorry, Dean,” he mutters.

“For what?” Dean asks. He even steps closer, trying to be nonchalant although that stupid grin on his face probably gives him away. “For coming inside? I told you you're welcome anytime. And you're right, I left the door open for you.”

“Still …” Castiel seems to have a hard time finding the right words. “When … when I didn't see you anywhere, I should have waited.”

“It's okay, Cas,” Dean assures. “Really.”

Castiel dares to look at him again after a few moments, probably convincing himself that the barely-clothed-Dean-thing was just unexpected and his body reacted accordingly. But the second he lays eyes on Dean again he seems to realize that's not the case and he starts to fidget like a child who did something forbidden and is afraid of being exposed.

And then … then his expression changes.

And it's not what Dean expected. He anticipated embarrassment, confusion and – hopefully – some attraction.

But in the end there is shock.

Naked and undeniable shock.

Dean is about to ask what's wrong, but suddenly Castiel is right in front of him and it's Dean's turn to blush. “Um …”

“Where did you get this?” Castiel asks, his voice urgent.

And his fucking fingers start to run over Dean's skin lightly, forcing Dean to suppress a shiver because he seriously didn't see that coming.

“Um …” he says again, not sure what Castiel is getting at.

“Why do you have this?” Castiel wants to know, his hand pressed onto Dean's chest.

Dean's brain needs some time to adapt to this surprising situation, but in the end he realizes that Castiel is talking about his tattoo.

“Uh … that thing?” Dean asks confused. “It's … it's a tattoo.”

Smart and smooth, Winchester, he thinks to himself.

“Why do you have it?” Castiel repeats his question, strained and obviously not at all happy. What the hell?

“Uh … it's a family thing,” Dean explains. “My mom insisted.”

“Your mother?”

“Yeah, people usually don't believe it when I tell them that my mom wanted me to have it,” Dean continues. “My dad has it, me and Sammy … I don't know why it was so important for her, to be honest.”

He always feels a bit strange thinking about this. How Mary actually ordered them to get this specific tattoo – “Just like this one, no changes allowed!” – as if it was the most fundamental thing in the world.

“Family,” Castiel whispers, so much emotions in his eyes that Dean has got no chance to distinguish them.

“Cas, what's going on?” Dean asks concerned. “Are you alright?”

Castiel winces and shakes his head. “I need to go,” he says in a hurry and rushes out of the door without a second glance.

And Dean just stares at the beeping coffeemaker and blinks.

What the fuck just happened?


* * * * *


“Anna!” Castiel yells as soon as he shut the front door forcefully behind him. Jasper starts to hiss because of the sudden noise and bolts instantly, but Castiel couldn't care less.

There are way more important things than an angry cat.

For example the fact that there is an anti-possession tattoo on Dean's chest!

Castiel didn't expected it at all. He felt embarrassment and also a tiny bit of arousal seeing Dean barely clothed, but the second he noticed the tattoo everything vanished immediately and a cold wave run through his body.

And although he's quite certain that Dean doesn't know what it means – at least he seemed fairly confused by all this and not a bit alarmed that Castiel obviously recognized it – he can't help but feel sick.

All of this is so wrong.

Anna!” he calls again, way louder this time.

Jesus, what the hell?” His sister nearly flies down the stairs, looking at him with a mixture of annoyance and worry. “What's going on?”

“You've been in a sexual relationship with Dean before, am I right?” Castiel gets to the point promptly.

Anna's eyes grow very wide. “What?”

“You've seen him naked, I may presume?” Castiel urges and suppresses the strong wave of jealousy even thinking about that. This is not the most pressing matter at hand.

In the meantime Anna blushes furiously. “Oh God, Castiel,” she complains. “What the hell?”

“You did, didn't you?” Castiel asks. “See him naked?”

Anna covers her face with her hands. “What is going on with you?” she whines. “Yes, I did, okay? But the whole thing was brief and it meant nothing and we were both a bit tipsy and … I'm really sorry, Cas. But believe me, there is nothing anymore beside friendship and that won't ever change.”

Castiel crosses his arms. “You've seen him naked,” he repeats.

Anna flushes some more. “Oh God, why are you saying this?”

“And I can assume you saw the tattoo as well?”

Anna freezes, looking bewildered for about a second before her eyes widen spectacularly and this time for a totally different reason.

“Oh,” she whispers.

Oh?” Castiel mimics. “OH?”

Anna holds up her hands in defeat. “Please, Castiel, I can explain.”

“Then, please,” Castiel says, anger cooking inside of him. Anna knew. She knew and instead of telling him she just let him remain unaware.

“I actually forgot about it,” she confesses eventually. “I mean, Charlie and I were playing matchmaker and … and it slipped my mind that it's so obvious.”

“You mean the anti-possession tattoo on his chest?” Castiel snorts. “Yes, it's pretty obvious. Care to explain why an allegedly normal man would have something like this? Why his mother insisted that he should get it? And don't you dare lie to me!”

Anna looks impossibly guilty all of a sudden and Castiel needs to think of all those tiny moments in the last few weeks when he thought that his sister was holding back some information from him. But instead of asking he let her be, trusting her completely.

Apparently a mistake.

“It's complicated, Cas,” Anna starts, sounding desperate. “And I didn't tell you because I knew you would freak out --”

“Is Dean a hunter?” Castiel asks straightforward and he's not able to keep the pain out of his voice. The thought is too awful, too freaking terrible, but at the same time he needs to know. He can't live in the dark anymore.

And he most certainly can't do the same mistake again.

“No!” Anna protests immediately. “He's not a hunter, I can assure you. He doesn't even know abut the supernatural world.” She takes a deep breath. “Well, he knows since he heard a lot of stories, but I don't think he actually believes any of that might be true.”

“So, why the tattoo?” Castiel urges. “And don't tell me it's a coincidence. Or that he found the sigil in a random book at some point in the past and thought it would make a nice body art.” He steps a bit back, feeling the need to put some distance between himself and his sister. “His mother insisted that the whole family would get it. And I watched enough TV shows to know that nowadays parents normally don't encourage their children to do something like that. So why did she insist?”

“Cas …” Anna whispers, her voice broken.

And for a second Castiel feels like a dick and he's about to take her into his arms, but in the last moment he restrains himself from doing so. She lied to him. Made him believe that he was safe. Far away from any supernatural interference.

“Tell me the truth,” he demands. “I deserve this.”

Anna closes her eyes, some tears prickling in the corner. “Dean's mother is Mary Winchester,” she tells him. “And her maiden name is Campbell.”

Castiel expected a lot of things … but not this.

Definitely not this.

His chest tightens painfully and breathing seems like an almost impossible task. He gasps for air, his knees giving in without his permission. He can't keep himself from dropping onto the floor like a wet flour sack, his energy drained out of him in a matter of milliseconds.

Castiel!” Anna is at his side in an instant and Castiel would have pushed her away, would he have had the strength for that.

“You knew,” he hisses. “You knew and you didn't tell me.”

Please …”

“You brought me to this place,” he continues, his heart racing like hell. “You told me I would be safe here. Happy.”

“And that wasn't a lie,” Anna counters with so much conviction that Castiel is taken aback for a second.

“So you're telling me I would be safe and happy … next to a Campbell?” Castiel laughs hollowly. It sounds like a bad joke. “Do you remember what they did to me? What they did to our family?”

There is so much pain in Anna's eyes that Castiel feels like crying. “Of course I didn't forget. But times change.”

“So the Campbells aren't hunters anymore?” Castiel asks disbelievingly. “They're regular and lawful citizens?”

Anna hesitates for a bit. “No,” she finally confesses and Castiel never expected otherwise. He remembers those people better than anyone else. How they smiled and manipulated. How they slaughtered innocent because they weren't born human. How they felt to regret, no guilt. How they'd been proud of the blood on their hands.

“Then why did you think it would be a good idea to bring me here?” Castiel wants to know. “Why are you even living here?”

Anna's expression turns hard suddenly. “We're talking about Dean here, don't you forget that! One of the nicest guy in existence. Don't you dare judge him because of his family like you don't want people to judge us because of ours.”

Castiel doesn't like to agree with her, but of course she has a point. A very important one even.

“I'll tell you everything,” she promises. “But let's sit down for a minute, okay? And please don't interrupt me.”

There's still some reluctance inside of him, fighting for the higher power, but at the same time he's incredibly tired. So he doesn't protest when Anna drags him toward the couch and drops him onto the comfortable cushions.

“I just start at the beginning, is that alright?”

Castiel eyes her. “That would be wise, yes.”

“After what happened back then I kept a close eye to the Campbells,” she explains. “For a few years I thought about revenge, how I would be able to hurt them. But thankfully I realized quite soon that this would have been foolish and suicidal. However, I still looked out for them, but this time mostly for safety. I wanted to know what they did, where they were. Know as much about your enemy as possible, right?”

She looks exhausted, haunted, and again Castiel wants to embrace her and tell her that everything is going to be alright.

“And then I heard about Mary someday,” she continues. “Of course there had been 'black sheep' in the family before. Men and women who weren't okay with that way of living. Who chose a different path. And at first Mary seemed to be one of them, just a rebellious young woman who wanted more for herself and her future family. Who didn't want to see her kids grow up as hunters.” She sighs deeply. “But there was something about her, I don't know. I can't really explain it. I just felt I needed to watch her closer than anyone before. And so I did.

Maybe I was just going crazy. Maybe I just admired her strength. Or perhaps she reminded me of myself, rebelling against her own family like that. I can't really say. I just … couldn't let her be. She is really an amazing woman, Castiel, and I hope you'll meet her someday.”

Castiel can't help but flinch at those words. His own sister wishing him to meet a Campbell – it just feels utterly wrong.

But Anna simply ignores his reaction. “Her two boys grew up great. And when I started to build my own life here, looking for a place to live, I found this house right next to Dean's. I just felt that it was destiny. I couldn't run away from that.”

But for Castiel it sounds like the stupidest thing ever.

“So you just moved in next to a Campbell?” he asks incredulously.

“Dean is a Winchester,” Anna objects indignantly. “And believe it or not, but this is seriously the safest place for you and me. Because no Campbell would ever dare to come here.”

Castiel only snorts. “Really?”

“Mary made sure of that,” Anna says. “The Campbell clan has strict orders to never bother Dean nor Sam. And Samuel – that's the head of the family and Mary's father – doesn't want to lose his daughter entirely, so he keeps to her rules. No Campbell will ever set foot on Trentwood, I can promise you that. Mary keeps them away like an overprotective mother-hen and it seems very effective. Dean told me he saw his grandparents just a bunch of times his whole life, each meeting supervised by Mary. She wouldn't allow it any other way.”

Castiel doesn't know what to say. Part of himself wants to believe her so damned much . That he's absolutely safe at this place, that's it's totally okay to stay. With Anna. With Dean .

But at the same time he can't shake his past.

He just can't.

“I need to go,” he announces with a very heavy heart.

Anna's eyes widen immediately. “No, why ?” she asks. “Didn't you listen?”

“Of course I did,” Castiel says, sighing. “But obviously you're not able to understand that I can't stay. It's impossible.” He runs his fingers through his hair, tugging at it way too forcefully. “Even the small chance that a Campbell might come here … it's too much. And maybe they stay away, just like you said, but at the same time they know of this place. They're aware of it, maybe even watching it from afar without Mary knowing.”

“They're not,” Anna counters instantly. “I made sure of that myself. Trust me.”

Castiel huffs. Trust me .

“There is still a chance,” he objects. “Perhaps it's nearly non-existent, but it's still there somehow. And I can't risk it. You don't know --”

“I know!” Anna interjects. She is about to take his hand, but Castiel jerks away from her touch and tries to ignore her crumbled face.

“No, you don't!” Castiel shakes his head fiercely. “You weren't there, Anna. You left us centuries before it happened – and I don't blame you for this, please don't think that, I'm really glad you found happiness somewhere else – … but you can't know! You were thousands of miles away when … they attacked … when … when … Samandriel died …when all the others died …”

He feels tears swell up and ducks his head hastily. “All of this happened because I trusted the wrong people, Anna. Because I wasn't smart enough. And I swore to myself that this would never happen again.”

“Cas …”

“I don't want history to repeat itself.”

He leaps onto his feet quickly, determined to not swagger in his decision although there are so many reasons to stay. He forces himself to ignore it and especially to forget about certain green eyes, otherwise he wouldn't find the strength.

“But … where do you wanna go?” Anna suddenly sounds like a little girl, lost and confused. “You're not strong enough, Castiel. Don't …” She sighs. “At least wait a bit. Let's make preparations.”

He hears her unspoken words clear as a bell. Think rational. Don't be stupid. We'll find another way.

And normally he would have agreed. He always likes to overthink things, analyze every possible angle. Make the smart choice. He was raised a strategist and he just can't shake that. Rash decisions are seriously not his forte, most of the times it feels downright wrong and he tries to avoid this as much as possible.

But this …?

He can't stay and look out for alternatives patiently. How long would it take? Days? Weeks?

His resolve would crumble, Anna would try to convince him over and over again that running away wouldn't be the answer and – most importantly – just one single look at Dean with his stunning smile and his lively eyes would destroy any sense of self-preservation within Castiel.

“I can't, Anna,” Castiel whispers. “I just can't.”

He wants to tell her to go away with him. To leave this place and settle down somewhere else, far away from any Campbell. Maybe even move to Europe, a whole ocean between them. But it would require a lot of effort to convince her, he's absolutely sure of that. And he's way too weak to win this battle right now.

Maybe at some point, but not today.

“What about Dean?” she asks, her voice unsteady. “Please don't tell me you suddenly don't trust him anymore.”

“No, I still do,” Castiel answers.

“And you hate yourself for it.” It's not a question.

“Yes.”

Castiel just can't stop the pictures popping up inside his head. He sees the woman he once trusted with his secrets, her smile maybe not as beautiful as Dean's, but a close call.

“Dean is not them, Castiel,” Anna reminds him. “He wouldn't hurt you.”

“I know,” Castiel whispers.

Despite everything he's absolutely sure of that. His brain is calling him stupid and reckless, but his heart is way stronger and ignores any protest completely. There is something about Dean Castiel never felt before and the thought of Dean betraying him is downright laughable.

Castiel shouldn't trust him. He really, really shouldn't.

But he does nonetheless.

“So why are you running?” Anna asks impatiently. “Dean is an awesome guy. And he doesn't know what you are anyway. Please just stay for a bit and think this through.”

Castiel shakes his head. “I reacted badly when I saw the tattoo. There is no way he'd just ignore it.”

“Then we lie again,” Anna urges. “We just tell him … that the tattoo reminded you of your past. That it triggered something. It's actually not even a lie when you think about it.”

“You don't get it,” Castiel counters. “I can't lie to him. I just can't.”

“You did before,” Anna argues.

“No, I did not.” Castiel sighs deeply. “You were the one who told him the vague story about this cult. But I … I wouldn't have been able to do it, Anna. As I will not be capable to make up some fairy tale about the tattoo.”

Castiel closes his eyes and suppresses images of this man forcefully. It hurts too much already.

“It's for the best if I'd just go,” he says eventually. “For me and for you. I don't want to jeopardize your safety.”

But Anna has obviously none of that. “Castiel, don't make me watch you leave,” Anna begs, her face crestfallen. “I just got you back, I don't want to lose you again. We'll figure this out. Please.”

He sighs and presses a light kiss onto her temple. He's still mad at her for not telling him about the whole thing, but he seriously can't stay angry for long when she looks so devastated.

“I don't want to lose you too,” he states firmly. “That's why I need to go.”

Because the last time he dealt with the Campbells, his family died.

He can't let that happen again.

 

Chapter Text

As soon as Dean put on some decent clothes he rushes toward Anna's house as quickly as possible, not even giving a damn about drying his hair or taking a closer look at his appearance.

All that matters is Castiel right now.

Dean just can't get the picture of his friend's horrified face out of his head, so unexpected and overwhelming that Dean didn't know how he should have reacted to that. Castiel looked like he was on the brink of crying and screaming and Dean has got absolutely no idea what the hell happened.

Does Castiel know what the tattoo means? Did he see it somewhere before?

Dean always thought it was just some nice rune, a family crest of some sorts. At the same time he was of course quite confused since his mom insisted so much although she hated her family, but he didn't dare to question her. And after a few women told Dean later on that the tattoo looked fucking hot on him he never complained again.

After all, it did suit him quite well.

But now he feels the strong urge to scratch it off his chest, to peel his freaking skin off and get rid of it in an instant. Just anything so he never would see that expression on Castiel's face again.

He hears muffled voices from the inside when he steps onto Anna's front porch and knocks at the door. After a few moments there is no reaction so he does it again, yelling, “Anna, open the damned door!”

Thankfully she does as she's told. “Dean,” she whispers in relief.

She seems anxious, almost like that morning when she was on the way to pick up Castiel for the first time and run into Dean.

It seems like a lifetime ago.

“What is going on, Anna?” Dean asks immediately. “Cas was gone so quickly and …”

Anna grabs his wrist and pulls him inside with surprising strength. “You need to help me change his mind,” she urges. “He won't listen.”

Dean blinks confused. “Change whose mind? Cas'? About what?”

Anna starts to fidget and she seems seconds away from tearing up. “He's determined to leave.”

Dean stares at her with wide eyes for a moment, thousand different thoughts running through his head, yelling at him – Leave! Leave! He wants to fucking leave! – before he abruptly sets himself into motion and walks straight toward Castiel's bedroom, ignoring the voices in his mind and focusing on the task at hand. He seriously can't let this happen. At least not without putting up a fight first.

There is a duffle bag on Castiel's bed, already filled with some random clothes and a few pictures that seemed to have been thrown inside in a hurry. No order or anything, only the need to get this over with as soon as possible.

“Cas, what are you doing?” Dean demands to know.

Castiel, who was about to take some shoes out of his closet, freezes when he hears the other man's voice.

“Dean,” he says and he sounds so goddamned sad and broken that Dean doesn't even think twice about it when he steps forward, grabs Castiel's arm and drags him away from his belongings.

“Why are you packing all of a sudden?” Dean asks, his voice unsteady. “Please, just talk to me. We'll figure it out.”

But Castiel shakes his head, obviously unable to look into Dean's eyes. His attention is fixed on the floor when he answers, “I can't tell you, I'm sorry.”

Dean's throat tightens uncomfortably. “Why not, Cas? Is this … is this about your past? About what happened to you?” He takes a deep breath. “I don't need you to spill all your secrets, man. But … but give me something, okay? Don't run away without any explanation.”

Don't run away at all, he thinks by himself.

Because Dean is absolutely certain that it would break his heart.

I can't, Dean!” Castiel repeats, with much more determination now. “I would love to tell you everything. But … there is not only my safety at stake here. I won't risk that.”

Dean feels himself stiffen. “Safety?” he asks, strained. “Are you … are you in danger?”

“Dean, please …”

“No, no, no!” Dean objects. “If you're in any kind of danger, we'll talk to the police. Or … whoever.”

Castiel's face falls completely. “It's not as simple as that.”

Then what is going on?”

Dean is highly overwhelmed by all this. Castiel talking about safety right after he freaked out over Dean's tattoo – where the hell is the connection?

“Just tell him,” Anna suddenly intervenes, her face hard and resolute. Dean totally forgot that she followed him into Castiel's room and he can't keep himself from jerking.

In the meantime Castiel doesn't seem that happy about his sister's suggestion. “You can't mean that. It's not safe.”

Anna rolls her eyes. “I'm sick and tired of hearing this shit. Yeah, maybe it's not the smartest thing to do, but it's right nonetheless. I actually thought about telling Dean myself a few times, even months before you arrived here.”

Dean looks back and forth between them, not sure what is going on, but not very eager to interrupt.

“You did?” Castiel's voice sounds unsure. Lost.

“I did,” Anna confirms. “Because he's a great guy and sometimes you just need someone to talk about the heavy stuff. Someone who understands … or at least tries to since a human can never fully understand what we're going through.”

A human? Dean frowns at this odd expression.

“So just tell him!” Anna urges. “Even if you need to call a witch to perform an Oath of Secrecy, I don't care. It just hurts my fucking eyes to see you two this way. It feels absolutely wrong.”

A witch?

What the hell?

“The risk …” Castiel begins, obviously still not convinced.

“I know they hurt you badly, but you can't live in fear for the rest of your life,” Anna counters. “Don't replace one prison for another.”

And with that she suddenly turns away and walks out of the room.

“Okay, Cas, what the hell?” Dean says as soon as Anna is out of earshot. “What is going on?”

“Dean --”

“No, no, don't use your puppy eyes on me!” Dean counters, folding his arms. “Why are you leaving all of a sudden?”

Castiel ducks his head. “It is just … something came up.”

Dean snorts. “Seriously? You're going with that?” He shakes his head. “You're a terrible liar, Cas. Do you really think I'm that dumb? I saw your fucking face when you noticed my tattoo! You looked like you'd seen a ghost.”

Castiel takes a few steps back, eager to get some distance between them, but Dean has none of that. He simply follows him, suppressing the boiling feeling of sheer panic as good as possible. Castiel can't leave now! He just can't!

Not when …

“So you're just abandoning your sister who clearly wants you to stay?” Dean asks, not trying at all to keep the bite out of his voice. Castiel flinches slightly and Dean feels bad about it, but he can't make himself stop. “You're leaving Trentwood, you're leaving -- ?”

Me.

Dean is able to hold himself back from saying it out loud because it's stupid and way too personal. He's got no claim whatsoever on Castiel and his confusing feelings are no excuse for making this whole thing about himself.

Castiel's expression turns sad instantly. “Dean --”

“What is going on, Cas?” Dean interjects. “At least tell me the truth. I deserve that, don't you think?”

Castiel looks defeated all of a sudden. His shoulders slump down and even his knees seem to give in. He drops onto the bed behind him and covers his face with his hands.

“I can't tell you, Dean,” he finally says. “You wouldn't believe me.”

Dean grits his teeth. “Just try me.”

But Castiel seems highly unconvinced. “Dean ...”

Dean lifts his eyebrows. “Does this have anything to do with your cult buddies? Are you really in danger?”

The thought makes him very anxious and he feels his protective instinct kick in. He never stood for some stupid kids bullying his super smart brother in school back in the day and he sure as hell wouldn't stay on the sidelines if there is someone out there threatening his friend.

But Castiel just shakes his head. “Right now I don't worry about them, Dean,” he objects, his eyes hooded.

“Then what is it?”

“Dean --”

Cas --”

You, okay?” Castiel blurts out. “It's you who worries me!”

Almost immediately his eyes widen in shock. He clearly never meant to say that out loud.

Dean, however, feels like Castiel punched him into the gut really fucking hard. For a second everything goes black and he can't fight the noise escaping his throat that sounds pathetically like a sob of some kind.

Castiel is leaving … because of him?

But …

Dean doesn't know what to say or how to react. He just feels like crying and he's got no idea what he did wrong. Is it this goddamned tattoo that he hates right now more than anything? Or is it maybe the fact that they're getting closer everytime they meet? Is Castiel starting to feel uncomfortable with that and …?

And …?

“Oh, Dean,” Castiel whispers, sounding apologetically. “I didn't mean it like that. Please, you didn't do anything. It's not your fault.”

“But … but you're leaving because of me?” Dean's voice is croaky, nearly unrecognizable.

Suddenly Castiel takes his hands very carefully and encourages him to sit down beside him. Dean hesitates for a second, not sure what to make of all of this, but eventually he gives in. Merely because he doesn't know if his legs will carry his weight any longer.

Castiel touches Dean's cheeks, his thumb stroking over light stubble, his eyes full of powerful emotions. “I'm so sorry, Dean. I didn't mean to hurt you. I really didn't.”

It feels good, Castiel touching his skin. Under different circumstances Dean would have enjoyed it immensely. Bur right now it feels too much like comfort. And like goodbye.

“Please, Cas,” Dean whispers. “Just tell me. You can trust me, I promise you that. Whatever it is you're holding back, I wouldn't tell another soul.”

Castiel's expression is so freaking affectionate that Dean is barely capable to look at it. “I know you wouldn't.”

“Then why –?”

“It would change everything,” Castiel explains. “Right now you think I'm an innocent man who likes to cook and read. You've got this image of me and I fear you wouldn't like me very much anymore if you would find out the truth.” He hesitates a split-second before adding, “I fear you would be scared of me.”

Dean snorts involuntarily. That sounds absolutely laughable.

“I'm not innocent, Dean,” Castiel continues. “I'm not nice, I'm not harmless. I did some horrible things in my past and some of them I don't even regret. I frightened people, I injured, I … I killed.” His gaze drops. “I'm not innocent.”

Dean doesn't know what to answer. The thought of Castiel actually doing anything of this seems ridiculous. Unfathomable.

But at the same time he seriously knows nothing about Castiel past. Where he grew up, what he used to do. And it's easy to imagine he just hid in a corner somewhere and read a few books, but the haunted look in Castiel's eyes that seems to show from time to time tells a different story.

“I was raised in a way you wouldn't understand,” Castiel continues. He sounds so desperate as if he hates to talk about this with every fiber of his being, the reluctance burning hot and painful inside of him, and at the same time he can't wait to get the weight off his shoulder as quickly as possible. “I am a warrior, a soldier, a strategist. I fought in wars you never ever heard of and … you wouldn't …”

He lowers his eyes, looking so goddamned defeated that it's breaking Dean's heart.

“Cas …” he whispers gently. He takes the other man's hand without even thinking about it, stroking his skin carefully and ignoring the fluttering feeling in his stomach. “So … I guess you're not an ex-cult-member?”

He makes an effort to let his voice sound sympathetically because he can't risk to scare Castiel off. To make some stupid remark and make the poor guy run away like a frightened animal. Dean's eyes flicker to the duffle bag on the bed and he's more than determined to see it empty again within the day or preferably the next few minutes.

“No,” Castiel confesses eventually. “It's … a variation of the truth.”

“And you lied because you feared I'd find out what you did.”

Castiel shakes his head immediately. “We lied because we feared you would find out what we are.”

Dean frowns. “Seriously, Cas? I wouldn't have freaked out because you were a soldier. Why –?”

Castiel presses his finger onto Dean's lips to shut him up and Dean can't suppress the jolt rushing through his body because of the unexpected touch. “Please,” Castiel says. “It is so much more complicated than that, believe me. And you will be scared of me, once you know the truth. You will run away. And I won't blame you.”

Dean doesn't know how to reply. Is Castiel about to confess that he's leading a life like Dexter Morgan, smiling innocently during the day, pretending to be normal and harmless, and in the nights he grabs some random people to kill them in creative ways?

“But at the same time I want to tell you,” Castiel continues, his fingers cupping Dean's jaw lightly. “I actually never felt such a strong urge to reveal myself to a human before. It's quite frightening, I must admit.”

There it is again. Human.

“It feels like fate,” Castiel breathes. “Like we're bonded somehow, beyond time and space. I cursed Anna for bringing me here, for bringing me close to you and your family, but at the same time I couldn't be happier about it. Does that mean I trust too easily or that I've gone mad somewhere along the way?”

Well, Dean isn't capable of answering the question because he's got honestly no frigging idea what Castiel is talking about.

“Cas, what the fuck is going on?” he asks.

Castiel hesitates, his eyes flickering at the door for a second, and Dean fears that Castiel is about to bolt, to run away and never return, so he grasps the other man's wrist instinctively to keep him in place. To not let this happen. Castiel seems surprised by this action at first, but eventually his lips curl upwards into a tentative smile.

“Dean, do you believe in the supernatural?”

Dean blinks a few times, wondering if he misheard his friend somehow. “Um … what?”

“Do you believe in the supernatural?” Castiel repeats his question. Calm. Collected.

Dean just stares at him for a moment. Why the hell is he changing the subject all of a sudden? Just a few seconds ago Castiel seemed so ready to open up. “I don't get --”

“Please answer,” Castiel says. “It is important, trust me.”

Dean hesitates some more, not sure what this has got to do with all the shit that is going on right now, but in the end he just shrugs and replies, “Well, yeah, kinda. My mom told me a lot of stories. And okay, I don't actually believe in werewolves and vampires, but I think there is something out there.”

Castiel's features soften. “I'm sorry to inform you, but werewolves and vampires do exist.”

Dean narrows his eyes. “What?”

Castiel takes Dean's face gently in his hands. “If I told you that there's a world out there you don't even know about,” he whispers, “creatures you never thought possible, what would you say?”

Dean feels himself freeze.

Is this for real?

“Um …”

“And if I told you that I am one of them,” Castiel continues, his voice barely a breath now, “that I was born millennia ago, that I'm actually so old that I forgot my age at some point in history,” he swallows, “and that I'm not as human as you may think – what would you say?”

Well, what would he say?

Dean honestly doesn't know.

Did you watch too much TV?

I think you need a therapy, man. A real good one.

You are just kidding with me, right?

“So ...” Dean finally manages to say after a fucking eternity. “So … you're not human?”

“You don't believe me,” Castiel realizes. He doesn't sound accusing or even sad but like a guy who didn't expect a different outcome anyway. “I can't blame you. Times have changed. Most people don't believe in the supernatural anymore.”

Dean draws in a shaky breath. “Cas, listen …”

“You may think I'm broken,” he continues. “That I lost my touch with reality. And I wish that would be right. I wish that would be all there is. That I'm just a traumatized man who created a powerful image of himself to deal with the things that happened to him. Who needs to tell himself that he's actually someone else so he won't break down.” He sighs. “I really wish it would be that simple.”

And then suddenly the light bulbs on Castiel's nightstand start to flicker.

It's actually not that uncommon, maybe just some loose contact or the glow wire is about to burn. But Dean just feels that something isn't entirely right here. His chest tightens and he feels kinda odd and weird and excited at the same time.

What the hell?

The fine hair on his arms begins to tickle as if the air is charged and he shivers involuntarily.

“You don't have to be afraid, Dean,” Castiel says, touching his cheek in a reassuring gesture. “You really don't.”

And then – just a short second – there is something shining in Castiel's eyes. It seems like they're fucking glowing, a mixture of red and gold.

Otherworldly.

Supernatural.

“What … ?” Dean hears himself whisper, not certain what he wants to say.

“What am I?” Castiel helps him out, still looking anxious, but also determined to not back out on the last second.

Dean answers with a half-shrug half-nod and hopes that Castiel will understand this poor attempt of a reply somehow. He's not sure if his voice is of any use right now so he doesn't even try to make it work.

Castiel smiles faintly at him and Dean can see clear as the day that this is it. That is the moment that will change everything. And it's fucking scary.

“We have got several names,” Castiel explains calmly. “But humans call us dragons.”

 

Chapter Text

“A … dragon?”

There are so many different emotions mirroring in Dean's face that Castiel has a hard time figuring out which is the most prominent one. Is it the flicker of fear in Dean's beautiful eyes? Or the spark of doubt? The disbelief?

“So … you're telling me … you're a … a …?”

“A dragon,” Castiel helps him out. “Yes, I am.”

It feels kind of good, having this out in the open. Freeing. And although he can't predict how Dean will react eventually as soon as he'll overcome the initial shock and surprise, Castiel knows deep down that it was the right thing to do. This secret couldn't have stayed with them forever.

“You … you don't look much like a dragon,” Dean finally says. He's obviously trying to make a joke, even manages a faint smile, but it's not very convincing, even for someone as socially inept as Castiel.

“Because this isn't my true form, Dean,” Castiel explains patiently.

Dean lifts his brows, his eyes roaming over Castiel's body shamelessly and Castiel feels himself blush a little bit.

“It's not?”

“My true form is …” Castiel hesitates, unsure how to proceed. He doesn't want to lie, but he doesn't want to scare Dean off for good either. “Well, I'm a bit taller than I look right now.”

Dean quirks his head. “How much? Are we talking about a few inches or about the Chrysler Building?”

“I don't know what this mean,” Castiel says. “And I'm talking about … uh, this house?”

There is evident surprise in Dean's features. “We're talking about this house? You're as big as this fucking house?”

“You're taking this better than I thought,” Castiel states, ignoring his questions. “I assumed you wouldn't believe me and maybe recommend some nice asylums in the near vicinity.”

Dean runs his fingers through his hair, sighing deeply, and Castiel can't help but notice that Dean didn't put any distance between them, even after the revelation. He even seemed to come closer a little bit in the last minute.

“Okay, listen, Cas,” Dean says. “Like I said, I do believe. With the stuff my mom told me since I'm able to speak it's not really surprising anyway. I'm not walking around, bragging about it or anything, you know, but …” He closes his eyes for a second. “I've never really talked with anyone about this next to my family. People tend to call you nuts when you're speaking of ghosts and banshees, so I kept it mostly to myself. But at the same time I've never encountered anything supernatural before, y'know? It's like … something in the distance. Like all these faithful people believing in God, but not once thinking he would turn up at their doorstep and offer them some pie.”

“I'm not a God,” Castiel feels the urge to correct him.

“I know, Cas.” Dean even chuckles quietly, but it sounds hollow somehow. “And I know it would be fucking easier telling myself that you're just … well, mentally damaged, I guess. It would make sense, right? And right now I'm actually trying to convince myself that I should do that and forget about that little light show and this … this feeling …”

“We call it magic,” Castiel tells him, matter-of-fact. “I think the term didn't change in the last two-hundred years, am I correct?”

Dean starts to laugh and it sounds so empty and sad that Castiel isn't able to bear it.

“I could make this easier for you,” Castiel states. He's about to take Dean's hands into his, but he's not sure if this would be alright, so he keeps himself from doing so and clenches his fists instead. “Make things clear. But I am afraid … Afraid that you would run away and never look back.”

Dean seems tentative for a moment, rolling Castiel's words over in his head. Castiel notices him touching his chest unconsciously, right where the tattoo is hidden underneath his shirt, probably cursing the ink for changing their relationship so abruptly.

“Make things clear?” Dean eventually asks. “What exactly does that mean?”

Castiel bites his bottom lip. “It means … insight.”

Dean blinks a few times. “Insight?”

“Just a few seconds,” Castiel says. “I can't manage much more in my current state. But … if you're willing to have an open mind, I can show you.”

Dean keeps silent for a while, studying Castiel intently. It's hard to tell what he's thinking right now and Castiel doesn't dare to make a guess. Dean already reacted way differently than he expected and he can't imagine what would happen next. All he knows is that Dean's soul is still shining brightly, making Castiel feel warm and safe despite the tense situation.

“So … does that mean you're gonna show me your true form?” Dean pronounces the two last words oddly as though he's not sure what to make of it.

“Only a spark,” Castiel objects. “I'm not strong enough to shift yet.”

“Not strong enough?” Dean asks puzzled, contemplating a second before he slides a bit closer. “Cas, if you didn't escape some stupid cult, who was it? What happened to you? Anna was …” Dean stops, licking his lips, “... she was so goddamned anxious when she picked you up the day you arrived. What happened? Why are you not strong enough?”

Castiel smiles weakly. “You're asking the really difficult questions.”

Dean's eyes widen a bit before he lowers his head. “Sorry,” he mumbles.

“It's quite alright, Dean,” Castiel reassures instantly. “It's just … it is still very hard to talk about this. I'm not sure --”

“Hey, hey, it's okay,” Dean interjects, his voice gentle. “Maybe we'll just go back to that whole dragon-part because … well, because that's seriously …” He draws in a shaky breath. “Man, I really want to believe you, but it's fucking hard. You're this nice, quirky guy and then a blink of an eye later you just …”

“I get it, Dean,” Castiel says. “It would be far easier for you to think I just lost my mind.”

Dean winces, his expression pained. “That sounds awful.”

“But it's the truth nonetheless.”

Dean shakes his head. “No, it wouldn't be easier,” he objects. “I don't wish for you to be … to be … so broken that you need to escape to a fantasy world to deal with all that shit that happened to you. I just want ...”

Castiel hears the unspoken words clear as a bell: I just want everything to be back to normal. I want to talk about bees and Star Wars with you. I want to complain about work and eat your food. I just want everything to be alright.

Dean seems so lost all of a sudden and Castiel doesn't even need a millisecond to make his decision. He rises from the bed and – without even really thinking about it – presses a soft kiss onto Dean's forehead. Dean gasps for breath because of the unexpected touch, his eyes wide with surprise, but obviously not appalled. For a second it seems as if he even leans in a bit.

“I will make things clear for you,” Castiel promises. “And you don't need to be scared, okay?”

Dean nods dazedly, apparently not able to form a coherent word.

Castiel takes a few steps backwards and inhales deeply.

He tries to open his mind. To push all the uncertainty and nervousness away and replace them with calmness and an easygoing serenity instead. He closes his eyes and only focuses on himself, on the magic inside of him singing and dancing, overjoyed to be called to action once more and to escape dormancy.

Castiel hears the light bulbs flicker within the room. Rather quickly he realized that modern electricity and magic often seem to interfere with each other and Castiel badly needs to learn to get the hang of it because he honestly doesn't want to cause a local power blackout the first time he'll shift into his true form again.

Castiel lets his magic flow, tries to remember how it used to be when he just could change his shape as he desired, not once needing to think about saving energy or consequences of any kind. He was just allowed to be, to live and breath, to enjoy the sun's warmth on his skin, and he was only able to appreciate all of it properly when it was forcefully taken away from him one day.

The air around him starts to crackle and he hears Dean making some undetermined noises that probably verbalize his shock. Castiel knows exactly what he's seeing right now: huge wings – just a shadow, big and frightening, probably filling most of the room.

Not particularly spectacular from Castiel's point of view – compared with the things he was able to do before all of this happened to him –, but for someone like Dean who never witnessed anything like this before it is most likely the most amazing thing.

And Castiel even manages a small smile. Although his body is protesting very loudly and will probably decide to stop functioning in a few minutes, his magic is utterly delighted with the whole situation. It even presses forward a little bit and Castiel is tempted to test his limits, to see how far he could go, but in the last second he refrains from it. His body is as weak as it gets and he doesn't need to collapse right on the spot without any chance to talk to Dean first.

So he lets it shut down once more and feels how the atmosphere around them slowly changes back to normal. How the lights are relieved that they're allowed to work properly again and the magic disappointed that it's cut short once more.

Castiel takes all of this in, accepts the fact that his body will fail him again soon enough because of the exertion and decides that it was most definitely worth it because when he finally turns toward Dean he realizes that this little show had the desired effect on the man.

Dean's eyes are wide as saucers and he stares incredulously at Castiel for a couple of minutes, not even twitching a muscle. It seems as if he even needs to remind himself to breath at some point, so enthralled with the man – the being – in front of him that he's barely able to think about anything else.

And finally he whispers, “Shit!”

It's merely audible at first, just a breath, but after a few minutes a dam breaks down within Dean. Suddenly he exclaims, as loud as physically possible, “Holy. Fucking. Shit!”

He leaps to his feet and for a second Castiel fears he would bolt. Run away and never return. Castiel wouldn't be offended.

But Dean stays at the spot, just gaping at Castiel.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!” he repeats, over and over again. “You … and your … oh my fucking God!” He shakes his head in disbelief. “You … you've got freaking wings!”

Castiel allows himself a small smile. “I do.”

“So … you're really a fucking dragon?”

Castiel lets out a quiet chuckle. “Yes, I am indeed a fucking dragon!”

Dean laughs aloud as if he just heard the best joke ever. “Oh man, that's so … it's so …” He's obviously got problems to find the right words, but apparently doesn't really mind. “You're a dragon.”

Castiel watches him with narrowed eyes, worried that maybe this reveal was indeed too much for his human brain. “We established that, yes.”

“So you … you've got wings, man!” Dean says once again, sounding absolutely fascinated. “And … what about the rest? You've got a tail and teeth as well? And … and claws?”

Castiel is not sure if he should answer that question right away. “Dean …”

But Dean doesn't give him any possibility to reply at all. “But it makes so much sense now,” he continues. “I mean, a few of the things you said and did, buddy – they were just fucking weird! Remember when we met? How you talked about blood and human pain like that'd be something new for you. And the thing with my pretty soul – oh fuck, can you seriously see …?”

Since he seems so intrigued and not put off at all Castiel just offers him a fleeting smile and says, “Yes, I can see your soul. And it's stunning.”

Dean's eyes widen, a beautiful red coloring his cheeks all of a sudden. “Um …” he answers, a bit awkward now, before he finally decides to just leave it with that and return to his rambling instead, “And the one time you said you missed flying and I assumed you were talking about planes or whatever and I thought you nuts because these cramped death traps are freaking terrifying – you were, in fact, speaking about your fucking wings, right? And that 'spine-chiller' you told me when we had too much to drink a week ago about the ghost and the witch – shit, that wasn't made up, was it?”

Castiel remembers that night with a fond smile. How he underestimated the effect of alcohol on his weak body system and actually started to giggle like a young teenager, eager to tell some tales from a time long ago. He enjoyed himself immensely and the gleeful look on Dean's face throughout the whole evening had been a very rewarding bonus.

“And … and …” Dean seems lost for word suddenly before he turns his gaze toward Castiel, so many emotions dancing in his eyes. “Damn, that's all so fucking awesome!”

Castiel lifts his eyebrows in surprise. Despite Dean's not quite negative ranting he seriously didn't expect that reaction. “You think so?”

“Have you seen your fucking wings?” Dean asks, shaking his head. “I mean, don't get me wrong, it's kinda scary and for a second I just wanted to run, but … oh my God, I've never thought …” He inhales deeply. “I've got so many questions.”

Castiel still can't believe his luck. “You're not afraid of me?”

Suddenly Dean's expression softens. “You're still Cas, right?”

Castiel blinks. “Um, yes?”

“So why should I be afraid?”

Castiel freezes for a moment, just staring at Dean, before he finally jerks himself into motion. Without really thinking about it he wraps his arms around Dean and pulls him close, far too overwhelmed with all these flowing emotions inside of him to make himself pause and consider.

Dean stiffens at first and Castiel instantly fears he made a huge mistake, but then Dean reciprocates enthusiastically, hugging him tightly as if he never wants to let go. Castiel breaths in his smell – his shampoo and body wash, but underneath of that Dean – and allows himself to relax for a moment. To feel at peace.

Until Dean pulls back after a while, holding him at arms-length, and says with a smile on his lips, “So this means you're staying, right?”

And all of a sudden reality crushes in.

Castiel's face crumbles when he thinks about the tattoo, the Campbells, all that blood, the pitch black cave …

“I can't, Dean,” Castiel whispers.

Dean's warm expression vanishes immediately. “What?” he exclaims. “But I thought … I thought …”

“I'm sorry,” Castiel breaths. “But I didn't make the decision to leave because I wanted to keep this secret from you.”

Dean studies him bewildered before his hand wanders back to his chest. “What does this tattoo mean?”

Castiel shakes his head. “You already needed to stomach enough. It would be too much.”

“C'mon, Cas,” Dean urges. He grabs Castiel's elbow as if he wants to make sure the other can't run away. “You're freaking out like that and I don't have the right to know what's going on? It can't be more mind-blowing than the whole … the whole … your fucking wings, man!”

Castiel sighs. Of course Dean shouldn't be left in the dark any longer. But at the same time it doesn't feel entirely right to tell him something his family was supposed to talk with him about. It's not fair that Castiel needs to carry this burden.

“It's an anti-possession sigil,” he explains eventually. “It keeps you from being possessed by demons.”

Dean blinks a few times, staring at Castiel with wary eyes. “Demons?” he asks disbelievingly.

“Well …” Castiel just shrugs helplessly. What is he supposed to say to that? Dean just saw the shadow of a dragon two minutes ago. To throw some demons into the mix? It seems way too much.

“Are we talking about demons-demons?” Dean asks tentatively after some minutes of silence. “Or about personal inner-demons?”

Castiel starts to fidget slightly. “Maybe this should be a conversation for another time, don't you think? You're totally safe, I can assure you.”

Dean nods, but doesn't seem really convinced nonetheless. “So … when you saw this tattoo … you freaked?”

“I panicked,” Castiel agrees. “Because a lot of hunters use to wear this to protect themselves and … I got scared.”

Dean's face falls, apparently realizing that Cast had been afraid of him. Almost immediately he loosens his grip and touches Castiel's wrist lightly in a comforting manner.

“I guess we're talking about Buffy, right?” Dean asks in a thin voice. “Not about hunters who shot Bambi's mom?”

Castiel frowns. “I don't understand that reference, sorry.”

Dean doesn't seem certain if he wants to smile or not and in the end he settles for a sigh and says, “You're probably talking about people who … hunt the supernatural?”

Castiel nods firmly. “Yes.”

Dean rubs his temple, probably suppressing a headache, and stays silent after that, his face full of sorrow and misery. He most likely puts all the puzzle pieces together and you're seriously don't need to be a genius to understand what Castiel is getting at.

“So the fact that my mom's family is using this … this sigil …” Dean says hesitantly, “it … means that they …?”

Castiel can't do anything but nod with a serious expression.

Dean just shuts his eyes. “Shit!”

Castiel is about to take his hand, but once again he's not sure if the touch would be welcome. So he settles for a light and warm pressure on his arm and hopes that it's enough.

Shit! Shit!” he continues hissing. “I can't fucking believe this!”

“Dean …”

Dean runs his fingers through his hair. “You're serious about this? You're not … joking or whatever?”

Castiel is about to reply, “Why would I joke about such a topic?”, but he stops himself in the last moment and says instead, “I'm very sorry.”

“They never said anything,” Dean states. “Not a fucking word! Instead mom told me all these stories about ghosts and vampires and demons … I mean, she actually explained how I could defeat a freaking werewolf if I'd ever encountered one. And I thought those are normal bedtime stories. Just stuff moms tell their children, y'know? I never thought …”

He groans and rubs the nape of his neck forcefully. “I mean, I always thought it's been freaking weird. My mom's relationship with her parents, how it always seems as if she's protecting me and Sam from them somehow. You should see her when our grandparents come around for a visit or call on the phone – she's always sitting right beside them and makes sure they don't say anything wrong. Like a hawk and an overprotective mother-hen at the same time.” He shakes his head. “At some point I started to suspect that this whole family business may be something fishy, y'know? Illegal stuff mom didn't want to be a part of. But this …?”

Castiel pulls him toward the bed and makes him sit down, taking place right next to him. “I can't speak for your mother,” he says and tries to keep his voice strong. “But from what Anna told me she does everything in her power to keep you and your brother away from all of this. She never wanted you to have this life.” He bites his bottom lip. “I heard it isn't a very happy life, mostly just violent and very short. I can understand why she did it.”

Castiel would have done the same for his children. It's usually a natural thing to care for your offsprings with all the love you're able to muster, to keep them safe and happy while at the same time not shying away from personal sacrifices and do everything in your power to offer them a good future. At least that's exactly what Castiel intends to do for his own potential children and he's quite sure that he's not the only one thinking that way.

The look on Dean's face tells him that he agrees too. Maybe still a bit reluctantly since he won't easily forgive and Castiel can't blame him for that, but it's a start.

They keep quiet after that for a long while, just making up their minds. At some point Dean grabs Castiel's hand and links their fingers as if they've done this a hundred times before and Castiel's heart starts to thump uncontrollably in his chest, overwhelmed with all this. He never believed Dean would accept him after he'd know Castiel's true nature, not even in his wildest dreams. Granted, Dean still isn't aware of what Castiel did in the past and he'll probably react totally different when he finally sees Castiel's true face, but for now it's the best outcome anyone could have hoped for and Castiel decides to cherish it.

He will be heartbroken soon enough.

“You were running away because you thought I might be a hunter, right?” Dean's voice is thin, his gaze, however, absolutely intense.

Castiel looks right back at him. “Yes. I was …”

“Overwhelmed?” Dean helps out with a crooked smile that looks painfully hollow.

Castiel tilts his head. “I was afraid,” he explains, drawing in a shaky breath. “I … I made some bad experiences with hunters in the past and to think that you … I took it badly.”

Dean closes his eyes, an expression on his face Castiel can't really decipher. “Hey, I won't hurt you,” he promises eventually. “I'm not even sure it's physically possible for me to hurt you.”

“You would be surprised,” Castiel whispers, ducking his head and suppressing the bloody images that want to come to the surface again.

“And you don't need to leave,” Dean states, sounding more urgent now. He obviously made up his mind and isn't very eager to change his point of view. “You really don't.”

“Dean …”

“No, please,” he interrupts. “I won't tell anyone, I promise.”

Castiel shakes his head. “But your mother …”

“Yes, I'd like some fucking answers,” Dean confesses. “And my first thought was to run straight to her and demand them very loudly. Maybe even make a scene in front of the whole neighborhood, really dramatic.” He pauses, his eyes locked with Castiel's. “But I won't ask now. She'd wonder how I learned the truth. And she probably wouldn't suspect you or Anna at first, maybe even never, but I won't risk that. I won't.”

Castiel places his hand on Dean's chest, right above the tattoo, and registers Dean's intake of breath with very mixed feelings. “It's your past, Dean. Your history. It's natural to be curious and I don't want to be responsible for you denying it.”

Dean's face softens. “I'll deny it for the rest of my days if it means you're staying.”

Castiel's chest feels too tight all of a sudden and he looks at Dean with awe. When he met this man all these weeks ago, he never thought it would become like this. He never thought he would have such a strong bond ever again.

It feels glorious.

And utterly terrifying.

Because Dean would have the power to crush him completely, Castiel is sure of that. He wouldn't even need a weapon or magic.

“Please, just stay,” Dean whispers.

And that is the moment Castiel's body decides to shut down.

Castiel can feel how the last bit of energy disappears into nothingness inside of him. All the tension, the unknown and especially the use of his magic are demanding its toll. His senses decide to quit without his permission and he would have dropped forward onto the floor if Dean wouldn't have reacted immediately, grabbing him by the waist and pulling him close.

Cas!” The concern in his voice is palpable, his eyes wide.

“It's alright, Dean,” Castiel promises, his voice a bit slurry. “I'm just …”

But Dean just ignores him. He turns his head toward the door and calls, “ Anna ! I need your help!”

Anna appears a second later and Castiel wonders instantly if she maybe stayed in the hallway, listening to their conversation and being ready to protect Castiel if it'd have been necessary. He curses his feeble senses once more for not noticing a trifle like that.

“Put him onto the bed,” Anna orders, her face determined.

“What's going on?” Dean wants to know, but at the same time following her command without hesitation. He carefully places Castiel onto the sheets as if he's a precious doll that could break any second.

Anna is at his side only a moment later, checking Castiel symptoms thoroughly. Her touch is an undeniable comfort and Castiel feels himself relax a little bit.

“He's okay, Dean,” Anna reassures after a while. “He's just weak. He needs to rest.”

Dean doesn't look entirely convinced. “Are you sure we shouldn't call a doctor? Doc Hobbs would --”

“No,” Anna interjects immediately, her voice maybe a bit harsher than necessary. “I just … It happened before, okay? We'll deal with it.”

Dean scoffs. “That doesn't sound very reassuring.”

Anna takes a deep breath. “Trust me on this, Dean. All he needs is rest.” She turns toward Castiel again and says softly, “I'll get you some water, alright?”

“You don't ...”

“It's non-negotiable,” Anna objects with a faint smile. She squeezes his hand shortly, mumbles some comforting words in an ancient language Dean probably doesn't know and leaves the room after she whispers something into Dean's ear.

Castiel just closes his eyes and listens to his own body. His muscles complain, his bones ache and his brain screams that he should take better care of himself and take some breaks once in a while. Castiel can't exactly disagree.

He opens his eyes again when he feels the bed dip down a bit. Dean sits right beside him, a warm smile on his lips that seems genuine enough.

“That's a lot to take in, huh?” he says. “For both of us.”

Castiel can't do anything but nod.

“I'll let you sleep, okay?” Dean offers. “But we're not finished yet, do you hear me? So no more running-away bullshit! You'll stay and tell me everything about dragons. How do you live, what do you do in your free time, what's the whole deal with the virgins ...”

“That's … just a strange rumor,” Castiel whispers weakly. “Some idiot started it centuries ago.”

Dean chuckles quietly. “Good to know.”

He grabs one of the blankets and covers Castiel's body carefully. “And I want to hear everything from you, okay? Not from Anna or whoever but you! I won't accept anything else.”

Castiel tries to smile and manages something partially similar. “Alright, Dean.”

“And I'll make some burgers tomorrow, how about that?” Dean grins suddenly. “Your favorite.”

Castiel doesn't have a chance to reply since his sight turns black the next second, but he's sure that Dean's able to guess the answer anyway.

 

Chapter Text

“Will he really be alright?” Dean asks as soon as he joins Anna in the living room.

Anna smiles warmly. “He'll be okay. It's just … he lost a lot of his strength and it'll take some time to charge his batteries. He collapsed like this before.”

Surprisingly that does nothing to lessen Dean's concern.

“You don't need to worry,” Anna says, obviously guessing what is going through his head right now. “Castiel is strong, in body and mind. He'll come around eventually.”

Dean nods, but doesn't feel absolutely convinced. “Is this because of what happened to him?”

Anna studies him warily. “Did he tell you?”

Dean rolls his eyes at that. “Don't play dumb, Anna. I know you were eavesdropping.”

“It wasn't eavesdropping,” she objects, snorting. “I was just worried. He's my brother and the situation between you two was … tense. I couldn't be sure what would happen.”

Dean suddenly feels sick just thinking about that. “I would never hurt him.”

A fleeting smile passes Anna's lips. “I know you wouldn't do it intentionally,” she agrees. “But you're dealing with a whole new situation here, Dean. Some things you could say or do that would seem totally harmless to you might offend us in ways you can't even imagine. And of course Castiel knows that, but he's quite fragile right now. He could have taken something the wrong way.”

Dean is about to argue, to tell her that he knows fair well how to treat a distressed person and he seriously doesn't need a lecture, but then again he reminds himself that Castiel isn't exactly a person – at least not the way society sees it – and shuts up before he says something stupid.

He still sees those wings, barely a shadow, but nonetheless so freaking powerful that Dean wasn't able to control his shiver and nearly lost his nerves. He felt it – the magic or whatever they call it – and it could have gone wrong in so many ways. Dean isn't capable of blaming Anna for being cautious.

“I don't want you to feel bad about it,” Anna clarifies. “But even under normal circumstances you sometimes act like an oaf before thinking things through. And I just wanted Castiel to protect from your occasional, charming simplemindedness.”

Dean scoffs and ignores the amused glint in her eyes. “Be careful, Anna.”

She laughs loudly. “Are you threatening me?” She shakes her head. “Honey, I'm way too old for this shit, okay?”

Dean watches her pensively while she chuckles underneath her breath and pets Jasper with a fond expression, who is curled up right beside her on the couch and purrs contently.

“So, you are …?” Dean asks eventually, fidgeting awkwardly.

Anna nods, her eyes still on the cat. “Yes.”

Well, Dean shouldn't be surprised, considering the things she said to Castiel just before, but still a part of himself believed somehow that they maybe weren't actually related. That they used terms like “brother” very loosely, just like Benny tends to. Because the thought of having lived next to a dragon for over two years feels kinda weird.

And a little bit awesome as well.

“So, is this whole mess just a fucking coincidence?” Dean wants to know, touching his chest and making it very clear that he's referring to the tattoo underneath his shirt and the meaning behind it.

Anna sighs. “Not exactly.”

Dean furrows his brows. “So you knew?”

A part of himself wants to add, “And why didn't you tell me?”, but how could she have done that without revealing her own secret in the process? It's seriously not fair to blame her for his mother's silence.

“Yes, I did,” Anna admits. “From the very beginning.”

Dean eyes her warily and wonders what she might have intended with all of this. Of course he's not very knowledgeable about supernatural matters, regardless of how many stories his mom used to tell him in the past, but he's quite certain that hunters are no friends to beings like dragons. So why did Anna seek their proximity?

“You're confused,” Anna realizes and Dean just snorts in response. “Well … I can't really explain it actually. It sounds mad, right? Me living next to a Campbell!”

They way she's saying his family's name gives him goosebumps somehow. It sounds as if the Campbells are way more than some low level hunters.

“I just … kept a close eye on people who might become my enemies at some point,” Anna says, her finger buried deeply in Jasper's fur. “That's what I learned from a very young age. You can't be too careful.” She shrugs. “And then I met Mary.”

Dean can't help but flinch a bit. It still feels entirely odd hearing that and he's not sure he'll ever get used to it.

“She was different,” Anna continues, noticing Dean's discomfort, but deciding to ignore it. “I started to admire her. She was strong and brave in defying her family. She desired a normal life and fought for it. And I know how hard it can be, trying to separate yourself from people you still love. It can be a very heartbreaking process.”

Dean starts to squirm at the tone of her voice. She sounds so sad, obviously talking about personal experience.

“I know you're angry with her now,” Anna says. “And you've got every right to be. I wondered a few times why she didn't tell you when you were older. Or why she didn't even confide in John at all.” She takes a deep breath. “Maybe she is scared.”

Dean frowns. “Scared of what?”

“Of you reacting badly?” Anna suggests. “Or perhaps she's just afraid that it would destroy your normal life somehow? That it would ruin everything she worked so hard for. I can understand that she wouldn't want to risk that.”

And of course Dean can too, at least to a certain degree. He seriously doubts that his mom had any bad intentions. But it still hurts since he's aware now of all the lies she told him in the past. About her life before she met John. About her parents. She always smiled and told some stories and Dean believed her because he had no reason to question her. But now he wonders if the scar on her right ankle is seriously the result of a bicycle accident or if the two weeks she spent alone with her family, just out of the blue, a couple of years ago, honestly had been because of her father's alleged sickness.

Dean doesn't know.

And it pains him.

“So what are you gonna do now?” Anna asks, sounding tentatively all of a sudden.

Dean draws in a shaky breath. “You probably already know thanks to eavesdropping and everything.” He tries to joke, but fails miserably. “I won't run to her and demand some answers. I want to, believe me. I want it so fucking bad it really hurts. But I won't risk Cas' safety for this. Or yours.”

Anna gives him a small smile and there is something teasing shining in her eyes. “Yeah, I heard your love declaration very clearly, my friend.”

Dean scowls at her and suppresses the blush that's threatening to become visible. “Yeah, whatever.”

Dean falls silent after that. He's still got so many questions, especially about his mother, but he can't bring himself to voice them. He knows it would exhaust and anger him beyond manageable and he seriously can't do this right now. About half an hour ago he wasn't even certain if dragons and anything supernatural actually exists and now …?

It's too much as it is. He can't deal with all of this on a much more personal level right now.

So instead he asks after a while, “How come you live here, among … well, humans?”

Anna throws him an amused glance. “Don't hurt yourself, Winchester.”

Dean snorts. “It's just … it sounded like – uh, dragons live a very different life. And yet you're here. Paying taxes and everything.”

Anna hesitates for a second and Dean wonders if he went too far, but before he's able to backpedal she announces, “I'll need booze for this conversation. A lot of booze!”


* * * * *


Quite quickly the coffee table is filled with a variety of bottles so that Dean isn't sure where to look first. But before he's even able to say something Anna pushes a glass into his hands, her expression grim. She seems determined to empty them all and Dean doesn't have the heart to tell her that he swore to cut down on alcohol since Sam's engagement party a few weeks back. Instead he just takes a nip of his whiskey and doesn't object.

“I was born a dragon,” Anna explains without further ado, her voice heavy before she downs the liquid in her hand as if it's nothing. “But I'm not much of one anymore.”

Impressively she sounds sad and proud at the same time and Dean has got no clue what to make of this.

“And I didn't lie back there, you know?”, she says. “I seriously considered telling you the truth for a while now. You're someone you can trust with a secret and that's sadly quite rare these days. People forgot to honor a promise a long time ago.”

“So I'm what?” Dean jokes. “A knight in shining armor?”

“I'll go with Charlie and call you a handmaiden in shining armor.” She laughs loudly and seems way less strained than before so that Dean refrains from protesting. “But yeah, you're a good guy. I'd let you defend my honor any time.”

“Glad to hear that.”

And he seriously means that. Anna had been a good friend these past two years and he wouldn't want to miss that, no matter how much the situation may have changed. Anna is still Anna, so it seems.

“And I'm just … I'm kinda tired of being surrounded by people who have no fucking clue who I really am, y'know?” she continues, sounding more serious now. “The last time I talked about this with someone there had been the first news of a serial killer in London named Jack the Ripper.”

Dean furrows his brows. “Wow, that's … quite a while.”

History has never been his forte and he confuses past dates all the time, but even he knows that Jack the Ripper didn't strike terror just a few days ago.

“You don't say.” Anna snorts. “And I mean, I don't really identify myself as a dragon anymore, so you would think I just shouldn't care, right? It doesn't make a lot of sense to want to talk about this mess. But still …”

She shakes her head and sighs. “It's just not easy to explain. Because the way dragons live is so freaking different from anything people know, it's really hard for them to grasp. Obedience, duty, discipline … but at the same time a certain kind of independence. You're a soldier, a puppet and a free spirit and that's so fucking confusing for most people that I gave up trying to explain it a long time ago.

And I was happy with all of this. Or at least as content as I could be. Foolishly enough I believed that's the way it ought to be, so I never questioned it.” She shrugs. “And then … well, then I was injured.”

Dean involuntarily scoots over to her, feeling drawn to her by the story. “Injured?”

“It was a very bloody fight with another dragon family,” she says, almost casually. “I don't know exactly when since the way humans measure time was quite puzzling for me back then, but I think it's been around five-hundred years ago. Maybe even longer, I'm not sure.”

Dean just stares at her. He can't bring himself to think about what the next five years will bring, but counting in freaking centuries? That feels absolutely surreal.

“I got hurt pretty badly,” Anna continues, either oblivious to his inner turmoil or determined to just ignore it. “I lost sight of my fellow people and I found myself in a foreign forest somewhere, barely conscious and bleeding all over the place.”

Dean can't even imagine how that must have been. Alone in a strange place, hurting, dying. He can practically see her lying on that forest ground, defeated and weak, already preparing for the end.

And he wants to say that he's sorry, that she didn't deserve that, but he honestly doesn't want to interrupt her now. She obviously needs to get this off her chest and Dean can't do nothing else but listen.

“At some point I passed out,” Anna says before drinking another glass of whiskey almost absentmindedly. “But instead of waking up in the afterlife I suddenly found myself inside a small cottage, surrounded by people. Humans.”

She shudders as if that's the worst outcome ever and for her it probably had been back then.

“I was scared,” she confesses. “It may sound outright ridiculous to you, but I've never had much contact with humans before. We tend to avoid them, especially since the Middle Ages when all these stupid knights were eager to slay dragons. Of course most of the time they weren't successful, but still we learned from a very young age that humans were hostile and vile. That they couldn't be trusted.

And there I was, in that small cottage, with humans looking at me, absolutely defenseless. The attack left me that fragile, even a little child could have killed me with the proper weapons. I was in fate's hands.”

She pauses, lowers her gaze and returns her attention back to Jasper beside her who doesn't seem at all affected by the confession going on. He just purrs sleepily and Anna seems happy to card her fingers through his fur and take a deep breath.

Dean watches her silently while having a hard time wrapping his head around this whole thing. He met Anna as this nice woman and of course not once did he imagine there could be something else, hidden behind that kind smile and the bright eyes. Well, once or twice he might have listened up when she avoided questions about her family with a grim expression, but naturally he never assumed that she might have broken up with them five-hundred fucking years ago.

It seems so freaking impossible. And if he wouldn't have seen Castiel's utterly amazing and downright terrifying wings (or even just a minimized shadow) and felt the air crackle around them, he's not entirely sure what he would have thought right now.

Eventually Anna straightens as if she gathered enough energy or courage to continue her story.

“I don't know what those humans would have done if I had looked like a real dragon. Probably actually slain me. But fortunately I was in the shape you see right now and they never suspected a thing. They took care of me without expecting anything in return and … well, I wasn't used to that.”

She sighs deeply. “They showed me kindness and love in an extent I never witnessed before. I felt safe with them and though that had been utterly stupid I just couldn't help myself. They touched me, hugged me, told me ridiculous stories to distract me from my pain. It'd been small things for them, a matter of course, but for me it was new and exciting.

After weeks I finally returned to my family, but I could never forget them. I visited those humans from time to time and slowly I became a part of their world. They introduced me to friends and showed me so many unknown things that I could barely contain my wonderment. I'm quote sure at some point they even started to suspect that I wasn't entirely human, but they never said a thing. They just kept being nice and welcoming though for them I was just a poor little girl and they couldn't gain anything from it.”

She smiles softly. “Without even realizing it I fell in love with humanity.”

Suddenly she grabs Dean's hand and squeezes it, making it absolutely clear that he's included in that statement as well.

“My family … they weren't exactly thrilled.” Anna grimaces. “They tried to keep me at bay, even locked me up at some point. They feared I would danger them all by staying in contact with humans. But I never gave in and one day they forced me to make a decision. I still remember how one of our leaders stood right in front of me and hissed: Us … or them!”

Dean sees it plain as day in Anna's face: That's been the moment that changed her life forever.

“You can guess how I decided.” She shrugs as if it's not a big deal. “And of course it was hard to leave everything behind I grew up with. To abandon my family. Since despite all that I loved them fiercely and it ripped me apart to be away from them. My little brother Samandriel cried when I left. And Castiel … well, you know him. He seemed fine from the outside, however, there was pain in his eyes. But so much pride too. It felt horrible and good at the same time. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something to gain so much more.”

Dean grips her hand in a reassuring gesture. “Did you ever regret it?”

Anna laughs quietly. “So many times, you have no idea. I learned quite quickly that, though I loved humanity, I didn't entirely belong. Humans grow old and die so fast. And with my vessel not changing I could only spend about twenty years with the same people before moving on. It became exhausting quite quickly.”

Dean wonders how many people she saw dying right in front of her. People she cared about. Maybe even loved.

It sounds fucking horrible.

“And I wasn't able to have children since humans and dragons don't match that way,” she says. “I often considered adopting some orphans, but in the end it would have broken my heart seeing them die eventually, so I never went through with it.”

Dean frowns. “But what about other dragons? I mean, didn't you meet any?”

Anna nods. “I did. But I was that shunned disgrace, so they didn't want to have anything to do with me. Siring a child with me would have been a death sentence.”

Although she manages a smile it looks quite unconvincing. She's still affected and Dean can't blame her. Wishing for a child and never having the opportunity to get one – it's heartbreaking.

“I'm sorry,” he whispers.

Anna waves him off. “I've come to terms with it. It's just … I've been so naive back then, y'know? I met a bunch of nice people and assumed that everyone would be that way. Of course I learned rather soon that humanity can be ugly and cruel, even way more so than dragons. I saw so much pain and misery and for a long time I regretted my decision immensely. I even attempted once or twice to reconcile with my family. But eventually I learned to cherish the beauty, the kindness, the love. I grew into my life and I can honestly say that I'm happy now. It's just been a very long way.”

Dean leans back while playing with her fingers absently. “And now you're here.”

Anna smiles warmly. “Now I'm here.”

Dean wants to ask further questions because there is so much more he doesn't know, but she looks so tired and worn out that he can't bring himself to do so.

So he stays quiet, takes a sip of his whiskey and stores the questions for later.

“And you know what we need right now?” Anna asks after a few moments of silence.

“What?”

“Some nice movies with massive explosions to distract ourselves,” she answers, smirking. “And much more booze!”

Dean laughs wholeheartedly. It sound absolutely inappropriate right now and at the same time fucking awesome.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “We really need that.”


* * * * *


Dean can't remember the last time he felt so fucking awful waking up.

An almost unbearable crick in his neck, the muscles in his back protesting loudly and a headache which obviously tries to compete with all the headaches he ever had before in his life, keen to win the first prize.

“I'm getting old,” he mumbles to himself, grimacing, before he forces his eyes to open a bit. It takes some time and effort, but in the end he manages to at least appear awake and looks around.

He's still in Anna's living room, sitting on the most uncomfortable couch ever, a soft blanket sprawled out over his legs and torso. He recalls vaguely how they watched one movie after another, only exchanging a few words from time to time, and at some point everything blended together into light and noises, nearly unrecognizable.

Obviously he fell asleep then and either Anna never bothered to wake him up or – the more likely possibility – she honestly tried to, but wasn't able to get his lazy body to move. He gets confirmation for that only a second later when he notices the sticky note attached to his forehead, saying, You sleep like a dead man, Winchester, I fear for your well-being. Nonetheless, I needed to leave your sorry ass all alone to go to work. But if ANYTHING changes, you'll tell me, understood? And I already called at the garage and told Jo that you wouldn't make it today.

That's just Anna: making decisions without consulting the relevant persons beforehand.

Although he remembers faintly that he actually told her the night before that he'd skip work to talk some more with Castiel, so she can't really be blamed.

Very ungracefully he fishes his phone out of his pockets and – after taking some gulps of the delicious looking water Anna obviously left for him on the coffee table – he dials the garage's number. He doesn't feel entirely comfortable with Anna playing his mom, excusing his absence for the day, and, more importantly, he needs to make sure that everything is alright so far and Jo didn't burn the whole place down already.

Well, at least the phone line works just fine as Dean notices.

“Good morning, boss,” Jo greets him, way too cheerfully for this hour of the day.

Dean frowns. “How did you know it's me?”

“Oh, Dean.” Jo sighs melodramatically. “Phones are able to recognizes numbers nowadays. Didn't you know? That's fucking sad, Winchester. Maybe I should tell Charlie to push your annual crash course in modern technology forward. Somehow you always manage to stay behind.”

Dean grits his teeth. He seriously doesn't need any teasing this morning, especially without coffee in his system yet. “Just shut the fuck up and tell me why you're so damned happy? Usually you bite people's head off at this hour.” He hesitates for a second before he adds hastily, “And if you had sex recently, please don't say anything.”

Jo laughs aloud. “Why shouldn't I be happy, Dean? Our boss won't come in today because he's eager to spend some time with his girlfriend. Win-win for everyone, my friend!”

Dean wrinkles his forehead. Apparently he missed some vital information. “My … girlfriend?”

“Oh wait, is it too soon?” Jo asks. “What shall I call you? Friendly acquaintances? Friends with benefits? People who go out on dates occasionally?”

Dean rolls his eyes after it finally clicks. “Anna and I are not a thing, Jo.”

“Yet?”

Dean shakes his head and doesn't give a damn that she can't see him. “No, no 'yet', no 'wait for it'! We're just friends. And she only called because I fell asleep on her couch and she obviously pitied my lame ass.”

Jo seems to squirm at the other end of the line. “So, she's not the girl you've been crazy about for weeks?”

Dean feels some warmth spreading across his cheeks. “No, she is not.”

Jo lets out a breath of air. “Pity. You'd be kinda cute.”

“Just go back to work, Jo!” Dean orders indignantly. “And call me if anything comes up.”

He can hear Jo's eye-roll perfectly. “Fine, boss. Can we expect you tomorrow?”

Dean rubs the nape of his neck, cursing the strained muscles there. “Um, no. I think I'll take a few days off. There is nothing big on our plate right now and I could use a little break.”

“I'm telling you that for years, Dean,” Jo accuses. “Then have fun with your not-girlfriend.”

Dean huffs a laugh and ends the call after a few attempts of pressing the right button. Stupid modern stuff!

“You don't need to do that for me,” a deep voice suddenly say.

Dean startles, but keeps himself from getting himself a heart attack. He turns toward Castiel and plasters a wide smile on his face. “Good morning, Cas.”

Castiel looks way better than the night before. There is some color in his cheeks, his eyes are lively again and not that haunted anymore. And the fact that his hair is more disheveled than usual and the sweatpants are sitting a bit too low and showing some hipbones to die for – well, it doesn't hurt either.

“You don't need to abandon your job,” Castiel says once again.

Dean chuckles. “I'm not abandoning anything. It's true what I said, I could use a break after all the extra-work the last weeks. It's perfect timing actually.”

He grins brightly and hopes it's not too obvious that it's not exactly the truth. Sure, he isn't so busy anymore and he's allowed some slack without having a bad conscience, but there's still some paper work to be done and it won't be pretty to postpone all of this to the next week.

Dean, however, can't bring himself to care. Castiel is far more important than some stupid bills. In case of need he'll even swallow his pride and ask his dad for assistance.

“Alright,” Castiel says although he doesn't look truly convinced.

Dean just flashes him a wide smile and asks, “Would you like some breakfast? Pancakes maybe?”

Castiel's lips twitch upwards slightly. “Yes, that would be nice.”

Dean goes to work instantly, ignoring the throbbing pain in his head or the fact that his body demands some more sleep on a much more comfortable surface than the couch. He collects all the required ingredients while rambling about some dumb stuff that pops up in his mind – mostly the weather and when the hell did he become that uncool that he needed to talk about the fucking weather? – to fill up any awkward silence.

Naturally he's eager to learn some more about Castiel's revelation from the night before – okay, who is he kidding? Dean is fucking dying to know! –, but it wouldn't be fair to jump the poor guy before he'd even have some decent food in his belly, so Dean ignores the urge to ask the thousand questions burning on his tongue and focuses on being as normal as humanly possible.

And normal people make breakfast and talk about the weather, right?

Castiel eyes him warily the whole time, obviously expecting Dean to change the topic at any second, but at the same time he seems calm enough and not as if he would like to run away quickly without looking back.

And Dean is just searching the cabinets for some syrup when the doorbell rings.

“I'll take it,” Castiel says and vanishes before Dean is even able to protest. Just a moment later he hears the distinctive voice of Magda Tanner, the nice elderly widow who lives right across the street. She seems utterly delighted to see Castiel and talks with him like an old friend. Dean remembers vaguely how Castiel told him some time ago that the both of them formed some kind of connection over their love for baked goods. He wonders if she shows up regularly at this time of the day and he can't help but smile at thinking of the image of Castiel making some cookies, flour in his tussled hair, listening to Magda's colorful stories attentively.

“It would be so nice to have you there,” Dean hears Magda's joyful voice coming closer. “It's a big event, everyone from the neighboring towns is coming too and --”

She stops her stream of words when she notices Dean standing in the kitchen. “Oh,” she says surprised. “Good morning, Dean.”

Dean smiles broadly at her and her super flowery dress. “Morning.”

She seems confused for a second, looking back and forth between Dean and Castiel, before finally some kind of understanding is flickering in her eyes. And Dean seriously doesn't need to guess what conclusion she is drawing right now. Castiel seems like he just fell out of bed, still in his sleeping clothes and not yet introduced to a comb, and Dean probably doesn't look much better with his rumpled shirt.

“Castiel told me you that you two are friends,” Magda says, her lips curving up into a knowing smile. “But I didn't realize you're … breakfast friends.”

Dean is quite sure his cheeks start to tinge red. “Um …”

Good, oblivious Castiel doesn't seem to understand what Magda is implying. Instead he grins brightly and answers, “It's actually the first time Dean stayed over and made breakfast.”

“Really?” Magda seems utterly pleased hearing those news. “That's very nice.”

“It is,” Castiel agrees, his eyes watching Dean fondly, so that Dean can't help but blush some more. Dammit, he's honestly incapable of controlling his body's reaction in Castiel's presence.

And Magda's grin turns even wider.

“Then I'm really sorry I interrupted your … um, breakfast.” She even giggles quietly, but Castiel obviously doesn't grasp the concept of innuendo, still looking calm and relaxed. “I'll see myself out then.”

Dean hesitates for a second, the polite manners his mom taught him urging him to invite her as well for some hearty breakfast, but the thought of casual and superficial conversation holds him back. He wouldn't probably bear to live another hour or maybe even two (with the way Magda loves to babble about everything she's rarely stopped) without discussing the important matters at hand.

So he just restrains himself and nods instead.

“It was very nice of you to stop by,” Castiel tells her. “And I will think about your proposition.”

“Please do.” Magda squeezes Castiel's wrist lightly. “The barbecue is a lot of fun and it would be a shame if you'd miss it. Dean is probably going to, right, sweetheart?”

Dean gives a jerk. He'd totally forgotten about the Annual Barbecue next weekend. But how is he supposed to remember stuff like that when just the night before he saw some fucking dragon's wings!

“Oh … yeah, yeah, I'll be there.” He manages a smirk that hopefully looks cocky and not as awkward as he feels right now. “I wouldn't miss it for the world.”

Magda laughs. “I know, honey. I think half of the food there is eaten by you and your brother. I have honestly no idea how both of you can still look so good in shape.”

Dean shrugs. “Good genes, I think. Although Sam starves himself with salad the rest of the year so that he can eat as much as he wants at the barbecue.”

Magda waves him off with an amused glint in her eyes. “Silly boy,” she chides. “But seriously, you should take Castiel with you. I know he'll like it there.”

Castiel starts to squirm, looking a bit uncomfortable now. “I'm not sure …”

“Don't worry,” Magda interjects. “I would make sure that no one would ask about your past, alright?”

Dean wonders how much she knows, but he guesses it's most likely only a really vague explanation, similar to the one Anna gave Charlie. Just a face full of concern and sorrow and a heartfelt, Please don't ask him uncomfortable questions!” and the deal was done.

“Just for an hour,” Magda continues. “And it's not very far from here so you could walk back home anytime you'd want. If it'd be too much, you'd just turn around and leave. Although I highly doubt it would come to this. We're a very nice bunch and a lot of us are eager to meet you.”

Her smile is so happy and contagious, Castiel apparently can do nothing else but return it tentatively. “I promise I'll think about it.”

“Great,” Magda replies cheerfully. “Then I'll be on my way and leave you to your breakfast.”

She even winks at both of them and Dean fears that by midday the majority of Trentwood will get a detailed report about their alleged relationship.

“She is very nice,” Castiel says as soon as she walked her way, mumbling something inaudible underneath her breath Dean was quite happy to miss.

“Yeah, a lot of the people here are,” Dean tells him. “I mean, sure, they can be noisy and annoying, so it's totally not sunshine all the time. But there isn't such a thing as a perfect community, right?”

Castiel nods affirmatively and Dean wonders if that struck too close to home.

“But we're an unit when it counts,” Dean continues. “And they won't pry into your life, I can assure you that. They'll respect your wishes.”

Dean's got the feeling it's more important than anything to make this crystal clear since Castiel still didn't confirm for certain that he would stay. A welcoming and open community would maybe influence his decision in a positive manner.

At least it couldn't harm.

Because Dean seriously wants him to stay.

“I trust your judgment,” Castiel announces, his smile unassertive. “And it sounds like a nice gathering. But …”

“But?”

Castiel begins to fidget and avoids Dean's gaze. That's never a good sign.

“C'mon, Cas.” Dean tries to make his voice sound as warm and friendly as he can manage. “What is it?”

Castiel stays silent a while longer and Dean starts to wonder if he'd shrug it off eventually, but then he asks quietly, “Will … will your mother be there?”

Oh.

Well, Dean didn't expect that.

Maybe a bit foolish, thinking about the night before and all the things that happened, but he really didn't consider this. He's not used to people being scared of his mother and it feels downright weird.

“No, she won't,” Dean answers, eager to keep too much emotion out of his voice. “My parents are visiting some of dad's old friends over the weekend. They both kinda bumped they'll miss the barbecue, but they couldn't make any other date work so far.”

John actually ordered his boys just a few days ago to grab as much meat as possible so he could enjoy it at least later on while their mother rolled her eyes in the background, but at the same time didn't contradict.

Castiel, however, doesn't seem entirely calmed down. “And … does she live in town?”

He throws a glance out of the window as if he expects Mary to walk by just this second.

Once again Dean shakes his head. “No, she lives three towns over. That barbecue is a big thing here so a lot of people visit Trentwood for this.”

Castiel still looks seriously uncertain so Dean just touches his elbow and directs him toward the kitchen table. “How about we sit down and eat something first? Forget about the barbecue and Magda. Let's enjoy some pancakes.”

Castiel smiles faintly, obviously grateful that Dean doesn't force him to make a decision right here and now. “Alright.”

“And I made some chocolate chip,” Dean adds with a wide grin.

Castiel returns it instantly, now a bit livelier than before. “I love chocolate chip.”

It's not exactly a surprise, considering all the baked goods he consumed in the past, mostly right in front of Dean's eyes, moaning obscenely.

But still Dean feels kind of proud when he answers, “I knew you would.”

 

Chapter Text

“I should have realized sooner that something's going on.”

Dean's voice sounds casual after he swallows a bite of his pancake, watching Castiel intently from across the small kitchen table. He stopped talking about unimportant trifles some whole ago and stayed silent instead, just eating his breakfast and glancing at his company once in a while. He was obviously making up his mind, wondering how he was supposed to start a conversation.

“How so?” Castiel asks curiously. He actually thought he acted humanly enough, but maybe he had been wrong all along.

“Your hand,” Dean says. “That cut you got yourself when we first met – it's gone.”

Castiel blinks a few times before he turns his attention to his palm. The injury healed quite slowly and hurt a lot at times, but eventually it disappeared, to his great relief. He felt so vulnerable looking at it, the wound always reminding him that he was not much of a dragon anymore but just a weak excuse for one. So he had been glad when it vanished at some point, not once thinking about the fact that human regeneration wasn't that evolved and that it actually would have taken longer, maybe even left behind a scar.

“I noticed a while ago,” Dean admits. “But I just thought that it maybe wasn't as bad as Dr. Hobbs made it sound. Although ...”

“You still kept wondering …,” Castiel says, nodding in acknowledgment. “Well, I have to confess sometimes I'm not very good at playing a human. It can be confusing. I never had to worry about glasses and cats before in my life.”

Dean chuckles and roams his eyes through the room, perhaps looking for Jasper and wondering where that little devil may hide.

“So … you can heal fast?” Dean asks after a while, seeming hesitant as if he was asking a highly personal question and not sure if he was allowed to.

Castiel nods in agreement. “A healthy dragon heals almost instantly. Most of the time mortal weapons wouldn't even harm us in the first place.”

“Thick skin, huh?” Dean grins. “And what about the dragons you can see in movies and such? Are they … I don't know, accurate?”

He tries to sound not to excited, but fails spectacularly.

Castiel smiles faintly. “Most of the time, yes. I guess your artists were inspired by drawings from people who died centuries ago and maybe saw a real dragon at some point in their lives.”

Dean starts to fidget. “So … the teeth? The claws? The wings?”

Castiel can't help snickering slightly. “Yes.”

“Wow.” Dean lets his eyes wander over Castiel's body, probably looking for the tiniest evidence to proof that, but Castiel can't fight back the feeling of bashfulness because of this scrutiny. Sometimes it even seems like Dean is pausing a bit longer than necessary, studying Castiel's chest and hipbones much more thoroughly.

Eventually Dean appears to realize this himself because he begins to blush violently and clears his throat awkwardly. “Um … and what about the gold?”

It's clearly just a diversion, but Castiel listens up nonetheless. “Gold?”

“Yeah, you know.” Dean grins lopsidedly. “There are these stories of dragons having their own treasures and whatever. Is that true?”

When Castiel nods his affirmation Dean's eye grow big. “Really?”

“It's not just gold,” Castiel explains. “We are drawn to a lot of different gemstones. They produce a certain energy humans are unable to process or even feel. But for us … we're creature of nature and have a very strong connection with the earth. Gold is merely a small part of that although I've got to admit that it has a more intense effect than any other stone. So we make sure to keep it close.”

Dean bites his bottom lip and leans a bit forward. “So what? You have a treasure chest somewhere?”

“It's more like a treasure cave,” Castiel corrects, keeping his expression unfazed.

Dean pauses, staring at Castiel incredulously while apparently contemplating if that's been a joke or not. Eventually he whispers as if he's afraid someone might overhear, “Are you … for real?”

“I am not shitting you.”

Castiel still feels somewhat weird using the modern slang, but he's eager to adapt and it still seems to amuse Dean highly, so it's not exactly a hardship.

“So … there is a cave out there somewhere?” Dean asks hesitantly. “Full of gold? With your name at the door?”

“It doesn't have a door,” Castiel objects. “But yes. Most dragons collect treasures over the years or centuries, keeping it at a safe place only their very closest kin knows about. We protect these places immensely.”

Castiel feels himself taking a deep breath involuntarily. It's not always easy for human to understand the whole concept because for them it mostly sounds like simple possession. Often they're not able to grasp the concept, they can't comprehend that it's not about owning something but being closer to earth, closer to magic. Dragons would never spent their treasure to buy expensive luxuries of any kind, they would never entrust it into someone else's hands beside some chosen few.

It's not about money or power.

Their treasures give them strength and piece, it makes them feel calm and united with the wonders of earth and the sky.

And, most importantly, they are memories. The simple coin a man gave him after Castiel helped him with his broken carriage. The huge pirate treasure he found at the bottom of the sea after watching their fight with a competing pirate ship from afar. The massive amounts of gold natives sacrificed, calling the dragons their divinities.

When entering his cave Castiel is reminded by so many stories and faces. And it hurts quite badly that he hadn't been able to visit it in nearly two-hundred years.

“So … you're filthy rich then?”

Castiel laughs aloud. “You could say that. Though we don't spend our gold.”

Dean pokes absently at his pancake. “I get it. It's probably way more fun to swim in it like Scrooge McDuck.”

Castiel never heard that name before, but he smiles nonetheless. “We like to be close to it, yes.”

“So, where is it?” Dean asks eagerly, but only a moment later his eyes widen. “Or, wait – that's a super personal question, right?”

“It is,” Castiel agrees. “We show the location only to people we trust unconditionally. It's a very private matter for us.”

Dean looks pained all of a sudden. “Uh, sorry for asking.”

Castiel can't help touching his wrist briefly, reassuring him with a gentle press. “It's fine, Dean. You don't know much about dragons. I don't expect you to be aware of what's appropriate to ask and what's not.”

Dean seems to calm immediately, staring at Castiel touching his skin, and Castiel wonders if he is considering taking his hand just like he did the night before. Interlacing their fingers, squeezing slightly. Despite the tense situation Castiel enjoyed it greatly and he seriously can't remember the last time when he craved someone's closeness that much.

“Yeah, well … still.” Dean rubs the nape of his neck. “Tell me if I say something stupid. I don't wanna offend you or anything.”

Castiel smiles warmly. “I know.”

Of course he knows. Dean is a kind man. Maybe sometimes a bit too loud and too stubborn in his opinions about music and movies, but his heart is definitely in the right place and he handles the whole situation way better than Castiel ever anticipated.

“And … how do you live?” Dean asks, obviously a bit tentatively as if he fears that he said something improper again. “I mean Anna told me some, about obedience and free spirits and whatever. Mostly she just said it's confusing.”

Castiel is about to draw his fingers away from Dean's skin, but for some reason he seriously can't bring himself to do so. Dean, however, doesn't seem to mind, although he watches Castiel's fingers grazing his wrist very closely.

“We live in large groups,” Castiel says, perhaps a bit reluctantly because he actually doesn't really want to think about his family, but nonetheless being keen to make Dean see the bigger picture. “We select territories that are quite hidden, hardly accessible for anyone beside a dragon. Mostly high up in the mountains, almost touching the sky. No one ever reaches us there.”

Almost no one, he thinks bitterly by himself.

“Our lives … well, they're different than yours,” Castiel admits. “We are raised by the whole group, not just by our parents. I actually didn't even know who my biological father and mother were for a long time since it doesn't exactly matter for us. Our leaders are the most important beings in our lives. They dictate how we are raised and educated, what we should do and say. Mostly it's very strict because only the strongest, most fearless dragons can be leaders and they need to keep up their reputation. They're not allowed any weaknesses since they can be challenged anytime when someone might think they're not capable to carry the burden anymore. It's a constant battle and there is not much room for kindness and love.”

Dean obviously tries to keep his expression at least somewhat neutral and to not show too much emotions, but Castiel can see the pity in his eyes plain as day.

“And like I said the night before, it's kind of like being a soldier,” Castiel continues. “Discipline, following orders, battling other dragon groups for their territory or resources. But at the same time it's not like we're only allowed to move when our leaders tell us to. We can roam and explore. Collect out own private treasures.” He shrugs. “But of course we still need to follow certain rules.”

“Like keeping away from humans?” Dean guesses.

Castiel's lips twitch upward for a split-second. “Yes, that's the most important one.”

Dean falls silent after that, watching Castiel's fingertips still stroking his skin, and probably starts to wonder why the hell Castiel is ignoring that very vital rule right now by staying with Anna and being in contact with humans on a daily basis. Why he's not with his family, regaining his strength in their company.

And Castiel just wants to tell him. How he made the wrong choices and brought death to their people. How they punished him for that, locking him into a tiny hole where he was barely able to move, absolutely isolated. No fresh air, no sun, no nourishment. Just complete darkness and freezing temperatures.

But he can't bring himself to open his mouth.

He wouldn't stand to see the pity in Dean's eyes worsening. And he most definitely wouldn't want to watch it melt into something else if he'd confess that Dean's family had been involved in all of this.

Castiel feels way too weak to handle this.

“So … I won't ask why you're here right now,” Dean says eventually. “I mean, it's probably connected with the things that happened to you. And if you're not comfortable with telling me, then that's okay. Granted, I can guess that you had some kind of falling out with your family, but again, I won't pry. Tell me in your own time – or not at all.”

Suddenly he turns his hand over and links his fingers with Castiel's in one swift motion, not at all hesitant or shy. Castiel feels a warmth surge in his heart, but he's not able to cherish it properly. He's quite sure he doesn't deserve all of this.

But Dean doesn't seem to notice Castiel's inner conflict. Instead he says softly, “I just wanted to say I'm very sorry that someone hurt you.”

Castiel manages a small smile, but it's fleeting and not very convincing anyway.

Instead he feels like crying. Screaming.

Because Dean wouldn't say those words if he'd know the truth.

“And … did you follow the rules?” Dean continues his questioning, probably noticing Castiel's discomfort and eager to fill the silence with some noise. “I mean, did you keep away from humanity?”

Castiel pauses for a moment, considering what he should say to that. In the end he settles with, “No, I did not.”

Dean starts to smirk. “You're a bit of a rebel, aren't you?”

“After Anna left us, I got curious,” Castiel confesses.

He remembers their talks vividly, weeks before their family shunned her. How she spoke about humankind with a shine in her eyes he never really noticed before. And when she fought so bravely for her right to stay in contact with these creatures Castiel couldn't resist to see for himself.

“And?” Dean urges. “What did you think about us?”

“I thought you children,” Castiel says without hesitation. “Loud and noisy and dirty. The way you spoke, the way you lived your tiny little lives … for a very long time I couldn't understand what Anna had seen in you.”

Dean tilts his head, his fingers still squeezing Castiel's. “What changed your mind?”

Castiel is about to avoid the question, to tell Dean that he's poking at an open wound and naturally Dean would backpedal immediately, apologizing profoundly for minutes.

But at the same time he can't shake the feeling that Dean deserves at least a little bit of the truth.

“I met someone,” he admits eventually, the weight on his chest making it very hard to breath. “She was … interesting. Different than anyone I met before.” He lowers his gaze, tightening his grip. “And she was the beginning of the end.”



* * * * *



She is beautiful.

At least for human standards, Castiel reckons.

Her hair shines brightly in the sunlight as if it's eager to compete. Her fingers are delicate and well fit for doing fine work. Her smile is easy and broad. Her eyes have a deep, rich color that seem to change between green and blue in a matter of milliseconds.

And obviously she has got no self-preservation whatsoever.

Instead of running when meeting a strange man on a clearing hidden in the forest she just walks straight toward Castiel, stretching her hand in greetings and saying, “Hello. I never thought I would actually see another person here for the next hundred miles.”

Castiel hesitates. She only wears a simple dress, a bit too fine to be peasant's clothing, but not the standards of a noblewoman either, and a small bag that, by the smell of it, contains some cheese and other food Castiel isn't able to identify. She doesn't seem shy or reserved like a lot of others females he encountered before. He met women who were even afraid to look him into the eyes, only glancing on the ground and squirming awkwardly. But this girl, probably just twenty winters old, doesn't seem to care about her fellow's behavior.

You're not afraid,” Castiel states, ignoring the offered hand with a dark face.

The woman clears her throat. “Well … no.”

Castiel tilts his head before looking down at himself. He only wears some muddy pants because since the encounter with a traveling party a few months ago, being complete naked and obviously enraging and embarrassing these people with his uncovered body, he always carries some garments with him to avoid such situations in the first place. Humans, he had discovered, had a very weird attitude toward bareness, as if their bodies needed to be secured somehow. It was downright odd.

And Castiel knows that, though the pants he's wearing are covering his 'important' parts, a bare-chested stranger is usually not a reason for a young woman to forget anything about self-protection.

I actually was looking for you,” she explains.

Castiel furrows his brows. Admittedly, sometimes he seeks contact with humans, but only to a certain degree. He tries not to make an impression (and that's been fairly easier since he started to wear clothes) and just observe from a distance, trying to figure out these weird beings Anna left her family for.

And till this point he only knows that they're loud, chaotic, undisciplined, rude and unpredictable.

Castiel seriously doesn't get the appeal.

For me?” he asks. “Are you sure you found the right person?”

She grins. “Well … I wasn't exactly looking for a 'person'.”

Castiel narrows his eyes while his body starts to tense. Obviously she seems to be aware that she isn't merely dealing with a regular human being with an antipathy for clothes.

Who are you?” Castiel demands to know, a growl coming from deep within his body.

Margret,” she introduces herself, apparently not insecure in the slightest. “Margret Smith. But people call me Maggie.”

Castiel snorts. “You're lying.”

She pauses, watching him intensely. “Why do you say that?”

Your heart skipped a beat when using your fake name,” Castiel says, unfazed. “And you were hesitating for a split-second. It wasn't much, but more than enough.”

Maggie looks at him with an impressed expression. “You can hear my heartbeat?”

I can hear the blood rushing through your veins,” Castiel tells her. “And I heard your nearing some time ago. I just thought you would avoid my presence, so I never assumed I'd need to avoid yours.”

Maggie doesn't seem offended. Instead she retrieves a sheet of paper from her bag and starts to scribble on it, sticking her tongue out while concentrating. “This is really fascinating,” she mumbles. “Really, really fascinating …”

Castiel is not sure what to make of this, so he simply decides to glare at her and growl, “I'll ask again: Who. Are. You?”

Maggie looks up, biting her bottom lip before confessing, “My name is Maggie … Campbell.”

Castiel raises his eyebrows. He's not overly familiar with hunters since they mostly keep away from dragons, but of course he heard about this family before. They're known for their efficiency and ruthlessness.

So you're a hunter?” Castiel asks. “And you're coming here, knowing fair well that I'm …?”

A dragon?” She nods. “Yes.”

Castiel studies her quietly. “Are you mad by any chance? Suicidal?”

She doesn't seem to carry any weapons or charms. She probably has got some knife to cut to cheese and that's about it. She isn't at all prepared to fight a dragon.

But Maggie merely smiles. “I'm just curious. I heard some man talking about a giant creature he saw around here and his description matched a dragon perfectly. I couldn't resist.”

To get eaten?” Castiel asks confused. Her joyful demeanor is quite puzzling and he doesn't know if he should be worried or amused.

To study,” she corrects him. “I'm collecting information about supernatural beings since I'm twelve years old. And I mean correct information, not that nonsense you can read in so many books. Sometimes it's outright embarrassing what some people wrote down and took for granted. Vampire resolving into dust when touched by sunlight? Dragons eating virgins? You wouldn't believe it.”

She steps closer to him, totally unashamed while listing more false facts with a disgruntled face.

You're a hunter,” Castiel interrupts her stream of words. “Why are you here?”

To study, like I said,” Maggie tells him. “I just couldn't resist the chance to talk to an actual dragon. Your kind isn't easy to find.”

You're a hunter,” Castiel repeats, his word emphasized.

Maggie rolls her eyes. “You're a stubborn one, right? Well, yes, I was born into a hunter family. And yes, when there is a werewolf ripping apart innocent children I help them out on occasion because it's the right thing to do and even you can't argue with that. But most of the time I keep away from the whole business since I'm honestly quite untalented. I stabbed and mauled more members of my family by accident than supernatural enemies on purpose. You would cry looking at me trying to fight.” She shrugs if all of this isn't a big deal. “I'm more of a scholar anyway. So I'm trying to help my family with collecting right information about beings like you.”

So you're looking for our weaknesses?” Castiel doesn't like to hear this one bit. He steps a step back, ready to shift and fly away in a matter of seconds.

But there is something holding him back for some reason.

It's not about weaknesses,” she objects patiently. “It's about false information letting people believe that dragons are cruel and vicious monsters that eat virgins and steal their gold. I want to set this right. It's not fair, don't you think?”

Castiel actually wants to agree, but he refrains from doing so.

You can trust me,” she offers as an afterthought.

He snorts at those words. “I don't trust humans.”

But the voice in the back of his head reminds him once again that Anna did so, all these centuries ago. And if his wise sister deemed humankind worthy a chance, maybe there was some truth about these young woman's claim.

But from the outside he keeps a hard stance. “And I never will.”

Maggie smiles brightly. “Oh, you will. Believe me.”

 

Chapter Text

Anna can't concentrate.

She never had a problem with this before, always dedicated to her work, but since Castiel came back into her life she feels constantly on edge and she's not able to suppress it. She worries that something might go wrong on a daily basis, that Castiel might have collapsed at home while she gave some angry kitten its vaccination or that her brother might have run away to a place no one would manage to find him.

She always lets out a breath of relief when she finds Castiel (moderately) healthy at home.

And naturally the night before didn't calm her nerves at all. She never had seen him like that before, so freaked out and haunted by his past. She is absolutely sure he would have left Trentwood that night if Dean wouldn't have interfered. And this thought scares her more than anything.

She can't lose him. Not again.

She was stupid enough to turn her back on him all these centuries ago and she won't make that mistake yet another time.

So it's no freaking miracle that she can't focus on her work right this instant. She is staring at that report on the computer screen for about ten minutes now with no idea what it even says. For the first time ever she really doesn't want to be here.

She doesn't even realize her phone is vibrating on the counter next to her, dancing like crazy above the hard surface, until her medical assistant Clary picks it up and frowns at the display.

Anna is snapped back to reality quite abruptly, her eyes widening in concern. She told Dean to call her anytime if something might come up and her mind is making up the worst scenarios immediately. Did Castiel break down again? Or did he maybe vanish while Dean went to the bathroom for two minutes?

Anna's heart nearly bursts out of her chest, dreading to take that call and getting some bad news.

“Who is it?” Anna asks, hoping against all odds that it's perhaps something harmless instead. Charlie reminding her of their ladies night this weekend. Her one-night-stand from about three months ago who miraculously had found her number somewhere and would like to ask for a second round. Or even her tax accountant, the dullest man in existence.

Just something innocent.

In the meantime Clary's frown deepens instead while she eyes the device in her hand warily. “Um … it's someone called The Menace.”

Anna sucks in a sharp breath.

Damn, that's even worse!

“It's okay,” Anna says, sighing. “I'll take it from here.”

“Who is it?” Clary looks a bit intrigued now, probably knowing fair well that Anna doesn't give someone a name like that without a very good reason. “An ex?”

Anna feels a shiver running through her body. “No, nothing like that. It's … complicated.”

She grabs the phone and makes a vague hand gesture, signalizing her that she needs some privacy. Clary hesitates for a second, probably quite curious now, but in the end she does as she is told, and walks out of the room.

Anna straightens her posture, takes a very deep breath and finally answers, “Hello, Gabriel.”

Dammit, she seriously doesn't want to be here.

“Good morning, dear sister,” Gabriel says, his voice giving away absolutely nothing. It could be the usual check-up-call or her upcoming doom. “How are you?”

Exhausted. Anxious. Nerve-wrecked.

“Fine,” she lies.

“Good, good,” Gabriel replies. “And how is our beloved brother?”

All of a sudden there's a undeniable sharpness in his tone and – nope, that's not a harmless call at all. Usually Gabriel checks in with a chance of Castiel being around and he's actually quite aware that Anna's at work right now, far away from their brother.

Anna drops all pretenses. “Okay, how did you find out?”

“Castiel,” Gabriel informs him and despite his tension there is some pride in his voice as well. “He called me last night. Finally learned how to use a freaking phone, huh?”

“And what did he tell you?”

Anna has got no real idea how close they've become over the few weeks after Castiel's escape (hell, she doesn't even know how he managed to get out of there in the first place and if Gabriel maybe had something to do with it), so she can't be exactly sure if Castiel told their brother absolutely everything, especially relating to Dean.

“He told me that you're a reckless and stupid moron!”

Anna frowns. “He really said that?”

“No, these are my words,” Gabriel objects. “Because you are, Anna. You really, really are!”

Anna closes her eyes and tries to remind herself that all of this probably looks really fucking wrong from Gabriel's point of view. “Listen, I can explain --”

“A Campbell?” Gabriel hisses. “How can you live next to a fucking Campbell? How? It honestly the stupidest shit I've ever heard and I've done tons of stupid shit myself over the last few millennia.”

“Gabriel --”

“And don't tell me that bullshit about fate like you did with Cassie,” Gabriel interrupts indignantly. “You never believed in destiny before and I can't imagine that you started at some point without my knowledge. There's a reason you live next to that Campbell boy and it's not some higher crap! So don't lie to me, Anna, do you hear me?”

Anna fights back the urge to defend herself. He wouldn't understand her intentions, at least not the way she'd want him to.

“I don't owe you any explanation,” she hisses back, feeling confident. Gabriel has always been more powerful than her (or the majority of their family, for that matter) and usually it wasn't very wise to stand up to a mighty dragon like him, but she can't bring herself to care. “And I know that you're worried, but I'm perfectly able to guarantee for Castiel's safety.”

Gabriel scoffs. “He did sound quite upset when he called me.”

Anna shuts her eyes for a moment. She can't exactly blame Castiel for still being freaked out about the whole thing, regardless of Anna's reassuring words and Dean's irresistible puppy eyes. It's honestly so much to take in, especially after the hell he'd been through. And it is probably only owed to Castiel's weak body that he didn't break away from all of this yet.

That and Dean's puppy eyes.

They're very effective.

“I trusted you,” Gabriel says, his voice a bit calmer now, but not less dangerous. “I entrusted him in your care because I thought you would keep him away from the world. But instead you dragged him into the middle of a war zone.”

Anna purses his lips. “There is no war zone here! Just some people who love to bake and host a barbecue every other year. Not exactly nightmare material.”

“You know better than anyone that appearances are deceiving,” Gabriel growls and Anna is quite relieved that he's thousands of miles away right now. “I'm surprised how easily you forgot.”

Anna can't help grinding her teeth. “Just tell me what you want.”

“You and I – we're gonna have a serious talk about Castiel's future.”



* * * * *



There is an awkward silence and Dean has got no idea how to fix it.

Castiel fell quiet immediately after mentioning that women he once knew. He didn't say much, just called her “the beginning of the end” and his expression turned so fucking blank that it actually started to scare Dean.

So Dean instantly tried to change the subject, lighten the mood a bit, and he began to come up with as much random questions as possible (“Do vampires really sparkle in the sunlight?” – “Why would you ask me something like that?” – “Well, some people seem to believe they do.” – “Dean, I can assure you the do not sparkle in the sunlight. That would be rather irritating, to be honest.”). Castiel answered everything patiently and though most of it Dean already knew by his mother (and well, that's a thing he seriously doesn't want to think about right now!) he didn't stop. As long as it kept Castiel's thoughts from depressing experiences in his past it was definitely worth it.

But quite soon Castiel's replies turned short and eventually he fell silent, his gaze lowered.

And Dean wants to help him. He wants to help him so frigging bad it's driving him insane, but he's got no clue how. He's never been good with emotions and compassion and all that crap and most of the time he fears that he'd make everything worse somehow. He half expects Castiel to send him away the next second, saying something about needing to rest, and he starts to squirm nervously like a child on their first school day.

“Wanna watch a movie?” Dean asks finally when the silence is threatening to suffocate him.

He knows movies are not the cure for everything and he's quite sure that Sam would chide him for suggesting some mindless distraction instead of talking about feelings, but he can't help himself.

“I'm sorry, Dean,” Castiel says, sighing. “I'm not very good company right now.”

“It's not about bad or good company, Cas,” Dean objects. “You're allowed to feel down. You don't need to apologize for that.”

Castiel smiles gratefully. “Alright.”

Dean returns the gesture without a second thought. “So … movie?”

Castiel chooses some cheesy looking chick-flick they find in Anna's DVD compilation. Dean is about to complain and list at least a hundred movies that would be far better and not that life-wasting, but in the end he refrains from that. Maybe that's exactly what Castiel needs right now. Clichés, predictability, a happy ending. Just something to entertain himself with for an hour or two before forgetting about it completely afterwards.

So Dean shuts his stupid mouth and starts the movie.

And though he feels a bit uncomfortable watching this exaggerated high school drama unfold in front of him, he can't help noticing Castiel relax right next to him, sucked up by the story and the mediocre acting talents. And so Dean doesn't bitch when the girls on the screen paint their nails pink and giggle about boys.

(He is, however, quite eager to ask Anna why she's got this movie in her collection in the first place because that's a conversation he's definitely not going to miss.)

And he sure as hell isn't disagreeing when Castiel scoots closer and closer until he's almost sitting on Dean's lap.

“I'm sorry,” Castiel whispers, his eyes still on the screen. “Please tell me if I'm crossing any lines here, but …” He pauses, frowning. “It's just that dragons seek comfort and proximity when ...”

Dean feels him tense up, probably fighting his instincts and convincing himself to draw back a little. He learned quite well that humans value their personal space and that you shouldn't invade it just like that.

“Hey, it's okay,” Dean reassures. “Cuddle me all you want.”

Castiel looks at him surprised and Dean can't exactly blame him since he's quite sure he never used those words before. And for a split second he wonders if he maybe should freak out or something 'cause this is very big step in his book and usually he would have fled straightaway, not looking back once. Now, however, he can't bring himself to do so. First of all, he's way too comfy and warm to move at all. And secondly – and most importantly –, the picture of Castiel wrapped up tightly in his arms makes his heart skip a beat.

Castiel still pauses for a few moments, apparently debating if he really should risk breaking personal boundaries without being exactly sure if Dean is offering just out of pity or not. But in the end he seemingly decides to not give a damn either way and practically leaps into Dean's chest like he isn't able to hold himself back any longer.

Dean tries to smile and relax, determined to not give off the impression he would be bothered by this, although it doesn't turn out to be easy. Not because of the closeness, the warm press of their bodies and Castiel's scent in his nose – because these things ar freaking amazing! –, but because of the fact that Castiel is a fucking dragon with heightened senses.

Dean's heart is thumbing wildly in his rib cage and there is no way in hell that Castiel didn't pick up on it by now. Damn, probably even a regular person with pathetically regular hearing wouldn't have missed that, Dean's ears are ringing like crazy.

And then there is the quite realistic chance that Castiel is capable of smelling certain things too. At least it doesn't seem all that far-fetched, Anna even gave a few hints the night before with an amused smirk on her lips. Fear, nervousness, happiness, arousal – a lot of species on earth are able to sniff something like this and if he's interpret Anna's words correctly dragons are one of them.

And that thought unsettles him a bit since there is so much going on deep inside of him that shouldn't be that plain open.

But at the same time he can't help tightening his grip and pulling Castiel closer to him.

For a while Dean tries to concentrate on the movie, but it's quite hard to follow the storyline, as mundane and predictable as it may be. There are just pictures of overly attractive people doing some stuff, mostly in high school hallways with the characteristic lockers, but he's got no clue if the protagonists are talking about stupid shit like nail polish and crushes and homework or if they're plotting world domination in their designer shoes.

And when Castiel suddenly raises his voice a while later Dean loses the thread altogether.

“Tell me about your mother,” Castiel says. He still seems relaxed, right there in Dean's arms, but Dean can imagine that his insides are cramped now.

“What do you wanna know?”

Castiel bites his bottom lip. “Apart from a few stories you told me before I don't know much about her. And … when I think about hunters I've got that specific picture in my mind.”

He shivers and Dean really doesn't have to ask what he's talking about. Sure, Dean knows horseshit about the real business, but there is no way in hell they're running around with flowers in their hands and big smiles on their faces. Castiel's reaction to Dean's tattoo had been more than enough proof that even fucking dragons are able to be afraid of them and that probably means something very big.

Though Dean can't really see Mary in that position. It feels utterly surreal.

“But I can't picture her as a bad woman if she raised you,” Castiel continues, his voice soft. “So please just tell me something, so --”

So she stops being that evil monster in my head, Castiel doesn't need to say.

Dean takes a deep breath and collects his thoughts. Since the huge revelation the day before concerning Mary and her family he is very unsure how he should feel about the whole deal. Granted, she is still his mother and she'll continue to be one of the most important persons in his life, no matter how majorly she screwed up by lying to her kids, and of course he didn't stop loving her all of a sudden, but he is really hurt and confused. He understands her motivation – hell, he's even quite certain he would have acted the same way, at least to a certain degree, because who the fuck wants to tell their sweet, innocent children that there are monsters and demons out there in the world which could kill you brutally without much effort?? –, however, he can't overlook the fact that she freaking lied to him since he's able to grasp words.

It hurts. A lot.

But it doesn't make her an overall bad person.

And so Dean says, “She hums when she's happy. Mostly just stupid ad songs which are the super annoying bane of existence.” He snorts, recalling how often he had a goddamned earworm because of her. “She loves cats, but is highly allergic, just like me. She can't dance for shit, she always looks like a drunk monkey with too much ecstasy in its system. Sammy actually dreads that moment at his wedding more than anything. He tried to bribe our dad to buy her some shoes a size too small so she would sit the whole day and walk around as little as possible.”

He chuckles quietly. “She is a high school teacher and her students adore and fear her at the same time. It's actually quite hilarious to see them interact. She drives the ugliest car ever, but neither dad nor me had been successful in convincing her to buy a new one. Or at least a less hideous one. She says something about sentimental value or whatever, no idea. All I can remember is Sammy puking onto the backseat when he'd been twelve and that horrible smell that sometimes comes out of the air con.”

Castiel stays silent while his thumb rubs absently over the back of Dean's hand. It's hard to guess what he might think, perhaps he even forces himself not to think at all until Dean would have finished his little story. But Dean believes he saw a really tiny smile tugging at Castiel's mouth and it makes all of this a bit easier.

“She's not perfect, Cas,” Dean makes himself clear. “She is not a bright ray of sunshine or whatever. Sometimes she has a bad temper and more often than not she avoids important topics, especially regarding her family. Obviously she lies, to me, to Sammy and according to Anna to our dad as well.”

And although that sucks for John, Dean is kinda glad about it at the same time since he seriously doesn't need to feel so angry and confused because of both his parents.

One is more than enough, thank you very much.

“But … despite all this fucking shit, she has a good heart,” Dean says. “She hates any kind of injustice. She'd rather die than see any harm come to us. She'd fight like a lioness to protect us. And she is very kind. I can't imagine --”

He pauses, swallowing loudly.

Castiel turns his head a bit so he can see right into Dean's eyes with the most intense look in existence. “What is it?”

He doesn't sound anxious or nervous. On the contrary, he actually seems curious.

And that's enough for Dean to continue.

“I can't imagine that she'd kill in cold blood, y'know?” Dean admits. “I can't imagine that she'd murder someone for who they are.” He shuts his eyes and inhales deeply. “She wouldn't kill you just because you're supernatural. That's not who she is.”

There are so many emotions in Castiel's eyes that Dean is absolutely unable to distinguish them. They seem to glow slightly red and gold like the day before when Castiel showed a bit of his true self and though Dean knows that he actually should be sort of edgy witnessing this he can't help thinking that's it's kinda beautiful.

“No one can truly know a person,” Castiel eventually says. “It's impossible.”

Dean nods. “I get that, Cas. I mean, I wouldn't have guessed my mom lying to me all this time until yesterday. But I'm quite a good judge of character. She meant well, albeit he could have handled it all better.” A lot better, truthfully. “But that doesn't make her evil or whatever you wanna name it. It makes her … human.”

He shrugs and tries to look as nonchalant as possible. “And believe me, she wouldn't condemn you for who you are.”

Especially after realizing how much you mean to me, Dean thinks and doesn't say.

Castiel still doesn't seem entirely convinced and Dean starts to wonder who hurt him so much in his past that trusting someone beside himself and his closest kin would be such a hardship. He wants to punch them, kick them in their fucking asses for making someone as kind and gracious as Castiel so insecure about the intentions of others.

Without even really thinking about it Dean begins to run his fingers through Castiel's surprisingly soft hair. He is smiling gently, enjoying the feeling and the pleasant flutter in his stomach, and wonders if such a simple thing ever felt so good for him before. He can't really remember.

And then reality kicks in.

He is surprised and a bit shocked about himself for a whole second and already prepares some half-ass apology in his head, ready to back off immediately, but then he notices Castiel leaning into the touch, making some pleased noises in the back of his throat as if this is all he had been waiting for. And Dean can't help but being highly affected by it.

So he keeps going because obviously neither of them wants this to end.

“I want to believe you,” Castiel confesses eventually. “It would make everything a lot easier.”

Dean suppresses the urge to drop a light kiss onto Castiel's hairline. “Well, it's alright, Cas. One step at a time.”

And Dean is willing to do anything to make him stay. Even if it meant to keep his mother away from Castiel until the end of time itself.

 

Chapter Text

They're in the middle of their third movie when the door suddenly opens and Anna walks in.

Dean startles like a deer in headlights. He didn't expect her being back so soon and therefore he seriously didn't see any need to disentangle himself from Castiel at some point. Why should he have been even considering that? Castiel is an absolute excellent cuddler and he seemed very determined to never let Dean go. He even growled, deep in his throat, when Dean needed to pee about an hour ago, clearly displeased about the loss of the warm body next to his, and Dean felt weirdly pleased and somehow a tiny bit aroused about the whole thing. So he was very eager to finish his business as quickly as possible so he could return into Castiel's arms.

And now there is Anna, making Dean jump like he's fifteen again and caught kissing Robin Winston by her very tall and very intimidating father.

Dean detaches himself and ignores the disgruntled noises out of Castiel's mouth, as hard as it may be. He can't have Anna tease and mock him for eternity, gossiping with Charlie or whoever about her neighbor crushing on her brother and calling them bullshit like “cute” or something.

But just a second later he realizes he shouldn't have bothered. Anna is way too distracted by the phone clutched to her ear, rolling her eyes at something the person on the other end of the line just said.

“You don't need to tell me again, Gabriel,” she grumbles. “It's not like I'm deaf.”

Dean shoots Castiel a quick glance and notices that his face turned into something rather complicated to decipher.

“Who is Gabriel?” Dean asks, lowering his voice a bit to not disturb Anna's rant.

“Our brother,” Castiel explains simply as if those two words are supposed to solve any question mankind ever had before.

“Your brother?” Dean says after Castiel obviously deemed it perfectly okay to just leave it with that and to possibly never speak of it again.

“Gabriel … he helped me when --” Castiel pauses and starts to shift uncomfortably. For the first time since this morning he puts some distance between them and avoids Dean's eyes.

And Dean all of a sudden feels kinda cold.

“I see,” he merely says. “It's okay, Cas. You don't need to explain.”

“Gabriel helped me,” Castiel continues, ignoring Dean's words. “And he was the one suggesting to contact Anna. To bring me here.”

Far away from my family, he doesn't say.

Dean smiles faintly. “Well, then I guess I should thank him.”

Castiel hastily ducks his head, but Dean doesn't miss the mild red coloring his cheeks. “You should actually pray to never be involved with him. He is quite … unique.”

Dean starts to laugh. “Sorry to break it to you, but you're really unique too.”

For a very brief moment Castiel seems to consider if he was supposed to see this as a compliment or not, his expression utterly confused, and Dean can't help finding this very endearing. It's hard to imagine a powerful dragon behind that face of naive bewilderment.

“Well, I most certainly don't brag about my sexual encounters in every detail imaginable or turn anything ever said into an innuendo,” Castiel eventually counters. “And I wouldn't sell my soul for some lollipops.”

Dean snorts. “Seriously?”

Right on time Anna's voice suddenly rises and she hisses into the phone, “Oh God, Gabe, is that a porno I'm hearing in the background? Don't you have any shame?” She pauses, obviously listening to her brother's reply. “I don't care if it's gay porn. Turn it off while I'm talking to you! It's super weird!”

Castiel seems absolutely unfazed by this while he watches the scene in front of him. “Actually she should be grateful he isn't attending an actual orgy.” He shrugs. “It wouldn't surprise me though.”

Dean just blinks, very uncertain suddenly if he wants to be best friends with the guy or never ever meet him.

“I think you need to go,” Castiel says in a gravelly tone, but only a moment later his face turns rather pained, apparently realizing how that might have sounded. “I don't mean to throw you out. I appreciate your concern and staying with me. I'm really grateful for your support and I can't thank you enough. I seriously can't. So please don't think --”

“Don't sweat it, Cas,” Dean interjects, squeezing Castiel's hand lightly. “I get it. Family business.”

Castiel seems fairly relieved by Dean's easy understanding. “Yes,” he whispers. “I am sorry.”

“Hey, I invited myself over anyway,” Dean waves it off, trying for nonchalant. “I'm surprised you didn't kick me out hours ago.”

Castiel scowls, noticeably appalled by the sheer thought. “I would never --”

“Just a stupid joke,” Dean interrupts. “It's fine, Cas. Really.”

He picks himself up to his feet very gracelessly, his whole body protesting after occupying the couch for so long, barely able to move with a snuggly dragon in his arms. Maybe Charlie is right after all and he's turning old.

“I could come back later though,” he offers. “I promised you burgers after all.”

Castiel looks like it's breaking his freaking heart to not be capable of agreeing immediately with great enthusiasm. “I'd love to, but …” He sighs. “This probably will take a while.”

He points at Anna who is rolling her eyes at something Gabriel just said, obviously more than ready to smash her phone or scream in frustration.

Dean tries to cover his disappointment with a cocky smile. “No worries. We can do it tomorrow.”

“And I'm going to make some pie,” Castiel says, smiling tentatively.

And although it's probably just a peace offering Dean feels his heart swell at least ten sizes. He breaths, “Shit, yeah!”, because there is barely anything better than Castiel's pie.

Castiel chuckles amused and leads Dean to the door like the dorky, old-fashioned gentleman he is. “Thank you so much for your company. It means a lot.”

And then he drops a kiss onto Dean's cheek.

It's quick and purely innocent, but nonetheless Dean's chest feels tight like right after an intense make-out session.

“Um …” he eventually manages to form something that sounds nearly human. “Is … is that a dragon thing, too? Like … like the cuddling?”

Castiel smirks. “No. That is just me.”

And then he fucking winks and closes the door before Dean's even got a chance to react to that.

Damn.

Dean stares at the closed door for a few moments and a stupid and reckless part of himself just wants to forget every sense of etiquette he ever had been taught and instead burst into the house again, pull Castiel even closer than they had been the last hours and kiss him freaking senseless, deep and passionate, while at the same time totally ignoring Anna's existence altogether. To feel his lips, his warmth and his strength, hidden underneath those smiles and layers of clothes. To be alive in Castiel's arms.

For twenty-six seconds it sounds like a reasonable and utterly great plan.

And then his fucking brain decides to interfere and reminds him mercilessly that it's neither the place nor the time for doing something rash. That Castiel deserves better.

Of course it's right.

So Dean quickly retreats and heads straight for the Impala. There is no actual destination on his mind, but he just needs to drive for a while and get his head free again. At least he's quite sure he'd go crazy if he'd stay at home and stare at the walls for the rest of the day.

And that's so not happening.

The familiar rumble of the car's motor immediately relaxes Dean a bit and he smiles involuntarily. There is nothing better than a jaunt with his Baby. It's been way too long since he took her out for real, not just for a quick drive to work or the supermarket.

It feels good, steering her along the roads, and he forgets time for a little while. He pushes the thoughts of wings and frigging dragons and his mom's lies to the back of his head and he merely focuses on Led Zeppelin blaring out of the car's speakers, loud and relentless. Dean sings along – slightly off-key, but he never gave a flying fuck about that anyway – and remembers all the road trips he took with his family back in the day. He had loved those immensely, with his dad at the wheel, humming underneath his breath and looking content, with his mom sitting right next to him, shoving sandwiches into her son's mouths while simultaneously explaining the countryside and sometimes acting like her kids had never seen a tree before, and with Sammy always internally debating if he should concentrate on the book in his hands or enjoy the view out of the window.

Yes, back then Dean didn't have to worry about people he grew very fond of suddenly leaving him because they were afraid of his mother and her family. There were no dragons, no supernatural beings, no big secrets. Just them.

Dean is not surprised to notice that, after driving aimlessly around for a while, he involuntarily finds himself right in front of Sam's apartment.

Every boy needs his family once in a while, even thirty-year-old ones.

Sam moved into that apartment about ten months ago, after finishing his studies at Stanford and snatching himself a nice job in the next big town. Dean had been fairly surprised to see his brother coming back home at all, always assuming that Sam would land a big gig in New York City or Los Angeles or wherever and only ever return to his family for Christmas and the occasional Thanksgiving. But Sam wanted to be close and since Jess obviously couldn't care less where they'd finally end up (because she didn't have much family to speak of), they packed their stuff and settled down.

Dad immediately offered Sam one of his houses in the town's center, just like Dean, but Sam had been eager to make some good money first before moving into something bigger and so he selected this comfy, tiny shoebox-apartment (rented by Mrs. Fudge – a nice lady who always makes Sam bend over so she's able to pinch him in the cheek) for the time being.

Dean parks the Impala right next to some colorful flowerbeds after registering that Sam's car is standing in the driveway, indicating that he's home. Dean's confused at first, wondering if maybe something went wrong at his job or if Sam's on vacation without telling his brother, but then Dean suddenly realizes it's after five pm on a Friday.

He obviously seriously forgot time.

“Oh, hey.” Sam seems quite surprised seeing Dean at his front door, half a sandwich hanging out of his mouth and his eyes blinking rapidly. It's more than blatant that his brain is already working overtime, asking himself if he missed some date.

“That's just a spontaneous visit,” Dean reassures before Sam would break his head or something. “I can go if it's a bad time right now.”

“No, no,” Sam objects, grabbing Dean's sleeves and pulling him inside as if he'd fear that Dean would flee like a shy animal the next second. “It's okay, I'm perfectly free.”

“Where's Jess?” Dean asks, letting his eyes roam over the small, yet homey living room.

“Still at work,” Sam answers, picking up some scattered clothes and throwing them into a corner. “They've got some big presentation on Monday, so she'll come back late today.”

Dean merely nods, unsure if he's supposed to feel disappointed or relived about it. Hell, he's not even certain why he's here to begin with.

“I was just driving around,” Dean says nonetheless before Sam's got the chance to ask the question. “Then I saw your car and, well …”

“Hey, I'm not complaining.” Sam grins and shoves a cold soda into Dean's hands, making it rather obvious that this is the only drink he's capable of offering right now. “You can come by anytime you want, you know that. We don't need to plan weeks ahead.”

“Still, I should have called,” Dean mumbles. It's the polite thing to do, even among siblings.

Sam merely grunts, sounding like John when he's dismissing something he thinks not worthy his time. “You changed my diapers, dude. You really don't have to call.”

Dean snorts. “Once,” he counters. “And it's been such a fucking disaster mom never let me do it again. I mean, all the sh--”

“Yeah, okay, I get it!”, Sam interrupts, grimacing. “Let's never speak about diapers again.”

Dean smirks and makes a mental note to remind Sam of this line as soon as Jess will be pregnant.

“So, Jo told me you're finally enjoying some free time,” Sam says, pushing Dean onto the couch like a freaking dictator who wants the people around him to be positioned to his liking.

“Does Jo even have a life?” Dean rolls his eyes in fond exasperation. “Yeah, I thought it might be a good idea to take some days off.”

“Make it a week,” Sam suggests. “Or even two. Dad can take over the paperwork, he offered you many times before.”

Dean usually would wave it off in an instant. He never had a frigging clue what to do with himself outside of work for such an amount of time. But now, thinking about spending more time with Castiel, learning more about him and his kin … it sounds not so bad.

“I'll think about it,” Dean says, shrugging.

Sam appears surprised that Dean didn't make a bigger fuss, but instead of commenting on it he uses diversion by starting to talk about whatever pops up in his head. Mostly it's Jess and food ( “Jess found an amazing farmer's market about twenty minutes from here. I nearly cried, it was so beautiful.” ), sometimes some boring work things Dean pretends to be interested in although he doesn't really understand the better part of it and – when he gets utterly desperate – the weather.

Today it's a mix of everything, combined in a story about a work dinner he attended with Jess a few weeks ago that was rudely interrupted by a huge hailstorm.

Dean listens for a while – or at least tries to – before something inside of him snaps for some reason and he hears himself ask, “Did mom ever talk about dragons?”

Sam stares at him with a puzzled expression and Dean curses his stupid mouth immediately.

What the hell?

Apparently his subconsciousness did have a reason for coming here after all and it certainly wasn't brotherly company alone.

“Um … what?” Sam quirks his head to one side.

Dean opens his mouth, ready to make up some lame apology including lack of sleep and hangovers (not even a total lie, though it'd been Anna who drank her weight in alcohol, not Dean), but suddenly he feels some weird kind of itching within his chest. The thought of discarding the whole thing obviously doesn't sit well with his body.

And yeah, actually he really needs to know.

There is nothing more important than Castiel's safety right now and he can't for the hell of it recall if Mary ever spoke about dragons before. Is she aware that there might be some of them nearby? Does she see them as an immediate threat?

Sam always absorbed their mom's stories like a sponge and there's no chance he forgot even the tiniest detail.

“Dragons?” Sam asks, bewildered. “Why the hell do you want to know about dragons?”

Dean takes a deep breath while hastily constructing a halfway plausible answer in his head. “I just saw a movie yesterday. And I wondered … well, if she ever said anything about them.”

Sam raises an eyebrow. “Was that the first movie you've watched with a dragon in it since practically forever or why are you asking all of a sudden?”

Dean grinds his teeth. “Just tell me and leave the stupid questions, okay?”

Sam hesitates a bit, obviously prepared to nag his brother about it some more, but eventually he realizes that Dean is dead serious and wouldn't appreciate a lecture.

So in the end he says, “Yeah, I remember one time when she talked about dragons. We saw a movie that night, just like you, and we got on her nerves afterwards until she caved in.” He wrinkles his forehead, deep in memory. “She said that no one really knows about them. They're one of the biggest mysteries since time itself. Some say they never even existed, some say they did a long time ago until they became extinct, and others claim they're still alive, hidden somewhere nobody can reach them.”

Dean bites his bottom lip and tries not to look too invested. “What did mom believe?”

“The latter, I think,” Sam says. “But she said it's like worrying about snow in the middle of a desert. There are no real, trustworthy records about them. Obviously they want to stay out of everyone's business but their own. They could be those vicious monsters that eat virgins like a lot of people assume or they could just be creatures living their lives without harming anyone.”

Well, that doesn't sound so bad. At least Mary didn't call them dangerous monsters which should be wiped from the face of earth without any hesitation.

Dean is tempted to ask Sam about his opinion as well. He's always been the more dedicated one, even studied a lot of occult texts at college to have some semi-scientific base to work with. He never once doubted Mary's stories, despite growing up in a society who thinks the whole supernatural deal complete nonsense, and Dean is eager what he'd have to say about this topic.

And, most importantly, how he'd react meeting a dragon for real.

But he's already suspicious of Dean's sudden interest and Dean doesn't want to test his limits. So instead he merely nods as if he just received an interesting, yet not life-changing information.

Sam, however, isn't satisfied easily. “So why did you wanna know? And why didn't you ask Mom?”

Dean flinches involuntarily and though he tries to cover it up immediately, he's quite sure Sam didn't miss it. “I only just remembered that dragon thing,” he says, waving his hand in a dismissive manner. “I'll ask her the next time I see her.”

And yet another lie within the Winchester family.

It feels awful.

“And please don't tell Mom we've talked about this,” Dean adds, fidgeting uncomfortably. Why the fuck did his stupid subconsciousness decide to even start with this?

Of course this makes Sam more distrustful than before. “Why not?” he wonders. “Is there something going on between you and Mom?”

Yes, a lot .

Please just do me that favor, okay?” Dean asks. “Please.”

Sam purses his lips, but eventually he says, “Okay, fine. But you owe me an explanation at some point.”

“And you'll get one,” Dean promises and he means every word of it. Because Sam is the only person on earth he'd let in on Castiel's secret without feeling bad about it. “And now let's talk about something nicer, how about that? Jess' new haircut, for example.”

Sam narrows his eyes, watching him closely, and Dean feels quite uncomfortable at the scrutiny.

And then he says, “How about we talk about the girl?”

Dean frowns, feeling quite confused all of a sudden. “What girl?”

Sam rolls his eyes. “You know who I'm talking about.” He leans a bit forward and takes a sip of Dean's soda like it's the most normal thing. “Jo keeps me updated because she's apparently as thrilled about you losing your mind over some mystery woman as I am.”

Oh, that girl.

That ominous woman Dean allegedly is going into rhapsodies about like a tragic figure of a romantic novel, the symptoms including sighing, the absence of brain functions for a longer period of time and spontaneous smiles at the stupidest shit.

Well, Jess' haircut would have been a far better subject of conversation.

“There is no girl,” Dean counters with emphasis.

Sam doesn't seem entirely happy about this statement. “Oh c'mon, dude, there is something going on with you. People are talking. And the few times I've seen you …”

Yeah, okay, Dean's gotta admit he's been not at his best lately. His thoughts go to Castiel more often than not the last few weeks and maybe from the outside he may look a little bit smitten or lovesick or whatever you wanna call it.

But still …

“It's fine if you don't wanna yell it from the rooftops or whatever,” Sam tells him. “But don't you think I deserve a little detail? A name or at least a hair color?”

“Sammy …”

“Is the situation complicated by any chance?” Sam wants to know. “I just want you to be happy, man. You can tell me, you know that. And I'd keep it for myself it that's what you want.”

Dean is absolutely aware of that.

He could just admit the truth – “Well, see, there is this guy who bakes and cooks amazingly and knows more about the world than you and I combined and I think I like him a lot and I wanna go out with him, but I've got no clue how to approach this because, first of all, I'm a pathetic chickenshit, and secondly, he's a fucking dragon with a lot of issues and obviously something horrible happened in his past including hunters and probably his family he doesn't want to talk about and, shit, did I mention he's a freaking dragon yet!?” –, and nonetheless Sam would keep his word.

Granted, he would annoy Dean constantly and never shut up for about a minute, asking millions of questions in a matter of seconds, and probably freak out a bit at some point and maybe even have a nervous breakdown in the process, but he wouldn't share Dean's secrets.

Because though he may be a pain in the ass at times, Sam is an awesome brother.

And so Dean hesitates. Usually he would have changed the subject by now, like he did with Charlie and Jo before, and ignored it altogether, being his regular stubborn, constipated self. Sometimes he even threw in some deathly glares and deep growls for good measure. Everyone knows fairly well that Dean Winchester doesn't fancy talking about his deepest feelings, so most people don't bother him that much. And the few who actually overlook this unwritten rule are doomed to resign at some point, unable to defeat Dean's God-given obstinacy.

And Sam wouldn't push too much either. Admittedly, he would try to coax some information out of his brother, but in the end he'd accept Dean's unwillingness to talk with a huff and an eye-roll.

So yeah, it'd be simple enough.

But nonetheless he can't help thinking that it'd be kinda nice for someone else to know (at least the crush-part, the supernatural stuff is something entirely different and seriously not Dean's story to tell anyway). And not just the thing with Castiel but with Aaron and some few other men (mostly just some attractive guys Dean watched from afar) as well and the fact that Dean might be not as straight as he seems to be.

There could be no one better to confess to than Sammy.

Besides, considering Magda Tanner seeing Dean and Castiel together this morning, the whole town would probably know by the end of the weekend anyway.

So Dean blurts, “There is a guy,” and isn't able to feel bad about it.

Perhaps a bit nervous and anxious, but not bad.

In the meantime Sam quirks his eyebrow, obviously expecting Dean to continue. “There is a guy …?” he repeats. “What about him? Does he have a nice sister or something?”

Dean shakes his head. “No,” he says, only to correct himself immediately, “Well, yes, he does, but it's not about her.”

“Then what?”

Dean takes a deep breath and tries to convince himself not to back out. Hell, there is nobody on earth who knows him better than Sam and just two minutes in the same room with Dean and Castiel would make everything perfectly clear to him. But right now he seems a bit slow on the uptake and that's probably due to his long workweek and the fact that he most likely already limited his brain to basic main functions, so Dean is willing to give him a pass.

Nonetheless he makes a vague hand gesture that would tell an outstanding person absolutely nothing, but could give a whole explanation to Sam in a matter of milliseconds.

Under normal circumstances.

Now, however, Sam just furrows his brows and studies Dean as if he's not sure about his brother's mental health.

“Oh, for fuck's sake, man,” Dean grumbles. “There's a guy, not a girl!”

Sam hesitates for a split second before the information finally reaches his brain. His eyes wide, he whispers, “Oh. OH.”

His face melts into an expression that's hard to read. There is surprise, of course, and maybe something similar to shock, but at the same time Sam doesn't seem as taken aback as Dean would have guessed.

Eventually he hisses, “Damn, Jess was right.”

Dean gulps. “What? Jess knew?”

Granted, Dean always liked to spend time with his sister-in-law-to-be and most of the time they preferred to switch embarrassing stories about Sam and laugh like hyperactive teenagers, much to Sam's chagrin, but he can't exactly remember one single time where he might have slipped up and told her something she could have interpreted in that way.

Though at times there was alcohol involved and despite his high tolerance Dean sometimes says quite a lot of stupid and imprudent shit while intoxicated.

“Um, she likes to study people,” Sam offers, shrugging. “And I mean, we all know about your crush on Dr. Sexy, but well, it's not a big deal. I like to watch Chris Hemsworth once in a while, so I never judged you for that.” His ears tinge a bit red at this confession. “But Jess tries to convince me there is more than that. Remember her last birthday party before we broke up for some time? She told me afterwards you couldn't take your eyes off of one of her former classmates. Ned, I think.”

Dean remembers the guy vaguely. He looked a bit like the younger Harrison Ford, especially with his smile that had been on the right side of mischievous, and Dean wondered the whole evening how he would look in an Indiana Jones hat.

Nothing came out of it and Dean put the guy into the back of his mind the next day, but obviously he hadn't been as subtle about the whole thing as he thought.

“After that Jess watched more closely,” Sam continues. “Well, not in a creepy way and she certainly wasn't eager to out you against your will once she would have gathered some proof or whatever. You know her, man, she just has your best interests at heart. She probably thought you would only be truly happy when you'd be honest with yourself.”

Yeah, that sounds like Jess.

A bit nosy, but with good intentions. One of the reasons why Dean made it his mission to keep her far away from Charlie.

“So what?” Dean asks, quirking his eyebrow. “She told you I might like men and you thought her delusional?”

Sam crosses his big, muscly arms. “Don't make me feel guilty for not guessing it sooner, jackass,” he grunts. “Yeah, on occasion you're surprising me with something you say or do, but shit, Dad told us a while ago that he liked to knit as a young boy and that's been way huger than you ogling Chris Pine's ass.”

Dean snorts. He's gotta admit that Sam does have a point.

“So, you wouldn't mind –?”

Sam rolls his eyes in a very dramatic way. “You know I wouldn't mind, don't play dumb. You're still my brother with your big mouth, your bad eating habits and your out-dated music taste. It doesn't make you a different person just because you're a dude … who admires other dudes ...”

Dean stifles a laugh. “A dude who admires other dudes? Jeez, you're really bad at this, Sammy.”

Sam shoots him a dark glare, but there's no heat in it, just brotherly exasperation. “I could phrase it differently, but it would traumatize me to no end, so I'm gonna stay with that.”

Maybe Dean really should be grateful that Sam didn't start to talk about dicks and asses … because that's seriously not a conversation he would like to have with his baby brother.

Or with anyone else, for that matter.

“Just tell me about this guy,” Sam orders, his back straight as if he's preparing for some overwhelming news. “It's not this Ned, right? 'Cause he's an asshole and you deserve better.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “I've met him once, years ago. Why would I suddenly like this guy?”

“Then one of the firefighters?” Sam suggests. “I noticed you watching them at the barbecue and I always figured it's because you wanted to be a fireman when you were young, but thinking about it now … well, some of the guys look quite good in their tight uniforms, I have to say.”

Dean feels a blush threatening to burn into his cheeks because Sam seriously isn't wrong, some of these men guest starred in Dean's wanking fantasies more often than not.

“No, not one of them,” he objects, ducking his head a bit. “It's … Anna's brother.”

Sam blinks a few times before finally understanding flickers in his eyes. “Oh, you mean the guy who made Wendy question your sexuality? That guy?”

Dean purses his lips, remembering the incident with Magda this morning. “Well, I guess by tomorrow everyone in town probably knows that I stayed over at his place.”

Sam listens up instantly. “You stayed over?”

“Not for that,” Dean makes himself clear. “We're not – y'know …”

“Why not?” Sam seems quite excited now. “According to Wendy that guy looked at you as if you hung the moon.”

“He was drugged.”

It's a lame excuse, Dean knows that far too well. By now it's more than obvious that Castiel treats him way differently than everyone else (at least Dean didn't catch him cuddling with Anna on the couch as well at some point) and it's hard to interpret it any other way.

But there are still some obstacles.

Some major obstacles.

“It just ...” Dean takes a deep breath. “Cas's been through some really awful shit. I don't know exactly what happened, only that you shouldn't ask about his past if you don't want him to close off completely. He came to Anna because he wanted some peace again. And he doesn't need me to complicate his life, y'know?”

Sam's expression softens immediately and for a horrible second Dean thinks he would embrace his big brother tightly and break some of Dean's ribs in the process.

“I get that, Dean,” Sam says eventually. “But maybe you'd make his life better. Ever think about that?”

Truthfully Dean can't stop thinking about that.

But nonetheless there is so much baggage to consider, especially the whole my-mom-used-to-be-a-hunter-and-kill-supernatural-beings business.

Castiel probably would be better off without Dean. But at the same time it seems impossible for Dean to stay away from him.

“Just tell me everything about this guy,” Sam says after a while. “I want to tease you accordingly.”

Dean smiles faintly.

He's got the best brother in the world.

 

Chapter Text

Anna takes a deep breath once Dean left the house.

“Okay, Gabriel wants to skype,” she informs Castiel and doesn't give a damn that her brother has no idea what she's even talking about.

But he refrains from asking for information and instead watches Anna taking her laptop and placing it onto the coffee table.

“Can you imagine? Skyping?” She shakes her head as if that's the most ridiculous thing she ever heard. “What's next? A car? A two-year-contract with a phone company?”

Castiel furrows his brows and wonders if Anna expects him to answer to that.

“Sometimes I wonder where the magic ends and technology starts, you know?” She shrugs while her fingers run over the keyboard in a very impressive speed, obviously highly used to this motions. “Somewhere along the way I lost track.”

Just a moment later Gabriel suddenly appears on the screen and Castiel feels a smile tug at his mouth. It's been weeks since he last saw the face of their brother and although it felt hard to say goodbye to him after all they had been through, back then the sight of Anna – his beloved sister he lost contact with so many centuries ago – distracted him efficiently, making Gabriel's departure a little bit easier to bear.

But now Castiel realizes how much he missed Gabriel's face without really noticing. They haven't been that close before their family decided to punish Castiel (though he vaguely recalls Gabriel being one of the few who protested vehemently against the judgment of their leaders), but now he feels a strong bond between them, created by Castiel's desperation for even the tiniest touch, for some proof that he was still alive after two-hundred years of cold and darkness, and by Gabriel's love for his brother that obviously didn't waver after all this time.

Castiel can't remember ever being so grateful for someone else before.

“Hello, Gabriel,” Castiel says.

Gabriel grins at him in that mischievous way of his. “Hey, kiddo. It's really good seeing you.”

“Likewise.”

Anna ignores their somewhat reunion completely, leaning forward instead and narrowing her eyes. “Tell me, where are you exactly?”

A valid question, Castiel has to admit. Gabriel seems to be in some sort of living room with flowery tapestry and very pornographic pictures on the wall behind him.

“I'm at my girlfriend's place,” Gabriel explains, sounding smug. “I'm actually spending most of my time here since Cassie left me and I had no one to occupy myself with.” He winks at Castiel. “Although the agreement with my girlfriend is completely different, of course. Instead of babysitting her we have lots and lots of sex, in several spectacular athletic positions on every surface --”

“Oh fuck, just stop!” Anna interrupts immediately, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “No one wants to hear that.”

Gabriel laughs wholeheartedly. “Funny, that's the same thing her neighbors say all the time.”

Castiel can't exactly blame them. Gabriel's always been loud and brash.

“Is she human?” Anna asks, rubbing her hands together in a slightly nervous manner.

“Nah, she's a witch,” Gabriel objects. “Or maybe even a Goddess. I'm not really sure.” He shrugs like it's not a big deal anyway. “The sex is mind-blowing, so I don't ask stupid questions.”

Anna seems to disapprove. “Do you trust her?”

Gabriel snorts. “Hell no!” He looks at their sister as if it's the most ridiculous thing to even consider that. “But she's out, with friends. Maybe to grab something to bite. Or to inflict some misery.” His features turn mildly smitten. “If it's the latter, I'll definitely hear it in the news.”

Castiel doesn't really know what to say to this, but Gabriel's specific taste in sexual partners is hardly a surprise, so he keeps from judging. When he's happy with his decision, Castiel can be happy for him too. At least somehow to a certain degree.

“If you think it's safe to talk openly, then fine,” Anna says, an edge in her voice, and Castiel can't help but wonder what they already talked about before she arrived home. According to the look on her face it hadn't been entirely pleasant.

“Sure, we can talk.” Gabriel's wide grin falters a bit. “Let's go back to business.”

Castiel frowns. “Business?”

“Anna and I had some kind of disagreement,” Gabriel says, shooting a glare in their sister's direction. “About safety issues.”

Castiel bites his bottom lip and ducks his head. “I've never meant for you to fight.”

He merely called Gabriel the night before since he still had felt sort of lost and confused and he simply needed to talk to someone with a more objective point of view. Gabriel had been mostly quiet, only listening to Castiel's rambling, before finally reassuring that everything were going to be alright and that he'd call Anna the next day to make further plans.

“It's not your fault, Cassie,” Gabriel counters. “You're not the one who wanted to move in next to a Campbell.”

True. But Castiel can't really bring himself to regret it.

The thought of never meeting Dean seems surreal and scary.

“Dean is a Winchester,” Anna hisses. It's obvious they had the exact same argument before. “And I will say it again and again, but he's good people and he can be trusted.”

Gabriel pulls a face. “Even with your little dragon secret?”

Yes!” Anna says emphatically, folding her arms in front of her chest and making it very apparent that she isn't willing to discuss this any further.

Gabriel, however, doesn't seem convinced. And Castiel is able to relate. If Anna would have told him the same things, without him knowing Dean, he'd have done anything in his power to make her overthink her decision immediately. Hell, he probably would have flown over there, grabbed her at her collar and dragged her out of town.

But everything is different now.

“Please, Gabriel.” He tries to let his voice sound as soft as possible. “I do understand that you don't have confidence in my judgment when I'm telling you Dean is to be trusted. I made some horrible mistakes in that area before and I certainly don't believe my own foolish gut feelings anymore.” He takes a deep breath. “But Anna … she's an amazing judge of character. She's been living among humans for many centuries now, much longer than both of us. And she should be the one making the call now. You need to have faith in her. Her trust in Dean isn't ill-founded or frivolous.”

Gabriel stares back and forth between them, his face a mix of so many emotions Castiel is unable to distinguish them, and in the end he groans in frustration.

“Aw, dammit!” he complains. “I wanted to yell and stuff, but you and your freaking baby blues and your logic – that's honestly not fair, Castiel!” He throws his hands into the air in a defeated gesture. “Okay, fine, for now I won't interfere. You're both grown-ups and are allowed to make your own decisions.”

Castiel smiles, very pleased with himself, but Anna's eyes grow impossibly big.

“We've been talking about this topic for freaking hours now, Gabe!” she hisses, clearly infuriated. “My headache is so huge I'm actually concerned my skull is about to explode! And now … Castiel only has to say 'please' and you give in? Just like that?”

“Aw, Anna, don't be like that,” Gabriel says, grinning lopsidedly. “I always love a good fight and your skills are quite excellent. You seriously didn't lose your bite since the last time we saw each other. It's awesome!” He actually seems kind of proud and Anna obviously doesn't know how to deal with that. “But Cassie here … I mean, just look into his big, round eyes. He's so adorable! I can't say no to him. It's impossible.”

Castiel frowns, not exactly sure if he should feel offended or flattered. In the end he keeps silent because when this so-called adorableness is working in his favor, he certainly won't complain.

“But that doesn't mean this discussion is over,” Gabriel objects immediately, sounding more serious now. “I will accept your judgment for the time being. But I'm demanding regular reports and if anything should be even the tiniest bit off I'll jump in instantly and get you both out of there. Understood?”

Anna grits her teeth, apparently not happy to be patronized like this, but after a slight pause she finally nods. “Yes, we understand.”

“Great.” Gabriel smirks. “And of course I want to meet that famous Dean person.”

Castiel feels himself flinch. “You want …”

“Naturally,” Gabriel says. “You're both swooning over that dude. And you want me to trust him. It's seem only fair, am I right?”

Well, he definitely has a point. But Castiel can't shake the feeling that it'd go horribly wrong on so many levels. Gabriel is a very complicated personality you normally need some time to get used to and Dean's been through a lot for the last twenty-four hours. Gabriel being Gabriel might be way too much for Dean to process after all of this.

“I won't eat him,” Gabriel says, rolling his eyes. Castiel's and Anna's minor enthusiasm seems to be apparent on their faces. “We'll just have a nice chat, like we're doing it right now. It's not as if I'm planning to come over and smash him into a wall.”

Castiel still doesn't feel happy about it, but if this is the price for Gabriel's reservation they obviously have to pay it.

Although Castiel promises himself to prepare Dean for this encounter thoroughly.

“Thank you,” he says.

Gabriel shrugs it off. “I'm actually preferring it that way. There are two major reasons why it isn't the safest right now to relocate you.” He quirks his head to one side. “I mean, don't get me wrong, if there'd be even the smallest danger for you I'd do it immediately without hesitation. I'd personally drag you out of there faster than a teenage boy reaches the finish line the first time someone else touches his very special place.”

Castiel ignores the comment like he did ignore the last three million lines of that kind by Gabriel before and instead asks, “Two reasons? What are you talking about?”

“The first is your condition, Cassie,” Gabriel explains. “Because you seriously look like shit.”

Castiel shoots a glance in Anna's direction and notices her nodding affirmatively. “Thank you for your honesty,” he says dryly.

Anna grabs his hand and interlaces their fingers, squeezing them reassuringly. “We're just worried, Cas.”

“We are,” Gabriel agrees, looking more earnest than Castiel has seen since the start of their conversation. “Your health is very important, little brother. And right now you don't appear to be in any state of health to take a larger trip. You probably can't shift yet, am I right?”

Castiel feels a sudden weight on his heart, heavy and demanding. “No,” he says, trying to not look too miserable about it and most likely failing spectacularly.

He misses flying more than anything. To feel the wind beneath his wings, the sun touching his skin. To feel free and and so absolutely alive again. Sometimes it's like a different kind of prison, being bound to the ground and having no chance of changing that anytime soon.

It's been torture in that small and dark cave to not be able to stretch his wings.

But out here the ache is actually amplified. It's right in front of him, the open and perfect sky, and he's just incapable of reaching it. It'll drive him crazy sooner or later, he's sure of that.

“Can you use some of your powers?” Gabriel asks, jerking Castiel out of his thoughts.

“Tiny things,” Anna answers in his place. “But yesterday, when he tried to show Dean a few simple magic tricks, he fainted afterwards.”

Castiel pulls a face. He can't deny it, of course, but it's hard hearing it.

Gabriel rubs his jaw thoughtfully. “Okay, okay,” he mutters. “I actually assumed your strength would come back by itself, but I guess we'll need to give it a little push.”

Castiel listens up. “What do you mean?”

“I did it before, back when I found you,” Gabriel explains. “Some kind of magic boost, if you wanna call it that. You were half-dead at the time, I'd have lost you otherwise.” His face turns very dark at the reminder. “It's … like an empty car battery. You need a cable and another car to jump start it again.”

Castiel furrows his brows. He's no expert in that area, but he reminds himself to ask Dean about it later. He will probably know exactly what this metaphor means.

“It should be a slow process,” Gabriel continues. “Every day a little bit. Otherwise your system could overload and send you into shock.” He smiles faintly. “This procedure helped a lot, these first few weeks. You couldn't even speak when I found you, but thanks to it you improved immensely quite quickly.”

“So why did you stop it?” Anna demands to know, sounding a bit put off. “It could have been of further use.”

Gabriel sighs. “Honestly? I was rather certain that Castiel's body would be strong enough to do the rest of its own. I wouldn't have brought him to you otherwise if I didn't thought him ready.” He leans back a little, looking kind of defeated all of a sudden. “But I guess I was wrong. I underestimated the impact of being buried alive for two centuries. Or maybe I'm right after all, but it'll take a lot of time. And I mean a lot because you really look awful, Cassie. Your whole aura is totally messed up. Not as bad as in the beginning, of course, but it's not very reassuring either.”

Castiel feels his stomach clench and he hastily lowers his gaze to hide the turmoil of emotions probably visible in his eyes.

“Well, then we restart this magical procedure,” Anna says, seemingly quite eager. “I'll be the other car.”

“It's not without risks,” Gabriel warns instantly. “For Castiel, but for you too, Anael. You will share and exchange energy, so quite a lot could go wrong.”

Castiel opens his mouth to voice his protest – he seriously doesn't want to cause his sister any harm –, but Anna just hits his shoulder lightly and announces, “I'll do it. I might not use magic as often as a regular dragon, but nonetheless I'm not invalid. You both know I used to be the best.”

Gabriel doesn't seem entirely happy about the whole thing (and neither is Castiel), however, he nods. “You need to be careful and take it very slowly. I'll show you later, step by step.”

Anna nods stiffly and reminds Castiel in that moment of the person she used to be, the obedient soldier who executed every order without asking any questions. Castiel can't say he likes it very much seeing it right in front of him, after all this time.

“And what's the second topic you wanted to talk about with us before we're finally able to get rid of your face?” Anna asks although there's no real heat in her voice.

Gabriel's whole demeanor suddenly changes. He's been tense before, but now he seems seriously cramped. “Raphael.”

Castiel flinches slightly at the mention of this name. It's been quite a while since he heard it, the last time about two-hundred years ago.

Castiel recalls him quite vividly, mighty and strong, condemning Castiel to a fate worse than death. There had been no remorse in his features, not even a tiniest bit of guilt. He just called Castiel a “traitor” and “disgrace for their family” in that deep and emotionless voice of his and didn't even hesitate to speak his verdict.

After that Raphael starred in a lot of Castiel's nightmares.

Anna's eyes had gone wide in the meantime. “What is it? Did he notice Castiel's escape? Is he assembling a search party as we speak?”

It's quite obvious that she thought about this possibility a lot. Castiel wonders how long she sometimes lays awake at night, thinking about raging dragons bursting into her house, and Castiel feels bad once again for turning her life upside down. Naturally she always assures him that she wouldn't want it any other way, that having her brother by her side is worth every risk, but Castiel can't help asking himself if it wouldn't have been better for anyone involved if he'd have just died in that cave a long time ago.

Suddenly Gabriel clears his throat, jolting Castiel out of his thoughts. “Dear brother, how much do you remember of your miraculous escape from that magically sealed cave?”

His tone makes Castiel shiver involuntarily.

“As I told you,” he says, “I don't recall anything. There was just darkness and all of a sudden I found myself in the forest where you found me shortly after.”

He's unable to explain what happened. For the first few days he actually assumed that all of this – the light, the fresh air, Gabriel – merely had been a nice dream and that he would wake up in his pitch black prison soon enough.

“Yeah, from what you told me I just figured you had some kind of adrenaline boost,” Gabriel says. “A last jerk of a desperate man on the brink of death. You did a lot of things in the past that surprised me, Cassie, so I thought this had been another one of those.”

Castiel hesitates. “But now you know better?”

Gabriel nods. “Yep, now I know better.”

Castiel feels his stomach flutter in a very uncomfortable way and he grabs Anna's hand much tighter. “Raphael …” he mutters, not sure what he's even implying, but knowing without a doubt that he won't like it at all.

“Raphael is the one who set you free.”

Castiel blinks and wonders for the first few seconds if his brain maybe short-circuited and stopped working. Because this can't be true!

What?” He wants to scream and yell, but in the end it's merely a whisper.

“You're joking, right?” Anna asks, looking as disbelieving and puzzled as Castiel feels. “There is no way in hell --”

“I thought so, too,” Gabriel interjects with a deep sigh. “But a few days ago I overheard a conversation between him and Uriel and there's no fucking doubt that they're the ones releasing Castiel.”

Castiel just stares at his brother and doesn't know what to say. It seems so utterly unreal.

“But … that doesn't make any sense,” Anna objects. “Raphael spoke the fucking verdict. He promised the whole family that Castiel would never see the daylight again. He probably would have killed Cas right on the spot if the better part of the dragons wouldn't have demanded a punishment worse than death.” She swallows audibly, lowering her gaze. “You told me yourself back then, Gabe. You didn't spare any detail and I never forgot any of it.”

She sounds so sad and devastated, even now with her brother by her side, that Castiel can't help but hug her shoulders awkwardly, hoping against all odds that it may give her some comfort.

“Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are,” Gabriel says. “Although some things make sense now.”

“Like what?” Castiel asks.

“The day I found you in that forest, barely alive – I actually wasn't supposed to be there,” Gabriel explains. “At least I had no reason to. Usually I avoided that area because … well, because it made me fucking sad and angry to even come near that cave, you know? My greatest regret, right in front of me – it didn't feel entirely awesome.” The face he pulls is making it perfectly clear that this may be the biggest understatement of the century. “But that day Raphael ordered me to check out some alarming rumors in the north regarding a hostile dragon family. At first I refused since I grew tired listening to that big-headed idiot millennia ago, but he was very persistent. He didn't even seem to consider asking another dragon, just like he normally did, he simply kept annoying me to no end until I finally budged. I can't actually recall the last time he spared me that much attention and I've gotta admit I've been quite confused about this. I actually intended to talk with him afterwards, but …” He raises an eyebrow, looking at Castiel. “Then I found you, dear brother of mine, and I totally forgot about it.”

Castiel tilts his head. “So you think that Raphael planned for you to find me?”

Gabriel shrugs. “I'm probably the only one who wouldn't have thrown you back into that cave or even killed you on sight. Raphael knows that very well.”

Castiel runs his fingers through his hair and sighs in frustration. He's got no idea what to make of this.

They never got along. Even back in the day, when Michael and Lucifer had been the leaders of their family, Raphael never missed an opportunity to make Castiel look bad. To discredit him somehow. He thought Castiel fractious and potentially rebellious as well as too soft-hearted and compassionate. They argued more often than not, their different views clashing against each other like massive waves.

So why, all of a sudden, would Raphael make the effort to rescue Castiel? And obviously in secret since it seems that the rest of their family doesn't know what's going on and probably continues to assume that Castiel is still in that cave, maybe already dead or at least almost.

“Usually I would say that our beloved Raphael maybe had a change of heart,” Gabriel tells them. “That his bad conscience was bothering him so much that he felt the urge to do something about it.” He huffs a laugh. “But this is Raphael we're talking about. I'm quite sure he doesn't have a conscience. Or even a heart.”

Castiel couldn't agree more.

“So he's got a plan?” Anna squirms uncomfortably.

Gabriel nods in agreement. “Whatever the hell it may be.”

“And does he know where Cas is?” Anna throws a worried glance in Castiel's direction, obviously not all concerned about her own safety.

“No,” Gabriel says. “Raphael was angry with Uriel for losing sight of Cassie. Apparently we hid him very well.” He allows himself a pleased, little smile. “So it's gonna be for the best if you'd stay put for now, even with that ugly Campbell-business going on. At least these freaking hunters aren't looking for Cassie, in contrast to Raphael. Leaving that town of yours, with all the warding and protection spells, might be of greater danger than dealing with some humans.”

Castiel snorts since he thought that way as well a long time ago and paid a horrible price for his misconception, but he withholds any kind of contradiction. Gabriel is right for now, it would be much safer to refrain from moving out of this thoroughly warded vicinity.

And of course Castiel would never complain about staying close to Dean for a while longer.

“But I don't understand,” Anna says, wrinkling her forehead. “What advantage could Raphael gain from setting Cas free?”

“No clue,” Gabriel admits, running his hands through his already messy hair and looking a little bit anxious. “But I doubt it's something good.”


* * * * *


You look awful.”

Maggie's voice is reproachful, but her eyes belie her words. Her expression is full of badly concealed worry as she leads Castiel to a group of trees at the edge of the clearing, which became their meeting spot so many months ago, and helps him to settle on the hard forest floor.

What happened to you?” she asks, examining the obvious injuries on his face, the bleeding and bruising, with hesitant care.

A disagreement,” Castiel simply says and shoves her hand away that is brushing his split lip and making him squirm involuntarily.

This looks like a fight,” Maggie counters. “Did you go into battle again? Stupid dragons and their stupid bloodlust!”

Castiel grits his teeth and wonders why he even came here. He just needed a place to withdraw, to lick his wounds, and for some reason all he could think about was this small clearing which he grew so accustomed to. He had no idea that Maggie would be there as well although, as he realizes now, a part of himself almost wished for her company, as insane as such thoughts may be.

There was no fight,” Castiel object. “Just a disagreement.”

Maggie rolls her eyes. “You know what I do when I've got a disagreement with someone? I yell, I curse, I insult. But this … you look like someone was about to rearrange your face.”

We are dragons, Margret!” Castiel reminds her with an exasperated sigh. “We have teeth and claws. It happens.”

For a moment it appears as if she's going to argue some more and he feels something warm within his chest. He can't remember the last time someone used to be that concerned about him.

Anna perhaps. So many centuries ago.

Who did this to you?” Maggie asks, her voice still strained. Out of nowhere there is a cloth in her hands and she carefully starts to wipe away some of the blood. “Was it the one you always complain about?”

Castiel smiles faintly. “Gabriel? No, he is one of the few who doesn't resolve conflicts with force. He's a trickster, not a fighter.” He takes a deep breath. “No, it was Raphael.”

Maggie blinks a few times. “Raphael?”

She still seems so surprised when he talks about his family in an open manner. At first he refused to give her any information, but somewhere along the way he decided it wouldn't hurt for her to know a few names. She couldn't do anything bad with it. He still refrains from giving her anything valuable and this will probably never change. The safety of his family is way too important, even if he grew to somehow trust Maggie the last year.

I wasn't cautious enough,” Castiel explains, his voice heavy. “I still smelled like human when I encountered him.”

Maggie looks up. “You smelled like me ,” she realizes, her eyes growing wider.

Usually I'm very careful.” Castiel licks the injury on his lip. “But I was tired and forgot to pay attention. He confronted me.”

Maggie's eyes flicker with something that crosses too fast for Castiel's still fuzzy brain to process. “What did you tell him?”

Castiel shrugs absently. “That I met some humans by accident. You can't wholly avoid it, so it seemed a fair enough lie, in my opinion. But obviously Raphael thought differently.”

Raphael didn't believe one word coming out of Castiel's mouth. He accused his brother of betrayal, calling Castiel as tainted as Anna, and challenged him before Castiel even had a chance to make his point more clear. Nobody made any attempts to interfere, so Raphael focused all his pent-up fury (that Castiel probably was only partly responsible for, just unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time) on Castiel until Gabriel broke them off.

I'm so sorry,” Maggie whispers. “That's all my fault.”

It's not,” Castiel disagrees. “No one is forcing me to be here and yet I am. It is my decision and mine alone. I'm aware of the possible consequences.”

Maggie ducks her head. “Still … I'm not worth it. You're better off without me.”

Castiel watches her closely. There is just something about her he can't really grasp. It would indeed be the far smarter choice to never see her again, but for some reason it feels simply wrong even thinking about that. Fate brought them together and Castiel can't bring himself to repent it.

You should leave me behind before someone like Raphael will kill you someday,” she says with emphasis. “I don't want to be the cause of your death.”

Castiel takes her hand and squeezes it slightly. “There are things worse than death,” he counters. “Do not worry about him, I will deal with Raphael. He can't harm me.”

He knows it's a lie and Maggie probably knows it as well, but she smiles at him anyway and tries to look comforted, albeit not very convincing. They're most likely going to have this exact same talk many times in the future.

So he keeps from pointing to the far worse injuries underneath his clothes and smiles back.

In the end this is all he can do for now.

 

Chapter Text

“So, wait, let me get this straight!” Dean narrows his eyes and watches Castiel, who is sitting right next to him on Anna's couch. “Dragons are actually shapeshifters?”

“Kind of,” Castiel agrees. “We share the same ancestors, probably millions of years ago. Although today we don't have that much in common, I have to admit. Shapeshifters are capable of changing their form nearly endlessly, a lot of them can't even remember the face they were born with. Dragons on the other hand are quite limited in that area. Most of us only change between two bodies – one our true form, of course, and the other in the majority of cases the most dominant life form in our specific territory so we're able to blend in. But some of us are even powerful enough to switch between multiple appearances.”

Dean can't help but muse how many supernatural beings he already met without knowing. The nice cashier at the supermarket, the homeless guy who always talks about the apocalypse or maybe even someone closer to him? That thought makes him shiver involuntarily. Anna, who he's known for years now, already turned out to be a dragon, so who would be next?

“And … the way you're looking right now …?” Dean asks vaguely, not sure how to voice it. Would it be kinda inappropriate to ask further questions?

“It's a choice,” Castiel explains patiently. “Some of us create something completely new, but they're mostly exceptions. The better part of us looks for … well, for models in the real world, if you want to phrase it like that. My face is based on a preacher named James I saw a lot of centuries ago. I can't exactly tell you why I chose him above anyone else.” He shrugs. “It just felt right.”

There is something close to disappointment bubbling inside Dean. “So, your face …?” he mutters, squirming a bit. “The nose, the eyes –?”

“We can't change the eyes,” Castiel objects instantly. “Anything else, yes, but the eyes stay with us.”

Dean releases a breath he wasn't aware he was holding. Castiel's eyes were the first thing that struck Dean speechless, that made him trust the stranger in Anna's kitchen all these weeks ago. It had been one of the most intense experiences of his life and it would have been kinda depressing to hear now that it had been the eyes of a dead preacher and not Castiel's.

“Some of us like to turn into animals instead of humans,” Castiel continues, apparently oblivious to Dean's short inner turmoil. “To walk among humans without being noticed. Or sometimes to explore elements we can't reach in our dragon form.”

Dean wrinkles his forehead. “Elements?”

“The sea,” Castiel explains. “We can't exactly swim or even dive. But some of us love it nonetheless, so they change into something more suitable for water.”

“I could teach you how to swim,” Dean blurts without even thinking and blushes immediately. “Um, I mean, humans can learn, so you …”

Castiel chuckles amused. “Yes, maybe we could someday. I never really aspired to learn it before, but I guess it might be enjoyable.”

Dean smiles, already imagining them at the big lake a few miles out of town. In his youth he used to swim there all the time – during their vacations quite daily – and it's still one of his most favorite places to be. He would bring Castiel to the small piece of beach with the softest sand, right beside that big grove, enjoy the warm sun for a bit (and additionally the sight of Castiel in his swimming trunks) before dipping into the refreshing water.

Yeah, it's a nice thought.

Until a third voice intercepts, “Ugh, Anna already warned me that you two are gross, but this is seriously the worst!

Dean flinches and turns his attention back the laptop screen. He's immediately confronted with Gabriel's reproachful face, obviously not entirely happy about being ignored for the last five minutes since Castiel started to talk about dragon physiques and Dean lost himself once again in a conversation with the blue-eyed man. As nervous as he had been about calling Gabriel in the first place and making a good impression, quite aware that the older brother had the power to take Castiel away from Trentwood – and away from Dean – in the blink of an eye, he quickly forgot about him as soon as Castiel started to ramble and got endearingly passionate about the dragon's shapeshifting abilities.

“Um, sorry,” Dean says, ducking his head and hoping he looks guilty enough.

Gabriel's lips, however, already curl up into a knowing smile. “Nah, it's kinda cute.”

And then he winks, laughing quietly.

Dean squirms, not sure what to say once again. He had been so fucking anxious to meet this guy after Castiel had told him about Gabriel's demand to get to know Dean. Castiel described his brother as unpredictable and erratic, with a very weird sense of humor nobody is really able to grasp, and at the same time fiercely protective of his family. Castiel didn't say it out loud, but it was heavily implied that Gabriel wouldn't hesitate to get him and Anna out of Trentwood if he'd think Dean a threat whatsoever.

So of course Dean felt pressured immensely, perhaps more so than anytime before. He just wasn't allowed to screw this up, to let this sort-of peace crumble like a house of cards. He couldn't lose Castiel now, not after realizing how much he meant to him, and so he prepared himself for every eventuality.

At least he hoped he did.

Instead of introducing himself as everyone else would have done, Gabriel immediately apologized – not very seriously – for his sweaty appearance and told them about his wild sex marathon – which he just put on hold to talk with his little brother's “pretty boyfriend” -- in horrible detail, making Dean grimace more than once while Castiel next to him on the couch didn't even wince, totally unimpressed.

Castiel is obviously way too used to this, but all Dean could think about was the second party of that marathon somewhere in that apartment, waiting impatiently for her lover to end his phone call and come back to bed.

Or the couch, the kitchen counter, the coffee table, the bathtub or the balcony.

Yeah, Gabriel didn't skip any single detail.

But as soon as Castiel started talking, going on endlessly about different subjects like a hyperactive child, Dean had been distracted way quicker than a dog in a ball park and he forgot about horny dragons.

“Okay, guys, let's get this over with because I don't have all day.” Gabriel grins widely and Dean refuses to overthink this comment. “I'd like to talk alone with Dean.”

Castiel tenses up at these words. “Gabriel …”

“No, no, Cassie, that was part of our bargain,” Gabriel interrupts. “And quite frankly you're a fucking distraction, dear brother. Dean is too busy gazing into your sparkling eyes to pay me any attention.”

Dean feels an intense flush creeping up his cheeks and decides to say nothing in the face of this accusations. He couldn't have denied it anyway.

Castiel still hesitates, apparently not very comfortable with leaving them by themselves, but when Dean takes his hand and squeezes it reassuringly, he relaxes a bit.

“Don't worry,” Dean says. “I survived Melinda Bradsmith eating too many hash brownies at a freshman party and annoying me all night with off-key musical numbers. I can deal with your brother.”

He is determined to sound confident and self-assured while at the same time ignoring the fact that Gabriel is a powerful supernatural being who is probably able to kill him via Skype.

“Fine,” Castiel eventually concedes. “But please don't scar him for life, Gabriel.”

“I'll give my best, but I can't make any promises,” Gabriel says, chuckling.

They exchange a look, so fucking intense that Dean can't fight the inevitable quiver, and Dean begins to wonder whether dragons are maybe capable of communicating in more than one way. He asked himself that question at times before, especially when he studied Castiel and Anna sharing special glances as if they were talking telepathically with each other, and he makes a mental note to check with Castiel later concerning this specific topic.

Eventually Castiel leans toward Dean, whispers, “Good luck!” way too close to Dean's ear, his breath hot and promising, before he leaps to his feet and heads for the garden outside.

Dean watches him go and has to admit that the sight of Castiel in that tight jeans is definitely worthwhile.

He needs to thank Anna for buying them in the first place.

“From time to time I like to turn myself into a monkey,” Gabriel suddenly says, interrupting Dean's train of thoughts and making him frown in confusion.

This was seriously not the direction he imagined this conversation to go.

“A monkey?” Dean asks, bewildered. “Why?”

Gabriel shrugs. “It's easier to cause trouble that way,” he explains, his voice indicating that it should have been quite obvious. “Monkeys are small and skilled and most people adore them. I once burst the pipes in some prince's favorite vacation home and he cooed at me while his carpets were drowning. It was magnificent!”

Dean merely blinks and is not exactly sure how to react to that sort of information. But according to what Castiel had told him beforehand about his brother, it actually shouldn't be so surprising that Gabriel likes to be a pain in the ass and at the same time looking cute doing so.

“What prince?” Dean eventually asks, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Gabriel grins brightly. “I'm just gonna say that he was very loud, very blond and very European. The rest is state secret.”

Dean lifts an eyebrow. “You're a weird guy.”

Gabriel beams at him as if that's the most amazing praise he ever received. “Well, thank you!” He even bows, laughing loudly. “And you, my friend, seem to be quite alright.”

Dean feels his stiff muscles declamp a bit. It's definitely going far better than he originally thought. He imagined suspicion and incessant grilling, but so far Gabriel had been happy with telling his sex tales and watching Dean and Castiel interacting with each other.

“Thanks, I guess,” Dean offers, smiling crookedly.

“Yeah, I mean you can't be blamed for your hunting, murderous family, right?” Gabriel continues. “Don't get me wrong, I'd be far happier if Cassie wouldn't have to deal with the Campbells at all, but you can't have it all, right?”

Dean feels his chest tighten and drops his gaze. Of course he expected Gabriel to bring up this whole mess at some point, but it's still not very easy thinking about that. Even the simple enough text message he got from his mom this morning, informing him that John and she were about to head out to Dad's friends for the weekend, left him with a dark feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Do you … do you think it'd be better if I'd stay away from Cas?”

The question is quite heavy on his tongue, but Dean can't let it remain there. He's mulling this over in his head for days now and it's driving him mad. He'd have been happy to stay with Castiel for as long as he would have wanted him to, however, he can't ignore the truth. He's got no clue what happened with Castiel in the past and if there is still some immediate danger somehow, but there seem to be so many open wounds Dean is just unable to overlook it.

Yes, he begged Castiel to stay. He promised him that he would be safe, that Dean would keep his mouth shut. He had been so frigging frightened when he saw Castiel packing his bags, ready to leave instantly after discovering Dean's tattoo, and Dean just couldn't think straight. It'd only been important to not let Castiel leave.

But after some consideration Dean realized that he was way too blind to make any kind of promises. He wasn't able to give Castiel a safe home. He had no idea what he was doing here.

So he had to take actions.

And he seriously doesn't want to ask that question. He doesn't even wanna think about staying away. But if it'd be best for Castiel, he'd do it.

Gabriel's whole demeanor softens. “You care about him a great deal, don't you?”

Dean simply nods because there is no way in hell he would deny this right this instant. “I'm … I'm not sure what's going on, you know? If you're all freaking out about this whole hunter thing out of principle or if something else is happening here. I don't even wanna force you to tell me or whatever, it's your own fucking business.” It probably wouldn't have been very healthy to force a dragon to do something against his will anyway. “I just need to know if my presence here could be dangerous.”

Gabriel studies him intently, his eyes examining every single twitch on Dean's face. “So you would stay away if I'd tell you to?”

“Yes,” Dean agrees.

“Even though you're stupidly in love with Castiel?”

Dean flinches a bit. He should have seen this coming as well, but nonetheless it feels kinda weird hearing it out loud like that.

“Yes,” he confirms, ignoring his wildly thumping heart. This was seriously not the time for lame excuses or even lies and maybe it's too early to say he's in love, but he has to concede that he never felt this way before.

Gabriel leans back on the couch, folding his arms in front of his chest. “Okay, listen, Dean-o,” he orders, after some evaluation. “I'm not gonna lie: It'd be easier without you in the picture. You're a fucking inconvenience. Admittedly a pretty one, but nonetheless this whole chaos would be a little less chaotic if none of us would know your stupid name.”

Dean clenches his jaw and refrains from protesting. Gabriel is most likely right after all.

“But there is no use crying over spilt milk.” Gabriel shrugs it off as if it's not that big of a deal. “You're here, you're obviously queer, so we have to deal with that. And telling you to stay away would never work anyway. Cassie can be very stubborn sometimes and he'd probably fight for you like crazy.”

Dean is unable to contradict. Most of the time Castiel is kind and nice, but there is a fire burning behind his eyes Dean is able to see sometimes when stronger emotions are involved. Castiel is not an innocent and fluffy puppy, he never was, and Dean should bear in mind to never forget that.

“So let me ask a few questions,” Gabriel says, rolling his shoulder as if preparing for a fight. “You had no idea that the whole fucking Campbell clan likes to hunt monsters?”

Dean snorts. “No.”

“Do you have any contact with a member of the actively hunting part?”

Dean shakes his head. “No. I know there are some distant cousins or something, but I've never met them.” He bites his bottom lip. “Just my grandparents, from time to time. But my mom is watching like a hawk everytime they're over. They don't dare to talk about the hunter business.”

Gabriel narrows his eyes and it's quite clear that he doesn't like that tidbit of information. “Are there any surprise visits?”

“Never,” Dean promises. “Not even my mom.”

And so he goes on, tells him in great detail how Mary is doing everything in her power to keep this whole mess far away from her children. He's very keen to show Gabriel without any doubt that there is no reason to worry a Campbell would come to their doorstep unannounced anytime soon.

“Well, Anna told me basically the same,” Gabriel explains eventually. “And she's an expert in that area. No one can escape her watchful eyes.”

Dean starts to fidget. “So … you think it'd be safe? For Cas?”

Say yes!, he yells inside of his head.

“I already talked about this with Anna and Cassie,” Gabriel says, smirking. “For now it'd be better if he'd stay put. A relocation wouldn't be wise at the moment.”

Dean can't help releasing a relieved breath.

“Happy now?” Gabriel grins lopsidedly, his eyes glinting in a way that makes Dean nervous a little bit. “Well, I live to serve.”

Dean snorts. “Yeah, sure.”

“Don't be ungrateful, you bastard,” Gabriel objects lightheartedly. “I could ask you about your intentions regarding my poor brother right now. Or give you The Speech, capital letters and everything, and threaten to break your neck and bury your lifeless corpse in the desert if you'd dare to hurt him.” He waves it off. “But I don't. Because you look like the worst case of lovesick puppy I've ever seen. You probably would rip off all your limbs than betray my dear baby brother, wouldn't you?”

Once again Dean can't exactly contradict those words, so he says, smiling, “You know, you're not so bad.”

Gabriel laughs aloud. “That's very nice of you, Winchester. But I seriously am!”

Dean shakes his head. “I've met worse.”

Gabriel raises a pointed eyebrow and it's more than obvious that he's sensing some kind of challenge. “And if I'd tell you that, apart from this shirt --” he points at the black piece of cloth covering his torso, “ – I've been completely naked this whole time?”

Dean pauses, staring at him in disbelief.

Is he really insinuating …?

“Are you telling me …?” Dean can't even voice it without grimacing at the same time.

“You should be glad that I even found this shirt, our clothes are scattered all over the place.” He chuckles. “And you likely wouldn't have appreciated to see me entirely bare since my chest is covered in --”

Oh God, please stop!” Dean hastily interjects, waving his arms in a ridiculous and very fruitless manner. “Okay, I admit you're really bad! I seriously didn't wanna hear this!”

Gabriel grins widely and for a second Dean actually fears that the other man would change the angle of the camera a bit, giving Dean a full-view, but thankfully he resists the urge to expose himself and mortify Dean for life.

Instead he says, “It's only natural, my friend. I bet even Cassie likes to --”

Dammit, okay!” Dean cuts in promptly, closing his eyes for a brief moment. He honestly doesn't wanna talk with Gabriel about that. “Just stop speaking!”

Gabriel leans forward, his face so fucking smug Dean wonders how this guy lives his life without being punched on a daily basis. But just a second later he remembers that he's facing a mighty dragon who's probably able to take the liberty of a big mouth without being concerned about possible consequences. In case of absolute necessity he likely would just change into an cute monkey and charm everyone, including royal family members, within a ten miles radius.

“You know, underneath all these layers of plaid you're quite adorable, Winchester,” Gabriel says, his grin wide and ominous. “And I'd love to chat some more with you about the presidential elections and the significance of nipples, but actually I've got some things to do you probably don't wanna picture. Although it's quite a shame, you could learn and thing or two --”

“Pass,” Dean interjects promptly.

“Your loss.” Gabriel shrugs it off. “So let's make the goodbye as quick as possible. It was nice meeting you. I think I like you though you could loosen up a bit. And – most importantly – don't forget that I'll rip you to pieces if you breath the wrong words to the wrong person. Quite spectacularly with a lot of blood and body parts flying around, I might add.”

And Dean grimaces, but doesn't comment on it. Chances are that he would let it happen without much of a fight anyway, would he be stupid enough to endanger Castiel somehow.

So in place of making a fuss he just scoffs, “It was nice meeting you too.”



* * * * *



Dean finds Castiel in the garden, right next to a very colorful flowerbed.

Dean pauses a moment and just watches his friend tending to his projects, even talking to the flowers now and then, and he can't keep the ridiculous smile off of his face. He knows he looks like a smitten fool, but he can't bring himself to care anymore. Since the day he met this man he wasn't able to get him out of his head and though he might not really realized it in the beginning, it's so freaking prominent now he's incapable of ignoring it.

Castiel is always there, in the back of his mind, and Dean is perfectly okay with that.

“You're an idiot, Dean Winchester,” Castiel greets him grumpily before Dean even has got the chance to properly arrive and rams a small shovel so hard into the ground it almost hurts.

“What?” Dean halts, blinking in confusion. Did he miss something? “Why?”

“You could have talked to me, you know?” Castiel's eyes are still fixed on the squishy earth in front of him while the grinding of his teeth is so freaking loud it makes Dean shudder. “Instead of asking Gabriel if it would be better to stay away from me --”

“You eavesdropped?” Dean cuts in. His legs feel very weak all of a sudden and he drops onto the grass next to Castiel without really thinking about it.

Dammit.

“I – I didn't mean to.” There is a light flush spreading across Castiel's cheeks. “But my strength is coming back slowly – including my better hearing – and sometimes … well, some things I can't really control that well yet.”

Dean recalls Castiel telling him about some magic voodoo that should help getting his powers back, but it's been merely a few days since then, so Dean didn't think about considering it just yet.

“I'm sorry, Cas,” Dean says, sighing. “I just – I had to know, okay? I don't wanna put you in any kind of danger.”

Castiel looks up at those words, his blue eyes fierce. “You could have talked to me!”

It's a glimpse of the powerful dragon hidden beneath, Dean is sure of that. He can see the energy buzzing behind Castiel's eyes, so alive and heavy, and for a split second it takes Dean's breath away.

“You could have come to me,” Castiel continues. “We're friends and we should be able to talk with each other about our fears and doubts.”

“It's not that I don't trust you, Cas,” Dean hurries to make it perfectly clear. “I just needed a neutral party.”

Castiel scowls. “So I'm emotionally compromised?”

Yes!” Dean confirms, his throat clogging up. “People are sometimes stupid when it comes to the ones they care about. Hell, I am the stupid nutjob most of the time!” He can't even remember all the reckless decisions he made on Sam's behalf. “I tried to be reasonable for once, y'know? It's far too important than to let feelings get in the way of logic.”

Castiel clenches his fists, apparently still far away from content. “You are an idiot, Dean Winchester.”

Dean quirks his head to one side, smiling faintly. “I can live with that.”

Castiel snorts and for a second Dean wonders whether some steam would rush out of his nostrils. “What would you have done if Gabriel would have told you to stay away? Ignored me? Moved in with your brother to not be close to me?”

Dean deflates. “Cas ...”

“No, I'm curious about your plans,” Castiel objects indignantly. “Since I recall that you merely a few days ago actually begged me to stay.”

“I didn't want you to run away without any kind of preparation,” Dean says. “And … I wasn't thinking clearly, okay? I just didn't want you to leave.” He inhales deeply. “And I still don't want you to leave.”

Castiel grits his teeth. “You still could have talked to me instead of seeking Gabriel's advice behind my back.”

Dean squirms, but he can't bring himself to put some distance between them. “I never meant to upset you. I just wanted to do what's right.”

Castiel shakes his head, exasperatedly. “Humans ...” he mutters.

They fall silent after that. Castiel averts his gaze after a short scrutiny and turns his attention back to the flowerbed in front of him. He starts to dig into the dirt, probably far more forceful than strictly necessary, and mumbles something underneath his breath that sounds like the foreign language he sometimes uses without him really noticing. He is quite beautiful in his anger, his eyes glinting in a way that seems highly supernatural and the air around him sizzling like crazy, and Dean can't help but realize that he's honestly far gone on the guy.

At least he can't recall the last time he called someone 'beautiful'.

It's likely he never did.

“So,” Dean says after a while to break the tense silence, “your brother is really something.”

Castiel stops in his movements and shoots him a glance. “You want to talk about Gabriel right now?”

Dean raises a brow, hesitating. “Um … I guess?”

Castiel sighs deeply. “You just learned I overheard your whole conversation and you want to talk about Gabriel being a menace?”

Obviously Dean is missing something again. This is seriously not his day. “What do you mean, Cas?”

Castiel simply looks at him, his face fucking unreadable, while he obviously contemplates some things in his head Dean is not so sure he wants to know about. In the end he announces, “Sometimes humans are a mystery to me.”

Since Dean's got no clue how to answer that he only goes with, “Uh …”

“You know, dragons are straightforward,” Castiel explains, absently throwing the shovel in his hand aside. “When we're attracted to someone we tell them, plain and simple. We don't wonder, we don't freak, we don't hesitate. We don't make a big deal out of it like humans tend to.” He looks straight into Dean's eyes. “And we certainly don't tell the brother about our affection before confessing to the object of our desires first.”

Dean freezes.

Oh damn.

Shit!

He totally forgot that he basically declared his love for Castiel to Gabriel in a quite dramatic way, with offering to sacrifice his own happiness and stuff.

Wow, this is officially not Dean's day!

He feels his stomach drop a few floors and just stares at Castiel, unable to form any kind of coherent sentence. What would he have said anyway?

“I watched a lot of your so-called 'chick-flicks',” Castiel says, sounding way too fucking calm and using air-quotes like the adorable fucker he is. “I saw these people dancing around each other again and again and I wondered whether humans are really that excruciating. It seemed senseless to me. Time-consumptive.” He tilts his head. “But Anna told me that it's not only the fear of rejection that makes you act like this. You're afraid of the awkwardness afterwards, the change of the relationship you had before. Sometimes friendships are even destroyed over this. And this was something hard for me to grasp. Dragons don't know this concept. It seemed weird to me to consider so many factors.”

Dean is frozen in place and has got no idea how he should interpret these words. Is Castiel telling him that Dean shouldn't bother to agonize about potential bashfulness? That Castiel would view him exactly the same, even after knowing about Dean's feelings?

Had he been rejected?

“But I'm sick of it,” Castiel suddenly announces. “Maybe it would have been the appropriate thing to not bring it up and make you uncomfortable, but I'm tired of acting like a human the whole time when I'm most certainly not. Life is way too short for this nonsense.”

Dean blinks. “Uh … what?”

Suddenly Castiel looks right into his eyes, his gaze like a fucking hurricane. “Dean, I'm definitely reciprocating your feelings!”

Dean's brain short-circuits for a second after hearing this.

Is this really happening right now?

Or is he having one of his very realistic dreams again and they're about to get handsy here in this flowerbed? At least he half expects Castiel to lean closer to him, whisper some sweet words in his ear and push him gently into the dirt, brilliantly smiling and happy. Just like he did many nights before.

But instead Castiel creases his forehead, obviously deeply in thought. “I'm doing this in the wrong order, am I not? From what I gathered there are supposed to be dates first, meals and movies, with a clear romantic intent. To take things slow if you want them to last and be meaningful.”

Meaningful.

Well, it's of course not a complete surprise that Castiel views him as more than just a simple friend, there had been a lot of signs in the last few days and maybe even weeks, but the entire thing seems kinda incredulous to Dean.

And he's more than astonished when he finds his own voice somehow. At least he hears himself croak, “Um … it's not like there are actual rules --”

“But there are expectations,” Castiel clarifies. “And I apologize for ignoring them.”

Dean stares at him in utter disbelief.

What are you supposed to say to that? His parents never once prepared him for this sort of situation and sure, they can't exactly be blamed for not warning Dean that one day he might meet a dragon who would be far too exasperated with human standards to follow any kind of protocol, but nonetheless Dean can't help but thinking about it.

“However, our situation is quite unique,” Castiel continues, his composure tensing a bit. “I hope I didn't make you too uncomfortable.”

Well, Dean can't exactly claim it's the most relaxed he's ever been, but at the same time it feels amazingly good. Thrilling. Exciting.

Because who the hell wouldn't be fucking exalted if the guy they've been crushing so hard on for weeks now reciprocates their feelings?

“I would like to ask you out,” Castiel finally announces. “On a date.”

And suddenly he blushes in such an endearing way, his confidence crumbling like it just had been a fragile facade and nothing more, that Dean's heart melts at the pure sight of it.

And he needs a few moment until Castiel's words finally reach his brain.

“Oh.” He widens his eyes, surprised. “Um …”

What do cool and collected people say in moments like this?

He totally forgot.

In the end he manages a “I'd love to” and is rewarded with Castiel's beaming smile, his cheeks flushed and his eyes shining like the frigging sun. And Dean can't remember if anyone ever reacted so fucking happy to a simple yes by him before in his life.

“Great.” All of a sudden Castiel leaps to his feet. “I need to ask Anna what would be appropriate for a first date.”

But before he's got the chance to rush back inside Dean calls, “Hey, wait!”

Castiel pauses and watches how Dean very ungracefully rises from the ground, his whole body vibrating as if he can't wait to run inside and ask Anna for dating tips.

“You can't ...” Dean begins, brushing some dirt off his jeans, “... you can't just tell a guy that you --” the words get stuck in his throat and he starts to cough uncomfortably, “you don't drop a bomb like that and then run away, man!”

Castiel seems puzzled. “Oh,” he merely says. “I'm sorry. I'm not used to your human customs and I assumed you wouldn't appreciate the dragon way.”

“The dragon way?” Dean frowns. “What's the dragon way?”

“Right after proclaiming our mutual interest for each other – we would be mating,” Castiel informs him, matter-of-factly. “Here, on the ground. Out in the open. Probably for hours.”

Well, Dean always wanted to know how it'd feel when his brain would stop working.

And now he freaking knows!

His heart nearly jumps out of his ribcage and he lets out a choked noise, desperately trying not to think about this specific scenario because he can already feel his body reacting to this image in a very prominent way. And the last thing he wants is sporting a fucking boner here in Anna's garden, for anyone to see.

Goddammit!

After what feels like an eternity he finally stammers, “Uh … no, I was not exactly – thinking about that …”

He blushes fiercely once again and it doesn't help at all when Castiel suddenly invades his personal space in a way he never did before. Their chests are pressed together, solid and hot, and Dean forgets to breath for a moment.

“You were thinking about a kiss.” It's not a question.

Dean blinks a few times and tries to process what's happening right now. “Well …”

“I thought kisses are usually shared after the first date,” Castiel wonders.

Dean licks his lips and is more than pleased when he notices Castiel watching the motion very closely. “Like I said … there are no actual rules --”

That's apparently all Castiel needs for finally leaning in.

And yeah, Dean fantasied about this moment many times and he always figured Castiel to be soft and gentle and hesitant. All pure and blissful innocence.

But in reality Castiel goes to fucking town!

Dean can't suppress the surprised noise when Castiel pulls him impossibly closer and kisses him freaking senseless. It's wet and messy and pretty sure the most passionate kiss he ever received. Dean is barely able to keep up, his lips and tongue moving on their own volition, and his nerves feel like they're on a freaking roller coaster. It's so powerful and so hot that Dean can't believe this is not a very vivid dream.

Accompanied by Castiel's eager mouth his hands are frigging everywhere – running over Dean's arms and chest, carding through his hair, brushing over his skin – and Dean starts to wonder whether Castiel maybe does want to indulge in the dragon way after all.

And Dean can't help being totally okay with the image of getting ravished by a dragon out here in the open, for the entire neighborhood to witness. At least his body, screaming all over, is completely on board.

But before it comes to that Castiel's demeanor suddenly softens. His kiss turns slower, but no less deep, and his hands stay in Dean's disheveled hair. The whole thing becomes sensual really fucking quickly and Dean enjoys it just as much. He examines the insides of Castiel's mouth, listening obsessively to every noise coming from the other man, regardless how small and quiet, and he almost loses himself in the sensation. Warmth rushes through his body, making him giddy and excited.

It doesn't matter that it's actually a guy right here in his arms. It's not even important that he's not particularly human.

It's just Cas.

And he feels amazing. His lips are hot and pliable, his body firm and Dean already imagines them being together in every single way possible.

When they finally pull back a bit – not very far, but enough to allow them some oxygen – Dean just grins at him. He most likely looks absolutely ridiculous, but he doesn't give a damn. Especially since Castiel's own smile doesn't seem any better.

“Wow,” Dean simply breaths because there are actually no words to describe what he just experienced.

Castiel chuckles. “Indeed.”

Dean leans closer once again and drops a soft kiss onto his cheek. He's determined to say something suave and cool, but his brain is not back online yet, so he gives it up eventually and enjoys the skin-to-skin contact instead.

“Do you have time to spare tomorrow?” Castiel asks. “For our date?”

Dean frowns. Does Castiel really expect from him to remember what day it is?

A part of himself is about to exclaim, “Why not now?”, but then the fog in his mind decreases a bit and he recalls the time. It's quite late already and he hears some clatter from the kitchen inside – probably Anna, preparing dinner.

So he says, “Sure, tomorrow”, eager to make the time and cancel eventual plans. There is nothing more important right now anyway.

Castiel answers with a brilliant smile and Dean can't fight the urge to kiss him once again.

 

Chapter Text

The next morning Dean is greeted with “You got laid last night, didn't you?” before he's even able to open his office door.

He turns around and is confronted with a smirking Charlie whose whole body seem to buzz as if she already drank way too much caffeine, considering it's barely 7.30 am.

“What?” Dean lifts an eyebrow and tries to appear as confused and innocent as possible, suppressing the blush that is about to become visible.

“Sexy times!” Charlie announces loud enough for Jo in the next room to listen up curiously. “You and another person – doing the nasty! Getting wild! Having --”

Okay, I get the gist!” Dean cuts in sharply. “Why don't you try to be a little more louder? I think my parents in Minnesota couldn't fucking hear you!”

Charlie rolls her eyes exasperatedly. “We're all grown-ups here. And it's a natural, beautiful thing. No need to feel ashamed.”

Dean kicks his door open and throws his jacket on the coat rack in a well-practiced move. He is determined to not think too visually about the day before because otherwise Charlie wouldn't let him live this down. But it turns out to be quite hard, Dean realizes the next moment as he spots a text message by Castiel on his phone, wishing him a nice morning and telling him he is very excited about their date – with way too many exclamation points and emoticons. It's a fucking challenge to fight back a fond smile and keep a cool exterior.

“I didn't get laid last night,” Dean says, eager to sound as annoyed as manageable.

“But something happened!” Charlie observes, grinning broadly. “You have this glow.”

Dean snorts and shuts the door forcefully since Jo is just peeking around the corner, aiming for nonchalant and missing by ten-thousand miles. And noisy employees, who are fairly acquainted with his family and basically everyone else he knows, are the last thing he needs.

Glow?” Dean shakes his head. “Did you read too much fanfiction again? Do my eyes sparkle too? Is my dick telling you that it found true love?”

Charlie grimaces. “Don't make me think of your junk, Winchester! Ew …!”

Dean starts to laugh. “You're the one who wanted to talk about my sex life. Don't complain now.”

Charlie grumbles underneath her breath for a second, obviously torn between disgust about Dean's private parts and curiosity concerning the events last night, before she eventually drops onto one of the chairs and says, “Well, let's not go into detail, alright? But I need something because it looks like someone bend you over the kitchen table and did naughty things to you.”

She grins broadly while probably at the same time eager not to envision it in her mind.

Dean merely huffs. “Anna told you, didn't she?”

Glow my ass!

Anna didn't witness the intense kissing action in the garden and neither Dean nor Castiel hinted at it during their joined dinner afterwards, but the men's disheveled hairs and kiss-swollen lips didn't exactly need any kind of explanation. Anna studied them the whole meal with that knowing smile people always get when they think they're aware of something nobody has vocalized yet.

Charlie groans. “Yeah, okay, fine. She called me last night. Happy now?”

“I'd be happier if you wouldn't snoop around in my fucking business!” Dean clarifies, his voice hard and determined.

Charlie, however, isn't impressed. As always. “I'm overjoyed you're getting some, Dean. What friend would I be if I wouldn't cheer from the sidelines?”

Dean pulls a face, thinking about that specific image and not liking it one bit. There had been too many people at all times interested in his private life, nagging him about dates and girlfriends and whatever, telling him it'd be time to settle down any time soon, and Dean let it happen after a while of fruitless resistance, way too tired to pick up any kind of major fight. But maybe it's time now to make some statement since it can't be good if people started to look way too closely at Castiel.

Don't!” he orders, his gaze steady. “Let's keep our private matters private, how about that?”

Charlie's smile falters a bit, but she doesn't seem offended. “Okay, sorry,” she apologizes sincerely. “I didn't mean to cross some kind of line.”

Dean feels his stiff muscles relax a bit. “It's fine to be curious. I'd be too. It's just …”

“Yeah, I get it,” Charlie cuts in. “The whole thing with Cas – it's an unique situation. Considering what happened to him … whatever it may be …” She glances at Dean and it's clear as a bell that she's obviously wondering how much Dean knows about the entire situation. “You don't want to scare him off with nosy friends and all that bullshit, right?”

Dean nods. Scaring Castiel away is maybe the biggest fear of them all.

“Okay, duly noted.” Charlie straightens her back, a gleeful expression once again on her face. “No prying or the like and only talking about your super personal business if one of you'd start with the subject. It's fine, I can keep it cool.”

Dean's actually highly doubtful that she'd even survive a day without at least asking one single, harmless enough question about what they'd been up to in the garden, but he appreciates the effort.

“But may I say that I'm happy for both of you?” Charlies adds as an afterthought. “You're cute together.”

Dean keeps a pile of papers on his desk from falling over after accidentally losing his foot for a moment and kicking its leg, cursing slightly. He wasn't prepared for the warm feeling growing inside of him by simply hearing the word 'together'.

He refuses to blush and tries to deflect his awkwardness by hastily stating, “Um … you've actually never seen us. Together, I mean.”

Yes, the term sounds good.

Meanwhile Charlie lifts her eyebrows in surprise. “Oh damn, you're right,” she realizes. “We need to change that quickly.” She mulls the thought over in her head. “How about an evening of board games and junk food at my place? Sound good?”

Actually it sounds kinda terrifying since Charlie always gets fairly competitive and tries to crush her opponents like an overeager warlord trying to get rid off their rivals. But on the other hand it's really fun every single time and Dean is quite sure Castiel would be up for the challenge.

“I'll ask him,” Dean promises, already seeing them in Charlie's spacious apartment sitting around a table and throwing battle cries at each other. It's a lively and very nice picture and Dean can't help but noticing that he never before envisaged one of his dates in a similar position at any time in their relationships. Okay, perhaps Cassie once or twice, but she had been different. He had loved her or at least had been close to that feeling.

So what it is saying about Castiel that Dean doesn't even hesitate to take him over to Charlie's place and make him an even stronger part of his life than he already is?

Shit, he'd probably introduce him to his parents without a second thought – if, of course, that whole supernatural mess wouldn't stand in their way – and that's a major deal!

“Great,” Charlie says, grinning like she just won some price. “Then just let me know the time and date. It's gonna be awesome!”

Dean smiles right back at her, agreeing silently.

“And --” She quirks her head to one side, obviously contemplating. “I know it's not okay to discuss what you're doing in your private time together, but can we talk about you?”

Dean eyes her warily. “Me?”

“Yeah,” she says. “Are you freaking out yet?”

Dean takes place on his comfortable office chair and crosses his arms. “Are you asking if I had my big gay crisis yet?”

Charlie shrugs. “Yeah, I guess.”

It's not an easy question because of course he's freaking out! And for so many reasons – the fact that Castiel is unmistakable a guy, gorgeous and well-built and hot and … well, a guy! And a fucking dragon, mighty and powerful beneath his comparatively tiny human body. And the whole freaking business with Dean's family, making the threat of exposure quite serious.

And probably the scariest thing of them all is the undeniable fact that Dean is feeling something he never felt before. It's consuming and intense, sometimes making it hard to breath or even think.

So yes, he's freaking out!

But at the same time it feels so damned right that he can't keep from being comfortable and relaxed.

Charlie seems to suspect what is going on inside of him, so she gifts him with an easy smile and says reassuringly, “You know, you're doing quite fine actually. I thought you'd live in denial for a few more months or even fucking years until finally giving in.”

Dean scowls at her. “Thanks for the confidence.”

“You're welcome, handmaiden,” Charlie answers cheerfully. “And just don't overthink the whole deal. You like him, he likes you – in the end that's all that matters. Nobody will judge you around here. I mean, sure, some will be surprised, I guess, but hey, that's their problem.” She shrugs. “And it's not like you need to go out there and call him your boyfriend or whatever in front of the whole town. Like you said, it's your own fucking business.”

Dean can't argue with that. He never intended to make this thing official in Trentwood's monthly newsletter anytime soon anyway. He can't even be sure what they're having right now, what they are to each other. After all, they shared a few kisses so far.

Breathtaking, mind-blowing, amazing kisses.

And just thinking about it makes him forget all his sorrows in the blink of an eye. Yes, there are a lot of obstacles in their way and it could blow up in their faces spectacularly, but even the tiny chance that everything is going to be alright is worth taking the risk.

And so he smiles, picturing Castiel's warm lips on his and ignores Charlie's fond “Ugh, you're truly disgusting,” completely.



* * * * *



Castiel feels giddy like a young dragon before their first hunt and he enjoys the whirlwind of emotions immensely.

Usually he would be utterly uncomfortable with this, way too content with being rational and collected, but he just needs to recall Dean's lips on his, his fingers touching his body, and he's incapable of withholding a bright smile. Although he imagined their first kiss quite often the last few weeks he never guessed in the end it would feel like this. It let his knees go weak in a total different way than he was used to and he can't stop thinking about it, envisioning it over and over in his mind and wondering more often than not whether it really happened or just had been a very vivid and wonderful dream.

“It's horrible looking at you,” Anna's voice interrupts his train of thought. She is standing at the kitchen counter and grabs one of the cookies Castiel made earlier this morning.

“Horrible?” Castiel frowns. “Why?”

“You're so … smitten.” She pulls a face, but the fondness in her features is quite clear. “It looks like you're about to break into some romantic Disney song.”

“I can assure you that I don't know any Disney songs,” Castiel clarifies, taking some of the boxes Anna likes to call 'Tupperware' and dashing it in the basket in front of him. “And even if I did, I don't sing.”

“But you look like it,” Anna says, chuckling amused. “It suits you.”

Castiel isn't exactly sure what the proper response would be, so he shoots her a quick glance and keeps silent.

Of course she hadn't been in need of someone telling her what happened between Dean and Castiel in the garden after the phone call with Gabriel. She is a dragon after all and though she may use her magic not that often anymore and lost a lot of her strength due to the fact that she isn't surrounded by it day and night like before in the midst of their family, she is still a supernatural being. And naturally she was aware immediately of their intermingled scents since it wasn't really hard to miss anyway. They had smelled so strongly of each other as if they consummated right there outside next to the orchids.

Castiel even had been reluctant to take a shower first, loving Dean's smell on his skin way too much. He'd slept better than anytime before in the last two-hundred years, feeling loved and secure, and he is eager to never lose this feeling again. It's almost like flying and there is nothing in the world Castiel used to love more than stretching his wings and rising up to the sky.

“Do you need some kind of curfew?” Anna asks, her expression gleefully. “I mean, I know you're a big boy and everything and Dean can be a very responsible gentleman when he wants to be, but nonetheless I don't like the thought of you tumbling back here at four a.m., you know?”

Castiel lifts his eyebrow way higher than he ever thought possible. “It's barely two p.m., Anna. I highly doubt that --”

“You'll probably spend at least six hours gazing into each other's eyes,” Anna cuts in, calculating as if she's working out some very difficult equation. “And then a few hours for making out or even other stuff I don't wanna picture ever. And of course you need to eat at some point --”

Thankfully Anna is interjected by Jasper who decided to jump onto the kitchen counter without further ado and bump Castiel's hand encouragingly, obviously keen to get some attention. Castiel hesitates for a second, frowning confused, before he starts to scratch the cat's head and listens to his loud purring with wonderment.

“You're a strange animal,” he tells Jasper. “I believed you didn't like me.”

And yet here he is, ignoring his beloved Anna in favor of Castiel.

“I told you he didn't hate you,” Anna says. “But it's probably the first time ever since you arrived here that you're thoroughly calm. Cats are very sensitive and your anxiousness most likely made the poor guy nervous.”

Castiel continues petting the cat, contemplating if the change inside of him really had been that gravelly that even Jasper picked up on it.

It's not an entirely awful picture.

At some point Jasper seems even eager to climb into Castiel's arms, but then the ringing of the doorbell startles him and he rushes off to his hiding place. Castiel feels some pang of regret at first, but then he recalls who's at the door right now and he forgets about the cat altogether.

Anna grins widely and says, “Have fun on your date!” before climbing the stairs and disappearing from his sight.

Castiel glances after her for a moment, thinking once again that he's very lucky to have her in his life, and walks to the front door.

Dean looks as perfect as ever.

His smile is rivaling with the intensity of the sun when he greets Castiel with a soft, “Hey, Cas.”

Castiel feels his heart swell instantly. “Hello, Dean.”

“I hope my outfit is okay.” Dean points at his clothes – a (nicely) tight jeans, a green shirt, which humans seem to call 'Henley' for some reason, and a light jacket. “You didn't say what you had planned for today, so …” He starts to fidget, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “I just – I just figured we wouldn't go to a fancy restaurant or something. So I hope … it's okay?”

Dean's bashfulness is probably the most charming thing Castiel witnessed in a really long time.

So he can't be helped from stepping forward, framing Dean's face with his hands and pressing a warm kiss on the other man's lips. Dean makes a surprised noise at first and Castiel promptly fears he'd draw back, not comfortable with showing this kind of affection right here on the porch, but then he grabs Castiel gently by the waist, pulls him closer and returns the kiss.

And it feels as amazing as the day before. Maybe even better for some reason although Castiel never thought this possible.

“I surely hope you don't greet everyone on your doorstep like that,” Dean chuckles, their lips only inches apart. “I might get jealous.”

“Don't worry, you're special,” Castiel promises. He runs his finger through Dean's hair, enjoying the softness and the low noise Dean makes in the back of his throat that sounds suspiciously like Jasper's content purring just a minute ago. “And I hope I'm not behaving inappropriately again.”

At first Dean seems way too busy reveling in the nice feeling of having his scalp massaged to react in any way, but eventually he blinks. “Like I said, Cas, no actual rules. If you wanna kiss me before our date, that's fine with me.” He beams. “More than fine.”

Castiel chuckles. “I was actually referring to me kissing you in public.”

Dean hesitates a bit at that, but instead of pulling back and clearing his throat awkwardly like Castiel would have expected, he looks deep into Castiel's eyes and makes the moment way more intimate that it already is.

“We're not actually surrounded by the whole town, Cas,” Dean objects, amused.

And Castiel has to admit that Dean's got a point. The street in front of them is deserted apart from a few pigeons picking at the remnants of a sandwich. Castiel could probably jump right into Dean's arms and rip all his clothes off and no one would notice.

Well, maybe eventually. Castiel assumes that a naked Dean would attract any kind of interested wildlife soon enough.

“I'm not sure I'm ready for making out at the grocery store right next to a bunch of people I've known since I've been in diapers, but …” Dean ducks his head to hide the beautiful blush on his cheeks. “This thing – it's so new. Just let's keep it to ourselves for a little while before all these noisy people will get involved.”

Castiel smiles softly. “There will most likely be no need for an official announcement anyway. According to Anna we are way too obvious.”

Dean snorts and nuzzles Castiel's temple. “Yeah, I guess that's right. Charlie told me basically the same.”

“Apparently I'm about to break into Disney songs,” Castiel informs him and feels pleased when Dean starts to snicker, obviously entertained by this image.

And for a second he considers to stay right where they are. Keep Dean in his arms right here on the porch and enjoy each other's closeness. But he's quite certain that something like this wouldn't exactly count as a 'date' and although Dean doesn't seem like he would complain about staying where they are, Castiel pulls back – rather reluctantly – and walks back to the kitchen to gather their supplies.

Dean perks up instantly when he spots the basket and the blanket in Castiel's hands. “Are we having a picnic?”

He sounds excited about the prospect and Castiel can't fight back a smile. “If you're not opposed to the idea.”

Anna made a lot of suggestions beforehand, telling him about museums and restaurants and entertaining things, but Castiel figured something quiet and nice would be the best option. And since he favors nature above anything else it seemed like a good plan to enjoy a tasty meal outside in the sun.

And by the look on Dean's face he's thinking exactly the same. “Jeez, it's been a fucking long time since I've been to a picnic. At least fifteen years, I think. And never --”

He pauses, flushing, and Castiel can guess that he were about to say that he never before went to a picnic with a romantic partner. It makes Castiel feel at ease immediately.

“Please tell me there is pie in there,” Dean says, eyeing the basket hopefully.

“Cherry pie,” Castiel clarifies. “Quite fresh.”

Dean's eyes gleam almost inhumanly. “Damn, this is already the best date ever.”

He takes the supplies, before Castiel even has got the chance to reassure him that the slight weight won't hurt him, and heads toward the Impala, Castiel right behind him.

“Where to, Cas?” he asks as soon as they have settled in their seats, ready to set off.

“Anna recommended a few spots,” Castiel explains. “She told me about a park in town that's supposedly quite beautiful, although I'm not really sure how crowded it might be there on a warm day like this.” Castiel doesn't exactly fancy too much audience or distractions. “Furthermore, she told me about an open field out of town or about a lake nearby --”

Once again Dean listens up. “The lake?” Promptly his cheeks begin to tinge red as if he just accidentally revealed a secret that was never meant to be shared. “Um … I spent half my youth there, actually. It's really nice.”

Castiel smiles easily. “The lake it is.”

The drive only takes about fifteen minutes and the whole time Dean talks very animatedly about his childhood experiences regarding the lake. How his dad taught him to keep his head above the water, how he got attacked by a very cross bird mother after he accidentally disturbed a nest (“I don't know what kind of bird it was, but it'd been fucking huge!”) and how he got severe sunburn more times than he can count.

And indeed the lake turns out to be quite beautiful. Large and big, the surface sparkling in the light. One of the places you love to visit every time you crave for some serenity.

Castiel spots some people in the distance, but Dean simply ignores them and leads him to a secluded grove, his smile radiating as if he can't wait to show Castiel this very special space. He even links their fingers all the way from the parking lot, although some people are close enough to notice.

“Some other time we could come here for a swim,” Dean suggests while placing the blanket on the ground. “I guess the water isn't that freezing anymore.”

Castiel shoots the lake a calculating glance. “I assume it might be enjoyable.”

“Though we probably have to buy you some swimming trunks first,” Dean goes on. “At least I guess Anna didn't include something like that to your wardrobe, am I right?”

Castiel tilts his head. “We could go naked,” he proposes, enjoying the mild blush spreading across Dean's cheeks way too much.

“Um …” Dean fidgets awkwardly. “I – I don't think people would … approve.”

But the tone in his voice and especially his heart rate indicates that he isn't entirely opposed to the idea.

Castiel would like to poke some more, amplifying this charming flush endlessly, but in the end he decides to just let it go and turn his attention to the hamper instead. He doesn't want for Dean to become uncomfortable and maybe back out eventually. This is way too important and Castiel isn't exactly sure if some harmless teasing might be welcome at this point.

Dean, at least, seems happy to fix his gaze on the food, making a big announcement that he hadn't had anything decent to eat since breakfast and he moans sinfully when Castiel places the small containers filled with fried chicken, potato salad, pasta salad and different kinds of fruit right in front of him.

“Shit, that looks awesome,” Dean praises and promptly digs in.

Castiel watches fondly how he basically attacks the chicken – at least it reminds him a bit of a predator jumping its prey – and feels some sort of pride swell inside of him. Dean never keeps silent when it's about complimenting Castiel's skills.

“I'm glad you like it,” Castiel says.

“But, dude, I'd have been happy with a sandwich or whatever,” Dean makes himself clear, his cheeks puffy like a hamster's storing his food.

“I've told you how much I enjoy cooking for you,” Castiel remarks. “You're always so … enthusiastic.”

There is a beautiful flush creeping up Dean's neck and he hastily takes a few gulps of iced tea, probably in a desperate attempt to lower his inner temperature somehow as quickly as possible. It's a wonderful sight and Castiel wonders how he should be capable of surviving their rest of the date without saying something stupidly deep and meaningful that might Dean scare off.

For the next fifteen minutes they stay mostly quiet, just ravishing the food (at least on Dean's part) and enjoying the stunning view, and Castiel feels more content than in a really long time. There is no pressure, no bad memories, no pitying looks by Anna, which she constantly tries to hide half-successfully. Dean's company has always been quite effective in chasing away all these disconcerting thoughts, but now it actually feels as if none of that really happened. Simply a nightmare and nothing else.

Castiel wonders whether he will be able to hold on to this feeling for some time longer.

Maybe even forever.

Dean, of course, is totally unaware of Castiel's inner turmoil – or rather, the lack thereof. He's an untroubled man with not many worries in his life – well, at least to a certain degree – and he has no problem with cherishing the small things in life. Castiel feels more drawn to him than anytime before.

He scoots a bit closer, even lets their finger brush each other, and Dean merely smiles at him, apparently not aversed to the motion. He even rubs his thumb lightly over Castiel's knuckles and Castiel can't help but watching it with a warmth blossoming inside of him.

After what seems like an eternity he eventually asks, “What do people normally do on dates?”

Dean chuckles and feels obviously endeared by Castiel's faulty knowledge. “They talk,” Dean says while casually throwing a grape in his mouth as if he practiced this technique many times before.

“About what?”

“Depends. If it's a couple who doesn't know each other that well, they talk about their jobs, their families, their hobbies.”

“And if they're like us?” Castiel inquires. “If they have known each other for some time now?”

Dean smiles softly. “Like I said, there are no actual rules, so don't pressure yourself. We can talk about the same stuff we've ranted about the last weeks. Hell, you could give me your pollution-speech again and I'd still be happy to be here with you.”

Before he can even think about it Castiel interlaces his finger with Dean's. “I don't want to speak about pollution, Dean.”

Dean smirks. “Then let's talk about anything. I mean, it doesn't really matter.”

“You're right. I always enjoy our talks, Dean, no matter the topic.”

And so the conversation flows easily, just like it had since the moment they met. Dean tells him about his high school years and how he accidentally asked the wrong girl out to prom (“It wasn't my fault, okay? They looked exactly alike from behind and since I've been a stupid coward back then I blurted out the question to have it over with when I saw that stupid cheerleader uniform and the blonde hair … and, well, I didn't check beforehand if it's the right girl, you know? And afterwards I couldn't tell her that it'd been a mistake 'cause she was so fucking happy I asked her ...”). How he cared thirty-six hours for a puppy, which he found totally miserable in his garden, and fell in love with it after only five minutes (“You should've seen the little guy, he was the cutest thing ever. I nearly cried very manly tears when his owner picked him up.”). And when he talks about the two and half day everyone thought Jess had been pregnant and how the whole family freaked out about it, Dean's eyes shine so brightly it's hard to avert the gaze.

He is so energetic and full of life – something Castiel missed terribly, imprisoned in that dark cave all by himself. There had been no place for hope or even just the simplest spark of light, only desperation and imminent death.

He had been dying for two centuries and completely forgot how to live along the way.

But now, here with Dean, laughing and eating and enjoying the nice weather and each other's company, he begins to remember how it once was.

So he finds himself sharing his own stories. How he watched humanity for a very long time from afar, always wondering what was so special about them, especially after Anna's departure, and witnessed a lot of things people nowadays would call 'history'. How once a witch failed a spell quite impressively and poisoned an area of ten miles with the foulest smell ever so that even the dragons high up in the mountains were forced to leave their home for a week, their sensitive noses not able to withstand that kind of torture (“It was even worse than the time Gabriel and Balthazar had their prank war going on and one of them threw some kind of stink bomb right into my face by accident.”). How he often contemplated to cross the sea to discover new cultures, but in the end always backed down from it since everyone told him the distance would be too far and he would drop out of the sky from exhaustion at some point and drown in the ocean (“But I never stopped dreaming about it, particularly after the first colonists and pilgrims arrived. I wanted to know where they came from.”).

Dean listens intently the whole time, watching Castiel as if he's some kind of miracle and mystery. And Castiel can imagine that it is probably a bit surreal to hear stories like this from a person who was actually alive back then to see it for themselves and didn't simply read it in some books.

“You're kinda amazing, you know that?” Dean whispers in awe and blushes immediately, apparently surprised by his own words.

Castiel chuckles. “Thank you. Though I'm only old, nothing more.”

“If you say so, grandpa,” Dean jokes good-heartedly, but there is still some awkwardness in his movements and he hastily turns the attention to the hamper right next to Castiel. “Can I have some pie now?”

The question sounds charmingly hopeful and Dean's shy smile almost lets Castiel's heart melt.

His face softens instantly and he chooses to ignore the abrupt change of topic. “You don't need to ask, Dean.”

“My mom raised me to be polite,” he says nonchalantly, only to flinch a second later when he realizes what he just said. He looks guilty all of a sudden, obviously ready to apologize for mentioning his mother, but Castiel can't bear the thought of him being uncomfortable about this. He leans forward and their lips meet in a soft, yet determined kiss.

Dean makes a noise of approval and rather soon they're entangled in a mess of limbs. Dean seems to be eager to be as close as possible and there is no hesitancy in his touch, no uncertainty. Castiel expected him to be a bit more unassertive about this change in their relationship, especially considering the fact that humans tend to have a weirdly strong opinion on gender and who is supposed to be intimate with who, and Dean probably thinks about this way too often in his free time as well, but here, right now, with no one to disturb them, he obviously allows himself to just let go and enjoy the moment.

And so Castiel does the same.

The day before he didn't take much time to revel in the moment. He had been way too overwhelmed by his sudden burst of feelings as soon as Dean had been in his arms, completely surprised by the sheer force of them. Never before had his body reacted that way and Castiel assembled every tiny bit of willpower within himself to not let his instincts get the upper hand and claim Dean as his and his alone right there on the ground.

It had been quite challenging and equally absolutely wonderful.

But now he is prepared. And instead of almost losing control he drowns in the sensation.

He registers Dean's finger running through his hair, making him shiver pleasantly. He senses the warmth radiating from both their bodies, turning the tiny bit of air between them into something hot. He tastes Dean's lips and feels his stomach flutter like crazy when their tongues touch and Dean's breath hitches. He savors all the beautiful noises Dean makes and decides that they're the best he ever had the privilege of listening to in his entire life.

Yes, Castiel is ready to give him anything.

So when they eventually pull away a few inches to fill their lungs with some air, he hears himself whisper, “I want to tell you everything.”

Dean blinks, his eyes dazed, and obviously having a hard time grasping Castiel's words at first. He struggles to clear the fog out of his head.

“I want to tell you everything,” Castiel repeats, his voice gentle, yet a little bit hoarse. “About my past. About what happened to me. It's weighing on me that I couldn't be open with you.”

It won't be easy, Castiel is certain of that. He can't even think about the crime he committed or the centuries of captivity afterwards without feeling so much guilt and sorrow that it almost chokes him. However, Dean deserves to know the entire truth.

Even if it will hurt.

After some evaluation Dean pulls back a little to study Castiel's face unhindered. His eyes still seem somewhat glazed – and Castiel tries hard (and fails) to not feel pleased about that – when he replies, “You can tell me anything, Cas.”

And Castiel knows that. But at the same time he fears Dean's possible reaction more than anything.

“Not now,” Castiel makes himself clear. “I'm feeling very happy right now and it would ruin our date.” Dean opens his mouth, probably about to protest that nothing could ruin this moment, but Castiel cuts in, “But I just wanted you to know that I'm not planning to have any secrets.”

Dean's mouth curls up into a tentative smile. “Then that's nice to know, I guess. But seriously, no pressure here. Tell me tomorrow, tell me in ten years. I don't care.”

Castiel detects a slight note of uncertainty in Dean's voice and he can't exactly blame him for that. Dean is fully aware that it's not going to be a happy story and though he's probably eager to hear more about Castiel's past he most likely fears it as well.

And Castiel can't even remember when it'd been the last time since someone cared for him so much besides his closest kin.

So he smiles, widely and reassuringly, and asks, “Pie?”

Dean huffs a laugh, promptly relaxing a bit. “You really know how to woo a guy, Cas.”

“It's one of my many talents.”

Dean chuckles quietly before leaning in once again and stealing a soft kiss that makes Castiel's heart jump within his ribcage, and agrees amused, “It sure is.”

 

Chapter Text

“Okay, Cas, this is the moment of truth.”

“Dean …”

“If you start to feel uncomfortable or anything, please just tell me. Don't be shy. This is supposed to be fun and as soon as it'd stop being that for you, the party will be over! Got that?”

“Of course …”

“Maybe we should come up with some sort of safe word? I know from experience that sometimes saying 'I want out' isn't as easy as it may seem.”

“Dean, I don't think --”

“How about 'apple pie'? You can never be wrong with apple pie.”

The corners of Castiel's mouth twitch. “There will probably be apple pie on site. I would like being capable of saying the actual word without you grabbing me a second later and dragging me out of there.”

“Okay, fine, you've got a point. Then how about 'my foot is itching'? Or 'I'd like to dance some polka'?”

Castiel runs his hand over Dean's arm in a reassuring gesture. “It will be alright, Dean. It's just a simple barbecue after all.”

Dean deflates a bit, releasing a breath he had been holding the last ten minutes. “I just think it'll be a bit much, y'know?” he says, somewhat sheepishly. “I don't want you to freak out or whatever.”

Castiel smiles, apparently warmed by Dean's concern about his well-being. “I promise I won't let it come to that. I will be careful.” And when Dean still doesn't look completely at ease, Castiel adds, “And I'll use the code word 'peaches', like in the movie we watched the other day with the mammoth, the sloth and the saber-toothed tiger.”

Dean huffs a laugh. “'Peaches' it is.”

“Then let's go,” Castiel urges. “I don't want to miss all the meat.”

“Don't worry, Cas,” Dean says, now quite cheerfuller. “There will be more than enough.”

And it should be the undeniable truth as Castiel notices fifteen minutes later when they reach the park in the town's center. His eyes grow quite large as he looks at the enormous amount of food that could easily feed a small army without any difficulty.

“How many people are you expecting today?” Castiel asks baffled, glancing at the comparatively small crowd near the grills chatting casually. It's still rather early, so there haven't that much people arrived yet, but as soon as the first burger would sizzle on the fire the better part of Trentwood and the nearby villages would arise like moths attracted by a big flame.

“Quite a lot actually,” Dean explains. “That's why I wanted us to come early. You can get used to the feel and leave when it gets too much.”

At least it seemed far more reasonable than simply throwing Castiel into a large group of curious people and hope for the best.

Castiel smiles easily. Dean can tell that he wants to lean closer and press a kiss on Dean's cheek or show his fondness in some other small way, but he's quite aware of their surrounding and refrains from doing so.

And Dean finds himself disappointed.

Sure, he had been the one suggesting to keep their changed relationship for themselves (partly because he isn't exactly sure what they are for each other just now and he seriously doesn't want to pressure them both into labeling the whole thing in front of the entire town) and it appeared like a good idea at the time, but he can't help wondering if this might have been the right choice. Especially after Castiel withdraws his hand from Dean's arm and puts some distance between them. It feels utterly wrong instantly and Dean is rather tempted to pull him back in and screw the consequences.

Of course it's quite ridiculous when you're looking at the thing from an outsider's point of view. It's been merely one official date and a few hours of easy companionship with Anna's presence somewhere in the background, so he honestly shouldn't feel that addicted. And sure, they had been touchy-feely before they took their relationship to the next level, but it's totally different whether you want to rub someone's shoulder affectionately or whether you want to kiss them senseless in front of freaking everyone so that nobody else would dare to make some kind of move but would know exactly who Castiel belongs to.

“Castiel, you made it!” Magda's joyful voice jerks Dean out of his thoughts. She appears out of fucking nowhere right next to them (or, more likely, Dean had been way too occupied with his own stupid doubts to notice her nearing) and beams at them brighter than the sun itself. “You look really handsome, my friend. The nice ladies will have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves.”

Dean immediately pulls a face at the comment. That's seriously the last thing he wants to think about.

Magda registers the change of his demeanor right away and casts him a knowing look that makes Dean clear his throat uncomfortably. Damn, he's seriously way too obvious.

“I'd like to introduce you to some friends, Castiel” Magda says, thankfully refraining from teasing. “They're all dying to meet you.”

Dean shoots a glance at Magda's group of friends – middle-aged housewives who obviously can't help looking at them curiously as if they're some kind of great attraction. Dean even hears a few giggles and shivers involuntarily.

Castiel, however, doesn't seem fazed at all. “I would love to, Magda,” he says, polite as ever. “If they're half as nice as you are, then it will be my pleasure to meet them.”

And there it is again – absolute blunt sincerity.

Dean feels his stomach churn in a very pleasant way.

Magda blushes like Dean's never seen her blush before while she shoves Castiel's shoulder and chides playfully, “Oh, you silly boy, you!”

And then she grabs his arm and drags him toward her friends. Dean is about to follow, but Castiel throws him a quick glance and mouths “It's alright,” with a reassuring smile on his lips, meaning I don't really need a babysitter.

Dean feels a bit put off at first, however, he remembers quickly how he told Castiel that morning that he promised the firefighters to help with the preparations and Castiel obviously doesn't want him to ignore this in favor of protecting him from some nosy women.

So Dean takes a deep breath and heads to the huge grill station.

Soon enough he forgets about his sorrows and doubts and loses himself in his work. The firefighters greet him wholeheartedly and try to use his muscle power as fast as possible. Dean never minded before and he sure as hell doesn't now, always happy to get his hands a bit dirty. He doesn't hesitate to help with the set up – carrying heavy boxes filled with gigantic amounts of food, searching for the drinks that someone stashed in a shed next to the market place without telling anyone, firing up the grills and cleaning little Miranda Thoughton's teddy bear after it fell on the ground.

Rather soon the whole town and beyond shows up and Dean is once again quite grateful for the place being large enough to deal with those high numbers without making it cramped and uncomfortable.

Nonetheless Dean finds himself looking out for Castiel more often than not. He's still standing a bit offside with Magda's friends and a few curious town people who approached him over the course of the last half hour and though he's clearly the center of their attention, he doesn't seem unsettled by it. He smiles warmly at them, apparently eager to answer their thousand questions, and once in a while he glances in Dean's direction, his whole posture gentling even more when they lock their eyes.

“I was right,” a familiar voice right next to Dean suddenly announces, startling him. He turns around and is greeted by Charlie's inhumanly wide smirk. “Well, I always am, but still --”

She looks relaxed and happy, wearing far too skinny jeans and a bright shirt saying, “You Can't Take The Sky From Me”, and munches on a slice of bread with an expression on her face as if she just found Jesus.

“You were right about what?” Dean asks.

“About you and Cas? You are cute together!”

Dean rolls his eyes and fights back the oncoming flush. “Please don't call two guys 'cute', okay?”

Charlie snorts. “Men and their delicate masculinity,” she says, shaking her head. “It's sometimes a miracle how you manage to survive day by day without dueling each other or something.”

Dean nudges her shoulder. “Just shut up, Bradbury! How about that?”

Charlie doesn't seem impressed by this at all. Instead she presses a wet kiss onto Dean's cheeks and says, “You look happy. It suits you.”

Dean has no response to that – at least not one that wouldn't make his cheeks tinge beet-red – so he's more than glad when Jerry, the firefighter with the wild beard, interrupts them by telling him that his order is ready and pushes two plates with burgers into Dean's hands. Dean grins brightly and indicates Castiel with a complicated waggle of his eyebrows that dinner is served.

Castiel doesn't seem to lose much time since he appears rather quickly at Dean's side and drops onto the bench, his face glowing. “I love burgers,” he says excitedly.

And then he digs in without further ado.

The first few minutes Dean simply enjoys watching him and doesn't give a damn that he probably looks like a smitten fool. Castiel devours the food like he hadn't had anything decent in ages and the little – and sometimes loud – noises he makes are absolutely glorious. Yeah, Dean views himself a really lucky bastard.

“These are very good,” Castiel finally announces after having decimated the best part of the burger on his plate quite impressively. “Not as great as yours, of course, but still –”

Dean smirks, quite pleased with himself. “Good to know that I'm still the best.”

Castiel's eyes glint in a way that almost seems supernatural. “You have a lot of redeeming qualities.”

“Cas, you sweet-talker,” Dean jokes, grinning. “You seriously know how to make a guy feel special.”

Castiel leans a bit closer, his breath hot on Dean's skin. “Believe me, I haven't even started yet.”

His voice sounds like full of promise and Dean's unable to suppress a pleasant shiver. He can't wait to find out what Castiel is insinuating.

And a part of himself – mainly the romantic, sappy, touch-starved and, admittedly, also a bit horny part – would love to know now, right here on the spot. Forget about the people around them and just go for it.

But before he's even got a chance to voice anything, Castiel says, “I need to use the bathroom.”

Dean blinks a few times, collecting his thoughts, before he points at a large building next to the market place. “We use the ones in the town's hall.”

“Can you show me?” Castiel asks and there is something weird in his voice that Dean isn't exactly sure how to interpret, but before he's got time to think too hard about it Castiel rises from the bench and looks at him expectantly.

“Sure, sure,” Dean concedes immediately. He puts their empty plates aside for someone to pick them up and grabs Castiel's sleeve, harmless enough for two regular 'friends', but at the same time strangely intimate. At least Dean feels that way and he can't fight a satisfied smile.

It takes a bit longer than necessary to reach their destination since a bunch of people seem determined to intercept him and get a bunch of his precious time, but Dean gets rid of every single one of them with his most charming smirks and eventually they manage to struggle through.

“So, here it is,” he announces when they're in the building's foyer, pointing at the two doors that are seriously hard to miss. Castiel, however, doesn't even spare them a glance but drags Dean further down the hall without saying a word about his intentions.

“What are you doing?” Dean asks when they reach the stairwell and Castiel pushes him into a hidden corner.

“I saw this in a movie once,” Castiel informs him, his eyes glinting. “And right now you smelled so tempting, I couldn't resist.”

Dean wrinkles his forehead. “Uh ... what?”

Castiel is suddenly way closer than just a second ago, their chest pressed at each other until there is no air left between them. “You are beautiful,” he whispers. “And it is really hard to suppress my urges. To claim you as mine in front of all these people.”

Dean's heart rate picks up. “Claim?” he asks, suddenly quite interested.

Castiel's finger brushes lightly over Dean's cheekbone and he follows the movement with his eyes as if it's the most fascinating thing. “Well, dragons can be … quite overbearing sometimes. At least these are the stories I've been told. I never experienced it before.” He leans a bit closer. “Until you.”

Dean can't help feeling a bit smug about it.

And seriously turned on.

“So – you wanna jump my bones in front of the whole town?” Dean asks, trying for cocky, but in the end sounding kinda strangled instead.

The corners of Castiel's mouth curl upwards. “These are basically just primitive and brute urges and I won't let them control me,” he reassures. “It wouldn't be fair to either of us. Furthermore, it'd probably be sort of traumatic for the potential witnesses.”

Dean chuckles. “Yeah, I guess you're right.”

Though he's gotta admit he likes the picture.

“Nonetheless I'm not that strong,” Castiel says with a tease in his voice. “And then I remembered the movie.”

“What movie?” Dean asks, amused. “Where two teenagers in high school hide beneath the stairs to make out?”

Exactly!” Castiel hisses before surging in without even a hint of hesitation.

And Dean is more than happy to comply. They indulged in a lot of lip and tongue action the last few days, but it still feels new and exciting and Dean can't really imagine that this would change anytime soon. Just yesterday he realized that Castiel melts into a puddle of go when his bottom lip is being nibbled. And that he makes some very needy and undeniable hot noises as soon as Dean grips the hair at the back of his head a little bit more fiercely. And that he begins to hum softly deep in his throat when Dean brushes the spot behind his ear.

There is so much to discover and Dean can't help feeling like a explorer, eager for the next surprise.

But of course it's working the other way around as well. Castiel pushes a lot of Dean's buttons he never knew he had in the first place. At least he wasn't aware that he likes his shoulder blades being rubbed, but when Castiel did it the first time, his magic fingers dancing over Dean's back as if they belonged there, he found himself leaning into the touch like a starving man. Moreover, Castiel is a fucking expert when it comes to sucking Dean's tongue into his mouth and making Dean lose his mind in the process.

It's the most amazing thing ever.

Dean doesn't know how long they're making out like this, maybe just a few minutes, but perhaps even hours - it's really hard to keep track with a hot and very handsy dragon in his arms who's obviously quite eager to devour Dean completely. Dean's head is spinning, asking himself over and over whether the whole thing is actually reality or simply a very awesome dream he's making up while sleeping in his bed at home.

But then again, Dean's imaginations never had been great.

Eventually Castiel pulls back a little (and Dean seriously whines when their lips lose contact) and smiles quite dazedly. “We should go back.”

Dean pouts at the mere idea of leaving this awesome hiding space. “How about not?”

Castiel chuckles and it's the loveliest sound. “I'd love to,” he agrees. “But my phone is vibrating like crazy in my pocket. Anna, presumably, wondering where I might be.”

“Then tell her,” Dean suggests, his hands roaming over Castiel's back in a suggestive manner. “Since, uh, I know you hate lying and so on.”

“You want me to tell her that we're making love in this stairwell?”

Dean chokes on air and for a moment he just stares at Castiel with wide eyes and fights back a blush rather unsuccessfully. “Um ... that's – that's not what 'making love' means.”

Castiel squints his eyes. “It doesn't?”

Dean shakes his head and lets out a breathy laugh. “No, it means ... you know, more .”

At first Castiel doesn't seem to understand, obviously already on the verge of asking further questions, but then there is realization flickering in his eyes. “Oh,” he says. “It means 'mating', right?”

“Sex,” Dean corrects immediately. “Just call it sex, okay?”

Castiel studies him with a puzzled expression. “I thought it simply meant being close and intimate with each other,” he says. “Like we are now.”

Dean's heartbeat jumps a bit hearing Castiel using words like 'close' and 'love'. It should scare him, he knows that – he should run for it and never come back. He never could handle someone using terms like this way too early in a relationship very well, but Castiel seems to be the exception once again. Instead of feeling uncomfortable Dean is kinda giddy. Excited about the prospect of delving into this further.

“Although it would explain Anna's comment when I told her about our date,” Castiel continues, the corners of his mouth now twitching a bit at the memory.

Dean chuckles and presses his forehead onto Castiel's shoulder. “You told her we made love, didn't you?”

He can picture Anna's face perfectly. The surprise at first, then the smug expression, the knowing smile. Maybe even some kind of weird pride for her brother finally getting laid.

“She said that she didn't know I had it in me,” Castiel explains. “And the next few hours she made several comments of me probably being exhausted and that I shouldn't forget to eat and drink since I had been so 'active' earlier the day.” He rolls his eyes in a very dramatic way. “I should have realized that something wasn't right.”

Dean can't help dropping a kiss onto Castiel's jaw. “Well, she was happy for her brother getting some action. In a normal sibling way of course, without thinking about the details too much.”

Castiel seems on the verge of arguing, probably even considering walking straight up to Anna and rectifying her assumption right in front of everyone, but Dean reunites their lips once again and Castiel forgets about anything else.

And Dean thinks that he could live happily underneath this stairwell for the rest of his life.

Though eventually reality crashes back in when Castiel pulls away a bit once more and whispers, “We need to go.”

Dean scowls. “Do we really?”

“Someone is coming our way,” Castiel informs him, making it again perfectly clear that he's a little bit supernatural. “Do you want them to find us like this?”

Dean's gotta admit that he has a point.

So he disentangles himself and takes a closer look. It's not irrevocably obvious that Castiel participated in a hot make-out session quite recently, but the slightly swollen lips and the disheveled hair heavily indicates that Castiel didn't sell some cookies for church or whatever. Dean hastily tries to tame his bird's nest a bit and though it's actually a lost cause right from the beginning he seriously doesn't waste a chance to play a little bit longer with Castiel's surprisingly soft hair.

After a few minutes they find themselves back in the hallway, trying to keep a remotely respectable distance, but more or less incapable of touching each other one way or another. Nudging their shoulders, bumping their arms, brushing their hands.

It really feels like high school and Dean has a hard time to let his smile stay moderately normal instead of foolishly wide and besotted.

“You should really taste Ellen's cake next,” Dean says, grinning. “I mean, I'm seriously a pie man, but I can't really resist a delicious cake once in a while and Ellen is honestly the freaking best when it comes to –”

He pauses when he notices that Castiel suddenly stiffens beside him and abruptly jerks to a halt, his beautiful blue eyes impossibly wide. He reaches out for Dean, probably more instinctively than anything else, and his fingers trembles when they grip Dean's sleeve as if it's the only lifeline nearby.

“What is it?” Dean asks, concerned.

The giddy feeling from before vanishes immediately when he looks into Castiel's pale face and the flash of shock in his eyes.

Castiel's whole body starts to shiver when he mutters in a low voice, “Maggie?”

Dean just frowns, not sure what the hell is going on, until he realizes that Castiel's attention is fixed on a point ahead of them where a person just came around the corner and is facing them now in the small hallway.

A person that makes Dean's stomach drop a few floors as soon as he recognizes her.

No.

No no no no!

Mom?”

 

Chapter Text

Of course Castiel expected to meet Mary Winchester at some point.

After all he's quite close to her son and human parents tend to get involved with their children's relationships one way or another. Castiel hadn't been delusional about this tradition and even though Dean reassured him more than once that he wouldn't have to cross Mary's path ever Castiel knew right from the beginning that it was inevitable sooner or later.

If he wanted the connection with Dean to grow and become more – and it was kind of ridiculous how much Castiel desired this – he wouldn't have been able to avoid his mother completely for the rest of their lives.

However, he anticipated much more time to adjust to the idea, to prepare . To have a plausible story and a fake ID for a start (as both Anna and Gabriel insisted because in the times of the world wide web you can't be too careful) next to some kind of game plan. He can't be exactly certain whether Mary ever encountered a dragon before, but he can't take any risks. He needs to appear as human as possible and make sure that by the end of the day there will be not even a single speck of doubt in her mind about that. Furthermore, it's necessary to get his magic better under control before facing a hunter (even a retired one) because they tend to have special gadgets and tricks to recognize supernatural beings and Castiel requires complete trust in his own abilities before attempting to avoid these techniques and toys without triggering them.

So yes, there is a lot to consider.

And Mary Winchester decided to ignore this by showing up absolutely unannounced.

The only positive thing right now is that she doesn't seem wary or the least bit suspicious. At least she isn't pointing any gun at Castiel and yelling at him to get away from her son. Instead she smiles easily, obviously not feeling threatened by the current situation and company at all.

Castiel wonders how long it will take to change this.

“Mom, what are you doing here?” Dean's voice sounds strained and he seems to do everything in his power not to appear upset about Mary's unexpected appearance. After all, from Mary's point of view he doesn't have any reason to be angry with her and it's important to keep up the pretense, so she wouldn't begin to investigate the issue of Dean's “irrational and sudden” fury and maybe discover some uncomfortable things in the process.

“I saw you and your friend go in here,” she explains good-naturedly. “And when you didn't return after a while I wondered if maybe something were up. So I came looking for you.”

Obviously she can't forget her hunter training, even after turning her back toward it decades ago.

Always having a close eye and not miss anything.

Not a very convenient trait if you want to hide something from her.

However, Castiel doesn't possess any strength to dwell on that. His insides twist and churn while staring at this woman who looks and even sounds so much like Maggie.

Castiel never forgot her smile, the sound of her voice. It had been more or less the only thing he could think about in his pitch black cell. He mulled their past conversations and meetings over and over in his head and hated himself for not noticing her dark intentions sooner. He punished himself with these memories, again and again and again.

There was no way in hell he would make himself forget it.

And Mary has so much of Maggie, it's almost frightening. Rationally Castiel knows that it's merely a family resemblance (he discovered a few in Dean as well) and that Maggie is dead and will never come back to haunt him, but it feels like a sick sort of joke, having to face a woman like that only months after escaping his horrible prison.

“Mom …” Dean says once again, apparently absolutely unsure how to act around his mother. He's probably fighting quite hard with himself not to yell at her for lying all these past years and shove Castiel behind his back to protect him somehow in a noble, yet unnecessary manner.

“Are you alright, honey?” Mary's smile falters a bit, obviously confused.

Dean blinks a few times, eager to clear his head. “Uh, yeah,” he manages eventually. “I'm just surprised, I guess. I thought you and Dad are in Minnesota.”

“We were.” Mary nods and steps a bit closer, making Castiel suppress the urge to retreat. “But your dad's friend became sick and we came back earlier.”

Dean's whole body tenses and Castiel finds himself reaching out for his hand before pausing just a millisecond before their skins make contact and coughing awkwardly, hoping desperately that Mary didn't notice anything unusual.

“Why didn't you say something?” Dean asks. The edge in his voice is very subtle, but nonetheless there.

Mary, though, doesn't seem to register any hostility from her son. “I sent Sam a text message, telling him that your dad and I probably would show up today.”

Dean grits his teeth, mumbling a harsh “Sammy!” underneath his breath, only audible for Castiel's ears. They were supposed to meet Sam today – Castiel had been, in fact, quite eager to meet one of the most important persons in Dean's life and make a good impression – and Sam obviously either totally forgot to tell his brother about their parent's early arrival or decided to make the whole thing into some kind of surprise.

One way or another, Dean doesn't seem happy about the failed communication.

Nevertheless he announces, “Well, I'm sorry for Dad's sick friend, but it's nice to have you here. It wouldn't have been the same without you.”

Mary beams at that, unaware that Dean's changed heart rate belies his words.

Castiel almost feels sorry for her.

Almost.

“Well, don't you want to introduce us, Dean?” Mary asks after a while of staring at each other – neither Dean nor Castiel sure what to do next and Mary apparently waiting for her son to show some manners.

Dean flinches like he's been jerked out of his thoughts and shoots a careful glance in Castiel's direction. “Uh, yeah,” he mumbles. “Mom, this is Castiel – Anna's brother. You know, my neighbor …”

“Yes, of course I know who Anna is,” Mary says, laughing amused, before finally training her eyes on Castiel, making the dragon shiver involuntarily. “It's very nice meeting you. I hope your injury healed well.”

Castiel blinks while desperately trying to grasp her words. “Uh, injury?”

“Well, Dean told us that you were hurt and he needed to take you to a doctor,” Mary reminds him. “Or did I remember that wrong?”

Castiel feels quite overwhelmed by the whole situation, but he manages to curl his lips upwards into something resembling a smile. “Oh, yes – I mean, no, you don't remember it wrong.” He squirms awkwardly. “I'm fine now. Dean helped a great deal.”

Despite the tense atmosphere Castiel can't help flashing a warm look in Dean's direction, making the other man flush endearingly.

“That's good to hear,” Mary says. “So I can do this?

And then she's reaching out her hand, watching him expectantly.

Castiel hesitates. It's a simple enough gesture, how humans show politeness -- but for him it feels like the biggest challenge. He stares at the offered hand while thousand different (and partly quite wild and abstruse) thoughts are running through his head. His survival instinct is kicking in like crazy, screaming into his ears and making it very hard to concentrate.

Yes, it would be easy to just run away. He didn't do it the first time something like this happened and he's still regretting it more than anything else in his life.

But at the same time he feels Dean's eyes on him. There is nervousness flickering in them. Fear.

It's subtle, barely visible, Castiel, however, finds himself attuned to Dean's emotions like they had known each other all their lives. He knows without a single doubt in his mind that Dean is terrified that Castiel would turn around right now and disappear forever. That they would never see each other again.

And Castiel can't allow this.

So he braces himself and grabs Mary's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you likewise. Dean told me a lot about you."

Mary beams. “Oh, a gentleman with manners,” she says amused. “I hope it were only good things?”

Castiel considers lying since that is what humans tend to do out of kindness, but in the end he goes with, “Not overall, I'm afraid. He told me about your ugly car and your tendency to torture your family with humming annoying commercial songs.”

Dean next to him widens his eyes. Cas !” he hisses, blushing adorably.

Mary, however, laughs. “A honest gentleman. Even better.”

Dean splutters some more, charmingly embarrassed, and from the outside the whole scene looks absolutely normal, just three people interacting with each other in an easy way. No one would have guessed the underlying and hidden tension surrounding their group, making it hard for Castiel to breathe properly.

“Would you like to join us, Castiel?” Mary asks, her bright eyes open. “My husband and my future daughter-in-law probably claimed half of the food for themselves by now. It's unbelievable how much both of them are able to eat sometimes –”

“I'd love to,” Castiel interjects, lying through his teeth since there is honestly nothing farther from his mind than spending a whole meal or even longer with a former hunter. “But unfortunately I have to excuse myself. Just some family … stuff.”

Not the best excuse that's ever been created, but Castiel isn't able to come up with something cleverer. He'll dwell on his lack of creativity later.

He already takes a few steps back, ready to escape the situation. He feels Dean's eyes on him, big and worried, and he hears Mary saying something, though he's incapable of recognizing the actual words. And he can't afford to linger to deal with any of that, because otherwise he's unable to retain his composure.

So he retreats as fast as possible.

Once he steps outside, the sun blending him for a split second, a hand lands on his shoulder, stopping his movement rather abruptly. Castiel lets out a growl far too deep to be entirely human and snaps around, ready to face any threat that might meet him, only to lock eyes with Anna.

“Are you okay?” she asks, her voice heavy with worry. “I saw Mary walking in there and tried to call you.”

Castiel recalls his phone vibrating rather insistingly right before they ran into Mary. Now he wishes that he hadn't ignored it in favor of being distracted by Dean's kisses.

“You're a dragon, Anna,” Castiel reminds her. “You could have drawn attention to yourself in different ways.”

She snorts. “I don't turn full dragon in a public place! Especially with a former hunter running around. That wouldn't have been very wise.”

Castiel secretly agrees, but he can't help feeling that anything would have been acceptable for him to avoid meeting Mary.

“Was it bad?” Anna wants to know. “Did she suspect something?”

Castiel isn't exactly in the mood to talk about it. “I need to go,” he says instead.

Anna's eyes grow big immediately. “You can't just go,” she objects. “Remember what Gabe said about being safe here with all the protection measures? And what about Dean? I know you like him a lot, even a blind man –”

“Anna!” Castiel interrupts harshly, grabbing her wrist so he wouldn't be hit by her wildly flailing arms. “I didn't mean that I want to run away! I just need some space and fresh air. That's all.”

Anna visibly deflates. “So you're not …?”

Castiel shakes his head. “I wouldn't leave. Not now.”

Anna sighs in relief and Castiel can't even imagine how spooked he must appear for her to assume that he'd run off without even saying goodbye. He makes a mental note to avoid mirrors for the time being since he seriously doesn't want to be confronted with all the grief and pain probably reflecting in his eyes. It's bad enough that he's feeling it, he doesn't need to see it as well.

“Alright,” Anna agrees. “Should I come with you? Keep you company?”

Castiel knows that she's almost desperate to stay by his side, but he's sure that he wouldn't bear her pity and concern for very long.

“No, it's okay,” he says, eager to let his voice sound as soft as possible. “I think I need to be alone a bit.”

There is something like reluctance flickering in Anna's gaze and Castiel already expects her to protest, to tell him that he's in serious need of his family right now, however, eventually instead of doing so she urges, “But don't do anything stupid.”

Castiel snorts. “Like running away from one of the best things that ever happened to me?” He points at the town's hall behind him, knowing perfectly well that Anna would understand that he's talking about Dean. “Or leaving my beloved sister behind which I missed so much for the last centuries? Or indulging in some kind of killing spree?”

Anna shoves his shoulder lightly. “Just please don't do anything stupid, okay?” she asks. “And if you want I can stay here and keep an eye on Mary. This way you'll know where she is.”

Castiel pauses for a second before nodding. It would be very helpful not to imagine Mary showing up around a corner again for Castiel peace of mind.

“Be careful,” he says nonetheless.

“You too,” Anna whispers and drops a kiss onto his cheek.

Castiel lets his eyes roam one last time over the large crowd, trying to put his conflicting feelings in order, and halts when he spots a quite tall man a bit to his left. He knows instantly that it's Sam – he's seen a few pictures at Dean's home – and feels a pang of regret. He really looked forward to meeting him today and making a good impression on Dean's brother, keen for his approval. But now the mere thought of approaching him, next to his beautiful fiancée right by his side and a bearded man Castiel assumes is John, is way too much for him to handle.

He leaves.

For a while he runs around aimlessly, just enjoying the quiet since obviously all of Trentwood gathered at the barbecue, until his feet finally lead him home all on their own. He drops on the bench on Anna's front porch and simply revels in all the familiar and comforting smells he grew to love the past months. For a very long long time there hadn't been much – just the cold, stale air surrounding him – so that the first sniff of fresh grass and flowers after his two-hundred years of captivity made him weep like a baby.

And he's sure he will never get enough of it.

So he tries to enjoy the atmosphere, the smell of nature and the bird's singing, but rather soon his mind remigrates to the incident before. He feels bad for leaving Dean behind like that, probably worried sick by now, but Castiel was incapable of being in Mary's presence for any longer. He had thought that he would have time to prepare properly beforehand, making plans and plans about what he would want to say and how he would act, and he hadn't anticipated for Mary to throw him off his guard so abruptly.

And the fact that she reminded him of Maggie that much hadn't exactly helped the issue either. Dean had avoided showing him pictures of his mother to not upset him and Castiel had appreciated his thoughtfulness at the time, but now he wishes that he would have seen Mary's face before actually meeting her. So he would have known what to expect.

So he would have had time to adjust.

Sure, it probably would have blown his mind anyway seeing her in the flesh, but it'd have been better than nothing.

Castiel doesn't know how much time passed when Dean eventually finds him. The man stops in his tracks, stares at Castiel for a moment, apparently unsure whether he should come closer to him or not, before he eventually decides not to give a damn and rushes towards Castiel with admirable speed.

“Cas!” he calls, out of breath. “You're … I thought …”

And then he drops onto his knees right in front of Castiel, obviously exhausted, and Castiel can't help wondering how fast he ran to reach Anna's house.

“I'm so sorry, Cas!” he lets out in a rush, his tone desperate. “I had no idea that she would show up today. Usually she always tells me when she comes for a visit and yeah, I guess I could blame Sammy for this because that stupid moron didn't bother telling me that our fucking parents are back in town, but I really … shit, I'm so sorry, Cas.”

“Dean –” Castiel begins.

“I'm so sorry,” Dean repeats. He leans forward and presses his forehead against Castiel's thigh. “I wanted today to be perfect. I wanted you to meet Sam and for you two to hit it off because I know you would, you're both such nerds, and I –”

Castiel slides onto the wooden floor right next to Dean, running his fingers through the man's hair in a soothing manner. “It's okay, Dean. It wasn't your fault.”

Dean looks like he's about to object, but Castiel doesn't give him any opportunity doing so. He joins their lips in a warm and gentle kiss, determined to let Dean feel all his affection and love, and Dean melts into it as soon as he realizes it's not a goodbye kiss.

“I won't run away,” Castiel promises, their faces barely inches apart. “I would never leave you. I have never felt something like this before and I won't lose it. Not now, not ever.”

Dean's eyes widen and Castiel wonders immediately if he, once again, ignored some human customs and talked about his true emotions way too soon, but before he's got a chance to apologize Dean surges forward. The following kiss is deeper, hotter, more intense and Castiel is unable to suppress a moan.

“I … I …” It's obvious that Dean is on the brink of sharing some serious feelings as well, but his throat seems to cord up and he looks at Castiel a little helplessly. Castiel remembers Charlie telling him once that Dean can be a stunted brick wall sometimes, especially in matters of the heart, but he notices so many prominent emotions in Dean's eyes that he can't exactly agree with the sentiment.

Dean says so much with his face, his eyes, his touches – Castiel doesn't need any words.

So he whispers, “I know, Dean,” and kisses him, slow and unhurried.

And when Dean shuffles closer, pulling Castiel in a tight embrace, Castiel can't help coming to a decision.

He needs to tell him the truth about his past.

About Maggie.



* * * * *



Tell me about your family.”

Castiel feels the words leave his mouth before he can help himself. He's been quiet for the last half an hour, only lying on the grass and watching the cloudless sky, reveling in the silence of the forest, before something started to stir inside of him, forcing him to break the peaceful atmosphere. He pushes himself up to sitting and throws a look at Maggie who is perching nearby the small pond and is currently writing quite intensely into a small book she called 'journal' some time ago.

My family?” She blinks, apparently unsure whether she heard the dragon correctly.

Castiel nods. “Yes. You never talk about them. I don't even know if your parents are still alive and if you have any siblings.”

Maggie seems tense all of a sudden. “Why do you wanna know?”

Castiel is about to tell her the truth – that Raphael confronted him once again the night before and warned him of humankind, insisting that Castiel was a fool who knew nothing about these specific creatures –, but in the end he refrains from that. Every time Raphael's name comes up Maggie becomes upset and ponders anew whether they should stop seeing each other for the sake of Castiel's safety, and Castiel isn't in the mood for this kind of conversation.

So he says, “I just realized that I know just the bare minimum about your life outside of this clearing.”

And it's not a lie. Maggie loves to ramble about her findings, her studies about supernatural beings, in such a passionate way that it's rather hard to notice at first that she avoids telling stories of her everyday life. She once mentioned that she used to work as a maid in an aristocratic household in an attempt to free herself from her family's expectations before her employer's son started to harass her on a daily basis, offering her unwanted advances, sometimes even in front of his father, and so she decided one day to break his nose for it. Needless to say that she didn't keep her job after that. Furthermore, she brought up a brother once, but didn't get into much detail.

My whole family are hunters,” Maggie says, sounding kind of fraught. “What do you think my life outside of this clearing looks like?”

Castiel merely shrugs. “I've never had to deal with hunters before. Sure, I heard stories and rumors, but I have no way of knowing whether they're true or not.”

Maggie eyes him warily. “Never?” she asks. “I mean, you're thousands of years old. Are you really saying you never met a hunter before?”

Castiel shakes his head. “There are a few reckless enough to challenge a dragon – or even a family –, but I've never encountered one of them before. They tend to die rather quickly.”

Maggie winces for a split second, her expression uncomfortable, before she hastily schools it back into something neutral. “Well, yes. Most hunters stay away from dragons, for very good reasons. It'd be kind of suicidal to attack creatures like you without a fool-proof plan or –”

She stops suddenly and drops her gaze as if she just said way too much. “I didn't mean that I've ever … or my family …”

Castiel can hear her heart picking up its pace and he can't help feeling a bit wary about that. Humans are very complicated beings and it would probably take more than a lifetime to fully understand them and their oftentimes irrational behavior, so Castiel isn't exactly sure what the changed heartbeat might insinuate.

Nervousness for some reason? Or is she perhaps even lying?

Maggie, you're acting very weird,” Castiel points out, quite bluntly.

She lets out a shaky laugh. “Yes, I know,” she confesses, still avoiding his eyes. “It's just … the whole thing makes me kind of anxious, you know?”

Castiel tilts his head. “What?”

Talking about hunters and their tendency to hunt supernatural creatures – like you,” she explains. “I'm happy with living in a bubble of ignorance and obliviousness. I don't want to think about … well, about the fact that we're actually not supposed to be friends.”

Castiel scoots a bit closer, but tries to keep a respectable distance at the same time. “Because you're a hunter?”

Maggie looks up instantly. “I'm not –”, she protests, her cheeks flushed, “... I mean, I've never … I told you that I'm quite rubbish at the whole hunter thing, right?”

Castiel recalls their first meeting very well. How she told him that she's clumsy and lacking any kind of talent and far better off with studying than handling some weapon.

But would you like to hunt?” Castiel asks, eager to keep his voice as far from judgmental as possible. “If you had any skills?”

Maggie hesitates and Castiel registers a lot of emotions flickering in her eyes, ready to breach the surface. Eventually she sighs and admits, “Yes, sometimes I think I do.”

Castiel realizes that she wants to say more and stays quiet, making sure she feels comfortable enough to share her thoughts with him.

My father …” she says after a while, once again ducking her head. “He's very passionate about hunting. For him it's more than a simple family business – it's a calling. Destiny. Whatever. You really should see him in his element – it is both frightening and amazing. Nothing makes him more proud than saving people and killing monsters.” She bites her bottom lip. “And I … I'm the disappointment.”

Castiel can relate to the feeling very well. He slides closer once again and lays his hand over hers. In the past he had been rather reluctant with any physical touch, not sure whether it would be welcome or not, but right now he deems the situation necessary for some comfort. And he's glad to note that the corners of Maggie's mouth turn slightly upwards due to the small gesture.

I've got a brother and two sisters,” she continues. “All three of them are brilliant hunters. From a very young age they absorb everything our father taught them and they excelled in so many disciplines that you even may think for a second that they're not human. Our father did a magnificent job in training them and they will easily be the leaders of our family anytime soon.”

Castiel nods in understanding. “But you turned out different.”

Maggie sounds bitter when she says, “I don't know what went wrong with me. I could never handle a knife or a gun like my siblings. I'm hopeless during a fight. And it's only due to the fact that I'm quite good at strategy that Father didn't marry me off years ago so I could at least produce new little hunters he could teach.”

Her eyes seems glazed for a minute while she apparently remembers all the times she didn't manage to reach her father's expectations and felt like a failure. How she became the outsider rather sooner than later, desperate to change the situation but at the same time incapable of achieving this goal.

If Father could see me now … here, with a dragon …” She huffs a laugh, obviously amused by the image. “He would be so mad.”

Castiel squints his eyes. Not for the first time he wonders why she exactly keeps returning to this clearing for the last few months. When asked she always talks about thirst for knowledge and curiosity, but for a while now Castiel felt like there is more to it than that.

He would call me insane,” Maggie continues, staring at the pond as if she'd find some answers there. “He never approved of my studies, you know? Sure, he sees the value in knowing our enemies weaknesses, but apart from that? He's not interested in the mating circles of werewolves or the family bonds of dragons.”

For him it's only about the killing,” Castiel concludes. “Not about the creatures.”

Maggie grabs the journal in her hands tighter. “I hope to change his view someday. Or at least have some influence on future generations. That after several decades or even centuries a Campbell will remember me and the things I discovered.”

Castiel tilts his head. Once again it's apparent that humans are a mystery. She seems so eager to defy her father, to show him the errors of his ways, and simultaneously she sometimes dreams about becoming a skilled hunter so this man would be proud of her.

It doesn't make a lot of sense.

You're very strange,” he summarizes eventually and Maggie finds herself laughing quite loudly.

Yes, I guess you could say that.”

Castiel eyes her intensely. “Though I have to admit that a hunter's life doesn't seem that much different to a dragon's. Being in training, learning how to fight and obey, respecting your leaders. It sounds like we're very much alike.”

For a moment Maggie seems surprised by the statement, as if, up until this point, she never thought of comparing their life styles before. She stares at Castiel, an unreadable expression on her face, while her fingers unconsciously dance over the book in her lap.

If you put it like that …”

Castiel merely shrugs. “We both live outside of the expectations put upon us. Perhaps that's why we are drawn to each other.”

Maggie bites her bottom lip. “So you're saying we're both disappointments and that's why we should stick to each other?”

Maybe.”

From the very first second Castiel felt a unfamiliar pull in Maggie's company. As though fate joined them for a future still unknown to them.

However, Maggie looks sad all of a sudden. “One day you'll regret to ever have met me.”

She sounds like someone who is used to feeling left out. To losing people because of her unconventional attitude too many times.

This is never going to happen,” Castiel assures her.

But Maggie shakes her head, a faint smile on her lips. “Everybody from my past did regret it at some point. Even my siblings think they are better off without me.” She shrugs as if the whole thing isn't that much of an issue. “And you will regret it as well someday. Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but one day. I'm sure of it.”

 

Chapter Text

“Cas, you really don't need to tell me anything.”

Dean's sure he said the exact same sentence at least a hundred times before, most of it in the last ten minutes while watching Castiel struggling with finding the right words. Castiel is tense and troubled and obviously nonetheless determined to share his secrets with Dean, no matter the costs.

And Dean seriously can't watch him suffering like this.

“I told you it's okay.” He takes Castiel's hand and interlaces their fingers, noticing how the man is trembling slightly. “You're freaked out because of my mom and it's really not the best time –”

“But I want to,” Castiel interrupts, his voice surprisingly steady. “And it's the perfect time because you deserve to know. More than anyone.”

Dean rubs his thumb over Castiel's knuckles. “Cas, listen –”

But Castiel presses two fingers onto Dean's lips, shutting him up. He shuffles closer, ignoring the fact that they're still sitting on the hard wood of the front porch although the bench behind them would be so much more comfortable, and cups Dean's cheek as soon as he seems to be sure that Dean wouldn't start another attempt of deflecting Castiel's will to talk.

And then he announces, “I was buried alive for two-hundred years.”

He seems completely calm, as if he's sharing a bit of everyday information, just a little trifle, and not something so entirely life-shattering that Dean's heart starts to tighten as soon as his brain is capable of processing the words and making sense of them.

Buried … alive?

For very long minutes Dean can't do anything else but stare at Castiel in utter shock. His body refuses to work properly, probably making him look like a fool with his mouth slack and his eyes wide open, and thousand different thoughts are rushing through his head like on a speedway, so fast and so fucking many that it's impossible to make a single one stop and look at it closer.

It's just a goddamned mess.

Eventually, after an eternity of silence and staring, Dean manages a hoarse, “You … you were …?”

God, it's too awful to vocalize. Or even think about it.

Castiel nods in affirmation. “I was punished,” he explains, his gaze fixed on a dark spot in the wood, obviously more than eager to avoid meeting Dean's eyes and witnessing all the emotions flickering in there. “I … they …”

Dean doesn't know what to say, how to react properly to a bombshell like that, and his chest constricts so fucking uncomfortably it hurts really freaking bad, but nonetheless he squeezes Castiel's hand and tries everything in his power to be a soothing presence next to him.

Though he'd have liked nothing more than to scream his lungs out.

“My family …” Castiel starts once again, looking at their joined fingers as if he needs to reassure himself somehow. “They … wanted to see me dead and in the end they decided that instead of executing me right there on the spot imprisonment would be a far worse fate for me.”

Dean swallows hard.

Damn.

“Dragons need their freedom,” Castiel continues, seeming a bit more confident now, though still too much worn out for Dean's liking. “We need air, we need sun, we need the open sky. Without it we would be like a human lacking their limbs. So, of course, in our culture it's the worst punishment you can think of.”

And so Castiel tells him. About the cave so small he could barely breath. About the coldness and wet walls, water dropping onto his body and freezing his whole system. About the pain. About the lack of food and the fact that his magic was the only thing keeping him barely alive.

About the loss of any kind of hope.

“I still don't know why I didn't die decades or even centuries ago,” Castiel asks, letting out a hollow laugh. “It didn't make much sense to me to hold on to life like that. Death would have been a release.”

He draws in a shaky breath and Dean hates it. Hates that at some point he felt so desperate and lost that horrible thoughts like that occupied his mind.

No one should feel like this. Ever.

“But obviously this wasn't the path I was meant to take.” Castiel begins to squirm. “I don't know when I first realized it, but … I just felt that there was something waiting for me. That I needed to endure this torture some more to finally see some light again.”

And then he looks up, right at Dean, his eyes so goddamned intense that Dean feels like he's been choked by them.

“Cas …” he manages to croak eventually, although he's not certain what else to say.

Castiel, however, doesn't seem to mind his lack of words. Instead he just nods, apparently understanding perfectly well.

“I know, Dean.” He tightens his grip on Dean's fingers. “But believe me, I deserved that punishment. More than anything.”

Dean winces instantly.

No!

No, he cannot believe this! Not even for a freaking second.

“Cas, don't you fucking dare –!”

But Castiel presses his fingers onto Dean's lips once again and shuts him up very effectively. “Both Gabriel and Anna called me an idiot plenty of times for saying this, so you seriously don't need to make the effort. Trust me, I heard it enough.”

“Then maybe you should listen!” Dean emphasizes.

Castiel's gaze softens. “You don't know the whole picture, Dean,” he objects. “Because if you knew …”

He sighs deeply, once again ducking his head.

“Cas, listen –”

“You need to know the whole truth,” Castiel interjects, looking more pained than ever before. “The truth about Maggie Campbell.”

 

* * * * *

 

We need to talk.”

Samandriel's voice sounds abnormally harsh and Castiel looks at his brother in confusion, who decided to appear out of nowhere right next to him, but before he's able to even open his mouth and question the hard tone openly Samandriel grabs his arm and pulls him onto his feet.

Samandriel?” Castiel asks, bewildered. He has some trouble finding his balance and leans at his brother for support, feeling clumsy and a little bit taken by surprise. Samandriel's expression is quite serious, his aura flickering wildly, his eyes fixed solely on Castiel, and Castiel feels an uncomfortable alarm welling up inside of him.

Because whatever happened, he seriously doubts it's something good.

Castiel shoots a glance at the other dragons present, all gathered around a large fire to enjoy the warmth high up in the cold mountains. They had been fairly silent for a while now, simply dozing and meditating and only caring about their own businesses, just seeking each other's body heat since an unusually freezing wind emerged a few hours ago, but now they look up in unison, watching the scenario in front of them.

We need to talk alone,” Samandriel emphasizes, obviously registering the interest of the present dragons as well. At least Rachel doesn't bother hiding the fact that she's listening up and Hael leans forward, trying to cover her intrigued expression with a (very unconvincing) impassive scowl.

It's been a long time since something interesting had happened around here and it seems that a lot are eager for a change in pace.

Of course,” Castiel agrees and attempts to sound casual, though he feels his insides clench. He's tempted to demand some answers here and now, screw their audience, but Samandriel looks agitated enough for emotions to burst out that should have stayed buried and Castiel doesn't want him to lose his control right in front of their family.

Weakness is frowned upon.

And unnecessary feelings are deemed the ultimate weakness.

Samandriel nods silently before dragging Castiel in the direction of some rocky ledges at the far end of their main home (not to be confused with their territory which ranges over many miles) where usually no dragons are to be found apart from a occasional guard here and there.

As soon as Samandriel deems the situation safe, he turns around, face serious, and he presses, “Please, don't lie to me.”

Castiel frowns. “I never lied to you.”

And that's the truth. For Castiel Samandriel is the most important family member, his last real support after Anna left for good, and even the thought of deceiving him makes Castiel physically ill. He'd rather drop into the ocean and drown excruciatingly than weigh his conscience down like that.

Please, just promise,” Samandriel begs. “Because what I'm about to ask is a very serious issue and I won't have you avoid the subject, do you understand?”

Castiel stares him right into the eyes. Samandriel doesn't look exactly intimidating in the shape of that young boy, seemingly barely old enough to be called an adolescent, which he chose for himself a few centuries ago, but that never really bothered him before. At least it didn't stop him from using this body on a regular basis, like any other dragon determined to switch between shapes to have his magic flow in a constant circle and not to lose touch with his shapeshifting abilities, as it happened before to other members of their species.

And for some reason Samandriel values the face of this young boy above all others.

A bit strange maybe, but Castiel can truly understand attachment.

Because it's been bad enough with Anna,” Samandriel continues, looking quite unhappy now, “and I don't want to see the experience repeated in any way –”

Castiel creases his forehead in confusion. “Anna? What does she have to do with this?”

Samandriel fold his arms in front of his chest and remains silent for a while, simply studying Castiel in a way that feels like a thorough scrutiny.

Is it true?” he finally asks. “About the human girl?”

Castiel freezes, for a moment absolutely certain that he misheard – because how can this be real?

How is Samandriel able to know about that?

It is true then,” Samandriel realizes, obviously reading the answer right off Castiel's face. He shuffles closer, his face a cascade of so many emotions Castiel is unable to keep track. “You decided to mate with a human of all things! Are you mad?”

Castiel feels heat crawling up his neck. “It's not … it's not like that between us,” he objects.

Samandriel shakes his head as if he's disappointed. “That's even worse, Castiel. Carnal desire is one thing, but you actually care about her, right?”

Castiel is unable to deny it and finds himself nodding.

Samandriel huffs while refusing to meet his eyes. “Do you want to start a family and have little dragon babies with her?”

He sounds betrayed, like Castiel spat on everything that's ever been important to him.

Castiel feels his heart sink. “You have it all wrong,” he says. “She is just a friend. I am fond of her, yes, but I have no intentions whatsoever to stay with her for good and leave you behind.”

And Castiel gets where Samandriel's anger is coming from. He really does.

He couldn't help but think about Anna too everytime he met up with Maggie. How she chose humanity over her own kind. How painful it had been to see her go.

Besides, humans and dragons can't have 'dragon babies',” Castiel adds, smiling slightly and hoping to lighten the mood.

Samandriel, however, doesn't seem to appreciate it. “You are careless.”

Castiel sighs. “Look, Samandriel, I don't know why you obviously felt the urge to follow me and spy on Maggie and I, but I –”

That's the thing,” Samandriel interrupts. “I didn't follow you. I just eavesdropped on a conversation between Raphael and Uriel a few minutes ago.”

Castiel flinches like he's been slapped into the face. “What?”

You are careless,” Samandriel repeats once again, leaning closer and throwing a glance over his shoulder to some young dragons playing on a patch of grass nearby. “I heard them talking about the 'human scumbag our brother is involved with'. They didn't sound happy.

It seems like they don't know anything concrete, but they're both very suspicious. And you're aware what will happen when they catch you with a human, may it be your friend or your lover.”

Yes, Castiel is quite aware what Raphael would do.

He did show his cruelty and his low opinions of humans more than once and Maggie most likely wouldn't survive an encounter.

Raphael … knows?”

It sounds like a nightmare.

You should go and send her far, far away,” Samandriel suggests, still with anger in his voice, but also a hint of pity. “I don't want you to end up banished, like Anna.”

He shudders as if the mere thought is a torment for his body.

Or even dead.”

Castiel feels a dark pit in his stomach.

Because he knows deep down that Samandriel is absolutely right.

 

* * * * *

 

Castiel feels a nearly unbearable pang of sadness when he arrives at the clearing and spots Maggie at her usual place next to the pond, writing some findings or personal thoughts in her journal with utmost concentration. She seems to tune out everything else, only focused on her own small world, and Castiel can't help but think that she is so vulnerable like this. She isn't even the slightest bit aware of her surroundings and to think that Raphael could find her like this, completely unprotected, makes Castiel sick to the stomach.

It will be hard not to see her again for a long time. Maybe even never.

But it's way better than the alternative.

Castiel!” she exclaims happily as soon as she finally notices that she isn't alone anymore. “How have you been?”

We have to talk,” Castiel states without further ado. Maggie told him many times before that he's too blunt and doesn't understand the beauty of exchanging nice pleasantries and indulging in small talk, but this is seriously not the time to swap some unimportant stories and pretend that nothing is out of order.

Maggie seems to sense Castiel's mood immediately because her smile drops like she's been hit with cold water. “What is it?”

Castiel takes a deep breath and kneels next to her on the still damp grass. “We can't see each other anymore.”

Maggie doesn't seem surprised by the announcement. “Your family found out about me, didn't they?”

Castiel shuts his eyes for a split second. “Not yet, but they're very close,” he says. “And Raphael …”

Maggie bites his bottom lip, most likely suppressing yet another commentary about Raphael's cruelty. Since the day she found Castiel bleeding and hurt thanks to Raphael she's unable to keep any kind of opinion to herself.

You believe he would kill me.” It isn't a question.

He will,” Castiel agrees. “You're human and a member of a hunter family – you're basically everything he despises.”

He wouldn't show any mercy. And Castiel can't let this happen.

What did humanity do that he hates us so much?” Maggie asks, more to himself than to Castiel since she knows perfectly well that the dragon has no answer to this. He's never been close to Raphael and therefor his motives are a mystery to Castiel.

Rather sooner than later he will learn of your existence if we keep on meeting each other like this,” Castiel explains, feeling his heart growing very heavy. “I don't want to see you die because of me.”

Maggie's expression softens and for a while she just looks at Castiel with an intensity he isn't used to, quiet and at same time yet so loud, as if she's yelling and screaming without even using her vocal cords, and Castiel doesn't know whether he should feel impressed or rather sad for probably never witnessing it again.

She raises from the ground, clutching her journal like a lifeline, and takes a few tentative steps in his direction.

Are you sure?” she asks. “That they know about me, I mean?”

Castiel nods. “Someone I trust overheard a conversation. There is no doubt that Raphael suspects me of treason. He's got no proof yet because otherwise I would probably be questioned right now, but –”

Maggie shakes her head in disbelief. “Treason?” She huffs a laugh that sounds as hollow as Castiel feels. “That's so ridiculous. You're not betraying anyone.”

Mere contact is not exactly forbidden, sometimes it's even inevitable considering that you're growing by number very fast and we can't always avoid crossing paths.” He shrugs his shoulder. “But actively seeking out a human – that's something different. Dragons don't take this lightly.”

Anna learned this the hard way. Castiel knows that she had wanted to be connected with both sides, staying a part of their family while simultaneously having a link to the humans she became to cherish so much, but dragons never shared well and their distrust towards other species is deep and unbreakable.

So in the end they forced Anna to choose because they couldn't stand the thought of her not being fully theirs.

It's still ridiculous,” Maggie protests.

Castiel is inclined to agree, but he doesn't want to fuel the fire that is raging behind Maggie's eyes.

And the worst thing: you're a member of a hunter family,” he tells her instead. “It would be the easiest thing for Raphael to convince our leaders that I sold information about dragons in general and our family in particular to you, making us all vulnerable in the process.”

You didn't tell me anything that could harm a dragon,” Maggie objects, lifting her journal as if to proof a point. “Raphael is allowed to see all my notes if he wants. Make sure that you didn't betray anyone.”

Castiel can't help his sigh. “The world doesn't work that way.”

Maggie bites his lips, obviously on the verge of speaking her mind once more. But in the end she just takes a deep breath and says, “Well, maybe it should.”

It would be nice, that is for sure.

And I won't say goodbye to you, Castiel,” Maggie makes herself clear, sounding much older than she really is. “I won't allow outer forces to keep us apart. What we have is much too unique to end like this.”

Her cheeks tinge a bit red at her words, but her voice doesn't waver.

Castiel feels something warm growing inside of him, though, instead of offering her a soft smile like he wants to, he just whispers, “Maggie …”

However,” she interrupts, rising her finger, “I agree that it might not be the best idea to simply ignore this issue. Raphael proved himself to be quite dangerous and I don't want to see you hurt again because of me.”

Castiel is about to argue that it would probably be her who would suffer far more, but in the end he just keeps quiet. He seriously doesn't want to start a discussion when she's agreeing with him for once.

We will keep our distances for a while,” she decides. “I mean, it's not like I could force you to meet me here like everything is normal anyway. You could just decide to stay away and I would never be able to find you.”

It is true. The clearing is all they ever allowed themselves to have. Castiel never told her anything specific about his family's home high up in the mountains (and even if he would have, she would never have been able to reach it) and at the same time she never shared one piece of information about her own home town.

At first they did this for precaution, to keep the ones they loved safe, but after a while it became some sort of habit. It didn't matter in the big picture anyway.

However, I won't agree to never see you again!” she says with conviction. “That wouldn't be fair to either of us.”

Castiel tilts his head. “What do you propose?”

As soon as you deem the situation safe again you should leave a message here on the clearing,” Maggie suggests. “I will come here regularly to check for any news. And to enjoy the peace and quiet because I really grew to love this place.”

Castiel finds himself smiling involuntarily.

And I know it will probably take some time,” she continues. “Weeks. Maybe even months. But I'll wait.”

It could take years,” Castiel warns. “Dragons have a different concept of time. Raphael won't drop this in a matter of weeks if he thinks it important enough.”

Maggie seems like she wants to start an argument and present her findings and observations with a fiery passion, but eventually she forces herself to inhale deeply. “Just … please, promise me you will come back. One day.” She steps closer to him. “Rather sooner than later.”

And then suddenly she wraps her arms around him and squeezes him surprisingly tightly for a mere human being. Castiel blinks confused, not exactly certain how to react to a situation like this one, but before he's able to make some kind of decision Maggie detaches herself again, her neck flushed.

Um …” she says, not meeting his eyes. “Just … don't forget me, alright?”

Castiel's expression gentles. “I could never forget you, Maggie.”

She seems pleased with this answer, yet at the same time bashful. At least she ducks her head and stays silent for a few moments and Castiel begins to wonder whether their interaction is over now and he would be allowed to retreat or if there is anything else required of him.

Humans can be very confusing sometimes.

All of a sudden he feels something cold pressed into his hand and he needs a second to realize that it's a bracelet. A simple leather cord with a pendant shaped like a dragon.

I just saw this at the market the other day and thought about you,” Maggie confesses, her voice suddenly quiet. “I know, it's not very much, especially compared to all the treasures you collected over the centuries …”

Quite true. The handcraft of the metal pendant isn't very advanced, but nonetheless Castiel feels a special charm. Whoever created this put a lot of work, effort and love into this and Castiel grew to cherish this way more than value.

At least he understands perfectly well why Maggie bought it.

“It's a gift, for you,” she says as if she's not sure Castiel would get this human gesture or not. “To remember me.”

Castiel smiles easily. He seriously doesn't need anything to remember her by, but it's such a human thing to give each other little trinkets to stay in the other person's mind that he can't help finding it endearing somehow.

“You could bring it to your cave where you're keeping all your treasures,” she continues. “Or you could wear it ...”

And then she blushes because she knows very well what she is insinuating.

One of the first things Castiel told her was that dragons are very possessive towards their gold and like to keep it for themselves. They stash it in their caves, hide it from prying eyes, make sure that no one else is able to see it.

The only exception are tokens of affection. Favors given by very special people. Dragons tend to wear them, sometimes to show them around, but most of the time simply to keep them close. To have some kind of connection, even if that specific person isn't nearby.

It feels like a bond somehow and it's an enormous proof of trust when a dragon decides to wear something like this.

And Maggie is quite aware of the fact because she backpedals immediately, cheeks pink, and stutters, “I mean, you don't have to ... I just thought ...”

And Castiel feels that familiar fondness tugging at his insides once again. Maggie became a good friend over the course of the last months and the thought of keeping her gift with him just seems right. At least Castiel can't think of a single reason why he should decline.

“I won't show it off,” Castiel says. “I don't want to make Raphael more suspicious than he already is. But nonetheless I will keep this close to my heart.”

Maggie's eyes are wide and full of emotion. She knows what such a declaration means to a dragon and soon Castiel finds himself in yet another embrace, this time even more tightly.

And he doesn't even mind.

“I will miss you,” he whispers.

“We will see each other again,” Maggie says with conviction while squeezing him. “But yes, I will miss you too. My days are going to be so boring from now on.”

Castiel chuckles and pulls her closer. “Mine too.”

And at this moment he didn't know wrong he was.

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

Castiel feels surprisingly empty when he returns to his family.

Granted, they promised each other they would meet again, but he knows perfectly well that the issue won't disappear in a few weeks. Raphael is anything but insistent and if he's seriously convinced that Castiel is conspiring behind all their backs (and from the way Samandriel described the situation it honestly sounds that way), he won't give up easily. Castiel has to avoid the clearing for very long time to ensure Maggie's safety.

He sighs deeply while pulling at the sleeve of his tunic to hide the bracelet beneath. Over the last few months he grew accustomed to wearing clothes, so everybody is used to the sight by now and wouldn't think anything by it. He inspired even some others to follow his example, totally enraptured with the concept of wrapping their bodies in several pieces of clothing.

Especially now, with winter coming up.

Castiel touches the dragon pendant inconspicuously and feels a tug at his insides. He watches his family, gathering around a large fire and about to start the daily joint meal, talking with each other like any other day -- some in their true form, massive dragons hovering above them, some in human shapes, smaller but not less intimidating somehow, and others in different vessels (Castiel at least saw a monkey a couple of minutes ago, most likely Gabriel who simply loves to inflict mischief and misery in the smallest and fastest form) -- and Castiel tries desperately to find some positive emotions deep down inside of him, to lessen the fog around his heart, right here in the middle of his family, but it turns out to be quite difficult and he obviously looks so pathetic in his attempts that some young dragons interrupt their game to ask him if something is wrong.

“You seem miserable,” Samandriel states, suddenly appearing beside him. “So it's done then?”

Castiel nods and it feels way heavier than it's supposed to. “I won't see her again. At least for a while.”

Samandriel studies him closely. “It may seem hard now, but it's for the best,” he says, his voice a bit unsteady. “I don't want to see you gone, like Anna.”

Castiel finds himself reaching out for his brother's arm and squeezing it slightly. They both took Anna's departure very hard and to think that Samandriel actually feared to have to go through something like this again, now on his own, makes Castiel feel incredibly guilty all of a sudden. He never really estimated the possible consequences, besides for himself and Maggie, before.

“I won't leave you,” he promises solemnly. “And I'm truly sorry that I haven't been there for you these last few months.”

Samandriel lowers his gaze. “I'm not a child anymore,” he counters, obviously eager to sound nonchalant about the whole thing. “And I'm sorry you had to leave your human girl behind. I can see that she meant a great deal to you.”

“She stills does,” Castiel corrects. “But you are my brother and I love you.”

Castiel wants to say more, wants to add that it wouldn't be any competition at all, that Samandriel had always been one of the most important persons in his life and that this will never change, but Samandriel's expression already turns gentle and he nods, as though those words were the only thing he ever waited for.

Let's go eat,” Samandriel suggests, inclining his head towards their assembled family, and Castiel follows obediently.

A shared meal, surrounded by the beings he grew up with, seems like a good idea.

He lets his eyes roam over the many faces and releases a relieved breath when he can't spot Raphael anywhere. It would have been hard to keep a carefree facade underneath his watchful eyes and Castiel is quite happy that he doesn't have to deal with that.

He throws a glance at Michael, Naomi and several other high-ranked members of their family, who are sitting nearby and awaiting their meal, and offers a respectful nod which is returned immediately.

And Castiel can't help but note that not one of them seems the slightest bit wary about him, so it's fair to assume that Raphael didn't tell anyone about his suspicions.

Yet.

Another reason why it had been for the best to leave Maggie behind.

Castiel?” the voice of a young dragon suddenly pipes up.

Castiel looks down at the boy. “Yes?”

What's that?”

The older dragon frowns in confusion. “What is what?”

Your arm!” Samandriel chimes in. He sounds way more alarmed all of a sudden. “What's happening?”

Many faces are looking at him now. Some seem as bewildered as he feels, but he sees a lot of widened eyes and shocked expressions.

Castiel follows Samandriel's cue … and notices the light coming out from beneath his sleeve.

Right where the bracelet is.

Instantly he rolls it up and stares at it in disbelief. Just a few seconds ago it's only been a harmless little something, a small token and nothing else, and now … now it's radiating magic like a wave.

Very powerful magic!

How could he have missed that?

From the corner of his eyes he sees everyone jump to their feet, puzzled and bemused by the foreign magic suddenly within their midst. Mothers are clasping their children, young men exchanging uncertain looks, unsure what to do next, and Michael is barking an order that gets lost in countless different voices talking over each other.

And Samandriel stares at Castiel, as though he knows perfectly well that this is going to be his last moment on earth.

And when in the next moment the blast of a loud explosion and the screams of his family drown out everything else, Castiel feels like he's dying himself.

 

Chapter Text

“Cas …” Dean whispers.

He stares at the man in front of him with wide eyes – this beautiful, gorgeous man – and isn't sure how to process all of this. Dean feels like he's been hit by a huge truck, including the shock and pain and very bad taste in his mouth.

“Maggie needed my trust,” Castiel continues, his eyes still fixed on the ground. “She knew … she knew I wouldn't haven kept her gift close with me otherwise.”

Dean isn't much for resurrection and necromancy, but right he wishes more than anything that he'd have the power to rise this woman from her grave and punch her in the face.

Really hard.

“Till this day I still don't know how she managed to deceive me.” Castiel's voice sounds croaked, broken. “Normally I would have noticed immediately that something wasn't right, but somehow … she found a very powerful spell.” He bites his lip. “A spell that was most likely activated when I was surrounded by a large number of dragons.”

His family.

At the daily meal.

Dean can't even imagine what that must have felt like. To lose your family like this … Dean tries to picture someone using and manipulating him like that to kill everyone he loved – and the thought is so fucking awful that his throat tightens uncomfortably.

“Fourteen dragons died that day,” Castiel explains quietly. “Among them our highest ranked. Michael and Naomi. Joshua.” He lowers his gaze. “And there was Samandriel …”

The grief and sorrow in his voice is audible and Dean feels like his heart is ripped out of his chest. Castiel didn't tell him that much about Samandriel, but it had been more than enough for Dean to realize that he considered the dragon a younger brother he had to protect at all costs.

And Dean can relate to the feeling very well.

“Cas …” he whispers eventually after the dragon falls silent.

What do you say in a situation like this? Sorry that my ancestor screwed you over? Wanna have a cookie?

“That's why you freaked out when you discovered my family history, right?” he asks. “It … it was like your worst nightmare coming true.”

Castiel glances up for a split second, his eyes so bright and sad that Dean doesn't really know how to deal with it. “Yes,” he confesses.

Dean shakes his head. “Why didn't you run away that day?”

“Because you asked me not to.”

It's so simple. So easy.

But Dean recalls Castiel's face from that specific day. How shocked he'd been, how he took off without saying so much as a word, how he packed his things and was ready to leave.

Until Dean stopped him.

“You should have gone far far away,” Dean realizes and it hurts so much to even think that, though it's the truth.

Castiel's head snaps upwards at those words. “You think …?”

“Cas, staying here … my whole freaking family is a constant reminder what happened to you!” Dean states, fighting back his overboiling emotions. “Not to mention the danger if my mom or my grandpa or whoever would learn about your true identity. Why would you stay at a place like this? Because a stupid, unimportant human used the puppy eyes on you?”

A series of different expressions flickers over Castiel's face, obviously uncertain which one is supposed to be the most prominent one.

“You are neither stupid nor unimportant,” Castiel finally settles on, emphasizing every single word with as much determination he's able to muster. And it's a lot.

“Cas …”

“No, Dean!” Castiel interrupts and he's actually growling. “Yes, I was caught off guard when I learned about your family history. And yes, I was caught off guard when your mother turned up out of nowhere and I realized she looks just like Maggie. It's a messy situation, I admit to that!” He takes a deep breath and Dean swears he sees something supernatural gleaming in Castiel's eyes. “But I don't regret staying here, with you. It's the greatest blessing.”

Dean swallows. He can't recall that anyone ever spoke about him that way.

“You brought me back to life,” Castiel continues, now with a small smile curling up his lips. “You showed what it means to be alive again. I don't know what would have happened without you by my side.”

Dean merely gapes.

What are you supposed to say in a situation like this? He never experienced it before, only saw it in cheesy rom-coms and he's not exactly sure he should take them as a basis for any kind of reaction to this groundbreaking confession.

And since he's never been good with words in the first place and he probably would make a fool of himself by trying to come up with a half-decent response, he simply does the one thing he's actually good at: He surges forward and captures Castiel's lips in an intense kiss.

Dean is desperate to show him everything he's unable to verbalize with his touch instead. He lets his instincts take over, listens to his heart that is beating like crazy, on the verge of crushing his ribcage, and hopes that Castiel will get the message.

The kiss is soft and slow and gentle and just about everything Dean would like to put into words if he wouldn't have been such a failure at vocalizing his feelings. He pulls Castiel outrageously closer while simultaneously sending a lot of prayers into the sky, to every deity ready to listen, that he would never have to loose this again.


* * * * * *


Dean doesn't know how long they stay like that, deep within each other's spaces, sharing their breaths, switching between kisses and embraces.

Maybe just about ten minutes. But perhaps even hours.

Dean can't really tell and in the end it doesn't matter. The only thing that is important is the fact that Castiel seems to relax the longer they hold each other close. The tension drains out of his body bit by bit, leaving him a lot calmer than before.

“So,” Dean eventually raises his voice, his lips stretching into a grin. “You're ready for our second date?”

Castiel blinks a few times, obviously surprised by Dean's proposition. He studies the man in front of him intensely, squinting his eyes and looking like a goddamned puppy in the process. “What?”

“Our second date,” Dean repeats, beaming. “I thought about movie and some dinner. I know, not very original and whatever, but I guess it's our thing somehow and I kinda like it that way.” He shrugs. “I planned on taking you to a movie theater because I'm sure you'd love the super big screen, but if you wanna stay here that'd be cool with me too.”

Castiel narrows his eyes, apparently considering whether Dean lost his mind or not. “You … want to go out? Now?”

“Yeah, why not?” Dean tries for casual, like the whole situation is just a normal occurrence.

And well, of course nothing right now is fucking normal and maybe it's a colossally bad idea to go to a happy date after the guy just told him the story of how his family died, but deep down Dean just knows that Castiel needs this right now. He's got no use for pity or misplaced guilt or whatever. He doesn't need Dean to tell him how sorry he is over and over again while simultaneously apologizing for his mom's mere existence and hugging him tightly like he's a fragile doll that could break at any moment.

Castiel knows the pain. Felt it for two-hundred years while rotting all by himself in that tiny cave.

He doesn't need to feel it anew.

“But … the barbecue? Your family?” Castiel asks. He sounds tentative.

And hopeful.

“They'll survive without me,” Dean counters, shrugging.

“But –”

“Okay, Cas, listen!” Dean cuts in. “I want a date and you could need some distraction after all this ugly mess. It's a win-win for both of us, don't you think?”

Castiel, however, doesn't seem wholly convinced yet. “But … you were looking forward to this barbecue. You listed all the different types of steaks you wanted to eat for half an hour the other day.”

Dean bites his bottom lip. “Yeah, what can I say? You're more important than some steaks.”

Castiel looks kinda sad all of a sudden. “I don't want to ruin your fun. You can go back and I –”

Dean interrupts him with a kiss because whatever self-sacrificing bullshit Castiel has to say, he doesn't need to hear it. “It wouldn't be fun anymore without you there, Cas.”

Castiel's features turn tender as he cups Dean's cheek and presses a soft kiss to the corner of Dean's mouth. “Then I would be honored to visit a movie theater with you. I'm quite curious about it, I have to confess.”

Dean chuckles. “I bet.”

He struggles to his feet quite ungracefully and drags Castiel to his feet as well. “I'm just sending Sam a quick text, letting him know that we won't be back” he says, rummaging inside his pockets for his phone.

In the meantime the corners of Castiel's mouth droop. “I would have loved to meet him today.”

Dean smiles sympathetically. “Yeah, I know. But don't worry, you'll meet soon enough. He's really excited to get to know the boyfriend and all, so he'll probably move heaven and earth to make it come true as soon as humanly possible.”

Dean grins brightly, already picturing Sam nagging him all day long to finally meet this new person in his brother's life. And usually the thought alone would have been annoying as hell and Dean would have done everything in his power to avoid that somehow, but now he feels nothing but contentment. He wants Sam to meet Castiel, rather sooner than later.

Fingers interlacing with his suddenly interrupt his chain of thoughts and he turns his attention immediately toward Castiel who smiles easily at him.

“Boyfriend?”

Dean raises his brows and for a second he's got no idea what the dragon is implying. And then it hits him.

“Um …”

There is an amused twinkle in Castiel's eyes. “It's a special term for people in a relationship, am I right?”

Dean fights back a blush. “Uh, well … yeah, I guess.”

Castiel tightens his grip. “Do you wish to use this term in the future for the both of us?”

Dean finds himself nodding and shaking his head at the same time, making himself dizzy. “It's … it's a stupid word. Way too high school.” He straightens his back. “I mean, you're a motherfucking dragon, for crying out loud! You're nobody's 'boyfriend'.”

It sounds all kinds of ridiculous.

And still sorta nice.

Castiel gifts him with an easy smile. “Dragons use the term 'mate', but I guess that's not appropriate for our situation, am I right?”

Dean snorts when he imagines introducing Castiel as his 'mate' to his family and friends. “Yeah, no, that's really not working.”

He can't help thinking that every term he's able to come up with is way to inadequate and wrong to describe the relationship they have. Boyfriends, partners, mates – it all makes him cringe somehow. It makes him squirm even considering them for a split second.

And obviously Castiel seems to sense his unease. “It doesn't matter what we call each other. Those are simply words, so unimportant in the big picture. We just know that I am yours and you are mine.”

And there it is once again, Castiel being so open and blunt like Dean very rarely experienced it before. It makes his insides warm and his cheeks heat.

“Uh … I guess,” Dean mutters, incapable of saying anything else.

And what is there to add anyway?

So he just takes Castiel's hand, squeezes it tightly before leading him toward the Impala, eager to make their second as awesome as possible.


* * * * *


As expected Castiel loves the movie theater.

He's fascinated by the sheer size of everything, gaping at the screen like a child experiencing the whole movie thing for the very first time. Much sooner than usually he's sucked into the story, making all different kind of noises and tuning out everything around him except for the superheroes trying to save the world.

More than once he expresses his deep admiration for humanity's achievements in the last centuries, apparently fairly impressed with the fact that they were able to create visual stories without using even a shred of magic. He asks all sorts of questions, wondering about the mechanics behind all of this, and Dean tries to give some moderately good answers while subtly checking google because he's sure as hell has got no real idea how most of this works as well.

But his replies seem to be satisfying enough, considering Castiel's attentive nods and small smiles.

And Dean can't really be bothered when Castiel eventually starts to wonder whether the whole tradition of making-out in movie theaters is a real thing that happens and immediately goes for it before Dean is even able to respond.

Yeah, best date ever!

At the end they missed half of the movie and neither of them is exactly fazed by that.

Afterwards Dean contemplates taking Castiel to his favorite diner in the area, but since the dragon still appears to be a little edgy around too much people Dean just grabs some burgers to go, drives to a nice spot at the town's border where they're only surrounded by silence and nature and eat their food in the Impala while watching the sunset.

It's super cheesy and corny, but Dean can't bring himself to care.

Especially because Castiel spends most of the time talking about weirdly shaped cat's penises and that somehow kills any kind of romance that might have flared up. But he looks so damned happy rambling about some genitals that Dean doesn't protest.

Hell, the whole thing is so freaking Cas that Dean's unable to fight back a stupid and probably very lovesick looking smile.

So yes, all in all it seems like the date had been a big success.

At least Castiel looks content and hums a random tune when they find themselves in front of Dean's house again. Admittedly, he's still  subliminally  scanning the area, as if deep down he's still expecting Mary or even a whole army of hunters to jump out of a dark corner the next second, but he doesn't appear as strained as a few hours ago.

“Thank you, Dean,” he says when they exit the car. “This meant a lot to me.”

Dean merely shrugs like it hadn't been a big deal (and that's actually the truth because going to the movies with Castiel and eating some awesome food afterwards - it's not exactly a sacrifice or something). “Anytime, Cas.”

He gravitates closer to the man as if his own body can't help itself and Castiel gifts him with a soft smile. “Nonetheless, thank you. You have been an excellent distraction.”

Dean grins. “Just tell me the next time you want to be distracted. I'm quite amazing at that.”

“You most certainly are,” Castiel agrees in a teasing tone. He even winks, probably an attempt to try some flirting, and though he looks a bit awkward it's clearly the most endearing thing Dean has ever seen. So he can't be blamed for leaning in and locking their lips, public display be damned.

Castiel makes a surprised noise and hesitates for a split second before responding in kind, dragging Dean closer and smiling into the kiss.

“Dean?” he asks when they eventually pull apart a bit.

“Yeah?” Dean responds, pleasantly dazed.

“Can I sleep with you tonight?”

Dean momentarily freezes hearing those words, staring at the man in his arms with wide eyes. He expected a lot of things that might happen this day, but Castiel bluntly asking for sex wasn't seriously one of them.

Not even close.

Dean stays utterly speechless and stock-still for way too long, probably looking like an idiot with his jaw slack and a dumb expression on his face, but he can't help himself. His brain feels like it's been fried and he' not exactly sure if he'll ever be able to make a coherent thought again at some point in his life.

The only thing he's certain of is that his body and especially his dick are very much on board with the idea.

But still …

“Um …” Dean eventually mutters, meeting Castiel's patient gaze. “Do you … do you really think … that's a good idea?”

Some disappointment crosses Castiel's features, but it's way too quick to be absolutely sure. Instead he settles for an easy smile and says, “It's okay, Dean. I never meant to ask too much from you. This is all very new …”

“It's not – not that I don't want to!” Dean hurries to say, feeling somewhat desperate all of a sudden. The mental picture of Castiel detaching himself from him and disappearing into the dark pops up in Dean's mind with full force and it's, without any doubt, the last thing he wants to come true. “But I think … I mean …” He takes a deep breath. “Meeting my mom and talking about your past – it's just so much all at once! You're quite emotional right now and that's totally understandable, but – I just … I'd like to, very much, to do … well, that with you, but –“ He shuts his eyes for a second and curses his own fumbling. “I'm not sure it's the right time, Cas …”

Instead of being weirded out by Dean's awkward fidgeting there is understanding reflecting in Castiel's eyes and he starts to chuckle quietly while studying Dean as though he's the most precious being he ever encountered. “I'm happy to hear that you would like to become intimate with me very much,” he says, amused. “But I actually meant if I could sleep with you tonight. As in, share a bed, close my eyes and hope for some unconsciousness.”

And wow, doesn't Dean feel like the biggest moron ever now.

A flush rises up his cheeks in record time and he quickly hides his face in Castiel's neck. “I'm so stupid,” he mumbles into Castiel's skin.

The other man laughs lightly. “No, you're not. I phrased it poorly, I'm sorry.” He cards his fingers through Dean's hair. “It's just … I don't want to be alone tonight. Anna planned to stay at Charlie's for the weekend and though she texted me several times now, offering to come home, I told her not to worry. She feels guilty enough about the whole thing as it is.”

Dean can't help nodding in agreement. He remembers Anna's voice breaking when she told Dean that she wished she would have done more for Castiel. And he can imagine her clinging onto Castiel as soon as he would ask her to come back, blaming herself for her brother's inner turmoil.

“I told her I would stay with you,” Castiel continues. “That seemed to calm her down a bit. She even sent some emojis.” Dean feels Castiel's smile against his temple. “I hope I wasn't too forward with my messages?”

“No, you weren't,” Dean instantly jumps in. “Of course you can stay with me.”

Dean feels a bit like in a haze when he takes hold of Castiel's hand and leads him into the house. He makes a quick stop in the kitchen and pushes a bottle of water into the dragon's grasp, mumbling something about hydration he read in the newspaper some time ago, before pulling him toward his bedroom without much further ado.

He's got seriously no time to overthink any of this because otherwise he would have a minor or even a major freak out.

He would think about the fact that actually no one ever spent the night in that room aside from himself before, even the few random hookups he had in the past, and that it's a huge step for him to open his own personal space for someone else.

Instead he directs Castiel into the bathroom, talking about spare toothbrushes and washcloths like a man on drugs, and rushes toward the bed to make it somewhat presentable and maybe fluff the pillows or something.

Just about anything to ignore his mad heartbeat.

Just when he's about to change for the night he starts to hesitate. Normally he just sleeps in boxers and that's about it, but that seems not very appropriate right now. He stares at his closet for way too long, considering whether some sweatpants wouldn't be too hot in the long run, driving himself crazy. Eventually he settles on a simple shirt and crawls underneath the covers, hoping that Castiel wouldn't mind his decision.

And when Castiel exits the bathroom a few minutes later, only in boxer briefs and nothing else, Dean's doubts fly out of the window pretty soon.

He finds himself gasping at Castiel, his very naked chest and the strong thighs and calves, and his brain stops to function for an unknown amount of time. At least suddenly Castiel is lying right beside him, aligning their bodies, and he feels all warm and perfect and Dean decides that all of this is way too awesome to worry about it.

“Your bed smells very nice,” Castiel breaths into his ear, making Dean shiver. “Just like you.”

Dean opens and closes his mouth a few times, unsure what to reply to that. Eventually he croaks, “Well … tomorrow it will smell like the both of us.”

He rather feels than sees Castiel's answering smile. “Yes, it will.”

He sounds highly pleased about that and Dean hastily suppresses the urge to rub his scent deeper into the sheets or something.

Instead he says, “Thank you for … well, telling me about your past. You really didn't need to, but I appreciate it.”

Castiel seems to tense a little, but he doesn't draw back. “It wasn't easy,” he confesses with a small voice. “However, I feel better now. Like a burden has been lifted.”

Dean finds himself nodding. He knows the feeling very well. “Yeah, sharing stuff can have that effect,” he agrees.

Castiel stays silent for a while after that and Dean simply drops a light kiss onto his forehead and pulls him closer. He can't help running his fingers over so much of Castiel's exposed skin, enjoying the probably not entirely human warmth his body is radiating, and wonders if there will ever be some kind of breakdown over the fact that he's sharing his bed with a man. Castiel feels way different than a woman, all firm and hard edges, and Dean considers that he should be at least a little bit alienated by it, but so far he can't say he does. He's way too comfortable to think about trifles like that right now.

“Dean?” Castiel whispers after a long stretch of silence.

“Yeah, Cas?”

Castiel inhales deeply, obviously searching for the right words. His fingers trail over Dean's chest, being utterly distracting.

“I'm glad I met you.”

Castiel's voice sounds so small all of a sudden, and yet so heavy, and Dean feels the corners of his mouth curl up.

“I'm glad too.”