"So that's why we need a disguise spell," Dean finished explaining. "You got anything?"
Bobby stared at them. "Let me get this straight," he said.
"Oh, that's not happening," Sam muttered.
"You're trying to sneak into Castiel's bachelor party," Bobby said, "to which you were not invited, because Dean is the groom."
"Yes," said Sam.
"Except I'm not marrying Cas," Dean added.
"Does he know that?" Bobby asked in a parody of gentleness.
Dean glared. "I am not breaking Cas's heart," he said. "I am not leaving him at the altar. I am not engaged to him. I'm not even sleeping with him. Ruby blew the whole thing out of proportion."
"You know, Cas never shut her down," Sam said cautiously.
"No," said Dean. "Cas does not think we're getting married. I don't know why he let her drag him to that uh, bar, and that's why we're worried. We have to go rescue him."
Bobby looked at Sam. Sam shrugged. "I'm sure he's fine. But it ought to be hilarious. Wanna come?"
"I'll pass," Bobby said. "I've got a couple of amulets that'll make you look like female versions of yourselves, want those?"
Dean decided not to ask why Bobby had them. "No. What else?"
"Nothing else that we can put together tonight," Bobby said. "I don't exactly keep a full kitchen for houdoo."
"We'll take 'em," Sam said.
The amulets were really, really effective. Looking down at his own body, Dean could see boobs. He could cup them in his hands and to his hands, they felt like boobs. Though to his chest, it just felt like he was rubbing his pecs.
"Dude, stop feeling yourself up," said Sam.
Sam had bigger boobs than Dean. It wasn't fair.
"Are you going out dressed like that?" Bobby asked.
Dean looked back down. Despite the apparent changes in physique, his clothes seemed to fit okay. Sam's too. "What's wrong with our clothes?"
"Nothing," Bobby grunted, "if you don't mind being taken for dykes."
"It's also very... us," Sam told Dean apologetically. "I mean. You know. If we're trying to actually be in disguise, here."
"Oh, fine," said Dean. "Let's hit Wal-mart."
Sam kept his jeans but got a flowery blouse that wouldn't hang right until Dean led him over to the lingerie section. Sam shot him a glare, swept up half a rack of plain white bras, and stomped off to the fitting room. Dean snickered and flipped through racier selections until he had a half dozen to try. He learned he'd guessed his band size wrong and while all of the bras claimed to have C-cups, he was swimming in some of them and falling out of others. Also, underwire really sucked. "Do you think this is digging into my armpits because I don't have boobs, or because I do?" Dean asked Sam.
"I don't know you," Sam called from next door.
Dean ended up getting a matching leopard print bra and panty set. "What do you need that for?" Sam asked, gesturing at the lower half.
"I can't wear boxers under my skirt, it's too short," said Dean. Dean also really wanted a spaghetti strap top that would show off the pattern on the bra straps, but unfortunately he discovered the handprint showed up on illusion female-him, and that was a no-go. Babydoll it was.
Even if the scar hadn't been completely unique, it would have drawn too much of Castiel's attention, because it had set this whole evening off--apparently, searing the outline of body parts on your buddy was the angel equivalent of an engagement ring, at least according to Anna, who was very apologetic about not recognizing it when she'd screwed Dean as a human. Castiel had insisted he hadn't meant to bind Dean in any way and completely understood and accepted Dean's sex life with other people, though when questioned on his own, it came to light that the angel was saving himself or something, on the offchance, so Ruby had declared the wedding on and dragged Castiel out for a stag party at a strip club.
"Come on," Dean said, "I need shoes, too. Boots don't really complete the ensemble."
"Are you trying to out-slut the strippers?" Sam asked, trailing after Dean as he tried to figure out how much heel he could wear and still kick ass if necessary. The answer was: depressingly little. And Dean had been looking forward to having a legitimate excuse to wear shoes that made him taller than Sam.
"No," Dean said, scowling, and finally settled on a cute pair of ballet flats.
It was mostly to watch Sam's head explode that Dean spent five minutes sniffing lip gloss before selecting Mango Berry. "Dude, it's tangy," he told Sam brightly.
"Can we go now? Before my girlfriend corrupts your fiancé entirely?" Sam asked, because he was a bitch.
Dean agreed, but only because he couldn't really expect to find anything at the jewelry counter that would go with the amulets.
So all told, Cas and Ruby had been at the strip club probably two hours by the time Sam and Dean got there. If Dean had really been worried about... corruption, he wouldn't have wasted time with a disguise, but that wasn't really it. After all, Cas had dreamwalked him on a couple of awkward occasions. Dean figured Cas knew what a lap dance was by now. What Dean really wanted was to know what was going in Cas's head. He'd eavesdrop on Cas and Ruby, sure, but Ruby wasn't gonna be able to crack Cas without more alcohol than he could consume in two hours. No, the disguise was more important than the time, because Dean was gonna cozy right up to Cas and get him talking personally.
When they walked into the club, Dean scanned the tables nearest the stage, figuring Ruby would shove Cas right up to the action. But Sam nudged him and nodded to the bar, and yeah, there they were. Cas was hunched over a glass, mostly trenchcoat from this angle. Ruby had her back to the bar; she was leaning on her elbows, head thrown back in laughter. Dean realized he was clenching his fist because his fingernails were digging into his palm. Then it got worse: Ruby noticed them. She knocked into Cas with a sloppy shove of her arm against his, a jolt to which he responded, belatedly, with a glance that made Dean suspect Cas would prefer to pretend Ruby wasn't with him. She said something that made Cas turn his head to look at Dean and Sam as well. She slid off her stool to approach them herself, while Cas continued staring.
"Hey, there, stranger," Ruby said, sidling up to Sam. "This your girlfriend, sugar, or can you come buy me a drink?"
"I um," said Sam, "no, h--she's not my girlfriend."
"So come on," Ruby said, taking Sam's hand.
"Uh," said Sam, "your boyfriend over there gonna mind?" Dean shot Sam a glare; Sam gave him a helpless look over Ruby's head. Yeah, whatever, they had to make like they didn't know her, but did Sam really have to imply Ruby and Cas would ever, ever date?
"Nah, he's not my boyfriend," Ruby said. She turned to Dean with a frightening grin. "Good thing or I'd have had to hurt him for saying how cute you are, sweetheart."
Which was probably as good an opening as Dean was likely to get. "He's not too bad either," Dean said, wincing at Sam. Ruby had her arm around Sam's waist. "Maybe I'll go say hi."
Dean wasted a minute watching Ruby drag Sam off to a table by the stage, about where Dean had figured she'd want to be in the first place. She pushed him down in a seat and then straddled him and--Dean was pretty sure--copped a feel of his boobs. Demon, Dean told himself, no shame. He hoped Sam wasn't gonna be too disappointed that she'd cheat with any piece of ass that walked in the door. Or maybe they had a lesbian exception? Dean figured if he ever had a longterm relationship with a woman, it would be fine by him if she did chicks.
When Dean looked back at Cas, Cas was still staring at him. Jesus. Maybe Ruby hadn't been kidding about Cas thinking he was cute. Dean smoothed his skirt down, took a deep breath, and walked over to the bar. He swung up onto the seat Ruby had left vacant and couldn't look at Cas right away, had to take a moment to try to get his shoes not to slide off the foot rail and arrange his legs so his skirt didn't ride right up to his waist. Cas was still staring at him like a freakjob when he finally got it together. "Hi," Dean said. "Your, uh, friend said you um. Noticed me."
"That is a very interesting outfit," Cas said flatly.
Dean looked away, suppressing a laugh. It figured Cas would be awful at picking up girls. "Thanks," Dean said generously. "So. You uh, you having a good time tonight?"
"It is strange," Cas said. "I still do not understand why she insisted we come to this place, but I have not found Ruby's company as unpleasant as I was expecting."
"Really?" Dean couldn't help asking. What the hell had they talked about? He tried to cover. "She's ditched you now," Dean observed. Over by the stage, Ruby was sitting on Sam's lap, tucking bills in somebody's g-string. It was so nice they could enjoy a show together. Dean sort of wondered how the illusion amulets dealt with massive erections.
"I don't mind," said Cas. "You're here now."
Cheesy. Really cheesy. Maybe Ruby had spent two hours trying to teach Cas pick-up lines. Who had she meant him to use them on? The strippers? "That's uh, that's very flattering," Dean said. He cleared his throat and caught the bartender's eye. He ordered; the bartender poured; and Dean felt much more comfortable with a whiskey in his hand. "So why did you come, if you didn't want to?"
"She said it was traditional to have a bachelor party," Cas said. He went on darkly: "I did not know what it would entail."
Dean couldn't help laughing at that. "Okay. Shanghaied." He should probably pretend to be aghast that the dude hitting on him was engaged, but whatever. "So tell me about the lucky girl," he suggested instead. What did Cas really think of him?
"I don't understand. What girl? Ruby?" Cas asked, frowning.
"The one you're marrying," Dean corrected gently.
Cas's frown deepened. "I am not engaged to a--" Then he stopped, looking at Dean peculiarly. "I don't believe we're really engaged at all," he sighed. "Do you want to get married?"
"What?" Dean yelped. He grabbed for Cas's glass. "Buddy, I think you've had enough..." Dean sniffed the glass suspiciously. "Ginger ale?"
"Does ginger ale have some dangerous properties I am not aware of?" Castiel asked.
"I thought you were drinking booze," Dean protested. "This all you've had?"
"Is that bad?" Cas asked, sounding more confused by the minute.
"You ask random people to marry you sober?" Dean said. "That's pretty bad, dude."
"You're not a random person," Cas answered.
"But I don't even know you," Dean said, clinging to his role.
Cas seemed to collapse in on himself, hunching tighter over the bar now that he had no drink to occupy space. Haltingly, he said, "I'm sorry you feel that way. I haven't meant to be--opaque, but I suppose given the brevity of our acquaintance versus the length of my existence, you must find me practically unknowable."
"It's okay," Dean said doubtfully. "I mean, you don't really know me, either, right?"
Cas looked up at him again, gaze intense. "I can see into your soul."
Dean resisted the urge to roll his eyes. So Cas could see if somebody had a good soul or not and based purely on that was handing out offers of marriage to total strangers? And for that matter, Dean didn't have that good a soul. "Seriously?" he was forced to ask.
Cas nodded gravely. "Seriously," he repeated, giving the word far more gravitas than slang deserved. "If it would help, you may ask me anything you wish to know about me, and I will do my best to answer within your frame of reference."
Dean was torn between dragging Cas out of here for his own good and taking advantage of the opportunity. He took a sip of whiskey and pushed Cas's ginger ale back down the bar, conciliatory. How could he ask without revealing he knew Cas was an angel? "What was it like, where you grew up?" he asked, instead of asking, What's heaven like?
"Ah. Hmm." Cas's brow furrowed in deep thought at this. Dean had stumped him right out of the gate. At least he had the sense to try to stick with a human frame of reference and not start talking to random strangers about celestial glory or something. "Like a boarding school," Cas said at last. "We never saw our Father, and it was very--regimented. There was much to learn about the workings of Creation. It was very new, then, and we had to learn it all, in order to serve."
Which was--he'd chosen to talk about growing up, rather than about Heaven. Dean couldn't actually imagine a Castiel who wasn't a fully formed adult with a stick up his ass, so this was unexpectedly revealing. "Like boot camp," he said, because the service Cas was talking about was less monastery and more holy warrior.
"I suppose," Castiel said. He'd unhunched a little, opened up toward Dean to take his ginger ale back, at least. He held one hand over it, fingers spaced around the rim of the glass, mirroring Dean's idle grip on his whiskey. "But there was--we were all family. I come from a very large family, you understand. They were all my brothers and sisters. The elder of us looked after the younger, passed our Father's Word down." Maybe the capitals would have been less obvious to someone who didn't know Cas. So far nothing he'd actually said was crazy talk by ordinary people standards. Dean felt weirdly proud of him. "We all felt responsible for one another."
"Yeah," Dean said. "Yeah, I get that."
"Ah," said Cas, "yes, you and your--sister?"
"Yeah," Dean said gruffly. He slugged back some of his whiskey. "Always gonna be my kid--sister, no matter how much of a Sasquatch h--she gets to be." Hadn't said gets to be about Sam's absurd growth since he'd gone to Stanford. By the time Dean got him back, he wasn't growing up anymore, he was already grown, as fully formed as an angel with a stick up his ass. He just was. "I'm always gonna feel responsible for h--her."
"And she for you," Cas observed.
"That's dumb," Dean said. It wasn't that it wasn't true, it was just dumb. "I'm the older one. Like you said. I'm the one who's supposed to look out for h-her, not the other way around."
"No," Cas corrected. "I said we all felt responsible for one another. Regardless."
"Which one were you?" Dean asked. "Older or younger?"
"Both, of course," Cas said. "Most of us were."
"So, what, you feel responsible for all the shit your brothers get up to?" Dean asked.
"Yes," Cas said. He looked upwards as he spoke: "The achievements of one bring pride to all; so, too, the failures of any," and here he looked low, staring morosely at the bar, "make us feel it is we who have failed them."
"That's a lot of weight to carry," Dean said. He added, "Seriously, all of them?" Lucifer had been an angel, once. He really wanted to ask that.
"Yes," Cas said simply.
"Dude, you must feel guilty all the time," Dean said.
Cas did that headtilt thing, only it looked like there was half a laugh in there somewhere. "Is that how you feel about your sister?" he asked.
"Lately, seems like," Dean said. "Or if not guilty about, then scared for. All the time. Yeah." This was getting way too personal. "Hey. Look. Tell me something else. Favorite place in the whole world. Like, if you could take your honeymoon anywhere, where would you go?"
"It doesn't matter," Cas said. "My favorite place in the world is with you."
Dean really, really wanted to think Cas was drunk. It would have made things so much easier. "Dude, that's nice and all, but you should probably save it for your actual fiancé."
"Ah. Yes, of course," Cas said. "Forgive me. For a moment I thought--for a moment I forgot that there will be no wedding."
So much easier if Cas was even the tiniest bit drunk. "Yeah. Forget about me for a minute. Just, favorite place in the world. Untouched nature or amazing architecture or, or, just people, whatever's your favorite."
"People," Cas said promptly. "Yes. Humanity, the most complex and unpredictable of my Father's creations. You can know the place and kind of every particle of dust that makes up a human being, and never know where they're going. You can know their destiny, map out how all those particles must travel, see the shape of their path like an arrow in flight, and never understand who that person truly is. You are," and Cas sounded closer to real laugh now, "practically ineffable. In His own image, as it was written."
"You... really like people," Dean said. Considering how angels sometimes looked at them like ants, how even Cas had threatened him, early on, this was news.
"Yes," Cas replied easily, "though you confuse me."
"Feeling's mutual, buddy," Dean said. "You confuse the hell outta me."
"But you like me?" Cas asked. He sounded startled and hopeful.
The decision felt like it was both spur-of-the-moment and a long time coming, like a break in tension. Dean figured, what the hell, Cas didn't know who the hell he was, what did it matter if he just answered the question? "Yeah. I like you," he said. He smiled as he said it because it was easy. "Might even go on a real date with you sometime, if you asked."
"I would like that," Cas said, which proved he wasn't completely hopeless at women as long as he didn't have to do the hitting on part personally.
"Dean!" Sam shouted from across the club. Dean fixed his smile on his face, took a drink, and tried to figure out how to escape Cas without it being completely obvious he was responding to his own name. Sam then made that very difficult by running up and once again yelling, "Dean!"
Dean decided to just pretend he didn't know Sam. Or Ruby, who was hanging off his arm, looking thoroughly amused.
"Dean, they know it's us," Sam said. "Ruby and Cas--we were idiots, they can both see through illusions, we should have realized."
"They what," Dean said blankly.
"I don't understand," said Cas.
"You know it's me?" Dean demanded of Cas.
"You believed I wouldn't recognize you?" Cas said, frowning mightily.
"Sonofabitch," Dean said. His hand closed around the amulet. He wanted to yank it right off. "This was the stupidest plan we've ever--"
At the same time, Ruby said, "No, Dean, don't, you're dressed--"
Dean realized why as he heard the fabric of his t-shirt make a not-quite-tearing, painfully stretched sound. Carefully and with dignity, Dean lowered the amulet back over his head and let it fall between his breasts. "--come up with," he finished as calmly as possible. He risked a glance at Cas, who looked as confused as ever. A glance was all he could take. Dean stared at the floor and cleared his throat.
"I begin to understand, a little," Cas said. He drew back slightly, as if relaxing his intense scrutiny. "Dean. You thought I would propose marriage to someone I had met mere moments before?"
Dean stared. He deeply wished he could have this conversation without Sam and Ruby gawking. Ruby said gleefully, "You popped the question proper? What did he say?"
"He questioned my choice of drinks," Cas attempted to answer.
"That was not proper," Dean insisted, drowning him out.
Cas turned to look at Dean. "It was your complaint, when the nature of the mark on your arm was revealed, that I had never asked you verbally. Have I not done so now?"
"You can't just blurt it out like that!" Dean protested. "If this ever comes up again, you better be on one knee with a ring in a box, and you better be damn sure what the answer's gonna be!"
It was possible Sam was going to die of not laughing at him. Ruby clearly felt herself under no similar restraint, and laughed gaily.
Cas's frown got frownier. "But what is the point of asking a question to which you know the answer?"
"Because, okay? Just because," Dean blustered. He rubbed his face and contemplated stalking out with his head held high before this got more absurd. "No, look, the point is, you don't ask that question until you know what the answer'll be because it's too much. You can't push a relationship like that. If you don't think you're gonna get a yes then it's too soon. Okay?"
"Okay," Cas agreed seriously.
"Are you sure you're not actually a girl?" Sam asked.
"What, just because I think there should be a little romance?" Dean said. He shut his eyes for a moment. "Sam, just--go away, and take your girlfriend from hell with you. I have to talk to my fiancé now."
"Yeah. Yeah, okay," Sam said.
Dean thought that was going to be the end of it, but no. Ruby oozed up to him and said, "Dean, I just want to say this now in case I don't get the chance later--" And she groped him, high on his bare thigh, and said, "Nice legs! Did you wax or shave?"
"Somehow, this is all your fault," said Dean, "and later, I will make you pay."
"Ooh, grrr. Big mouth there, tiger," said Ruby. She let him go with a playful slap and allowed Sam to drag her away.
"You called me your fiancé," Cas said to Dean. "I had understood that we were not--"
"We're not," Dean confirmed quickly. "It was a joke, okay? We've been joking about it since Anna said, because it's one of those things that I could--either laugh at, or tell you to get the hell away from me, and I didn't want to do that."
"Ah," said Cas. "So we are--" He lowered his chin, as if hoping Dean would finish the sentence for him. "--still not--?"
"Yeah, no," Dean said. "Cool it, okay? Just--no."
"Okay," Cas said. He looked down at his ginger ale. He played with the glass on the bar rather than picking it up, not that Dean blamed him--the ginger ale looked completely flat by now. "Why," Cas asked, looking back up at him, "did you seek to deceive me with this disguise?"
"I was," Dean tried. "I don't know. It was dumb, okay? I just wanted to make sure you were all right."
"Why would I not have been all right?" Cas asked.
"Because I don't trust Ruby," Dean said, "especially not to bring you to a--" He gestured broadly. "--den of iniquity for a good time. I mean, if anyone should be doing that, it should be me, you know?"
"Very well," Cas said. "In the future I will inform Ruby that you must accompany me on all trips to dens of iniquity."
"Right," Dean said, grinning a little. "So. You--why didn't you say anything, if you knew it was me?"
Cas frowned. "I did not make any attempt to hide my knowledge," he said slowly.
"But you didn't say anything," Dean said. "You had to know something was up, right? I don't dress like this every day."
"Nor do you wear illusion charms every day," Cas agreed. "I felt it would be impolite not to treat you as you presented yourself. Or was that not the point of the disguise?"
"But you weren't curious why?" Dean persisted.
"Ruby provided an explanation," Cas said, "so I didn't feel the need to ask you about it."
"I knew it," said Dean. "This really is all her fault. What did she say? Lay it on me."
"Ah," said Cas in that way that Dean knew meant he was embarrassed. "She said that Sam had brought her a present--which she gave me to understand was sexual in nature--"
"Whoa, what?" Dean said. "Okay, so they're having a kinky fake lesbian hook-up, apparently, and you thought that meant that I--that this was--" Dean pressed his lips together, trying to come up with the phrase. "--for you, the same way?"
"Not the same way," Cas said, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye before looking back at his drink. Dean had never seen Cas so embarrassed. "She suggested that you had donned the illusion so that we could get married without traveling to Canada."
"Okay," said Dean slowly. "So you were just being really hopeful, going along with that."
"Yes. I apologize," Cas said to his drink.
"I can't decide if that's more or less presumptuous than thinking I was coming in tarted up to offer you kinky sex," Dean said. "Are you even interested in sex, or this body brand engagement thing like, pure soul mate crap? Because you haven't hit on me at all."
Cas blinked at him. "No," he said finally, "no, an angel marriage would be--is--a marriage in all senses. If we were to--that is to say--if we were wed, of course we would consummate the marriage."
"You make it sound so hot," Dean complained. "You guys believe in pre-marital? Or do I have to marry you to find out what you're like in the sack?"
Cas was back to looking at his ginger ale in full angel blush mode. "Dean, you said you felt it was too soon to speak of marriage," he said, "that it made you uncomfortable to do so. I feel the same with regard to sex. That it's too soon to consider it."
"Right," Dean said wryly, and figured that was an answer to his question.
"You said--only I don't know if--" Cas looked more flustered than ever.
"Said what?" Dean asked patiently.
"That you might go on a date with me," Cas said. "Is that something you would do, or only this--" He reached to touch the sleeve of Dean's babydoll tee. "--woman who doesn't exist?"
Cas had to know how close his fingers hovered over Dean's scar. Dean made himself look up to Cas's face. "You asking me on a date, Cas?"
Cas withdrew his hand. "I believe so, yes. I don't know what you're going to answer," he added, babbling. "I'm sorry if I shouldn't have."
"No, no, it's fine," Dean said. "I. Yes, I'll go on a date with you." Possibly he was going to have to tell Cas what appropriate date activities were, but that was okay, too.
"Good," said Cas. "Only do you think perhaps, on this date, you might dress as yourself? It's not that you aren't pretty as a woman, Dean," Cas told him earnestly, "it's just that I am--more accustomed to your usual appearance."
Only Cas, Dean laughed to himself. "Okay," he said. "I can do that."
Much later, when Dean and Sam were back at Bobby's, peeling off girl clothes and returning the amulets, Sam said quietly, "So. You and Cas, huh."
"Yeah," Dean admitted, pulling his jeans up.
Sam gave him an amused look, a look which was clearly quoting what Dean had said here in Bobby's living room about everything he and Cas weren't doing. Most of which they still weren't doing.
"Whatever," Dean said. "Shut up."