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(Dis)Affection

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Dean tapped his fingers against the table again. Across from him, Castiel was checking his phone…again. The silence between them had stretched on for entire minutes, but it wasn’t because Dean was nervous, or because Castiel was ignoring him. The situation wasn’t even uncomfortable, per se – even though Dean was sitting across from a person he’d never met before and who, according to his asshole brother and friends, was “a perfect fit for him.” So perfect, indeed, that Dean’s asshole (ex-)friends had decided to trick him into going on a blind date with an equally oblivious Castiel. A blind date in itself wouldn’t have been so bad, if their friends had bothered to ask either of them. As it was, Castiel hadn’t known anything about a date before sitting down, and neither had Dean, and that made Dean mad.

Dean tapped his fingers against the table again. Dean was furious, and judging by the way Castiel threw his phone on the table, so was Castiel. Dean could fully sympathize. He had been expecting a trip to the movies with his brother, Sam; Sam’s fiancée Jess; his best friend, Charlie; and her girlfriend, Jo. It was the day before Sam’s birthday, after all, and though Sam had said that he didn’t want to do anything special for his birthday, Dean had assumed that going to the movies together would be a sort of low-key celebration. It had been jarring to arrive to the coffee shop and realize that, instead, he was supposed to spend time with a man he hadn’t wanted to meet in the first place. Furthermore, he’d specifically told Sam, Jess, Charlie, and Jo, all of them, that he didn’t want to try dating men again. He’d told them all that, and those assholes had deliberately ignored that.

It wasn’t even a great coffee shop. It was Biggerson’s, for crying out loud. If this had been a real first date, Dean would’ve been out the door before Castiel had even planted his (admittedly, very nice) ass on the seat before Dean. Besides, the choice of the coffee shop made Dean question his friends’ tastes altogether. He was sure that Sam had suggested it, because Charlie would have at least picked a better place for a forced date.

Across from him, Castiel picked up his phone and glared at it, before setting it on the table again. Dean could understand that. From the few words they’d exchanged, Dean had surmised that Castiel was friends with Charlie and Jo, and even knew Jess in passing. With so many mutual contacts, it was surprising that Dean and Castiel had never met. Dean could sort of see why Sam, Jess, Charlie, and Jo had all decided to set them up on a date; tying up loose ends, so to speak. It was just annoying and maddening that they’d decided to do so without their consent, which was precisely what Castiel had said in a strongly-worded text he’d just sent to Charlie. His bitterness had been evident in the disappointed “oh” Castiel had let out when he’d seen Dean. Dean had filled the silence with his tapping and fuming, but even he had to admit, it was getting old.

“So,” Dean said for the umpteenth time – they had waited for their tensely ordered coffees for a long time, and in the meantime, all they’d done was glare at everyone in the coffee shop. At least they weren’t mad at each other.

Or about each other, but that was neither here nor there.

“So,” Dean said again, giving the table a final, loud tap. “Our friends are assholes.”

“Agreed,” Castiel said. He frowned, as if trying to come up with an adequate insult. “And cowards,” Castiel finally added.

Dean nodded. “I’m going to kill Charlie when I see her. This whole scheme has her written all over it.”

“Get in line,” Castiel said. His voice was rough and low, more so than Dean’s, and despite the circumstances, Dean recognized that he liked Castiel’s voice. “I told her I wasn’t ready to date, and two days later, here I am.”

Dean cringed in sympathy. “Same, dude. I told her I didn’t want to date guys again, and well, you’re one.”

“I’m not sure if that’s an insult.”

“It’s an observation,” Dean protested. “No offense, but my last boyfriend was, er… Never mind.”

“Oh.” The look in Castiel’s eyes softened, even though he couldn’t possibly read all the meanings behind Dean’s words. He wasn’t ready to talk about Nick, especially not with a stranger.

Castiel’s phone beeped then, and he grabbed it from the table. His face darkened as he read the text he’d gotten.

“Pathetic,” he grouched.

“What does it say?”

Castiel slid his phone to Dean. There was a conversation open between Castiel and Charlie, and Charlie’s answer to Castiel’s protest about her methods was, “We just thought you’d be perfect together so now you’re on a date!! Have fun and don’t stay up late!” It was followed by, “Hey that rhymed! Srs tho have fun! <3”

Dean rolled his eyes. Charlie’s matchmaking idea had to be among the most unimaginative ones ever, and all Charlie and her little helpers had managed to do so far was piss off both Dean and Castiel. It wasn’t exactly a beginning of a charming love story.

On the bright side, Castiel wasn’t the problem here. It wasn’t Castiel’s fault that their mutual friends were assholes with no regard for other people’s feelings. Actually, Castiel seemed quite nice, based on those tense five minutes they had been sharing a table. He had nice eyes when he wasn’t glaring daggers at all of humanity, and Dean supposed that Castiel was attractive when he wasn’t dripping with anger. (Or perhaps, because of it. Dean had some kinks he definitely wasn’t ready to talk about with a stranger.) And if Castiel’s sharp answers, shrouded with such deadpan sarcasm that it was hard to tell if it was intended or not, were an indication of anything, he was also smart. In any other circumstances, Dean would have been over the moon to be sitting with a man like that. This time, he was just angry.

A waiter finally brought their coffees to them, and Dean retracted his fingers to his lap. They sat in a tense silence as the waiter arranged the cups, glancing at each other over the drinks. They quickly looked elsewhere as their eyes met.

“Worst date ever,” Dean muttered.

“That wounds me,” Castiel said. It was said with such a deadpan tone that Dean wasn’t sure if he was he serious or not.

“Ain’t your fault.” Dean rolled his eyes, and amended, “Honestly, I don’t think this is going that bad. I’ve been on worse ones.”

“You’re not making this any better.”

“Oh, shut up,” Dean said, but he smiled, and Castiel tentatively answered it. “Sorry. Not your fault, I know. But I was supposed to be watching Tarantino’s newest and making fun of all the fake blood covering the screen, not…be…here,” Dean finished lamely.

“Sounds like a fun date,” Castiel quipped. He took a sip of his coffee, and then battled down the urge to spit it back, because not only did it taste awful, it was also boiling hot. Dean followed the motion, and took a tentative sip of his own coffee, only to do the same.

“Jesus, how do you fuck up black coffee?” Dean muttered.

“Very easily, it would seem.”

“Eugh.”

“I suppose bad coffee is statutory on awful dates,” Castiel said, and Dean had to admit that the small crooked smile looked downright adorable on him.

“So, you got any horror stories?” Dean asked.

“Aside from my friends being nosy and taking too much interest in my non-existent love life?” Castiel asked dryly. Dean grinned, taking another sip from his coffee. It was still awful, but at least he had something to do with his hands. “My last date ended with him complaining I was too boring and too invested in my work. And that I’d never amount to anything.”

“What an asshole,” Dean said. “What do you do, then?”

“I work for a non-profit organization,” Castiel said. “Funding, communications, whatever there is to do.”

“Wow,” Dean said.

“You don’t think that’s…lame?”

“No, I think it’s cool you have something to be passionate about.”

Castiel glanced at him, and Dean stared back, unsure what Castiel was seeing. He’d never really thought in detail what kind of person would work for a non-profit organization, but as he looked at Castiel, the answer seemed obvious. Someone who cared, deeply, but was still sharp enough to be organized and calculating. Castiel seemed more intriguing by the second.

“What about you? Any horror stories about dating?” Castiel asked then, looking as though he was curious but didn’t want to pressure Dean into talking. How he managed to pull that off in a single look, Dean didn’t know. He blinked.

“Well… My last attempt ended with him disappearing from the diner and leaving me to pay the check by myself.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Castiel said. He put the coffee cup down. He eyed it like the liquid in the cup was an insult to coffee everywhere. To be fair, it absolutely was. Dean felt bad for the waiter, but he wouldn’t be leaving a huge tip over this. “I think I understand now why you said you didn’t want to date guys.”

“It’s one of the reasons,” Dean hedged. “I’m bi, anyway, so it’s not like my dating life is over forever.” He felt suddenly awkward, and to cover that, he asked, “What about you?”

“I’m utterly indifferent to sexual orientation.”

Dean blinked. “So you’re pan?”

Castiel shrugged. “If you say so. I’m not interested in labels, but I understand why people find them comforting.”

Castiel seemed to sense that this was a touchy subject for Dean, and thankfully didn’t continue. Instead, he asked, “What do you do?”

“I’m a detective. With the state police.”

“Really?”

Dean stilled; sometimes, people reacted strangely to that revelation, and Dean knew that a few times he’d been walked out on just because of that. That deep-rooted fear and hatred of cops was weird – although sometimes merited – but people could have hang-ups because of the strangest things.

“That’s great,” Castiel only said, and his small smile told Dean that he meant it. He relaxed again.

“Huh,” Dean said. “Charlie was right for once, I guess. You are nice, for a person I’m forced to spend time with.”

“Thank you?” Castiel said. “For a hypothetical date, you aren’t so bad either.”

“I’ll be sure to tell my hypothetical friends that,” Dean said. Castiel gave that small smile again, just a tiny curve of the corner of his mouth. Dean was glad to earn that smile nonetheless.

“I’m sorry you’re missing out on Tarantino’s newest because of this. That must be more interesting than, well, this.”

“Eh, it’s alright,” Dean said with a shrug. “With my luck, if this was real, you’d be a crappy date, anyway.”

Castiel narrowed his eyes at that, and Dean grinned, letting Castiel know that he was joking.

“I take offense to that,” Castiel said then. His voice was deadpan again, but Dean thought he was starting to hear the humor underneath. “I’ll have you know that, hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d be an excellent movie date. I don’t hog popcorn – much – and I don’t speak during dramatic moments. I also pretend not to see that people are crying when E.T goes home.”

“Well, that sounds like my kind of date,” Dean winked. “Unless you think a sex show is appropriate for a second date.”

“Of course not,” Castiel said, looking affronted. Dean didn’t want to tell him that his example had been from his own personal experience – one of his dates had really taken him to a BDSM club for their second date. Dean had hightailed it out of there faster than you could say “creepy.” His vague interest in the practice aside, it had been way too much and way too soon. He hadn’t liked the girl enough to even consider kinky sex at that stage.

“I prefer the aquarium,” Castiel said.

“Gotta admit, for a second date, that’s creative,” Dean said. He didn’t know if Castiel was serious or not, but it hardly mattered, since they weren’t ever going on a second date. They were just spit-balling ideas for the fun of it. “And definitely worth a third date. Unless you’re a vegan.”

“I’m not,” Castiel said. He amended, “I tried it in college. It didn’t agree with me.”

“Points to you for that, I guess,” Dean said. “With my luck, though, you hog the covers.”

“If we ever were to sleep in the same bed, I can assure you, I don’t hog the covers,” Castiel said, with that dry determination that made Dean grin.

“Sure you don’t.”

“I also keep spare toothbrushes in my cupboard.”

“Dude, are you trying to make yourself sound like a good boyfriend?”

“I don’t have to. Hypothetically, I would be a great boyfriend.”

“If everything you’ve said is true, I’d say you’d be an excellent boyfriend,” Dean grinned. “And it’d probably annoy the hell out of everyone.”

A look of understanding passed between them, and their grins grew wider. Dean leaned forward, looking Castiel meaningfully in the eye.

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d kiss your cheek every time you’d enter the room,” Dean said. Castiel smirked, understanding.

“Hypothetically,” he said, “if we were dating, I would hold your hand in public and adoringly gaze at you when you’re not looking.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d say I was the luckiest person alive and rub it in every person’s face daily. Especially Charlie’s and Jo’s and Jess’s. And Sam’s, the fucking traitor.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d make sure to tell them every sickening detail of our dates. Especially to Charlie and Jo.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d sit on your lap everywhere. Especially in their company.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I would cuddle you every time we sat down. Especially in their presence.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, we’d be the happiest, cutest and grossest couple ever. Especially in front of them.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, we’d be the most annoying couple alive. Especially in front of them.”

“Hypothetically,” Dean said.

“Hypothetically,” Castiel repeated, with a magnificent evil glint in his eyes.

This was going to be so much fun.

 


 

Dean discovered in the next hour that despite his tendencies to hatch lovely, evil plans, Castiel wasn’t much of an actor. In fact, he was downright horrible, which was hilariously contradictory to his aloof nature.

But, if Dean was honest, he had to admit that he wasn’t much better. The first sign of trouble appeared when they “accidentally” ran into Sam and Jess when they stepped out of the coffee shop. (They’d abandoned their cups of coffee after a few more minutes of pain – both fearing for their stomachs – and decided to relocate somewhere else to plan out their strategy.) Dean and Castiel were both savvy enough to realize that Sam and Jess must have been spying on their date, and while the thought of that made Dean’s blood boil, he channeled that frustration into a smitten look he gave Castiel. Castiel blinked, caught unaware, and before Dean could warn him, Sam and Jess were crossing the street.

“Dean!” Sam called, like this whole thing hadn’t been a giant ruse. Dean forced a smile on his face. “How’s it going?”

“How’re you doing, Cas?” Jess asked, just as unsubtly. Castiel gave her an awkward smile, and that was the sign that made Dean reconsider the whole plan.

Castiel was a horrible actor. If Jess knew Castiel at all – and she probably did – she’d see through them in a second. Dean had to step in and save the day.

“It’s going great,” Dean said. “I guess this is one way to introduce you to the family. Sam, Castiel. Castiel, Sam, my brother.”

“Nice to meet you,” Castiel said, polite but clearly tense. He shook Sam’s hand, and his smile wasn’t one bit more convincing than before, but Sam seemed to buy it. Dean seethed when he saw the meaningful look Sam threw to Jess – like all their plans had been brought to fruition, and the apocalypse had been averted by their brilliant tactical skills. Castiel seemed to notice the same, because his smile faltered.

“So, how do you two know each other?” Dean asked Castiel, nodding towards Jess.

“We used to live in the same building,” Jess said, smiling sweetly. “Then I moved in with Sam, but we’ve kept in touch ever since.”

“Yes,” Castiel said, and Dean nearly flinched – if he could hear the coldness behind the word, then Jess and Sam could definitely hear it, too.

“We, uh,” Dean scrambled to say, “we should get going. To the movies.”

“Right,” Castiel said. “The movies.”

“Oh! Don’t let us keep you,” Jess said.

“Have fun,” Sam said, clasping Dean’s shoulder meaningfully – the way that said, “This is a good thing you have going on, don’t fuck it up.” Dean gave Sam a smile that he hoped was convincing, because in reality, he wanted nothing more than to wring Sam’s neck. He’d told Sam why he didn’t want to date guys again, and his asshole of a brother hadn’t listened.

Time for payback, Dean reminded himself. Grossing out Sam and Jess with Castiel would be worth every “you can do better, Dean” and “I just don’t understand why you’re so afraid of this” speech.

“See you guys later,” Dean said neutrally. He gently touched Castiel on the forearm, prompting Castiel to follow, and, a bit surprised at the contact, Castiel did.

They slowly walked away from Sam and Jess, their steps lining up. Dean held his tongue until they turned the corner – Dean had no idea where the nearest movie theater was, because planning that part had supposedly been Jo’s job, and so he just led Castiel to the closest street corner. When they were out of sight, he stopped and turned towards Castiel.

“What the hell was that?” Dean demanded.

Castiel blinked. “Excuse me?”

“That was pathetic. Sam’s going to call me tonight and assume I need comfort because the date went horribly and you weren’t interested!”

Castiel frowned. “Need I remind you which one of us looked like they wanted to bury an axe into their brother’s back?”

“Shut up,” Dean said. He refused to flush. He was far too old for that. “Fine. Okay, maybe we both need a little bit… uh…”

“Practice?” Castiel supplied. “And planning?”

“Exactly. So we know how to look disgustingly in love.”

“After one date?” Castiel asked wryly.

“Hey, it can happen!” Dean said. “And besides, this is a long-term relationship.” Castiel’s eyebrows rose at that, and Dean hurried to correct, “Prank! I meant prank. Long-term prank. We just need to plan this better.”

“Should we really do this?” Castiel asked then, worrying his lip between his teeth. Dean tracked the movement, and then said, distractedly,

“You came up with this.”

“Yes, but all the same… Aren’t we a bit old for this type of prank?” Castiel asked.

“Speak for yourself. Personally, I don’t think you’re ever too old for revenge.”

“True,” Castiel said. His face darkened. “Charlie and Jo have both been calling me nonstop for five weeks and trying to set me up without my consent. Jess did the same when I ran into her three weeks ago. They deserve every bit of discomfort we’ll inflict upon them.”

If Dean wasn’t careful, he would grow to actually like Castiel. He snorted and clapped Castiel on the back. “There you go. We’ll be the grossest couple in no time.”

“I can only imagine,” Castiel answered. “Now, we’re supposedly on our way to the movies. Where’s the nearest theater?”

“I was hoping you’d know,” Dean said. “No idea.”

Castiel, luckily, whipped out his phone and googled it with such a rapid speed that Dean was almost envious of those nimble fingers. He blinked back to reality when Castiel coughed, “Right. We’re in luck, it’s just a few blocks away.”

“Should we go?” Dean asked. “I mean, if Sam and Jess are still watching…”

“It might be for the best to at least go in, for appearance’s sake,” Castiel agreed. They walked on, the silence stretching between them until it was growing to be uncomfortable, but neither knew how to break it. Dean periodically glanced behind him, checking to see if Sam and Jess had followed them, but they didn’t show up. However, when they reached the movie theater, Dean stopped dead in his tracks. Castiel stopped as well, confused. Dean quickly leaned closer to Castiel, and if he wasn’t concerned with other things, Dean might’ve noticed how adorable Castiel’s face was when his eyes crossed a little, attempting to track Dean’s.

“This is a goddamn conspiracy,” Dean hissed.

“What?”

“Charlie and Jo are across the street!”

Castiel’s eyes narrowed, and a dark look set upon his features when he noticed Charlie and Jo standing on the other side of the road, waiting for the light to turn green.

“This is going too far. Even if we were on a real date, spying on your friends to this degree is…sad.”

“Tell me about it,” Dean muttered. “What do we do?”

The light turned green, and as Charlie and Jo started to cross the road, now having definitely noticed them, there wasn’t much time to plan strategy. Dean still flinched when Castiel grabbed his hand. Dean shot him a panicked glance, and Castiel discovered his mistake when Dean gripped his hand painfully hard.

“What are you doing?” Castiel whispered. Dean’s fingers kept twitching so much that Castiel had to fight to keep the handhold going. It felt like Dean was simultaneously trying to get away from him and trying to get closer.

“Nothing,” Dean muttered. His fingers twitched and nearly slipped away from Castiel’s hold, but before Dean could do that, Castiel corrected the handhold into a more sensible one. Just in time, too, because Charlie and Jo were suddenly right before them.

“Oh! Hi guys! Fancy running into you here!” Charlie said, going for shocked but not really pulling it off. Jo rolling her eyes wasn’t helping matters.

“Yes,” Castiel said, sarcasm dripping off of his voice. “Fancy that.”

“How’s the date going?” Jo asked, her grin widening when she saw them holding hands. Dean was suddenly unsure if this whole scheme was worth of all the jokes Jo would make about Dean finally “getting in touch with his feminine side” and “being the sap I always knew you would be.” Just because Dean had cried during Titanic that one time didn’t mean he appreciated Jo’s needling.

“Fine,” Castiel said, because Dean was no help right then. Dean realized that he was holding Castiel’s hand too tightly, almost attempting to cut off his blood circulation, and lessened his hold.

“We can see that,” Charlie said. If Dean had been unsure when it came to Jo, Charlie’s self-satisfied smirk evaporated those worries in a second. Yes, this whole scheme would be worth it, and Charlie and Jo would be so uncomfortable that they’d beg for them to break up.

“We’re actually on our way to the movies, so…” Dean said, trailing off as he looked Charlie in the eye. She instantly got the meaning – Dean had told her one detail too much about the time he’d banged a girl in the back of a movie theatre, a few years back. Charlie had claimed that she’d needed to take a shower after that tale, and Dean was counting on her remembering that.

“Oh!” Charlie said, immediately getting the message. Dean was pleased to note that the one-way telepathy was working, and Charlie was beginning to flush. “Well, in that case, we should go. We’re, um, meeting up with some friends, anyway. Right, Jo?”

“What?” Jo, having missed the wordless exchange between Charlie and Dean, was confused, but didn’t protest when her girlfriend took her hand, tugging her away. “Okay, okay, I’m coming. Have fun, guys, and don’t forget the condoms!”

“See you later,” Castiel said pleasantly, even if the ire was visible in his eyes.

They watched Charlie and Jo walk away, and the second they were out of hearing range, Castiel turned to watch Dean. Castiel was still holding Dean’s hand, and Dean didn’t dare to drop it, because Charlie and Jo might still turn to watch them. Instead, Dean glanced elsewhere.

“What happened there, exactly?” Castiel asked.

Dean gave him a petulant look, and kept holding on to Castiel’s hand. “What? I gave Charlie a hint, she took it. Problem solved.”

“I didn’t mean that, Dean,” Castiel said, gentler. “You don’t like this,” he said, punctuating the words by tugging on Dean’s hand. Dean instinctively stilled and tried to get away, before catching on and telling his brain to stay still. They needed to look convincing.

“Sorry,” Dean muttered. “You just…surprised me.”

“Hmm,” Castiel said. He clearly didn’t believe Dean, but decided to drop it for now. Dean was grateful for that; he knew he had some fucked up skeletons in his closet, but he really didn’t want to talk about them right now. He’d deal with them on his own and get through this scheme.

“How was that even a hint to Charlie, if I may ask?”

“I just reminded her that we needed privacy,” Dean said.

“In a movie theatre?”

“I uh, may have banged someone in a movie theatre once.”

“In a movie theatre?” Castiel asked, sounding scandalized.

“What, like you’ve never done that before?”

“No, Dean, I haven’t. I’m not into public sex.”

“Oh. Well, uh, neither am I. Sorta. Kinda.”

Castiel snorted. “Clearly.”

Dean flushed. “Fine. I might’ve embellished a few details to Charlie, to get her off of my case. It was just some clothes-on action. And some minor fingering.”

“So, you did what every teenager does in a movie theatre,” Castiel said. Dean would have protested that, but he saw that Castiel’s eyes were twinkling.

Then Dean spotted Charlie and Jo, who hadn’t walked away after all. They were watching them from the corner of the movie theatre. He was about to roll his eyes, but stopped the movement at the last second. It wouldn’t have looked good, rolling his eyes at Castiel.

Dean turned towards Castiel, stepping closer. “Shut up and kiss me. They’re watching us.”

“Are you joking?” Castiel whispered, furiously. “We’re on a first date. We’ve spent approximately an hour together. Hypothetically, if this was a real date, I wouldn’t kiss you yet.”

Dean refrained from pointing out that sometimes, one hour was enough for him to kiss, get naked, get his rocks off, and leave. Since they were supposedly infatuated with each other and on their way to the greatest romance of the century, Castiel was right. They needed to take it slow, or no one would buy their grossly romantic relationship.

“Fine,” Dean said. “You prude.”

From the corner of his eye, he could see Charlie and Jo still lingering in the corner of the movie theatre, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they were watching the conversation. Castiel, having seen the same, decided to use what he had and leant even closer to Dean. Dean blinked, forcing the nervousness down. From this distance, it would have been easy for them to kiss; Castiel’s nose touched his cheek, and Dean could feel the stubble scratching against his chin. Despite the uncomfortable closeness, it was a nice feeling.

“We have to establish some ground rules,” Castiel whispered into Dean’s ear. Dean forced himself to stay put and not back away, like he wanted. Castiel was nothing like Nick, or Al, he told himself. Despite coming up with the scheme, Castiel had given Dean no reason to distrust him. With that in mind, Dean aimed himself towards Castiel, so that their chests were almost touching.

“Are they still watching?” Castiel asked.

“Yeah,” Dean said. Goddamn, those two were stubborn. But Dean and Castiel could be even more stubborn.

“This isn’t weird at all,” Dean snorted, a slight note of panic in his voice. “Is this what you normally do on a first date?”

“Um, I don’t know,” Castiel said. Castiel’s breath was tickling Dean’s ear, and he eased the handhold before it turned painful again. “Perhaps? It would depend on the person.”

Charlie and Jo finally disappeared behind the corner, and satisfied, Dean stepped away from Castiel. In fact, he flinched away so fast that if Charlie and Jo were still watching, they would have been able to spot how fake this all was in a second.

“Fine. Okay. You’re right. We’ve got to establish some ground rules,” Dean sighed.

 


 

It turned out that they both lived quite close to the coffee shop, so in order to plan in peace, they decided to make a tactical retreat for the rest of the evening. Castiel’s apartment was closer by a few blocks, so they decided to walk there. Dean still complained about having to walk, since he’d left his car home. (He hadn’t thought he would need it – the coffee shop was within walking distance from his place, as well.) Dean nearly had a heart attack when Castiel said that he didn’t even own a car – as he put it, his workplace was very close, and so was everything else he’d need in the city.

“All I’m saying is, that’s not natural!” Dean was still arguing when they made their way up the stairs to Castiel’s apartment. Castiel lived on the fifth floor, and had passed the elevator without a glance toward it, so Dean was forced to follow. “How do you get around if you have to go out of the city?”

“Public transport. Taxis. Carpooling,” Castiel shrugged. “And I have friends who are willing to loan their car to me.”

“You’re joking.”

Castiel raised his brows. “I’m…not?”

“It’s a good thing we’re not on a real date, or this would be strike one,” Dean said. Castiel shook his head as he unlocked the door.

“I used to have a car,” Castiel said. “Well, technically, I still have it.”

“So you do have a car,” Dean said, gleefully. “Wait, what do you mean, ‘technically’?”

“It broke down. The cost to repair it would have been unreasonable, so I decided to leave it be.”

“So where is it now?”

“At my parents’ place. They live just outside of the city.”

Dean hemmed. “I could look at it sometime,” he said, the proposition escaping his lips before he could reconsider. “I mean, if you’d like.”

“You’re a mechanic, too?” Castiel asked, looking more impressed than annoyed, like Dean would have thought.

“Amateur.” Dean shrugged. “But I like to think I’m pretty good. It gives me something different to do on weekends than to think about my job. I rebuilt my car, from the ground up,” he finished, feeling awkward again. He didn’t usually blabber in this much detail during first dates – not that he and Castiel were even on a date. But something about Castiel made it seem like Dean could talk to him, even if Castiel was withdrawn and somewhat hard to read. When Dean talked, he felt like Castiel gave him all of his attention.

Castiel regarded Dean with a small smile, and then nodded. “That would be nice. Maybe sometime.”

It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t a no, either, so Dean didn’t feel like he’d overstepped any boundaries.

Castiel’s apartment was a nicely furnished place, way better than Dean would have thought, but he wisely didn’t voice that thought. Dean didn’t exactly know what kind of apartment a non-profit worker would have, but maybe he’d pictured it a lot more hippy-ish or new age-y. There was nothing new age-y about Castiel’s apartment, though. It was clean, with sharp edges and modern furniture. The walls were half-white and half-blue, with the white blurring into the blue in the bottom. It made the apartment look peaceful and quirky at the same time. The living room was dominated by a large bookshelf, sparsely filled with books and DVDs, and there was a white couch by the left wall and a TV. On the right wall was the bookshelf and a door in the middle of it; it was closed, and Dean assumed that it led to the bedroom. He’d never seen a bookshelf that so wholly dominated a whole wall and encircled a door, and his gaze lingered on it, slightly jealous. There were too few books and DVDs for a shelf that size, though, and that seemed odd to Dean. Maybe Castiel was incredibly picky about what he bought.

The open kitchen was only separated from the living room by the kitchen counter, so Castiel motioned for Dean to sit down on the couch while he crouched by the fridge to take out some beer.

“Now you’re talking,” Dean said when Castiel handed him a bottle and joined him on the couch, leaving moderate distance between them. Dean appreciated that. “I’m gonna need booze for this conversation, anyway.”

“Flattering,” Castiel remarked, but Dean could tell by the twinkle in his eyes that he wasn’t hurt by that.

“So, guess we should get this show on the road,” Dean said after a long gulp from his bottle. He didn’t know the brand – it was some hipsterish crap, but surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad.

“Yes.”

“If the plan is that we’ll be the sugariest, grossest, disgustingly cutest couple ever,” Dean grinned, “then at the end, we should also break up. Messily. Horribly. Publicly.”

Castiel nodded, thoughtful. “Tears may be involved. And throwing things.”

“Fighting over the custody of a goldfish.”

“Calling our friends at two a.m. just to cry.”

Dean laughed. “They’re going to feel so guilty for introducing us to each other that they won’t know what to do with it. Charlie will provide each of us with a lifetime supply of ice cream if we can pull off the right moves.”

“She’ll do it anyway, because Jo will threaten her to,” Castiel said.

“Nice,” Dean said. “A lifetime supply of ice cream sounds like a good compensation for all the crap they’ve pulled on me.”

Castiel nodded. He hesitated, and then asked, “Ice cream aside, Dean… Are you absolutely sure you want to do this? A prank of this magnitude will take time, and you won’t be able to date anyone else.”

“Hey, back at you. You okay with this?”

“As I’ve told Charlie and Jo many times, I’d rather stay single for now.” The irritation was clear in his voice. “I don’t think I’m ready for another relationship yet.”

“Bad break-up?” Dean asked, even if he realized that it was too early in their tentative relationship to ask something like that.

As he’d expected, Castiel only muttered, “Something like that.” He glanced at Dean. “Why would you do this?”

Dean shrugged. “This’ll get them off of my back. I’m not cut out for relationships, anyway. A one-night stand here and there is enough for me.” Then he added, “I mean, assuming you’re okay with—or, well, it’s not like you’d care, but—”

“As long as you don’t get caught, because that would be a hard thing to explain to them,” Castiel said. “I’m not going to rat you out, obviously. Otherwise, do as you see fit.”

“Awesome.” Dean took a gulp from his beer. “So, let’s talk strategy. We can’t just Edward and Bella this from the beginning—”

“Excuse me, what?”

“—I meant, we can’t jump right into sucking face in front of them. We’ve got to lay down some groundwork.”

Castiel nodded. “True.”

“So, today was our first date. We hit it off, watch a movie, trade numbers, blah blah. What’s next?”

“Second date, obviously,” Castiel said. “Let’s say on Thursday. Lunch date, perhaps? I kiss you at the end of it.”

“No, I kiss you first.”

Castiel raised his brows. Dean held his intense gaze. “What makes you think you’d initiate it?”

“What makes you think I wouldn’t?”

Castiel didn’t say anything; he simply raked his eyes over Dean, that unnerving blue gaze sending shivers down Dean’s spine. Castiel could really convey multiple emotions with just one simple look.

“Fine, you can have the first kiss!” Dean snapped, not wanting to be scrutinized anymore.

“Thank you,” Castiel said, a bit smugly in Dean’s opinion. Dean rolled his eyes, taking another sip of his drink.

“Next week, I’ll take you to an amusement park,” Castiel mused.

“You can’t take me to an amusement park.”

“Why not? It’s very romantic.”

“It’s also overly cute,” Dean cringed.

“I thought the point of this was that we’re overly cute.”

“Yeah, but on the third date?”

“Fourth, then.”

“Wait, wait, what’s the third supposed to be, then?”

“A walk in a park?”

Dean snorted. “That’s so romantic that I’m going to gag.”

“Meaning, it’s perfect,” Castiel said. He finally took a sip of his own drink, tilting his head in consideration. “There’s a park near the Roman Enterprises. You know it?”

“Yeah?”

“Charlie works at Roman.”

Dean grinned. “I may slip something to her about an after-work date. Knowing her, she’d hack the CCTV in and around the park if she got desperate enough.”

“And send all the pictures to Sam, Jess, and Jo,” Castiel said. “Among others,” he added then.

“She’ll probably post them on Facebook or something, if we’re cute enough,” Dean sighed. “That girl is a force of nature when she wants something enough.”

“How did you become friends?” Castiel asked. Dean gave a little laugh. The story of how he got to know Charlie always made him chuckle, and to this day, he was still unable to tell the exact details with a straight face.

“I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you the unabridged version, so I’m just gonna give you the short version. We were at the same high school. She was a freshman and I was a senior, and…you know what, let’s just say that one thing led to another, and one day she was protesting the price of lunch, I went to her defense, and we both got detention for standing on the cafeteria tables.”

Castiel snorted. “Little rebels, you.”

“Viva la resistance,” Dean nodded. “Anyway, we blew off the detention and started a Comic Book Club. We also got detention for that, because we didn’t think to ask for permission to use the classroom for that.”

Castiel grinned, and Dean grinned back. Despite appearing withdrawn and cold at first glance, there was surprisingly lot of warmth in Castiel, Dean thought. It was just buried beneath the surface.

Dean nodded at Castiel. “How’d you meet her?”

Castiel gave a little laugh as well. “I don’t think you’d believe me,” he said, with a teasing smile.

“Try me.”

“We met at Comic-Con, almost ten years ago.”

“What.”

“I was dressed as Han Solo. She was Leia. It was inevitable that we got to talking, I think.”

“How did flirting with a lesbian go?” Dean asked, grinning.

“There was no flirting involved,” Castiel said. “Even if she hadn’t attached a lesbian pride flag to her bag, the Slave Leia she was kissing would have made it abundantly clear.”

Dean laughed; it sounded exactly like Charlie to do something like that. She had asked Dean to attend Comic-Con with her a few times, but Dean had always turned her down. Now he kind of regretted that; it sounded like he had missed out on a lifetime of adventure, not to mention, he’d had a chance to meet Castiel sooner.

“How come we haven’t met before, dude?” Dean asked then. “I mean, I’ve been friends with Charlie forever, and you’ve been friends with her for years, and you even know Jess and Jo…”

Castiel shrugged. “Ill timing? Unfortunate circumstances? Fate?”

“Not sure I believe in fate,” Dean said, “but okay. Let’s go with that.”

They drank comfortable silence for a moment, glancing at each other. If this had been a real date, Dean would have congratulated himself on the job well done – they were having fun, and they got along great. But making a new friend – or partner in crime – was great as well.

“Do you suppose it’s too early to gaze adoringly at you on a second date?” Castiel asked then.

“I guess not,” Dean answered after a while. “Don’t overdo it, though. And do you even know how to make heart-eyes?”

“I’ll have you know that I’m great at conveying affection.”

“Really,” Dean said, unbelieving.

Castiel shook his head. “You’ll see.”

“Come on, then,” Dean said. “Show me what you’ve got.”

Castiel turned to look at him, but while his gaze was heavy, Dean wasn’t convinced. Castiel’s eyes were huge, and blue, and you could definitely drown in them if you looked long enough, but Dean couldn’t see even an ounce of affection in them.

“If those are your heart-eyes, I’m not exactly swooning.”

Offended, Castiel leaned backward on the couch. “Alright. Let me see what you look like when you’re head over heels in love.”

“Easy peasy,” Dean scoffed. He put his beer on the floor (there was no coffee table, which Dean thought was weird, but didn’t see fit to criticize this detail), and turned to look Castiel properly in the eye. Once again, he concentrated on the different shades of blue in Castiel’s eyes, trying to summon the feeling he’d felt when he’d been going out with…

Dean didn’t even know. He’d been pretty happy with Lisa, maybe? Or Cassie? He settled on thinking about Cassie, disregarding the fact that their relationship had lasted for a few short months and had gone up in flames when she’d moved for a better job, and stared into Castiel’s eyes.

It was intense. Castiel stared back, once again scrutinizing Dean, and Dean felt compelled to say, “I feel stupid.”

“Well, perhaps because this is rather pointless.”

“You’re the one who wanted to see my adoring gaze,” Dean said.

“And I’m not convinced.” Castiel frowned. “You look constipated.”

“Shut up.” Dean gave up and tore his eyes away from Castiel. “Okay, we’ll wing it. Just think about puppies or some shit when you look at me.”

“I can think of my guinea pigs,” Castiel mused.

“Wait, what? Do you have guinea pigs?”

“Yes,” Castiel said, and the smile that spread on his face was nothing short of dazzling. “Their names are Super and Man.”

Dean couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing and was unable to stop for a minute. Castiel didn’t look offended, and he grinned at Dean’s laughter.

“Oh my god,” Dean, wheezed. “That’s ridiculous, man. That’s the best thing I’ve heard today.”

“Would you like to see them?” Castiel asked.

“Why the hell not?” Dean said. He didn’t particularly like cats, or even dogs, unless they appeared in a short video on YouTube, but he didn’t have an opinion on guinea pigs.

Castiel smiled, stood up and led Dean through the bookshelf to the door. There indeed was a bedroom behind it. The room was dominated by a king size bed that was meticulously done and had a drawer next to it. In the corner, there was a caged area for two guinea pigs. They were beige, and both looked plump to Dean, but he had no idea how fat guinea pigs were supposed to be, so he said nothing. The guinea pigs let out loud squeaks when they walked closer, and one hid behind the little cottage that was in the middle of the cage.

“Hello, little ones,” Castiel said, crouching in front of the cage. “How are you today?”

“You actually speak to them?” Dean asked. He didn’t know whether that was adorable or dorky. Or both.

“Sometimes,” Castiel said. The other guinea pig was braver, and came curiously to sniff Castiel’s hand when he held it out. It let out loud, excited squeaks, and let Castiel take it to his hands. “This is Super. He’s the braver one.”

“Great choice of name, then,” Dean said. The other guinea pig, Man, was still hiding behind the cottage, and let out much higher squeaks than Super. Maybe he was scared.

“Would you like to hold him?” Castiel asked.

“Um. Sure?”

Gently, Castiel put the guinea pig in Dean’s hands. Its little nails felt weird against his skin, but it wasn’t uncomfortable, and when Dean touched the fur, he was surprised by how soft it was.

“His fur looks rougher than it is,” Dean said. Super squeaked something at him, and Dean grinned. He smoothed his hand over the guinea pig’s back, and it felt amazing that this little ball of fur let him do that.

“He likes you,” Castiel said. He glanced at the cage, where Man was trying to blend into its surroundings. “Sorry about Man. He’s a little jumpy.”

“Nah, that’s fine,” Dean said, still petting Super. He put his face closer to it, grinning. “Hi, little guy. You’re nice.”

Castiel let him pet Super for a few more moments, but when the guinea pig started to squirm, Castiel took him from Dean’s hands and placed him back in the cage. Dean watched as the guinea pigs ran around, going from the water bottle to the hay, and running around again. It was surprisingly engaging to follow their lives, even just for a moment.

Castiel noticed the way Dean looked at the guinea pigs, and smiled at him. “I do that often. Just watch them. It’s calming, to look at something that has no cares or worries of the world on its shoulders.”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “I get that.”

They talked for a while after that, but when Dean noticed that night had settled over the city, he realized that he needed to leave. They’d spent nearly three hours together at that point, and Dean was surprised how fast the time had gone by. Castiel walked him to the door, and before Dean stepped outside, they swapped numbers.

“So, I’ll see you on Thursday,” Dean said. “We’ll have a disgustingly romantic lunch date.”

“I can hardly wait,” Castiel deadpanned. “I look forward to kissing you,” he added mischievously.

“No tongue or I will not be held responsible for my actions.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Castiel said. “See you on Thursday, Dean.”

“Bye,” Dean said, still looking at the door when Castiel closed it. Smiling, Dean started to skip down the stairs, foregoing the elevator again.

If this had been a real first date, it would have been amazing. Dean couldn’t recall the last time he’d enjoyed someone’s company so much, or a date that involved Dean holding guinea pigs. Dean was lucky that his co-conspirator was such a nice guy.

Dean couldn’t wait for Thursday and putting their plan into motion. They were going to gross out everyone.

With a glee that a thirty-one-year-old man shouldn’t possess, Dean laughed as he skipped down the stairs and into the street.

Chapter Text

They exchanged a few WhatsApp messages during the week and planned out Thursday’s lunch date more in detail. They established more rules – Castiel insisted that they go through everything they might have to do in order to convince others, and rigorously went through every possible scenario: was it okay for him to kiss Dean? How long? Where? Could he touch Dean’s torso? Was touching his thigh permitted? Should he warn Dean before kissing his cheek?

Dean didn’t think that any of his past girlfriends or boyfriends had been so strict with consent, and they weren’t even dating for real. Dean could appreciate that, because for once, it felt like someone really listened to Dean’s limits.

Because Dean’s working hours weren’t as flexible as Castiel’s, Dean had suggested the time for the lunch date, and Castiel had assured him that he’d be there. Castiel had picked out a coffee shop near the station where Dean worked. It was a great choice, because one of Charlie’s friends worked there, and this way, they’d get the ball rolling quicker than they could say “suckers.”

As his lunch hour drew closer, Dean was glancing at his phone periodically and had to stop laughing evilly whenever he opened the conversation between him and Castiel. He couldn’t wait to meet up with Castiel and go ahead with the plan. Even if he was completing the paperwork on a nasty battery and assault case, Dean was humming under his breath.

People noticed the change. The first one to ask was Benny Lafitte, his usual partner and friend in and out of the station. Thursday was wearing on Benny, because he was on his way to fill his cup of coffee (for the third time) when he stopped by Dean’s desk.

“What’s got you in such a good mood?”

“Got a lunch date today,” Dean said, gleeful. He was imagining Sam’s disgusted face when Dean and Castiel would make out in front of him. He couldn’t wait.

Benny whistled. “Someone’s got you wrapped around their little finger, brother.”

Dean shrugged, not wanting to give away the game just yet. Benny was a good friend and would probably have understood, but he also knew Charlie and Jo (Charlie had a huge circle of friends, most of whom knew each other), and might have blabbered something to them. Because Benny had never tried to set him up and only occasionally took an interest in Dean’s love life, Dean felt a little bad about deceiving Benny, too. But it would be for the greater good, and Benny would understand when Dean revealed everything.

“C’mon, give me the details,” Benny said then, and Dean instantly felt better about his decision. Why was everyone so damn interested in his dating life? “What’s the lady’s name? Or fella’s?”

Dean stiffened; he had never deliberately come out to Benny, but Benny had seen him and Nick together once, and Dean had been forced to admit that they were dating. Benny never treated it like it was a big deal, but Dean still had trouble trusting that no one cared about the gender of his partner.

“Um. His name’s Cas,” Dean said, the nickname flowing naturally, even if it hadn’t been planned. “He’s a friend of Charlie’s.”

“That girl knows half the city, I swear,” Benny chuckled.

“Tell me about it. But actually, Cas also knows Jo and Jess, Sam’s fiancée. It’s funny that we’ve never met before.”

Benny scratched his chin, pensive. “Cas? As in Castiel Shurley?”

“Uh, yeah?” Dean didn’t actually know Castiel’s last name and was guessing, but how many people named Castiel could there be who knew Charlie and Jo?

“What, do you got some dirt on him that I should know?” Dean asked then.

“Nothing like that,” Benny shrugged. “Andrea volunteers at that organization of his. She’s mentioned him a couple of times.”

Seriously, how had Dean never met Castiel before, when their lives seemed so interwoven?

“Your wife knows my date,” Dean repeated. “Well. Great.”

“He sounds like a stand-up fella,” Benny assured Dean. “Good luck on your date, brother.”

“Thanks,” Dean muttered, not knowing what else to say. But he cheered up quickly, because if Benny had given his blessing, it meant that Benny had already fallen for the lie, hook, line and sinker.

This was going to be easier than he had anticipated.

At quarter to twelve, Dean left the station. He usually didn’t go out to eat, because he was very busy and didn’t want to be away from his desk in case he was needed, or he was out in the field, anyway. Today, he was glad to make an exception. The coffee shop was called Mr. Fizzles, which was a strange name, but the shop seemed clean and inviting enough. Castiel was already waiting for him when Dean showed up. He’d had to leave his car further away, since the front of the shop was packed. That was as good endorsement as any.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel said when Dean stepped closer. Dean couldn’t help but smile.

“Hi. I’m not late, am I?”

“Not at all. I didn’t know how long walking here would take, so I reserved some extra time for it.”

“You walked?” Dean shook his head. “You’re a weird, weird man.”

“No uniform?” Castiel countered, eyeing Dean’s casual attire – he was only wearing a button-down and a loose tie today, since it was so hot outside. Dean wiggled out of wearing a full suit whenever he could.

“I’m a detective. No uniforms for us,” Dean said.

“Poor me,” Castiel deadpanned, and Dean snorted.

“You got a uniform kink or something?”

“Something like that,” Castiel said, a strange smile on his face. He gestured at the shop, and getting the hint – the clock was ticking – Dean followed him inside.

The coffee shop was just as clean and inviting inside as it was outside, if a little underwhelming with its décor: it looked like any other coffee shop. There were a lot of customers sitting, so it looked like it was popular, and there was a short line to the counter. When Dean and Castiel joined it, the cashier suddenly straightened up and turned to them.

“Dean!”

“Garth?” Dean blinked, not having expected to see Garth of all people behind the counter. He’d met Garth a few times through Charlie, because he was a regular at the LARP events she organized, but hadn’t seen him in a while.

“Oh, you two know each other?” Castiel asked. He didn’t even sound surprised.

“We LARP together!” Garth happily explained. “Be right with you, bro!” He turned back to the customer he was serving, giving her all of his attention again and time for Dean to regroup.

“You LARP,” Castiel said, then. He had a small smile on his lips, and Dean couldn’t help but swat him in the chest.

“It’s fun. Charlie was pretty persuasive a few years back.”

“I can believe that,” Castiel said. “And there’s nothing wrong with LARPing. I’ve been to a few events myself.”

“You have?” Dean asked. “Seriously, how have me never met before?”

The line moved pretty quickly, and they spent that time talking instead of checking out the menu, so when it was their turn, Dean did the impossible and let Castiel choose. He’d been to the place before, so Dean trusted his taste. Garth was chattering away as he took their orders, more familiar with Castiel than Dean had thought at first.

“Funny seeing you two together,” Garth commented when he rang up the order.

“We’re on a date,” Castiel informed him. Before Dean could protest, Castiel handed his card to Garth. Dean would have to pay the next time they went out.

“You are?” Garth asked, and for a second, Dean was worried. Then Garth flashed a huge grin. “Nice! Did Charlie set you up?”

“Yes,” Castiel said, a hint of annoyance in his voice. Dean would have to correct him on that. “She did.”

“That girl knows what she’s doing,” Garth nodded sagely. He handed Castiel the receipt and the card back. “Two meat-lovers, coming right up!”

Dean nearly choked on his tongue. Castiel grinned at him, and Dean shook his head.

“Very clever, asshole,” he muttered.

“I like to think I am,” Castiel said. He guided them to a window-seat, which was perfect, because it was directly across from the counter – Garth would have a clear view of them the whole time.

Castiel had assured Dean that he would get enough to eat, and when Dean received his sandwich, he saw why: it was huge. Dean wasn’t sure he could even finish it, and he had a healthy appetite. Castiel didn’t seem to have the same doubts, because he instantly dove right into his meal, and Dean followed his example.

“It’s their selling point,” Castiel explained when they’d taken a few bites. “The biggest sandwiches in the city, or so they claim.”

“Gotta respect that,” Dean said. The sandwich was very tasty, and there was more than enough to eat. “Great price to quality ratio.”

“Precisely,” Castiel said. He seemed glad that Dean approved of his choice.

They ate for a while in silence, eyes meeting over their meals, but neither could think of anything worthwhile to say. Reminding himself that they needed to make an impression, Dean finally forced himself to ask:

“So, uh, how’s work?”

Castiel smiled wryly, but took the opening, and told Dean a bit about his daily routine. It was actually fascinating to listen to Castiel: his work was so different from Dean’s that Dean never could’ve even imagined doing something like it. Castiel also noted that in reality, his work was more boring than he was making it sound.

“There are better days and worse days,” Castiel shrugged. “Some days are remarkable. Others aren’t.”

“Well, isn’t that the definition for ‘a job’?” Dean retorted. “It’s not like I chase down criminals every day or have shoot-outs in a bank. Mostly, my job is just paper work.”

“I’m disappointed. And here I thought I was on a date with a real Sherlock Holmes,” Castiel teased.

“More like John Watson,” Dean said. “It requires a lot of leg work and listening to others.”

Castiel glanced at his side then, and following his example, Dean noticed that Garth was trying to look inconspicuously at them. It failed, of course, but Dean and Castiel both pretended that they hadn’t seen Garth’s curious eyes.

“This is going great,” Dean said. “A few more ‘dates,’ and we can start making out in front of them and really make them squirm.”

“If we want to go over the top, how about a dinner with all of them?” Castiel suggested. “We could spend the entire evening making out and ignoring them.”

“That’s downright evil. I love that,” Dean said. “Do you think we should ‘move in together’?”

Castiel thought about this for a while, munching his sandwich.

“Not yet, obviously,” Dean rushed to add, “but at some point.”

“That’s a good suggestion,” Castiel said. “And in the meantime, we can leave clothes and personal items in inappropriate places for them to find.”

“Oh, I can think of a few things,” Dean said, only stopping his cackle when he noticed that Garth was looking at them again. He shot Castiel a look, indicating with his eyes that Garth was staring, and Castiel gave a slight nod.

Thinking that it was time to take it to the next level, Dean steeled himself and reached for Castiel’s hand. His hand may have trembled a bit, but Castiel gently met him halfway and slipped his palm underneath Dean’s. Even if Dean had assumed that Castiel’s hand would be sweaty, it wasn’t. His hand was warm and firm, and this time, his fingers entwined perfectly with Dean’s. That was fortunate – they’d look more convincing that way. The handhold wasn’t painful this time, either; in fact, it was very pleasant, and Dean could almost forget that it was for show.

“Is he looking?” Dean asked. He kept his eyes on Castiel even when Castiel glanced away, not wanting to give Garth any reason to suspect anything.

Castiel turned back to Dean, and leant closer. Dean mimicked him, until they were crouched over the table and staring into each other’s eyes.

“He’s staring,” Castiel said, a small smirk on his face. “It’s working.”

“Nice,” Dean said. “Time to break out the heart-eyes, then?”

“I thought you said I couldn’t make you swoon with them.”

“Well, uh, you said I look constipated.”

“Perhaps we should stick to just this, for now.”

“Good call,” Dean said. Their faces were still close, and Dean blinked rapidly after noticing just how sky-blue Castiel’s eyes were up close. “This isn’t weird, is it?”

“Of course not,” Castiel said, with a little smirk. He was clearly enjoying this. “Eat up. You said you couldn’t afford to be late.”

“Right.” Dean was holding Castiel’s right hand with his left, so he picked up his sandwich with his right, not letting go of Castiel’s hand. It was a bit awkward, but he managed to eat with some dignity. He was about to let go of Castiel’s hand so that he could eat, but Castiel took his sandwich his left hand and resumed eating, with much more grace than Dean could manage.

“You’re left-handed?” Dean asked, curious.

“No,” Castiel said. “Ambidextrous.”

“Wow. That’s handy.”

“I don’t think about it much. It’s a skill like any other.”

Dean dropped a piece of ham on his shirt then, and he cursed. “Could’ve used a little of your skills there. Shit.”

Castiel let go of his hand and offered Dean a napkin. He’d snatched a stack of those from the counter, apparently foreseeing that this would happen.

“Thanks,” Dean said. He cleaned his shirt the best he could, and luckily, the stain wasn’t visible on his dark green shirt. “I swear I’m not usually this much of a slob on the second date.”

“In that case, I may be persuaded to a third date,” Castiel said, eyes glinting.

“I’m also incredibly easy.”

“That will get you a fourth date, then.”

Dean laughed.

Their conversation was easy and relaxed after that, taking up more time than actually eating, and they could’ve gone on far longer unless time hadn’t conspired against them. Dean devoured the rest of his sandwich when he noticed how long they’d been sitting in the coffee shop, and Castiel hurried to finish his meal as well. All the while, they noticed Garth stealing glances at them, and to keep up the play, Dean threaded their fingers for a moment before they had to stand up and leave. Castiel helped Dean put his outer jacket on, which was a stroke of genius – Dean couldn’t have come up with a more disgustingly romantic gesture if he’d tried.

“Bye guys! Hope to see you here again!” Garth called after them when they exited. Dean gave a friendly wave at Garth, and then had to hurry outside and hide his face in Castiel’s neck so that Garth wouldn’t see his laughter.

“What?” Castiel rumbled against his ear. Dean hadn’t even realized how close they’d ended up, and he instinctively flinched back, before remembering that Garth was still watching, and leaned his forehead on Castiel’s neck again.

“Garth started texting the second we left,” Dean explained. “How long do you think it takes for Charlie to spread the gossip?”

“Five minutes, tops,” Castiel said. His warm breath tickled Dean’s ear, and Dean leant even closer. To make their posture look more natural, Castiel slowly brought his hands to Dean’s waist. It was nice of him to give Dean time to adjust.

Something vibrated against Dean’s thigh just then, and it took a second for Dean to figure out that it must’ve been Castiel’s phone. Sure enough, Castiel stepped back, reached into his pocket and fished out his phone, flipping the screen on.

“What?” Dean asked when Castiel chuckled.

“I stand corrected. A minute. I would say that this was a success, then.”

“What’s she saying?”

“I have no idea how to read out loud the majority of these emoticons, but I think this is a good sign.”

“Awesome,” Dean said. “This was fun. We should do this again sometime.”

“Agreed,” Castiel said. His grin was contagious, and Dean found himself grinning back at Castiel.

“You should go,” Castiel said then. “You said you were in a hurry.”

Dean sighed. “Yeah, paperwork calls.”

“Funny, that’s what I was going to say.”

“I told you, being a cop isn’t as exciting as in the movies. That’s for FBI agents,” Dean said.

“You can complain about your job the next time, if I get to complain about mine.”

“Deal.” Remembering something crucial, Dean smiled. “You still haven’t kissed me, you know.”

“Ah, of course. You’re right.”

Castiel approached him gently and slowly, and Dean didn’t know what he’d expected, but Castiel bypassed his lips and pressed a soft kiss on his cheek. He lingered for a few moments, his stubble scratching against Dean’s, and Dean took a deep breath when he realized that it was a far more comforting feeling that Nick’s smooth skin, and much better than the razor-sharp sting of Al’s beard.

“Cheeky,” Dean said when Castiel pulled away. His skin tingled where Castiel’s lips had been pressed, and he couldn’t help but grin at Castiel. Garth’s fingers must’ve been burning right now, with the speed he was texting.

“I try,” Castiel smiled.

Dean hummed as he drove back to the station, and even Benny’s jabs about his good mood didn’t bother him. It was a good thing that Benny was fooled as well, right?

 


 

Castiel was busy that weekend, but they’d agreed to have their “third date” in the park near Charlie’s work the following Tuesday. Dean could hardly wait for that, but in the meantime, he had a fun time when Charlie and Jo came over Friday night. Charlie had used the excuse of having a board game night, but Dean guessed that it would only take minutes before they would start to grill him about Castiel.

Dean was right. Charlie and Jo had barely taken off their shoes and commandeered the couch before they unleashed the inquisition.

“So,” Jo said, letting the ‘o’ sound drag on forever. “Castiel, huh?”

“I’m impressed. Thirty seconds, and that’s where you crack.”

“You should be flattered that we care so much,” Jo retorted.

Dean rolled his eyes. Inside, he was giggling and couldn’t wait to fool these two. “Alright. We went on a date. It was nice.”

“‘It was nice.’ Wow, that’s descriptive.”

“It’s an adjective. It’s descriptive by definition.”

“Cut the crap, Winchester,” Jo said. “A little birdie told us that you went out again, and got real cozy on the sidewalk.”

“Who the hell told you that?” Dean groaned. He had to bite his lips in order to stop cackling. Garth was a real Gossip Girl, and it was working great for Dean and Castiel.

“Our lips are sealed,” Charlie said. “But seriously, tell us more.”

“Alright, alright.” Dean finally took the chair opposite from the couch. The board game that Charlie had brought with her had been laid out on the coffee table between them, but there was no way they would play before the girls had heard every detail. “So, we’ve gone out twice, but I’ve got a good feeling about this. He’s… Cas is really nice. Interesting. Well, you know him, you know what he’s like.”

“It’s better to hear it from you,” Charlie teased, and Dean pretended to sigh in irritation, before launching into a speech. It was surprisingly easy, waxing poetic about how nice Castiel was and how much heart he had and how handsome he looked – Dean didn’t even have to lie, just color the truth a little. The girls ate it up, Jo even letting out an undignified squeak that she vehemently denied a second later. Dean already had a century’s worth of blackmail material, just based on this one discussion.

“I can’t believe we’ve never met before,” Dean said, and he meant it. “Cas said he’s been LARPing with you. Why haven’t we run into each other before?”

“I was saving him for you,” Charlie winked. “He’s great, isn’t he? Worth waiting for.”

“Yeah, he is,” Dean said, thinking about the diabolical plans Cas had come up with. “We’re actually going out on Tuesday again.”

“So soon?” Charlie asked, happiness audible in her voice. Dean grinned. This was better than he thought it would be. “Where? What? When? C’mon, Winchester, give us something!”

“Okay, okay!” Dean laughed. “We’re meeting up after work. Nothing special planned, maybe just walk around. Cas suggested that park near Roman Enterprises.”

“That’s wonderful, Dean,” Charlie said. “It’s a great place for a date.” She was beaming, and Dean couldn’t believe how easy it was to fool these two. He barely had to do anything.

“You seem like you really like him,” Jo commented.

“You have no idea,” Dean said, attempting to gaze into space adoringly. He wasn’t sure did he pull it off until Jo coughed and said,

“Weren’t we supposed to play?”

Dean resisted the urge to tell her that he already was.

 


 

Their “third date” actually went very well. Dean met up with Castiel after his shift in the park, near the water fountain. Dean had been there a few times before, and knew that it was favored by couples and families – in short, it was the perfect spot for an overtly romantic third date.

Castiel wasn’t wearing the tan trench coat he’d been wearing on their previous “dates,” and it took Dean a while to find him because of it. Instead, Castiel was dressed in a white t-shirt with his charity organization’s logo on it, a plaid over shirt and jeans, looking more casual than he’d been on their earlier outings. Dean thought that while the suit he’d worn earlier had looked good, the casual look suited Castiel excellently.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel said when Dean approached him.

“Hi, Cas,” Dean said. “You look good.”

Castiel looked surprised at the comment, and it took Dean a second to gather that it hadn’t been appropriate.

“I mean—”

“Thank you,” Castiel said. “You too,” he added, looking at Dean’s leather jacket and worn jeans. Dean had noticed it before, but now he really felt the weight of Castiel’s gaze – it truly was intense.

“Thanks,” Dean muttered. “So, uh, what’s the plan?”

Castiel stepped forward and offered his hand to Dean, palm up. Dean brushed his hand against his jeans before taking it, slotting his fingers through Castiel’s. Castiel gave him a small smile, and had anyone seen them right now, they would’ve thought that this was a start of a good date.

Castiel had gotten better at acting, it seemed.

“Now what?” Dean asked.

“We walk,” Castiel said, tugging Dean with him, “and talk. And pose at all the security cameras that Charlie surely has hacked already.”

Dean snorted. “No doubt. Did she give you the twenty questions on our ‘relationship,’ too?”

“I’m certain it was closer to a hundred,” Castiel said. “At least it felt like it.”

“Charlie and Jo came over to my place on Friday,” Dean said. “We were supposed to be playing board games, but they spent the entire time asking how our date went and when our next one is and when can we all hang out together.”

Castiel shook his head. “Unbelievable.”

“I know, right?”

Not five minutes into their “date,” Castiel’s phone chimed. He sniggered as he read the text, and then showed it to Dean. It was from Charlie. It said, “Good luck on your date!! Third time’s the charm, don’t screw this up!” and contained more emoticons than necessary.

“Suckers,” Dean said. Castiel nodded and put away his phone. He started to swing their hands, carefree, and Dean allowed the movement. It was juvenile, maybe, but it also felt nice.

They walked on, talking about their jobs for a while, before moving on to other subjects – whining about work wasn’t as interesting as one would’ve thought on a nice May day like this. After some prompting, Dean enthused over his favorite TV shows, and Castiel listened intently, before noting that they shared some favorites. They got into a long talk about Orange Is The New Black before Dean confessed that he actually preferred Doctor Sexy, MD to anything and everything. Castiel only smiled at that and asked Dean about his favorite episodes, revealing that he watched the series as well. Dean had rarely felt so at ease when talking about his trashy favorites.

At some point, when there was a lull in conversation, Castiel said, “Don’t look now, but I think we’ve got company.” Dean itched to look behind him, but he just nodded, trusting Castiel’s word.

“Who is it?” Dean asked.

Castiel sighed. “Charlie and Jo, in very bad disguises.”

“You’d think they’d have something better to do than to spy on us.”

“Apparently, we’re the best entertainment out there,” Castiel said. “Although, they’re creepily invested in this.”

“Hence why we’re doing this,” Dean reminded him.

“Exactly,” Castiel said.

“Should we take this to the next level?” Dean asked. “Not that I want you to kneel and propose—”

“That would be awkward, seeing as I’ve no ring and no speech prepared. I don’t even know your last name.”

“Winchester,” Dean automatically said. “What’s yours?”

“Shurley.” Castiel smiled. “Now that we know each other better, do you want that proposal?”

Dean snorted. “Maybe later. You still haven’t even kissed me properly. I’m kinda curious now.”

“Now?”

“Why not?” Dean pursed his lips. “You insisted on kissing me first, so have at it.”

Castiel gave him a thoughtful look – for a second, Dean feared that he’d gone too far, because despite all their talk about consent and lines, Castiel had never been clear on how he viewed kissing. Dean had gotten the impression that Castiel would go along with it if it suited the situation, but not otherwise. Anxiety started to creep up Dean’s neck, but then Castiel nodded.

They’d stopped walking a while ago, but now Castiel turned totally towards Dean, and tugged him closer by the hand. His hands came to rest on Dean’s hips, and not knowing what to do with his hands, Dean let them remain at his sides. Castiel approached him slowly, just like last time, but this time, he clearly aimed towards Dean’s mouth. Castiel closed his eyes, and Dean thought that he should, too, but suddenly couldn’t.

Castiel’s lips pressed against his, and while the kiss was soft and very tame, it instantly sent shivers down Dean’s spine, and not in a good way. Dean couldn’t help but remember that they were in the middle of a park, where anyone could see them, anyone at all. It felt odd and uncomfortable; Dean felt like he was drowning, like he was a minute away from death and the panic had just settled in. He froze completely, and blood rushed to his ears, covering any sounds from the surrounding world.

Castiel suddenly parted from him, and relief flooded through Dean. He flinched backwards, and then realized that the movement wouldn’t look good, so he adjusted his position and remained near Castiel. Castiel didn’t move his hands away from Dean’s hips, but the touch was light and barely there.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but that was a horrible kiss,” Dean joked.

“Dean,” Castiel said, frowning, “are you alright?”

“What? I’m great.”

“No, you aren’t,” Castiel said. “You froze up.”

Castiel’s stare was too much for Dean to handle, so he dropped his gaze. Counting the lilac and blue lines in Castiel’s plaid shirt was easier than facing him.

“Dean,” Castiel said, softly, “what happened?”

“Just…kissing you in public…it’s weird,” Dean muttered.

For a moment, it seemed like Castiel didn’t understand, but then understanding settled on his face. “Oh. Dean, if you’re uncomfortable with this, maybe we shouldn’t—”

“Stop putting words into my mouth. We’re not calling this off,” Dean snapped. He took a breath and told himself once again that Cas wasn’t like Al; nothing awful was going to happen. “Try it again?”

Castiel gave him a look that Dean couldn’t decipher, but nodded. This time, Cas approached him differently. He raised his hands and brushed Dean’s cheek with his left, gently bringing them closer as if by magnetism alone. Neither of them closed their eyes until the very last second, and this time, plunging into the darkness didn’t seem like an impossible feat for Dean. When Cas finally pressed their lips together, Dean almost didn’t notice it at first; he was concentrating on the gentle pressure of Cas’s hands on his cheek and in his hair. Again, the kiss was soft, but there was warmth in it, and it was easy to drown in the feeling and just let it happen.

They remained close-mouthed for the full duration of it, but Dean’s lips still tingled when they finally parted. Castiel gave him a questioning smile, and Dean answered it.

“Better?” Castiel asked.

“Better,” Dean said. They smiled at each other, until Dean coughed. “D’you see them?”

Castiel glanced to his side. “They’re gone.”

“Shame,” Dean said. “They missed the encore.”

They looked at each other for a moment, smiling, until Dean turned away, gesturing for them to resume walking. Castiel followed, and Dean nearly slipped his hand in Cas’s, until he realized that it was unnecessary. He pocketed his hands to prevent himself from doing anything silly, like accidentally trying to hold Cas’s hand again.

“I’d say that was a success,” Castiel commented. “I think they believe we’re well on our way to falling madly in love.”

Dean snorted. “Romance of the century, yeah, right. Just wait half a year, and we can send them wedding invitations.”

“Winter wedding? That’s romantic,” Cas teased.

“Hold your horses, dude. I’m not getting married in three feet of snow. Has to be in the summer.”

“You may be right. It would be dangerous to carry you over the threshold. I might slip.”

“Wait, who said you’d be the one to carry me? I’m taller than you! And bigger!” Dean argued.

Castiel gave him a pointed look. “You wear heels. We’re the same size.”

“What…These aren’t heels! They’re boots!”

“With an inch of heel.”

“Shut up.” Dean flushed. “Ain’t my fault my brother’s a friggin’ giant. You’d get a complex too if you’d grown up with him.”

“His height is not a reflection on you,” Castiel said, calmly. “And I have enough complexes to choose from with my family, thank you.”

Dean realized that he knew nothing of Cas’s family, and asked, “So, you got any brothers? Sisters? Crazy aunts? Inappropriate grandmas?”

Castiel chuckled. “I’ve got everything. Two brothers and two sisters, to start with.”

Dean asked more about them, and after a moment’s hesitation, Cas relaxed and told Dean about his brothers Gabriel and Jimmy, and his sisters Anna and Rachel. He talked about how chaotic their house had been growing up, but, despite all that, he got on pretty well with his siblings. A little reluctantly, Cas also revealed that they were all named after angels.

“So, what, ‘Castiel’ is a particular angel?” Dean asked.

“Yes. It means, ‘Shield of God,’” Castiel shrugged. “Among other things.”

“But…what about ‘Jimmy’? Were there not enough angel names to go around?”

“More than a single couple could ever produce children,” Castiel said, “but Jimmy disliked his name from the start. He demanded to be called ‘James’ when he was four.”

“Smart kid.” Dean grinned. “So, what was his angel name?”

“That’s classified information,” Castiel said. “And his name is officially James, nowadays.”

“Alright, alright, I get it, no knocking the skeletons in the closet,” Dean said. “‘Castiel’ sounds badass, by the way.”

“Thank you.” Cas gave him a fleeting smile.

“And your family sounds… Well, like a handful. But fun.”

“That’s an accurate description. You can judge for yourself, when you meet them,” Castiel said. Dean blinked at that, and Cas seemed to realize that he’d clumsily stumbled over some boundary, because he looked elsewhere. There was a short silence.

“So, uh,” Dean said, “about our fourth ‘date.’”

“Yes?”

“We’re not really going to an amusement park, right?” Dean asked. “Because I don’t think my stomach could take it. And that wouldn’t make a very good impression on a date, you know?”

Castiel’s face relaxed again. “Your stomach is safe. We simply need to come up with a convincing story and sell it.”

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “And at this point, if they’re as creepily invested as before, they’ll believe anything in a heartbeat. And then we can really begin the torture.”

“I’m looking forward to debauching you in front of them,” Castiel said, and Dean laughed.

“Me too, buddy.” Dean clasped Cas’s shoulder, grinning widely. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

Dean was working on Saturday, and even though he had to deal with a case that involved domestic violence and abusing children, for once, he didn’t carry the burden of that back home. He sometimes had trouble separating his job from his personal life. The cases would haunt his dreams and demand that he be better at his job, that he should be able to protect people better. For once, while the case was awful and heart-breaking, Dean was able to leave it at the station and in the hands of others who could deal with it. He was in a good mood, because he and Castiel had been planning via texts what their “date” at the amusement park would be like all afternoon, and Cas had come up with some delightful, stomach-churning, sweet details. Besides, Sam and Jess were coming over in the evening, and Dean couldn’t wait to rub his “relationship” in their face.

Dean lived in an apartment complex that was, now that he thought about it, very similar to Castiel’s. Due to the fact that they lived only a few blocks from each other, the architecture around the area was relatively the same. Dean’s apartment was a little smaller than Castiel’s. It was, essentially, just one room that served as a bedroom, dining room, and kitchen at the same time. The only door on the left side led to the bathroom. At least the apartment had a balcony, giving it a little more space, not that Dean often ventured there. Dean had learned from Cas that, while their apartment complexes were almost the same age, Cas’s apartment had been renovated, and was in much better shape. Dean’s was in the original condition, and being from the 70’s, it showed. Still, Dean loved it, even with its little dents in the drywall, chafed wooden floors and a kitchen that had little to no counters. (That was the only thing that aggravated Dean – he swore that his next apartment would have a huge kitchen, so that he wouldn’t have to resort to baking on the floor.)

Dean spent the hour he had before Sam and Jess arrived finishing up the cooking and showering. When Sam and Jess showed up, the smell of chicken carbonara permeated the air.

“I swear, you should’ve been a chef,” Jess said when she sniffed the air. Sam helped her take her coat off, and Dean made a note of the gesture – he’d have to remember that for future reference.

“Didn’t want to make a hobby into a job,” Dean protested, like he’d done a thousand times before.

Jess shook her head. “And the world mourns this loss.”

“Maybe we should taste his food before declaring a mourning period for the country,” Sam snickered.

“Have my cooking skills ever let you down, Sammy?”

“Well, there was the time you tried to make sushi—”

“That was your fault. I didn’t want to make it in the first place, and I told you I didn’t want to put vinegar in the rice.”

“It’s what the recipe said!”

“Well, it was wrong, and I was right. It was inedible.”

Sam huffed, and Dean beamed, having won the argument. He gestured for Sam and Jess to come in, and they made small talk before sitting down at the table. Dean hummed when he served the food, causing Jess and Sam to look at him in surprise.

“You’re in a weirdly good mood,” Sam commented.

“It’s called being in love, Sammy,” Dean said. He nearly batted his eyes, but thought that would’ve been too much.

Sam seemed taken aback, but recovered quickly. “Okay, wow. Castiel is treating you well, then?”

“Of course he is,” Dean said, frowning. “Did you have a reason to suspect wouldn’t?”

“No, no, I just…well, you know, your past boyf—”

“I don’t want to hear a word about them at this table, you get me?” Dean snapped, pointing at Sam with the spatula. Sam looked chastised. “Cas is nothing like those assholes.”

“I know, Dean. Sorry.”

“You should be,” Dean muttered. There was a short, tense silence when they started the meal, but luckily, Jess broke it.

“So, Dean,” Jess said, “tell us! How are things with Cas?”

“You couldn’t have asked him yourself?”

“Of course, but I’d like to hear it from you. C’mon,” Jess said. Dean hid his evil cackle with a slurp of his meal – time to wax poetic about Cas again.

“Okay, well,” he started, “We’ve only been out three times, but I really like him. He’s funny, he’s intelligent. He’s cute and a real gentleman. Only kissed me on the third date.”

“We heard. During your walk in the park. That’s cute,” Jess commented, and Dean grinned back.

“He is cute,” Dean said, doing his best to get an adoring look on his face. “We’re going to an amusement park next week, actually. Cas’s idea.”

“Ooh, are you going to CastleLand?” Jess enthused, and her smile only widened when Dean nodded. “I haven’t been there since I was a little girl!”

“Jess, you didn’t even grow up here,” Sam laughed.

“Exactly! I was visiting my grangran near here once, and she took me there. I’d love to go there again!”

“I took you to an amusement park once,” Sam said.

“It was Disneyland, sweetie. That’s a whole ‘nother story.”

“Isn’t going to Disneyland better than going to crappy old CastleLand?” Dean asked.

“Of course,” Jess laughed, “but still, I’d love to go.”

“How about a double date?” Sam suggested, and Dean’s brain jammed right there. “We could come along.”

“That’s a lovely idea!” Jess said, and her eyes were glimmering so much that Dean physically couldn’t say no, despite all the plans he and Castiel had made. They’d need to throw out their story and actually live it.

“I, uh,” Dean swallowed, “I need to talk to Cas about that. You know, let him know.”

“Great!” Jess said. “Let us know when and where.”

“Sure thing.”

What had he gotten himself into? Dean hadn’t counted on actually going to an amusement park, and he wasn’t sure how to deal with it. Luckily, Jess and Sam shifted into other topics after that, and while Dean made sure to drop Castiel’s name every once in a while, he didn’t have to talk about their “relationship” at length anymore. That was a blessing, because Dean needed time to regroup.

As soon as Sam and Jess left, Dean called Castiel. It was Saturday night and close to ten, and Dean should’ve probably felt bad about calling so late, but this was an emergency. He needed to speak to Cas right away.

“Hello?” Cas’s voice sounded odd, distorted by the phone, and Dean realized that they’d never actually talked on the phone before. They’d stuck to WhatsApp messages the whole time, and for some reason, this new development felt momentarily odd, like another leap in their forming friendship. Or partnership, united against meddling friends.

“Hi, Cas. You got a minute?”

“Of course.” There was a sound of something clinking in the background, like Castiel had put something down. “What’s up?”

“We’ve got a situation. I told Sam and Jess about our supposed ‘date’ at the amusement park, and now they want to come along with us. On a double date,” Dean groaned. “Jess wouldn’t take no for an answer. Says that she’s wanted to go there forever.”

“And…that’s a bad thing how?” Castiel asked. “We’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this.”

“Yeah, but didn’t you hear what I said?” Dean asked. “It’s Sam and Jess. They’re nauseating even when they’re not in the same room. Together, they’re insufferable.”

“Well,” Castiel said, “then we’re just going to have to out-nauseate them.”

“Gotta admit, I like your attitude. Keep it up.”

“Are you nervous?” Castiel asked.

“Huh?”

“About the ‘date’?”

“Nah,” Dean breathed. “I just don’t particularly like amusement parks. The rides don’t agree with my stomach.”

“Ah. That’s okay, we don’t have to go on any rides if you don’t want to.” Cas gave a short laugh – even through the phone, it sounded adorable. “We can just stick to feeding cotton candy to each other and sharing a heart-shaped waffle.”

“Sounds good,” Dean said. He was starting to relax; Cas’s outrageous ideas were always so entertaining that Dean couldn’t help but get caught up in them. It was like the guy had taken pointers from every romantic comedy ever produced, and Dean couldn’t even tell if he was serious or deliberately playing it over-the-top. Either way, it worked to their advantage. “Oh, I need to try and win you a teddy bear or something.”

“Preferably one that has a heart sewn on its stomach,” Castiel said. “And if there’s a ride with a camera on it, we should try to take a photo where we make out in the background.”

“That’s disgusting,” Dean said. “And perfect. Sam and Jess won’t know what hit them.”

They agreed to go next weekend; both were too busy during the week, and Sam and Jess would be as well. Dean was a little disappointed that they’d have to wait that long, but the week would go by quickly.

When they got to talking about the logistics, Castiel mused, “I could take the bus—” before Dean interrupted.

“Oh, hell no. I’m picking you up. You need to see my baby.”

“Uh—”

“My car, Cas.”

“Well, that’s a relief. In a way.”

“What, you don’t like babies?”

“Not when they’re a surprise addition,” Castiel said, and Dean snorted.

“Yeah, okay. I promise I don’t have any secret children littering the world.” Dean paused. “I think.”

“You think?”

“I’m…not one-hundred per-cent sure.”

“Hmm,” Castiel said. “There’s a story here, but I’m unsure if you want me to pry.”

“Nah, I don’t mind. I once dated this chick named Lisa, way back in when I was in the academy, and uh. She’s got a kid who’s nine. His name’s Ben, and she’s never told me if he’s mine or not. The timeline would fit, but…She doesn’t want me involved in their lives.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s okay. I’ve been to Ben’s birthday parties a couple of times, and he’s a fun kid, but…Lisa’s married now, anyway. Ben’s got a dad, even if he’s not his biological dad.”

Castiel hummed, and was silent for a while. “You’d like to have children, then?”

“Yeah,” Dean breathed. “Always loved ‘em.”

“Me too,” Castiel said.

Dean only realized that their discussion had veered into uncharted and odd waters when Castiel said that. Dean couldn’t recall the last time he’d shared such personal information with someone new, even someone who he was really dating, or at least trying to date. Relationships always went up in flames for him, sooner or later, and they didn’t seem to be worth the effort after all the horrible experiences Dean had. In contrast, becoming friends with Cas had happened surprisingly fast and very easily.

“Uh,” Dean said, because he didn’t know what to say and how to steer the conversation back to more normal topics. Cas was silent, too, and the moment stretched on to become uncomfortable, before Dean coughed.

“Listen, I gotta go now, but—”

“Me, too—I mean, it’s getting late—”

“Sorry for calling so late,” Dean said.

“Not at all. I was hardly asleep.”

“Yeah,” Dean said, feeling a bit awkward. “I’ll talk to you later, and we’ll talk about details?”

“Yes,” Castiel said. “See you next Saturday.”

“Yeah, see you.”

Dean was vaguely unsettled when he ended the call, but he shook the feeling aside. He didn’t remember the last time he’d made a friend so fast – or, really, even made a friend – and maybe that was what was bugging him. Dean didn’t have that many friends, after all. Charlie and Jo were his best friends, but he’d known Charlie since high school and Jo since she was in diapers. He never had to put much effort into befriending them. There were also Benny and Victor from the station, but he’d gotten to know them through work. There was a long gap between those friendships, and he couldn’t remember making any new friends in between – and wasn’t that a sad thought? He’d dated a lot of girls, but none of them had remained friends, and thinking about his past boyfriends just made his skin crawl. Dean had always been better at forming connections than maintaining them.

But somehow, despite knowing Castiel for only a week or so, Dean felt like they could remain friends, even after their little scheme was over. It was unclear how they’d navigate that, if they were supposed to break up in a horrible manner, but…that was a problem they could solve later. For now, everything was going smoothly, and that was what was important.

 


 

The week went by quickly, both because Dean had his hands full at work trying to settle the domestic abuse case that had landed on his lap last week, and because Cas, luckily, kept distracting him from the awfulness of the case with his weird little messages. Dean had a few ideas of his own for their double date at the amusement park, and admittedly, talking about it took his mind off the grim work. Cas also mentioned that his work could get tedious, so coming up with exponentially ridiculous ideas and details for their scheme was relaxing. By the time Friday rolled around and their “date” was around the corner, Dean was vibrating with enthusiasm.

Dean was heading to the copy machine – some of his work also consisted of mundane paper-work, and battling with the station’s ancient copy machine was included in that. Victor Henriksen, another detective and someone Dean liked to count as a friend, was already by the copy machine when Dean stepped into the room.

“You’re looking chipper,” Victor commented when Dean shuffled his papers, waiting for his turn.

“Got a date tomorrow,” Dean said, dismissively. Or so he’d thought. Victor didn’t take it like that.

“You sound nervous,” Victor said.

“What? No!”

“Since when have you been nervous before a date, Winchester?” Victor asked.

Dean grimaced, and tried to deflect. “What, you’ve never been nervous before a date?”

“Only when it’s important. Which leads me to the same question: since when have you been nervous before a date?” Victor actually grinned widely, like he’d just discovered the identity of the Zodiac Killer.

“Shut up,” Dean weakly said. “Cas is different.”

“I bet she is,” Victor said.

“Cas is a he,” Benny corrected, appearing suddenly from behind them. Dean froze up. It was no use trying to tell himself that Benny wasn’t maliciously trying to out him, or that Victor wouldn’t care what gender his dates were. His heart was hammering painfully against his ribcage, the sound of it flooding his ears, and the anxiety nearly made him bolt from the room.

“Oh, sorry,” Victor said. “Where’d you meet him?”

It took Dean a couple of seconds to refocus and understand that Victor wasn’t saying anything derogatory. He was just asking a follow-up question, with no backhanded comments.

Christ, when would Dean grow up and be able to let go of his old hang-ups? He was living in the 2010s, not the goddamn 1910s. Not everybody was out to hurt him every time he opened his mouth. He hadn’t even lived in the same house as his dad for ten years. He hadn’t even heard that homophobic crap in ages. He didn’t have a reason to be scared.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, Dean thought to himself.

Victor was still looking at him, and gathering himself, Dean managed to say, “Er, I met him, um, through Charlie. She set us up.”

“Friend of a friend?” Victor asked, and Dean nodded. “Well, that’s nice. At least you know he’s not an axe-murderer.”

“You know, if you wanted, we could violate a few laws and check if he has a record,” Benny joked, and Dean laughed weakly. He managed to escape the conversation after that, wholly forgetting the reason he’d come to the copy room in the first place.

To distract himself, Dean fiddled with his phone when he got back to his desk. He had a mountain of paperwork left to complete, but it was forgotten when Dean spotted that he’d gotten a message from Cas.

Looking forward tomorrow, it just said. There was a weird emoticon after that, some kind of grinning face, and Dean couldn’t help but snort at it. It was endearing.

Same, dude, Dean wrote back. It was true, despite his moments of anxiety – Dean was looking forward to tomorrow and laughing at Sam and Jess.

Saturday morning dawned with beautiful sunshine. The sun wasn’t at its highest yet when Dean left home, but the early summer air was already warm, indicating that it would be a hot day. The skies were clear and the pulsating blue of it seemed to glow, giving the city a lovely backdrop as Dean drove the few blocks between his and Cas’s apartments. It would be the perfect day to spend outside – at least they had the weather on their side.

Dean had promised to also pick up Sam and Jess, but as they lived on the other side of the city, it was easier to get Cas first and then drive by Sam and Jess’s place. Cas was already waiting by his apartment complex when Dean parked the car, looking down at his phone. He slid it to his pocket as soon as he spotted Dean, waving a hello. Dean couldn’t help but smile at Cas’s outfit: another ratty, grey t-shirt and well-worn jeans, coupled with a bag that had been fixed with miracle tape and aviator-style sunglasses made him look… Dean didn’t even know what to call it. It looked good.

“Ray-Ban glasses? Really?” Dean snorted when Cas opened the car door and slid in.

“You don’t like them?”

“Didn’t say that,” Dean said. He smiled when Cas peeked at him over the sunglasses. “You look like a dirty old hippie.”

“Just what I was going for,” Cas said, and Dean laughed.

Castiel turned his attention to Dean’s car then, and Dean perked up. He presented his Chevy Impala ‘67 with enthusiasm to Cas, explaining in detail her model and year and what it had meant, construction-wise. Castiel was suitably impressed by the fact that Dean had repaired her, and even asked some follow-up questions. Had this been a real date, Castiel would have gotten some extra points for that.

“That’s remarkable, Dean,” Castiel said, when Dean finally realized that he’d been talking for too long and had shut up. “This must’ve been a time-consuming project, and you did it all by yourself.”

“Thanks,” Dean said, a bit embarrassed for the compliment.

“You’re very handy,” Castiel remarked, with a little grin. Dean groaned at the innuendo.

“Very clever, Cas,” Dean said. Then he grinned back. “Although, yeah, yeah I am.”

Castiel raised his brows, but didn’t comment on that.

As they drove to get Sam and Jess from the other side of the city, Cas even asked more about the Impala’s construction, and Dean found himself thinking – again – that had they been on a real date, Cas would’ve gotten extra points for that. It became clear that Cas wasn’t that interested in cars and his knowledge on them was only cursory, but he intently listened to what Dean had to say. Dean was still talking about how he’d had to hunt down the specific spark plugs for his car when they arrived at Sam and Jess’s building. He was finishing up the story when Sam and Jess opened the back doors and slid inside.

“Talking about your car? Again?” Sam asked before even greeting them.

“He asked about it!” Dean protested.

Sam looked at Castiel, grinning. “Just be careful. Dean loves his car more than is considered healthy. You might be in for a tight competition.”

“I’m sure I’ll be able to give her a run for her money,” Cas countered. He glanced at Dean, and even through the sunglasses, the mirth in his eyes was visible. “He’s worth it.”

“Wow,” Jess said. Dean was still staring at Castiel, and couldn’t help the happy grin that spread on his face. Cas’s acting had definitely improved – this was a great start for the day. “So, hi, guys.”

“Hello,” Castiel said, finally looking away from Dean. Dean reluctantly tore his eyes away as well and gave Sam and Jess a quick greeting. Jess was wearing a sundress, a pretty thing with flowers on a white background, and even her little white handbag fit the theme. Sam was in a t-shirt and shorts, and Dean actually did a double take when he saw the outfit.

“Are those shorts?” Dean asked.

Sam frowned at him. “Dean, it’s going to be 78 degrees outside. It’s the first proper summer day, and I’m going to enjoy it.”

“Whatever you say,” Dean snickered. He glanced at Cas as he started the car – at least they both were wearing jeans, and weren’t walking fashion disasters. The only place Dean would ever consider wearing shorts was on the beach, and even then, he’d probably skip them and go straight to swim trunks.

“Wish I’d thought of that,” Cas said, nodding towards Sam. “It’s going to be hot out there.”

Dean glared at Cas. “You did not just say that. Way to lose points this early in the relationship.”

“Shorts are a deal breaker for you?” Cas asked.

“Dude. Talk about unflattering. No one looks good in them.”

“Nonsense. Your thighs, for example, would look amazing in shorts,” Cas said. Dean sputtered, and Sam and Jess collapsed into a heap of laughter in the backseat.

“Dude!” Dean yelled, but inside, he was cackling. Cas was great – he’d already wrapped Sam and Jess around his little finger, and they hadn’t even reached the amusement park yet.

The ride to the park was uneventful, but filled with chatter. Jess was, by nature, a talkative person, and she brought that side out of Sam as well. She spent a lot of time talking with Cas – who was sitting in the seat in front of her – and wanted to know everything new there was to know about his life since they’d last talked. Dean learned a lot just by listening. He hadn’t known that Cas had previously owned a cat (before she ran away) or that he mostly lived on take-out food and by staying in his friends’ good graces so that they would feed him.

“You don’t cook?” Dean asked.

“I’ve been told that I could burn water,” Cas noted dryly. “I’ve stopped trying. It never seemed to turn out well.”

“You need to come over some time,” Dean said immediately. “I’ll teach ya.”

“Dean’s a great cook,” Sam said. “Trust me, you’ll be eating like a king in no time.”

“Well, that is certainly a welcome perk,” Cas said. He looked at Dean, once again over his aviators, and Dean threw a little wink in his direction, much to Sam and Jess’s amusement.

There were a lot of cars already in the parking lot when they arrived at the park, and it took Dean a while to find a good spot. Jess leaped out of the car before Dean had even killed the engine, Sam following close on her trail. Cas and Dean shared an amused, conspiratorial look before stepping out. Lots of other people had noticed as well that the early May day was great for spending outside, and there was already a long line to the ticket booth. Jess didn’t seem to mind that one bit. She was chattering away, hanging from Sam’s arm and pointing at this and that like she was a kid in a candy store. The boys were scrambling to keep up with her enthusiasm, and the time they spent waiting in the line flew by like it had never existed.

Cas slipped his hand in Dean’s when they’d gotten their passes and walked through the gates, and while Dean flinched at the initial contact, he immediately relaxed when he saw that Sam and Jess were holding hands as well. They had to step up their game, if they wanted to be able to gross out Sam and Jess. Cas’s hold on his hand tightened slightly, before relaxing again, and Dean squeezed back, happy about the contact.

Sam and Jess, being the total nerds that they were, had snatched every possible brochure of the park and had already planned out the most optimal route to take when Dean and Cas were still squinting against the sun and trying to take in the area. Dean vetoed getting on the giant roller coaster that was by the north gate and absolutely refused to get on the drop tower next to it – he didn’t agree with free falls, and free falls didn’t agree with him. Sam called him a scaredy-cat, and Dean called Sam something far worse in return, and Cas and Jess exchanged an exasperated look behind the brothers’ back.

“Guys, chill,” Jess tried.

“You chill,” Dean muttered, childishly. Cas squeezed his hand, and he felt a bit better and entirely justified with his anger.

“Why’d you even come to an amusement park if you don’t want to get on any rides?” Sam muttered, just as childishly.

“I can still enjoy the atmosphere and the food, thanks.”

“How about the Ferris wheel?” Jess enthused. “C’mon, we can see the whole park from there. And it won’t move very fast.”

Dean hid his discomfort, because Jess was just being nice and trying to find a compromise. He wasn’t afraid of heights – well, not precisely of heights. He just disliked them, and he was afraid of the thought of falling. That was why he avoided airplanes like the plague – it just wasn’t natural for something that heavy to stay in the air, okay? – and why most attractions in amusement parks held no interest for him. But he supposed he could endure the Ferris wheel, and besides, he couldn’t keep denying every idea Sam and Jess had, if he wanted he and Cas’s scheme to succeed.

“Fine by me,” Dean said, and others agreed.

Cas held his hand all the way to the Ferris wheel, and even as they stood in the line. Dean found it surprisingly natural. It felt a bit weird to him, to have already gotten used to Cas’s touch, but then again, for the sake of their scheme, it was a plus. They needed to look and feel natural together, so that when they reached the messy break-up part of the plan, it would be all the more devastating for their awful friends.

Cas was great, though. He’d already managed to get Sam engaged in conversation, and had coaxed Sam to talk about his future career in law and his apprenticeship in a law firm that even Dean couldn’t name, despite Sam mentioning it once in a while.

“That’s remarkable,” Cas said when Sam talked about the possibility of getting a steady job at the firm. “You’re so young, too.”

“He’s always known what he wants,” Jess said, looking proud. “And is good at getting it.”

“Nah, I’m just continuing the family tradition.” Sam snorted. “Upholding the law. That’s what the Winchesters do. Our grandfather was a lawyer, too. And dad’s in the force, like Dean.”

Cas glanced at Dean, with a smile. “Runs in the family, then.”

Dean shrugged. “Sammy got the smarts in this family. I’m the brawn. Couldn’t figure out anything better to do.”

Cas frowned. “You don’t think your career is remarkable?”

“It’s nothing special,” Dean muttered. He meant it. Sure, he had solved a few crimes and protected a few families, but he felt that it was more like a responsibility, not something that he should brag about. Following the trail a criminal left didn’t take a Poirot, like people often thought – it was grunt work. Dean was happy to do his job, but there had never been any righteous reason for why he’d chosen it. He just hadn’t known what else he could do.

“Dean, you save lives on daily basis. I would say that’s special.”

“Hey, what about you? Your job is literally to make the world a better place. And I’d say you have more success than I do.”

“You couldn’t possibly—”

“I looked up your projects online. You’ve done some amazing things, Cas.”

“That doesn’t make your job irrelevant, Dean. It matters.”

Sam’s eyebrows rose, and Jess looked taken aback, too.

“Wow,” Jess finally said. “Arguing about who’s more important.”

“Huh?” Dean asked.

“I say keep him,” Sam said, nodding towards Cas. The line moved right then, and it was their turn to get into the wheel, so Sam turned away before Dean could retort.

Apparently they were doing something right, Dean supposed. He hurried after Sam and Jess, still holding on to Cas’s hand. They had to let go as they stepped into the car, but Cas sat by his side. Cas’s warmth was comfortably pressed against Dean, and looking down as the wheel started to move didn’t feel that bad after all. Jess had been right. When they reached the highest point, the view was amazing. Some attractions were hidden behind others, but you could get a good picture of the area. Dean spotted lots of families walking around, little children running from one ride to the next, and children proudly carrying bags of popcorn or cotton candy. It was a nice picture, and momentarily, he could even forget the fact that they were up in the air with nothing but a certain death underneath them.

“Look!” Jess pointed at something, craning her neck to see over Sam. “There’s the oldest roller coaster in the park. It’s made of wood.”

“I read about that,” Sam said. “It’s one of the oldest ones in the country, actually. Never been out of use.”

“It’s made of wood?” Dean asked. There was a note of hysteria in his voice. “How can that be safe?”

“Regular check ups and repairs,” Sam said. An evil glint appeared in his eyes. “Hey, should we ride that next?”

“Yes!” Jess cheered. The ride was nearing its end, and Dean was glad to get back on the ground – he definitely wasn’t getting in the air again.

“Absolutely not,” Dean said.

“You’re afraid of one little roller coaster?” Sam asked when they got out of the car.

Feet firmly back on ground, Dean said, “No.”

“It looks interesting,” Cas commented, and that sealed the deal.

“Fine! I’ll get on the fucking ride, if it means so much to you!” Dean snapped.

“Dean, we don’t have to—”

“Shut up, before I change my mind.”

No one protested, probably fearing that Dean might change his mind again, and they quickly walked over and joined the line. It was shorter than Dean would’ve hoped – which just proved that no one in their right mind would get on a ride this dangerous – and in no time, they were sitting down in the car. Since there was only space for two people in one car, Sam and Jess were ushered in the car behind Dean and Cas. Dean swallowed when he noticed that there was only one safety bar, placed just over the knees. Besides that, there was nothing else. Dean clutched the handle bar, fear seeping into his body.

“How’re we supposed to stay on?” Dean asked.

“The bar will hold,” Castiel assured. “It’s locked in its place, see?” He tried to lift the bar over their knees, and sure enough, it was locked and wouldn’t budge except for an inch or so. Too much, in Dean’s opinion.

“Why do people even like these things?” Dean muttered.

“G-forces,” Cas said, and that distracted Dean enough so that he didn’t panic when the staff came to ensure that the safety bars were in place.

“G-forces?” Dean repeated.

“It’s pretty simple physics. When the ride goes down, it takes a second for your body to follow, and that creates a sensation of free fall. Likewise, when you’re lifted out of your seat in uphill movement—it’s perfectly safe—you feel g-forces pulling you. People seek out thrilling sensations.”

“If I wasn’t about to puke, I’d say that was pretty hot, Cas,” Dean said. He gripped the bar tightly when the car nudged forward.

“I knew I shouldn’t have changed my major,” Cas joked. “I could be a Physics teacher by now.”

“Yeah, you shouldn’t have. Imagine, you could’ve been ten times hotter than you are now.” Dean swallowed when the ride accelerated, and then they reached the first hill, before plunging downwards. Dean’s stomach lurched.

“This is awful!” Dean yelled. He grabbed Cas, not even caring that he was a thirty-one-year-old man or that Cas wasn’t really his boyfriend. He clung to Cas, hugging Cas as close to him as possible in order to stay seated.

“This is amazing!” Cas yelled back, laughter lines on his face. He didn’t seem bothered by Dean’s hands around his torso, and only put his left hand comfortingly on Dean’s back. Somewhere in the back, Dean could hear Sam and Jess laughing as well, and he hoped that this stunt would convince them of Dean and Cas’s “amazing” relationship.

Riding three minutes on this fifth circle of hell better be worth it, Dean thought to himself.

Dean held on to Cas even after the ride had finally stopped, and Cas had to coax him to stand up and exit before the staff lost their temper. Dean’s feet felt wobbly, and he was grateful for Cas’s steady hand on his waist, supporting him. On one hand, he was glad he’d actually gotten on that damn roller coaster, but on the other, he was ashamed that he was still just as scared of roller coasters as he’d been when he was five. Or at least he didn’t feel like he got any excitement out of them.

“Hope you appreciate the things I do for you,” Dean muttered.

“You sacrificed your dignity,” Cas grinned. “That was very brave of you.”

“Anything for you, I guess,” Dean sighed. Cas took the hint, looking deep into Dean’s eyes and giving him a gummy smile that Dean had never seen before. It transformed Cas’s whole face, making him look younger and more boyish. Dean was transfixed.

“Would you like a reward for your bravery?”

“Is it waffles? Because I could go for waffles.”

“I was thinking kisses, but sure.”

“Both. I say both,” Dean said, smiling at Cas.

“You guys are disgusting,” Sam said. That broke the spell, and Dean realized that he and Cas had been staring at each other for a very long time. Sam and Jess were already walking away, hand in hand. “We’re gonna go ride that”—Sam gestured at a roller coaster that looked like a bunch of eights and nines, and Dean felt his stomach lurch just at the sight of it—“to get away from you.”

“What he said,” Jess added. “See you guys in a bit.”

“Why do you hate our love, Sammy?” Dean yelled after them. Sam gave him the finger without looking back, and that, if nothing else, made Dean laugh.

“Oh my fucking god,” Dean cackled. “I can’t believe this. We already got a ‘you’re disgusting’ out of them!”

“This is going better than I thought,” Cas nodded. “I honestly didn’t think that we’d get results this fast.”

“We’re doing something right, then,” Dean said. “How did you even do that?”

“Do what?” Cas asked.

“The way you just looked at me, man. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that you’re really smitten with me.”

“Really?” Cas considered this. “I suppose I’m not that bad an actor, after all.”

“Trust me, you were horrible in the beginning.”

“You weren’t exactly an Academy Award nominee either, Dean,” Cas said. He pushed his aviator glasses up on his nose, like a damn James Dean.

“Fuck you, I’m awesome. Sammy’s gonna ask to be my best man any day now,” Dean scoffed.

“Before the elaborate and highly embarrassing public proposal? That would be a bit presumptuous of him.”

“Don’t mention that to him. He’d help plan it,” Dean said. “And how could a proposal be ‘embarrassingly public’?”

“Flashmob,” Cas said.

“Flashmob proposal? Where do you come up with this stuff?”

“YouTube,” Cas shrugged. “My coworkers love ‘cheesy’ videos”—Cas made air quotes as he talked, and Dean smiled at how dorky that looked—“and they love to compete with who can find the worst one.”

“Sounds like a valuable use of your work time,” Dean snickered.

“You’ve never looked at cat videos when you were bored?”

“Only on my days off,” Dean confessed. Cas grinned at him, and Dean had no choice but to smile back. They started to lazily travel to the waffle stand, shoulders brushing as they walked. They were in no hurry.

“I could also hire a band, if that’s what you prefer,” Cas suddenly commented. Dean snorted.

“For a proposal? That’s a little weird, you know. And you wouldn’t get AC/DC, anyway.”

“Ah, you’d prefer private and romantic, then.”

“Candlelit dinner,” Dean said.

“Maybe some flowers?” Cas added.

“Yeah. But nothing extravagant. Just a dinner, after watching a movie. At home.”

At this point, Dean wasn’t sure was he joking around or revealing a secret fantasy. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. He’d never seriously considered proposing to anyone, but even when he fleetingly thought about it, he thought of sitting in a table after having a home-cooked dinner, maybe with some candles, and the question just popping out naturally. He fleetingly thought of sitting opposite of Cas in a nondescript restaurant and holding Cas’s hand over the table, murky candlelight all around them and a bouquet of roses between them on the table, and then felt so ridiculous that he had to laugh out loud.

Cas gave him a weird look, and Dean just shook his head and laughed a little louder.

“Sorry, Cas. Just thinking about you proposing is…weird.”

“You would say no to this?” Cas asked, gesturing at his face. He was giving Dean that strange soul-piercing stare, and Dean shivered. He quickly masked that discomfort with a cocky smile.

“Not for nothing, Cas, but the last person who looked at me like that, I got laid.”

It was Cas’s turn to burst into laughter.

“What? Are you sayin’ my moves don’t work?” Dean pursed his lips, pretending to be hurt.

“You’re ridiculous, Dean.”

I’m ridiculous? Just a moment ago you were about to propose!”

“Maybe later,” Cas said. “For now, how about some waffles?”

Dean had to concede that it was an excellent idea. They had reached the line to the waffle stand ages ago, but hadn’t joined it, since they’d been busy not planning a proposal. The conversation calmed down while they waited for their turn, and it remained nice and casual when they got their waffles and sat down to eat them. Cas somehow managed to get whipped cream on his nose, which Dean wiped off with his finger after laughing for a minute at how cross-eyed Cas became when he tried to see it. Sadly, Sam and Jess found them just as they had finished eating, and Dean bemoaned the missed chance of feeding Cas waffles and grossing Sam and Jess out that way. Then again, they’d get lots of chances later.

“Where’ve you guys been?” Dean asked.

“Everywhere!” Jess called. As she explained, they had really taken their time to explore the park – Dean hadn’t even realized it, but he and Cas had been sitting by the waffle stand for over an hour. Sam confessed that Jess had practically dragged him to roller coaster after roller coaster and on increasingly scarier rides, until Sam had finally demanded that they take a break and eat something.

While Jess went to order waffles for them, Sam whispered to Dean, “She’s unbelievable. I like amusement parks just fine, but she’s so psyched up, it’s scaring me.”

“You ought to take her out more often if that’s the case,” Dean said.

“I know,” Sam said. He actually looked a bit ashamed. “I mean, we haven’t been on an actual date in…I don’t even remember.”

“That tends to happen when you’ve been together for so long,” Cas commented.

“Seven years,” Sam mused. “God, how does she put up with me?”

“She’s too good for you,” Dean said.

“I know,” Sam said. He smiled softly, his eyes lighting up when Jess returned with two plates.

Dean wondered if anyone would ever make him look like that. Across from him, he noticed Cas looking at Sam and Jess with the same, thoughtful look. Dean looked away before their eyes could meet.

After Sam and Jess had finished their waffles, they all argued about where to go next. They walked around aimlessly for a while, near the north gate where they’d come in. Dean didn’t care for most things, Sam had no opinion on where to go, and Jess had ample ideas, so it came down to Cas to suggest something. He pointed at the drop tower, making Dean gag.

“Okay, yeah, I’m definitely not getting on that,” Dean said, “but I could be persuaded to ride something else.”

“Good to know,” Cas said, a sly smirk on his face. It took Dean a second to get the innuendo, and he groaned loudly when Cas laughed at his face.

“You started this!” Cas reminded Dean.

“That was awful,” Dean protested. “And this isn’t like you, dude. Am I rubbing off on you?”

“Not yet, you aren’t,” Cas said, and Dean groaned again.

“Shut up, you big doof,” Dean said. “C’mon. I wanna ride something. And it’s definitely not you.”

“Are you sure?” Cas asked. “I’ve been told that I give one hell of a—”

“Not interested, Cas!”

“If you say so,” Cas said, with laughter in his voice. Dean shoved him, which prompted Cas to shove him back, and they walked a few steps locked in a strange tug-of-war, before they nearly walked into a woman pushing a stroller, and had to start behaving like well-adjusted adults again.

“You’re not as clever as you think you are,” Dean said.

“But you still think I’m clever.”

“Only a bit.”

“I knew it.”

“Oh, fuck, I shouldn’t have said that. You’re going to be insufferable from now on, I can tell.”

“Well, there are many fun ways I could make you suffer,” Cas said. He even winked, and Dean started to laugh again.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Sam commented from behind them, startling Dean enough that he stopped laughing. He’d honestly forgotten that they were there.

“It’s just a sugar rush,” Jess said.

Their exchange made Dean and Cas glance at each other, and they both had to hide a smile.

The rest of the day passed much like that. Dean still refused to get on most rides, but he agreed to get on those that didn’t move very fast or go very high. Besides, Castiel’s presence was strangely comforting even when Dean’s stomach protested. Jess was scarily amazing and undeniably the bravest of them, wanting to go on the most thrilling rides again and again, even when the others felt like they’d had enough. Often times, Sam and Jess went on their own and Cas stayed behind to keep Dean company, even when Dean told Cas to get on the rides without him. Cas said that it would’ve made him look like an inattentive boyfriend, and Dean didn’t have an argument against that. Secretly, he was glad that Cas was willing to just walk around with him most of the time, and play silly games at the stands and win nothing.

Around eight o’clock everyone was getting so tired that they decided to leave. The ride back to the city was silent; Jess was napping against Sam’s shoulder, and Cas stared out of the window, leaning his head against the glass. Dean stole glances at him, smiling silently. He was lucky that it was so easy and fun to spend time with Cas, and how well Cas meshed with others, too – it would’ve been difficult to pull off their scheme otherwise.

Dean dropped Sam and Jess back at their apartment first. They all got out of the car to say goodbye, and Dean was a little nervous about Sam and Jess’s judgment – he thought they’d sold the act, but Dean wasn’t sure until Sam turned to Cas with a huge smile.

“It was nice meeting you, Cas,” Sam said. Dean was watching Sam like a hawk for any signs of dishonesty, but Sam seemed to be telling the truth – he’d enjoyed Cas’s company and wasn’t afraid to let Cas know it. This was a good sign.

“You as well,” Cas said, offering his hand. Sam smiled, and bypassed it, giving Cas a hug. Cas seemed surprised and awkwardly patted Sam on the back, but he recovered enough to say, “This has happened fast, but I’m happy to meet Dean’s family.”

“Hope you stick around,” Sam said. Cas ducked his head at that, but he smiled.

Jess gave Cas a hug and muttered something in his ear that Dean couldn’t make out, but Cas gave a chuckle and clasped Jess’s shoulder, so it must’ve been something good.

“We should do this again sometime,” Sam said. Jess nodded with a smile, looking expectantly at Dean. He rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, it was a fun day. No need to be so smug about it.”

“I’m not smug, I’m happy,” Jess announced. She hugged Dean in parting, and then she and Sam disappeared inside the apartment complex, leaving Dean and Cas stand side by side to the street.

“That went better than I expected,” Dean said after a short silence.

“What were your expectations?” Cas asked. “Total failure?”

“Crash and burn, pretty much,” Dean said. Cas shoved him lightly in the side. Dean shoved back, with a smile. “I kid, I kid. But seriously, it went great. Much better than I thought.”

“I’m waiting to hear from The Academy any day now,” Cas said, and Dean snorted.

Dean drove Cas to his apartment, and while much of the ride was spent in silence, it was comfortable. It vaguely felt like an ending to a great date, like you didn’t want to part just yet and you were trying to stop the time in your mind, until Dean realized that it was supposed to feel like that, even if it was fake.

Dean didn’t get out of the car when they arrived at Cas’s building, and Cas merely gave him a wave when he got up. Dean couldn’t figure out a better way to say bye, either – he wasn’t sure how their friendship worked, at this stage.

“See you soon, Cas,” Dean said when Cas was about to close the door. He smiled, and he realized that he really meant it: he couldn’t wait to see Cas again.

“See you, Dean,” Cas said, giving a smile back as he closed the door. He remained in place, waving after Dean, even after Dean had pulled out and could only spot Cas in the rearview mirror.

Chapter Text

After their “double date” at the amusement park, the next week was pretty quiet. Dean was elbows deep in work, as was Cas, and while Jess texted Dean at some point to thank him for the fun weekend, Dean didn’t have to talk about his and Cas’s relationship to her. Jo called him one afternoon and asked him to return a movie he’d borrowed, and Dean didn’t have to bring up Cas in that conversation, either. It felt like the others were now treading carefully around the subject, and when Dean considered the timeline, he supposed that it made sense. He and Cas had been “dating” for three weeks now, and Dean’s dating history suggested that this was the first exit he’d take if the relationship wasn’t progressing the way he liked. He didn’t know whether to feel insulted or not that the others saw Cas just like any other of his conquests, when Cas was anything but. Then Dean realized that the thought made no sense, and went back to solving a car theft.

Dean and Cas texted a lot during the week, and while the conversation wasn’t anything remarkable, Dean was happy to have something pleasant to think about between all the tedious work. He couldn’t get anywhere in the battery and assault case that kept haunting him, and the car theft that he’d been assigned on Monday wasn’t progressing, either. Friday afternoon Dean sent Cas a message, beyond frustrated with the week that he’d had.

Tgif, Dean sent when he started to drive home after work, not caring how cliché it was. It captured his inner turmoil in an accurate and concise manner.

My sentiments exactly, Cas answered not a minute later. Dean had to put his phone away while he drove, but he could hear another message arriving, and eagerly checked his phone when he was parked in front of his building.

I don’t intend to move from this couch for the next 16 hours, Cas had written.

Sounds like an excellent plan, Dean wrote back. He watched as his message was sent, and how the time stamp under Cas’s name changed to “read.” Dean blinked tiredly, leaning on the wheel, just watching his phone and not sure why he wasn’t moving.

He jerked when his phone suddenly started ringing. Blinking, Dean answered it.

“Cas?”

“Dean,” Cas said, sounding amused about Dean’s lack of greeting. Well, in a way, they’d been talking a minute before, so perhaps skipping a greeting wasn’t a huge social faux pas. “How was your day?”

“Ugh, I just told you,” Dean said. “I’m glad it’s over. This week has been awful.”

“You sound stressed.”

“I am stressed,” Dean said. “I hate it when cases get stuck. No one likes that.” He added, “And weren’t you complaining about your work just now, too?”

“Yes, but I don’t take work home with me,” Cas pointed out. “I just need to watch TV for an hour or so, and that’s that. You sound like the type to dream about your work.”

“That’s creepily accurate,” Dean admitted. “I don’t even wanna tell you about the time I was hunting down a guy who’d killed a fourteen-year-old girl. I had messed up dreams for weeks, man.”

“Hm,” Cas said. “I’m not sure should I be glad that I was right, or sad that I was right.”

Dean snorted, and almost missed what Cas said next.

“Come over,” Cas said. Dean blinked, not comprehending for a second. “I’m about to order pizza and marathon as many seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine as I can.”

“Are pants optional?” Dean joked.

“I don’t care if you show up naked, as long as you bring something to drink. Preferably soda. I’m too tired to move from this couch and walk two blocks to the store.”

“So you just called me because you don’t want to move from your couch.”

“I never said that my intentions were noble.”

“Don’t you have other friends to bother at six p.m. on Friday evening?”

“You are closest to me. And the store.”

Dean laughed, already feeling better despite the day he’d had.

“Alright, twelve-pack of Coca-Cola, coming right up,” Dean said. “You’ve got yourself a deal. I’m leaving right now.”

“See you soon,” Cas said, and ended the call.

Despite telling Cas that he was leaving right now, Dean first went up to his apartment to change his clothes. His work-clothes were sweaty, and he didn’t want to show up in a button-up and tie to Cas’s apartment. After changing to jeans and the first shirt that he pulled out from the closet, he quickly checked his complexion in the mirror and deemed it suitable after combing through his hair with his fingers. Only when he was grabbing his keys and wallet did Dean realize that Cas wouldn’t care one bit what he looked like, because they weren’t dating, and Cas was just a friend. Cas had literally just said that he didn’t care what Dean wore (or didn’t wear) as long as he bought the drinks.

Feeling a little stupid, Dean left his apartment and walked to the nearby store. He didn’t think it was worth driving to Cas’s apartment, since they lived close to each other – and come to think of it, probably shopped at the same places. That was why Cas had called Dean in the first place.

Cas came to answer the door in grey sweatpants and a t-shirt that was so threadbare that you could practically see through it. He made grabby hands at the bag Dean was carrying, and laughing, Dean let him snatch it. Dean was still kicking off his shoes when Cas had already emptied the bag and put the Cokes on the kitchen counter. He took one and opened it, taking a long gulp while Dean watched him from the door.

“Gracious host,” Dean said.

“Ugh,” Cas said. He put the Coke down and brushed his lips with his hand. “Sorry. I’m being rude.”

“Nah,” Dean said. He sat down on the couch, enjoying how comfy it felt after sitting for hours on his awful office chair. Cas followed him, slumping down like he had no strength left to stand. Cas offered him a can, and Dean took it. “I didn’t come here to be entertained. Well, not by you.”

“I’m flattered,” Cas said, deadpan, and Dean snickered.

“I meant, I’m expecting the TV do the entertaining.”

“In that case, we’re in agreement.” Cas took a gulp of his drink, and following his example, Dean opened his can and took a sip. “I’m sorry if I sounded rude, though. It’s been a trying day. I have very little patience left.”

“What happened?”

“Someone gave a hint to the IRS that our paperwork isn’t in order – baseless accusations, of course – and I spent the entire day trying to reach several people from here and there to solve the issue. It was tedious. And infuriating.”

“Sorry to hear that, man.”

“It’s alright,” Cas waved his hand. “It happens from time to time.”

“What? People have done that to you before?”

“Yes.”

“That’s messed up.”

“I think they have nothing better to do with their lives,” Cas shrugged. “In any case, that’s over, now.”

“Good.” Dean leaned back on the couch. “Not that my day was any better. Feels like I’m running in circles with all my cases.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It happens. Sometimes cases just won’t go anywhere, and all you can do is wait. Doesn’t make me feel any better, but you know.” Dean shrugged.

Cas gave him a wry smile. “So. Pizza and TV to forget that?”

“Pizza and TV,” Dean agreed.

The mood picked up after they’d ordered the food. While they waited for the pizza to arrive, Dean went to say hi to Cas’s guinea pigs in the bedroom. He carefully didn’t look at the unmade bed and the pile of books on Cas’s nightstand, because that would’ve crossed some hazy line. Instead, he cooed at the guinea pigs, which made Cas laugh a little, and Dean felt strangely accomplished at that. Cas started to talk about guinea pigs and couldn’t be silenced after that, describing their lives and how he’d acquired them with such detail that Dean couldn’t help but think it as more endearing than infuriating.

“Jess said you had a cat,” Dean remembered at some point.

“Yes,” Cas said. “She ran away. A year or so ago. I haven’t gotten around to get another one. I don’t want to replace her.”

“Lucky for me,” Dean said, and seeing Cas’s appalled face, Dean rushed to add, “I’m really allergic to cats. Nothing against them, I just can’t be in the same space as them for long.”

“Ah. Sorry about that,” Cas said. “You don’t have pets, then?”

“No.” Dean watched as Man peeked from the little cottage, clearly debating whether or not to make the trip to the hay while Dean was watching. Super was munching the hay away, not a care in the world, and Man finally dared to take a few steps outside of the cottage. Dean stayed as still as he could, not wanting to scare the little one. “Dunno. I feel like I’d be a bad owner. Dogs are too much work, and I’m so much away from home, so…”

“There are other alternatives,” Cas said. “Even for people with allergies. Reptiles, for example.”

“Not really a fan of snakes.”

“Fish, then?”

“Maybe,” Dean said. “But they’re kind of boring.” He watched as Man finally made his way to the hay, and smiled as the little guinea pig started to eat. “These guys are fun to watch, though.”

“You’re welcome to visit them whenever you like,” Cas said, with a strange smile on his face. “Although they don’t do anything exciting. Mainly just eat and sleep.”

“I can relate,” Dean said, and they both chuckled at that. The doorbell ringing ended the moment, and Dean winced as he rose to his feet – his left foot had fallen asleep, as he’d been sitting on the floor for so long.

Dean reminded Cas that he owed for the sandwiches and insisted that he pay for the pizza, and after a short argument, Cas let Dean pay. Cas still didn’t have a coffee table, so they put the pizza and the drinks on the floor. Dean didn’t want to be rude and complain about that, but he did briefly wonder why Cas had never gotten around to getting a damn table – and it wasn’t the only item missing from the apartment. When Dean had gone to the kitchen in search of a fork or scissors to cut the pizza, he had opened several drawers only to find them empty. The cupboards were also equipped with the barest minimum, with only a few mugs and two plates in there. It all added up to a story that Dean couldn’t quite put together, not yet, but he didn’t want to pry. Cas would tell him at some point, or not.

Dean, to his shame, had never watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so they started from season one, even if Dean insisted that they could watch whatever episodes Cas wanted. Cas popped the season one DVD in without a word, and Dean shut up when the first episode started to play. While the series was funny and Dean’s sides started to hurt by episode three from laughing too much, for Cas, the amusement came from Dean’s constant commentary comparing his work to how police work was portrayed in the series.

“Wish my coworkers were as much fun,” Dean commented at some point.

“You don’t routinely make impossible bets with your boss?” Cas asked. His voice came as a rumble, nicely pressing against Dean. Then Dean realized that they’d shifted on the couch so much that they were practically leaning against each other, so of course Cas’s voice felt like it could shake the earth. Dean didn’t move away.

“I think my boss would be more likely to fire me if I suggested something like that,” Dean laughed. “Or at least lecture to me about the correct use of my working hours.”

They had made their way up to the seventh episode or so – Dean couldn’t tell anymore – when Dean’s phone rang. It took him a moment to locate his phone, because it had fallen out of his pocket and had attempted to disappear into the black hole between the cushions, but Dean managed to recover it. Cas put the DVD on pause as Dean stood up and wandered away from the couch to take the call.

“Hiya, Charlie.”

“Good evening, Dean!” Charlie said, as cheerful as ever. “How’s it going on this fine evening?”

“I’m good,” Dean said. “And you sound like you’re having fun.”

“I’m having an excellent evening with my beautiful girlfriend, thanks for asking.” There was an edge to her voice, but Dean didn’t have a chance to ask about that. “So, what’re you up to?”

“Just watching TV with Cas. Nothing much.”

“You’re at Cas’s?” Charlie asked.

“Um, yeah.” Dean realized then that this had never been the plan – he didn’t have to actually befriend Cas for their scheme to succeed, but apparently, that was happening anyway. Dean couldn’t say that he minded that.

“Having fun?” Charlie asked, teasingly. Dean rolled his eyes.

“Yes, you actually interrupted our make-out session on the couch, so unless you have something important—”

“Ugh, I never asked for details, Winchester.”

“You implied it!”

“I never want to know the ins and outs of gay sex. Wow, that came out so wrong.”

Dean laughed so hard that his voice wavered when he said, “Charlie, I hate to break it to you, but you might be—”

“Might? Just might be gay?” Charlie cried, laughing as well. “Damn, I need to start carrying a flag with me again.”

When their laughter had subsided enough, Charlie got down to the point of her call. “Anyway, I was about to ask if you and Cas wanted to come over tomorrow?”

“Hm?”

“Dinner and board games? How’s that sound?”

“Me and Cas, huh.”

“And me and Jo and Sam and Jess, if they can make it! It’ll be fun!”

Dean glanced at Castiel, who was still sitting on the couch and now fiddling with his phone, politely pretending that he didn’t hear the discussion.

“I’ll ask him,” Dean said.

“Great!” Charlie chirped. “Let me know asap. I’ll text you the details. Now, I need to get back to my extremely nice and incredibly beautiful girlfriend who I definitely did not ditch to call you in the middle of an argument.”

“She’s right next to you, isn’t she?”

“Absolutely.”

“Right. Don’t let me keep you from your fight,” Dean said, laughing a little.

“Talk to you later!” Charlie said, and hung up. Dean shook his head in sympathy. Jo could be a handful when she was pissed. But Charlie and Jo had been together for five years, and he had no doubt that they’d solve whatever argument they were having. Dean had witnessed this many times before. Charlie preferred avoidance and running away to direct confrontation while Jo went fists first into a fight. But they had been together for so long that they both knew that, and had grown together so much that they knew how to handle each other’s sharp edges. Come tomorrow, and they’d be back to being as lovey-dovey as always.

“Sounds like you had a fun call,” Cas said. Dean pocketed his phone and came back to the couch, the cushion comfortably sagging under him as he sat down.

“You know Charlie,” Dean said. “Always a hoot and a half. Anyway, uh.” He rubbed his neck. “Charlie invited us over for dinner tomorrow.”

“She wants to introduce everyone to each other,” Cas realized immediately.

“Yep. Sam and Jess are gonna be there, too. Looks like she wants us to hang out like proper couples.” Dean would’ve laughed at how thinly-veiled Charlie’s invitation was if it wasn’t just that – blatant.

“Well, Dean, I don’t know what to say. This is all moving so fast, I don’t think I’m ready to meet your family just yet,” Cas deadpanned, and Dean guffawed with laughter.

“Suck it up, man. Besides, you’ve already met my brother. Twice.”

“Yes, yes. But still, it looks like Charlie really wants this to work.”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “Do you think it’d be too early to make out in front of them?” he asked then, breaking the momentary silence.

Castiel hemmed. “Maybe we should let them discover us in an inappropriate place. Like in the bedroom.”

“Jesus, Cas,” Dean said. “That’s twisted. I love that.”

“Or, if we want to go for classic, a closet?”

“Speak for yourself. Those things are not comfortable for any proper action.”

“A blowjob, maybe?”

“Now you’re talking.” Dean grinned, imagining Charlie’s shocked face when she opened the door and discovered Dean on his knees, framing Cas’s cock with his hands and saliva making a line from Dean’s mouth to Cas’s cock as Dean leaned back on his heels from “surprise” at being found. Cas’s pink lips would be open, his face beautifully flushed, and he would be leaning his hips against the wall.

Huh. That was a weirdly detailed picture.

Dean swallowed, forcing himself to look away from Cas. It was awkward enough to have that weird picture in his head without sitting next to Cas. Besides, they wouldn’t need to get naked. Absolutely not. They were friends, and that would’ve been weird. They only needed to convince the others that they were doing it like bunnies, and that would be easy enough to fake.

“Anyway,” Dean coughed, praying that Cas hadn’t noticed him spacing out for a moment, “I’ll let Charlie know that we’ll be there, then.”

“You do that,” Cas said. “In the meantime, I’ll make a mental plan of all the spaces we could have sex in.”

“Dude!” Dean laughed and shoved Cas, and Cas shoved him back.

Just a normal Friday evening between friends, Dean thought.

 


 

In Dean’s circle of friends, Charlie was undeniably the one who lived the most comfortable life. She owned an enormous condo, located almost in the heart of the city, and it was the apple of her eye. Despite her nerdy appearance and tendencies to get over-excited, Charlie had a good head on her shoulders and had managed to invest her money wisely before she was even out of high school. When other teenagers had been stuck playing D&D in their parents’ basement, Charlie had done that as well as learned to manage her stocks, investments, and countless accounts between the games. She’d started several companies and projects, some of which had failed and some of which had succeeded, but she’d never let any failure stop her from trying again.

She didn’t flaunt it, but at a little under thirty, Charlie had already earned her first million and didn’t show signs of stopping at that. Most of the money went to caring for her disabled mother, anyway. Her father had died just when Charlie had turned thirteen, and her mother had gotten in a car accident a while after, forcing Charlie to assume responsibility for herself and her mother well before her eighteenth birthday. In Charlie’s case, money meant the comfort of being able to care for her loved ones – she didn’t use it for luxury for luxury’s sake.

Her condo reflected this outlook on life. It was comfortable and large, with several bedrooms and guest rooms, but there was nothing outrageous about it or its décor and furniture. Everything was sensible and picked out with good taste, and Charlie’s nerdier hobbies had their own room dedicated to them. Mrs. Bradbury, still unable to walk and suffering from the aftermath of massive brain damage, was confined to her bed most of the time. Charlie had done everything in her power to make her feel welcome in the room and gotten her the best home care she could get. While Mrs. Bradbury’s presence cast a cloud over the apartment, she was mostly a ghost. She could rarely leave her room and even on her best days, she was only half-aware of the world around her. This was why all Charlie’s guests always felt her presence, but no one could ever think of anything to say about her. It didn’t seem proper.

Jo had more or less moved into Charlie’s condo three years ago, even though she still stubbornly kept some of her things back at her mother’s house. No one dared to ask how that arrangement worked, but when Jo and Charlie came to answer the door, they seemed to have solved whatever problems they’d had. The girls were hanging onto each other and based on their rumpled clothes, it was a miracle they’d come to answer the door at all.

“Sorry for the wait!” Jo grinned. “We were, uh, running a little late.”

“We can see that,” Cas said, his dark voice washing over Dean like a wave. Dean felt weird, and tried to shake it off. “Good evening to you, too.”

“And what a good evening it is!” Charlie said. Her face was flushed, and Dean very much tried not to think what she had been doing not five minutes ago.

“You two seem to have made up,” Dean commented, and the girls just chuckled at that.

Sam and Jess were late – they’d let Jo know via text – and so Charlie and Jo hadn’t even started cooking yet. Jo recruited Cas for chopping duty, far away from the stove so that he couldn’t even accidentally burn anything, and Dean got the honor of making the guacamole. The girls had decided to make tortillas with cheese and guacamole, which Dean didn’t think was the best choice with board games, but his grumbling stomach stopped him from criticizing it.

“So, what do you boys vote for tonight’s choice of board game?” Charlie asked while putting the cheese on the tortillas.

“Please tell me we’re not going to play Risk again,” Cas groaned. “It took hours last time. And it was boring.”

“You’re just a sore loser,” Dean said, gently caressing Cas’s arm. Cas stopped pitting the avocados and looked at him from under his brows, and unless Dean had known that the look was calculated, he would have shivered.

Dean had picked Cas up in his car and driven them to Charlie’s, because it was too far away to walk, and Dean had outright denied Cas from using the bus when they could go in the Impala. Cas had just shrugged and accepted the ride, and it had actually been useful that they’d arrived together, because they had managed to go over some last minute details and how they should play this night. Dean still felt unprepared for the raw power that Cas’s look emitted – he’d improved on his acting a lot since they’d started.

“Guys, please wait until we’re out of the room before you crack under the UST,” Charlie said. “And no, we’re not going to play Risk. We have Carcassonne and Scrabble and—”

Carcassonne? Again?” Dean said. “I never should have introduced you to that game.”

“So Carcassonne is your fault?” Cas cried out. “I knew there had to be something wrong with you. You were too good to be true.”

“How’s her Carcassonne obsession my fault?” Dean protested. “I just told her about it!”

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Cas said, shaking his head.

“Just cute?” Dean asked, pursing his lips. “I think I’m adorable.”

“You have your moments,” Cas said with a smile. Dean answered it, and they looked each other in the eye for a long time until Jo’s voice interrupted them.

“Is it just me or is there too much cheese in here?”

“No, I think it’s just right,” Charlie protested, gesturing at the tortillas. “They’re supposed to be drowning in it.”

“Subtle,” Dean muttered.

The doorbell rang then, and everyone paused cooking and went to the foyer to welcome Sam and Jess. Dean gave them both a hug, and after a moment’s hesitation, so did Cas. While Charlie and Jo were busy greeting Sam and Jess, Dean leaned towards Cas and tugged him closer by the shirt. Cas’s breath tickled Dean’s cheek when he leant close, but Dean ignored that.

“I’m ‘too good to be true?’” Dean whispered, barely stopping his laughter. “Really?”

“What?” Cas whispered back. “You said, and I quote, ‘I think I’m adorable.’”

“That’s because it’s the truth.”

“I honestly can’t tell if you’re joking or not,” Cas said, but it was said with his deadpan-leaning-to-sarcasm voice, and Dean snorted.

“I can’t believe this is working,” Dean whispered, a giggle escaping. “Keep it up.”

“Stop flirting and help us finish the guacamole,” Jo suddenly called. Dean and Cas shared one final, amused look, and followed everyone to the kitchen.

Dean had been to Charlie’s many times before for nights like this: cooking something and playing board games or watching movies until no one could keep their eyes open anymore. Cas had apparently been to Charlie’s several times before as well, and again, Dean had to wonder why they hadn’t met before. Then again, Charlie rarely asked for a huge group to gather, and Dean preferred that Charlie and Jo visit his place, anyway, so perhaps it wasn’t that big a shock. Dean always felt kind of awkward at Charlie’s, because despite how nice the place was, the undercurrent of the apartment was that there was always someone else there, hovering just behind them but unable to participate. Dean had once or twice said hello to Mrs. Bradbury when she’d been well enough to get out of bed, but he doubted that she even remembered that. She might not even recognize Jo, and that must’ve killed Jo.

But once Dean let that thought go, the night was fun. They finished making the tortillas and the guacamole and argued about what board game to choose until they just decided to divide into two groups and switch games later. Sam wanted to play Scrabble, and Charlie took up that challenge, with Jess joining them. Jo got stuck playing Star Wars Epic Duels with Dean and Cas. Jo grumbled about the choice, but Dean had let out a “whoo!” when he’d seen the box, and a sharp look from Cas ensured that Jo accepted the choice.

Dean took pointers from Jess and made a show of leaning into Cas as they sat on the couch. In reality, it was hindering his game, because he was hardly looking at the board and his cards, but it was clearly bothering Jo, so Dean kept doing that. Cas kept up the pretense well, too. He caressed Dean’s hand whenever he could and even held it at some point, although it really wasn’t feasible with all the pieces and cards they had to juggle. Jo rolled her eyes at them and proceeded to destroy them in the game, so it all balanced out.

“You’re usually a better challenge than this, Winchester,” Jo said. “Is Cas so distracting?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Dean said with a wink, and Jo groaned.

“What can I say? It’s hard to keep my hands off of you,” Cas said.

“I’m that irresistible?”

“Extremely. It’s like you’ve put a spell on me,” Cas said, looking deeply into his eyes. Dean blinked; it really was easy to drown in them.

“Aww, sweetheart,” Dean said. “I love it when you sweet-talk me.”

“Wow, you are disgustingly compatible,” Jo said. “I need to go kiss my girlfriend now.”

Not being able to take it anymore, Dean pulled Cas with him from the couch. No one batted an eye as they left the room, because Sam was still trying to argue with Charlie if “qi” was an acceptable word or not.

There was a hallway to the right of the living room, leading to various bedrooms of the condo. Next to Charlie’s bedroom was an actual, large closet where she and Jo kept their clothes, and Dean slipped inside, with Cas following close. As soon as the door was closed behind them and the light flicked on, Dean started to laugh. He tried to keep it down, but it was hard.

“This is unbelievable. How are they not seeing through us?” Dean whispered.

“I’ve no idea,” Cas said, but he was grinning widely, too.

“‘Put a spell on me,’” Dean mimicked. He started to laugh again. “Really, dude?”

“It was effective. And might I add: ‘sweetheart’?”

“What, would you prefer ‘sugar plum’?”

“That might be a step too far.”

“Doesn’t look like it,” Dean cackled. “You’ve been pulling every rom-com cliché in known history, and they don’t see it? I don’t believe this.”

“I’ll have you know that some things are cliché for a reason,” Cas argued.

“Yeah, Cas. They’re clichés because no one wants to see them.”

“On the contrary, Dean. Clichés are comforting. People see them and know that the world is an uncomplicated place, and that for a moment, everything is as it should be.”

“So, what, we should kiss in the rain?”

“It’s not raining right now,” Cas said.

“Joke, Cas. Cas, joke. Now that you know each other—”

“You know, you tend to be annoying, from time to time.”

“One of my better known qualities,” Dean grinned.

“It also makes you all the more endearing.”

“Aww, Cas, you think I’m endearing? Don’t you think you should repeat that in front of every—”

Cas shut him up with a kiss before Dean could finish his sentence. Without a moment’s hesitation, Dean leaned into the kiss and opened his mouth for Cas. Cas’s hands slotted behind his neck, pulling him in, and then Cas’s fingers were gently combing through the strands in the back of his head. Dean relaxed, not even thinking why they were doing this, in a closet out of view, and grasped Cas by his collar, trying to pull him closer. The way he kissed was gentle, nipping at Dean’s lips just enough to make them tingle, but the way he held Dean close and the way he pressed his whole body against Dean’s felt like a heat wave had suddenly burst into the room. Dean answered the kiss just as gently, his hands traveling from Cas’s lapels to his forearms and to his back, and then pulling, pulling, pulling Cas towards him until there was no space between them.

Something hot was simmering in Dean’s stomach, spreading throughout his body. Cas pressed him gently and Dean went backwards, trusting Cas’s guidance, until they hit the rack of coats and the wall. Charlie’s jackets pressed against Dean’s back, but he didn’t care one bit about that, because Cas’s hips were pushing against his. Dean parted his feet instinctively, giving Cas more space to step between them, and Cas pushed against him with more intent. His lips were pressing against Dean’s with fervor, and Dean was scrambling to keep up as the kiss deepened. Cas flicked his tongue against Dean’s lips in an absolutely delicious way, and—

Then the door opened, and Sam peeked in.

“Are you two alr—oh god!”

Cas and Dean separated quickly, Cas taking two fast steps away from Dean. His eyes were blown and he was breathing quickly, but so was Dean. Dean had trouble remembering where they were and what they’d been doing before Sam had come barging in.

“Guys! Really, in the closet?” Sam sounded exasperated.

“Some things are cliché for a reason, Sammy,” Dean said, because it was the only thing he could remember how to say. Cas started to laugh uproariously and didn’t seem to be able to stop, so Dean had no choice but to join him. Sam frowned at them like he’d just smelled something sour, and shook his head as he left. Dean and Cas leant against each other, laughing uncontrollably and gasping for air when it finally left them.

“Oh, man,” Dean stuttered. Cas giggled, rocking his body against Dean’s, and that made Dean laugh again. Cas’s hands were on his hips, and Dean’s were resting against Cas’s shoulders, but the posture felt natural.

Dean’s gasps of laughter slowly subsided, and so did Cas’s. Dean breathed deeply in and out for a few times, trying to recap what had just happened.

Cas had kissed him, and Sam had found them. Well, of course Cas had kissed him in the closet – they’d been talking about it and kind of planning it since yesterday. Cas had an amazing eye for how people would act, though. He’d been able to predict that Sam would find them, and had timed it perfectly. Dean had to admire his dedication.

“That was amazing,” Dean finally managed. “I’ve been waiting for that face ever since we started this.”

“Was it worth it?” Cas rasped. He was still recovering from the laughter.

“Abso-fucking-lutely,” Dean said. “Can’t wait for more.”

“Good,” Cas said. His fingers slid on Dean’s hips, and it felt like they left a trail of heat behind them. Dean swallowed, breaking away from Cas’s hold, and Cas let him go without protest.

“We should probably head back,” Dean said. “Don’t want to traumatize them too much.”

“Not yet,” Cas said, and Dean snorted.

“Not yet,” he agreed.

The rest of the evening was spent playing Carcassonne – despite Cas’s groans and Dean’s complaints – since Charlie was the host, and she got the last word. Dean and Cas walked a careful line between not touching each other too much and not touching enough, and several times Dean felt like brushing his knuckles against Cas’s arm was going too far, only to give Cas a delighted smile when Cas leaned against him or took his hand. Dean spotted Sam eye-rolling at them a few times, which only added fuel to the fire. By the end of the game, Dean was very nearly sitting in Cas’s lap and hadn’t stopped holding his hand for the past fifteen minutes. His hand was starting to cramp, but it certainly was worth the look of exasperation Sam and Jess shared.

It was after eleven when they finally concluded the game. Everyone was starting to droop already, so not long after that, they said their goodbyes and left. Jo only grunted something from the couch – she’d started to nap as soon as the last pieces had hit the board – but Charlie hugged them all goodbye and waved at them until they were out of the door. Sam and Jess declined Dean’s offer to drive them home, saying that they lived close enough to Charlie to walk to their place, and shaking his head, Dean let it go.

Cas silently followed Dean to the car, and they didn’t speak much while Dean drove them back. The night had been a success, and seeing Sam’s disgusted face had been especially satisfying, but he longed for more. Kissing Cas in that closet had been fun, and Dean briefly wished that it would’ve gone on longer, before catching himself and firmly denying that thought. He only wished that they would get other, better chances at making out and grossing everyone out.

Dean had already parked and was stepping out of the car when Cas’s voice startled him.

“Dean, you forgot to drop me off at home.”

“I—what?” Dean flushed, realizing that Cas was right. He’d driven straight to his place, not Cas’s. “Sorry. Guess I’m a bit more tired than I thought.”

“It’s alright. I’ll walk, it’s only a few blocks.”

“I’ll walk you home.”

Cas turned to look at him with surprise. “I, uh…” For once, Cas seemed lost for words. “If you’re not too tired…”

“Not that tired. Need to clear my head anyways.” Dean shrugged, attempting to make this casual. He wasn’t sure why it didn’t feel casual in the first place, because they were just two friends, and it was okay for friends to walk each other home, especially when they lived so close.

The cool night air felt nice against his skin as they walked. They weren’t that close to downtown, so there were fewer people on the move here than there had been around Charlie’s place, and there was a sort of privacy surrounding them. They walked slowly, not in a hurry, and not speaking for a long time.

Dean’s fingers brushed against Cas’s when they walked. He swallowed – he hadn’t tried to make that happen – and forcing himself to be normal, let his arms hang on his sides just as before. They walked on, and then it happened again: Dean’s hand brushed against Cas’s. Dean jumped when he felt Cas’s fingers momentarily slot against his, but it was impossible to tell if that was that a happy accident or deliberate. Dean took in the feeling anyway, enjoying it as long as it lasted, and didn’t try to hold Cas’s hand when his fingers slipped away.

The silence stretched on as they walked, and their fingers brushed against each other again. Cas’s fingers didn’t slot through Dean’s this time.

“I think I’m starting to like Carcassonne,” Castiel finally noted.

“Oh?”

“It’s growing on me.”

“Charlie’s obsessed with that game – for now – so that’s probably for the best,” Dean agreed.

“Do you think we overdid it today?” Cas suddenly asked.

“Huh?”

“Did we over-act?”

“I don’t think so.” Dean glanced at Cas, and saw that Cas was already looking at him. Cas didn’t turn his eyes away, and they watched each other for a moment. “I mean, I think we need to amp this up. We haven’t even begun to make them uncomfortable.”

Cas smiled. “Revenge is a dish best served cold?”

“More like best served sweet and cheesy,” Dean snorted. Cas snorted as well, and his fingers grazed Dean’s again.

“Next time, we should host a dinner,” Cas remarked then.

“Oh?” Dean asked, a grin sneaking to his face. Cas seemed to have that weird effect on him.

“And make everyone severely uncomfortable with how much we’re ignoring them to make out in the kitchen.”

“And on the couch.”

“And blow them off by the end of the night by retreating to the bedroom.”

“That’s just cruel,” Dean laughed.

“Wasn’t cruel what we were going for, though?”

They had reached Castiel’s building by now, and they were coming to a halt in front of the door. The city’s lights danced on Cas’s face, and Dean intently watched how the blue light from nearby bar made Cas’s angular face look even sharper.

“That was uh, a, um, good kiss,” Dean said suddenly.

“Hm?”

“Back in the closet. You, uh,” Dean scratched his neck awkwardly, “you’re a good kisser.”

“Thank you,” Cas said, suddenly shy. “So are you.”

“Great, great,” Dean said. “So, um, we can do that again, then? It won’t be, er, uncomfortable, or…”

“No,” Cas said. “Not uncomfortable. Unless you th—”

“No, no,” Dean cut him off. “Not uncomfortable. It was nice.”

This conversation, however, was uncomfortable, and cringing, Dean tried to think of anything else to say. He couldn’t come up with anything, and they’d been standing before Cas’s building for a while now. He ought to go, before things got weird.

“Well, uh,” Dean said, “goodnight.”

Cas smiled at him, softly. This wasn’t one of those large grins that he tended to use around other people; this was a small, barely-there smile, but it still seemed to hold more affection than any of the public smiles combined.

“Good night, Dean.”

Dean stared after Cas as he disappeared into the building, and he only moved after the light went off in the hallway. Dean blinked, attempting to get back to reality.

He was getting weirdly invested in this. He and Cas were playing a great game, and there was no need to complicate it any further.

Shaking his head, Dean turned and started to walk home. He’d eaten too much guacamole today. He just needed a good night’s sleep to get his head on straight, that was all.

Chapter Text

On Monday, Dean headed back to work as usual, and to his surprise, he didn’t end up in a slump. He managed to wrap up the car theft case, with the thief having been identified as the owner’s ex-boyfriend who’d tried to take out his frustrations about the break-up by trashing the car. Dean shook his head as he completed the paperwork on the case; people could be petty when it came to revenge. The most important thing was that he felt like his cases were moving again, and waking up in the morning didn’t feel like a waste of time anymore.

He texted Cas about this development before he could ask himself what on earth he was doing, and when Cas replied with a row of emoticons, Dean simply smiled at his phone. It put him in a good mood that lasted for the entire day, and even carried on to the following days. He and Cas continued to text at random intervals, mostly inane stuff to get their minds off of work for a minute. Cas kept complaining about some people their organization was supposed to be partnering with for a project and how they were being difficult on purpose, and Dean offered to arrest them all, much to Cas’s delight. However, Cas texted Dean soon after that he was retracting his request, since the project was moving along after all. Dean texted back a thumbs-up emoticon and then, for some reason, wanted to bash his head against the wall.

Dean figured that since he’d been over to Cas’s place, it was only polite to invite Cas over as well. On Wednesday afternoon, he did just that, and Cas answered so fast that he either must’ve been holding his phone or desperately looking for a distraction from work, or both. They agreed to meet at Dean’s place some time after six, and made vague plans about a movie, although neither had any ideas what to watch at this stage. A little before four, Cas texted Dean again.

Need me to bring anything? Cas asked.

Just your gorgeous self, Dean said, before realizing how needlessly flirtatious that sounded. He was just kidding, because they weren’t going out for real, and he knew that Cas knew that he knew that, but… Somewhat desperately, Dean added “;)” to the conversation, just as a sign that he was kidding.

Cute, Cas answered. Dean spent two uncomfortable minutes pondering about every possible meaning of that, and then firmly pushed it from his mind.

Dean raced home after work – getting a few odd looks and raised eyebrows because of his haste from Benny and Victor – and even though he knew it was unnecessary, he took a quick shower and changed his clothes. Cas was punctual. They’d agreed on six o’clock, and the clock had just struck six when Cas rang the doorbell. Uneasiness clung to Dean’s bones for some reason when he went to open the door, but he blamed it on the fact that Cas had never been to his apartment. Dean didn’t often feel comfortable inviting people there, because it was his little nest, and he preferred to let it remain as his own kingdom. Having Sam and Jess over once in a while was fine, as was letting Charlie and Jo use his floor to play whatever new board game they’d gotten that week, but Dean didn’t yet know how to feel about Cas stepping into his space.

Then Dean realized that he was severely overthinking this, and opened the door to let Cas in.

Cas was dressed in the familiar suit and tan coat, and his hair was even more rumpled than usual. Dean raised his brows when Cas gave him a tired greeting.

“Did you come here straight from work?” Dean asked.

Cas was taking off his coat, and paused to look at Dean. “Should I have gone home to change?”

“Well, no, it’s…” Dean blinked. “Never mind. It’s fine.”

Cas ran a hand through his hair, making it stick in every direction, and Dean had to stomp down the itch to correct it.

“Come in,” Dean gestured, and after kicking off his shoes, Cas followed him to the apartment. Cas took in the layout with interest, and Dean didn’t know what he was expecting, but Cas only gave a small smile to Dean when he’d finished looking. Grinning back, Dean led Cas to the open kitchen in the back of the apartment.

“You haven’t eaten yet, right?”

“No. Well, I ate a sandwich at noon, but that barely counts.”

“Not holding a candle to Mr. Fizzles?”

“No,” Cas simply said. “How was your day?”

They talked for a while like that, just standing around in Dean’s kitchen, and maybe it should’ve been absurd, but instead, it felt surprisingly comfortable. Cas explained that he’d been caught up in arranging the new project their organization was involved with, and the meeting had run long. Dean didn’t feel like his day had been as productive – he’d only interviewed a few people today and made a dozen phone calls, not even leaving the comfort of his desk. Cas told him that it sounded much more interesting than trying to explain his budget restraints to a room full of people, and again, Dean promised to arrest anyone who gave Cas trouble, getting a laugh out of Cas.

“People can be frustrating and obtuse sometimes,” Cas said, “but I don’t think my employer would appreciate me getting everyone I find irritating arrested. That would bring the project to a standstill.”

“Fair enough,” Dean said. “But the offer still stands.”

“I think I’ll save that just for emergencies. Perhaps for Christmas.”

“What happens at Christmas?”

“My whole family tends to celebrate together,” Cas said, “and that includes my aunts and uncles. Some of whom aren’t exactly…fond of me.”

“What, they don’t like who you’re going out with?”

“Among other things,” Castiel said.

“Yeesh,” Dean said. “Copy that.” He hesitated, and added, “Um, same. I’ve never brought a boyfriend home for Christmas or Thanksgiving or, hell, even Independence Day. Can’t imagine what my granddad would say. Or, well, I can, I just…don’t want to.”

Cas nodded, solemnly, and they exchanged a look of understanding. This was a sore subject for Dean, and he didn’t want to think about it any more than was absolutely necessary, so he turned to the cupboards and started to take inventory of what he had and what they could cook.

“Alright, so, you hungry?” Dean asked. Cas nodded, and Dean gestured him closer. “I thought we could make something today.”

“Um.” Cas worried his lower lip between his teeth, and Dean blinked when he noticed that he was tracking the movement. “I’m…not a good cook, Dean. I would just be in your way.”

“No way, dude,” Dean said. “How have you even lived without being able to cook?”

“I told you. Take-out.”

“Gross,” Dean said. “I mean, I gorge on it sometimes, too, but seriously, how can you not know how to make Mac and Cheese? Chicken? Fried rice?”

Cas shook his head with each suggestion. “I, um,” he seemed at least suitably embarrassed by this, “I’ve never needed to learn.”

“What, did your ex cook for you all the time or something?”

“Actually, that was one of the only things I could count on her to do,” Cas said. Pain briefly flashed in his eyes, before he carefully wiped his face of any emotion. “I, um, haven’t had much energy to learn in the past…months.”

“Alright,” Dean said. He wanted to keep poking, find out more about this ex-girlfriend who allegedly had cooked for Cas, but the far-away look in Cas’s eyes convinced Dean that it wouldn’t be a good idea. Something dark twisted his stomach as he looked at Cas, but Dean brushed it aside.

“C’mon, I’ll show you,” Dean said then. “We’ll start off easy. Let’s make some Spaghetti Bolognese.” His eyes traveled to Cas’s suit jacket and tie that was loose, and sensing the look, Cas flicked his eyes to Dean.

“Ah. I should probably lose the jacket, first.”

“Would be for the best,” Dean said, and then he couldn’t think of anything to add, because he got caught up watching Cas shrug out of his jacket. He rolled up his sleeves, revealing his forearms, and Dean’s eyes might’ve lingered on them for a second longer than was strictly necessary. He coughed to cover up his awkwardness, and went back to arranging the ingredients.

Though Cas was hesitant at first and seemed to expect that the onions Dean made him cut would spontaneously catch on fire, Cas caught on quickly and relaxed. By the time they were adding spices to the sauce, Dean let Cas finish the dish by himself with only minor supervising. Cas seemed happy with the result, and gave that small, soft smile when Dean clapped him on the back and complimented the taste of the sauce.

They ate in front of the television. Cas tried to carelessly lift his feet on the coffee table, but that earned a scandalized look from Dean. Flushing, Cas quickly removed his feet, and Dean only forgave him because he looked like a kicked puppy. The rest of the evening was spent watching Terminator (which they’d both seen numerous times) and talking throughout the movie. The movie ended up being more of a backdrop to their conversation, but neither seemed inclined to press pause, so Dean didn’t. All in all, it was a fun evening. Cas left at ten, insisting that he could walk home alone. After the door had closed, Dean felt disoriented for a moment, like the evening could’ve gone on for a bit longer. He stood in his foyer for a minute, musing this development. Then he shook his head, deciding that he was just tired, and crashed onto his bed and fell asleep with his clothes still on.

On Friday, Cas texted Dean after work and asked if he wanted to come over, and it wasn’t like Dean could turn the invitation down. Thursday had been a hectic day, and Friday hadn’t been much better, so Dean figured that he could use the company. Cas told him to come over whenever he got off work, since Cas was leaving early. The last few hours of his shift went much better when Dean reminded himself that he was going to Cas’s to watch a movie, and wouldn’t have to interview smartasses who insisted that they had nothing to do with the stolen car that they had totaled.

When the day was finally done and Dean was packing his stuff, Benny came by his desk.

“You want to go for drinks after this?”

Shoot. Dean had forgotten that Benny had a habit of dragging him to the nearest bar to drink and talk shit about their coworkers every other Friday. They hadn’t done that in a while, and Dean felt a tiny pinch of remorse when he had to turn Benny down.

“Can’t tonight, sorry. Already told Cas that I’d go to his place,” Dean said.

“Huh,” Benny said. “Well, have fun.”

“Thanks.”

“So, when do we get to meet this mysterious boyfriend?” Benny asked, flashing a wide grin. “You could come around for dinner some time.”

“We’ll see,” Dean said. He didn’t know if he wanted to drag Cas to eat with Andrea and Benny – they were a nice couple, and Benny was a good friend, but Dean drew the line at introducing Cas as his “boyfriend” to people who had nothing to do with their scheme. That might complicate things to a degree Dean wasn’t ready to untangle. “And didn’t you say that you’ve already met Cas?”

Benny shrugged. “Andrea knows him. I’ve only heard his name mentioned a time or two.”

“Well, uh, maybe I’ll introduce you sometime,” Dean said, noncommittally. Benny accepted that, luckily, and Dean didn’t have to come up with an excuse why he didn’t want Benny and Cas to meet. It wasn’t like he even had a good reason why not – just a sense of uncertainty about what would happen when he and Cas had to break up. The more people they fooled, the more explaining they had to do when the jig was up, and Dean didn’t want to mess up Cas’s relationships for him.

When Dean arrived at Cas’s, Cas had just ordered Thai, and only grinned when Dean reacted with a shake of the head. Dean couldn’t wait to teach Cas more simple dishes – it wasn’t like Dean never ate fast food (on the contrary), but it seemed sad that Cas had to order food every time when he simply could’ve done something himself.

They continued watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but watching it was slow, since Dean couldn’t stop commenting on police practices and, admittedly, laughing so much it hurt. Cas, for some reason, had endless patience for this, it seemed, and was content at putting the show on pause to listen to Dean’s ramblings about work. They watched a few episodes and ate while they watched, but some time after episode ten Cas stopped the DVD because their conversation had gotten so long. At some point, Dean helped Cas bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen, and then wandered off to the bookshelf to snoop around.

Dean had admired Cas’s bookshelf ever since he’d first spotted it, and it didn’t disappoint when he got a closer look at it. Cas had a wide variety of books, from cheap sci-fi stories to Russian classics, and while the books were worn out, they were clearly well-loved. DVDs and Blu-Rays were also stacked on the bookshelf, but there were so few of them that they barely took up one row.

“I um,” Cas said when Dean curiously went through the collection, “I haven’t yet…gotten around to arranging them all. I still have a few boxes at my brother’s place.”

“Oh,” Dean said. Again, he felt that there was a story there that was waiting to be uncovered, but he didn’t know how much he dared to dig before he hit a wall. “Have you moved recently?”

“A few months ago,” Cas said, with a little shrug. He seemed uncomfortable, so Dean turned back to the shelves and tried to think of something else to talk about. His fingers skimmed the DVDs, until he hit the last one in the row.

“You own E.T. but not Blade Runner? Or is it hiding in those boxes somewhere?” Dean asked then.

“I’ve never seen that.”

“What?”

Blade Runner.”

“What?” Dean repeated. “You’ve never seen Blade Runner. Really?”

“Just never got around to it. It’s not that big a deal.”

“Not a big deal?” Dean cried. “Well, okay, it’s not as big deal as if you hadn’t seen the Star Wars trilogy, or—”

“There’s more than one Star Wars movie?”

“Dude!”

Cas broke into a grin. “I’m just messing with you. Of course I’ve seen Star Wars. Remember how I met Charlie when I was dressed as—”

“Han Solo. Crap, I can’t believe I forgot that.”

“I own them all on Blu-Ray. And, not my proudest moment, but I took a day off when Episode VII was released.”

“But…that was on Friday.”

“Yes, but I went to the midnight premiere and wanted to marathon the original trilogy before that, so…”

Dean laughed. “Man, wish I’d thought of that. But I was swamped with work and had a shift that weekend, so I couldn’t go to the premiere.”

“Shame,” Cas said. “The energy in the theatre was amazing.”

“I can believe that,” Dean said. “I mean, it was still an experience when I went to see it the week after, but I really wanted to go to the premiere.”

“Maybe for Episode VIII, then?”

“Maybe.” They looked at each other, something akin to a silent promise passing between them. Dean had to look away when the gaze got too heavy.

“But, anyway, Blade Runner.”

“Yes?”

“Guess we’ll have to watch that next Wednesday, then?” Dean asked.

“Next Wednesday,” Cas agreed. There was a hopeful note in his voice, and it blossomed into that small, soft smile when Dean grinned at him.

 


 

After the Wednesday that they spent watching Blade Runner, it sort of became a tradition. On Wednesdays – if Dean’s work schedule permitted – Cas would come over to Dean’s to learn basic cooking skills and critique every little thing in lame 80s movies. On Fridays, Dean went over to Cas’s to pet his guinea pigs (Man had finally accepted that Dean wasn’t a threat and dared to eat the hay even when Dean sat down on the floor watching them) and to laugh at Brooklyn Nine-Nine. June passed by like that. On one Wednesday evening, when they couldn’t finish Conan the Barbarian before Cas had leave, Dean suggested that they continue watching it on Thursday. Cas came over on Thursday like it was an everyday occurrence, and they finished Conan the Barbarian with only minor laughing fits and arguments over what dip to use with the chips.

On Friday, it was Dean’s turn to go over to Cas’s, and although this was the third consecutive night they’d hung out, it didn’t feel weird. Cas was quickly becoming one of Dean’s best friends, and from the way Cas hadn’t gotten tired of Dean yet and thrown him out after the thousandth bad pun, Dean deduced that it was the same for Cas. It was odd to think that they’d only met a month ago or so, when it felt like they’d known each other for longer. There were still odd spots to navigate around in their friendship, but it was becoming clear that, if nothing else, they enjoyed each other’s company.

Surprisingly, when Dean got to Cas’s apartment, Cas wasn’t there yet. He’d sent a text saying that he might be late, but hadn’t given a reason. Dean waited in the hallway, giving an awkward smile to the old neighbor lady who walked by.

Cas showed up five minutes later, carrying a box. When Dean saw the box and smelled what was inside, his eyes widened.

“Cherry pie!” Dean snatched the pie from Cas’s hands immediately.

“Hello to you, too,” Cas laughed. “Glad to know your priorities are intact.”

“Yeah, yeah, hi,” Dean said. He inhaled the wonderful smell and enjoyed how warm the box was in his hands. “You’re forgiven for being late. How’d you know I wanted pie? Sam blabbered to you, didn’t he? He didn’t tell you about all the pie-eating contests, did he?”

“Dean, you talked of nothing else but pie yesterday,” Cas said, rolling his eyes. He unlocked the door and they stepped inside. “It wasn’t difficult to put together. I stopped by a bakery on my way here.”

“There’s no bakery around here,” Dean said, frowning.

“No. My brother owns one near where I work.”

“Jimmy’s a baker?”

“No, Jimmy’s a sales rep. This is Gabriel. He’s the oldest.”

“I always get your brothers mixed up,” Dean said. While Cas took off his coat and suit jacket, Dean went to the kitchen and put the pie on the counter. He opened the box – it was cherry pie, like he’d smelled, and it looked amazing. Dean’s mouth was watering just by looking at it.

“Are you going to eat it or make out with it?” Cas called from the bedroom where he was changing clothes, sounding amused.

“Both, if that’s possible,” Dean said. “It’s like you know the way to my heart.”

“You gave me pretty good directions,” Cas joked back.

They had finished the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and for a change, Cas suggested Raiders of the Lost Ark, even if they’d both seen it a hundred times before. They settled down to watch the movie on the couch with slices of pie. Cas warned Dean that he would skin him alive if he got cherry pie on the white couch, because “it’s my most valuable possession.” Dean, in turn, had to point out that Cas owned two guinea pigs that had to be more valuable since they were “living, breathing things, Cas,” and then argued that no couch should ever be white, since it was the least practical color, and the movie had to be put on hold because of that argument.

At some point they called it a tie and finally put on the movie, because it was getting late. Dean personally liked Fridays much more than Wednesdays for this reason alone; on Fridays, he wasn’t in such a hurry to leave Cas’s place and their evenings stretched on to Saturday mornings (unless Dean was working on Saturday). But on Wednesdays, that wasn’t feasible. They both had work the next morning, and Cas still had to walk home.

Indiana Jones had just ended the lecture on the screen when Dean first noticed Cas shifting oddly. It happened again a few moments later, and then wouldn’t stop. Dean followed Cas’s shifting from the corner of his eye until he had to ask.

“What’s with the wiggling?”

“My back itches,” Cas muttered. “I think it’s the new shirt.” He had changed into a blue t-shirt that looked coarse with disuse.

“Want some help?” Dean asked. He was already lifting his hand towards Cas’s back, before Cas turned to look at him.

Cas raised one brow, looking curiously at Dean. “If it’s not…uncomfortable?”

“What? No.” Then Dean flushed, retracting his hand. “I mean, if it’s not…uncomfortable…for you.”

“No.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Still somewhat hesitant but curious, Dean lifted his hand again. He started with small movements, barely pressing his fingers against Cas’s back, but then Cas relaxed under his touch. He even leaned forward to allow more room for Dean, and taking courage from that, Dean started to move his hand with more force. Cas hummed, content, and Dean continued to draw figures with his fingertips.

Dean recalled doing this when he’d been younger with his mother, Sam, or even his dad, from time to time, until he’d become a teenager who thought that everything related to his parents was embarrassing, especially touching. Before that phase, he recalled it being relaxing, and now that he thought about it, he’d scratched his mom’s head more times than he could count when he’d been little. His mom still suffered from migraines every now and then, and when Dean was five, he’d thought that the best solution was to try and scratch his mom’s head. He still didn’t know if that had actually helped, or if Dean had just given his mom something else to think about, but his mom had always been grateful. As his fingers danced on Cas’s back, he thought back to his childhood, and something in his brain connected touching someone like this with comfort and closeness. Whatever it was, it felt nice.

It was hard to scratch someone’s back with their shirt on, though. Dean glanced at the movie, and when it seemed that Cas was engrossed in it, he moved his hand downwards. When he reached the hem of his shirt, his hand faltered.

Cas turned to look at him, a question on his face. Dean swallowed.

“Okay?” Dean asked.

“Okay,” Cas said, in a small voice.

His hand slipped under Cas’s shirt, and though it was expected, Dean still startled when he sensed the expanse of naked skin under his palm. Cas’s skin was warm, and it was much easier to sink his fingertips into his flesh. Cas let out a small groan, and Dean startled at first, before he reasoned that it had been a good sound. He pressed his fingers into Cas’s back with more intent, and Cas leaned into the touch. Dean couldn’t follow the movie for a long time, because he was fascinated with Cas’s small sounds of contentment. His fingers moved in confident formations, nails sliding on the smooth skin, and Dean could easily lose himself in it.

They were silent for a long time. The movie was still running in the background, but Dean was only half-watching it. Cas also seemed drowsier by the second, leaning heavily towards Dean and letting Dean scratch his back for much longer than Dean had anticipated. He didn’t complain, and continued until his arm was getting tired and his movements got smaller and smaller, until he was practically just gently pushing his palm against Cas’s back.

At some point after that, Cas finally leaned away, and Dean quickly drew his hand away. Cas gave him a thankful smile, and Dean answered it.

“That was nice.”

Dean shrugged. He tapped his foot against the floor, and glanced at the movie. It was nearing the final climactic scenes, and Dean had no idea how time had gone by so quickly.

“We should host that dinner at some point,” Dean said then.

“Dinner?” Cas asked, sounding a bit more alert now.

“Well, we went to Charlie’s place last time, so it’s only fair that we’ll invite them over, right?”

“Hm.”

“Now that your cooking’s improved…” Dean teased, prompting Cas to shove him. Dean shoved back, and this went on for a while, before they remembered that they weren’t six-year-olds anymore.

“At this pace, I might be able to serve something non-lethal by next year,” Cas commented.

“Maybe two years from now,” Dean said, and Cas threw a pillow at him. Startled, Dean let out a laugh. “If you get cherry on this, don’t blame me!”

“How would I get cherry on—”

Dean answered that question by slamming the pillow against Cas’s face. He didn’t anticipate Cas retaliating by raising his arms and shoving Dean in the chest. Dean fell backwards, and Cas followed, this time attacking by tickling Dean’s sides.

“I want to break up!” Dean laughed.

“Don’t be a child,” Cas said. “If you broke up with me, who would bring you cherry pie in the first place?”

“You play dirty,” Dean whined, and grabbed another pillow to retaliate. Cas dodged the attack, and they wrestled over the pillow for a while, until Dean started to laugh, and Cas started to laugh in turn. Dean’s back hit the armrest, and Cas fell sort of on top of him, supporting himself on his arms. They laughed until they ran out of air, and even then, it took a while for them to calm down.

“Okay, that was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done,” Dean finally wheezed.

“Pillow fight?” Cas asked. “A pillow fight is one of the stupidest things you’ve ever done?”

“Well, seeing as we’re both over the age of ten…”

“Age is just a number.”

“Only people with a middle age crisis say that. To comfort themselves.”

“How incredibly cynical of you,” Cas said. He was still hovering over Dean, and when their gazes met, he poked Dean in the nose. Dean scrunched up his nose and simply stared at Cas, since he couldn’t think of a reply. Cas hovered over him for a moment, before finally sitting up straight. Dean followed, correcting his posture.

“So,” Dean breathed, “Next Friday?”

“Next Friday,” Cas agreed.

 


 

The next Wednesday, Dean had to cancel their plans for that night. An old case had heated up suddenly, and Dean, among others, had to put in overtime the whole week to get it done. To everyone’s surprise, the killer, who had dodged the police for a decade, decided to confess, and on Thursday, the case was wrapped up. Dean was relieved, and on Friday, he left work as soon as he could and drove straight to Cas’s place. They’d texted back and forth during the day, and Cas had said that he’d be home early again, so Dean was welcome whenever. Dean was too excited, for whatever reason, to stop by his apartment to change.

Cas opened the door after a short wait, and Dean grinned when he saw that Cas was still wearing a button-down and dress pants. He hadn’t changed after work, although he’d rolled up his sleeves.

“Hi Cas.”

“Hi,” Cas said, standing aside to let Dean in. “You’re early. I thought you said you had to work overtime this week for a case.”

“No, we closed it yesterday. Just paperwork for now.”

Cas gave him an odd look. “Did you come here straight from work?”

“Um, yeah. It’s Friday?” Dean asked.

“Yes?”

“So…Brooklyn Nine-Nine?”

Cas gave him a strange look. “Sam, Jess, Charlie, and Jo are coming over for dinner.”

“Oh,” Dean said. “Right. The dinner.”

“You forgot, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t! I just…spaced out.”

Cas gave him a long look, assessing Dean’s clothing. “Well, it’s not a catastrophe. You look passable.”

“Thanks, Tim Gunn.” Dean ran a hand through his hair. “Do you have some cologne or something that I could borrow?”

“Top drawer, in the bathroom,” Cas said. He gave a grin. “Actually, that’s perfect. Us using the same cologne.”

“Oh god,” Dean laughed. “I can already picture Sam’s disgusted face.”

“Get to it, then,” Cas said.

Dean quickly washed his face in the bathroom and checked his hair, running a wet hand through it a few times. He didn’t look as tired as he felt, so that was a plus. And since he was in a button-down like Cas, Dean didn’t think he was overdressed for this. As the final touch, Dean did put on Cas’s cologne – he made a mental note of the brand, because it smelled really good.

Truthfully, Dean had been expecting a fun evening with Cas, not pretending in front of all the others, and he didn’t think he’d be up for it tonight. This worry vanished when everyone else showed up. Charlie immediately jumped to hug him, and Jo, Jess, and Sam followed her example. Cas got his share of hugs as well, even if he hesitated when it was Sam’s turn, and Sam yet again bypassed the hesitation and drew Cas in for a hug. Dean was happy that his brother got along with Cas so well. It had always sucked when Sam had gone out with girls Dean didn’t like (like Ruby – he still shuddered whenever he thought of her) and, likewise, things had always been tense when Dean had gone out with someone Sam didn’t like.

“You’re all early,” Cas noted. “I thought you had a shift tonight, Jo?”

“Wiggled out of it,” Jo shrugged. She worked in a bar while she was trying to get her MA in History, and, while Jo was used to bars, she’d never particularly liked working there. Her mother Ellen owned a bar, and Jo had grown up in the smoke and sweat of it.

“We wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Charlie winked.

“Dean’s cooking, right?” Jo asked.

“Actually, Cas is,” Dean said, enjoying the look of horror on Jo’s face.

“Well, we’re lucky we have a nurse here,” Charlie said, gesturing at Jess.

“Dean has been teaching me,” Cas said, annoyed. “I promise you that no poison control will be needed.”

“So you say.” Jo rolled her eyes. “Do I need to remind you what happened the last time?”

“What last time?” Dean asked.

“Cas tried to make cookies,” Jo said. “He confused sugar with salt.”

“They look really similar!” Cas protested. It didn’t stop everyone else giggling.

“Stop insulting my boyfriend,” Dean said. “He’s come a long way since then.”

Sam mouthed ‘boyfriend’ to Jess, who whispered something back. Dean ignored them.

While Cas talked with Sam and Jess, Charlie and Jo wandered to the bedroom door to peek inside. Dean noticed their interest, and went into the room, gesturing for them to follow. Charlie made a beeline to the guinea pig cage, and Jo followed her.

“Guinea pigs!” Charlie squealed. “Oh, I’ve missed seeing these guys.”

“Come here, little one,” Dean muttered. He picked up Super, who had grown so comfortable with Dean that he didn’t even protest when Dean’s hands closed around him.

“You get to hold them?” Charlie asked.

“Yeah, why not?” Dean offered the guinea pig to Charlie, who took a step backwards, staring at Dean with her mouth open. Jo watched them, equally wary. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, I’ve never…I don’t know.”

“You’ve never held him?” Dean asked. “Well, it’s easy. Just don’t squeeze him to death.”

“I wouldn’t!” Charlie protested. She looked awed when Dean placed the guinea pig on her palms.

“He’s so soft,” she said. Jo inched closer, and carefully started to pet Super. The guinea pig squirmed a little, but settled under Jo’s ministrations.

“Cute, aren’t they?” Cas asked. He’d appeared to the doorway, and was watching the scene with amusement.

“Very,” Charlie said. She was charmed by Super, it seemed, and Jo was no better. They stared at the guinea pig who didn’t know how to react to his sudden superstardom, squirming in Charlie’s arms.

“Careful,” Cas said when Super started to squirm, and when Charlie’s face slipped to unease, Cas stepped in and took the guinea pig from her. She looked relieved when Cas put the guinea pig back into the cage, cooing nonsense at him.

“Should I be jealous?” Dean asked.

“Essentially, you’re asking if you’re cuter than a guinea pig,” Cas said. He stood up and turned to Dean. “I would say…just barely.”

“Shut up,” Dean said. “I’m adorable.”

“So you keep saying.”

“I’m not hearing anything to the contrary.”

“Nothing to contradict,” Cas said. He smiled, raising a hand, and then, to Dean’s surprise, Cas’s hand fell on his neck and pulled him forward. Dean went willingly, meeting Cas halfway into the kiss. For the second time, it surprised Dean how soft Cas’s lips were. They had looked rough, but that was probably because Cas bit them so much. Dean closed his eyes, enjoying the gentle pressure of it, and dipped his tongue against Cas’s mouth. Cas’s lips parted, but then the moment ended when Jo coughed.

“Boys, boys,” Jo said. “Not that it isn’t wonderful to see you work through your problems, but we were promised a meal.”

There was a rush going through Dean’s head when he pulled back, but Dean shrugged it aside. He gave Cas a wink when they separated, and Cas gave an amused look back.

“Right,” Cas said. “The meal. Yes. Right.”

“Did he suck your brain out through your mouth?” Jo snarked.

“No, that’s through my—”

“Okay, okay!” Jo raised her hands in defeat. “I really don’t want to know.”

“You asked,” Cas said, and he and Dean exchanged a conspiratorial look when Jo pretended to gag.

Despite Cas promising to cook, it was Dean who ended up doing most of the work while Cas hovered right behind him. Dean raised his brows the first time Cas reached around him and wrapped both of their hands around the spatula, putting his head on Dean’s shoulder, but then Dean saw the look Sam was giving them from the corner of his eye. Delighted, Dean leant back into the touch, and they proceeded to cook like that for most of the time, nearly driving the others into despair when they wouldn’t separate even when setting the table. Dean kissed Cas on the cheek when they finished, because cooking like that had been a great idea.

Cas had a table stashed in the corner of the kitchen, right next to the window. It was meant for four people, but Cas had pulled two extra chairs from somewhere, and they tried to fit around it as they ate. It was such a tight fit that everyone’s elbows were constantly brushing against each other, and Dean’s right leg was squashed against Cas’s. That gave him an idea.

Gleefully, Dean noted, “You can sit on my lap, if you want to save some space.”

“Guys, we’re trying to eat,” Charlie despaired.

“So are we,” Dean fired back.

“Thanks, Dean,” Cas said, amusement in his voice, “but I think that for the sake of our friends, I’ll stay right here.”

Dean shrugged. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

“This is actually good,” Jo noted, poking at her pasta. “Wow, Dean, you’ve really been rubbing off on Cas.”

“Not enough,” Cas automatically said, and everyone groaned. Dean laughed, and kissed Cas on the cheek again.

After the meal, they moved to the living room, which at least had more space, although not enough chairs for everyone. Dean and Cas instantly claimed the couch, and Cas pulled Dean tightly against his side. Dean didn’t even put up a mock fight, and leaned into Cas while everyone else tried to find a place to sit. Charlie and Jo made a nest of pillows on the floor, and Sam and Jess took chairs from the kitchen. Nobody was in the mood to watch a movie, and the rest of the evening was simply spent talking, ranting about their jobs, and arguing about the correct order to watch the Star Wars movies. All the while, Dean sat beside Cas, his arm curled around Cas’s shoulders, and Cas’s hand wandering at random intervals to rest on Dean’s knee. Dean forgot all about the stress he’d had at work, and simply enjoyed the evening with his friends and the feeling of leaning against Cas.

Sam and Jess left first, around nine – they claimed to be tired, and no one could really doubt them. Jess had pulled two shifts at the hospital back to back, and no one dared to ask about Sam’s schedule. He had graduated from law school a year back and had passed the state bar exam right away, and yet, Sam claimed that his first real job was more demanding than those two put together. Charlie and Jo stayed longer, and the clock was nearing twelve when the girls finally stood up and announced that they’d fall asleep unless they left.

After saying goodbyes, Dean and Cas stumbled back on the couch, as if they’d both wordlessly agreed that standing up was too much work and the couch was the best place to be. As easily as he’d thrown an arm around Cas in front of the others, Dean did it again, and to his surprise, Cas leaned against him the same way as before. Dean blinked, the tiredness finally catching up to him.

“I think that went okay,” Dean muttered.

“Yeah?” Cas asked. “I suppose. We could’ve done better.”

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “Not enough disgust. We need to do something really sugary next time.”

“I told you we should’ve made out in front of them.” Cas yawned, and his head knocked against Dean’s cheek as he did so. Dean nudged against it, before Cas pulled away.

“Against the bookshelf,” Dean added.

“A few books would’ve been knocked down.”

Dean could see the scene clearly in his mind: Cas pushing him against the bookshelf, with such a force that several volumes would fall from the shelf and the DVDs would rattle. Cas’s hands would cradle Dean’s skull, just like the last time they’d kissed, and Dean would sneak a leg to press against Cas’s crotch, making Cas rut against him.

It was a shame they hadn’t gotten around to doing that.

“We should do that,” Dean yawned. “Next time.”

“Next time,” Cas agreed. He looked tired, and yawned again.

“I should go,” Dean finally mumbled. He didn’t feel like he was alert enough to drive, so maybe he could walk home.

“You’ll fall asleep on the sidewalk,” Cas protested.

“Mmh,” Dean muttered, because he agreed.

“You can just stay the night,” Castiel suggested.

“Could I?” Dean asked. His voice was small, drooping with sleepiness. “Thanks. If that’s no trouble for you.”

“Not at all,” Castiel mumbled. He knocked his forehead against Dean’s, sleepily. “But I don’t have a guest bedroom or mattress.”

“Oh.” Dean pressed against Castiel, burrowing closer to the warmth. He felt heavy and sleepy, and would’ve been happy to sleep right there. “Your bed’s king-sized, right?”

“Yes…” Castiel said, a bit unsure. “If you’re okay with sharing?”

“Are you?”

“It’s fine by me.”

“I don’t mind,” Dean said. “If you don’t wanna, I can just sleep right here.”

“You will not. You’ll snap your neck,” Castiel said. His voice was rough and right against Dean’s ear, but it felt kind of nice.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Just sleep in the bed.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

Even after agreeing, they stayed on the couch for a few moments, half-asleep. When Cas kicked his foot involuntarily, wavering between sleep and consciousness, Dean stood up and pulled Cas with him. Wordlessly, Cas followed.

They brushed their teeth side by side – Cas had a guest toothbrush, just like he’d promised way back on their first “date.” They were both so tired that it was necessary to keep each other awake for that, and fell into the bed without any preamble after that. Cas had stripped down to just his boxers, and too tired to be modest, Dean did the same. Dean rolled over to the right side of the bed, and Cas settled on the left and switched off the light. It was probably due the tiredness, but there was no awkward shifting of limbs or fighting over the only blanket – they both rolled to their respective side of the bed, and fell asleep. Cas’s leg nudged Dean’s, but Dean was too tired to turn away, so he gently pressed back. He concentrated on the little sniffs Cas let out when he breathed, until Dean’s eyelids drooped and he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

When he woke up, Dean didn’t realize where he was at first. He was woken up by the sound of something banging against the wall, and he sat up quickly, phantom images of the dream still flashing in the corner of his vision. It took him a few seconds to gather that the banging wasn’t coming from this room, but from the upstairs neighbor. It sounded like someone had finally decided to hang up all their paintings at the same time. Dean blinked the sleep away from his eyes, and then fell back on the bed, groaning. He was groggy and made it him slip back into the dream world for a few moments, until he felt something pressing against his side.

It took him another few seconds to remember where he was and who he was with. Cas had shifted during the night to his side, now facing Dean. His hair was an absolute mess, with the strands falling to his forehead in a way Dean had never seen before. He was half-hugging a pillow and his knees were drawn up, as if the posture would protect him from the outside world.

Dean startled when Cas suddenly opened one eye, looking straight at Dean. Even opening one eye seemed to have required a lot of energy, and it was shut immediately.

“What time is it?” Cas mumbled, his voice even rougher than usual. Dean irrationally thought that it was a privilege to hear what Cas’s voice sounded like in the morning, before he was fully awake.

Dean checked his phone. He’d stashed it under the pillow, which had seemed like a great idea in the middle of the night. He was lucky the screen hadn’t cracked.

“It’s nine thirty.”

“Go back to sleep,” Cas said, eyes still closed.

“It’s nine thirty,” Dean protested.

“Nnngggghhh,” Cas groaned, and Dean had to admit that it was a convincing argument. He fell back into the bed, and when Cas sensed this, he immediately fell asleep again. Dean smiled at Cas, who looked downright adorable when he slept, and decided to take Cas’s advice and sleep for a bit, too. It was Saturday, and he had no plans for today.

Dean could only nap for forty-five minutes before he got restless, and sat up. His movements made Cas stir, but Cas just grumbled and turned to his other side.

“Cas, c’mon,” Dean said. “It’s after ten. How about breakfast?”

“Coffee,” Cas grouched, after a long silence.

“Um,” Dean said, “okay? Coffee. Coffee’s good.”

“Black,” Cas said. His voice was still just a mutter, and raspy. “Need. Now.”

“Okay, okay,” Dean said. “I’ll be right back, sugar plum.”

Cas was awake enough to throw a pillow after him, but Dean dodged it and went to the kitchen to search for coffee. Luckily, he knew his way around Cas’s kitchen by now, so locating coffee beans and a coffee maker was no problem at all. As he put the coffee maker on, Dean thought about how grumpy Cas was in the mornings, and if that was something he’d have to get used to.

Which made no sense, since they weren’t together for real, but, still. For the sake of their scheme, maybe it was pivotal that Dean adapted to Cas’s bad moods.

When Cas was a no show even after the coffee was done, Dean adapted and poured Cas a cup. He’d also found toast in the cupboards, so he made some for both of them, and then decided to take a risk and carried it all to the bedroom.

“Alright, sunshine, time to rise up,” Dean said. Cas groaned again, but the smell of coffee was enough to make Cas at least sit up. Dean sat down on the bed and handed Cas the coffee cup. Cas took the mug, and although he was frowning, Dean could somehow read the gratefulness under the morning grouchiness. They ate the toast in silence, and after Cas had gotten three gulps of coffee, his face cleared and he thanked Dean for the coffee and toast.

“Okay,” Dean said, carefully. “We slept together.”

Cas snorted. “When you put it like that…”

“Shut up. We literally slept together.”

“You said it wouldn’t be weird.”

“It wasn’t. Was it?”

“It wasn’t.”

“It wasn’t,” Dean agreed. “Okay. So…we’re cool?”

“Dean,” Cas said, “as long as you don’t hog the covers, you’re welcome to sleep in my bed whenever you like.”

“Me?” Dean cried out. “You hog the covers! Look at them!”

“Didn’t seem to be a problem to you,” Cas pointed out.

“Only because you’re a damn heater by yourself, dude,” Dean said.

“Thank you.”

“Not a compliment, Cas.”

Cas only grinned in reply. He was still drinking the remains of his coffee, but the toast was gone by now. It seemed that his mood was connected to how much caffeine there was in his system.

“So I’m welcome to stay in your bed whenever I like?” Dean asked, grinning.

“I could still kick you out,” Cas said. He nudged Dean with his foot, and Dean slapped it.

“But we’re good?” Dean asked then.

“We’re good,” Cas said, smiling, and that settled it.

 


 

Although it was now an option, Dean didn’t stay over at Cas’s place often. First of all, they lived so close that it felt silly, and second, he didn’t want to impose on Cas. Cas said that he didn’t mind, and Dean secretly liked Cas’s kitchen more than his own, but more often he still chose to walk home, despite how late it was. Sometimes, going home that late made him feel jittery, and he ended up making smoothies or something equally useless in the middle of the night. Sometimes, though, it was so late that Dean had no inclination to move, except from Cas’s couch to his bed, and when Cas didn’t seem to mind, Dean stayed.

By the end of June, Dean had stayed over at Cas’s place a few times. The guest toothbrush in Cas’s bathroom had become Dean’s toothbrush, and Dean now had the foresight to take deodorant and a change of underwear with him when he came over to Cas’s on Fridays. Their Friday nights had stretched over into Saturday a few times, even morphing into spending the whole of Saturday together one time.

It was inevitable that something changed, of course, but Dean hadn’t anticipated just what it would be. When Dean woke up that Saturday morning, having slept over at Cas’s once again, he didn’t wake up to the sound of the upstairs neighbor dancing. (Neither Cas nor Dean had any idea what the upstairs neighbor did every Saturday morning, but something caused that horrible thumping noise. So far, their best guesses had been “break-dancing,” “feeding hippos,” and “moving, hopefully.”) Instead of the neighbor making noises, Dean heard someone move in the living room. At first, he thought it was a dream, but then the door to the bedroom was pulled open, and Dean sprang up.

“Cas!” he yelled, fumbling for anything that he could use as a weapon. He ended up grabbing his phone, but before he could throw it, the stranger held up his hands and retreated back to the living room. The door closed on its own weight after the stranger.

“Whoa!” the stranger called. “I’m not a burglar! Ease up, cowboy.”

“What the fuck?” Dean breathed harshly, trying to collect his thoughts.

“Cassie, call off your boy before he murders me.”

“No,” Cas mumbled, sitting up. His voice was even lower and raspier than usual, and it gave Dean strange tingle to hear it that low.

“What the hell?” Dean asked again, and Cas sighed. To Dean’s immense surprise, he got out of the bed, stumbling to the living room still just in his underwear. Dean cursed and followed, if only because Cas couldn’t be trusted to find a doorknob in the mornings, let alone hold a conversation with a burglar.

The stranger was sitting on the couch when they emerged from the bedroom, and looked perfectly at ease. Cas rubbed his eyes again and groaned, leaning backwards into Dean’s body heat. Dean stayed still and let Cas use him as a blanket.

“What are you doing here?” Cas muttered.

“Surprise?” the stranger asked.

“How many times have I told you to not break into my apartment?” Cas asked.

“A few,” the stranger shrugged. “Look, if you don’t want me here, you should really consider changing the locks.”

“Remind me to do that,” Cas mumbled, straight into Dean’s ear. Dean nodded, still unsure about the situation.

“Uh,” Dean said. “Sure. You want me to throw him out?”

“No need,” Cas said, head still heavily leaning on Dean’s shoulder. He looked like he was falling asleep again, and Dean was pretty sure that without Dean’s support, Cas would’ve crashed to the ground.

“Holy shit,” the man said. “I mean, I knew you were gone on him, but this much? Did I interrupt round two or something?”

“Three,” Dean snapped. “You interrupted round three. And who are you, anyway?”

“I’m hurt. Cassie, you haven’t told him about me?”

“Cassie?” Dean repeated. Cas groaned and buried his head in his hands, looking like he’d been just handed a list of every single problem on earth and was expected to solve them in under two minutes.

“Right,” Dean realized, “Coffee first. Questions later.”

“Black,” Castiel mumbled.

“Blacker than black, I know,” Dean said.

The man watched their interactions with glee, a strange little grin settling on his face when Dean passed him on his way to the kitchen. Dean felt uneasy under that stare, and looked at Castiel with question in his eyes. Cas, in spite of being still half-asleep, managed to decode Dean’s meaning.

“That’s Gabriel,” Cas mumbled.

“Wait, your brother?” Dean asked, stopping his coffee making in order to get another look at the man. There was no resemblance between Castiel and Gabriel, not in the slightest. Gabriel was small, which was further emphasized when Cas came to stand by him. His hair was golden-blond and his eyes colored like brandy, and the only thing that might’ve linked him to Castiel was that strange aura of indifference of what other people thought. Gabriel looked even less likely to give a fuck than Castiel.

“In the flesh,” Gabriel said, making a mock salute. “Good to meet you, Dean-o. Cassie is pretty gone on you.”

“Glad to hear that,” Dean said.

“I can see why,” Gabriel said. His eyes trailed over Dean lecherously, lingering on Dean’s hips, and flushing, Dean realized that he was only wearing a pair of black boxers. He quickly moved behind the counter, though that hardly covered the fact that he was half-naked. Thank Christ he never indulged in his panty kink when he stayed over at Cas’s place – he didn’t think his dignity would survive that. Or he and Cas’s weird friendship. There were things that a dude didn’t need to know about their kind-of-but-not-really-boyfriend, and the fact that Dean sometimes wore women’s underwear definitely fell into that category.

“Stop ogling my boyfriend,” Cas muttered. He dragged himself to the kitchen, taking a bar chair and sitting down by the coffee maker. “Why are you here, anyway?”

“C’mon, Cassie, don’t play dumb. It doesn’t suit your pretty face,” Gabriel said.

Cas didn’t reply, and instead, he stared murderously at Gabriel. Gabriel stared back, clearly used to having these staring contests with his brother.

It being the last week of June, Dean quickly put it together. “Fourth of July is coming up?”

Dean had to work on that day, and Cas hadn’t mentioned it, so Dean had assumed that they had no plans for that day. Dean usually spent Fourth of July with assorted family and friends, the place and guests changing every year. For the past few years, he’d gone to Benny and Andrea’s place for barbeque, with Charlie and Jo joining them. Sam, for some unfathomable reason, didn’t like Benny, so he and Jess had usually gone to Jess’s parents’ house. Cas hadn’t talked about his plans, and Dean hadn’t dared to make assumptions about them so far.

“Ding-ding-ding, and we have a winner!” Gabriel put his hands in the air, waving them like he was cheering. “Your boy’s got the looks and the brains, Cassie. Well done.”

“Gabriel,” Castiel muttered, sounding more threatening by the second.

“Lighten up, Cassie. It’s our birthday party, after all.”

“‘Our birthday party’?” Dean repeated.

“We’re birthday buddies!” Gabriel said, cheerily. “Well, kind of. Close, anyway. I was born on the sixth!”

“Your birthday’s in July?” Dean asked Cas, still confused what they were talking about – Fourth of July or birthdays, or both.

“You haven’t told him when your birthday is?” Gabriel cried. “Please don’t tell me you’re about to break up!”

“Why do you even care?” Cas asked. The ire in his voice was scathing, and Dean actually frowned at that – Cas never took that tone with him. Then again, Dean, too, reserved his most annoyed tone for his brother, not his boyfriend.

Not that Castiel was really his boyfriend, but still. Dean would’ve yelled at Cas differently than at his annoying brother.

“Brother, you wound me,” Gabriel said, mimicking being stabbed in the chest. “Of course I care! Your well-being matters to me. Besides, you tend to sulk when you’re not getting any.”

“Gabriel!”

“Prude. Anyway, I came to deliver the news. As per tradition, mom and dad are holding a party. For us!”

“No,” Cas groaned. The coffee was luckily done, and Dean quickly poured a cup for Cas to distract him. Cas accepted the cup with a small smile.

“Yes,” Gabriel emphasized. Dean gestured to the coffee, and Gabriel waved his hand, so Dean went ahead to pour himself a cup. “This is happening. Just like it has happened every year.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t like it.”

“That’s because inside, you’re a grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off of your lawn.”

“I don’t have a lawn.”

Gabriel raised his brows and looked at Dean, as if to say, “See?” While Dean thought that Gabriel was right and it was kind of funny, he had other things on his mind.

“You try to avoid your birthday every year?” Dean asked.

“He’s been a spoilsport ever since he learned how to talk,” Gabriel said. “It’s July 10th, by the way. You should remember that, pretty boy.”

“That’s next week,” Dean realized. “You never told me! I don’t even have a gift.”

“I don’t want gifts,” Castiel muttered, looking embarrassed.

“Let Cassie top for a change, maybe that’ll do,” Gabriel hollered.

“Who says I don’t—”

“He tops every time, anyway,” Dean retorted before Cas could finish his sentence. Gabriel looked taken aback, and grinning, Dean went on, “What? Do you want to know the exact positions, too?”

“I’m good,” Gabriel said.

“Because I’ll gladly tell you. I could give you a statistical analysis, too.”

“Okay, okay! Christ. Put a leash on your boy, Cassie.”

“I do, sometimes,” Cas said. He’d finally gotten some coffee in his body, and was already looking more alert. “He rather likes it.”

“Fuck you. Oh god, you’re disgusting. I’m glad you two found each other.”

Gabriel’s gaze turned lecherous again, trailing over Dean, and Dean immediately fled the room to put on some clothes. He changed his boxers to a fresh pair and grabbed Cas’s sweatpants from the drawer, and a t-shirt with a cartoon-style guinea pig on it. He had a change of clothes somewhere, but he didn’t feel like wearing jeans right then.

When Dean got back, Cas was still sitting by the kitchen counter and Gabriel was still sitting on the couch, looking like he owned the place. Cas was glaring at him, and Gabriel was grinning back. Dean got the impression that this was as per usual for the brothers.

“You could’ve just called,” Cas said. Dean sat down by the kitchen counter as well and resumed drinking his coffee.

“You wouldn’t have answered. I know you, Cassie.”

“If you knew me, you’d know that I loathe that nickname.”

“You don’t mean that,” Gabriel sniffled. “I’ve always called you that!”

“You only called me ‘Cassie’ when we were six and you wanted me to be the princess,” Castiel said, dryly. “I have no problem with fluid gender roles or wearing dresses, but I don’t like that nickname.”

“Spoilsport,” Gabriel muttered. “Okay, fine, Cas. Have it your way. The party’s on the Fourth of July, as per tradition.”

“What?” Dean asked, still confused. “So it’s not a birthday party, after all?”

“No,” Cas said at the same time as Gabriel said, “Yes.”

Dean looked on as the brothers exchanged scathing looks. There was history here, and Dean didn’t know how to tread. Or if he even should – he wasn’t Castiel’s boyfriend, not really, in the end. Maybe Cas really didn’t want him to intrude.

As if sensing Dean’s insecurity, Cas turned to look at Dean. There was calm in his eyes, which immediately made Dean feel better.

“Since our birthdays are so close to one another, every year, our mother organizes a huge party on Fourth of July that doubles as an Independence Day and a birthday party. All my relatives are going to be there,” Cas explained, “and I mean, all. The uncles and aunts and grandmas and grandfathers.”

“Wow,” Dean said. “When you said big family, you meant it.”

“Unfortunately.” Cas cringed. “And there are very few people who I really like there.”

“Jimmy’s there, of course,” Gabriel called from the couch. “And Anna promised to stop by. Rachel might be out of town, but cousin Hannah said she’d be there.”

“And let me guess, uncle Zachariah will be there, too.”

“Enh.” Gabriel waved his hand. “Okay, yeah, he’ll be there. That asshole just won’t die, not when there’s free food to be eaten. And aunt Amara’s coming this year, for a change. Oh, and cousin Raphael will bring his new wife, too.”

“Ugh,” Cas said. He looked so miserable that Dean reached for his hand, before Dean could properly consult his brain. When Dean’s fingers touched the back of Cas’s hand, Cas flinched at first, but when Dean started to pull away, he took Dean’s hand without hesitation. He gave Dean a grateful look, and Dean squeezed his hand.

“Ugh, indeed,” Gabriel said. He stood up. “Right. You two obviously have some planning to do. And round three to finish. So I’m just gonna skedaddle.”

“Please,” Cas said.

“We start at four, Cassie.”

“Yes, yes.”

“You better show up to your own party,” Gabriel threatened. “I made cake!”

“Is there pie?” Dean perked up. “Cas once brought cherry pie from your bakery. It was great!”

“Why, thank you for the praise, Dean-o!” Gabriel looked proud. “Yes, of course there’s pie as well. Among other things. There will be so many guests that one cake won’t be enough. So I’ll be making key lime pie.”

“Yummm,” Dean said.

“You’re drooling,” Cas noted, and embarrassed, Dean looked away. He’d forgotten himself for a moment – they weren’t a couple for real, and even if they were, Dean wasn’t automatically invited. Cas might not want to introduce Dean to his family. He recalled Cas once hinting that his extended family wasn’t as LBGT+ friendly as his immediate family. It would be no wonder that Cas wasn’t ready to add Dean to that mess.

“Right,” Gabriel said. “I’ll leave you two to muddle through this. See you on Monday, bro.”

“Bye, Gabriel,” Cas called. He sounded more forgiving about the breaking and entering than he’d sounded before the coffee, and didn’t even glare after Gabriel when he left.

There was a resounding silence after that, and Dean didn’t know what exactly to do with it, so he waited. Cas finished his cup of coffee, and when he placed it on the counter again, Dean panicked and started babbling.

“I know we haven’t talked about—I mean—I’m working, but I could change shifts and—but if you don’t want to, we don’t have to—”

“Dean, I can’t take you with me,” Cas said. “I don’t want to burden you.”

Dean blinked, not having expected that. “It’s not a burden.”

“You don’t know my family.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well…” Cas squeezed his hand again, before letting go of it. Dean drew his hand back as well. He hadn’t realized how long they’d sat just holding hands. “I think I mentioned that my family isn’t exactly…understanding of those with different views on life.”

“You mean they’re a bunch of homophobic jackasses.”

Cas chuckled, but it was a sad sound. “Well…not all of them. Most don’t care. My parents and my brothers and sisters are very supportive, but my uncles and aunts…aren’t. When I came out to my parents in high school, my aunt’s advice was to kick me out.”

“Jesus.”

“They didn’t,” Cas continued, quickly. “She even suggested a Bible Camp to…er, pray the gay away.”

“They still have those?” Dean asked. “Wow. I guess I should be glad I never made the mistake of coming out until I was living on my own. That sounds just like something my grandfather would suggest.”

Cas grimaced. “Yes. Well…in any case, my parents were very supportive. They were also very understanding when I later corrected them that I wasn’t gay, or bi, just…I don’t care about the gender. There’s a difference.”

“Yeah.”

“In any case, I, er… Most of my relatives have never cared what gender my partners are, but…um, have voiced other objections.”

“Such as?”

“They, uh.” Castiel swallowed and looked elsewhere. This was clearly a hard topic to talk about. “They’ve never liked anyone I’ve introduced. Or, um, me, for that matter.”

“Huh?”

“Their favorite topic with me is, ‘have you found an actual job yet?’” Cas muttered. “Followed by, ‘are you still a fuck-up who can’t do anything right?’”

“Cas,” Dean breathed. The thought that someone would say something like that to Cas hurt.

“Also for, um, some reason, they are under the impression that things between me and my ex-girlfriend were more profound than they were.”

“So they think you’re still dating her,” Dean said blandly.

“Kind of?” Cas grimaced again. “Maybe? I never bothered to update them. I didn’t see why. I didn’t want to tell them anything I absolutely didn’t have to.”

“So…”

“So…” Cas looked tired, suddenly. Weary, like just the thought of his family made him droop.

“So it’ll be a war zone there,” Dean concluded. If Cas’s extended family already disliked him, and he hadn’t told his extended family about his new “boyfriend,” or even about breaking up with his ex, it was going to be hard to convince everyone how much “in love” they were.

“I don’t want to impose on you,” Castiel said. “This goes beyond what we agreed.”

“Cas—”

“Maybe we should talk about this later,” Castiel mumbled. He slid off the chair, and Dean just watched as he disappeared to the bedroom, presumably to put on some clothes. Dean sat still for a long time, trying to convince himself that the block in his throat wasn’t because of the conversation they’d just had. He didn’t even know why he was feeling so shitty. He had work, in any case, he wasn’t invited, and Cas’s family was his problem, not Dean’s. It just stung that Cas wouldn’t even ask him. Evidently, he didn’t think it was worth the trouble to introduce Dean to his family.

Eventually, Dean had to stand up and search for something more substantial to eat than black coffee. There were still a few eggs left in the refrigerator, and after a moment of searching, Dean located the half-used bag of flour, and decided to make pancakes. Even the delicious smell of pancakes wasn’t enough to lure Castiel out of the bedroom, and, shoulders drooped, Dean ate by the window in the table. He gazed out of the window to the street, watching as people went by, and munched on the pancakes that tasted like sawdust in his mouth.

Cas didn’t come out of the bedroom to eat, so Dean put the remaining pancakes under a lid and moved the coffee cups to the dishwasher. (That was another thing that he liked about being at Cas’s – Dean’s apartment didn’t have a dishwasher. It was so old that there was no place for it in the tiny kitchen, and Dean had managed without it so far, but admittedly, it was nice that he didn’t have to spend every evening elbows deep in the water.) He cautiously went to the bedroom to collect his things. He had overstayed his welcome, and he needed to go home and leave Cas in peace.

Cas was sitting on the bed when Dean entered, watching the guinea pigs run around in the cage. At least he had put on a shirt and jeans, although he was still sockless. Dean stopped to take the picture in for a moment, and Cas let him, staying on the bed and not moving his head. The silence was heavy between them, but Dean had nothing to say to break it.

Then Dean blinked, noticing something on the bed. It was his flannel shirt that he’d used a few weeks ago, and had forgotten here. It was folded neatly, and Dean’s mind flashed to that silly shirt folder that Cas had in his bathroom. Apparently, it had its uses.

“Did I leave my shirt here last time?” Dean asked, picking up the shirt.

“Yes,” Cas said. “I washed it.”

“You’re annoyingly perfect,” Dean said. “Thanks.”

“I’m far from perfect, Dean,” Cas said.

“Don’t put yourself down, man. I should know.” Dean frowned. “I have a shit taste in men,” Dean muttered after a pause. “Wish I could date someone like you.”

“You wouldn’t really like me,” Cas said. His voice was firm, like he’d conducted a poll on the subject and this was the definitive answer.

“You can’t honestly believe that,” Dean said.

Cas gave a noncommittal shrug, but the nonchalance of it made Dean bristle.

“You really think that?” Dean asked. “That I don’t like you? Wouldn’t like you?”

“Dean, you’d get bored of me, like everyone else,” Cas said, with a tired voice. “I’m not particularly interesting. Or anything, really.”

“Is that your family talking, or you?” Dean asked. Cas looked away, and that was an answer in itself.

Dean couldn’t believe that Cas’s self-esteem would be that low – everything the man did suggested otherwise, like he was untouchable, like he didn’t give a flying fuck about what everyone else thought. This tired, shrunken ball of a man was a total opposite of what Dean had come to like and what he thought was quintessential Cas.

“What the fuck?” Dean said, making Cas flinch. “How could you even think that, Cas? How about you ask me what I think before making up your mind, just like that!”

Cas shrunk even further, curling in on himself. He was still turned to the guinea pigs, but the guinea pigs had fled to their little cottage when the fight had started. Dean’s heavy breathing was the only sound in the silence, and Cas refused to look at him.

“Don’t you dare,” Dean said. “Don’t shut me out. Talk to me, man.”

Cas didn’t answer for a long time. He had interlocked his fingers weirdly, as if he was trying to hold his own hand. The silence between them burned, and when Cas didn’t react at all, Dean finally lost it. He turned to face the guinea pigs as well and crossed his arms.

“Okay, so, this is about your family, then. You don’t want me to meet them, fine. Am I some embarrassing secret to you?”

This, finally, made Cas react. Dean could hear how he turned on the bed, but Dean refused to look Cas in the eye.

“Of course not. Dean, you’re so much better than me.”

“What the fuck, Cas,” Dean snapped. He looked at Cas, and Cas gazed back, although he still looked like he wanted to run. “Why the fuck would you think that? Why the hell do you think I’m spending all my free time here?”

“Dean, I’m nothing like you.”

“Bullshit.”

“I didn’t even finish college,” Cas said after a silence. “I dropped out. Last year, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I drifted from job to job and nothing ever worked out, because I couldn’t do anything right. I only got this job because a friend of a friend recommended me.”

Dean would have interrupted, but it looked like Cas was finally ready to talk, so he restrained himself.

“Everything I do backfires. I can’t maintain relationships, I can’t hold down a job, I barely get out of bed in the mornings. I mean it, if you’d met me a year ago, you wouldn’t have liked me. I’m still not sure there’s anything to like left in me.”

Silence followed Cas’s admission, and although Dean sensed that Cas had only scratched the surface, Cas was already closing up, and this was all the story Dean was getting this time. Cas looked at the floor, his fingers still weirdly interlocked.

“So that’s it?” Dean asked. “You think I would judge you because you got burnt out during your last year at college? Cas, I barely got out of high school! And I had no idea what to do after that, so I wasted two years living in my parents’ basement and doing nothing. I only cleaned up my act after I got into the academy. So I’m not exactly gonna start throwing stones, here.”

“But you—”

Everyone looks like they have it all together,” Dean said. “And no one does. That’s adulthood for you. Fake it ‘til you make it.”

“Very nihilistic,” Cas muttered. Dean took a risk and sat down on the bed, careful to keep his distance from Cas. Cas didn’t flinch away.

“You wanna know something? I feel like I’m the one who’s the fuck-up here,” Dean muttered. “Barely have my life together. Work is the only thing I’m good at.”

“That’s not true at all, Dean,” Cas said. “You’re a good person. You’re a great cook. You help people. You’re kind.”

“Not really,” Dean muttered.

“It’s how you show it that matters,” Cas said.

“Well, okay, don’t you think that this should apply to you, too?” Dean asked. “Cas, you do realize that…all that,” Dean waved his hand, “sounds just like something your family’s saying. It’s not true. You have a job and you’re great at it, you have friends who love you. You’re amazing, Cas. You’re nice, you’re clever, and you put up with my shit. I’d say that matters.”

Silence followed yet again, but this time, it wasn’t as heavy as before. They awkwardly looked at each other, shying away when their eyes met. Dean got a déjà vu, meeting Cas’s eyes and then quickly looking away before the other could assess what was inside, and then he realized that it had been like that during their first date at the coffee shop.

The silence stretched on for a while longer, until Castiel finally muttered, “I guess we both have something to learn about self-esteem.”

“Looks like it,” Dean replied, with a small voice.

“I don’t even know why we’re fighting about this.”

“I don’t know,” Dean said. Then he snorted, a bit hysterically. “But you know something? This is our first fight as a couple.”

Cas snorted, and that relieved the tension in the room. Dean lifted his eyes and met Castiel’s gaze, now much calmer and relieved.

“Okay, so, what’s the deal then?” Dean asked. “You don’t want me to meet your family, or you can’t let me meet your family?”

“Dean, it’s…neither. I… Of course I want you to meet my family. Not everyone is a horrible person there. I just don’t want to burden you.”

“It’s not burdening me,” Dean said, firmly. “If you want me there, I’ll be there. Victor owes me one, he’ll take my shift if I ask him.”

“Are you sure?”

“Ask me again.”

Cas took a breath, like bracing himself. “Do you want to come with me to my birthday slash Independence Day party?”

“Of course I’ll go with you,” Dean said. “Dumbass. Of course I’ll go.”

“Thank you,” Castiel said. He smiled, and just for that relieved smile, Dean would face a hundred homophobic uncles and aunts.

Chapter Text

As Dean had predicted, Victor agreed to take his shift on Monday and so, Dean was free to go to Cas’s Independence Day/birthday party. They treaded around each other a bit more gently on that Saturday, and in the end, ended up walking to Dean’s place to play a few rounds of shoot-em-ups. Castiel confessed that he did own a PlayStation 2 (“Alright, old man,” Dean had commented when he heard that), but he didn’t know where it had disappeared to after the move. Since Dean had a working Wii and several games he hadn’t even had the chance to try yet, it was the obvious solution. Between rounds of trying to kill each other on the screen, they talked about everything else but the impending party. Dean tried to bring it up a few times, but Cas changed the subject right away, so Dean dropped it. Clearly, the approval of his relatives meant a lot to Cas, even if he tried to act like it didn’t.

Dean slept in his own bed on Saturday and Sunday night, since Cas went home to sleep. On Sunday night, it took a few tosses and turns, but Dean finally fell asleep at around two in the morning – he realized that he was nervous about meeting Cas’s family.

Dean wasn’t sure what the plan was for the party, and Gabriel had said that he’d bake pies and cake at least, but Dean was used to contributing something, so he decided to at least bake one other pie. Making the pecan pie calmed down his nerves somewhat, and when Dean picked Cas up in the Impala around three, he was the calmer of the two of them. It took an hour to drive to Cas’s parents’ place on the edge of the city. The first half of the ride was silent, the space between them only filled by classic rock from the radio, but when they started to near the suburban area and Cas’s parents’ place, Dean shut off the radio.

“How come you never told me when your birthday is?” Dean asked. Cas shifted, and though Dean had to keep looking at the road and not at Cas, he could clearly see in his mind how uncomfortable Cas was.

“You didn’t ask,” Cas muttered.

“Bull.”

Cas sighed. “I don’t like being reminded of it.”

“Why’s that?”

“You’ll see when we get there,” Cas said, ominously. Dean glanced at him, and under the gaze, Cas sighed and gave up.

“My parents have always insisted on huge parties. My mom loves to plan parties – the bigger the better – so she’s always taking even the slightest excuse to throw a party. With the Fourth of July so near my and my brothers’ birthdays, it’s always been the perfect excuse for her to throw the biggest party imaginable. And,” he sighed, “while my mom doesn’t like my dad’s side of the family, she feels obligated to invite them. In spite of our protests.”

“I think I get it,” Dean said. “Has it always been like this?”

“Ever since we were born,” Cas said. “Every birthday party had to be bigger than the previous. I think mom also sees it as a convenient way of giving all the relatives updates on our lives, so we don’t actually have to talk to them outside of the parties.”

“Huh,” Dean said. “Weird. I mean, my mom liked to throw birthday parties, too, but that only lasted until me and Sam turned eighteen.” He glanced at Cas. “How old are you, anyway?”

That made Cas snort. “Shouldn’t you know that, seeing as we’ve been going out for two months now?”

“Asshole, you know it’s never come up.” Dean smiled. “You can’t be much older than me. Thirty-three?”

Cas sighed. “I’m turning thirty-five.”

“Christ, you’re an old man,” Dean said, but he spied a little amused smile on Cas’s face. “What about Gabriel?”

“He’s five years older than me.”

“He’s turning forty?” Dean asked, surprised. “Doesn’t look like it.”

“Or act like it,” Castiel said. “To be perfectly frank, I’m surprised he has enough responsibility to keep his bakery together. Though, I suppose that’s why he has someone else to do the books and orders.”

Dean guffawed. Cas gave him the directions to turn right then, and they turned to a smaller street. It looked exactly like those dreamy, suburban soccer mom homes women’s magazines were so fond of (Dean blamed Charlie for having been exposed to those). Every house had a neatly mowed lawn, neatly yellow or blue painted walls, and some even had a white picket fence. There were children everywhere, playing in front of the houses and on the streets, and several parents pushing strollers down the street.

“Remind me what your parents did for a living again?” Dean asked, trying to take in all the wealth evident in the area. Cas watched him with amusement.

“My dad’s a writer. He has so many pen names that at this point, I don’t even remember what he’s written and what he hasn’t. I think he’s most famous for the Supernatural series.”

“Carver Edlund?” Dean perked up. “Your dad’s Carver Edlund?”

Cas nodded. “Have you read his books?”

“Just a few from the beginning of the series. I kinda lost interest after the fifth book. But Charlie likes them.”

“I’m aware,” Cas said, wryly. “My mom was a literature teacher – she’s retired – and nowadays, she’s my dad’s manager, in a sense. He tends to forget everything when he writes, so without my mom handing him the phone, he wouldn’t even hear his editor calling.”

Dean parked the car in front of the last house on the street. Like all the other houses, it had a white picket fence, was painted pale yellow, and although the front yard was empty, Dean could tell that the backyard was packed with people.

“Well.” Dean turned to face Cas. “Ready?”

“Not in the slightest,” Cas said. “But I suppose we all have to face our demons sooner or later.”

“C’mon, Cas, lighten up. Maybe view this as the opportunity to gross out your annoying siblings for life.”

“I like that better,” Cas said. He smiled a bit, and then quickly leaned over, planting a small kiss on Dean’s cheek. Startled, Dean leaned away, and his mouth fell open. He stared at Cas, but there was no trace of awkwardness on Cas’s face – he looked back, something unnamed swimming in his eyes.

“Just warming up,” Cas said.

“Yeah,” Dean said. He swallowed with some trouble. “Alright. Let’s go meet the family.”

The front door was unlocked, and Cas and Dean strode in, with Dean following a few steps behind Cas. He was clutching the pecan pie in his hands with more force than necessary, and noticing this, he eased his hold. The air inside the house was thick with conflicting smells of sweet and bitter, and from somewhere in the back, Dean could hear Gabriel’s off-key singing. Before he could take the house in, a woman appeared from the room on the right and let out a delighted squeal.

“Castiel! Sweetheart!” The small blonde woman rushed towards them and jumped against Cas, wrapping her arms tightly around him. With some difficulty, Cas hugged back.

“Hi, mom.”

“I’m so glad you’re here! Gabriel said you weren’t coming,” she said as she finally let him go.

“You know you can’t trust anything Gabe says.”

“But why on earth would he lie about that?”

“To rile you up, mom. Like always.”

She waved her hand, as if brushing the thought away. Then her eyes locked on Dean, and Dean braced himself for a hug.

He wasn’t wrong. Mrs. Shurley jumped on him just like she’d jumped on Cas, wrapping her arms around Dean tightly and pressing her head against his chest. Dean barely saved the pecan pie, holding it out of the way as Mrs. Shurley hugged him. Dean counted himself lucky to be able to breathe, at least.

“I’m so glad to meet you, Dean! Gabriel told me all about you. I was so afraid I wouldn’t get to see you! How nice of you to come!”

“Um.” Dean awkwardly patted her on the back, until she let go. “Nice to meet you too, Mrs. Shurley.”

“Please,” she laughed, “Call me Becky. I’m not that old yet!”

“I, uh,” Dean raised the pie for her to see. “I made pie.”

“Oh my god, you’re such a sweetheart! Thank you so much!” Mrs. Shurley turned to Castiel, eyes shining. “He’s so precious, Castiel! I’m so happy that you finally have a boyfriend again! I’m so glad you found someone, you’ve been so sad for so long. I’ve been so worried about you ever since you broke up with M—”

“Mom, not now,” Cas snapped, and to Dean’s surprise, Mrs. Shurley immediately shut her mouth. She looked at Dean, and then at Cas, and then nodded several times.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, sweetie. I forgot. But enough of that! Go on, say hi to others, I need to find your dad.”

“He’s still writing?”

“Said he wouldn’t stop until he had written ten pages,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll try to bribe him. But!” She turned to Dean, and took his hand, squeezing it warmly. A beat or two passed before she let go. “You two have fun, and mingle! And eat! Gabriel has outdone himself this year!”

“You say that every year,” Cas said, fondly. Mrs. Shurley touched his cheek, smiling, and then left, heading to the stairs. Dean and Cas watched as she climbed up the stairs and disappeared.

“Your mom seems…friendly,” Dean said.

“That’s one way to put it.”

“Now I know where Gabriel gets it.”

“Not to mention the compulsion to know every little thing about everyone else.”

The kitchen was on their right, beyond a small dining room, and the sugary, sweet smells intensified when they stepped in. Gabriel was by the stove, taking something out, but when he saw them, he put the pot on the counter and threw the oven mitts next to it. He broke into a wide grin.

“Dean-o! Glad you could make it!” Gabriel came to shake his hand, and Dean did his best while still holding the pie. “Always nice to see a new, pretty face in the middle of this wretched family reunion.”

“Hello, Gabriel,” Cas said, and Dean held back his laughter when he heard the sarcastic undercurrent.

“And happy birthday to you, bro.”

“Gabriel, it’s not my birthday yet. It’s not even your birthday yet.”

“How are we related?” Gabriel shook his head. “How did such a spoilsport come from the same parents?”

“Beats me,” Cas said.

“I made pie,” Dean said then, handing it to Gabriel. He took it, although Dean felt out of his depth, seeing as Gabriel was a professional baker. Dean’s pecan pie would definitely lose to Gabriel’s delights.

“Great!” Gabriel just said. “The more, the merrier. Cas, this one’s a keeper.”

“I’m so glad to have your blessing,” Cas deadpanned, and snorting, Gabriel patted him on the shoulder.

“Did you say hi to uncle Zach yet?” Gabriel asked. “I swear, that man looks uglier every time I see him.”

“I was hoping to avoid him,” Cas said. “But I guess we need to go and…mingle, then.”

“Just do it. Rip off the band-aid. Then you can have cake and relax.”

“I suppose.”

Trying to comfort him, Dean stroked Cas’s arm with his fingers, and Cas gave him a half-smile for that. Together, they stepped into the living room. It was full of chatter, and no one turned to greet them at first. Just when Dean had taken in the room and its disorder, a woman dressed completely in grey stepped towards them.

“Ah,” was all she said, looking at Cas. Dean hadn’t thought it was possible, but that one syllable stung like venom.

“Aunt Naomi,” Cas said. Dean flinched at his voice – it was colder than a Siberian night.

“Castiel,” Naomi said, just as coldly. “And who’s…this?”

She looked at Dean as if he was a cockroach, and her only concern was how much force she had to use to crush him. Dean tried to hold her gaze, and squared his shoulders.

“This is Dean,” Cas said. Dean took his hand, although he wasn’t sure which one of them needed the reassuring touch more. “We’ve been going out for a few months.”

“A few months?” Naomi raised her elegantly styled eyebrows. She regarded Dean again, and her cold eyes made Dean shiver. It had to be a family trait, that intense look. “And you think this is the right time to introduce…him?”

Cas bit his lip, and didn’t answer. His hold on Dean’s hand tightened, and Dean squeezed back.

“Alright,” Naomi said. She turned to look straight at Dean. “What do you do, then?”

“I’m a cop,” Dean said.

That made Naomi’s eyebrows rise again, although this time, there was a touch less contempt in the movement.

“I see,” she said. “I hope you are aware of Castiel’s past, then.”

Dean couldn’t answer that. He had no idea what Naomi was insinuating, or was she just trying to rile Cas up. Cas had a murderous look on his face, but there was no trace of that underlying, reluctant fondness there had been when he’d been looking at Gabriel like that. Cas was simply trying to smite Naomi with his eyes.

“And where did you two meet?” Naomi asked, not concerned about their silence at all.

“Through mutual friends,” Dean said, when Cas didn’t answer.

“Ah,” Naomi said, and there was that one-syllable poison dart again. She regarded Dean, as if confirming her analysis. “Maybe there’s a silver lining to this…farce…after all. Perhaps you’ll be able to keep him in line. Although, I wouldn’t bother if I were you. This one’s broken. Consider yourself warned.”

Dean bristled, not believing his ears. Lines like that belonged to a bad soap opera, not real life. Naomi had no right to talk about Cas like that to anyone.

“Good thing I like fixing things, then,” Dean snarled. “Not that that’s any of your business.”

“I’m only trying to help, Dean.”

“We’re fine without it, thanks,” Dean snapped. “Come on, Cas.”

Dean tugged Cas with him away from Naomi, not even knowing where they were headed. Cas snapped out of his frozen state once they were on the other side of the room.

“Thank you,” Cas mumbled.

“‘S nothing.” Dean hesitated, but then asked, “Was there…uh, truth to what she said?”

Cas frowned. “In…in a way. I might’ve had a few years when I smoked a lot.”

“Well, that’s not a problem, I used to smoke mys—”

“Weed. Lots of it.”

“Oh.” Dean thought for a moment. “College, right?”

“College,” Cas confirmed. “It didn’t help, so I stopped.”

“Didn’t help what?”

“Making me feel better,” Cas mumbled.

Dean was hit with a wave of affection, wanting nothing more than to gather Cas in his arms and hold him until Cas understood how appreciated he was. He got as far as placing his right hand on Cas’s shoulder before he shook himself out of it. Even if they were playing the part of lovers, they were just friends behind the scenes. Daydreaming about cuddling Cas was inappropriate, and Cas wouldn’t appreciate it.

“Oh no,” Cas muttered, interrupting Dean’s thoughts. Before Dean could ask what was wrong, someone had already approached them from behind.

“Castiel,” the balding old man said. “Who’s this?”

“I’m Dean. Cas’s boyfriend,” Dean said when it seemed like Cas couldn’t form words.

“Really,” the man said. He smiled, but it wasn’t friendly. “I thought you’d grown out of these little rebellious phases, Castiel, but evidently not.”

Jesus Christ, Castiel had understated what a bunch of dickwads his family was. It was no wonder Cas rarely spoke of them and had avoided his birthday for years.

Dean opened his mouth to tell the man to go to hell, but before he could do that, a small brunette took her place next to him. She didn’t say anything, but she nodded at Castiel the most minimal greeting she could muster.

“Dean, this is uncle Zachariah,” Cas muttered. “And aunt Amara.”

Amara’s eyes raked over Dean, taking in every inch of him with such focus that it confused Dean. He blinked, and trying to diffuse the situation, he offered her his hand.

“Uh, nice to meet you?”

“Pleasure,” Amara said. She took his hand and shook it longer than appropriate, and Dean had to snatch his hand back from her chilly hold.

“So, Dean,” Zachariah said, “what do you do?”

This seemed to be a repeat of the conversation with Naomi.

“I’m a cop.”

Zachariah looked at Dean, disapproval evident in all of his being. Dean knew that this conversation was a lost cause before it had even started.

“Really?” Zachariah asked. “You don’t look like it.”

“What are cops supposed to look like?” Dean fired back. Zachariah was still smiling, but it was anything but friendly.

“Not that pretty,” he said, and Dean nearly gagged. Silence followed Zachariah’s words.

“Oh, lighten up, just a little observational humor,” Zachariah finally said, but more silence followed.

Amara hadn’t said anything so far, but her eyes had lingered on Dean for so long that it had gotten severely uncomfortable. Cas, noticing this, started to tug Dean with him towards the outside porch.

“Um, we gotta say hi to…the others, so… See you,” Dean managed, and then turned and fled the room with Cas.

“Thanks,” Dean muttered when they stepped outside.

“I’m so sorry about that, Dean,” Cas muttered.

“Not your fault your relatives are creepy assholes,” Dean said. “I think your aunt is still staring at me. I can feel her eyes on me. Christ, she’s creepy.”

“I know,” Cas said. “My mom said three years ago that she’s not invited anymore. I don’t think my dad has had the guts to tell her that yet.”

Luckily, not all of Cas’s relatives behaved like they were auditioning for the role of a villain in a superhero movie. Outside in the backyard, the crowd was much more welcoming and nice, and the fact that there were two tables full of food also managed to lift both Dean and Cas’s spirits. Gabriel came out of the kitchen for a while, and when he brought two pieces of key lime pie especially for them, Dean considered his mood officially lifted.

“You’re a lifesaver,” Dean declared when Gabriel handed him the plate. “No offense, but your family’s, uh…”

“A great big bag of dicks?” Gabriel asked, cheerfully. “Welcome to the family, Dean-o. You’ve passed the trial by fire. Slayed the dragon.”

“Just out of curiosity, who’s the dragon in this scenario?” Dean asked.

“Ah, so many possibilities!” Gabriel said. “Take your pick. Each one’s a different challenge.”

“Tell me about it,” Castiel muttered. Then his face cleared as he looked through the crowd and saw someone walking towards them. Dean had to put his spoon down, even though he hadn’t had one bite of his pie yet.

“Dad,” Castiel said when the bearded man stopped before them. He sounded relieved, and clasped his dad’s hand. “Good to see you.”

“You too,” Mr. Shurley said, shaking Cas’s hand. He turned to look at Dean. “Becky already filled me in, but I guess we should officially say hello.”

Mr. Shurley offered his hand, and smiling, Dean took it. Chuck Shurley, as he introduced himself, was a weary looking little man, and Dean couldn’t for the life of him figure out where Castiel had gotten his genes, because there was no resemblance between them. Even Mr. Shurley’s handhold was weak.

“Nice to meet you,” Dean said, but for once, he meant it. “You’re a writer, right? Carver Edlund?”

Mr. Shurley perked up at this, and they chatted about the Supernatural books for a while. Dean knowledge was lacking at best, but Mr. Shurley was more than happy to fill the silence. Contrary to Cas’s other relatives, Mr. Shurley also reacted positively when Dean told him that he was a cop, and actually told Cas that he should hold onto Dean, which made Cas flush in the most adorable manner. By the end of the conversation, Dean felt like he had at least Chuck Shurley’s blessing.

“Well, I should get back to writing,” Mr. Shurley sighed. Gabriel and Castiel started to protest immediately, but he wasn’t swayed. “I still need five more pages, and a whole chapter by the end of the week. My editor won’t stop calling me.”

“I still think you should just retcon the whole thing and avert the apocalypse,” Gabriel said. Dean vaguely recalled the plot in the last Supernatural book involving something about an impending apocalypse and the main characters trying to prevent it, but he’d forgotten the details. The end of the fifth book had been rather open-ended, in any case.

“Too late for that,” Mr. Shurley sighed. “The end has come. Why do I always write myself into a corner?” He snapped out of his reverie, and smiled at Dean. “It was nice meeting you, Dean. Hope to see you again.”

“You too,” Dean said. Then he realized what that promise entailed, and felt a little ashamed. He and Cas would inevitably break up, and he would never see Cas’s family again, not at least without it being awkward. The thought of that made his stomach turn, and to hide that feeling, Dean turned his attention to the key lime pie.

“Oh my god,” Dean moaned when he tasted it. Gabriel and Castiel turned to look at him. “Gabe, if I wasn’t already dating your brother—”

“You’d elope with me and my awesome baking skills?”

“I was gonna say I’d make out with this pie,” Dean mumbled around another bite. “This is amazing.”

“I like him,” Gabriel grinned. “Finally, you’re dating someone with good taste, Cas.”

“Agreed,” Cas said, looking at Dean. The smile on his face made his eyes look soft, and Dean thought that Cas had nailed the heart-eyes look.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, a glint in his eyes. “Open up, honey.”

“Wha—” When Cas opened his mouth, Dean lifted his spoon and slipped a piece of pie inside. Catching on, Cas’s lips closed around the spoon, and Dean felt a tug as he licked the spoon clean. Slowly, Cas opened his mouth, his lips caressing the metal, and they stared at each other as Dean drew the spoon back. Fire crackled in his veins when he went to cut a second piece, and lifted his spoon.

“My eyes,” Gabriel muttered, breaking the spell. “I don’t have to watch this atrocity. You two have fun, I’m going back to where there’s less sugar.”

Gabriel fled back to the kitchen, and Dean and Cas broke into laughter when they saw at what speed he left.

“That was incredibly satisfying,” Cas said. Dean nodded, shoveling more pie into his mouth. The pie tasted even sweeter than previously.

“Back to the war zone?” Dean asked when he finished the pie, and Cas nodded.

Fortunately, meeting Cas’s other family members was easier. Anna, Cas’s older sister, was very nice, and her husband Michael Milton was reserved at first, but warmed up quickly. Rachel, the younger sister, was reserved as well, but once she saw Dean feeding Cas pie, she changed her tune. Cas’s cousin Hannah seemed to linger somewhere between nice and awkward, but it was obvious that she cared deeply for Cas and was very interested in what he had to say. To Dean’s amusement, Cas admitted that Hannah used to have a crush on him when they were younger, and Cas had spent most of his teenage years trying to awkwardly navigate that.

“And you picked me over her?” Dean teased Cas, after Hannah had left to get more food. It was slowly getting dark, but that hadn’t stopped Gabriel from bringing out even more food. He had just added some new pies on the table, and Dean was itching to get his hands on them. “You could be married with two point three children right now!”

“You have better hips for childbirth,” Cas deadpanned, and Dean collapsed into laughter. Cas snorted with laughter as well, until he spotted someone in the crowd.

“That’s Raphael,” Castiel muttered then. Dean stopped laughing, wiped the corners of his eyes and peered across the yard.

“Which one?”

“Standing next to Anna.”

A surly looking black man stood there, and next to him, there was a taller, bald black man.

“Uriel’s there, too,” Cas said. “They’re my cousins.”

“Uh—”

“He’s adopted. Like Raphael.”

“Thanks, that was super confusing for a second there,” Dean joked, and Cas shoved him in the ribs. Dean tried to tickle Cas back, but when his fingers hit Cas’s sides and the first giggles poured out, Dean remembered that they were in the middle of a hostile ground and stopped. Cas smiled at him.

“I should go say hi. Do you want to come or—?”

“I think you know I’m gonna go and make love to that new batch of pies.”

“I thought so,” Cas said. “See you later.”

He kissed Dean on the cheek, just quickly grazing his lips against Dean’s skin, but the kiss still left a tingling feeling behind. Dean watched as Cas slipped through the crowd, and then shook his head and headed to the pies.

Gabriel’s cooking skills were evidently held in high regard – and not without reason – because there was a line to the table. Dean had to wait until a small horde of children had attacked the table, and after that invasion, Dean headed straight for the prize: the caramel apple pie that Gabriel had made. Just the smell of it was making Dean salivate, and he couldn’t wait to get it in his mouth.

As he was cutting the pie, there was movement to his right, and from the corner of his eye, Dean spotted the familiar dark hair and blue eyes peering at him. Smiling, Dean turned towards Cas.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, leaning towards Cas. “Missed you.”

Just when his lips were about to touch Cas’s cheek, Cas backed away. Confused, Dean stopped and stared.

“Ah.” Not-Cas smiled. “You must be Dean.”

Dean’s brain short-circuited, and for a moment, nothing made sense. Then he realized that clones or psychotic breaks were not the most obvious explanation, and looked at the man again.

“Jimmy?”

“That’s right.” Jimmy offered his hand, and slightly embarrassed, Dean shook it. He couldn’t stop staring at Jimmy, and how the exact same features on Cas’s face looked somehow completely different.

“James Novak,” he said, “and you’re Dean…?”

“Winchester.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jimmy said. “I’m Cas’s younger brother.”

“Younger?”

“Well.” Jimmy grinned. “By five minutes.”

“I bet he pulled that card in every fight.”

“Constantly,” Jimmy laughed. “He still does. It didn’t work when we were children, and it doesn’t work now.”

“So, uh,” Dean said, “happy birthday to you, too?”

“Oh, thank you. Birthdays kind of lose their meaning when you share it literally with one brother and technically with another, but thank you, nonetheless.”

Seeing laughter lines on Jimmy’s face was weird, because Cas had lines in the same places when he laughed, but with tiny variations that something just felt off about it. But once Dean got used to it, Jimmy proved to be a very nice guy, polite and down-to-earth in a different way than Cas was. Jimmy introduced Dean to his daughter Claire – a nine-year-old girl who was more interested in the food than making friends with Dean – and his wife Amelia Novak, who seemed nice if distant. Dean made awkward small talk with them for a few minutes, before he realized that he’d hit his limit and needed to find Cas right then.

Dean excused himself, and Jimmy let him go immediately, with a knowing little smile on his face. Cas wasn’t in the backyard anymore, but Anna helpfully pointed out that he’d gone back inside to help Gabriel in the kitchen for a minute. Sure enough, he was there to help Gabriel load cookies and muffins on a tray, and Dean slipped inside just as Gabriel left. He crowded Cas against the counter, and raising his brows, Cas went along with it. Dean slammed his hands on the counter, trapping Cas between them.

“You never told me you had a twin brother,” Dean hissed.

“I didn’t?” Cas asked.

“I nearly kissed him just now!”

Castiel couldn’t hold back his laughter. He threw his head back as he laughed, and Dean groaned and dropped his head against Cas’s shoulder.

“Dean…you—but we’re nothing alike!”

“You look the same!” Dean protested. He lifted his head. “For a second there, I almost…I thought I’d give you—I mean him, ugh—a proper hello!”

“What tipped you off?” Cas asked with a grin.

“He’s not as good-looking as you,” Dean said.

“Dean, we’re identical twins.”

“I dunno. You have a different aura, or some shit like that,” Dean muttered. “And besides, the obvious. He’s wearing different clothes.”

“Ah,” Cas smiled. “Exposed by a shirt. That is a sad thing indeed.”

Dean didn’t say it, but there was something unsettling about the whole Jimmy/Cas confusion. The difference was glaring. After spending only a minute with Jimmy, Dean could tell that he wasn’t attracted to Jimmy, at all. Jimmy had the same features as Cas, the same build, the same gummy smile, and yet, Dean wasn’t interested in the slightest. But Cas? Cas was attractive. Dean could admit that without an ounce of shame. Cas was magnetically attractive, in fact, to the degree that Dean had to reel himself back. With Cas, he could tell that if their situation wasn’t as weird as it was, if Dean had met Cas in different circumstances…

Dean stopped that train of thought before it could go any further.

“Well, I’m very glad you didn’t give my birthday gift to him,” Cas grinned.

“What, like I’d let that guy fuck me?” Dean snorted. “Oh please.”

“So your gift was going to be sexual,” Cas said, with a wink. Dean caught movement in the corner of his eye, and realized that someone was in the room with them – Dean should play this up, too.

“I’m wearing it right now,” Dean said, winking right back.

“Christ, you two are insufferable,” Gabriel groaned from behind them. He threw a pair of oven mitts on the table, and turned on his heels as fast as he could. “I don’t need to know about your dirty sex life. I’m out.”

“Don’t diss my gift! I’ll have you know that these panties cost an arm and a leg at Victoria’s Secret!” Dean called after him.

“I didn’t need to know that! You filthy animals!”

“Panties?” Cas asked when Gabriel had stormed off. Dean suddenly felt on edge, since Cas’s face had relaxed into a natural state – he wasn’t pretending. “Is there a tiny bit of truth in that?”

“What if there is?” Dean muttered, not coming up with anything to defend himself. He knew he shouldn’t have joked about his kink – it always led to trouble. Cas would think of him as a freak now, and break up with him. Not that it should matter, because it wasn’t like they were really going out, and Cas was going to break up with him in any case.

Dean didn’t even know where he’d ended up in that tangle of thoughts.

“I think you’d look good in them.”

Dean’s eyes snapped up, and swallowing, he met Cas’s gaze. They looked at each other, assessing the situation. Then Dean dared to ask, “You mean that?”

“Of course.”

“Most people don’t, uh, share that view.”

“They have awful taste, in that case.”

Dean smiled. “Thanks. That, um, actually makes me feel better about…you know.”

Cas touched his cheek, gently. “If you like it, then you like it. It’s not harming anyone.”

“Yeah,” Dean breathed. He leant further into Cas’s touch, enjoying as Cas’s fingertips slid through the short hairs on his temples. The touch was light, but it felt like static was going through him. “You wouldn’t mind if I wore them when I sleep at your place?”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Cas confirmed. Something heavy passed between them, and suddenly, Cas’s gaze on Dean felt hot. Dean wasn’t sure if they were joking anymore, or if they had been joking in the first place.

“Maybe I’ll show you some day,” Dean said.

“Maybe,” Cas said. His voice sounded lower than usual.

Dean’s hands had been resting on the counter, circling Cas, but now, he slowly dropped them. They fell on Cas’s hips, and the second Dean’s thumbs pressed against Cas’s hipbones, the touch on Dean’s cheek became firmer. Cas’s hand slid to his neck, and Dean was already leaning forward, anticipating it when Cas started to pull Dean towards him.

Dean pressed his thumbs against Cas’s jeans, slipping under his shirt, and his fingers stroked the tantalizing border between the fabric and the skin. Time slowed down, almost to a standstill, as Cas gently pulled Dean towards him, and Dean had ample time to stare at Cas’s eyes and spy how his pupils dilated ever so slightly. The softness of Cas’s lips against Dean’s wasn’t as much of a shock as it had been before, but the heat that it instantly ignited was. Cas kissed like he meant business this time, and Dean was immediately on board with that idea. Dean groaned into the kiss, pushing his hips against Cas’s, and Cas answered the sound by grabbing the small of Dean’s back and holding him closer. Dean’s hands flew to Cas’s hair, pulling him impossibly closer. Cas’s hands danced on Dean’s back, sliding further down and grazing Dean’s ass, and Dean pressed against it.

“Guys, really!” Gabriel’s voice was like cold water had been poured over them, and suddenly, everything stopped. Cas pushed Dean away from him so fast that Dean nearly tripped over his feet, but Cas’s hands still remained on Dean’s forearms, keeping him upright. Dean tried to catch his breath, and stared at Cas. Cas wasn’t meeting his eyes, but under his lashes, Dean could tell that Cas’s eyes were blown.

“Stop defiling my kitchen! You have two guest bedrooms upstairs for that,” Gabriel snapped.

“Not…not your kitchen, Gabriel,” Cas said, but even to Dean, that sounded weak. “You don’t live here anymore.”

“Fine, my mom’s kitchen, then. Shame on you.”

“Get out,” Cas snapped. He jerked his head towards Gabriel. “Just…get out, Gabe.”

“Ugh, gladly. Just came to get these,” Gabriel said, taking something from the table from behind them. Dean hadn’t the foggiest idea what Gabriel was talking about, because he was too busy staring at Cas and catching his breath.

Silence followed Gabriel’s exit. Cas’s hands were still resting on Dean’s forearms, and Dean’s hands were on Cas’s hips, but Dean didn’t dare move an inch for the fear that Cas might bolt.

“That’s was, um…” Dean started to say, but Cas interrupted him.

“I’m sorry. That was, uh, abrupt. I just…saw Gabriel was coming here, and I thought—”

“Oh.” Dean swallowed. A cold feeling settled in his stomach. “Yeah, yeah, right, sure. Good, uh, good thinking.”

“Yes,” Castiel rasped.

Loud cheers from the backyard startled them, and they jumped away from each other. Dean glanced at the doorway and when he saw that the living room was empty, he realized how late it must’ve gotten. It was dark outside, and the whistling and booms of fireworks could be heard from outside.

“The, uh,” Dean swallowed, “the fireworks have started.”

“The fireworks,” Cas repeated. “Right. Um. We should—”

“Yeah, I mean—”

“Probably for the best if we—”

“Yeah.”

Dean took a deep breath, and started to walk out of the kitchen. Cas followed him after a few moments, and caught up to Dean before he stepped outside. The outside air and the loud crackling of the fireworks helped Dean clear his thoughts, and he was able to breathe again. They stood by the doorway, watching the fireworks with everyone else, and when their shoulders accidentally brushed, Dean flinched away. Cas stood farther away from him after that, and they watched the show in silence.

The party continued after that, but Dean and Cas were both tired, and since Dean was the driver, Cas agreed when Dean suggested that they leave. They did a quick round through the crowd, saying their goodbyes to everyone, and after more hugs than Dean had anticipated, they finally left. The first five minutes of the drive back were spent in silence, and Dean didn’t even flick on the radio. He had enough white noise buzzing in his brain without it.

“Are you okay?” Cas asked finally, breaking the silence.

“Me?” Dean glanced at Cas. “I’m fine. Are you?”

“Of course.” Cas frowned. “You just seemed…thoughtful.”

“I, uh,” Dean swallowed. “You just caught me by surprise, back there. In the kitchen, I mean.”

“Oh. I’m sorry?”

“No, no. It was my own fault. I wasn’t paying attention,” Dean added, bitterly.

“But you’re fine?”

“Yeah, of course, dude,” Dean said. “That was nothing we hadn’t agreed to, right?”

“Nothing we hadn’t agreed to,” Cas repeated. “Yes. Exactly.”

Dean swallowed around the block in his throat. “Yeah, yeah. It was nothing.”

They continued to drive in silence.

Chapter Text

Following the party, it was as if a spell had been broken. Dean now saw the situation as it was: messy, unplanned, and inherently complicated. Even if Dean knew it was all for pretend, that they were just playing lovers, it didn’t feel like it. Friends didn’t kiss, friends didn’t snuggle in front of the TV when they were bored, and friends didn’t sleep in the same bed. Dean was sure that if there’d been a book on heterosexual posturing, that rule would’ve been there, word for word. Too bad no one had written a book for lonely bisexuals with confusing feelings towards their not-boyfriend.

But it wasn’t like Dean avoided Cas, not really. The week after Fourth of July was always busy, and this year was no exception. Dean was swamped with work. So was Cas, but they still met up on Wednesday, like they’d done several weeks in a row. Cas came over to learn how to not burn pancakes and watch a movie, and there was nothing odd about that. They had fun together, like always, and Dean could push the intrusive thoughts away. On Friday, Dean went over to Cas’s place later than usual, having been held up at work, but Cas shrugged his apologies aside. Again, there was no awkward undercurrent to the evening, just a relaxed relief of enjoying each other’s company.

Per Dean’s request, Cas had bought fish for a change, so that Dean could teach Cas how to fillet it. Cas’s kitchen was much larger and better than Dean’s, so it was nicer to cook there, and during the past weeks, Dean had found himself planning more elaborate meals for Fridays or Saturdays, when he was at Cas’s. He was reminded of this when Dean realized that Cas only had two knives: a bread knife and a smaller one to cut vegetables.

“Where’s that fish knife?” Dean muttered as he looked through the cupboards. They were still freakishly empty, and Dean didn’t have the heart to directly ask Cas what the deal was with that, although he could hazard a guess.

“All the good knives are at your apartment,” Cas reminded him.

“Fuck,” Dean muttered. Cas was right – he was trying to locate a knife that was at his place. “Okay, we’ll make do with this.”

Cas shook his head, but did as Dean wanted anyway. The fish came out funnily cut, but tasting great. For a change, they ate in the kitchen, sitting at the kitchen table by the window. Cas sat opposite of Dean, a glass of white wine in front of him, cutting the fish, and Dean had to avert his eyes when he realized that he’d been staring. Dean’s chest constricted as he thought that the scene almost looked like a date – the only thing missing were candles and romantic music. He banished the thought before it could go any further.

“Your real birthday’s on Sunday,” Dean said then. “I still don’t have a gift for you.”

“I don’t need anything,” Cas shook his head. “Or…”

“Yeah?”

Cas looked sheepish, looking downwards as if to hide. “Would you help me bake something? I haven’t tried making a cake in years.”

“Let me guess, your kitchen exploded when you last tried?”

“I wouldn’t say ‘exploded.’ More like ‘flooded.’”

“How the fuck do you flood a kitchen when you bake?”

“The dishwasher broke.”

Dean threw his head back, laughing. “Only you, Cas. Oh, god. Never change.”

Cas gave him a small grin, and they continued eating when Dean calmed down. Dean gave a few suggestions on what they could make, and when Cas didn’t seem to believe in his own abilities, they ended up choosing the simplest recipe Dean could think of off the top of his head.

Dean hesitated, but asked then, “You wanna invite people over? Like Charlie and Jo, maybe Sam and Jess? Other friends?”

Cas considered this. “I guess I could. I haven’t really celebrated my birthday in years, and the only party I’ve been to doesn’t feel like—I mean—” Cas stopped talking, ashamed to admit that he didn’t like sharing a party with two brothers and a nation.

“Yeah, no shit,” Dean muttered. “No offense to your mom and dad, but that party wasn’t exactly…fun.”

Cas nodded. “It would be, were it not for the,” Cas raised his hands, making air quotes, “‘dragons,’ as Gabriel called them.”

“True that. And it wasn’t all awful,” Dean rushed to add. “Your siblings are nice. And your parents.”

“I guess some parts of it were fun,” Cas said. He looked at Dean, and Dean felt a shiver go down his spine as he recalled the kiss they’d shared in the kitchen. It was all for show, Dean knew that, but for a second, it had felt real, and Dean clung to that.

“So, uh, wanna celebrate in your own way?” Dean asked, to mask his inner turmoil. “Cake and friends?”

“I’d like that,” Cas said, smiling shyly.

The rest of the evening passed quickly, and when the clock struck twelve, it seemed too late for Dean to leave. It made sense to just sleep over at Cas’s place again, and when Dean asked about it, Cas just sleepily waved his hand and told Dean not to ask stupid questions. Smiling, Dean brushed his teeth next Cas, and crawled in the bed after him.

Waking up was a different story. As always, Dean woke well before Cas – a quick look at his cell phone told Dean that it was only 7:02 – and Dean fell back to the pillows with a relieved grunt. Cas had turned on his side during the night, now facing Dean, and was hugging a pillow to his chest. Dean smiled as he watched Cas sleep, and he kept watching until he slipped back into sleep.

Some time later, Dean woke up with a jerk when he felt a hand close around him. For one awful, adrenaline-filled moment, Dean thought that it was Nick or Al behind him, trying to stop him from leaving, and Dean nearly rolled away from the hold in panic. Then the dream disappeared, and Dean remembered that he was at Cas’s place. Dean panted, trying to exorcise the lingering nightmare from his mind. He focused on the sheets under him, the softness of the pillow, and the hand on his side, and slowly, his breathing evened out. Dean had turned on his side, away from Cas, and he could feel the warmth of Cas behind him. Cas was still softly snoring, his even breath tickling Dean’s neck. More importantly, Cas had put his hand over Dean’s chest in his sleep. Cas’s fingers were loosely hanging, just barely touching Dean, and the weight of his arm wasn’t oppressive – it was simply there.

Dean didn’t know what to think. Cas was snuggling Dean in his sleep, and it would be awkward if Cas woke up like this, since he probably thought he was still hugging a pillow. Dean stayed still, listening to Cas’s breathing, and debated about his options.

Frankly, it felt nice to be held like this. It had been ages since Dean had slept with anyone like this – Dean hesitated to suggest cuddling to one-night stands, since that could be misconstrued, and in turn, they didn’t offer. Dean closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling for a minute, instinctively burrowing closer to Cas’s warmth. Cas snorted in his sleep, and the hand on Dean’s chest pressed against his heart for a moment, before the hold eased again.

Absentmindedly, Dean let his hand travel to his crotch. He had morning wood, but he had no desire to sneak to the bathroom to take care of it. That could’ve woken up Cas, and besides, Dean was too comfortable to move. He kept his eyes closed, and just enjoyed the moment. Almost without his notice, his hand slipped into his boxers, but he kept his touch light, just teasing the head of his cock with short movements. Cas shifted behind Dean, mumbling something in his sleep, and Dean momentarily gave into the fantasy that they stayed like this because they wanted to. Cas would be behind him, just like this, holding Dean, while he fucked Dean with slow and gentle thrusts.

Dean’s breathing quickened, and his hips started to move. His hand closed around his cock, and he started to jack off with faster and faster movements. Precome eased the movement, and Dean trembled as he teased his slit with a finger. Cas’s even breathing fused with the fantasy; Cas would breathe just like that when he pushed into Dean, hold Dean close just like this. Dean tumbled closer and closer to the edge, and he had to force his hips still to not wake up Cas. Maybe Cas would hold him still, make Dean stop moving and just plow him from behind… That thought pushed Dean over, and with a silent moan, Dean came.

He had to slam a hand over his mouth and bite his fingers as he waited for his breathing to calm down. His heart was beating painfully hard, and it took way too many beats until it calmed down enough for him to hear anything else. To Dean’s immense relief, Cas was still snoring behind him, and hadn’t woken up.

Cas. Behind him. Dean gulped, and shame instantly filled every cell of his being. How could he have done this, with Cas so close to him? Dean felt disgusted with himself, and angrily, he rolled away from Cas’s grasp and left the bed. Cas snorted in his sleep, but didn’t seem to wake up, and Dean quickly hopped to the bathroom and slammed the door shut.

This spelled trouble, with capital letters and howling red lettering. Dean wasn’t supposed to be attracted to Cas, and he most definitely wasn’t supposed to do anything about that attraction. Cas didn’t feel the same, anyway. It had been Cas’s scheme right from the start, and unlike Dean, Cas hadn’t wavered. He was constantly plotting and planning, making moves and playing their friends and relatives like a pro, much better than Dean had believed to be possible. It was Dean’s fault for forgetting that momentarily.

It was just a little confusing when Cas did things like snuggle Dean in his sleep. He didn’t mean it, and wouldn’t have done it if he’d been awake, but unfortunately, that made no difference to Dean’s dick. Ashamed, Dean took off his soaked boxers and washed them in the sink. He washed his hands and threw some water on his face, and when he didn’t look as red as a tomato anymore, he dared to leave the bathroom. He sneaked back to the bedroom and quickly pulled on new boxers and his spare clothes. He was putting on socks when a voice from behind him startled him.

“Dean.”

“Jesus, Cas.” Dean whipped around to face Cas, who was unsuccessfully trying to sit up, eyes still closed. “How long have you been awake?”

“What time is it?” Cas asked. His voice sounded so rough and he was squinting so badly that he must have woken up just now.

“Early. Go back to sleep,” Dean whispered.

“Okay,” Cas rasped. He let his head fall back to the pillows, turned to his side and immediately fell back to sleep. Dean stared as Cas’s breathing evened out and how he fumbled for a pillow. When his fingers closed around one, he drew it to his chest and snuggled against it, face relaxing even further.

Dean swallowed, his heart aching as he looked at the sight. He was in too deep, and he had to clear his head, right now.

Dean turned on his heels and left.

 


 

Cas didn’t comment on his disappearance, for which Dean was grateful. After running away on Saturday, Dean spent the rest of the day agonizing over how to get himself under control. At some point, he figured out that if he couldn’t do anything about the situation, at least he could enjoy it while it lasted. They weren’t supposed to break up just yet – they’d set a vague date around the end of August, and it was a full month before that happened. So, if Dean couldn’t have Cas after that, he could at least enjoy their pseudo-relationship and deal with the break-up after it happened.

Dean called Cas after this realization, and to his relief, there was nothing off about their conversation. Cas had asked Sam, Jess, Charlie, and Jo and some other friends who Dean didn’t know to come over on Sunday, and Cas asked Dean to arrive earlier to help him bake. Cas insisted that the gathering wasn’t a big deal, so the cake didn’t have to be anything complicated. Dean finally agreed to that, if only because he didn’t want Cas’s first attempt at baking to be a bad experience.

On Sunday afternoon, Dean walked to Cas’s place. He felt more at ease while he worked, when there wasn’t too much time to think, so Dean went to the kitchen right away. He started to take out all the ingredients, and Cas came to stand by him, tilting his head.

“You’re eager,” Cas commented.

“We have two hours before the others show up. Of course I’m eager,” Dean said.

“Fair enough. What do you need?”

Dean showed Cas the recipe, and together, they started to arrange all the ingredients, pots and cups on the counter. It was a good thing they had, because Dean noticed something missing.

“We’re out of flour,” Dean said.

“Is that…essential?”

“Yeah, Cas, I’d say it’s pretty essential.” He frowned, trying to figure out if there was a way to bypass it, but he didn’t think Cas had anything in his kitchen to substitute for the flour. “Could you go to the store to get some? I’ll get started on the eggs and sugar.”

Cas sighed. “Alright. A bag of flour. Anything else?”

“Not that I can think of.”

“Okay.”

“See you soon, dear,” Dean said, with an over-exaggerated voice. Cas rolled his eyes.

“I’ll be back,” he said, deadpan. Dean snorted at the quote, and leaned over to give Cas a little kiss on the cheek before he left. Cas moved just before Dean’s lips hit him, and instead, the kiss landed on Cas’s nose. Surprised, they stared at each.

“Um,” Dean said. “Awkward?”

Cas gave a half-smile. “On the contrary. Very typical of you, Dean.”

He quickly leaned over and kissed Dean on the cheek, but much lower than before. Cas’s lips landed on the corner of Dean’s mouth, narrowly missing Dean’s lips. Dean stood frozen as Cas straightened up and left, just like nothing happened.

Okay. That had been weird. His mouth was still burning from where Cas had brushed against it, and Dean lifted a hand to touch the spot, before stopping. That would’ve been stupid.

He threw himself into cracking the eggs and mixing the sugar with them. He couldn’t really proceed with the batter until Cas got back, but at least he could get a head start. Just as Dean was plugging in the mixer, the doorbell rang.

Dean had expected Cas forgetting his keys or wallet, not Sam peering inside.

“What are you doing here?” Dean asked, stepping aside to let Sam come in.

“Isn’t that my line?” Sam said. “Or are you two already living together?”

“Shut up,” Dean mumbled. He thought about how comfortable he felt in Cas’s kitchen, in his living room, in his bed, and then discarded the thought. “I’m helping Cas bake. He went to the store. And I repeat: why are you so early?”

“Something came up. Jess and I can’t come, but she made these last night and wanted me to deliver them.”

“What the…” Dean watched as Sam took out a batch of cupcakes from his bag, neatly arranged in a Tupperware container.

“What, did I steal your thunder?” Sam asked.

“You kind of did,” Dean accused. “I’m teaching Cas how to bake.”

“As if you wouldn’t eat all of these.”

“I never said that.” Dean accepted the container. The cupcakes looked great – Jess had put a lot of effort into them. “What’s up? Is Jess okay?”

“She’s fine, but her dad had a stroke,” Sam said. “She’s at the hospital right now. I need to go there, too.”

“Jesus,” Dean said. “Is it serious?”

“I don’t think so,” Sam said. “Last I heard, he was arguing with the doctor about his meds, so I’d say he’s fine.”

Dean’s phone ringing startled them both. He’d left his phone on the kitchen counter, and Sam followed him as he went to get it.

“‘Angel of the Morning’? Really?” Sam asked, frowning at the ring tone.

“What?” Dean said, with his most innocent voice. “It’s appropriate!”

“For…”

“Cas is literally named after one!”

“You are so sappy.”

“And you have no sense of romance, Sammy,” Dean sniffed, before accepting the call. “Hey, Cas, what’s up?”

Sam scrunched up his nose in disgust as Dean talked with Cas, and Dean stuck out his tongue at him. Sam needed to get off his high horse – when Sam and Jess had started dating, Dean had listened to Sam moan and whine about Jess for hours. First Sammy had whined about not having the courage to ask her out, and when Jess had done that for him, Sam had whined about not knowing when was the perfect moment to kiss her for the first time. (Jess had decided that for Sam, too.) Dean having a sappy ring tone for Cas was little compared to the hell Sam had put him through. Dean only hoped that Sam and Jess (and Charlie and Jo) were feeling even a tenth of exasperation and disgust Dean had to endure while watching their romantic lives.

“Um, Dean,” Cas said, sounding confused. Dean could imagine him tilting his head to the side, as he usually did. “What’s the difference between all these types of flour? I… What should I buy?”

Dean chuckled, and went on to explain the differences to Cas. All the while, Sam was rolling his eyes next to Dean, and annoyed, Dean flipped him the bird. When Cas finally located the right bag, he gave a huge sigh of relief that rattled the line.

“Okay. I think I got it. I’m gonna hang up now.”

“See ya soon, baby,” Dean said, chancing a glance at Sam.

“Um.” Cas went silent for a moment. “You too…honeybee?”

“We need to work on that, angel heart.”

“Are you criticizing my name choices, baby boy?”

“You say the sweetest things, snuggle bug.”

Dean had to bite his lip when he saw Sam’s disgusted face, and chuckling, Dean ended the call.

“He’ll be here in a minute.”

“Great,” Sam said, looking like he was debating whether to make a break for it. Dean hid his snicker and went back to beating the eggs and sugar.

“You guys are so sappy,” Sam muttered, but Dean could easily read his lips.

“Me and Cas?” Dean asked, grinning. “What on earth gave you that impression?”

“Asshole. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

“Pot and kettle, Sammy,” Dean told him sweetly.

“So what did you get for his birthday?” Sam asked, raising his voice over the whirr of the mixer.

“Um,” Dean said. “A Netflix subscription.”

“I’m surprised,” Sam said. Dean stopped the mixer.

“Why?”

“It’s just not very personal, that’s all. I would’ve expected something different from you.”

“I went to his weird Fourth of July slash birthday party with him and faced his creepy-ass relatives,” Dean countered. “Isn’t that enough?”

“You never told me that,” Sam said. “I thought you were working.”

“Well, I was, but Cas asked me, so I changed shifts.”

“So, how was it?”

“Huh?”

“Meeting the parents.”

“Oh, right.” Dean put the mixer back on the counter. “Alright, I think. They’re nice. His dad’s a writer, actually. Carver Edlund?”

“I’ve heard of him,” Sam nodded. “You said something about ‘creepy-ass relatives’?”

“That’s his aunts and uncles,” Dean said. “One dissected me in seconds and told me to leave Cas, one called me ‘pretty boy’—gross—and I think one was trying to eat me with her eyes.”

“Wow,” Sam said. “But you stayed?”

“Well, I kinda had to. For Cas.”

“Something’s different,” Sam said. There was amazement in his voice, something buried in the tone, and Dean felt uncomfortable. He didn’t want Sam to look too closely at this.

“Well, Cas is different, okay?”

“You never met anyone else’s parents.”

“So what?”

“So, maybe no one else was worth it.”

Dean glared. “What the hell, Sam?”

“I’m just saying, you never were like this with any of your other boyfriends,” Sam commented. It was an innocent remark, but the history that it entailed made anger creep up Dean’s spine. He didn’t want to be reminded of it.

Dean heard the front door unlock, but he had something else to worry about right then.

“What’s that supposed to mean? That I don’t know how to pick my partners?”

“Dean, c’mon, that’s not what I meant. At least he’s not Nick,” Sam said.

Dean might’ve backhanded Sam right then, if Cas hadn’t stepped into the room. Dean wanted to hit him. Physical pain was nothing compared to the pain piercing through Dean’s chest right then.

“Shut your mouth,” Dean sneered. “You have no goddamn right to bring him up!”

“What’s going on here?” Cas said from behind them. The brothers ignored him.

“Dean, you know I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Bullshit.”

“You’re being obtuse on purpose!”

“Never should’ve told you a damn thing,” Dean snapped. He turned on his heels and brushed past Cas, stomping to the bedroom.

Dean slammed the bedroom door shut and marched over to the bed. He sat down and leaned his arms on his knees, trying to calm his breathing.

Goddamn, he hated arguing with Sammy. It always made him feel like shit, and worst of all, Dean knew that Sam hadn’t been trying to hurt him. Dean was just furious that Sam dared to bring up fucking Nick right now, right here, and the painful memories attached to that damn name. Worst of all, he’d compared Nick to Cas. As if Nick was even in the same league as Cas.

Dean listened to the muffled voices of Cas and Sam talking, but he couldn’t make out the words. Instead, he glared at the guinea pigs and how peaceful they looked, drinking from the bottle like everything was right in the world. Watching their mundane little lives made him gradually calm down, even if he was still annoyed at everything – even Man, who came to sniff his hand when he offered it. Hesitating, Dean scooped up the little ball of fur, and to his surprise, Man let himself be held. Maybe the guinea pig pitied Dean enough to tolerate his touches.

Then he heard the front door being opened, and already prepared for it when footsteps came closer. The bedroom door opened, and Cas slipped in. He closed the door behind him, and slowly edged closer. Dean placed Man back in the cage, eyes tracking the guinea pig when he ran to the comfort of his home.

“Dean,” Cas said.

“Not now, Cas.”

“Yes, Dean.” Cas’s voice was as comforting as it was forceful. “You’re clearly in pain.”

“I’m not bleeding.”

“I didn’t mean that,” Cas said, gentler now. “Who’s Nick?”

“None of your damn business,” Dean snapped. He regretted it immediately when he saw the hurt look on Cas’s face, and dropped his gaze to the floor again.

“Hey.” Cas approached Dean slowly, as if Dean would get spooked and run away. Dean didn’t react when Cas sat down by him, leaving a few inches between them. “I’m not going to pry, but it might help if you talked about what’s going on in your head right now.”

Dean bit his lip. He had never talked about Nick or Al at length, because he still felt ashamed about what had happened with them, and the few times he’d talked about it, Sam had always used it against Dean – just like today. He couldn’t talk about it with Charlie or Jo, didn’t want to burden them, and his mom had reacted badly when he’d talked about Al, back in the day. Talking about Nick had seemed like wasted effort.

But Cas was different. Maybe Cas would… Maybe Cas would listen, and not make him feel bad about this.

“Sammy kind of hit a sore spot,” Dean finally admitted. “It’s stupid.”

“Doesn’t seem like it,” Cas said. He touched Dean’s shoulder, and although Dean felt bad for wanting it, he accepted the comforting touch. “It clearly affected you a lot.”

“Mmh.” Dean straightened up, leaning more towards Cas. Cas’s hand was still on his shoulder, and when Cas started to retract his hand, Dean leant more towards him. Cas’s hand stayed.

“‘S kinda hard to talk about this,” Dean said then.

“It’s okay.”

“I want to, it’s just…” Dean took a breath. “I’ve never dated any good guys. Sooner or later, they all turned out to be assholes.”

“Okay,” Cas said, clearly not understanding what the deal was. Dean took another breath.

“I figured out the whole bisexual thing pretty late in the game. I didn’t even know it was a real orientation before I was twenty-three. And, um, my parents didn’t really believe me when I told them, because I’d only dated girls at that point, so… I guess I wanted to prove something.”

Cas’s fingers were drawing comforting figures on his shoulder, and even though it was still hard to talk, the words were flowing easier now.

“I pretty much jumped into the first guy’s arms who would have me. His name was Mark Alastair, or Al, as he called himself. Or, um, I’m not sure if that can be called a relationship.”

“How so?”

“Mainly, we just fucked. I don’t think we ever met up to just to hang out – it always ended in sex. And, um, it got worse as time went by.”

“You didn’t want a casual relationship?”

“No, that’s not…that’s not it,” Dean mumbled.

“What, then?”

“I um,” Dean flushed, “I, sometimes…I like it…rough.”

Seeing his discomfort, Cas said, “It’s okay, Dean. You don’t have to tell me.”

“I want to. Shut up. It’s hard to talk about this, already.”

“I’m sorry.”

Dean took a breath, and started again. “Anyway, he uh, well, it…it started with small things, but slowly, they just…got…uh, worse. He, um, got rougher and rougher, and—and it’s not like he ever did anything I didn’t instigate, I just…didn’t stop him when I should’ve.”

“Oh, Dean.” Castiel looked pained, and Dean grabbed his hand – to comfort himself or Cas, he didn’t know.

“It’s okay. I’m over that. I stopped seeing him, he tried to contact me for a while, I told him to go to back to whatever hell he’d crawled out of, and that was it.”

They sat in silence for a while. Cas’s hand on his shoulder slid to the other side, and Dean leaned against him. Being held by Cas felt more comforting than Dean expected.

“Who’s Nick, then?” Cas asked.

“He’s, uh…” Dean swallowed. “Are you sure you wanna listen to me whine? This is kinda pathetic.”

“Dean,” Castiel said, “it’s really not. I want to listen, if that helps you.”

“Whatever,” Dean muttered. He was silent for a moment, and Castiel patiently waited for Dean to gather himself. “Nick Munroe’s the second and last guy I dated. He fucked me up for a long time.”

Dean concentrated on Cas’s arm on his back, and continued.

“Nick was… Honestly? He was nothing like Al, at first glance. Intense, yeah, but charming, intelligent, and handsome. And all our interests seemed to line up, from music to movies to whatever. But he, uh…” Dean swallowed, before admitting, “He never really wanted a relationship.”

“Ah,” Castiel said, reassuringly.

“He just strung me along for the sex. He just pretended to like the same things until he got me hooked. But I was…okay, I was fucking infatuated with him. Couldn’t admit the truth for a long time. And I mean, at first, it didn’t bother me, how he didn’t want to go out that much, or how he shrugged me off right after sex, or… You know. Small things.”

“It doesn’t sound like it,” Cas said.

“Yeah, well… And he didn’t like being seen with me. I never knew what to expect. One day, he’d kiss me when we parted on the street, and the next, he’d yell at me for trying to hold his hand. Filled my head with bullshit about how it would ruin his reputation and it would be my fault.” Dean gave a hollow laugh. “That was just an excuse, though. He just didn’t want his other so-called lovers to find out about us. Or me to find out about them.”

“That’s…”

“Fuck that,” Dean muttered, vehemently. “Like, I’m all for casual things, I’ve had too many one-night stands to judge anyone, but it…just…I mean—”

“I understand,” Cas said, reassuring. “You wanted something more out of it, and he deceived you. He cheated on you.”

“It was my own fault,” Dean said. “Should’ve seen it coming.”

“Dean, from what you’ve told me, it sounds like he deliberately manipulated you.”

Dean shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know.”

“Not maybe. He did.”

“Yeah, okay.” Dean sighed. “So, the point is, I kinda ended up proving my parents right. Can’t have a relationship with a man. Just like my dad said. Better to settle down with a girl. It’s just a phase. You’re confused. And so on.”

“Dean, you have to know that that’s not true.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean said. “I just have crappy taste in men. Like, I’m only attracted to assholes.”

“Do you honestly think it’s your fault that both of your relationships with men failed? Or that it’s your fault Nick cheated on you?” Cas asked.

“Well, I mean—if I hadn’t—”

“No, Dean. Look at me.” Reluctantly, Dean did. “You did nothing wrong. It’s not your fault that you had your trust betrayed, or that you were abused. You did nothing wrong.”

Dean didn’t answer that. It was hard to look Cas in the eye, so Dean gave up. He was becoming pretty familiar with the color of floorboards.

“I just mean, it’s pretty pathetic to get hung up on this. Other people have it way worse,” Dean said then.

“That doesn’t negate your pain,” Castiel said. “It still happened to you, and it hurt you.”

“I guess,” Dean muttered.

“Did Nick ever do anything worse?”

“Well, it’s not like he ever hit me, or…well. Okay, he did. A few times. When I overstepped and tried to kiss him goodnight on his porch.”

“That is not an acceptable reason to hit someone,” Castiel said vehemently. “You did nothing wrong, Dean.”

“But I should’ve noticed it earlier, or done som—”

“Don’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”

“But—”

“It wasn’t.”

Dean stared at the floor again, for a long time. When the silence stretched on, he huffed, awkwardly, “So, pot, meet kettle? Still want me? Fucking broken thing that no one wants.”

“Dean, I get it. You’re not the only one who’s been hurt by a loved one,” Castiel said, gently.

“What?” Dean turned to look at Cas, and realized that Cas was finally ready to open up more, give him the details of the story that he’d only painted in broad strokes.

“The last person I dated fucked me up, as well,” Castiel said.

“What’d they do?”

“Her name was Meg,” Castiel said. His grip on Dean’s shoulder tightened, and to reassure him, Dean covered their hands with his other hand. Cas looked at him, thankful for the contact.

“She… I suppose that on some level, she did care for me. Just not enough. She was never trustworthy, but it escalated when we moved in together. She’d disappear at random intervals, wouldn’t tell me anything, and would only pay for her share of the rent or groceries after we fought about it. Sometimes not even after that.”

There was a faraway look in Cas’s eyes, and Dean didn’t dare to say anything.

“Sometimes, some of my things would go missing, and once, she took the seven hundred dollars I’d hidden in a book. Perhaps that was my mistake, hiding cash in such an obvious place, but… The last straw was when she took my car without asking and totaled it. And, I’m honestly not sure, but I strongly suspect that during the whole of our relationship, she had a string of lovers.”

“Jesus,” Dean muttered after a silence. “Why’d you stay?”

“Raw sexual chemistry?” Castiel said, a bit sadly. “For company? I’m not sure.”

“Cas. None of that is your fault. You know that, right?”

“Pot, kettle,” Cas echoed. “I was exhausted after I broke up with her. It took all my energy to get away from her. I haven’t dated anyone since.”

“So, you moved here.”

“Yes,” Cas said. “She, uh, took most of my possessions. I saved what I could. And some things I’d stashed earlier at my parents’ house or at Gabriel’s.”

“Why didn’t you—” Dean swallowed what he’d been about to say – it wasn’t Cas’s fault Meg had stolen from him.

Cas answered the question anyway. “I didn’t have energy to fight at that point. I took what I could and moved to the first apartment I could find. And after that, I, um…haven’t had…much energy to do…anything.”

Cas was dancing around the words, and Dean didn’t want to pressure, but the implication was clear. Following the break-up, Cas had spiraled into depression, and had only recently started to piece himself together.

Christ, it was a miracle he had agreed to meet Dean in the first place at all. It was a bigger miracle that he’d agreed to this insane scheme, and the biggest miracle of all that he had gone so far with it and stayed with Dean. It seemed incomprehensible that he’d put up with Dean’s shit for so long, or had befriended Dean at all.

“Why the hell would you even agree to this?” Dean gestured at them.

Cas shrugged. “Like I said. I got tired of Charlie pushing me to get back into dating. I didn’t want to.” He hesitated, and added, “Loneliness, I guess. It was depressing to stay cooped up in here all day long.”

They both fell silent after that. The guinea pigs next to the bed had been eating and moving around their cage for the whole duration of their conversation, and carried on, without a care in the world. Dean glanced at Cas, and noticed that he was staring at the guinea pigs as well.

“What a pair we are,” Dean snorted. “You’re trying to fight depression, and I’m trying to get rid of my commitment issues.”

“Is it working?” Cas asked wryly.

Dean thought for a moment. “I think so.”

“We must be doing something right, then.”

“I guess.” Dean hesitated, and added, “It wasn’t at first.”

“Dean…”

“I don’t mean that in a bad way,” Dean muttered. “Well, I guess I do—I didn’t—I mean…I didn’t realize that…”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not,” Dean snapped. “I’m fucking broken, okay. I can’t even hold your hand without a fucking panic attack.”

“You’re doing fine,” Castiel assured him. As if to confirm his words, their hands were still clasped together. “And as I’ve told you, we don’t have to do anything you don’t want. We can stop this whole thing right here, if it makes you this uncomfortable.”

“It doesn’t. Not anymore,” Dean said, and he meant it.

It wasn’t Castiel who made him uncomfortable – in fact, being able to hold Cas’s hand, to be close to him without any repercussions had been healing in a way Dean hadn’t expected, in a way he could never dream was possible. Being with Cas was as easy as breathing, and it had happened so gradually that Dean couldn’t even remember the last time he’d freaked out when Cas took his hand. It felt good to be able to be close to someone and know that it was allowed, to know that he wouldn’t be pushed away, that someone didn’t want to use him just for sex. And on the other hand, it felt good to know that it would stop if he needed it to, that he could simply drop Cas’s hand and Cas wouldn’t force him to do anything after that, and Cas wouldn’t blame him.

Dean just wasn’t so sure where the borders of their scheme lied and where it crossed over to something else. He had no idea when it had changed, or what had changed, and to be honest, he wasn’t willing to look into it right then. Not when it would all come to an end sooner or later.

Even so, Dean was grateful for all Cas had done so far. Dean didn’t know how to voice all that gratitude, so he simply squeezed Cas’s hand, hoping that it would be enough. Cas, being the genius at reading Dean that he was, understood and squeezed right back.

“Thank you,” Dean muttered.

“You’ve nothing to thank me for.”

“Yeah, I do.” Dean gave Cas’s hand one more squeeze before dropping it. “You don’t even know.”

Cas tilted his head, but didn’t ask.

“I’m sorry for ruining your birthday,” Dean said.

“You didn’t,” Cas said. “I told you, I don’t much care for it, anyway. And this was more important.”

“Still,” Dean mumbled. “I’m sorry.”

“Dean, stop that.”

“Sor—um—”

“Nothing irreversible happened. Jess called me earlier,” Cas said, reassuring. “Her dad’s not in any danger, he’ll make a full recovery, and Jess and Sam will stop by later if they can. And the others are still coming over, and we have a cake to finish.” Cas looked at him, and Dean managed a small smile. “Do you want to come with me?”

Anywhere, Dean thought, but couldn’t say. Dean clutched his hand again, and when Cas didn’t let go, he said, “Yeah, okay.”

Chapter Text

July turned into August, and the warm summer days started to blend together in Dean’s mind. Between splitting his time with work, Cas, and his friends, time flowed so quickly that Dean could hardly catch his breath. His vacation was coming up in a few weeks, at the end of August, and Dean couldn’t wait until he got to enjoy the hot summer days properly instead of sweating in a suit.

One Friday, after a grueling shift, Dean was gathering his things as he prepared to leave. He was mentally charting what to cook at Cas’s place tonight, when Benny stopped by his desk.

“It’s Friday,” Benny said.

Dean looked up from his bag, brows furrowing. “Um. Yeah?”

“How about a drink after work?”

“I’m, uh,” Dean said, “I’m actually meeting Cas after work, but…”

Benny gave him a look that told him everything – Dean had said those exact words for several weeks in a row, always promising Benny that they’d go out for drinks the next Friday.

“Why don’t you take Cas with us?” Benny asked then. “I’m actually curious about this guy who’s managed to capture your heart.”

“Cas hasn’t—I mean—”

“Whatever you say, brother.”

Dean fell silent, considering Benny’s offer. He had been neglecting his other friends, and he owed Benny a beer or two for putting up with that. And didn’t Cas know Benny’s wife, Andrea? That meant that Benny and Cas would at least have something in common, and would get along just fine.

“I’ll ask him,” Dean said. “I don’t know if he’d like it. He’s not the bar-hopping type.”

“Neither are you, anymore,” Benny said. He was right: Dean hadn’t had a one-night stand in ages, not since the thing with Cas had started, and even before that, he hadn’t gone out that often. Getting out of Nick’s clutches had been hard enough without adding more emotionless sex on top of it.

“I’ll ask him,” Dean repeated.

Cas agreed to meet them at the bar. If Dean had gone out looking for company, he’d preferred The Roadhouse, a bar owned by Jo’s mother, Ellen, but whenever he went out with his coworkers, they preferred literally anywhere else. (Benny hadn’t said so, but he was probably afraid of Ellen, like everyone else.) Dean wasn’t so sure how Cas would mesh with his coworkers, but it would be interesting to see, if nothing else. Victor was going, as were Aaron and Donna, fellow detectives, and their captain Jody Mills usually made an appearance. They were great coworkers, but Dean didn’t know if he wanted to mix his personal life with his professional. The lines were already blurred as it was.

Dean and Benny arrived at the bar together, and Dean nervously looked around for Cas when they neared the front door. He smiled when he saw Cas already standing there, brows furrowed as he stared down at his phone.

“Hi, angel face.” Dean kissed Cas’s cheek in greeting, ignoring Benny repeating “angel face?” behind him. “What’s up?”

“Claire is texting me,” Cas said, frowning. “I don’t understand what she’s trying to say. These abbreviations are beyond me.”

“Lemme see.” Dean glanced at the conversation, and gave up instantly. “Yeah, okay, a nine-year-old just beat me. No fucking clue, man.”

“I’m too afraid to google this,” Cas said. He put his phone away and finally gave all of his attention to Dean. “How was your day, cutie pie?”

“Stop mentioning pie, you know that turns me on,” Dean joked. “It was alright. Um, Cas, this is Benny.”

“Pleasure,” Benny rumbled, stepping closer to shake Cas’s hand.

“Likewise,” Cas said. “Dean has talked a lot about you.”

“Wish I could say the same, but our boy here has been tight-lipped,” Benny said, grinning when Dean glared at him.

“Benny’s wife Andrea knows you,” Dean said quickly, and that got the conversation going. It turned out that Andrea often volunteered at the charity, and she and Cas often talked there, but that was where their connection ended. Benny didn’t seem that interested in Cas’s work, and Dean feared that tonight would end up with more silences than anyone was comfortable with.

Dean felt awkward when they got inside the bar and located the table with the other detectives. Everyone else was already there, laughing and talking, but the table fell silent with their arrival. The divide in the group was immediate. Cas was the only outsider, the only one who wasn’t a cop, and Dean had no idea how to diffuse the situation. Dean wanted his coworkers to like Cas, and flustered, he introduced Cas.

“And, um, here’s Jody and Donna, Victor, Aaron. So. Yeah.”

“Sit down, you two,” Jody said. She and Donna moved so that there was more space for Dean and Cas to sit by them, and Benny squeezed between Aaron and Victor, opposite of them.

The conversation returned to work, which Dean could appreciate other times, but it felt rude when Cas was present. Cas, noticing that he wouldn’t be included in a while, leaned towards Dean and started to mutter in his ear. Dean jumped when he felt the heat emitting from Cas so near him, but then relaxed.

“I’m gonna go order. What do you want?”

“Beer,” Dean muttered back. “Whatever’s on tap.”

“Alright, baby cakes.”

Dean snorted. “Don’t be disgusting, teddy bear.”

After Cas returned with two beers, the conversation luckily shifted. Donna politely turned to Cas and asked, “Dean said you own guinea pigs?” and in no time, they were discussing the hardships of owning a pet. It was trivial talk, but it warmed Dean’s heart to see that Donna was trying to engage Cas, and soon, the others followed her example.

As the night went on, Dean’s worries disappeared. Donna was one of Dean’s favorite coworkers, and it seemed that Cas liked her as well. Victor and Cas got along just fine, as did Jody and Cas. Aaron was awkward and silent at first, as usual when meeting new people, but he and Cas got to talk about some weird Jewish lore quickly, and Dean just tuned that out. Instead, he argued with Jody about the proper handgun technique – Jody still held a grudge from the time Dean had broken her record – and Benny joined them. She bowed out of the conversation when Benny and Dean started to talk about a new stew Andrea had been experimenting with, and the others looked amused when the discussion went on and on.

“I’m just saying, a cooking show with you two,” Aaron commented. “Imagine the ratings.”

“‘Two cops and a spatula’ has a nice ring to it,” Jody said, prompting Donna to cough on her beer as she laughed.

“Cooking show?” Cas asked wryly.

“Benny’s a great cook,” Dean said. “He actually taught me a lot of the stuff I’ve been teaching you.”

“Dean’s been teaching you?” Benny raised his brows at Cas. “YouTube wouldn’t suffice?”

“He burned scrambled eggs just a week ago,” Dean said, rolling his eyes. “Trust me, if I hadn’t come along, his kitchen would have exploded a long time ago.”

“I’m just happy to see my kitchen finally get some use,” Cas shrugged. “And I reap the benefits of Dean’s cooking.”

“I knew you only liked me for my cooking skills.”

“The secret is out,” Cas said, dryly. “I’m only keeping you around for the food.”

“You’ll make a great trophy husband one day, brother,” Benny said, and Dean tried to protest while the others laughed.

Dean and Cas left around ten, and they were the first to do so. Cas got a round of friendly waves as they left, and Dean had a feeling that if he brought Cas with him some other time, it would be well received. The thought of it made him smile.

“So, what’d you think?” Dean asked. They were slowly walking towards the police station, since Dean had left his car there, and had offered to drive Cas home. The bar was within a reasonable walking distance from the station, even if Cas had suggested that they take a bus. Dean didn’t want to, seeing as the summer night was nice and warm, and so, they walked.

“It was…fun.”

“You don’t sound too excited,” Dean teased.

“I admit, I was apprehensive at first. I didn’t think it would go well.”

“They liked you.”

“It was fun,” Cas repeated, with more conviction this time. Then he said, “Benny likes you.”

“Um, yeah. We’re friends, not just coworkers. I was at his wedding.”

“He used to have a crush on you.”

“What?” Dean whipped around. Cas calmly walked onwards, not even turning to look at Dean, and Dean jogged to catch him up. “You’re shitting me.”

“It’s obvious,” Cas said, a teasing smile on his lips. “He still watches you like a hawk. Like he wants to pick you up and carry you to his nest.”

“Stop with the nature allusions, they don’t really work,” Dean said. “And really?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Okay, um, wow.” They walked ahead, shoulders brushing. “How’d you figure that out?”

“He doesn’t like me.”

“Of course he likes you.”

“No, he doesn’t,” Cas said, but it didn’t sound like it bothered him. “He interrogated me while you were in the bathroom. Like he suspected that I was out to break your heart.”

“Well, are you?” Dean asked. Their shoulders brushed again, and Cas nudged Dean a little. Dean nudged back.

“Not deliberately,” Cas finally answered. Something warm and unknown filled Dean’s chest, making his heart beat faster. They glanced at each other, smiling slightly. Their hands brushed against each other, and when Dean curled his fingers around Cas’s, Cas didn’t knock them away. Instead, Cas accepted the touch and took a proper hold of Dean’s hand.

They walked hand in hand all the way to the station, and only separated when Dean had to unlock the car. The drive to Cas’s apartment was silent, the only sounds being Dean’s tapping against the steering wheel.

When they arrived to Cas’s place, Dean put the car in park and shut off the ignition. Neither said anything for a while. There was something heavy in the air, but Dean didn’t know how to read it and if it even meant anything, so he didn’t even try.

Cas moved, and Dean followed from the corner of his eye as he opened the car door and stepped outside. Relief and sadness warred in Dean’s mind; Cas didn’t ask him to come up, and Dean didn’t know how to feel about that.

“Good night, Dean,” Cas said. Dean lifted his eyes to look at Cas, and they shared a smile, even if it was shaky.

“Night, Cas.” He swallowed, but nothing else was added. Cas shut the car door and went inside, and Dean sat in the car and watched as the light in the hallway flicked on and then turned off.

Dean didn’t know what to think. They had been acting like a couple for the whole evening, even when there had been no reason to. Dean’s coworkers had nothing to do with their scheme, there was no incentive to convince them of their relationship, and yet… They’d done it anyway.

If the lines were getting so blurred, maybe it was for the best that their deadline was coming up. It was August, and the end of their scheme neared. No matter how good an actor Cas had become lately, he hadn’t mentioned anything about altering their plans. They were still on track, about to break up.

Somehow, the thought of that didn’t sit well with Dean.

 


 

Two weeks later, on a Friday night, Dean got a call from his mother. He’d been spending the night with Cas, as usual, and they were in the middle of making pasta when his phone rang. Dean left Cas to tend the macaroni, and went to the bedroom to take the call.

“Hi, mom.”

“Hi, Dean. I heard you’re going out with someone,” Mary Winchester said, without preamble.

Dean couldn’t reply for a moment. He didn’t know what to do, because he’d feared that this moment would come, and he was still unprepared for it.

Dean’s parents lived a two-hour drive away, in a small town outside of the metropolitan area, but both Dean and Sam mostly stuck to calling them every now and then instead of visiting. Talking with either of them was enough in most cases. Dean loved his parents, but they had a tendency to get too invested, and his phone calls with his mom usually ended with him reverting back to being a teenager and his mom lecturing to him about a proper diet. Dean’s protests that his job was physical didn’t sway her at all.

So far, Dean had successfully avoided mentioning Cas too much to his mother during their weekly phone calls. He loved his mother, he really did, but she was overbearing whenever he so much as hinted at being interested in someone. Mary Winchester had been like that for as long as Dean could remember – she’d nearly scared off Dean’s first girlfriend Robyn – but her tendency to turn into a mama bear had only gotten worse after Al.

“Did, um,” Dean stuttered, and started over, “Did Sam say something to you?”

“He mentioned that you’d been spending a lot of time with someone. Apparently a mutual friend?”

Dean was going to kill Sam. His brother knew how their parents got, and while he could imagine that Mary had pushed until Sam gave her something, any little detail, Dean couldn’t help but think that this was a payback for the time Dean had let it slip that Sam was going out on a third date with Jess. Sam still swore that the ensuing phone call with his mom had been the most humiliating experience of his life.

“Yeah, um, Cas is—”

“Cass? Her name’s Cassandra?”

Dean hesitated, and then corrected, “Castiel is a he. And, um, he’s friends with Charlie and Jo and Jess, so they set us up.”

“He’s friends with Jess?” Mary asked, sounding pleased. “What does he do?”

Dean sighed, and went on to play twenty questions with his mom. At least Mary sounded more at ease when she heard about Cas’s job, how they’d met, and only scolded Dean thrice when he revealed that they’d been going out nearly three months now.

“Three months already?” Mary asked. “Dean, that’s wonderful. You should introduce him properly to us.” Dean cringed. “Deanna’s birthday is in a week, and I know she’d love to see you.”

Dean would rather go back to snipe with Aunt Naomi for an hour than introduce Cas at grandma Deanna’s 80th birthday, and he said so. His mother wouldn’t hear otherwise.

“She’d love to see you,” she stressed. “She’s turning eighty, Dean.”

“And she’s too happy to die before she’s one-hundred and ten,” Dean countered.

It wasn’t like Dean didn’t want to introduce Cas to his parents, especially his mom, but he was anxious about the kind of test she would put Cas through. Mary was harsh on Dean’s girlfriends, but she had been brutal when Dean had introduced Al. Dean had visited his parents with Al just once, and that had been enough. In retrospect, Dean had to admit that Mary’s suspicions had been right and Al had been an awful person and really not someone Dean wanted to spend his life with, but back then, it had felt like the world was ending when his mother had looked coldly at Al. Dean had no hope that his dad would ever accept any male partner that Dean introduced, but his mother’s acceptance was important.

Cas was nothing like Al, though. Cas was polite, charming, and witty in an unassuming way, and already friends with Sam and Jess. Mary trusted their judgment, so that would ease the way, but it would still be hard to get her blessing.

Then again, Dean was overthinking this. Cas wasn’t his real boyfriend, even if Dean kind of…maybe…hoped so, and his parents’ approval would mean nothing in the end, because they were close to breaking up. In a few weeks, they would have to pretend that everything went sideways and they hated each other now.

“Her birthday is next week,” Mary repeated, the tone clear: Dean had better be there.

“I’ll talk to him,” Dean sighed.

They talked for a while longer about other things, and when Dean ended the call, he was feeling better again. He did love his mom, even if she was overprotective at times, and he wanted her to meet Cas. With that thought in mind, Dean went back to the kitchen to check up on Cas.

“Thank god,” Cas said when Dean exited the bedroom. “What do I do now? The recipe doesn’t specify what spices to use.”

“It totally does, in the middle,” Dean huffed. He helped Cas finish the sauce, and while they waited for it to cool down, Cas put away the dirty dishes.

Dean rested against the counter. “So, my mom just called.”

“How is she?” Cas asked politely.

“Fine, fine, but…um, my grandma’s 80th birthday is next week,” Dean said. “It’s on Saturday. I kind of have to make an appearance. My mom would skin me alive if I didn’t.”

“And you don’t want to go?” Cas asked.

“I mean, of course I want to, they’re my family, but… My mom asked me to bring you with me.”

“Me?” Cas blinked. “You told your mom about me?”

“Sam did,” Dean grouched. “And when my mom smells secrets, she won’t stop until she finds out the truth. So yeah, I told her about you.”

“Okay,” Cas said. “But you…don’t want to take me?”

“No, no, that’s not it. My um,” Dean swallowed, “my family doesn’t really understand that I’m not, uh, 100 percent straight.”

Cas raised an eyebrow at this choice of words, but didn’t comment.

“I mean, my mom kind of gets it, but my dad doesn’t. Or my grandparents. And my cousins hate me already, but at least me being bi has nothing to do with that.”

“Sounds familiar,” Cas said, gently.

“Yeah.”

Dean looked at the ground, chewing his lips, and to calm him, Cas took his hand.

“Dean, of course I’ll go with you. You met my family.”

Dean let a relieved sigh, and dropped his head against Cas’s shoulder. “Thanks, man. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Ready to slay the dragons,” Cas said, and Dean snorted against his neck.

 


 

On the following Saturday, Dean and Cas picked Sam and Jess up, and together, they started the two-hour drive to grandma Deanna’s house. Samuel and Deanna Campbell, Mary’s parents, lived in the house next to Mary and John, and had lived there for the past fifty years. Dean couldn’t imagine living that close to his parents, but Mary liked it, and Dean guessed that his dad just sucked it up. John’s parents were both dead, and last Dean had heard, dad still didn’t get along with grandpa Samuel.

Dean told all this to Cas, who, against all reason, wasn’t concerned.

“Dean, you know my family,” Cas said. “They don’t get along, either, and somehow, no one has died yet.”

“Is your aunt still trying to make you marry your cousin Hannah?” Jess asked, and Dean spluttered.

“Your what?

“She stopped some time ago. She was forced to, erm, confront the truth?”

“I smell an embarrassing story behind that,” Jess said. “What happened?”

“My cousin Balthazar said that I had no appreciation for the female form and kissed me to prove it,” Cas said, grumpily. Jess and Sam laughed in the backseat, but Dean had to grip the steering wheel tighter so the car wouldn’t swerve. “That’s not even remotely accurate, but it got her off of my case.”

“You often go around kissing your cousins?” Dean asked, hoping that it came out jokingly.

“Oh, no need to get jealous, buttercup,” Cas said. “You’re a much better kisser.”

Dean’s hold of the steering wheel eased. Grinning, he said, “You’re not so bad either, cupcake.”

“Guys, really,” Sam muttered, making Dean and Cas grin at each other.

Unfortunately, their good mood only lasted for the duration of the drive. When they arrived to Grandma Deanna’s house, the driveway was full of cars. The front door was unlocked, and when they stepped in, they saw that the house was already full of guests. Most of them were family members, but there were also a few of Deanna’s friends – those who hadn’t passed away yet. Everyone had crammed into the living room, and there was the smell of coffee in the air. When they entered, no one seemed to notice at first, until John Winchester happened to come to the foyer.

Seeing Dean, he smiled and said, “Hello, son.”

“Hi, Dad.”

They briefly shook hands, and John asked him a little about work, but that was it. Dean fidgeted, not knowing how to handle the situation, and waited until Sam and Jess had greeted John. Cas stood by his side, silent, and they waited. John’s eyes fleetingly passed over Cas, but he didn’t seem inclined to greet him, and Dean and Cas patiently waited as John asked about Sam’s new job and Jess’s shift changes at the hospital.

Then it hit Dean: his dad wasn’t even going to acknowledge Cas. When there was short pause in the conversation, Dean cleared his throat.

“Dad, um, this is Cas.”

Cas offered his hand, but John didn’t take it.

“Hello,” John Winchester said, but that was all. He very briefly eyed Cas, and then he turned back to his conversation with Jess, pointedly ignoring Cas’s outstretched hand.

Pain bloomed in Dean’s chest, but he swallowed it down. Cas took his hand, and the touch comforted him enough that he didn’t start screaming at his dad.

“It’s okay, Dean,” Cas muttered.

“It’s not,” Dean said. “But whatever. Come on.”

They stepped into the living room, where everyone was already seated or standing and with a cup of coffee. They were in a loose circle, situated around Grandma Deanna, who was engrossed in conversation with one of her friends. Grandpa Samuel was sitting on her other side, looking grumpy as per usual.

Dean’s cousins Mark and Gwen Campbell were the first to greet them, but just like Dean had said, it was obvious that they didn’t like Dean very much. The feeling was mutual, and the conversation was stilted, even when Cas tried to salvage it. Dean had never gotten along with his cousin Christian, either, but at least Dean could sincerely congratulate he and his wife Arlene Campbell for their newborn baby.

“Well, this is awkward,” Dean muttered when Christian and Arlene had left to show off their newborn to someone else.

“You’ll live,” Cas said. He straightened up when someone approached them.

“Hi, Mom,” Dean said, relieved to see at least one friendly face. They shared a hug, but as soon as they let go, Mary’s focus was on Castiel.

“You must be Cas,” Mary said. Her eyes were sharp, but there was a friendly undercurrent to them. “Mary Winchester. Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Castiel Shurley. It’s nice to meet you, too,” Cas said. Dean waited with baited breath when they sized up each other.

“Dean said you were Jess’s friend?”

“We used to live in the same building,” Cas said, and Dean’s heart started to pound painfully when he noticed his mom’s eyes turn a shade colder. “Then she moved in with Sam, but we’ve kept in touch.”

“I see.” There was a silence, and Dean swallowed, when it didn’t seem to end. “What do you do, Castiel?”

When Cas started to talk about his job and Mary asked him more about it, Dean relaxed a little. The more his mom talked and steered the conversation, the more Dean felt at ease. If his mom was willing to talk with Cas at length, it meant that she liked him, or at least accepted him to some degree. It was hard to read his mom sometimes.

At some point, Mary cut off the conversation and said, “You haven’t wished Deanna happy birthday yet, have you?”, and then turned to lead them to Grandma Deanna. Dean’s fingers twitched and he wished that he could’ve held Cas’s hand again – just for moral support – but he didn’t dare to try it.

“Oh! Dean!” Deanna said as soon as she saw Dean, beaming happily. Dean had always liked his grandmother, if only because she was one of those eternally happy people who appeared younger because of their inner shine. Deanna tried to sit up, but Dean stopped her and crouched down to give her a hug.

“It’s so good to see you. You never visit anymore.”

“Sorry, Grandma.”

“I know, I know, you’re busy, living in the big city. How are you?”

Dean smiled, some of his fears disappearing. “I’m good, Grandma. Really good, actually.”

Mary bent down to talk to her, and pointed at Cas. “Deanna, this is Dean’s…special friend.”

“Oh.” The wheels turning in Deanna’s head might as well have been visible. “Oh! I see!”

She leaned towards Cas and clutched his hands in hers. If Cas was surprised, he didn’t show it. “I’m very happy to see that Dean has someone. He’s been alone for so long.”

Cas opened his mouth, but nothing came out for a while. “Um. I’m happy being with Dean.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Deanna said, patting Cas’s hands before letting go.

“I’m sorry for intruding on your birthday.”

“Nonsense. Sam brought Jess, and they’re not even married yet. Dean’s partners are always welcome. Or is that the correct term nowadays?”

Dean hadn’t expected such a warm welcome, and compared to the coldness his cousins and parents had exhibited, it felt even more important. He blinked back the tears.

“So, happy birthday, Grandma. How’s it feel to be eighty?”

“No more different than being seventy-nine,” Deanna said. “Well, with a little more hip problems and back pains. But oh, don’t mind me. I don’t want to complain.”

“At that age, I think you’re entitled,” Cas said, and Deanna laughed.

“I’m saving that for when I’m ninety,” she said. She turned to her husband, and patted his arm to get his attention. “Sam, say hi to Dean.”

“Hi, Grandpa,” Dean said. Samuel greeted him just as awkwardly, and then turned to look at Cas. His stern look didn’t soften one bit.

“You’re Dean’s…friend,” Samuel said.

“Castiel,” Cas said, offering his hand. Samuel didn’t take it.

“You don’t look gay,” Samuel said.

“That’s because I’m not,” Cas said, calmly, even if Dean could hear the cold tone underneath.

“Don’t be rude, Samuel. He’s a guest,” Deanna said. She patted her husband’s arm, and Samuel grumbled something, and then turned away from them. Dean hadn’t expected his grandpa to accept Cas, but seeing the rejection still hurt.

“Cas, you want some coffee?” Dean asked, and without waiting for an answer, he snatched Cas’s hand and led him away.

“It’s okay, Dean,” Cas muttered. There were coffee cups ready on the kitchen counter and a pot full of coffee, and Dean poured his frustration into arranging them two cups.

“It’s not, Cas,” Dean said, yet again. “This is going badly. I hate this.”

“Your mom was nice,” Cas said. “And your grandma.”

“Mmh.” Dean poured them coffee, and handed one cup to Cas. Cas’s fingers briefly closed around his hand before accepting the cup.

John walked into the kitchen right then, and Dean instinctively straightened up.

“So, Dean, how’s life been?”

“Um.” Dean didn’t know what answer, and then settled for, “It’s good. My vacation’s coming up at the end of August.”

“You coming here for a few days?”

“I don’t know. Actually, I was kinda thinking that me and Cas could go on a short road trip.”

That was a lie, because Dean hadn’t talked about that with Cas at all, but a quick glance towards Cas told him that whatever stories Dean spun, Cas would be on board.

John didn’t react to that. Instead, he started to talk about Dean’s work, and some of his own cases. John was in the local force, had been for ages, but often, Dean felt like they had nothing more in common but their jobs. It was an easy subject to talk about, but Dean started to feel annoyed when his dad deliberately avoided talking to Cas and had no inclination to include him in the conversation.

“Sam still hasn’t proposed to Jess, I gather,” John said then.

“He took a year to ask her out, I don’t think he’ll be ready to propose for a while,” Dean snorted, and at least his dad laughed at that.

“So,” John said, “How about you? Still not ready to settle down?”

“Dad, I am,” Dean said, desperate. He glanced at Cas, still standing next to him. “I’m dating Cas. We’re kind of serious, here.”

“I meant, you’re not ready to start a family, then. Can’t do that with a man, you know. Wrong parts.”

Dean blanched. He’d been afraid of this confrontation, and since his dad had stayed relatively quiet about his partners in recent years, he’d sort of been hoping that his dad would have magically come around. The reminder that his dad still couldn’t accept his sexuality hurt, but the thought that he could only accept it if Dean ended up with a woman, proving that he was “heterosexual” after all, hurt even more.

Castiel’s warm hand pressed against his, and suddenly, Dean felt more at ease. Cas’s stormy eyes were a sight to behold; even John flinched a little when he saw how Cas was looking at him. Cas had been silent so far, but it looked like he’d finally hit his breaking point.

“By ‘starting a family,’ do you mean ‘having children’?”

“Well, having children is an essential part of marriage,” John said. “And that would be pretty hard for you, considering, well.”

“Are you saying that all couples who have adopted or used surrogacy have no real families, then?” Cas asked. “Or that couples who choose to not have children have no real families, either?”

John looked annoyed. “I only meant…you know.”

“No, I don’t think I do,” Cas said. The squint of his eyes was enough to make John cower, and Dean watched in awe as his dad opened his mouth, but couldn’t come up with anything to say. Castiel stared at him, silent fury in his eyes, and finally, John turned on his heels and left the kitchen.

Dean watched as his dad walked away, uncomprehending that someone had managed to do that. Casually, Cas put his coffee cup on the counter, and it was a good thing he did, because Dean hastily put his own cup away and grabbed Cas’s head. He slammed their mouths together and pushed against Cas, until Cas’s hands came to rest on Dean’s hips. Dean kissed Cas with a fire he hadn’t known he could possess, putting every bit of his thankfulness and affection into it. Cas kissed back hesitantly, confused, but his hands pulled Dean tighter against him.

Cas’s mouth fell open and he panted when they parted. “What…Dean?”

“That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Dean said, breathless. “I’ve…I’ve never seen my dad speechless. Holy shit, you’re amazing.”

“Oh.” Cas’s cheeks were flushed with red. “I thought you’d be annoyed at me for antagonizing your dad.”

“Fuck that, haven’t you listened to a single thing I’ve said? That was amazing.”

“You’re welcome?” Cas’s confusion fell away and he smiled. “Always ready to defend your honor, darling.”

“Cas, holy shit,” Dean laughed. “Seriously, if you asked me to drop to my knees right now, I would.”

“I strongly suggest that you don’t,” Cas said, but he was grinning. “There’s a perfectly good closet for that in the hallway.”

Dean snorted. “Yeah, probably best not to traumatize my family any further.”

A tiny, fleeting thought passed through him then, and before he could talk himself out of it, he said, “But you know, on second thought…how about that congratulatory blowjob? Wanna get in the closet with me?”

“Dean, there’s no need to—”

“Come on,” Dean said, grinning, and pulled Cas with him.

Cas was right. There was a closet in the hallway that Deanna and Samuel mostly used to store forgotten junk. Dean didn’t know what exactly he was thinking when he unlocked the door and pushed Cas inside, and then followed. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he recalled them planning something like this, to tease Sam and Jess, but their little scheme was the furthest thing in his mind when he grabbed Cas and pushed him against the door. Quickly, he flicked the light on, and the old lamp protested with a few flashes before settling on a dark yellow light. A low hum of the lamp filled the room, and remained as a background noise.

Cas was watching him with huge eyes, and when Dean dropped to his knees, Cas’s throat clicked. Dean shuffled on his knees, getting closer, and gently pressed his hands against Cas’s legs. He’d wanted to get his hands on those strong thighs for a while, and tried to memorize how it felt against his skin.

“Dean,” Cas breathed, and it sounded like a prayer. Dean let his hands slowly slide on Cas’s thighs, up up up, until he reached Cas’s crotch. Cas audibly gulped when Dean stopped the movement and his fingers framed the bulge in Cas’s pants. Cas let out a small sound between pained and excited when Dean leaned forward.

Just like he’d fantasized before, Dean recalled.

It was getting hotter in the closet, and Dean breathed against Cas’s crotch for a moment, before looking up. Cas stared back at him, unreadable look on his face. Dean looked at Cas for any resistance, but Cas didn’t say anything when Dean brought his fingers to the zipper and started to pull. Cas’s breath hitched, and then he gulped for air like a drowning man when Dean’s hands caressed the fabric of his boxers.

“Dean,” Cas gasped, “You—you don’t have to—if you don’t want to—”

There was pleading in Cas’s eyes, and for a second, Dean hesitated. If he did this, it would complicate their weird relationship even further, irreversibly.

But on the other hand, the bulge in Cas’s boxers was so prominent that it was impossible to ignore, and there was only a thin layer of cotton separating Dean from Cas’s cock. He wanted to get his mouth on it. He wanted to make Cas feel good.

“Shut up,” Dean whispered. With one swift movement, he pulled Cas’s suit pants and boxers down, letting them pool at Cas’s thighs. Cas threw his head back into the door when Dean closed his fingers around Cas’s cock, getting used to the feel and weight of it.

“Shh,” Dean muttered. “Don’t want anyone to hear.”

Cas grit his teeth in reply, and Dean used that opportunity to bring his lips to the head of Cas’s cock. Just when he’d gotten his lips around the head, Cas straightened up. Dean noticed the movement, letting Cas’s cock fall from his mouth.

Cas took a breath, trying to calm down. “Dean, you don’t have to—I mean—”

“Why not? You’re clean, right?”

“Of course I’m—Dean, I haven’t been with anyone since—”

Cas moaned when Dean licked his length again, satisfied with the answer. He didn’t want to think about Cas’s asshole ex-girlfriend, or anyone else right then. He just wanted his mouth on Cas, to make Cas feel good, and as long as Cas was okay with it, he wanted to do this.

Dean closed his mouth around Cas’s cock, gently sucking on the head. Cas threw his head back and let out a hiss, and then brought his hands on Dean’s head with a jerky movement. His fingers threaded into Dean’s hair, pulling whenever Dean sucked and licked, and Dean experimented with this reaction for a while.

Cas was bordering on oversensitive, Dean noticed. He slowed down his movements, gently dipping his tongue into the slit, and nearly blushed at the moan Cas let out at that.

“Fuck, Dean… Fuck!”

Hearing Cas dissolve into a litany of curses was hotter than it had any right to be, and it only spurred Dean on. He swirled his tongue over the slit again, loving every small moan and huff he could get out of Cas. He bobbed his head, swallowed around Cas’s length, and after a few tries, he found the correct rhythm. Cas’s hands on his head tightened the hold as Dean went along, and Dean grabbed Cas’s ass, trying to signal Cas that it was okay to fuck into his mouth. He might not have done this in a while, but Dean was damn good at giving blowjobs, and he liked giving them, so feeling Cas fall apart in his hands was a glorious thing.

Hesitantly, Cas started to move his hips, and Dean squeezed his ass to let him know that it was okay. Cas started to move faster, but still more restrained than Dean would’ve liked. That might’ve been for the best, though, seeing as they were not in a soundproof room, and Cas’s hisses and moans were loud enough. It sent a thrill down Dean’s spine, knowing that they were alone and yet so close to getting caught, and he groaned.

Cas inhaled sharply when Dean swallowed around his cock, and then tugged on Dean’s hair.

“Fuck, fuck, Dean, I’m—”

Cas was luckily quiet when he came; he let out a breathless, short moan, and that was it. His fingers tightened their hold painfully in Dean’s hair, but that lasted one moment, before letting go again. Dean swallowed when Cas came, lapping at his cock to make sure he’d gotten every bit, before leaning back and releasing Cas.

Cas was watching him with huge eyes, panting. Dean wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, absently noting that there was a lot more saliva than he’d thought.

“Uh.” Dean hadn’t prepared for the post-blowjob conversation. He hadn’t thought he’d ever get this far.

Cas didn’t seem any more prepared. They stared at each other, confused, until Cas’s breathing slowed down. Wordlessly, Cas zipped up his pants, and Dean stood up, wincing when his knees protested.

“Are you alright?” Cas asked, and that broke the tension.

“Yeah,” Dean said. “Thanks.”

Cas smiled, and Dean answered the smile. They watched each other again, something gentle and strange in the look.

“We should get back to the party,” Cas said.

“I guess,” Dean sighed. He went to open the door, but Cas stopped him.

“Wait.”

Dean turned, and startled when Cas drew him into a kiss. It was more heated than Dean would have expected, and he eagerly opened his mouth when he felt Cas’s tongue poke at his lips. Cas’s tongue dipped into his mouth, and Dean pushed against him, wanting to be even closer. He felt light-headed when Cas suddenly backed off, breaking the kiss.

“You had come on your lips,” Cas said.

Dean felt his face heat up – there had been come on his face, and Cas’s solution had been to kiss it away? That opened up so many possibilities and thoughts, all porn-related, and only the small detail that they still were in Dean’s grandma’s birthday party stopped Dean from opening up his mouth and spewing out every dirty thought he had.

“Back to the party,” Dean rasped, and unlocked the door before he could coax Cas into round two.

Dean had trouble concentrating on anything for the rest of the evening, and he was glad when Sam and Jess found them an hour later and they decided to leave. Cas was silent as well, and even if there was something electric crackling between them, Dean didn’t act on it, and neither did Cas. It wasn’t the right time or place, disregarding the surprise blowjob in the closet. The ride back was mostly silent, but Jess and Sam ensured that it wasn’t awkward with their talk. Dean dropped them off first, but if he’d thought that the tension would disappear, he was wrong. The ride to Cas’s place was silent, and Dean spent most of the time trying to arrange words in his mind in the correct order. He couldn’t do it, and when Cas didn’t talk, they stayed silent.

When they arrived at Cas’s place, they still hadn’t said a word. Cas opened the car door and slid outside, and Dean felt like there were stones in his stomach.

“See you on Wednesday, Dean,” Cas said, before closing the door. Dean’s eyes snapped to him, and when Cas smiled slightly, Dean returned it. It wasn’t an answer to anything, but it made Dean’s heart flutter all the same.

Chapter Text

Dean would have wallowed in his dark thoughts for a lot longer, but for once, he got a chance to talk about it right away. Charlie called him on the Sunday following Deanna’s birthday, and they chatted about an upcoming LARPing event Charlie was organizing for a while. She tried to recruit Dean to it, and Dean knew that he would give in sooner or later, but not yet. Charlie had to try a little harder.

When there was a lull in conversation, Dean blurted out, “Is it weird that I gave Cas a blowjob?”

Charlie went silent for a while. “Well, he’s your boyfriend, and if you asked for permission and he didn’t say no…”

“Right, right,” Dean muttered. For a second, he’d forgotten that they were “dating.” Kind of. On an alternate timeline.

It was getting truly confusing, because Dean had no idea where the lines went anymore.

“But, umh,” Dean continued, “I meant, uh, in my grandparents’ closet.”

“You what now? Dean, eww!” Then she laughed. “Although, I’m not surprised. You’ve always been sexually deviant.”

“I’m not sexually deviant.”

“Keep telling yourself that.” She hummed. “When was this, anyway?”

“Um, my…um, yesterday. At my grandma’s birthday party.” Dean licked his lips.

“Oh my god,” Charlie said. “Gimme a minute. Oh dear god. Your grandma’s birthday?”

Dean didn’t see the point of repeating it, so he didn’t. There was a short silence, and then Charlie started to laugh again.

“Oh god. Out of all unsexy locations, you had to choose that. Only you, Dean.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Charlie continued to laugh, not answering. Dean huffed and patiently waited until the laughter died down.

“Not that I want any details, but what amazing feat did Cas accomplish to earn this dubious honor?”

“He, uh.” Dean smiled a bit, remembering his dad’s face. “He told my dad to go to hell with his biphobic bullshit. Not with those words, but, you know, he meant it.”

“Your dad’s still, uh—” Charlie paused, looking for a non-offensive wording, but Dean continued for her.

“An asshole who thinks my relationships with men are a form of latent teenage rebellion?” Dean said. “I mean, I can sort of see his point. Al was awful and Nick was stringing me along, so it’s not like I have a great success rate, but Cas isn’t like that. He’s different.”

“I know,” Charlie said, softly.

“My dad doesn’t, for some reason,” Dean huffed. “And my mom still thinks that I’m fifteen and need a permission from her to go out with anyone. They wouldn’t even talk to Cas properly!”

“You must really like him.”

“Duh,” Dean said. Then he caught himself. “I mean—”

“Dean, it’s okay to love someone.”

“I don’t—” He stopped, not sure what he wanted to say. “I don’t know.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Charlie said. “And, backing up a bit: your parents will come around. Your mom’s great. She just cares too much.”

“Tell me about it.”

“And your dad, well…he’ll… Okay, his opinion doesn’t matter. He won’t give you away at your wedding, but I don’t think you’d even like that.”

Dean snorted. “Yeah, no. I’d rather my mom, if anyone.”

“That’s actually pretty cute,” Charlie said.

“Yeah.”

Charlie immediately sensed his turmoil, and asked, “If not that, what’s the problem, then?”

Dean swallowed. “I’m not sure he feels the same.”

“What, really?” Charlie asked. “You’re disgusting when you’re together, he looks at you like you hung the moon, and you’re not sure?”

“Of course I’m not sure! It’s not like I can read his mind.”

“Okay, well, don’t you think you should ask him, then?” Charlie was annoyingly right, but Dean couldn’t admit it. “You should know Cas by now. You know he’s a nice guy. He won’t push you into anything.”

“I know,” Dean said. Charlie had no idea how true that was, on multiple levels. Cas had never pushed him into anything he didn’t want to.

Dean, on the other hand, had dropped to his knees and sucked Cas off before even asking whether or not Cas was cool with it. He’d seemed to be, but they hadn’t actually talked about it, and maybe Cas had just gone along with it, because he hadn’t known how to say no.

God, maybe that was why Cas had gone so silent and hadn’t talked to him afterwards. Maybe he was too busy trying to figure out how to tell Dean to go to hell and couldn’t wait for their break-up.

Dean straightened when Charlie started to talk about something else, and attempted to push it from his mind, but he couldn’t help but feel that things were coming to a sharp turning point.

 


 

If he was honest, Dean hadn’t expected Cas to show up on Wednesday. When the doorbell rang and Cas was there, holding a box of donuts, Dean could have kissed him in relief. He aborted the movement in time, and settled for a wide smile that Cas shared.

“I’ve been told that cops like donuts,” Cas said, handing Dean the box. “I realized that I’ve known you for three months, and I haven’t tested this theory yet.”

“You could’ve just asked me.”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“So, what, I’m your little science experiment?” Dean asked. He carried to box to his kitchen and opened it before he’d even set it on the counter. “Regular, glazed, chocolate, and hazelnut? Wow, you went all out.”

“Well, you are rather fun to experiment with,” Cas said, in a low tone. Dean glanced at Cas under his lashes, and there was something heavy in Cas’s look.

Dean swallowed. “Um, okay, I’ll go ahead and try some, then.”

“You do that,” Cas said, still with that odd, tense tone.

Dean took a plain donut from the box, and offered it to Cas, but he shook his head. Shrugging, Dean brought the donut to his mouth and took a bite. He coughed when he noticed Cas staring, but Cas didn’t look away. Slowly, Dean took another bite, and stared back.

Cas’s eyes never left him as he ate the donut, and Dean shivered when he noticed this. He chewed for a long time, having trouble swallowing. Cas’s eyes flicked to his lips, and stayed there, and definitely followed the movement when Dean licked the sugar away from his lips.

“You still alive after meeting my parents?” Dean asked then.

“Of course,” Cas said. “You met my family. It’s not that different.”

“Yeah,” Dean grunted. He took another bite of the donut, and Cas’s eyes tracked his lips again. “Not a very fun trip.”

“I don’t know about that. There was one particular aspect I liked very much about it,” Cas said.

Dean’s face felt hot, and it got hotter as Cas stepped closer. He put his hands on the counter, trapping Dean, and Dean shivered when Cas shot that intense look at him.

“I feel like I should return the favor.”

“Cas, stop that,” Dean said, desperation in his voice. “We’re not playing gay chicken on top of everything else.”

“But I want to,” Cas said.

Dean swallowed whatever he’d wanted to say, because that kind of answered his question about what Cas wanted, and yet, it didn’t. Dean had no idea where they stood, where this thing was or wasn’t heading, but he was a weak man, and a soft “okay” was all he could mumble.

Cas pushed him against the counter and kissed him, sloppy and hard, leaving Dean breathless. He dropped the donut to the ground when Cas pushed his leg against Dean’s crotch, and Dean hadn’t recovered from the shock of that before Cas broke off the kiss. He crouched down, unfastening Dean’s jeans with haste and pulling them down. Dean breathed heavily when Cas did the same to his boxers, and brought his hand to Dean’s cock.

“You okay?” Cas asked, eye flitting up. Dean had trouble articulating what the sight of Cas on his knees before him did to him, so he just nodded.

Cas wasted no time, guiding Dean’s cock to his mouth and slamming his hands on Dean’s hips to push him backward. And then, Cas went to town. The counter bit against Dean’s skin as he gripped it tight, but the sting of it only made it more real. Cas was good at this – he swallowed Dean down effortlessly, hollowed his cheeks just right and sucked with just the right pressure. His fingers came to press against Dean’s balls, prompting a loud moan from Dean, and encouraged by that, Cas did it again.

“Shit, shit, Cas—” Dean moaned when Cas swallowed around his cock, several times in a fast rhythm, and it became harder and harder to keep his hands on the counter. Dean gripped tighter and cursed.

Cas continued to suck as his fingers traveled further back. He pressed his fingers against Dean’s perineum, and Dean let out a shout at that. It felt too good, too intense, and as if sensing that, Cas eased up. His fingers returned to caress Dean’s balls, and his tongue slowed down to kitten-licks, leaving Dean trembling.

“Cas, please,” Dean moaned. “Christ, your mouth—Cas, please—”

Cas let Dean’s cock go with a pop that left Dean groaning. “Please, what?”

Dean was trembling, so wound up from all the tension that there was no way he could last long. “Please, just…let me come.”

Cas raised his brows at that. “You enjoy being bossed around?”

“Uh.” Dean flushed. “Shut up.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Cas grinned. He pushed Dean’s hips more intently against the counter, his fingernails scratching Dean’s hip bones, and Dean moaned at the sensation. Cas swallowed him down again, but this time, his movements were harsher, faster, more powerful. Dean felt lightheaded, as if caught in a hurricane.

When Dean felt Cas’s teeth gently scraping the underside of his cock, he lost it. With a shout, Dean came, hands painfully gripping the counter and chanting Cas’s name. Cas swallowed the come away, and suckled on Dean’s cock after that, until Dean hissed and jerked away, oversensitive. Cas let him go, and Dean panted when Cas tucked him back to his boxers and did his jeans. He gave Dean one last playful slap on the hip, and stood up.

“So, what do you think of donuts?” Cas asked.

“Uhh,” Dean said, still lightheaded. “They’re awesome.”

Cas grinned at him, and lazily, Dean grinned back.

 


 

On Friday, Dean didn’t know what to expect. He had no idea where things stood with Cas, and he probably should’ve taken Charlie’s advice and talked about it, but he didn’t. Dean had never been good at talking about emotional stuff with anyone, and had usually just assumed that they were on the same page based on their actions. Then again, that was exactly why his relationships with Al and Nick had been awful, and it wasn’t like his success with women was better; all the women he’d dated had insisted more on talking, sure, but Dean hadn’t exactly returned the favor.

He didn’t know whether to hope or fear for more sex with Cas, but nothing happened. They had salmon and potatoes – the most elaborate meal Cas had done on his own so far, and Dean was a proud teacher – and watched reruns of South Park until Cas was so drowsy that he dropped his head against Dean’s shoulder. Dean stayed still after that and continued to watch, and let Cas droop against him. He enjoyed the feeling, but he also had a nagging thought in the back of his brain that it wouldn’t last, that they should break up any day now.

Dean couldn’t stay the night with that mindset, and after coaxing Cas to move to the bedroom, he gathered his things and left. Walking home at night alone felt like a walk of shame, although for completely different reasons.

It took one measly week for Dean to break. It was the last week before his vacation, and Dean still hadn’t decided where to go and what to do with his seven days of freedom. On Friday, he had his last shift and left earlier than usual, with all of his coworkers flipping him off when he loudly declared that he was officially on holiday and no one should call him for a week. Benny threatened to invite him for a barbeque, and Dean threatened to show up with Cas. It wasn’t much of a threat for either, because Dean accepted, and Benny assured that he’d call.

Dean was already tired by the time he arrived at Cas’s, and he didn’t have much interest in cooking tonight. Cas, noticing this, promised to cook if Dean would supervise, and Dean dug up an easy recipe for curry. He mostly sat by the counter, watching Cas move around in the kitchen with much more confident strides than he ever had previously. They ate at the table again, sitting opposite from each other.

“You’re getting better,” Dean said. “This actually tastes good.”

“Why do you sound so surprised?” Cas replied. “You taught me. If I didn’t improve, I’d say the problem is with the teacher, not the student.”

“Smartass,” Dean said. Cas grinned at him, and they continued the meal in silence.

After eating, Cas loaded up the dishwasher, and Dean went to search for something to watch. He wasn’t in a mood for anything longer than a twenty minute, brainless comedy, but of course Cas had nothing else but Brooklyn Nine-Nine on his shelf, and they’d already finished it. Dean didn’t dare to touch Cas’s Netflix queue, because he had a weird taste for foreign films and documentaries with equally weird subjects.

“Find anything?” Cas asked, and when Dean shook his head, Cas slumped down on the couch and turned on the TV to a random channel.

“Channel surfing it is,” Cas decided, and sighing, Dean sat down next to him.

They watched some odd documentary for a minute before Dean got restless.

“We are not watching this,” Dean threatened.

“Why not?”

“Because I said so.”

“I have the remote, therefore, I have the power.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean asked, and although he wasn’t in a mood for full-on wrestling match, he tried to snatch the remote from Cas. Cas saw the move coming, and held it far over his head. Dean reached up, falling forward when Cas just held the remote farther.

Cas suddenly changed the direction, and Dean went with it, but he stiffened when Cas’s left hand sneaked to his chest. Dean was momentarily confused, before he noticed Cas holding out the remote in front of them. When Dean tried to lean towards it, Cas held him tightly against his chest, not letting Dean go. Dean struggled for a moment, but Cas was stronger than he’d anticipated – which was not turning Dean on, not at all – and finally, since he was tired, Dean had to admit his defeat.

“Fine!” Dean huffed. “We’ll watch your stupid bee documentary.”

Dean slumped against Cas, accepting his fate. Cas laughed against his neck, and as a consolation, gave the remote to Dean. Dean took it, but didn’t change the channel. Cas had won, fair and square, so bee documentary it was. Cas tugged him more closely against him, until Dean was resting between Cas’s legs. Cas brought both of his hands to Dean’s chest, holding Dean close, and Dean relaxed, letting his back fall against Cas’s chest. The posture was actually very nice, and for a moment, Dean could pretend that they would stay like this forever.

Dean lost himself for a moment, listening to the dull voice on the TV explaining the ins and outs of a beehive, and enjoying the warmth of Cas surrounding him. He startled when Cas’s hands shifted from his chest, slowly caressing his flanks and sliding down. Then Cas’s fingers started to worm their way under Dean’s shirt, tugging it away from his jeans, and Dean’s breath caught.

“Cas,” Dean mumbled. He turned his head to look Cas in the eye, but Cas shook his head.

“Eyes on the TV, Dean,” Cas whispered against his skin. Dean swallowed, barely bypassing the huge block in his throat, and turned his eyes back on the TV. Cas’s hands slipped under his shirt and traveled on his skin, sliding confidently across his hip bones and caressing his stomach like they’d done this a hundred times, like they routinely did this. His touch left pinpricks on Dean’s skin in its wake, and Dean shuddered as his fingers grazed Dean’s nipples.

Cas flicked his right nipple, and Dean gulped for air, suddenly not able to breathe well. Cas chuckled at the reaction, and continued to play with the nipple, flicking it with his fingertips and swirling his thumb around it.

“Eyes on the TV, Dean,” Cas reminded him, and Dean’s head snapped up. He forced himself to watch the screen, even though he couldn’t register anything he saw. The only thing on his mind was Cas’s warm hands on his body, Cas’s fingers playing him like an instrument.

Cas moved on to his left nipple, gently twisting it, and Dean’s breath hitched. He kept playing with Dean’s nipples as he slid his right hand down, until he reached the edge of Dean’s jeans. Dean felt his cock twitch when Cas opened the button and unzipped him, and then groaned loudly when Cas slipped his hand inside the boxers and took a hold of Dean’s half-hard cock.

“Cas,” Dean moaned. Cas shook his head and wrapped his hand firmly around Dean’s cock, giving it a few slow pumps.

“Pretend I’m not here.”

“I don’t want to,” Dean whispered. “I want you here.”

Cas inhaled sharply. “You do?”

“Want you,” Dean said. His hips moved on their own, and Dean groaned when he felt precome surge from his cock, making it easier to move into Cas’s hand. Cas thumbed the head of his cock, spreading precome around, and then jacked Dean in slow, firm movements.

“Cas,” Dean sighed. “C’mon.”

“What do you need, Dean?” Cas asked.

“Just you,” Dean said, his throat clicking as he swallowed.

Cas kissed his neck. “You have me.”

His hand started to move on Dean’s cock again, and Dean couldn’t have stopped his hips from moving into it even if he tried. Cas gently dipped his thumb in the slit, and Dean felt heat rushing through him. He panted, hips moving on their own accord, and Cas’s hand started to move faster.

But it wasn’t enough. They weren’t close enough, and Dean didn’t want to come like this, not so soon and not when they weren’t close enough.

“Stop, stop,” Dean said, and Cas immediately let go of his cock.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just…” Dean turned around and slammed his lips on Cas, needing him like air. Cas gave a surprised moan at the kiss, but brought his hands to Dean’s back and kissed him back.

The kiss grew hungry and impatient, more sloppy as they went on. Dean ground against Cas, moaning when Cas ground back. His hands moved restlessly on Cas’s back and Cas answered it with equally firm movements, as if he couldn’t get enough of Dean. That thought made Dean moan again, and Cas swallowed the sound with another kiss, burrowing impossibly closer.

Dean was breathing harshly when they broke the kiss, and Cas wasn’t much better. They stared at each other with blown eyes, until Dean rushed out, “Take this to the bedroom?”

“Okay,” Cas said. His lips were swollen and pink, and Dean couldn’t help but plant another kiss on them before they stood up.

Surprising even himself, Dean managed to not stop and draw Cas into another kiss on their way to the bedroom, but that might’ve been because it took them five steps from the couch to the bedroom. As soon as they were inside, Cas turned and pulled Dean into his arms, kissing him hard and heavy again. Dean got lost in it, kissing Cas again and again and not letting him get more than an inch away when they broke for air.

“Cas,” Dean said, panting the name against his skin. Cas pressed tiny little kisses on his jaw, painting his skin with warmth. “Cas, c’mon.”

Dean pushed Cas into the direction of the bed, still kissing him. Cas grinned into the kiss and pushed right back, twirling them around so that Dean’s back was towards the bed. Dean let out an embarrassing, wanton sound when Cas accidentally pushed him a little too hard and he fell on the bed. Cas raised his eyebrows at that, and before he could stop himself, Dean spread his legs in invitation. Cas crawled over him, an amused smile on his face.

“You like manhandling?”

“Who doesn’t like a little manhandling?” Dean asked. The end of his sentence turned into a moan when Cas pushed their hips together, and the rough texture of his jeans brushed against Dean’s cock.

“Hmm,” Castiel said, eyes so intently on Dean that he was clearly cataloguing Dean’s reactions and keeping track on what was well received and what wasn’t.

Cas ripped off Dean’s jeans and boxers, and went on to remove his shirt before Dean had properly processed the change. Dean held up his hands and Cas tugged the shirt off.

“Dean,” he said, and Dean swallowed hard when he saw the way Cas’s eyes were trained on him – cataloguing, memorizing, admiring. It was too much to bear, and Dean reached for Cas’s shirt to distract him.

“You too,” he said, pulling off Cas’s t-shirt. Cas let him, but stood up to remove his jeans and boxers, and then his socks. Dean watched Cas, until he remembered that he was still wearing socks as well, and that was a boner-killer if anything. He quickly removed them, and just as he had done that, Cas crawled over him and toppled them over. Cas took a hold of his arms and slammed them down. Dean gasped, not having expected that, but it was welcome surprise. His cock twitched at the rough treatment, and Dean laughed in surprise.

“Christ, Cas, you can throw me around any day.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Cas breathed. He attacked Dean’s nipples again, with his tongue this time, and Dean writhed as he swirled his tongue around and gently tugged on them with his teeth. Slowly, Cas started to kiss his way downward, pausing to dip his tongue into Dean’s belly button. That made Dean twitch and laugh, and Cas chuckled a “sorry” at that, before moving on.

Cas mouthed at his cock, teasing Dean with slow licks until Dean squirmed, and then taking him into his mouth. Cas’s tongue was truly sinful, bringing Dean closer and closer to the edge. Only after a few moments Dean started to pant and tremble, and he writhed to get Cas’s attention.

“Cas, Cas, fuck, not that I’m not enjoying this, but—”

Cas pulled away immediately and asked, “What do you need?”

Dean smiled at him. “You got lube and condoms?”

Cas’s pupils noticeably dilated. “You mean—you want to—”

“If, if you want—”

Cas bent over to kiss him hard. “Don’t ask stupid questions. Of course.”

Dean gripped his cock at the base to stave off his orgasm while Cas rummaged in the bedside drawer – he definitely didn’t want to come before they made it to the main event. Cas dropped the foil packet on the bed and flicked open the bottle of lube.

“Top or bottom?”

“I didn’t think I was that subtle, Cas,” Dean said. “But just in case, I’d really like you to fuck me right now.”

Cas visibly shuddered at the words, and with haste, squirted lube on his fingers. Dean took a pillow and pushed it under his hips, and put his legs around Cas’s waist. Cas’s fingers came to circle his rim, not pushing in, but the touch felt good. Dean relaxed at it, and Cas pushed his fingers more insistently, dipping a fingertip inside. Dean groaned at the feeling – it had been a long time since he’d done this with a partner, and he’d missed it.

“You’re sure?” Cas asked, gently dipping his finger inside again.

“What part of ‘I’d really like you to fuck me’ didn’t you get?” Dean snapped. “C’mon, Cas. You were doing fine before.”

Cas raised his brows, and then pushed Dean’s legs further apart with his body and pushed a finger in. Dean cursed, momentarily tightening around Cas’s finger, and then relaxing again. Cas pushed his finger in and out in a languid rhythm, until Dean felt comfortable with the rhythm. Then, unexpectedly, Cas crooked his finger, and Dean wailed when it hit his prostate. He jolted when Cas did it again, and then again and again.

“Dean,” Cas mumbled. He sounded reverent, watching Dean with huge eyes and lips parted. Dean panted when Cas added another finger, but the stretch didn’t even burn. Cas’s fingers hit his prostate again, and Dean arched his back when the warm feeling spread throughout his body.

“Dean,” Cas breathed again. He was fully hard, and by some miracle, had resisted the urge to touch himself, but Dean couldn’t wait. He let Cas push his fingers in and out a few more times, before he stopped Cas.

“Okay, okay, I’m ready,” Dean said. “Get in me.”

“Hands and knees?” Cas suggested, and Dean had to close his eyes and think of dead puppies and dog crap, because he might’ve come otherwise.

“Fuck, yes.”

Dean scrambled to turn around, Cas’s fingers popping out of him but his hands never leaving Dean’s skin, except for the brief moment when Cas fumbled the condom on. Slowly, Cas spread his cheeks and positioned himself, his cockhead nudging Dean’s entrance a few times before he finally pushed in.

Dean relaxed as Cas pushed into him, hands smoothing his sides all the while. Dean dropped his head to the mattress when he felt Cas’s hips against him, fully inside. The feeling of being so full was glorious, and Dean had no illusions that this would last long. He wouldn’t need much to come, and they’d both been on edge for a while now.

Cas’s grip on Dean’s sides tightened, and the harsh press of his nails would leave imprints on Dean’s skin for a while. Dean groaned, rocking back, and that spurred Cas into action. He started to rock forward, rhythm slow at first and then speeding up, until he was pushing into Dean at a punishing speed. Dean buried his face in the sheets and cried out, overwhelmed as Cas continued to brush against his prostate.

Cas wasn’t in a much better condition, and his rhythm started to falter. “Dean, oh god, Dean—”

“Yeah, just, c’mon, Cas—”

Cas picked up the pace again, and Dean let out a muffled shout when his hand closed around Dean’s cock. Cas kept rocking into him and pumping his hand on Dean’s cock, and it built up to a crescendo of motion and sounds.

“Cas, yeah, c’mon, I’m about to—”

And then Cas twisted his wrist in an absolutely sinful motion, and Dean rushed over the edge. He howled Cas’s name as the world stilled for a moment, coming in long spurts on the bed. Cas’s hand didn’t stop moving, pumping him until there wasn’t a drop left. Without Cas’s hand on his hip, Dean would have collapsed on the bed, and he panted into the sheets as he tried to regain his breath.

“You’re a screamer,” Cas noted, slowing down his rhythm.

“Nggh,” Dean muttered. He didn’t have enough brain cells left to form a snappy reply.

Cas thrust into him slowly, but when Dean pushed back in invitation, his pace quickened. Cas was mostly silent, letting out just occasional gasps and little moans, and Dean might’ve just loved listening to them. It didn’t take much until Cas’s rhythm faltered and his breath hitched, and he let out a string of curses.

“Fuck, fuck, Dean—”

Then, with a series of powerful thrusts, Cas came, letting out that same short moan that he’d done back when Dean had sucked him off. Dean smiled at the sound and closed his eyes, teetering on the edge of sleep and consciousness. When Cas pulled away from him, he fell on the bed, right on the wet spot. Grimacing, Dean turned on to his side.

He heard Cas take off the condom, tie it and throw it away, and then there was a rustle as Cas climbed back to the bed. Dean opened his eyes when he felt Cas’s hands roam around the bed, and saw that Cas was trying to tidy up the bed using his t-shirt. Satisfied, Cas threw it away, and settled down next to Dean. He lifted the covers, and they sleepily crawled under them. Dean instantly rolled towards Cas, and Cas threw a hand over him, clutching him close.

“Stay?” Cas mumbled, sleepy, and there was no way Dean would have said no to that.

“Yeah,” he whispered back. He pressed a quick kiss on Cas’s nose and watched his eyelids droop. “Yeah, of course.”

Chapter Text

When Dean woke up due to the upstairs neighbor stomping around like every Saturday, he almost laughed. He’d gotten so used to it, staying over at Cas’s place so often, that he didn’t even get upset about the noise anymore. It was part of the life here, an unchanging detail that he could count on.

They had shifted during the night so that Cas had drawn up his knees, as usual, and Dean had turned on his stomach. Cas’s hand was still thrown over Dean’s back, and Dean was facing Cas. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was the absolute mess of Cas’s hair and how peaceful he looked when he slept.

Dean watched Cas’s chest rise and fall for a long time, just as he watched how his eyelids fluttered and how his lashes folded against his skin. Dean had no idea how long this would last, so he tried to make the most of it. It wasn’t a guarantee that Cas didn’t still want to proceed with their scheme and break up, but for a moment, Dean could delude himself into thinking that Cas wanted this for real.

A long time passed until Cas shifted, and taking the chance, Dean brushed the bangs from Cas’s forehead. Cas grumbled something, but was clearly closer to consciousness than before.

“Good morning,” Dean said.

Apparently, sex was the one cure to Cas’s grumpy mindset in the mornings. He cracked his eyes open lazily, and seeing Dean, he smiled. “Morning, sunshine.”

“What does that make you, moonshine?”

“Sun and moon,” Cas mumbled. “Fitting.”

Dean closed the distance between them, and kissed Cas. He probably tasted awful due to morning breath and not having brushed his teeth last night, but Cas didn’t notice that. He answered the kiss without hesitation, rolling over Dean and fitting their bodies perfectly together. Dean flicked his tongue against Cas’s lips, and taking the invitation, Cas opened his mouth and deepened the kiss. Dean had been half-hard ever since he woke up, but feeling Cas slide against him ignited fire in his veins again, and he arched his hips against Cas’s. Cas moaned into the kiss, and his hips started roll against Dean’s more insistently, their cocks sliding together.

“This is nice,” Cas said against his lips, and Dean grinned into the kiss.

“Great way to wake up, huh?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Wanna fuck me again?” Dean asked, waggling his eyebrows. Cas snorted at the ridiculous expression.

“I have something else we could try.”

“It’s pretty early to break out the paddles and whips, but okay,” Dean said, half-joking.

Cas gave him a curious look, but didn’t comment as he slipped out of the bed. He went to the closet in the corner that held most of his clothing as well as some of Dean’s – what, Dean was forgetful and Cas had a better laundry machine – and crouched to take out something from the very back of the closet. He came back to the bed, carrying a small box.

“May I try this on you?”

“A butt plug?” Dean perked up. The box was unopened, and Dean needed to break the seal in order to open it. The plug was about the same size than the one Dean owned, slightly bigger, and felt smoother in his hands. Dean tested the weight and feel of it and decided that he definitely wanted to try this. Just the thought of Cas inserting the toy in him made him tingle all over.

“Why, Cas, you kinky bastard,” Dean said. He grinned at Cas, but Cas’s face shut down.

“I’ve been told I can be…intense,” he said, sheepishly. “Sorry. I don’t want to presume—”

“What, no, Cas, you got me wrong. I’m totally on board with this.” He didn’t add that he had a few toys that he regularly used, but thought to himself that maybe he could show Cas the collection some day.

“Oh?”

“Gotta ask, though: you have an unused butt plug in your closet, just lying around?” Dean said. “Why?”

“Because I haven’t gotten around to test it?” Cas asked, clearly not seeing the problem.

“Didn’t you ever wanna try it? You know, when it first arrived?”

“I uh, haven’t had much of…an interest, lately.”

“Oh.” Dean felt his cheeks turn pink. “Sorry, I forgot. Crazy ex, depression, not very sexy.”

“Also, I prefer a living, breathing partner,” Cas said. “Both for myself and using this.”

“Damn, Cas.” Dean grinned. “In that case, what’re you waiting for?”

Dean spread his legs, watching as Cas’s breath hitched at the sight. He swallowed, and Dean followed the bob of his Adam’s apple.

“Come on, try it on me.”

Cas pounced on him and kissed him breathless, and Dean dropped the plug on the bed when he got lost in the sensation. Cas fished the bottle of lube from somewhere – ridiculous as it was, it had probably been under Cas’s pillow the whole night – and got up to his knees, just watching Dean for a moment.

Dean playfully wrapped his legs around Cas’s waist and tugged, and Cas smiled at him as he opened the bottle of lube and spread some on his fingers. He shuffled backwards, and Dean took a hold of his knees and held them up, granting Cas easier access.

Dean was still loose from last night, but Cas was careful with his touches anyway. He started by dipping his thumb in, just massaging the rim. When his finger easily slipped in right away, Cas added another. When Dean clenched around Cas’s fingers, Cas crouched to press tiny kisses to Dean’s thighs, distracting him. The tightness slowly disappeared and was replaced by a wave of good washing over him. Dean rocked back on Cas’s fingers, gasping when they brushed over his prostate.

“C’mon, Cas,” Dean said, “I’m ready. Put it in.”

Cas wouldn’t hear of it. He continued to finger Dean, adding a third, and Dean twitched when the burn of it melted into pleasure. Cas watched Dean, silent, his lips curling into a half-smirk when Dean let out a particularly loud moan or gasp.

Just when Dean had enough of the slow pace and was ready to snatch the plug and put in inside himself, Cas finally retracted his fingers. He picked up the plug, showed it to Dean and when Dean eagerly nodded, he smiled.

“Just tell me if it’s too much,” Cas said. Dean nodded, and his breath heaved when he watched Cas coat the plug with lube. Cas added more lube to his fingers and pushed them in one last time, probing around, and when he was satisfied, he withdrew them. He positioned the plug and started to push it in, and Dean tried to get his breathing under control.

Cas smoothed his palms along Dean’s thighs when the plug was completely inside. Dean clenched around it, and then relaxed. The plug was bigger than he was used to, but not too big to hurt – just enough to put him on edge and leave him panting. It wouldn’t take much for him to come, just Cas’s hand on his cock would do.

“You look incredible,” Cas mumbled. His hands moved on to roam on Dean’s flanks, and Dean grinned at him, enjoying the attention. Cas drew his left hand away but his right remained, playfully flicking a nipple.

Suddenly, the plug came to life, and Dean yelped when it moved against his prostate. His hands left his knees and he slammed them on the bed, gasping for air. Cas lifted his left hand to show a small remote control in his hand, and Dean cursed when the plug relentlessly teased him.

“It—it vibrates?”

“You saw the box,” Cas said, with a wicked grin.

“I didn’t have time to read it!” Dean said. His protests turned into a moan, and Dean jolted when Cas turned up the setting. His legs wrapped around Cas’s torso, and Dean jerked when another wave of heat coursed through him.

“Shit, shit, Cas, not gonna last long—”

Cas turned the vibrations down, and Dean gulped air greedily, trying to catch his breath. The plug was still vibrating, but now it was a gentle massage as opposed to a constant onslaught on his prostate. Dean twisted and writhed, and sweat broke out when he noticed how intensely Cas was staring at him.

“Think you can stay in that position for a while?” Cas asked.

“What, on my back?” Dean blinked. “Yeah, s—”

“While I ride you.”

“Jesus, Cas,” Dean panted. He arched his back when the vibrations turned momentarily up, and then let out a whimper when they lessened again.

“Evil bastard,” Dean said, and cursed when Cas just laughed at him.

“So, Dean, what’s the verdict?”

“Yeah, yeah, I can stay still,” Dean groaned. His hands went for the plug – not really sure whether to push it in or draw it out, but Cas decided that for him. Cas grabbed his wrist and tugged his hand away.

“Keep it in.”

“Fucking Christ,” Dean mumbled. “Yeah, okay, just…hurry up.”

“Patience, sweetheart,” Cas said, with that half-grin again. Dean struggled to keep still and buried his hands in the sheets, but luckily, Cas didn’t waste time. He opened the bottle of lube and quickly spread some on his fingers, before reaching behind himself and pushing a finger in. Dean watched as he opened himself up, hands shaking in the sheets and sweat gathering on his forehead just from the effort of trying not to lunge forward and pull Cas over him.

If Dean thought that Cas would be distracted while fingering himself open, he’d been mistaken. Just when Dean had relaxed enough, Cas flicked the plug on a higher setting, and Dean shouted when the force of it hit him. He clasped at the sheets and had a hard time focusing on anything else but how full he felt, how good it felt. He closed his eyes, unable to concentrate on watching Cas finger himself.

Then the plug slowed down, and Dean took a few deep breaths. Cas rolled a condom on Dean and ran his hand over his length, spreading lube over it. Dean jolted when Cas touched him and just barely stopped his orgasm, because that would’ve been embarrassing. Cas climbed over him, and thank god he didn’t need help guiding Dean’s cock to his hole, because it took all of Dean’s concentration trying not to come too soon.

“Fuck, Dean,” Cas panted when he was fully seated. Dean wasn’t sure what he answered, but it might’ve included a dozen curse words. Cas felt tight and hot around him, and the plug inside him kept him full – it was almost too much.

The plug whirred to life again, this time on a harder setting than before, and Dean choked on a breath. Cas’s hands landed on his chest, keeping him down, and even if he hadn’t thought it was possible, Dean got even more turned on at that display of power. Cas started to move, and it wasn’t slow; he slammed down on Dean and rolled his hips, his thighs working at a remarkable speed. The air felt humid, filled with their heavy breaths and gasps, and Dean felt his impending orgasm rushing towards him.

“Cas, I can’t, I can’t hold on—”

“It’s okay, Dean,” Cas panted. “You can come, come on.”

Hearing the permission was the last push over the edge that Dean had needed, and with a loud “Cas!” he came. It was powerful enough that Dean was lost in the darkness for a while. The plug was mercifully shut off before Dean became oversensitive, already floating in enough endorphins. He came back to reality when he felt Cas slip free from him, and when he opened his eyes, Cas was jerking off with harsh movements above him, eyes trained on Dean’s face as if he didn’t want to miss a single detail.

Jesus Christ, sex with this man might just kill Dean someday.

“Let me,” Dean murmured. He reached for Cas’s cock and pushed Cas’s hand away. Cas cursed when Dean wrapped his hand around him, and it only took a few short pumps before Cas gasped and came over Dean’s hand. Some of his come seeped on Dean’s stomach, and if he’d been younger, Dean would have gotten hard at that again.

Cas breathed heavily, catching his breath for a minute. Dean was too tired to do anything but watch as Cas removed the condom from Dean and tied it off, gently removed the plug, and then cleaned them up the best he could with the same t-shirt he’d used last night. That done, Cas fell back to the bed and threw a hand over Dean, already half-asleep. Dean weakly pulled the covers over them, and then slipped into sleep.

Dean napped for a while, jerking awake periodically and falling right back asleep when he felt Cas’s hand on his chest. When he woke up an hour later, it was because Cas had turned to his side, facing away from Dean. The sleep had cleared his head somewhat, and when Dean hopped to the bathroom to take a piss and clean up, all good feelings seemed to evaporate.

What if Cas had wanted this to be a one-time thing, just before they broke up? They hadn’t been clear on that, and since Cas hadn’t mentioned anything, Dean assumed that the plan hadn’t changed.

But then again, Cas had asked him to stay the night…

Which Dean periodically did. It wasn’t different from any other Friday night, and just because they’d slept together didn’t change that. Why would he want anything long-term with Dean, anyway? Cas knew his track record. Dean wasn’t good at relationships, and he’d told Cas that.

But then again, Cas had comforted Dean and said that it wasn’t his fault…

Thinking about it only made Dean feel worse, and confused. He needed to get out of here, clear his head properly and think this through.

Dean slipped back into the bedroom and got dressed before Cas stirred. He was pulling on his socks when he saw Cas’s eyelids flutter. Dean sneaked closer to the bed and waited until Cas opened his eyes. Cas’s hair was mussed again, and Dean couldn’t help but brush that one insistent little curl off of Cas’s forehead.

“I need to go home and change,” Dean said.

“Okay.” Cas leaned up and kissed him goodbye, and Dean clung to that, even if he still felt unsure inside. “I’ll see you later?”

“See you later,” Dean promised.

He didn’t go back to Cas’s that night. He went home, and the second he got back to his own apartment, every doubt that he’d ever had filled his mind. The farther away he was from Cas, the worse he felt, and difficulties that had felt small now seemed overwhelmingly huge. Inside his own apartment, the world suddenly seemed bleaker and he had no idea what to think of the situation, so he simply didn’t. Dean pushed the whole thing from his mind and watched cartoons on his laptop for the whole day, ignoring the sting in his chest.

 


 

Charlie had arranged for another board game night that Sunday, and there was no way Dean would have missed that, even with the messy situation he and Cas had. She had been planning it for a few weeks, double-checking that everyone could come, and Dean didn’t have the heart to call her and cancel.

Although they hadn’t made any plans and hadn’t talked since yesterday, Dean went to pick up Cas around three, and Cas was already waiting in the lobby. He opened the car door and slid in like he’d done it a thousand times, and kissed Dean on the cheek as a hello.

Dean leaned away, confused, but Cas didn’t seem to notice this.

“Ready for some Carcassonne?” Cas asked.

Dean huffed. “If I could, I’d ban that game from these game nights forever, but Charlie wouldn’t speak to me after that, so.”

“She’ll find something new in a month.”

Dean nodded, and started the car to cover up his awkwardness. He didn’t really know how to act around Cas, and because his first instinct was to deny anything was wrong, he did just that, and drove on.

Dean and Cas were the first ones to arrive to Charlie’s condo. Sam and Jess were always late, but even Jo wasn’t there yet, and that was very rare.

“Where’s Jo?” Cas asked, just as confused.

“I sent her to do some last-minute shopping,” Charlie said. “We didn’t really plan out the menu, so we had to improvise.”

“You sent Jo out shopping?” Dean raised his brows. “You had the audacity to boss her around?”

“I might have promised her something in return,” Charlie winked. She led them to the living room and ushered them to sit down. There was an alarming pile of games on the coffee table, and Dean tried to sit down on the couch without jostling anything, because the pile looked like it would topple over from the slightest movement.

“Can’t tell if that’s gross or sexy,” Dean said.

“Sexy, of course.”

“Okay, now it’s gross.”

“Dean Winchester, don’t try to act like a prude, it does not suit you,” Charlie scolded him.

“He’s a lot shier than he lets on,” Cas said. His fingers suddenly touched Dean’s jaw, guiding it upwards until their eyes met, and then Cas kissed him on the mouth. It was such a tender kiss that Dean had to break it off and duck his head, embarrassed.

“Aww, you guys are so cute.”

Dean felt awkward, sitting so close to Cas and yet feeling like an entire continent removed from him.

“We don’t need our own cheerleading team, thanks,” Dean grunted.

“I used to date a cheerleader in high school, actually,” Charlie said, a dreamy look on her face. “Some of the things she taught me still stick with me.”

“No, thanks,” Dean repeated. “Besides, you’ve been crashing on our relationship enough.”

“Who, me? I’d never do that!” Charlie said.

“Actually, now that we’re talking about this…yes, you did. You spied on us on our first and third date,” Castiel reminded. “And got Sam and Jess to chaperone our fourth.”

Dean lamely gestured at Cas. “What he said.”

Charlie sighed. “Fine, I see your point. I’m sorry that we did that. It was excessive and invasive, yes, and I apologize. We just really, really, really wanted you to meet, and you were so stubborn that you wouldn’t take the hint, so we needed to, well, chaperone. A bit. Just a little. Just to see that you’d actually go on a date.”

“‘Wouldn’t take the hint?’” Dean repeated. “How many times did you try to set us up?”

“Just a couple,” Charlie said, but seeing Cas’s stormy face, she instantly gave up. “Fine, a few times. Seven, eight, nine? I’ve lost count. You know how many times I’ve invited you to the same LARPs and at the last minute, one of you cancels? The answer is a lot.”

That definitely explained the times Charlie had sounded crushed when Dean couldn’t make it to her events. He’d always been busy with work, and now he wondered how much sooner he’d have met Cas if he’d been able to say “no” for once to his boss.

“And you know what? One time, you both actually were there, and didn’t even speak to each other! You’re annoyingly good at unwittingly avoiding each other.”

“So you decided to trick us?” Cas asked.

“I wouldn’t call it tricking. Just…making sure you’d be at the same space at the same time and would actually talk to each other.”

“You put Garth in on our case!” Dean said.

“What? You happened to go to his coffee shop and didn’t think that he’d let me know the second you were there?”

“I didn’t know he owned that,” Cas frowned.

“Garth owns Mr. Fizzles?” Dean asked.

“He named it after his childhood imaginary friend,” Charlie said.

“Typical,” Dean muttered.

“But then you fell disgustingly in love, so I’d say ends justify the means, right?” Charlie smiled widely, like she’d just averted the apocalypse all by herself.

“Uh,” Dean said, and Cas rushed to cover for him.

“Absolutely. Yes. Isn’t that right, sweetheart?”

“Um. Yeah, dewdrop.”

“See, you guys really are disgusting,” Charlie said. “I’m gonna go grab a Coke and when I get back, that can better contain more sugar than you two.”

“No promises!” Dean hollered after her.

“That went well,” Cas said.

Dean startled when he felt Cas’s fingers touch his jaw again, and when Cas leaned closer, Dean scrambled backwards.

“Cas, you don’t need to do that.”

“Do what?”

Dean cast his eyes on the ground. “Charlie’s not here, you can drop the act.”

Cas dropped his hand. The small smile he’d been wearing disappeared and was replaced by an emotionless mask. Dean had a dreadful feeling that things were about to go sideways.

“What…what do you mean?” Cas asked, his voice small.

“Our break-up is nearing, isn’t it?” It came out bitterer than Dean intended, but he didn’t bother to correct it.

Cas looked away. “Break-up?”

“It’s the end of August. Didn’t we agree on that?”

“Oh.” Cas straightened up, a steely look on his eyes. “Yes, we did.”

“Yeah.”

Cas wasn’t denying it. Cas wasn’t saying anything to the contrary, so the little voice nagging in Dean’s had been right, after all. They would break up, and everything Dean had thought they had would be lost.

Then Cas surprised Dean completely by standing up and glaring at Dean.

“This is stupid,” Castiel huffed. Dean stared as he left the room, stomping as he went. Charlie came out of the kitchen just in time to see Cas go to the foyer, and she stopped, confused.

Dean stood up and rushed to the foyer, but Cas was already opening the front door.

“Cas! Wait up! Where you going?”

“I need a minute,” Cas said. He stepped outside and closed the door, and all Dean could do was to stand and stare after Cas.

His heart ached.

Charlie came to stand by him and nudged Dean when he didn’t react to her presence. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” Dean said. Though, maybe that had been the problem. Maybe he hadn’t been clear enough, and maybe he could’ve done something more to prove to Cas that they had something worth protecting.

Charlie stared at him, and although she was a foot shorter than he was, he still felt smaller. “What did you do, Winchester?”

Dean was silent for a moment. “Not enough, I guess.”

“Okay,” Charlie said, “Cryptic and introspective it is. Okay, so, can you fix it?”

All he had to do was just let go of his fears and actually talk to Cas. Cas had already proven, time and time again, that he wasn’t like anyone else Dean had ever dated – he wouldn’t deliberately hurt Dean or misuse his trust.

Shit, Dean was an idiot and Cas was an even bigger idiot if he wanted to stay with Dean after all this, but Dean wouldn’t know that without asking.

“I think I can,” Dean finally said.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Charlie asked. “Go after him! Chase after him, like this is your romantic comedy ending!”

“It’s really not,” Dean said. “No one would be stupid enough to write a rom-com about my life.”

“Okay, well, he’s getting away, so…”

“I’m going, I’m going!”

The elevator trip down felt like torture, and Dean bounced on his heels the whole time. When he reached the hallway, he ran outside, pondering for a split second which way Cas would’ve gone, before seeing Cas loiter on the other side of the street. He was talking to a homeless man, crouching down to the man’s level. Cas was giving all of his focus to the man, even if it seemed that the man had trouble talking. He patiently waited for the man to finish his sentence before taking out his wallet and giving the man a wad of bills.

Goddamn, but Dean loved him.

When Cas straightened up and turned away from the homeless man, about to walk away, Dean broke into a run. He broke a few traffic laws in his haste to cross the street, but fortunately, no one got hurt.

“Cas! Please!” Dean yelled, trying to get Cas to stop.

Cas turned around. “What?”

“Don’t run away from me!” Dean caught up with him and stopped, catching his breath.

“Dean, I was never going to run away,” Cas said. “I just needed a minute.”

“Oh.” Dean scratched his neck. “Um. Want to go home and talk?”

Cas regarded him in that intense way that never failed to make shivers travel down Dean’s spine. “That would be for the best.”

Cas called to let Charlie know that they wouldn’t be making it after all, but she didn’t sound too upset about it. Dean felt guilty that they were ditching her game night, seeing as she’d planned it for weeks now, and he made a mental note to make it up to Charlie. Buying a new board game would be a good start, or maybe that Hermione figurine she’d had her eye on forever.

Dean drove to Cas’s apartment complex out of habit, and only realized this when he’d already put the car in park. Cas didn’t question the choice, and since Dean didn’t have any reason to protest, he followed Cas out of the car. They walked up to the fifth floor – by now, Dean had learned not to even try to suggest using the elevator to Cas – and remained silent until they were inside Cas’s apartment. Stalling, Dean kicked off his shoes and then spent a minute neatly arranging them.

Cas was standing in the middle of the living room, watching the bookshelf, when Dean finally emerged. Dean stopped at a good distance, not sure should he sit or stand. Cas didn’t move, so Dean didn’t either.

“So, um,” Dean said.

“We should talk.” Dean blanched, and Cas rushed to add, “It’s not a bad thing.”

“Jesus, Cas, don’t… No one ever says those words unless they want to break up!”

“Why would you get the idea—I don’t want to break up,” Cas said. He stared at Dean with big, round eyes, and Dean was certain he was looking back just as owlishly. “I want to date you. Be in a proper relationship.”

“But you—” Dean shut up. He had no arguments to the contrary. “You…you mean that?”

“Of course I do.”

“You…really?”

“Why are you so surprised?” Cas asked.

“I dunno,” Dean muttered. “We didn’t talk about it, so I just assumed you’d…want to…break up. Follow the plan.”

“Dean, that is exactly why I wanted to talk in the first place.”

“Oh.” That made much more sense. “But you never said anything.”

“I um,” Cas looked at the ground, “I guess I…I just assumed that you wouldn’t want to break up, based on, well, everything. I hoped that we were on the same page, but…”

Dean stared at him for a moment. “Well, you were right. This was a pointless and stupid detour, and we’re idiots for taking it.”

Cas gave a little grin, still looking at the ground. “If we continue this, maybe ‘talking about things that matter’ could be a house rule?”

“Sammy would be over the moon,” Dean muttered. “He’s been telling me to talk about my emotions and crap for two decades.”

Cas didn’t say anything, waiting for Dean’s answer.

“I would, with you,” Dean finally said. “If that’s okay.”

“Of course it is,” Cas said, like Dean was particularly slow.

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

There was a moment when Dean didn’t know what to do, because despite all of his expectations, the situation had turned out to be not complicated at all. Now that it was resolved, Dean felt weightless, that he could do anything.

“So, we’re…in a real relationship now?” Dean asked.

“If you want to.”

“I want to,” Dean said. His voice wavered, and he repeated, “I want to.”

They stared at each other, as if seeing the other for the first time. Then something snapped in Dean’s head, and he did what he’d wanted to do for a very long time. He strolled over to Cas and grabbed Cas by the collar, pulling him into a kiss. Cas went willingly, his hands coming to cradle Dean’s head. They stumbled backwards until they could fall on the couch, Dean falling on his back and pulling Cas with him.

Dean’s hands flew to Cas’s backside, pulling him closer and roaming at the expanse of his back, and Cas answered it by smoothing his hands on Dean’s neck and shoulders. Despite it being uncoordinated and messy, it might’ve been the best kiss they’d ever shared. Dean couldn’t get enough of Cas’s hands and lips on him, and he burrowed closer every time Cas tried to pull back.

They kissed for a long time, just enjoying the closeness and the immense relief that came with the knowledge that it didn’t have to end, that there was no deadline to break it off. They could just stay in the moment, as long as they liked.

When the kisses finally tapered off, they didn’t leave the couch. Instead, they corrected their postures and relaxed against each other, with Cas’s head on Dean’s chest and Dean’s fingers mussing up Cas’s hair.

“The best part is, we don’t even have to tell anyone,” Castiel said then.

“That’s…” Dean hadn’t even realized what a relief that was, actually. He didn’t have to come out to his friends and family anymore. Dean swallowed his words, and started again. “You’re right. Everyone knows already.”

“And we’ve met each other’s friends.”

“We have the same friends, dummy,” Dean snorted. “At least we don’t have to do the awkward ‘meet the parents’ now.”

“You’ve already met my parents.”

“And you’ve met mine.”

“You got my aunt Amara’s blessing,” Castiel said, and Dean shuddered.

“She’s creepy. Please never leave me alone with her. She was eyeing me like I was a platter of meat.”

“Noted,” Cas said. “If you never leave me alone with your dad. If I had a heart attack, I don’t think he’d call for help.”

“Agreed,” Dean said. “Maybe he’ll suck it up one day. I mean, not in the immediate future, or next year, or the one after that, but—”

“One day,” Cas said.

“The wedding’s going to be a nightmare, won’t it?” Dean asked, making Cas chuckle. “Can you imagine planning the seating? ‘Hey, aunt Naomi, want to sit next to my grandpa, so you can bond by cursing your disappointing relatives?’”

“Already planning the wedding?” Cas teased him. “Shouldn’t I propose to you first?”

“Who says you’d be the one to propose?”

“If I remember correctly, your ideal proposal was at a candlelit dinner after a movie.”

“How’d you—” Dean breathed. “Yeah. Okay. You know, I’d say yes, if you asked me right now.”

“Which is why I won’t,” Cas said. “Maybe later.”

“Maybe later,” Dean agreed. Then he chuckled. “We really failed in our scheme, didn’t we?”

Cas turned in his arms to face Dean. He crawled up to press a kiss on Dean’s nose.

“Spectacularly,” Cas grinned. Dean grinned back.

“I think we can summarize our relationship as ‘whoops,’” Dean noted.

“Or ‘failed step one.’”

“‘Mission: Impossible.’”

“‘Doomed from the start?’”

“Okay, that’s reaching.”

Cas stopped to consider this. “Yeah, that doesn’t have as good ring as others.”

The frown on Cas’s face was too cute for Dean to resist, and he leaned up to kiss Cas. Cas smiled into the kiss, his hands coming to cradle Dean’s head again. Dean pulled Cas closer, and just enjoying the feeling of being granted all of this.

“In hindsight, I guess our plan really was doomed from the start,” Dean said when they pulled apart.

“Well,” Cas said, “We may have been slightly overconfident in our acting abilities.”

“Just a little.”

“And we may have underestimated how much…cheese our friends can take.”

“You think we’re cheesy?” Dean pursed his lips, mock-hurt. “How can you even say that, honeybunny?”

“I’m sorry, cuddlemuffin.”

Dean grinned. “We’re stuck to using these ridiculous names now, aren’t we?”

“Well, it would be odd to others if we suddenly stopped,” Cas said. “What do you think, babe?”

Dean paused. “I actually like that one.”

“Huh.” Cas nodded. “Noted.”

“Don’t overuse your privileges,” Dean said.

“Of course not,” Cas said, but his tone suggested that he absolutely would. He’d probably spent every possible moment calling Dean the cheesiest pet names of all. Dean wouldn’t be surprised if Cas had a checklist at this point.

“So, uh, when do you suppose we had our first real date?” Dean asked.

“Well, um,” Castiel said, looking at Dean’s chest, “as far as I’m concerned, ever since you walked to that café.”

Dean’s heart skipped a happy beat. “So, we really had our first date at Biggerson’s. Horrible choice, by the way.”

“It wasn’t my idea,” Castiel protested. “I think it was Jo’s.”

“Really? I thought that had Sam written all over it.”

“Still, awful choice.”

“Horrible.” Dean put his hand in Cas’s hair again, and that made Cas look up. “So, we had our second date at Mr. Fizzles, then?”

“Yeah,” Castiel said.

“And third one in the park.”

“And fourth one in an amusement park,” Castiel said smugly.

“Shut up,” Dean laughed. “You got me to ride a roller coaster, for you.”

Cas stroked his cheek with a finger. “You taught me how to cook.”

“You told my dad to go to hell.”

“You told my aunt to go to hell.”

“You charmed my grandma.”

“Man lets you hold him,” Cas said.

For some reason, being accepted by a guinea pig made Dean happier than anything else. He dropped his forehead against Cas’s for a moment.

“So…basically, we’ve been in a relationship this whole time,” Dean said then.

“Yes.”

“Just without the sex.”

“Well…”

“Okay, with a little sex.”

“There’s more to come,” Cas said. His expression was so ridiculous that Dean laughed and had to kiss him again.

 


 

In between all the kissing, Dean managed to get it across to Cas that he wasn’t actually prepared to spend the night at Cas’s place. He hadn’t thought so far ahead, so the overnight bag he usually had in his car was back at his own apartment. Because their original plans of eating at Charlie’s had been thrown away, Cas promised to make something while Dean drove to get his night bag.

“You sure you’re fine?” Dean asked as he was leaving. Cas had gathered a miscellaneous pile of ingredients on the kitchen counter, and Dean had no idea what he was planning to make out of an eggplant and flour.

“Dean, I haven’t burned anything in the last month.”

“Liar. You tried to make eggs and bacon one morning, remember?”

“That’s only because someone distracted me with their need to re-enact the entire A Fistful of Dollars in their underwear.”

Dean kissed him goodbye. “You know you love it.”

“I do,” Cas said. There was softness in his eyes Dean had never seen, and Dean had to leave before he could over-analyze the meaning of it.

It was a short drive from Cas’s place to Dean’s, and it felt even shorter now that he was used to walking it. Dean rushed to park his car and climbed up to his apartment in long strides, carelessly throwing his keys on the table when he made it inside. He only needed to pack a few things, and the faster he could do it, the faster he could get back to Cas and save the building from burning down.

Dean threw two pairs of boxers in the bag, and then paused as he saw something pink between them. When he lifted the pile, he realized that he’d accidentally packed a pair of pale pink panties. He tried to keep them in a separate drawer, but this pair had somehow sneaked in – not that Dean had been concentrating very hard the last time he’d sorted his laundry. He’d been worrying about Cas and everything else, so laundry hadn’t seemed to matter all that much.

Dean picked up the panties, feeling them in his fingers, and mused on this for a while. Cas had reacted pretty favorably when they’d joked about the subject. Besides, Cas had used a butt plug on him during their second time. With that in mind, a little panty kink wouldn’t exactly shock Cas. Dean turned the panties in his hand and thought about showing up at Cas’s wearing the pair, and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The thought of wearing them, letting Cas see him in them… It grew in his head, until Dean couldn’t wait to try it and show Cas this little secret.

Dean took the panties and went in the bathroom to pick up the rest of the supplies and to change. When that was done, he quickly finished up packing and rushed out of the door.

Cas hadn’t burned down the building when Dean got back, and to Dean’s surprise, had managed to fry the eggplant perfectly. It wasn’t a heavy meal, but it tasted great. They didn’t bother to set the table, so they just sat on the bar stools and sat by the kitchen counter, eating straight off the pan as the fried eggplants finished.

“You know, my vacation just started, so I have nothing to do for the next seven days,” Dean said.

“I can think of a few ideas,” Cas said. Dean leaned closer to brush off a few crumbs stuck on the corner of his mouth. Cas’s tongue dipped out and flicked over Dean’s thumb. Dean pulled his hand away, even though he was tempted to take this further and defile the kitchen.

“I’m not staying inside and having sex with you for seven days straight.”

“Why not?” Cas protested.

“Because we gotta go outside, too.”

“I knew you had a kink for exhibitionism.”

Dean barked a laugh. “I meant, don’t you wanna take a few days to drive around? Just…get out for a while?”

Cas hummed. “I’m working, but I guess I could take off Friday for an extended weekend.”

“Deal.”

They continued to eat, Cas with an absolutely filthy technique that only made Dean feel better and more excited about what he was about to reveal. After they were done, Cas loaded up the dishwasher. Dean cleaned the counter, and when that was done, he threw the rag away and turned to Cas.

“Hey, Cas.”

“Yes?”

“Do you want to see what I’m wearing?”

Dean unbuttoned his pants, and slowly pushed down his jeans to reveal a line of pale pink, and Cas gasped. Eyes locked on Cas, Dean pushed his jeans further down, letting Cas see inch by inch the panties that he was wearing.

“I can’t wait to fuck you in those,” Cas said. Even from a distance, Dean could easily see how dark his eyes had gotten, and the knowledge that Cas seemed to like Dean’s kink as much as he’d hinted earlier made Dean feel better.

“I look forward to it,” Dean said with a wink. He turned on his heels and sprinted to the bedroom, and wasn’t disappointed when Cas chased him down and tackled him to the bed. Laughing, Dean tumbled down on the bed with Cas on his back.

“You can’t fuck me if you smother me,” Dean protested with a laugh when Cas made no move of getting off of him, and instead, started kissing Dean’s neck.

“We’ll make it work,” Cas retorted. Dean shuddered when Cas gently bit at the tendon on his neck, and noticing Dean’s reaction, Cas did it again, sucking on the skin. Although he truly didn’t want to think of anyone else but Cas right now, it briefly went through his mind that none of his girlfriends had ever been much into hickeys, and if they had, they liked Dean being the one to leave them. In contrast, marks from Al or Nick had always felt cruel and possessive, more like stating an ownership than anything else. But with Cas, he relished the opportunity to walk around with Cas’s brand on him – it felt like a gentle reminder, one that Dean would be proud to carry.

“You’re thinking too much,” Cas murmured against his skin, and Dean snapped out of his thoughts.

“Then make me stop thinking,” Dean said. “C’mon, Cas. Don’t you want to see what I’m wearing properly?”

“Gladly,” Cas said. He finally rose up to his knees, letting Dean turn on his back, and together, they stripped Dean’s clothes away. Dean’s fingers may have slightly trembled when it came to removing his jeans, but Cas’s hands were firm and stable, and that reassured Dean that he really wanted this. Cas threw off his shirt with haste, and Dean helped him to slide off his jeans and boxers, unable to stop touching Cas for a moment.

When they were both naked, saved for the panties barely covering Dean’s hard length, there was a pause in all movement as they simply stared at each other. Cas didn’t seem to be able to say anything, but his hands came stroke Dean’s hips and the fabric of the panties, and Dean clutched his forearms, guiding Cas to touch him even more.

“Dean,” Cas muttered, his eyes sliding over Dean’s body. Dean couldn’t help but preen a little under the attention – something he realized kept happening with Cas, increasingly.

Cas bent down to kiss him and the same time as Dean slid his arms around Cas’s back and pulled him down, and they spent a long time simply making out. Dean dug his nails into Cas’s back, and that made Cas let out an interesting groan. Cas pressed his hips flush against Dean’s, grinding their crotches together with increasing speed. Dean felt weightless again, somehow caught in the hurricane that was Cas, and easily surrendered to the feeling.

“How do you want this?” Cas asked against his skin at some point, when they had been lost in each other for countless moments. Cas’s fingers traced the outline of the panties; the touch felt ironically innocent compared to everything else happening.

“Just pull them aside,” Dean muttered.

“You took me literally, then.”

“Uh, yeah.” Dean gasped, when Cas ground against him harder. Dean arched his back, clinging to Cas. “Is that a bad thing?”

“Not at all,” Cas said. He smiled. “I can’t wait to fuck you in those,” he repeated, and Dean snorted against his shoulder.

“Dork,” he muttered. “Get on with it, will you?”

“Impatient,” Cas said, but got on with it. Dean didn’t comment when Cas fumbled for the bottle of lube, accidentally dropping it on the bed for a second, because when Cas picked up the bottle and opened it, Dean’s mind was already drifting elsewhere. Cas slipped his fingers under the panties, carefully circling Dean’s rim for a moment before starting to open him up. The entire time, he kept watching Dean’s face, and Dean gazed back, equally embarrassed and excited about the attention.

Cas stretched Dean with his fingers slowly, almost lazily, but the rhythm got faster when his fingers found Dean’s prostate. Dean gasped when Cas’s fingers bumped against it the first time, and a twinkle in his eye, Cas repeated the twisting motion again and again.

“Fuck, that feels good,” Dean said, then felt slightly embarrassed. The feeling disappeared when he saw how gently Cas was smiling at him.

“Yeah?” Cas asked. He twisted his fingers again, making Dean pant and writhe. His fingers were moving faster now, just the way Dean liked it, and Dean moved back to meet Cas’s fingers. He was starting to get closer and closer to the edge, sweat already gathering on his temples.

“Cas, I’m good, I’m good,” Dean panted. “C’mon, get in me.”

“You sure?” Cas asked, twisting his fingers again. The good feeling sparked throughout Dean, and he arched his back with a groan.

“Cas!” Dean called. “Stop teasing, fuck, that’s—”

“Good?”

“Yes, you’re good, now get in me!”

“Alright,” Cas agreed. He withdrew his fingers and sat up, scooting backwards on the bed. Dean watched as Cas put on the condom, but then reached for Dean’s hands instead of his crotch. For a second Dean was confused, until Cas urged him to sit up as well with a tug. Dean slid onto Cas’s lap, and they both groaned when their bodies met, their cocks sliding together and the fabric of the panties rubbing between them. Cas sighed, moving against Dean, and Dean mirrored the movement, and they got lost into it for a moment. Cas’s hands slid to Dean’s shoulder blades, resting there, and Dean did the same, until they were practically resting against each other.

It was messy, uncoordinated, and Dean loved it.

“Dean, can I—”

“Yeah, c’mon, Cas,” Dean mumbled, not even caring what Cas was saying at this point.

Cas tugged the panties aside, just enough that he could reach Dean’s hole, and with careful movements, Cas guided his cock inside. They stayed like that for few moments, both getting used to the feeling, before Cas started to move. That pushed Dean into action, and he lifted his hips and slammed down onto Cas, making them both groan.

Slowly, Dean started to ride Cas, and Cas met him halfway. Cas’s hands came back to rest on his back and never left; Cas hugged him close, and Dean couldn’t help but feel cherished and loved with the gentleness Cas was cradling him with. There was no space between them, and it felt amazing to have Cas’s bare skin against his, with only the satin of the panties sliding between them. They moved together lazily, the initial fire of the moment still burning within them, but with a gentler flame.

Cas’s lips grazed Dean’s, and he muttered, “Dean,” in a reverent voice.

“Yeah,” Dean said, because he couldn’t think of anything else. He snapped his hips harsher, making Cas gasp and answer the movement.

Their rhythm got faster towards the end, but not by much, and Cas was still cradling Dean tightly when Dean gasped and came, surprised by the suddenness of it. He dropped his head against Cas’s shoulder, panting. He was too tired to get it up so soon, but feeling the come seep through the panties and sliding against Cas’s stomach was almost enough for that.

“Fuck, Dean, I’m—” Cas managed to say, before groaning and coming. His movements stilled, but they stayed in the position for a moment to catch their breath, before exhaustion got to them and they fell to their side, still tangled together. Cas didn’t pull out for a while, and when he tried to move, Dean threw a leg over his to stop the movement. He liked to feel Cas inside him, and wanted to enjoy it before he’d inevitably get too sensitive in a few minutes.

“That was…” Dean started to say, but couldn’t finish.

“Yeah,” Cas agreed, still a little out of breath, “It was.”

They laid on the bed for a long time, tangled up in each other and too lazy to move. At some point, Cas discarded the condom and slipped out of Dean in the process, much to Dean’s disappointment, but he was back in the bed in a second and cuddling Dean closer than before, so Dean could hardly complain.

Cas’s fingers were drawing patterns on Dean’s back again, and Dean traced Cas’s features with his fingers. Cas closed his eyes for a moment, before opening them and closing the again, apparently edging towards sleep with each moment.

Dean had no idea if it was too soon to say it, but he was feeling too good for the words to not escape.

“I think I’m a little bit in love with you,” Dean confessed. There was a short silence, and Dean’s heartbeat picked up momentarily, before he saw how Cas opened his eyes and smiled at him.

“Good,” Cas said. “I’m a little bit in love with you, too.”

Dean grinned and craned his neck to kiss Cas. Happily, Cas answered it, his hands starting to travel downwards Dean’s body, and Dean instantly mirrored the movement. Just when Cas’s hands had slipped under Dean’s panties, Dean broke off the kiss with a jolt. Cas looked confused at being rejected all of a sudden, but kept his distance.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean muttered.

“What?”

“It just occurred to me that, you know, we started this whole ruse to teach our friends a lesson, so that they’d stop being so nosy about our lives and way too invested in our love lives…”

“Yes?”

“And we ended up proving the wrong point. They set us up and we ended up dating. Just like they predicted.”

Cas considered this for a moment. “Son of a bitch,” he said.

“Charlie will never, ever, let us live this down,” Dean grumbled.

But it was hard to be mad, with Cas lying in his arms and with the future that lay before them. Cas went back to kissing him, and Dean forgot every bit of his anger towards Charlie and her annoying tendency to be right.

Maybe he’d get her that Hermione figurine, after all.

Chapter Text

Dean had to wonder if Cas’s aversion to birthdays was contagious, because Dean couldn’t muster up enthusiasm for Sam’s 28th birthday. It wasn’t even a big party: just their circle of friends, some of Sam’s coworkers and college friends, with nothing special planned. Sam had called their parents this morning and accepted the birthday wishes, but Dean was relieved that Sam hadn’t invited them to this. It was cramped enough in Sam and Jess’s new apartment without their dad darkening up the space or their mom worrying that everyone was having fun.

“Ugh,” Dean said, leaning his head against Cas’s shoulder. “You’re the birthday expert. How long until we can leave without being rude?”

“Two hours,” Cas answered. He was eating a sandwich with lettuce and cheese in it – even the food at Sam’s party sucked.

“Christ.” Dean stole a bite from Cas’s sandwich, even though it wasn’t very good. “I’m starting to get why you don’t like birthdays.”

“This isn’t so bad.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean sighed. “Look, I’m happy for Sam, I’m happy he got promoted, I’m happy they got a new apartment, and we’ve already given the present, so can’t we just go? I’m not liking the people here.”

Cas glanced at his right, where Sam and Jess were talking with Brady, Sam’s friend from college. Cas had reluctantly agreed with Dean when Dean had asked, and admitted that some of Sam’s friends, not to mention his coworkers, were a little snobby. Luckily, Charlie and Jo were also present, and they brought much needed levity to counter the stoic nature of Sam’s coworkers.

“Two more hours,” Cas repeated, and Dean groaned. Cas distracted him by giving him the remaining sandwich, and that entertained Dean for a few minutes.

They were leaning against the wall in the living room, because there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. Dean hadn’t minded it, but standing in the side cut them off from the conversation, and he was happy to see Charlie walk up to them. Dean smiled, already in a better mood – it was impossible to be sad around Charlie.

“Nice party, right?” she asked. “Great idea to cross housewarming and your birthday. No need to invite people twice.”

“It’s efficient, I’ll admit,” Cas said.

“Oh, and congrats to you, too!”

Dean and Cas shared a confused look.

“Um, what for?” Dean asked.

“It’s May 1st, dummies. The day before Sam’s birthday, and?”

“Uh…International Women’s Day?”

“No, and why would that—Anyway,” Charlie shook her head. “Your first date was a year ago, on this very day!”

“Oh, right,” Dean said, finally connecting the dots. “You’re right, you’re right. You set us up. On a date.”

“At Biggerson’s,” Cas muttered, like the choice personally offended him. In all likelihood, it still did.

“Yeah!” Charlie chirped. “So, happy anniversary to you two!”

“Thank you, Charlie,” Cas said, when Dean couldn’t. Luckily, Charlie was distracted after that, and wandered off to the side to chat with Jess.

“This is kinda surreal,” Dean muttered.

“What is?”

“Our anniversary.”

“What of it?”

“Well… Is it really our anniversary, if we didn’t really go out at first?” Dean asked. “And if those first three months don’t count, then when is our real anniversary?”

“For convenience’s sake, maybe it’s best if we just say that our anniversary is the day before Sam’s birthday,” Cas said. “Easier to remember.”

“Ever the romantic, you,” Dean said. “Also, how long do you think we can get away with not telling them the truth?”

“I would say… How about our entire lives?”

“Longest prank in the known history,” Dean said. “Just imagine Sammy’s face when on my deathbed, I’ll beckon him closer—”

“—with shaking hands—”

“—ask him to lean closer—”

“And then you whisper, ‘got you. We weren’t together for forty-five years. The first three months don’t count.’”

“Forty-five years?” Dean asked, offended. “I plan to live to one hundred!”

“Fine, sixty-five years, then.”

“That’s better,” Dean smiled. “And besides, didn’t we agree that the first three months totally count?”

“Debatable,” Cas said. “But if we’re together for sixty-five years, I don’t think the first months affect the total count all that much.”

Dean threaded their fingers together, smiling at Cas. “Hey.”

“Hm?”

“So are we long-term planning, now?”

“Well…” Cas squeezed his hand, smiling back. “I’d like to think so.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” Dean said. “Want to make this an official long-term plan?”

“Are you asking me to—”

“No, no, um.” Dean blushed. “Not, uh, not yet. Maybe…later?”

“I’ll wait until we’re at home, then,” Castiel said. He squeezed their intertwined fingers, and Dean was hit by a wave of affection. Even after a year, the effects of it hadn’t lessened one bit. “We’ll watch a movie, make a dinner, light some candles, and…maybe?”

Dean couldn’t wait until they got back home.